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Thursday, March 21, 2013

A Little Bit of Everything Casserole

Because it's all about creativity.  And working with what you've got.  And procrastinating.

I didn't intend to make a blog-worthy meal tonight, but I'm just so awesome that it turns out my little experiment in the kitchen was a winner.

I still haven't gone grocery shopping, even though I'm out of almost everything.  I'm putting it off until this weekend when I have more time.  In the meantime, I had started daydreaming earlier today about how to come up with a healthy, tasty  meal using what I already had at home.  Staples, if you will.  Now, my staples are most likely different than yours.  My staples are ingredients that I usually have on hand because I like to put them in everything (like canned beans and frozen veggies).  However, some of my "staples" are still in my pantry, because I rarely use them and they never go bad (like brown rice).

So today's "throw everything in the pot" recipe includes frozen veggies, beans, rice, homemade cheese sauce, and love.  I wish I could say that this is a one pot meal, but sadly, it's not.  I actually dirtied up enough dishes to fill the dishwasher and run it.  Now that's accomplishment!

If you have cooked brown rice on hand, this comes together pretty fast- very little prep, you just have to wait for it to bake.  If you don't have already-cooked rice on hand, well, then you're going to have to cook it yourself, like I did.  (Which added to my pan count.)  Once again, the ingredients are more of a suggestion than a hard rule.  Use whatever variety of rice and veggies you have on hand, or whatever you like best.  I would have liked to have used corn in this dish, but I didn't have any.  It's whatever.

2 cups cooked brown rice

Cheese sauce:
2 cups non-dairy milk, unsweetened
3 Tbsp cornstarch
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp chipotle chili powder
1/2 tsp oregano
1 tsp prepared mustard
Salt and pepper, to taste

Everything else:
1 cup diced onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
15 oz can sliced mushrooms
15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 lb frozen veggies, your choice (yay freedom!)
1/2 cup leftover salsa (make sure there's no mold)
a few dashes of Tabasco sauce, because I just remembered I bought it when I made bloody mary's a month ago but never opened it

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.  Spray a 2-quart casserole dish with cooking spray and set aside for a minute.
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, throw in all of the sauce ingredients, and whisk to mix well.  Set this aside for a minute also.
In a large saucepan, saute the onion and garlic on medium-high heat for about 5 minutes.  Add mushrooms and cook for another minute.  Add veggies, beans, salsa, and Tabasco, if using, and stir to mix well.  Cook in pan for 6-8 minutes, until frozen veggies are less frozen (we're baking this, too, so they don't have to be hot all the way through).
Pack the rice into a nice layer on the bottom of your prepared casserole dish.  Dump the casserole filling on top of that and pat it down to make it look pretty.  Give your sauce a quick whisk and then pour it all over the casserole.
Bake in oven for 35-40 minutes, until sauce is bubbly and not runny-looking in the middle.  Let sit for 2 minutes (that's all the longer I could wait- this stuff smelled amazing!) and serve hot.  With extra Tabasco, if you want.  Or extra salsa, if you had more than 1/2 cup in the jar you found in the fridge, hiding behind the almond butter.

 *If you're wondering what in the heck my casserole is sitting on in this pic (it looks scary, doesn't it?), that would be my very old, well-loved cookie sheet.  I wasn't sure if the cheese sauce would bubble over, and rather than have to scrub out the oven later, I baked the casserole with the cookie sheet under it to catch any stray sauce.  Because I'm clever like that.  Also, I hate to clean.  I suggest you do the same.  Because I care.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

St. Paddy's Day Stir-Fry

Because better late than never, right?

I was really looking forward to spending a lot of time in the kitchen this weekend, whipping up an old "Irish" recipe, maybe coming up with a new one, baking bread, and making some kind of festive dessert.  But, life happened.  I actually ate Indian food yesterday during my early St. Pat's celebration.  Fitting, eh?

So here's the recipe I wanted to make.  Not that any of you will be reading this with enough time to make it for your own St. Patrick's day feast, since the day is almost over.  But, if you, like me, will be planning a St. Pat's make-up holiday for next weekend (since this weekend was practically stolen from me), then here's a great dish to incorporate!

Jennie (the Officer) actually went to Ireland with her fiance for a week last summer, so I have it on good her authority that the components of this stir-fry are authentic Irish ingredients.  Sausage, potatoes, cabbage, carrots, beer.  Yep, sounds Irish to me!  The bad news: Guinness is not vegan.  Let me clarify- there are no animal products in the beer, but some animal by-products are used in the manufacturing process.  I'm going to be honest, I have no idea what that means.  I did use Guinness for this recipe, but if you want a good alternative, check out barnivore for a comprehensive list of vegan beers.  I'm going to weed through the list before making this next weekend, and I'll add an update to this post when I decide which beer to use instead.

Guinness or no Guinness, this Irish gal is a huge fan of this Irish-Asian fusion meal, and is definitely looking forward to tearing it up next weekend.  Serve it with rice, or noodles, or more potatoes! 

2 cups Guinness (or other, vegan beer)
6 Tbsp soy sauce
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 1/2 tsp ground fennel
2 tsp cumin
2 Tbsp cornstarch

1 tsp olive oil
4 vegan beer brats (I used Tofurkey brand), sliced
Large onion, cut in half and sliced
3 large cloves garlic, minced
Large green pepper, sliced
2 cups yellow flesh potatoes, cubed
2 cups green cabbage, shredded
1 cup shredded carrots
Salt and pepper, to taste

 In a medium-sized bowl, add all sauce ingredients.  Whisk to mix well.

In a large wok, heat olive oil over medium high heat.  Add sausages and cook until browned.  Remove sausages from pan and cover to keep warm.  Return pan to stove and add onion and garlic, cooking for about 5 min.  Add pepper and potatoes and cook for about 5 min.  Add cabbage, carrots, and beer sauce.  Turn heat to high to allow sauce to bubble.  Reduce heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes, or until potatoes soften. Add sausages and salt and pepper to taste. Allow to cook for about 5 more minutes.  Serve hot over rice or soda bread.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Cooking for Sustenance: Chili

Because eating isn't just fun; it's essential.

Today's recipe isn't fancy.  It won't be submitted to a contest.  It probably won't impress you.  But it's delicious, made about 20 servings, and was done in 20 minutes.  Oh yeah.

I wish I had the time and the resources to do recipe testing every day.  It's one of my favorite things to do ever.  But sometimes you just need food because you have to eat.  And sometimes you need cheap food because you're a jobless hobo.  During the week, I'm rarely home before 8:00 pm, so having leftovers is super convenient.  I like to make a large pot of soup or something on Sunday or Monday, and then eat it for dinner (or lunch or breakfast) throughout the week.  So maybe I didn't sit down for dinner until 9:00 pm tonight. At least I have food for the rest of the week!

I don't usually get fancy with soups during the week.  I really just check my pantry for ingredients and then throw a bunch of stuff in a pot.  Today, my ingredients told me to make chili.  I rarely make chili the same way twice, but I do have a sort of "chili system" that I follow.  It goes like this:
*diced tomatoes
*other stuff, as I see fit

This really is a lazy recipe, but it's also tasty and satisfying.  I didn't even chop my own veggies!  [Ahh, the joy of frozen vegetables.]  You can use any mixed veggies you have on hand.  I had two bags of what was called "Mexican blend," which consisted of broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, and corn.  But use whatever you like.  Or have.  Or whatever.  Frozen veggies, canned tomatoes and beans, and a little bit of time is all it takes to make a tasty treat!

1 cup diced onion
15 oz can refried beans
28 oz can diced tomatoes
2 cups water
15 oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 lbs frozen mixed vegetables of your choosing
2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp chipotle chili powder
1 tsp dried cilantro

In a large soup pot, saute onion over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, or until soft.  Add the refried beans and mix with the onions for about a minute.  Add the tomatoes and water and stir to mix well.  Toss in the veggies, beans, and seasonings.  Let chili come to a boil then turn down heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until all veggies are cooked through.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

It's just that easy!  Way better than fast food.  ;)

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Smoothies of Love

Because brown bananas don't always grow up to become bread...

I didn't actually get around to cooking anything this weekend because I had made soup Wednesday and have been eating leftovers ever since.  Also, I was lucky enough to spend this evening with a special friend and we went out to eat instead.  If you should ever find yourself in Kalamazoo, MI, then you should definitely check out fuel- the *best vegetarian restaurant in southwest MI, I'd say.  They've been open for just over a year, and make some of the tastiest, most creative vegetarian/vegan dishes.  I had their American plate- a house-made "burger" on toasted French bread with an olive tapenade and oven fries. Yum!

*[It's actually the only vegetarian restaurant in SW MI that I'm aware of.  But still, it is pretty phenomenal.]

So instead of posting a recipe that I created today, I'm posting a recipe of something I eat almost daily.  Yay smoothies!!!  Smoothies are love and taste like love and make you feel lovely.  I had mentioned in a previous post that I usually don't care for sweet foods in the morning, I really prefer something savory, like leftover soup.  But when I actually get up on time (read: when I don't hit snooze for an hour), I really dig making a huge smoothie before heading out for the day.  Smoothies somehow make me feel more energized.  And super healthy, like, "hey, maybe I'll actually work out today!  And eat a salad for lunch!  And not feel guilty about making a huge bowl of oatmeal with butter and brown sugar at 12:30 last night!"

Anyhow, my smoothies generally consist of 3 different kinds of fruit, a handful of spinach, cinnamon, and milk.  I don't usually measure out the ingredients, but I'll make something up in the recipe below for you.  It's the least I can do.  The base of the smoothie is always a banana, because they're my favorite fruit (and because banana kind of rhymes with Deanna).  Here's the crucial part- the amount of milk I use depends on if my banana is fresh or frozen.

"Why would your banana be frozen?"  Because, while my sweet roomie would much prefer that I make banana bread, I freeze my bananas when they go brown.  Peel them, break them in half, stick 'em in a container, and toss it in the freezer, and they're ready for a smoothie whenever you are!

Other fruit would be any combination of strawberries, blueberries (if they weren't so damn expensive!), peaches, mango, and other fruit that doesn't have annoying seeds like raspberries do.  F-ing raspberry seeds...
And sometimes, instead of cinnamon, I use pumpkin pie spice.  Because I'm fancy.

So, recipe.  Like other recipes I have posted, this is a template- change it around use different kinds of non-dairy milk (mmm, chocolate...), different combos of fruit, whatever floats your boat.  And don't worry about the spinach- it packs the smoothie with calcium, protein, vitamins and love, but doesn't taste like anything.  Your smoothie will taste like the fruit you use, not like a salad.  Promise.

1 banana
1/2 cup frozen strawberries
1/2 cup frozen mango
1 cup fresh baby spinach (usually a large handful will do)
several dashes of cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice
1 1/2 or 2 cups unsweetened almond milk- use more milk if your banana is frozen
*Optional ingredients:
Ground flax seeds (I usually add 1 Tbsp, but I ran out like a month ago and keep forgetting to buy more)
2 Tbsp cocoa powder, for a chocolate smoothie
Yogurt, if you feel the need, but that's going to add a lot of unnecessary sugar
Other veggies- but I must warn you, I have not yet had a successful experiment with veggies other than spinach. Broccoli does not mesh well with the fruit, I'm just sayin'. 

Put all of your ingredients in a blender.  

If you have a high speed blender, this will be a quick process.  If you have a not-so-high-speed blender, you might want to stop occasionally to move the ingredients around with a spoon or spatula.  Or add a little more milk or water.  Or cuss at it for a while and see what happens.  

Blend until it looks like a smoothie.  This will take anywhere from 5-20 minutes, depending on the level of awesome of your blender.  Enjoy!

But wait!  There's more!
  I just submitted a different smoothie recipe to the weekly contest!  It's tropical and delicious and you should definitely try it and vote for it!  Vote HERE and I'll be your friend forever.  :)

You can vote daily.  And I think you should.   :)

Tropical Sunshine Smoothie
(Serves 2.  And I mean it.  I'm still trying to finish all of it.  And I'm a good eater!)
1 ripe banana
1 cup frozen mango
1 cup diced fresh pineapple
1 orange
2 cups non-dairy milk
                                                 1/2 tsp cinnamon
                                                 3 Tbsp shredded coconut

                                                   Blend it.  All of it.  All at the same time.  Please peel the banana and                                                    orange first, though.  You'll thank me later.