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Monday, December 30, 2013

Lentil and Wild Rice Stuffed Portobellos

Because I'm on vacation!

Yeah yeah yeah, so it's been a couple of weeks since my last post.  There's just been so much going on!  I sadly said good-bye to the bread store job *sniff* while simultaneously welcoming [albeit begrudgingly] my new job.  The two positions overlapped for the week before Christmas, resulting in a 50+ hour work week for me.  But, now I'm back to a somewhat normal schedule, Christmas is over, and I'm getting pretty excited to ring in the new year tomorrow!

So I have some catching up to do.  This post is about what I served for Christmas dinner for my sister and myself.  I will also write a follow-up post soon-ish with the spread I made for my now-former bread store co-workers at our belated Christmas party this past Saturday.  On top of that, I'm planning to serve a pretty slam-bang New Year's Day brunch for two, and I want to blog about that as well!  Hey- I have the next two days off!  It could happen.

I wanted to keep my Christmas dinner entree simple.  I had to work late on Christmas Eve, then drove straight from there an hour and a half  to stay with my sister.  When I had asked her earlier in the week what she wanted for our holiday dinner, her response was- and I quote- "I have no clue.  I would like gravy though."  So that got me thinking, what kind of an entree could I come up with to smother with gravy?  Portobellos seemed like the obvious choice.  They have such a "meaty" texture and so much room for filling with delicious stuffing!  This recipe was a little time consuming, but that's sort of to be expected with holiday dishes.  We served this with potatoes (also smothered in gravy), peas, rolls from the bread store, and a kale dish my sister made.  All in all, this was a fantastic holiday meal, shared with my favorite people: My beautiful family.   :)

                                       Merry Christmas from the McDonald Clan!!!

Now, on to the food!

3/4 cup wild rice
2 cups water
3/4 cup lentils
2 cups vegetable broth
Small onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup carrots, diced
1 cup celery, chopped
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp sage
1/2 tsp oregano
6 large portobello mushroom caps, cleaned, stems and inner gills removed
Salt and pepper

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Spray a couple of baking dishes with cooking spray.  (Size of dish required will vary according to the size of your 'shrooms.)
In a medium sized sauce pan, bring wild rice and water to a boil.  Turn heat down to a simmer, and cook, covered, for 20 minutes.  When the 20 min are up, add the lentils and veg broth.  Increase heat to bring to a boil again, then decrease heat once again, cover, and simmer for another 20 min.
Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, heat oil over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic, and cook for 2 min.  Add carrots and celery and cook for another   10 minutes, or until veggies are soft.  Stir in poultry seasoning, thyme, sage, and oregano.  Remove from heat and add to the pan with the rice and lentils.  Stir to combine well, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.
Arrange mushrooms in baking dishes and divide filling among them.  (I had stuffing left over, but my sis and I enjoyed snacking on it while waiting for all of the food to cook!)  Bake for 20 min, or until mushrooms and filling are heated through.
Serve hot- with gravy*.  Lots and lots of gravy.

*I used the gravy from this tasty little number.  And it was just fabulous.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Italian Arborio Rice and White Bean Soup

Because it's cold.  And I'm broke.  And I love soup.

I'm at that point again that I'm trying to scrape by on the food I have in the house and not buy groceries until absolutely, positively necessary.  Actually, this is one of the best ways to get creative with cooking!

I knew it was time for soup again.  Let's face it, it's always time for soup.  I wanted something creamy, but didn't want to have to buy any additional ingredients.  That's where the arborio rice comes in.  Luckily, I had some left over from the risotto that I made for Thanksgiving.  The rice cooks down into a dreamy, creamy consistency that is just lovely.  The veggies, beans, and spices were things I had on-hand already.  Feel free to change up the veggies as you wish.

This soup is a simple, delicious, one-pot meal that comes together in less than 30 minutes.  Aw, yeah.  That's what I'm talkin' about!

1   Tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup arborio rice
6 cups vegetable broth (To reduce sodium, you can replace 2 cups of broth with 2 cups of water)
3/4 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried oregano
15 oz can white beans, drained and rinsed
10 oz bag frozen veggies (I used broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots)
2 cups packed baby spinach

 In a large soup pot, heat olive oil on medium heat.  Add garlic and saute for about a minute.  Add the rice and cook about 2 minutes, stirring to cover the rice with the oil.  Add in the vegetable broth and the basil, thyme, and oregano, and stir to combine.  Increase the heat to bring to a boil.  Decrease heat to medium and cover and cook for 12-15 minutes, until rice is soft.
When rice is cooked through, add the beans and veggies, and cook for 7-10 minutes or until heated through.  Stir in spinach and cook until wilted.  Serve hot.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Diner-Style Hot Tempeh Sandwiches

Because it's a great challenge to veganize the seemingly un-veganizable!!

I've had this idea for a while now.  The inspiration comes from an entree I used to love when I worked at a family restaurant in my early 20's.  I'm sure other restaurants have similar menu items, but there was just something about the combination of shredded turkey in gravy, on bread, with a scoop of mashed potatoes, and then everything smothered with more gravy.  Now that's epic diner food right there.

Well clearly I had to do away with the turkey, because no.  But tempeh made an excellent substitute.  (I've written about tempeh before here.)  I could have marinated the tempeh longer, but I was in a hurry.  If you are one of those people who has the ability to plan ahead, you could soak it for about an hour.  I don't, so twenty minutes was good enough for me.  I'm not going to post a recipe for the mashed potatoes, bucause I'm going to go ahead and assume that y'all can figure that out on your own.  And a quick note about the gravy: I vividly remember the gravy on the hot turkey sandwiches way back when being this crazy shade of electric yellow, so I added a few dashes of turmeric for my own amusement.  This is totally optional, though.

Also, this is a seriously carb-heavy dish.  I would recommend adding some veggies to serve along with this.  And perhaps running a marathon the next day to work off those carbs.  Or, you know, you could skip the top piece of bread and serve these sammies open-faced.  Your choice.

For the tempeh:
2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp liquid smoke
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
Pepper, to taste
2 8 oz packages tempeh, chopped

1/2 red onion, diced
2 tsp (4 cloves) chopped garlic
2 Tbsp cornstarch
3 Tbsp non-dairy milk
1 tsp oregano

For the gravy:
2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
Pepper, to taste
1/4 cup all purpose flour
Turmeric (optional)

You're also gonna want: good quality white bread (or bread of choice) and some mashed potatoes.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, stir together veg broth, garlic powder, liquid smoke, poultry seasoning, and pepper.  Add the chopped tempeh to the bowl and stir to make sure all the pieces are covered with broth.  Let sit for 20 minutes to an hour.
In a large saute pan, heat onion and garlic on medium high until soft, about 5 min.  Using a slotted spoon, remove tempeh from broth (but don't dump the broth!) and add to the pan.  Cook for about 10 min, stirring frequently.  If tempeh starts to stick, add broth 1 Tbsp at a time.  Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the cornstarch and milk.  After the 10 min is up, add the broth mixture to the pan, and stir in the cornstarch mixture and oregano.  Turn heat up to high until gravy starts to bubble.  Decrease heat to medium low and simmer while you make the other gravy.  Don't forget to stir it once in a while.
In a small saucepan, heat the 1 1/2 cups of the broth, poultry seasoning, and pepper on medium heat.  In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 1/2 cup broth and flour.  Slowly stir this mixture into the saucepan. Add a few dashes of turmeric, if desired. Stir frequently while gravy thickens.  It should be done in 5-8 minutes.
To assemble: Place one slice of bread on a plate.  Top with a heaping scoop of tempeh mixture.  Top that with another slice of bread (optional).  Throw a scoop of potatoes on the plate, and top everything with the gravy from the saucepan.  Devour and enjoy!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Balsamic-Soaked Apples with Arugula and Macadamia Nuts

Because appetizers are fun and fancy!

It's that time again: Time to start throwing TONS of recipes into contests.  So, the good news is, I have lots of good ideas for new recipes.  The bad news is, I'm losing my job.  Again.  So I'm hoping one (or more!) of these recipes hits it big again soon!  There's a hefty contest going on at Better Recipes and this month's theme is appetizers.  So let's start there, shall we?  [You can vote for this recipe here.]

I actually came up with this recipe idea while driving home from visiting family last weekend.  The funny thing is, I don't even like arugula.  But it's a buzz word, a trendy ingredient.  So I used it anyway.  As it turns out, when you put the hot apples over the arugula, the leaves begin to wilt and soften, and are laced with the balsamic vinegar, and turn from bitter and weird into totally flippin' awesome.  True story.

This would make a lovely appetizer for Thanksgiving.  Not that any of you reading this are still trying to come up with what to serve for the big meal in less than 24 hours.  Even I finished all of my grocery shopping yesterday!  Success!

I won't be making this tomorrow, but I will be whipping up spaghetti squash with balsamic veggies as well as this risotto and some kind of potato/corn/ranch dressing hodgepodge.  It's going to be epic.

 1 Tbsp vegan butter
1 large apple, cored and sliced 1/4"
1 large shallot, diced
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cloves
1/4 cup chopped macadamia nuts
1 cup fresh baby arugula

 In a large saute pan, melt butter and add apples and shallots.  Simmer on medium heat for 5 minutes.  Add balsamic vinegar and stir in brown sugar, cinnamon, and cloves.  Continue to simmer over medium heat until vinegar has reduced and slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.
Divide the arugula among four small plates, top with apple mixture and sprinkle with macadamia nuts.  Serve immediately.

Serves 4

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Spaghetti Squash with Balsamic Veggies and Toasted Pine Nuts

Because I'm running out of time to plan holiday food!!!

It's not like I didn't know Thanksgiving was coming up soon, it's just that I kind of forgot.  And I really haven't had much time lately to work on any new holiday recipes anyway.  So instead, it is quite likely that this year, I'll be recreating this fantastic little number.

I've mentioned before that many of the recipes on this blog are the result of recipe testing for various online contests.  When I first moved to Kalamazoo, I was broke as a joke, and found myself sitting alone in my studio apartment one night, frantically brainstorming ways to make extra money.  A couple of Google searches later, and I found a whole list of cooking contests.  Some of the prizes for each contest were monetary, some resulted in free product, some involved fancy vacations.  Let's get serious- I wanted, no, needed the money.  So I just started throwing any recipe I had into these contests, hoping I might some day win a $50 third place prize.

I hit the jackpot- literally- with this recipe, however.  The contest theme was "Healthy Cooking" and the prize was $1,000!!!  That money was almost gone before I ever got it, but I was riding pretty high for a while after getting the news that I won.  Knowing that I won once has fueled my passion for cooking (and entering contests) even further.  Hey!  Who knew that vegan food could be so rewarding?  ;)

So anyway, enough about me.  This is hands down the best spaghetti squash dish I have ever had.  And it's quick to make!  And elegant!  And healthy!  And...  Alright, so it's settled, I'm making this for Thanksgiving this year. 

 1 large spaghetti squash, halved and seeded
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 large red onion, sliced
1 cup chopped carrots
4 cloves garlic, minced
15 oz can diced tomatoes
14 oz can artichoke hearts, drained and rinsed
15 oz can Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 medium zucchini, chopped
2 tsp fresh thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup pine nuts

 Poke several holes in the shell of each squash half several times. Microwave each half on a plate for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, heat oil, onion, garlic and carrot on medium high heat for 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, artichokes, beans, balsamic vinegar, thyme and zucchini, then simmer on low for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Scrape the cooked squash into a large serving bowl and cover to keep warm. In a small frying pan, toast pine nuts over medium low heat for 3-4 minutes, being careful not to burn. Remove from heat and set aside. When second squash half is done, scrape cooked squash into serving bowl. Top squash with cooked vegetables. Top entree with toasted pine nuts and serve hot.

This is the fancy pic the website used when they featured my recipe.   :)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Spicy Pumpkin and Black Bean Chili

Because soup weather is upon us!

I have a feeling there will be several soup recipes to come on this blog in the next few weeks.  I love soup.  I could eat soup for every meal in a day (and absolutely have before).  If I had to choose only one food to eat for the rest of my life, hands down it would be soup.  Soup makes me happy.  And it's so simple to make!  And the possibilities are endless!  And anyway, the weather is quickly turning to winter in Michigan- it definitely rain-snowed today.  So soup is totally appropriate.

I was in the mood for chili and cornbread yesterday.  Mmmm, good old fashioned comfort food.  I'm always looking for a new way to change up chili, and I have to admit, this version is pretty fantastic.  Of course, in true Deanna fashion, I ran out of some spices while coking (hey, way to plan ahead, lady!), and had to sort of make it up as I went along, but I'll post the measurements for the ingredients as if I hadn't run out of them.  It's just easier that way.  The pumpkin flavor is subtle and the spice is just right: not too mild, not too melt-your-face-off hot.  The cornbread recipe I used was from "The Joy of Vegan Baking" by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau.  The bread was delicious and the cookbook has a ton of yummy recipes, I would recommend checking it out.

Another reason to love one-pot meals: the prep time was minimum and the whole meal was done in less than 30 minutes.  Which was nice, since I had a dinner companion and there was much conversation to be had, and I didn't want to be stuck in the kitchen all night.
And, as my official taste-tester for the evening, he approves of this chili.  Which is nice.

1 medium onion,diced
1 bell pepper, diced 
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 jalapeno, finely diced 
28 oz can diced tomatoes
15 oz can pumpkin puree
15 oz can tomato sauce
3 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp (or more, if you like the heat!) chipotle chili powder
1 tsp coriander
dash of cloves (optional, but most excellent)
15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups corn
Salt and pepper

In a large soup pot, saute onion and garlic in a little water on medium heat for about 5 minutes.  Add bell pepper and jalapeno and cook for another 5 minutes, until soft.  Add diced tomatoes, pumpkin, and tomato sauce, and stir to mix well.  Stir in the cumin, chili powder, coriander, and cloves, if using.  Add the black beans and corn, and continue to cook on medium heat for 10-15 minutes until all ingredients are heated through.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Devour with cornbread.


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Pumpkin and Cauliflower Curry

Because it's so much more fun to cook with friends!

OK, so I have had this recipe idea rolling around the ol' noggin for quite some time now.  But I just knew that it would be more fun to prepare this with/for friends, so I put off testing this recipe until I found some willing victims taste-testers.  Which, given my busy schedule, and the fact that most people who showed interest don't even live in the same city as me, was much more complicated than I had anticipated.  So I was thrilled when my buddy Mikey said that he and his wife would be kind enough to allow me into their kitchen to create a huge mess, as well as some deliciously awesome curry.  And I'm so glad they did!  It was a blast!

Mikey helped by making the brown basmati rice and pouring us each a glass of his very own home-made wine.  The curry itself came together pretty quickly.  I measured out the spices I used, but wasn't satisfied so I kept adding a dash more here and there.  I'll post measurements for what I think I ended up putting in.  However, since it was sort of last minute that I planned to cook at Mikey's, and I was a hundred miles away from home- and the ingredients I had already purchased!- I will be making this again soon.  Any adjustments I make to the spices I'll note in an updated version of the recipe.  I'm also thinking I might add cinnamon or cloves next time.  Hmmmm....

In any event, this dish was a real crowd pleaser, so if anyone's interested in joining me for round two, I'd be happy to cook for you!

Oh, also, I really wanted to serve naan with this, but store-bought naan is not vegan.  So I improvised!  I bought whole wheat pita bread, spread 3 pieces with butter and chopped garlic, and baked in the oven at 350 for about 10 minutes, until crisp-ish.  Ta-da!  Homemade pretend pita bread naan!  It was delicious.

1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups canned pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
15 oz can light coconut milk
2 Tbsp curry powder
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 lb cauliflower florets
15 oz can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
Salt and pepper

In a large saute pan, cook onion and garlic on medium heat until onion is soft, about 6 minutes.  Add the pumpkin and slowly whisk in the coconut milk until well combined. Stir in the curry, cumin, coriander, and cayenne.  Add the cauliflower and garbanzo beans, and continue to cook on medium heat for about 15-20
 minutes, stirring occasionally.  The curry is done when the cauliflower is cooked through.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste and serve with rice.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Tomato Soup with Wild Rice and Collard Greens

Because I need to nurture myself back to good health!

I know I sound like a broken record, but I have been super busy lately!  It's easy to get caught up in assignments, deadlines, meetings, homework, etc., etc., and as a result, eat like crap.  I feel like I'm constantly eating on the go, or at 9:00 pm, or at school/work.  I rarely get the chance to sit down and just eat, without doing homework or responding to emails or spacing out as a means of a personal vacation, at the same time.

As a result, I've been feeling a little sluggish lately, which is really putting a damper on my levels of productivity.  Also, I've been noticing some weight gain (gaaahhh!!!) and, oh yeah, suffered through a kidney stone the other day.  So, I forced myself to take some time away from studying this weekend, go to the store, and put together something quick, yet comforting and nourishing.  [It's amazing what a medical emergency and a number on a scale can do for motivation!]

I really wanted kale in this soup, but the store didn't have any!  Not that there's anything wrong with collard greens.  In fact, these greens are still light in flavor after cooking, maybe a little more chewy, but are also packed with vitamins and nutrients that my eat-on-the-go diet was lacking.  The soup isn't fancy, but is perfect for dipping bread (culprit of the weight gain?  Quite likely.) and is filling without being too heavy.  Also, leftovers are fantastic.  Which is a good thing, since this yields somewhere around 20 servings.  Hey, I'm not going to have time to cook again for a while.  I have to plan ahead for these things.

                                             [Sorry for the crappy pic, by the way] 

1 large onion, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup dry wild rice
2 cups vegetable broth
3 cups water
28-oz can tomato sauce
28-oz can crushed tomatoes
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp coriander
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 cup nutritional yeast, optional
1 bunch collard greens, stems removed and leaves roughly chopped (I got about 5-6 cups)
Salt and pepper

In a large pot or pressure cooker, saute onion and garlic on medium heat for about 5 minutes, until onions are soft.  Add rice, veg broth and water and stir to combine.

*If using a pressure cooker:  Attach lid, bring up to pressure, and cook according to manufacturer's directions for 18 minutes.  Allow pressure to release and return pot to stove.

*If using a regular pot:  Cook rice according to directions on package.  Then follow recipe below.

When rice is cooked, return pot to medium heat.  Add tomatoes and tomato sauce and stir to combine.  Stir in cumin, cinnamon, coriander, brown sugar, and nutritional yeast, if using.  Toss in greens, and cook until leaves are slightly wilted, about 10 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Fajita-style Veggies

Because nobody really knows the difference between a taco, burrito, or fajita.  Except maybe Wikipedia...

For shame!  It's been almost two weeks since my last post!  It's not that I haven't cooked, I just haven't had time to write it all out.  Life has become really, really, reeeaalllllyyyy hectic lately.  I can't help it!

I went home this weekend for a family get-together.  My sister, Sara, is expecting her first child, and we had a family dinner to celebrate the big gender reveal!  [Can you guess what she's having?  I mean, we all know it's going to be a baby (spoilers!).  But boy or girl???]

I have a LOT of family, so to make things easy, dinner was a sort of taco bar.  My contribution was this colorful array of fajita-style veggies.  I'm not positive what exactly makes these "fajita-style" except that I've gotten something very similar at Mexican restaurants in the past. So a couple of us made tacos with refried beans (making it more like a burrito) topped with fajita veggies, non-dairy sour cream and shredded cheese, and hot sauce!.  Ta-da!  Taco-burrito-fajita explosion!

A quick note about the recipe:  Really, this isn't a complicated recipe.  It's not even all that awe-worthy.  But I felt it was worth posting, because it was so easy to put together.  See, my sister, Mary, suggested I just season the veggies with a store-bought fajita seasoning mix.  I had considered it until I read the ingredients on the package: sugar, MSG, and several other additives that made me think it wasn't worth it.  My point is, this seasoning mix is so easy to put together, there's no need to buy store-bought!  Delicious and nutritious!

1 large red onion, cut in half and sliced 
2 bell peppers, sliced
1 each summer squash and zucchini, cut in half lengthwise and sliced into half moons
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp chile powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp thyme
Salt and pepper

Spray a large saute pan with cooking spray and heat on medium-high heat.  Add onion and saute for about 4 minutes.  Toss in peppers and cook for another 3 minutes.  Add squash and zucchini and stir in all spices until well combined.  Season with salt and pepper to taste, and continue to cook on medium heat for 5-8 minutes until zucchini and squash are soft.  Serve hot over tacos, fajitas, or in burritos!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Thai Noodles with Eggplant and Peanut Sauce

Because ethnic food is just more interesting!

OK, so, remember me telling you about all the goodies I picked up at the market this weekend?  Well, for whatever reason, I decided to get two of everything: 2 eggplants, 2 onions, 2 bell peppers.  And a head of cauliflower, that I'll likely divide in two.  So it looks like today's recipe is just the first of two eggplant/pepper/onion concoctions.  (I'm saving the cauliflower for yet another recipe I have on reserve.  I'll likely chop it and freeze it so I can use it next week.)

Today's recipe is a Thai-inspired dish.  I haven't had Thai food in quite some time, only because Thai cuisine relies heavily on fish or oyster sauce, and it's hard to know if the vegetarian dish you order in a Thai restaurant is really vegetarian.  I took a Thai cooking class through the community college when I was younger (I won't tell you how much younger, but let's just say this was several years ago).  Back then, I really didn't know how to cook.  And I wasn't vegetarian.  But in this class, I learned how to make a peanut sauce, which was fantastic, but definitely included fish sauce, and was poured over chicken and served with rice (I think).

Forget the chicken and fish!  This peanut sauce pretty much rocks!  I was concerned about the fat content- peanut sauce is very rich, using peanut butter, oil, and coconut milk as the main ingredients.  There was no way around the peanut butter, but I decreased the amount of oil and, instead of using coconut milk, I used almond milk with coconut extract added to it.  If you're not concerned about the fat content, feel free to use canned coconut milk in place of the almond milk, and omit the coconut extract.  (Also, you will likely only need 1 tablespoon of cornstarch, if any.)

I'm quite pleased with the results, and my roomie just devoured a bowl, exclaiming that it was "Really, really good!!!"  And that's good enough for me.

1/2 cup peanut butter
2 cups non-dairy milk
1/2 tsp coconut extract
1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp sesame oil
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp Chinese 5-spice
1 tsp molasses
2 Tbsp cornstarch

1 box (14 oz) Thai rice noodles

1 tsp sesame oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 large eggplant, chopped (I got about 3 cups out of this baby!)

1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds, optional
Salt and pepper

Combine all sauce ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend on high until well combined.  Set aside for a sec.
Boil a large pot of water and cook noodles according to directions on package.
In a large saute pan, heat sesame oil on medium heat.  Add onion and garlic, and cook for about 3 minutes.  Add peppers and cook for another minute or two, until veggies are soft.  Add eggplant and sesame seeds, if using, and cook for another 8-ish minutes.  Add sauce to the pan and continue to cook over medium heat until sauce has thickened, stirring frequently.
When noodles are done, drain and return to pot.  Add the saucy veggies and stir to coat all noodles.  Season with salt and pepper, and serve with additional soy sauce as desired.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Microwave "Baked" Apples

Because I'm all about convenience.  And 3-ingredient recipes.  Aw yeah.

I ventured down to the farmer's market yesterday morning without a plan of what I wanted to buy.  I figured I would just look around and see what jumped out at me.  I came home with eggplant, onions, peppers, cauliflower, and apples.  After much deliberation (I mean, we're talking several hours of brain-storming here), I finally decided what I wanted to make with the eggplant, however, I don't think I'll get to it today.  I'm feeling pretty wiped out.

So instead, I'll show you how I made the easiest, laziest dessert out of the apples this afternoon.  OK, I only used one of the apples.  Because I'm only one person.  Baked apples are terrific, in theory, but you know me, always looking for a shortcut.  I can't take credit for coming up with microwaving the apples instead of baking (that credit goes to my ex bf/current friend), but who cares?  It's brilliant and I expect microwaving apples to become the next internet craze.

You can get creative with the toppings.  I happened to have ice cream in the freezer, but I don't usually have any on hand.  These apples would also be delicious topped with chopped nuts, a drizzle of maple syrup, raisins, shredded coconut, whipped cream, yogurt.  You could also sprinkle on pumpkin pie spice instead of the cinnamon.  It's your apple- Get creative!

1 apple, any variety, sliced
brown sugar

Place apple slices in a microwave-safe bowl.  Sprinkle with cinnamon and brown sugar, and nuke for 3 minutes.  Apples will be soft- almost mushy- and super hot, so be careful!  Let sit for a minute or two.  Top with ice cream or, you know, whatever you want. 

Alternative to microwaving:  I understand that some people dislike the idea of microwaving their food.  I can tell you that scientific research does not show that any harm will come to you if you eat food that has been cooked in the microwave, however there is an alternative.  I would suggest this method if you're wanting to "bake" more than one apple at a time, or if you would usually bake them for real in the oven, but it's too damn hot to turn bake anything.  You can cook the fruit in a saucepan on medium heat to get the same effect.  You shouldn't need to spray the pan with  cooking spray or add any liquid, as the apples will ooze out their juices as they cook.  Just stir occasionally to prevent the apples from sticking or burning.  I would imagine this method would take about 10 minutes or so, depending on how many apple slices you crammed into the pot.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

I Just Want to Feel Better! Soup

Because being sick sucks.

Well friends, the black plague has returned, this time in the form of bronchitis.  Honestly, I would bet that that's what was ailing me all along, starting in Texas.  But because I'm stubborn and refused to go to the doctor initially, it came back badder than ever.  But no worries- I'm on drugs now!  I should be feeling 100% in no time!

Meanwhile, I've been feeling pretty lousy for the last few weeks.  All I want to do is sleep (naps every day!)!  But I also have to eat (I'm so needy!).  I decided to make soup last night, because soup is the best get-well-soon food ever!

I didn't have any veggie broth, so I just kind of winged it.  Let's get serious- this soup ain't pretty.  But it is pretty delicious, and packed with good-for-you veggies!  Sickness or not, this is a feel good meal that you should definitely try at home.

1 1/2 cup diced onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 box frozen spinach (10 oz, I think)
3 tsp poultry seasoning
1 cup wild rice
5 cups water
1 bag frozen mixed veggies (I used broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots)
1 1/2 cups frozen corn
15 oz can white beans, drained and rinsed
1 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp Chinese 5-spice
3 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp lemon juice
More water, as needed
Salt and pepper

Spray a pressure cooker or large pot with cooking spray and saute onion, garlic, and frozen spinach over medium heat, until spinach has thawed, about 7 minutes.  Add poultry seasoning and stir to combine.  Add rice and water and stir to mix well.

*If using a pressure cooker:  Attach lid, bring pressure up and cook on medium heat for 18 minutes.  Remove pot from heat and allow pressure to decrease.  Remove lid and return pan to burner.

*If using a soup pot:  Cover pot and cook according to directions on rice package, about 45 minutes.  Remove lid.

Once rice is cooked, if soup seems too thick, add more water as desired.  I added 2 cups to mine.
Stir in mixed veggies, corn, and beans.  Add thyme, Chinese 5-spice, soy sauce, and lemon juice and stir to mix well.  Continue to cook soup on medium heat for about 10 minutes until frozen veggies are no longer frozen.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

**It's that time of year, friends!  Wash hands often to prevent getting sick!  [And do your best to avoid children and other germ monsters, if possible.]

Monday, September 23, 2013

Fantastic Fall: Pear, Sweet Potato and Fig Crisp

Because thinking outside the box pays off.  [At least I hope it will!]

This week's recipe contest theme at Better Recipes is "Best Crisp or Cobbler Ever."  Now, if you follow my blog regularly, you will note that I don't have many dessert recipes on here.  Why? you ask.  Because... science.  Specifically chemistry.  Now, don't get me wrong, I'm a smart girl. I passed all of my college chemistry classes.  But that doesn't mean I get it.  I'm just really good at following directions.  Which is why I usually stick to following other people's dessert recipes rather than create my own.  [OK, so maybe I'm afraid of failure.  Don't judge me!!]  Baking requires chemical reactions between the baking soda and salt and sugar and other stuff (maybe pixie dust and unicorn hair???).  I don't know.  It's too complicated for me.

However, I can totally handle making a fruit crisp.  I mean, really, you only need fruit and oatmeal and stuff, right?  So yeah, I read about 1,000 crisp recipes online and in cookbooks to get an idea of what I needed to do.  But I did it!!!  I came up with a magical, fall-ish, unique dessert that made my kitchen smell like love and tasted like unicorns prancing over rainbows!  [what???]  I was going for a one-of-a-kind combination of fruit, and I think (in my humble opinion) that I really knocked it out of the park.  (Really, Deanna?  Really?  You just used a baseball reference?  Who are you???)

What I'm trying to say is, get creative with your crisp!  You aren't limited to just apples or berries or cherries.  The sweet potato-pear-fig combo was inspired by my desire to use classic- yet under-appreciated- fall produce.  And I'm quite pleased with the results.  I submitted this recipe to the contest and will be your friend forever if you hop over there and vote for me.    Thanks, friends!

2 Bosc pears, peeled, cored, and chopped
8 oz dried figs, quartered
2 cups canned sweet potato in heavy syrup, chopped, 3 Tbsp syrup reserved
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 tsp allspice

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup chopped pecans
1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup canola oil
1 Tbsp pure maple syrup
Dash of salt

Preheat oven to 350.  Spray an 8x8 baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine pears, figs, sweet potatoes, lemon juice, heavy syrup (from the sweet potatoes), maple syrup, and allspice.  Stir well to combine.  Pour the filling into the prepared baking dish.
In a medium bowl, combine oats, pecans, flour, brown sugar, allspice, and cinnamon, and stir to mix well.  Add the oil and maple syrup and stir well to combine.  Topping should be crumbly but not too dry.  Add in a dash of salt.  Pour topping mixture over filling and pat down.
Bake for 35-45 minutes, until pears are tender when pierced with a fork.  Let sit for about 5 minutes.  Serve warm with ice cream, whipped cream, or just by itself!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Creamy Sweet Potato and Swiss Chard Casserole

Because I love being right!!!

Hey, so remember last week when I speculated that Swiss chard would be tasty paired with sweet potatoes?  Holy happy taste buds, was I right!!!  By baking the chard in a casserole, the bitterness of the chard mellowed right out, and paired with the sweet potatoes, you get a hearty, slightly earthy, slightly sweet dish.  And it's simply magical!

The sauce I made for this is based on the cashew sauce I've used before, with a few variations.  I actually think I could have used less sauce (I may have gotten a little carried away).  But hey, I'm a saucy gal.  I don't mind mopping up the excess goodness with toast.  This casserole would also be excellent served over rice or quinoa (check the update below!).

I kept the ingredients pretty simple, although I had considered adding in a few extras.  If you have a large enough casserole dish (of course I couldn't find mine...), feel free to add in beans (garbanzo or white beans would be lovely), corn, zucchini, or anything else you see fit.

So, two Swiss chard posts in a row isn't a bad thing, right?  I hope not, because we're going to have a repeat again next week.  Not another chard recipe, but another sweet potato recipe.  I have a dessert idea [which, I admit, are few and far between] that I'm hoping to get to tomorrow.  Stay tuned for more sweetness!

*UPDATE:  This casserole is fantastic with rice, and much more filling than just some saucy veggies.  I would suggest mixing in 2 cups cooked brown (or your preferred) rice to the veggie mix before pouring on the sauce, and cook at the same temp for the same amount of time.  Delish!

3/4 cups cashews, soaked*
3 cups vegetable broth
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
4 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp rubbed sage

1 large sweet onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 large sweet potatoes, peeled; cut lengthwise and sliced into 1/4 inch half moons
1 bunch Swiss or rainbow chard; stems removed, trimmed, and cut into 1/4 inch pieces; leaves chopped
2 cups cooked rice, optional (but delicious!)
Salt and pepper

Pre-heat oven to 350.  Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.

*To soak the cashews:  Place nuts in a microwave safe bowl and cover with water.  Microwave for two minutes.  Set aside while you get the rest of the sauce ingredients together.

In a high speed blender, combine the veg broth, nutritional yeast, cornstarch, olive oil, and sage.  Drain the cashews and add those as well.  Blend on high until cashews are well blended.  Set aside.

In a large skillet pan, saute onion, garlic, and chard stems with 2 tablespoons of water for about 5 minutes on medium high heat.  Add the potatoes and continue to cook, partially covered, for another 5-6 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

When the potatoes are starting to soften, remove the pan from heat.  Arrange veggies in baking dish, stirring in the chard leaves (and rice, if using).  Pulse your sauce in the blender, (in case the ingredients have started to separate), and pour evenly over the veggies.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bake for 35-40 minutes, until sauce is bubbly and has set (meaning it's not runny in the middle).  Remove from oven and let sit for 5-7 minutes.  Serve hot with rice, quinoa, or bread.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Farmer's Market Soup

Because it's totally appropriate to make soup on a 96 degree day!

I went home last weekend for a visit.  Actually, I've gone home the last four or so weekends, but this was the first time I was able to head down to the farmer's market while there.  Sure, there's a market here in Kalamazoo, but the one in Muskegon is bigger, near the lake, and holds with it much nostalgia of going to the flea market with my mom as a kid, and doing my "grocery shopping" with a certain boy every Saturday during the last summer I lived there.

As expected, the market was everything I hoped for and more!  My first stop was at the Laughing Tree Bakery's booth for a vegan Treehugger cookie (an absolute must!).  Then I roamed around for about an hour, walking up and down the rows about three times, admiring all the beautiful produce while eating my cookie and drinking coffee.  [How magical is that???  I half expected to see unicorns prancing by!]  I ended up spending more money than I had expected to, but hey!  What better things to splurge on than fresh produce???  I brought home with me corn on the cob, green beans, red-skinned potatoes, an onion, garlic, and some absolutely beautiful swiss chard.

I hadn't a clue what I was going to make with all these goodies, but I didn't care.  I knew I'd come up with something.

Well, between the heat and the 1 1/2 hour drive back to my apartment, my chard got pretty wilty.  And since I've been so busy with work and school, my dreams of making a fancy, complicated sort of dish were shot down and I was forced to make a one-pot meal.  Actually, these veggies blended together quite deliciously in the soup I made.  The chard had more of a bitter flavor than I remembered, but my favorite bites of soup were when the sweet corn and chard were together.  I bet swiss chard and sweet potatoes would be a lovely combination.  Hmmm....

So yeah, it was stupidly hot on the day I decided to make this, but this soup kicks butt.  The creaminess comes from the potatoes blended with milk and veggie broth, so it's hearty without being high in fat.  And I was able to use all of my veggies before they went bad!  OK, so the yield was enough to feed a small army.  Maybe you should cut the recipe in half?  I'll leave that up to you.

2 lbs red skinned potatoes, quartered (or cut smaller if they're large potatoes)
1 large sweet onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch Swiss chard, stems removed, trimmed, and chopped into 1/4 inch pieces; leaves cut into ribbons
1/2 lb green beans, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 ear of corn, cut from the cob (or 1 cup of corn)
3 cups vegetable broth
2 cups non-dairy milk
1/4 cup nutritional yeast, optional
1-2 cups water, if needed
2 tsp dill
2 tsp poultry seasoning
1 tsp thyme
Salt and pepper

In a large soup pot, cover potatoes with water and bring to a boil.  Oh yeah, toss some salt into that potato water, would you?  After about 5-7 minutes, remove about half of the potatoes and set aside for a bit.  Continue cooking the rest of the potatoes in the water until very soft, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet on medium heat and add onion, garlic, and chard stems.  Saute for about 5-6 minutes until onions are starting to get soft.  Add the green beans, corn, and reserved potatoes, and cook for another 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cover with a lid and continue to cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, checking that the potatoes don't get too mushy.

When the potatoes in the pot are soft, drain the water and return the potatoes to the pot.  We want to blend the potatoes with the broth and milk and nutritional yeast, if using.  If you have an immersion blender, you can do this right in the pot.  If not, you can use a blender or food processor for this step.  If the potato-broth-milk mixture seems too thick, add water, one cup at a time, until the soup has reached your desired consistency.

OK, your potato broth should be in the soup pot now.  Take the skillet off the stove, and dump those veggies into the potato mixture.  Add the dill, poultry seasoning, and thyme, and stir to combine.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Stir in the chard leaves and cook the soup for 5-8 minutes, until leaves are soft and everything has heated through.

Yield: So. Much. Soup.
    I don't know, maybe 10 servings?  Perhaps you could invite some friends over.  Or freeze half of it.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Vacation Party Food Part 2: Super Low-Key Bachelorette Party

Because... life.  It happens.

After recovering from the black lung I developed in Texas, I spent the following week working a ton to make up for the fact that I had just taken a week off.  Plus, I was with my family for the holiday weekend (yay!!!) and I started school yesterday.  These are all of my excuses for not writing this blog post last week.  Take it or leave it, friends.

OK, so let's rewind back to that time I was in Texas.  So, I didn't get a lot of pictures.  In fact, I didn't do a lot of sight seeing.  That is to say, I didn't actually do any sight seeing.  [Unless you count sleeping in a different room of the apartment every night I was there.]  But I'm not complaining, honest!  I was just happy to be with the Officer and her family.  And I was able to be helpful, making place cards for the reception, making cocktails coffee for the bride-to-be in the morning, playing personal assistant to the lovely couple while they had pre-wedding photos taken at the historical museum.  Also, I helped the Officer shop for wedding shoes and got to see this outside the mall:


Anyhow, Thursday before the wedding, the Officer's sister threw a bachelorette party at the apartment. It was insisted (by the bride) that the party be kept low-key and involve watching corny 80's movies.  So, while the group watched Dirty Dancing and ogled over the ever-so-handsome Patrick Swayze, I kept myself busy in the kitchen making party food (of course, stopping occasionally to admire the... dancing).

I wanted finger foods, and most of what I prepared was, except for the stuffed zucchini boats which is the only recipe I'm going to share (or not).  The party food also included chickpea sandwiches, tortilla roll-ups, chips and hummus, chocolate, fruit, and Oreo's.  Because classy girls eat Oreo's for dessert at fancy parties.  Trust me, I know these things.

But, the zucchini boats were the star, by far.  I made a sort of sausage and peppers filling and baked it into zucchini halves with a little Daiya cheese on top.  I didn't actually write this recipe down, as I was multitasking [drinking, giggling, and snacking on chocolate-covered almonds definitely counts as multitasking], so how about if I just tell you what I put in it, and I'll promise to make it again?

 So, I took 5 medium zucchini, cut them in half the "hamburger" way, and then in half again the "hot dog" way.  (Still following?  Good.)  I scooped out most of the inside flesh to make room for filling.  I actually chopped up the zucchini insides and added them to the rest of the stuffing, because I hate wasting food.  I sauteed some Italian-style vegan sausages, onion, and bell pepper, added some tomato sauce and salt and pepper.  There may have been some oregano tossed in, but I honestly can't remember.  After all the filling ingredients were heated through, I stuffed the zucchini halves, sprinkled with some vegan pepper jack cheese, and baked them for I don't remember how long.  And they were awesome.

Speaking of awesome, the Officer has already been married for a week and a half now!!!  Congrats again, my friend.  I'm so happy I was able to be a part of this oh-so magical time of your life.  :)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Vacation Party Food Part 1: Wine Tasting and Finger Food

Because there's too much to say in just one blog post!

Vacation is over and I couldn't be happier.  Don't get me wrong- I absolutely loved spending the last week with my family, the Officer and her family, and friends, old and new.  However, somewhere between Michigan and Texas, I contracted the black plague, or some similar form of illness, and so spent the entire past week feeling pretty miserable.  Wouldn't you know, the day I had to fly out of Texas was the first day I started feeling better.

Anyhow, let's start at the beginning.  Last Sunday, my sister hosted a wine tasting party at her house.  I had volunteered to help make party food because, well, that's what I do.  Mary put together some delicious-looking cheese and cracker plates, caprese-style nibbles, meatballs (both animal and vegan versions), as well as a trio of dips: olive tapenade, roasted red pepper spread, and hummus.  No lie, this was a pretty impressive spread.

My contribution to this smorgasbord was a platter of delightful little tea sandwiches.  I must admit, they were amazing and delicious and adorable!

I'll share the recipe in a sec, but first, I must confess that not everything I create is gold. I had also attempted a phyllo-strawberry-chocolate dessert which ended in disaster and probably ruined Mary's cookie sheet.  Sorry, sister!

In my first attempt, I rolled the strawberries in phyllo to create "cigars."  They fell apart when I tried to take them out of the pan.  In my second attempt, I made little rectangular "packages" out of the dough.  But still, the juice from the strawberries oozed out the corners and made a sticky mess.  On top of that, I used way too much chocolate [only I could screw up a chocolate recipe!] so that, while the desserts were still edible, they were entirely too sweet for me.

Umm, yeah.  So!  Moving on...

The tea sandwiches were super easy to put together, but impressive.  I would consider these an excellent party food option for any occasion.

A couple of notes:  I used store-bought garlic hummus, but decided that it needed even more garlic, so I stirred in some chopped garlic.  This step is optional, of course, and I will note that in the recipe.  Also, feel free to use any veggies you like.  Cucumber and tomato are more traditional, but zucchini, bell pepper, or summer squash would be just as lovely.  And lastly, white bread makes these sammies authentic, but if you prefer a hearty, whole grain bread, change it up as you see fit.  I won't judge.

1 loaf good quality white bread (or bread of choice, up to you)
1 ripe avocado
2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp dill
1/2 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper
8 oz tub garlic hummus (you won't use all of it, but I don't know that it comes in a smaller size)
1/2 tsp chopped garlic, optional
3-4 Roma tomatoes, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 medium cucumber, cut into 1/4 inch slices

In a small mixing bowl, scoop out the avocado flesh  and mash with a fork until only small lumps remain.  Stir in lemon juice, dill, and garlic, and mix well.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  If desired, stir chopped garlic into tub of hummus.

To assemble the sandwiches:  Take out 2 slices of bread.  Spread avocado mixture on one slice and hummus on other slice.  Arrange 4 slices each of the tomato and cucumber on one slice of bread.  Top with remaining slice of bread.  Cut sandwich in half twice, creating 4 squares.  Stick each quarter with a toothpick to keep sandwiches from falling apart.  Repeat with remaining ingredients.

Stay tuned for yet another blog post this week!  Vacation Party Food Part 2: Wedding Funness in Texas!

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Officer's Gettin' Hitched!!!

Yee- haw!

OK, yeah, so I don't have a recipe to share this week.  That's because I only cooked once, and it wasn't anything spectacular [while red cabbage is delicious and healthy, it makes soup turn a funny, rather un-photogenic color].  Also, I've been busy packing for my vacation!  I'll be spending the next week in San Antonio with the Officer, helping with prep for the wedding and offering my bridesmaid services for the ceremony.

So no recipe this week, however, I may have several next week!  Before flying off to Texas, I'll be spending a couple of days with my sister.  She's hosting a wine tasting party on Sunday, and I'll be helping with the party food.  Also, the Officer and I are planning a "girl's night" next week, and I know I'll be trying out some new recipes on her.  I mean, just look at all the deliciousness we whipped up the last time I stayed with her:

                                                                So much awesome.

So stay tuned for a couple new recipes, maybe some photos of Texas, and complete ridiculousness as always next week.

In the meantime,  Look out Texas, here I come!!!

                                          An Officer and A Vegan.  Aren't we cute?!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Gluten-Free Popeye Pasta

Because you can't go wrong with cartoon-inspired dinner recipes!

The "Healthy Recipe" contest ends in a couple of days, and I wanted to get just one last entry in before it closed.  Now, before any of you accuse me of selling out to the gluten-free trend, I had a reason for making this dish GF.  Umm, my reason was that, besides the pasta, all of my ingredients were already gluten-free, so why not?  Actually, since it's free of gluten, dairy, and eggs, this is a very allergy-friendly dish!

I liked the idea of making a Popeye-inspired pasta dish, using spinach and olive oil as main ingredients.  For being as simple as it is, this recipe was surprisingly flavorful and super easy to make.  I used GF pasta made from corn and veggies, like spinach and red bell pepper.  As with the last pasta recipe, if you're not following a GF diet, use whatever pasta you'd like.  And if you are GF, but can't find veggie pasta, use brown rice, quinoa, or other GF noodles.

It should be noted that, seeing as the sauce is made almost entirely from olive oil, this entree is certainly not fat-free, and not even low-fat.  But it is packed with nutrients like iron, potassium, calcium, lots of vitamins, and antioxidants, thanks to the spinach.  I used frozen spinach because it was cheaper and easier to give a specific measurement, but fresh baby spinach would be lovely as well.  Just add it as directed in the recipe, but only cook until the leaves are just wilted.

 1 lb gluten-free pasta
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
juice from 1 lemon (just under 1/4 cup)
10 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and excess water pressed out
1/4 cup sliced black olives
Salt and pepper

 In a large pot, bring water to boil and cook pasta according to directions on package.
In a large skillet, saute onion, garlic, and pepper on medium heat for 2 minutes.  Add olive oil and simmer for 5 minutes.  Stir in lemon juice, spinach, and olives, and cook for 5 minutes more.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
When pasta has finished cooking, drain and return to pot.  Add the veggies and sauce to the pasta.  Stir to combine, add more salt and pepper as needed, and drizzle with extra olive oil, if desired.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Super Sloppy Joes

Because I only cooked once this week.  It is what it is.

I made these sloppy sammies Tuesday, not intending to put them on the blog, because it was more of a "just throw a bunch of stuff together" kind of dish than a well-planned recipe idea.  I had a half a package of mushrooms that needed to be used like, now, some leftover frozen onion and pepper from the goulash a couple of weeks ago, bread (have I mentioned that I work in a bread store?  I always have bread) and randomly, for whatever reason, a can of sloppy joe sauce.  I'm thinking maybe I bought it for a recipe contest a while back...?  Regardless, sloppy joes were destined to be made.

I've made lentil sloppy joes in the past, using brown lentils and a sauce from scratch.  But, in true AO&AV style, I used red lentils, because that's what I had on-hand, and a pre-made sauce because, well, I had some.  And also because it was convenient.

These were deliciously sloppy and done in about 20 minutes.  I've included the recipe below, but bear in mind that I didn't intend to share this recipe with y'all, so I just kind of made up some of the measurements.  Use them as a guideline rather than a hard rule.

1 cup red lentils
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced green pepper
4 oz mushrooms, diced
15 oz can sloppy joe sauce
2 Tbsp sweet pickle relish
1/2 tsp cumin
1/8-1/4 tsp chipotle chile powder
Salt and pepper

In a medium-sized sauce pan, combine lentils with 2 cups of water and bring to a boil.  Turn the heat down a smidge to get a rolling boil, and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occassionally. 
*Keep in mind that red lentils become soft and mushy the longer you cook them.  The trick here is to almost undercook the lentils so that they still keep their shape.  Basically, once the majority of the water is absorbed, you can remove the lentils from the heat.
So, while that's happening...
In a separate medium-ish pan, saute onion and pepper for about 5 minutes over medium heat.  Add mushrooms and cook for another 3-5 minutes.  Add lentils and sauce, and stir to mix well.  Add in the relish, cumin, and chile powder and stir to combine.  Allow to simmer for about 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Fettuccini and Zucchini Ribbons in Moscato Sauce with Drunken Mushrooms

Because I'd like to be in the running for "longest recipe title EVER."

It's no secret that I loath fad "health" trends, like raw diets, using coconut oil for/on/in everything, any diet that's low-carb/high-protein, and on and on.  And, up until recently, I also used to mock the "gluten-free" trend.  I'm not saying that people with a legitimate health concern, such as celiac disease or gluten intolerance, were silly for avoiding gluten.  No, I'm referring to the people who tend to pick one aspect of the food they shove in their face as the culprit of all their ails, rather than examining their diet as a whole.  It couldn't possibly be alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, dairy, animal flesh, or the incredible amount of overly-processed junk food Americans tend to consume.  [Sorry for the sarcasm; I've been watching too much Dr. McDougall lately.]

Anyhow, back to legitimate gluten concerns.  One of my best friends just started seeing a girl who doesn't do gluten.  When he first told me that, I rolled my eyes.  But then he pointed out that gluten sensitivities can cause just as much discomfort as lactose intolerance.  Yep, I'm LI, so that hit home for me.  (Without going into gory details, my experience with LI is that dairy- in even the smallest amount- makes me feel.... yucky in the tummy, if you know what I mean.)  OK, so I should stop being cynical.  And, hey, if I'm going to accept gluten free as a legit trend, why not also tap into the trendiness of it to my advantage???  That's right, folks, the following recipe is 100% gluten free, and I fully intend to send it into a current recipe contest, aptly themed "Healthy Cooking."  Mwahahahaha.

A couple of notes about the recipe:
-It turned out much sweeter than I had expected.  If you don't want a sauce so sweet, try using a dry white wine or lemon juice instead of the orange juice (but I would start with 1/4 cup lemon juice and add more as needed).
-Gluten-free foods are definitely more expensive than gluten-filled foods.  These noodles were $2 more than the store brand.  Ouch!  So, if you don't have a gluten issue, feel free to use gluten-loaded pasta to your heart's content.
-Same goes for the GF flour.  I happened to have garbanzo flour on hand, but if you're not avoiding gluten, use any kind of flour you'd like.
-I like the flavor of fresh thyme, but I forgot how time-consuming it is to get those pesky leaves off the stems.  If you don't feel like wasting your thyme (ba dum bum!), use dried.
-Most wine is naturally gluten free, but if you're really really sensitive, I'd go to an actual liquor store and ask if they could recommend  a GF wine.

**Update: My dad asked me why the mushrooms were drunk.  (No, they do not need an intervention.)  This is actually a good question.  In the step where you allow the wine to reduce by half, you're cooking off the alcohol, leaving just the sweet taste of the wine.  However, I was entirely too impatient to wait for the alcohol to cook off when making the mushrooms, so I just let the 'shrooms soak up the boozy goodness.  If you're serving this to children or pregnant women, or other populations who oughtn't be consuming alcohol, feel free to substitute white wine vinegar or vegetable broth for the wine.

14 oz gluten free fettuccine (I used brown rice pasta)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup finely sliced shallots
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup Moscato  (or other white wine of choice)
1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (I got this from 2 oranges)
1 cup vegetable broth
1 1/2 Tbsp gluten free flour, such as garbanzo (chickpea) flour
2 medium zucchini, shaved into ribbons (I'll explain that in a sec)
2 tsp fresh thyme
Salt and pepper

For the mushrooms:
1/2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp wine (same stuff as above)
6 oz portobello mushroom caps, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper

*For zucchini ribbons:  Using a vegetable peeler, slice zucchini lengthwise to create ribbons.  Continue until you reach the seedy core.  Repeat with remaining zucchini.

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil.  Cook pasta according to directions on package.

In a large saute pan, heat oil on medium heat.  Add shallots and garlic and saute for about 3 minutes, or until starting to soften and brown.  Add wine and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes or so, until liquid has reduced by half.  Add orange juice and vegetable broth and stir to combine.  Whisk in the flour and allow to simmer about 2 minutes until starting to thicken.  Add zucchini and thyme and cook for another 3-4 minutes, until zucchini is soft but not mushy.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Remove from heat.
When pasta is done, drain and rinse with cold water.  Return pasta to pot.  Add sauce and stir to coat well.   Cover to keep warm.

For the mushrooms:  In a large saute pan (you can use the same one as you did for the sauce), heat oil and wine on medium heat.  Add mushroom slices in a single layer and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Cook for about 2 minutes on each side, until heated through.

Dish out pasta onto a plate and top with a couple of mushroom slices.

**Bonus:  I'll give a dollar to anyone who can come up with a better recipe name for this dish.  And... go!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Picnic For One

Because it's too damn hot to cook!!!!

I had to work this morning, and there's no place I would have rather been.  In fact, I may have gotten there early.  See, it's about a thousand and twenty degrees in my apartment, but work has AC.  Aw, yeah.  But I couldn't realistically stay there all day (nor would I have wanted to!), so alas, I'm back home in the hot, sweaty, melty apartment.

I've had this idea all week to make a pasta dish with zucchini and a white wine sauce, but the thought of standing over the stove was simply unbearable.  So the obvious solution was to make something cold.  But satisfying.  And worth writing about.  And taking pictures of.  I have standards, people!  I've been in the mood to go on a picnic lately, but I don't have anyone to go on picnics with.  [Any takers???]  So, I made my own picnic.  A "me" picnic.

The recipe I'm about to post is really for the white bean spread, not the sandwich itself.  Because I trust that y'all know how to make a sandwich.  (If you don't, then leave a comment and we'll chat.)  The spread acted kind of like a sandwich filling.  I would say that this recipe makes about 4 sandwiches, although it would also be fantastic in a wrap or as a dip with crackers and veggies.

Italian White Bean Spread

15 oz can great northern beans, drained and rinsed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp dried oreagano
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 Tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
Salt and pepper

In a medium mixing bowl, mash beans with a fork until no whole beans are left.  Throw in all remaining ingredients, stirring to mix well.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Let it chill in the fridge until ready to use.

For the sandwich:
I loaded this baby with veggies!  It's like the Dagwood of vegetable sandwiches.

 My sandwich included lettuce, cucumber, red onion, sprouts, yellow pepper, mushrooms, and guacamole.

 I may have put too many things on...

My picnic included the sammie, some chips, and an iced coffee.  All enjoyed with my hair blowing in the wind of the fan pointed directly at me.

 The heat is hot y'all!  Stay hydrated!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Let's Call It Goulash...

Because you know sometimes words have two meanings.
(There's more than one way to goulash.)

A very dear friend of mine offered to do some work on my car for me, which saved me a ton of money.  So to repay him, I offered to make dinner for him and his children.  [I also helped watch the kids, since his wife is out of town.  Because I'm a super awesome friend like that.]  But I had to come up with something kid-friendly.  See, he has 5 kids.  Well, tonight, we were down 2 kids, but also up two neighborhood kids.  (That's still 5.  Math, y'all.)  As one of 5 myself, I tried to think of a dish that I really enjoyed growing up.  When you're feeding 7 people, you need something easy, cheap, and that everyone can agree on.  My mom used to make goulash pretty regularly and I know all of us kids liked it.  Seems easy enough...

Well, here's the thing:  I couldn't remember what went in it.  Elbow macaroni, tomatoes, ground beef... ? So I asked my mom.  But first, I consulted the Google.  Hey! it turns out that goulash is a Hungarian dish, and it's traditionally not much like what I just described.  At all.  It's more of a meat stew which " derives its thickness from tough, well-exercised muscles rich in collagen, which is converted to gelatin during the cooking process."  That's disgusting.  Also, it calls for potatoes rather than pasta, carrots and other soup veggies, egg noodles, etc.  I went with my mom's recipe instead (Wikipedia says that this is the "American" version), adding in a few extras, but keeping the paprika as mentioned in the Hungarian version.

The result: My friend, one of his daughters, and myself each had 3 servings!  All of the kids loved it!  And it was cheap.  I bought all of the ingredients tonight, including the Hungarian paprika, and it cost about $15.  Plus, it fed 6 people (the toddler was sleeping) with a few leftovers, not to mention leftover ingredients to use for another time.  And it took maybe 20 minutes to make (frozen veggies to the rescue!).  All in all, this family-friendly dish was a huge success.

Oh yeah.  I almost forgot to take a picture, we were too busy shoveling food in our mouths.  So here's a shot half-way through my second helping.

1 lb pasta (you can use macaroni; the store was out, so I used corkscrews instead, which the kids- and my friend- got a kick out of)
1 cup diced onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup diced green pepper
1 bag (12 oz) soy crumbles (I used Boca "burger" crumbles)
2 cups corn
15 oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
28 oz can diced tomatoes
2 cups tomato sauce
1 tsp cumin
1 Tbsp Hungarian paprika
Salt and pepper

Bring a large pot of water to boil, and cook pasta according to directions.  While that's going, saute onion and garlic in a large pot for 3 minutes on medium heat.  Add in the pepper and cook for another minute or two. Add in the soy crumbles and corn, and cook for about 10 minutes.  Now stir in the tomatoes, beans, tomato sauce, cumin, and paprika.  Continue to cook over medium heat.
At this point, your pasta is probably done.  So drain it, and add it to the saucy pot.  Stir to coat well.  Give it a minute or 5 to allow flavors to combine.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

*A couple of notes about the ingredients:
-You can certainly make this without the soy crumbles, but I wanted it to be like the goulash my mom used to make.  Also, the neighbor kids totally thought it was ground beef.  :)  (My friend's kids are well aware that I'm vegetarian, so they weren't fooled.  But they still liked it!)
-I'm not super positive what makes Hungarian paprika different from not-Hungarian paprika.  I was just trying to be authentic.  Use what you have, I think it'll be fine.
-I would have liked some heat in this, like a dash of cayenne.  I omitted it for the children's sake, but feel free to add some spice if you like.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Cheddar-Jalapeno Black Bean Burgers

Happy Fifth of July!!!  Though not a holiday itself, it is a pretty magical day in which you get to dig into the leftovers from yesterday's festivities.  And boy, is it delicious!

Cheddar and jalapeno have been paired a zillion times before.  Black bean burgers are nothing new (clearly).  But cheddar-jalapeno black bean burgers???  Now that's something to write home about!  My holiday was pretty low-key.  I spent the day with a friend, first on a lovely nature walk, and then off to whip up these bad boys.  (We also ended up at a park to watch fireworks with some other folks, which were quite nice, but then had to wait an hour to get out of the parking lot, which was very un-fun.  So I won't talk about that part.)

This recipe is similar to my other BBB recipe, but with a few adjustments.  First, I decided not to add the oatmeal.  The burgers still stuck together just fine and were less dry than BBB #1.  Also, to get the ultimate cheesy goodness, I added the cheddar to the burger mix.  However, I hadn't decided to do it that way until I was actually putting the ingredients together.  I only had cheese slices, so I broke 4 of them into pieces and stirred it into the mix.  I would recommend just using shredded cheese (and will note that in the recipe).  Way less hassle.  Lastly, we used a blend of brown rice and quinoa (you know, the kind in a microwave pouch) instead of just plain rice.  It was fantastic.  But, if you don't have fancy things like that, you could use regular old rice.  But it should be noted that the pouch grains were seasoned, so I didn't have to add any salt or pepper to the BBB mix.  If you don't use pre-packaged rice, you might need some S&P.

And finally, we passed on all other condiments in favor of sweet and spicy barbeque sauce.  Aw yeah, best decision ever.  Seriously, top these babies with BBQ sauce and it will rock your world.  I promise.

15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup cooked rice, your choice
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp chipotle chile powder
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp liquid smoke
2 1/2 Tbsp ground flax seed
4 oz. diced jalapeno
1/2 cup shredded non-dairy cheddar cheese (more or less, as it suits your cheesy desires)
Salt and pepper
You're also gonna want some barbeque sauce.  Do it.

In a large mixing bowl, mash beans with a fork or potato masher until lumpy.  Stir in rice.  Add garlic and onion powders, cumin, chile powder, soy sauce, liquid smoke, and flax meal, and stir to mix well.  Fold in the jalapeno and cheese.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Heat a skillet on medium-high heat.  Scoop about 1/3 cup BBB mix and plop onto the pan, flattening with a fork or spatula.  Cook for about 2-3 min on each side, until heated through.  Repeat with remaining BBB mix.
Yields 6 burgers.