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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Lemon-Garlic Spaghetti Squash and Kale

Because I'm getting a head start on my new year's resolutions...

The cold weather and holiday season make me crave comfort food.  But my waistline is screaming "NO" and I swear to god, if I have to go out and buy fat pants, I'm going to be really upset with myself.  So now is the time to focus my energy on lightening up some old favorites.

I wanted pasta today, but instead turned to spaghetti squash.  I wanted a lemon-butter sauce, but kept it light by using wine and veg broth, although I could have made it creamier and more comforting- although still not so fattening- by using soy milk, but we were all out.

So what I got was a super lemony, light-yet satisfying, healthy-ish meal which [I hope] is setting me on the path to health, happiness, and skinny jeans.

1 large spaghetti squash (mine was 3 1/2 lbs), cut in half and seeded
2 Tbsp non-dairy butter
2 large shallots, chopped
8-10 cloves garlic, peeled and quartered
Juice of one lemon (I got 1/4 cup, use less if you don't want a super lemony flavor)
1/2 cup white wine (I used pinot grigio)
1 tsp agave nectar 
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 cup vegetable broth
15 oz can white beans, drained and rinsed
5 cups fresh kale (I got this from a half bunch, peeled off the stems and roughly chopped) 
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper

With the squash cut in half and seeded, poke holes in each half, several times, with a fork.  Place on a plate, cut side down, and microwave each half for 10-12 min, until soft. 
Meanwhile, heat butter in a large skillet on medium heat.  Add shallots and garlic, and saute for 8 min.  Add lemon juice and wine and agave, and cook for 5 min, stirring occasionally.  In a measuring cup, whisk together cornstarch and veg broth.  Add  to wine mixture and turn heat up to allow to boil until sauce thickens.  Add beans and kale.  Turn heat to low and allow kale to wilt.
When the squash is cooked, scrape out with a fork into a large bowl.  Add olive oil and salt and pepper and stir until well mixed.
Divide the squash among 4 plates, top with the kale mixture.  Serve hot. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Hot Toddys for Two

Because I may or may not be dying of the bubonic plague...

I hate being sick.  Not that anyone actually enjoys being sick, but it kind of makes me angry.  And needy.  And whiny.  Is it too much to ask for someone to come over and make me tea and pet my hair???

Well, since I have to do everything for myself, I might as well do it up good.  As it turns out, my little sissy Mary is also feeling under the weather (we're like the same person!) so I offered to come to her house and whip up some hot toddys to cure all that ails us.  Because what could be better than whiskey and tea to make you feel better about yourself and life in general?

We made three variations of hot toddys, which traditionally are made with whiskey, honey, lemon, and tea.  I used agave nectar in place of the honey and I tried out two different flavors of tea.  Mary prefers vodka over whiskey, and requested apple cider, so we made more of a caramel apple toddy for her.  They were all fantastic (although we both still had to call in to work today, so I can confidently say that alcohol is not the cure for the common cold.  But it did make us feel better for a little while...)

Classic Toddy:
1 Tbsp agave nectar
1 1/2 oz whiskey (or brandy or rum)
1 cup hot water
1 tea bag- I used honey lemon ginseng green tea
Lemon wedge

To make:  Pour agave into the bottom of a coffee mug.  Add whiskey and hot water.  Steep the tea bag for 3-5 min.  Garnish with the lemon wedge.  Drink hot.

Chai Toddy:
1 Tbsp agave nectar
1 1/2 oz whiskey
1 cup hot water
1 tea bag- I used Tazo Pumpkin Spice Chai

To make: Same as above, minus the lemon.

Caramel Apple Toddy:
1 1/2 oz Smirnoff Caramel Apple vodka
1/2 cup apple cider
1/2 cup water

To make: Pour all ingredients into a coffee mug.  Microwave on high for 2 min.  Garnish with a cinnamon stick, if you have one handy.

                                          Drink well and be well!  Cheers!!!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Pumpkin Spice Waffles with Banana Rum Sauce and Spiced Pecans

Because the banana recipe ideas just keep coming!  (Too bad I keep not winning the grand prize...)

Banana.  Pumpkin pie filling.  Pecans.  This is your mission, should you choose to accept it.

And I did, with much success.  Well, success in that they were unbelievably delicious, but not successful in actually bringing in any money.  So there's that.  Anyhow, I'm glad I put together this recipe.  These flavorful waffles would make a perfect brunch entree.  This recipe is a spin on the sweet potato waffles I made for a contest a year and a half ago.  I was tempted to use real rum in the banana sauce, but it was cheaper (and less boozy) to buy the extract.  The sauce was a little thick, but I liked it that way.  If you prefer a thinner sauce, whisk in more milk, one tablespoon at a time, until you're pleased with the consistency.

Not gonna lie, I'm feeling a little defeated by these damn contests.  Nonetheless, I will persevere!  I might just stay away from the banana contest for a bit.  Besides, I need to start planning my Thanksgiving menu soon!  And figure out how/when I'm going to cook, since I will potentially be working 18-19 hours the day before.  Oy vey.  

For the pecans:
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
4 Tbsp non-dairy butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cayenne *Note- these were kind of spicy. I liked it, but use less cayenne if you're not so sure about the heat (start with 1/8 tsp and add more as you see fit).
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 cup pecan halves

For the waffles:
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cayenne
1 1/2 cup pumpkin pie filling
4 Tbsp soy milk
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup sugar

For the sauce:
2 ripe bananas
4 Tbsp non-dairy butter
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 tsp rum extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp soy milk

For the pecans:  Line an 8x8 cake pan with wax paper and set aside.  In a medium saucepan, combine sugars and butter and melt over medium-low heat.  Stir in spices and remove from heat.  Add pecans and stir to coat well.   Dump the pecans into the baking dish and refrigerate while you make the waffles.

For the waffles:  In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder and soda, salt, cinnamon, and cayenne, and stir to combine.  In a medium bowl, combine pumpkin pie filling, milk, oil, and sugar, and whisk to mix well.  Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients, and stir to mix well.  Heat your waffle iron according to it's instructions.  Cook bater until golden.  This will yield 8 rectangular waffles. (OK, so I actually got 9 out of it, but whatever.)

For the sauce:  Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.  Pour sauce into a small saucepan and heat on medium low, stirring constantly, until sauce is slightly bubbly and heated through.

Arrange waffles on plates, topping each with sauce and sprinkling with pecans.
Yield 8.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Vegan Alfredo Pizza with Caramelized Onion, Garlic, and Fennel

Because my timing sucks...

In my continued quest to get rich quick by entering and [in theory] winning online recipe contests, I came across a homemade pizza contest with a whopping reward.  The grand prize?  $10,000.  Wow.  I could get so many tattoos pay off so many bills with that kind of money!  So I set off daydreaming about the fanciest pizza I could imagine.  I figured making a rich, cheese-less pizza would be appealing and out-of-the-box enough to get the judges' attention.  I decided to use a modified version of my alfredo recipe from forever ago, and a slightly altered version of a pizza dough recipe that I've had for years.  However, actually executing this recipe proved more complicated than I had anticipated.

There simply isn't enough space in the kitchen at my house, so I set off for another sister's kitchen.  Unfortunately, she had neither whole wheat flour (which I had intended to use for the crust) nor a pizza stone (which I always, always use when making pizza).  Nonetheless, we moved forward, using all-purpose flour for the crust and rolling it out onto a rectangle cookie sheet.  The result?  Delicious, but not exactly what I had in mind.  I just kept thinking that I needed a round pizza, the pics I took turned out really yellow, and the crust was too fluffy.  I needed to try this again.

So, a few days later, I arrived at my parent's house to make a disaster of do some recipe testing in their kitchen.  I brought my whole wheat flour and a pizza stone, hoping that everything would come together flawlessly.  The result?  I didn't actually like the whole wheat crust very well.  The sauce and the veggies were perfect, but the crust still wasn't right.

Alas, I was running out of time to submit the recipe, for which the deadline was the following day.  I thought it over that night and the next morning and decided that when I submitted the recipe, I would recommend using 1 cup each whole wheat and all-purpose flour.  However, when I got home from work and clicked on the contest site, I was saddened to discover that I needed to have submitted my recipe by noon.  It was now 5:30 pm.  [Feel free to use your imagination to describe the expletives that directly followed.]  So, the moral of the story is, procrastination costs thousands of dollars.  But at least I got an exquisite pizza recipe out of the whole ordeal.  So there's that.

For the dough:
2 cups flour (I'll leave this up to you: all whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, or one cup of each)
1 package fast-rising yeast
3/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground fennel
1 cup hot water
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp agave nectar (or honey)

For the sauce:
1 head roasted garlic*
3 Tbsp non-dairy butter
1 cup soy milk
12 oz firm silken tofu
1 Tbsp white cooking wine
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp thyme
1 Tbsp cornstarch

For the toppings:
1 1/2 Tbsp non-dairy butter
1 medium onion, sliced (about 1 cup)
8 large cloves garlic, peeled and quartered
1 bulb fennel, trimmed and chopped (about 2 cups), some of the fun, green sprigs reserved for decoration

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, yeast, salt, and fennel.  Stir well.  Stir in water, oil, and agave until all ingredients are well combined.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise 15 min.
In a high powered blender or food processor, combine all sauce ingredients.  Blend until smooth.
In a large saute pan, heat butter over medium heat.  Add onion and cook for 8-10 min, until onions are soft and starting to brown.  Add garlic and fennel and continue to cook over medium, stirring occasionally, for 20 min, until all veggies are soft.
Press pizza dough out on a round pizza stone or sheet.  Spread with 3/4 the sauce (it's gonna look really saucy, but just trust me) and top with cooked veggies.  Bake for 15-20 min, until pizza crust is golden brown.
While pizza is cooking, heat the remaining sauce in a small saucepan until thickened.  Serve on the side for dipping or additional drizzling.  Top with reserved fennel sprigs for a little extra flare.

*To roast garlic: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Peel as much of the papery skin off the bulb as you can while keeping the bulb intact.    Slice off the tops of the bulbs so the cloves are just exposed.  Place garlic bulbs on a sheet of tin foil and drizzle with olive oil.  Wrap the bulbs in the foil and bake 45 minutes.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Tropical Sweet and Sour Stir-fry

Because I think I'm finally getting my groove back!

I've been in a real rut lately.  The family hasn't been super impressed with any of the original dishes I've cooked for us this month (which included shepherd's pie and a cheesy broccoli-wild rice casserole, neither of which I even bothered to write down the recipes for), which led me to making vegan chili dogs and corn on the cob for dinner this past week.  Not super creative or healthy.  But hey, the kids didn't complain.  However, I can't let picky eaters interfere with my passion for cooking.  So I've decided to work on recipe testing after everyone else has had dinner (or at someone else's house, if possible).  And boy, do I have a few good ideas rolling around the ol' noggin right now!

In a recent moment of panic, worrying about how broke I am and wondering how I could come up with some extra cash (short of selling any non-essential organs on the black market), I found a new recipe contest website.  This site gives a list, by expiration date, of pretty much any and every contest going on the internet.  So I did a little browsing and checked out a few contests that end this month (I'm in need of instant gratification, people).  First up, Chiquita Banana's Cooking Lab recipe contest.  You come up with a recipe that includes bananas, and also two "secret ingredients" which change each week.  This week's ingredients were pineapple and spinach.  I know, I know, your first thought is "Hey!  Just throw them all into a smoothie!"  But come on now, that's not the way I work.  A smoothie is too obvious, too cliche.  I have to be original!!!  No, instead, I decided to put a little twist on sweet and sour stir fry.  Pineapple is usually in this dish anyway, so I figured the banana would just add to the "sweet" and the spinach would add a little extra color.

The banana actually added a really fantastic flavor to this stir fry!  My sister offered to try some as I was finishing up cooking, and couldn't stop raving about the banana.  At least someone in this house likes my cooking!  Now, let's just hope the judges do, too.  I originally tried to fry the banana in sesame oil, hoping it would make them less mushy when added to the stir fry, but I was wrong.  They actually got quite mushy in the pan.  So instead, I'm going to recommend stirring in the banana at the end.  Hopefully that will keep the fruit from becoming too mushy.  You just let me know how it turns out, will you?

Sweet and sour sauce:
1 cup vegetable broth
3/4 cup reserved pineapple juice (see below)
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, optional
2 Tbsp brown sugar
3 Tbsp cornstarch 

1 Tbsp sesame oil
14 oz extra firm tofu, water pressed out and cut into 1/2" cubes
1 medium onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large red bell pepper, sliced
1 lb frozen broccoli
20 oz can pineapple chunks in juice, juice reserved for the sauce
3 cups baby spinach
3 bananas, sliced into 1/2" thick discs

In a large mixing bowl, stir together veg broth, pineapple juice, soy sauce, vinegar, and pepper flakes, if using.  Whisk in the brown sugar and cornstarch and set aside.
In a large skillet, heat sesame oil over medium heat.  Add the tofu and cook until all sides are lightly brown.  Remove from pan and place tofu on a plate lined with paper towel.  Set aside for a bit.
In a large wok, saute onion and garlic in 1/4 cup water on medium high heat.  After about 5 min, add the pepper, adding more water as needed if veggies are sticking to the pan.  Cook for 5 min, then add the broccoli and cook for another 5-7 min, until broccoli is no longer frozen.  Give the sauce a quick whisk and add it to the wok, increasing heat to allow sauce to bubble and thicken.  Stir constantly, and decrease heat back to medium when sauce has thickened.  Stir in the tofu, pineapple, spinach, and banana, making sure all veggies and fruit are covered with sauce.  Continue to cook on medium heat until spinach is wilted and fruit is heated through.  Serve hot, over rice if desired.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Mushroom, Fennel, and Sausage Phyllo Cups

Because I decided to start entering contests again...

It's been exactly one month since I left my last job and I have yet to start working here.  You would think that this would leave me with endless amounts of free time to devote to cooking and recipe testing, but, no, that's not what's happening.  Part of the problem is that the kitchen in the house I'm staying in is pretty small, with limited counter space.  All of my fun kitchen gadgets are here (Yay!), but they're all packed in boxes in my room, which is downstairs (Boo!), and really, I'm just entirely too lazy to unpack what I need, bring it upstairs, cook what I want, clean off said kitchen gizmo, bring it back downstairs, and re-pack it.  Not gonna happen.

Another part of the problem is a general lack of inspiration.  The website I usually submit recipes to has stopped running contests.  I've been trying to check out other contest sites online and came across Athen's monthly phyllo contest.  I've entered this contest before but never won.  The prizes are less than generous, but, what the heck, it gave me something to do.  The theme was "Fall Flavors."  Mmmk, a little vague, but workable.  I came up with several ideas, but landed on mushrooms and fennel (brilliant combination, I must say).  And then... I ran out of time to put this together before the contest ended.  Son of a...

But whatever.  The flavor is spot on.  You could probably do this without the sausages, and substitute beans instead.  And you don't really need to put the filling in tiny little phyllo cups.  I think it would be good over rice.  Or potatoes.  Or pasta.  Or bread.  Or, well, anything, really.


1 Tbsp non-dairy butter
2 shallots, diced
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and diced
8 oz mushrooms, chopped
2 veg Polish sausage links, diced (I used Tofurkey Kielbasa)
1/4 tsp poultry seasoning
Salt and pepper

2 Tbsp non-dairy butter
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1 cup non-dairy milk
Salt and pepper

1-2 packages Athen's phyllo cups, optional (I only had one package of the cups, and had lots of filling left over)

In a large saute pan, heat butter over medium heat.  Add shallots and fennel and cook for about 3 min.  Toss in the mushrooms and cook for another 5 min.  Add sausage and poultry seasoning, stirring to mix well.  Continue to cook over medium heat for 8-10 min, until veggies are soft and sausage is heated through.  Season with salt and pepper. 
In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.  Stir in the flour, garlic powder, and paprika until well combined.  Slowly whisk in the milk.  Increase heat to allow gravy to bubble and thicken, stirring constantly.  Decrease heat and let simmer for a minute or two.  Add salt and pepper, to taste.  Pour gravy over the veggies and stir to coat completely.  Stuff the filling into little baby phyllo cups, or eat straight out of the pan with a fork.  [I may or may not have engaged in both of these methods.] 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Stir-Fried String Beans and Noodles

Because it's all about trial and error...

And so, my new journey begins.  I'm back in my hometown, living with my sister and her family until I figure out what I'm doing with my life (this may take a while...).  But it's great to be home, and I'm having a blast spending tons of quality time with my niece and nephew.  I was warned ahead of time that they were "picky eaters," but that didn't stop me from daring to implement Meatless Mondays in this house.  My sister thought it was a fabulous idea, in fact, and was more than willing to allow me to cook dinner on Monday.  I was not prepared for quite the tough audience, though...

I know that the fam totally digs Asian food, and I tried to go with veggies that the kids might actually eat.  My nephew promised me that he likes green beans, but upon tasting these (which I had purchased at the farmer's market two days before), admitted to me that he likes "those vegetables" when they're soft, not crunchy (am I going to have to switch to canned veggies???).  He does, however, like mushrooms (WIN!!!) and he liked the noodles.  My niece refused to eat any of it, but luckily, I had planned ahead for these shenanigans and prepared a back-up: Gardein chick'n strips and rice pilaf.  Hey, it was still meatless, so I've got that going for me. 

 My bro-in-law ate it with no complaints, but my sister, who had to work late that night, pointed out that the noodles don't re-heat very well (which is too bad because I made a ton.  Needless to say, I didn't have to cook again for myself for the rest of the week).  

I'm gonna go ahead and say that this recipe was a complete failure.  Not in that it tasted bad- on the contrary, it was absolutely delicious!- but it was not "kid-friendly" or even "adult-friendly."  I'm going to have to stick with more basic, simple meals for a bit, until their taste buds are ready for the full awesomeness of my recipes.  Until then, here's the recipe for the dinner I made.  You can take it or leave it.

3 cups vegetable broth
3 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar (I used a garlic-infused vinegar which I really liked) 
1 tsp molasses
2 tsp chili garlic paste
3 Tbsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp Chinese 5 spice
15 oz. package stir-fry rice noodles
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 lb green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
4 oz shiitake mushrooms, sliced
4 oz. baby corn

In a medium bowl, whisk together veg broth, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, molasses, chili garlic paste, cornstarch, and Chinese 5 spice, until well blended.  Set aside.
Bring water to boil in a large sauce pan.  Cook noodles according to directions on the package.
In a large wok, saute onions and garlic over medium-high heat for 3 min, adding a Tbsp water if veggies begin to stick.  Add beans and cook for 5 min.  Add mushrooms and baby corn and continue to cook over medium-high heat for 5 more min.  Give the sauce a quick whisk and add to the wok.  Allow sauce to bubble, then turn heat down to medium-low until noodles are done.
When the noodles have finished cooking, drain and add to the wok.  Stir well to completely coat the noodles with the sauce.  Serve hot.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Summer Squash and Pasta with Lemon Basil Butter Sauce

Because sometimes you just want to make something fancy!!! (And super duper fattening.)

I bought a bottle of the most amazing Chardonnay ever a couple of weeks ago at a farmer's market.  [Yes, I bought wine at a farmer's market.  Yes, that was my only purchase that day.  Because I'm a classy lady like that.]  I've been saving it to share with my roomie because, well, we have to say good-bye soon.  We're both moving away from Kalamazoo and we've been trying to plan one last roomie dinner before we go.  I wanted to make something fancy to go with the wine, but haven't had much time to cook lately.  As it is, tonight's dinner was served at 11:00 pm.  Because that's how I roll.

Anyhow, I was gifted with some beautiful summer squash last weekend, and  I decided to throw together several summer flavors, just to see what would happen.  The sauce is positively heavenly.  But it's a little heavy, and paired with the pasta, it may be a bit much for some folks.  Now, that didn't stop me from having 3 (small-ish) servings, but the sauce could go on anything: portobello mushrooms, grilled veggies, tofu/tempeh/seitan cutlets, you name it.  Also, I had way more pasta than sauce, so plan accordingly.  Perhaps halve the amount of pasta?  Or double the sauce?  Or throw caution to the wind, I'm not judging.

The Chardonnay paired perfectly with these flavors, by the way.  And the roomie loved it, so I've got that going for me.  Hopefully this isn't our last last dinner together, but if I keep this up, we're definitely going out with a bang!

1 lb fettuccine (Too much pasta!!!)
2 large summer squash, shaved into ribbons with a vegetable peeler
1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp non-dairy butter (I used Earth Balance)
2 large shallots, thinly sliced
2/3 cup white wine (I used pinot grigio)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (I got this from 1 1/2 lemons)
1/2 Tbsp agave nectar
.75 oz fresh basil, chopped (OK, so that's what the package said.  I don't know how to translate that measurement into normal recipe jargon.)
Salt and pepper

Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook pasta according to directions.  Add the squash ribbons for the last 3 minutes.
In a large skillet pan, melt butter over medium-low heat.  Once butter is melted, add shallots and cook for 3 min.  Pour in the wine and lemon juice and stir well.  Let simmer for 5 min, then stir in the basil.  Continue to simmer for another 4-5 min, adding salt and pepper to taste.
When pasta is done, drain and return to pot.  Arrange pasta on plate and drizzle with butter sauce.  Enjoy with a friend... and a glass of Chardonnay. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Rice 'n Beans and Mustard Greens

Because it's OK to repeat yourself.
Because it's OK to repeat yourself.

I know, I know, I already blogged about beans and greens once before, but that was a long time ago and frankly, I don't give a yam.  I got this idea in my head that I really needed to try making something with mustard greens, and this was exactly what I wanted.  I was going for a southern-inspired dish: rice and beans, greens, gravy generously poured all over everything.  Mmmmmm.  But I'm going to be completely honest with you- I was really flippin' lazy about it.  I'm not ashamed, it's whatever.

*While this is a super easy meal, I did dirty a lot of dishes.  So, just a heads up.

This really isn't much of a recipe, I'm afraid.  Since I used boxed rice, I didn't have to season the rice or beans.  I could have marinated and pan-fried tempeh, but I cheated and bought Gardein frozen chick'n patties instead.  And the country gravy, making a cameo appearance, is originally from this recipe.  But, put all the things together, and I had one sweet little southern dinner, which I delightfully shared with my darling sister, who had come to visit for the evening.  Love!

1 box (6.2 oz) quick cooking rice (I used Uncle Ben's long grain and wild rice)
15 oz can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
15 oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chile powder
1 bunch mustard greens, stems removed and leaves torn or chopped into small pieces
Salt and pepper
1 package Gardein chick'n, optional

2 Tbsp non-dairy butter
2 Tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1-2 cups non-dairy milk
Salt and pepper

In a medium-sized saucepan, cook the rice according to the directions on the package.  When the rice is done, stir in the beans and heat on low while everything else is going.
In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic and saute for about 5 min, until the onions are soft.  Stir in the tomatoes, cumin, and chile powder and cook for about 4 min.  Add the greens and stir to cover with the tomatoes, allowing the leaves to wilt.  Cook for 8-10 min, stirring frequently.  Season with salt and pepper.
In a large saute pan, get the chick'n going, if using.  Follow the directions on the package.
Finally, in yet another saucepan (this one can be small), melt the butter over medium heat.  Stir in the flour, paprika, and garlic powder until well combined.  Whisk in the milk, starting with one cup and adding more, one tablespoon at a time until reaching desired consistency.  Bring the gravy to a bubble, stirring constantly, allowing the sauce to thicken.  Decrease heat and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
And finally, load up your plate with the rice and beans, mustard green goodness, and chick'n, and smother all of that with gravy.  Savor the awesomeness.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Butternut and Summer Squash Soup

Because you should always, always play with your food.

I've had this butternut squash hanging out for a while now.  Just chillin', not going anywhere.  I mean, it's July.  The apartment already feels like it's going to spontaneously combust.  No way am I going to turn on the oven!  But then, what the heck was I going to do with it if I didn't roast it?  [Reason #537 that I should probably get my hands on a grill.]  So, there it sat on the counter, looking sad and lonely.  Until one day, when Michigan weather pulled through and cooled down enough to make roasted squash soup a good idea.

But, not before b-squash and I had a little photo shoot.

All shenanigans aside, this is one of the simplest, most flavorful soups I have ever made.  So, if you live in a cooler climate, or have central air, or enjoy turning your kitchen into a sauna, you should definitely give this soup a try.

1 large butternut squash
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 medium zucchini, sliced
1 medium summer squash, sliced
1 tsp thyme
2 cups vegetable broth
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Cut the butternut squash in half lengthwise and use a spoon to remove the seeds inside.  Place cut side down on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, and bake for 35-40 min, until soft.
In a large soup pot,   heat olive oil on medium high heat and add the onion and garlic.  Saute for 5 min, stirring frequently.  Add the zucchini and summer squash and cook for 5 min.  Stir in the thyme and turn heat to low until the butternut squash is done.
When the b-squash is done, very carefully scoop out the flesh into a high speed blender.  Add the vegetable broth and blend on high until smooth.  Pour the squash mix into the soup pot and stir well.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Stir-Fried Summer Veggies Over Lentils & Rice with Sesame-Crusted Tofu

Because sometimes you just want to show off, you know?

Have you ever gotten so excited about the colors and varieties of fresh summer produce that you end up going wild, like a kid in a candy store, buying up more veggies than one person could realistically consume before it all goes bad?  No?  Well, anyway, that was me at the grocery store last Friday.  I didn't really have any good recipe ideas per se, but I knew I had a friend coming to visit the next day and, I don't know, I just thought, with all these beautiful veggies, I could come up with something pretty.  And impressive.  So I grabbed two onions, two bell peppers, a zucchini, summer squash, a couple of handfuls of green beans, and some tofu, because, why not?

Throwing the veggies together was the easy part.  I only sprinkled them with salt and pepper after cooking, no other seasonings, because I wanted their fresh flavor to shine through.  I cooked lentils and brown basmati rice together in the pressure cooker with a bay leaf.  Why both?  Because I was feeling super indecisive, that's why.  They really complimented each other well, I think.  The tofu... now that was the real challenge.  I was originally going to bake it, but it was too bloody hot, let's get serious.  The marinade turned out amazing and I will definitely use that again.  I suppose I could have "crusted" the tofu with bread crumbs or whatever [I didn't actually know what I was doing, to be honest], but I was really into making a mess of the kitchen, so instead, I threw sesame seeds and pepper everywhere.  Totally worth it.

This recipe reads like it's really  long and really time consuming, but it wasn't... really.  And honestly, you don't have to make all three components together, if you don't feel like it.  It's summer.  It's hot.  We're all very busy and important and have much better things to do than spend the whole day in a hot kitchen.  However, in my opinion, the three parts came together splendidly.  [And doesn't it look fancy???]

For the tofu:
1 1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp Chinese 5-spice
1 tsp liquid smoke
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
14 oz extra firm tofu, water pressed out, and sliced into 1/4" thick slabs (I got 8 slices)
2 Tbsp sesame seeds
2 Tbsp cracked black pepper
1 Tbsp olive oil

For the lentils and rice:
1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup brown lentils
1 cup brown basmati rice (or rice of choice)
4 1/2 cups water
1 bay leaf

For the veggies:
1 onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bell pepper, sliced
1 each zucchini and summer squash, sliced into half moons
1/2 lb green beans, trimmed and cut into 1'" pieces

For the tofu:  In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine ingredients from the vegetable broth to the red pepper flakes, and stir to mix well.  Arrange the tofu slices in a shallow baking dish and pour the marinade over top.  Let sit for 20 min.  While the tofu is resting, get the lentils and rice started.
Lentils and rice:  Pour 1/2 Tbsp olive oil into a pressure cooker and heat on medium high heat.  Add the lentils, rice, water and bay leaf.  Fasten the lid and bring the pressure up (according to the directions for your device) and cook for 18 min.  Remove from heat and decrease pressure (again, according to the instructions for your device).  BUT, while the pressure is on, you can get started on the veggies.
Veggies:  In a huge skillet or wok, saute the onion and garlic with 2 Tbsp water, adding more as needed, for about 3 min on medium-high heat.  Add the pepper and green beans, and cook, stirring occasionally for another 3-5 min.  Stir in the zucchini and squash and cook on medium low heat for another couple of minutes.  If the pressure cooker isn't done yet, turn heat down to simmer (to avoid over-cooking) and cover with a lid to keep warm, if desired.
Now, while all that was going on, you also need to "crust" and cook your tofu.  In a shallow dish, stir together sesame seeds and pepper.  Remove tofu slices, one at a time, from the marinade, shaking off excess liquid.  Plop it into the sesame/pepper mix to coat each side (OK, so my tofu wasn't actually "coated", it more just happened to attract some of the sesame/pepper mix on each side.  Whatever).  Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat.  Add four slices of tofu (or however many will fit) and cook for 3-4 min on each side until lightly browned and heated through.  Repeat with remaining tofu.
And that's it!!!  Put a little of each component on a plate (making it look pretty, of course) and enjoy!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Pesto Portobello Mushroom Burgers

Because good ideas (and good food!) are meant to be shared!

This month's recipe contest theme is "Healthy Sandwiches, Salads, and Snacks."  I already submitted the dill chickpea salad sammies, my cheddar jalapeno BBBs and that oh-so-elegant balsamic apples and arugula salad, but I had more ideas to throw out there!  Unfortunately, while the ideas are plentiful, the free time to do all of the recipe testing is lacking.  But, thanks to a spontaneous trip home, a few willing taste-testers, and the help of my lovely sister, I was finally able to present these babies to my sister and a couple of friends over the weekend and boy, were they a hit!  I can't say that the prep and cooking went exactly as planned, but I am in love with the way these 'shrooms turned out!

Probably these burgers would be amazing cooked on the grill but, well, I don't have a grill.  Or even know how to grill, for that matter.  So, whatever, the stove top worked just fine thankyouverymuch.  I think the flavors of the marinade could be changed up a bit, according to your tastes (more heat, less smoke, etc).  It is also entirely possible that I may have forgotten to write down some of the measurements because I was drinking vodka socializing while preparing the food.  So the following ingredients are a best guess.  But I'm pretty sure it's right.  Almost positive.  It's all about confidence, right???

Let's be honest, you don't have to top the burgers with pesto.  In fact, I'm sure they would be brilliant smothered in BBQ sauce and topped with veggie cheese.  But the truth is, you'd be doing yourself a disservice if you didn't at least try the pesto.  Fresh basil is one of the most amazing foods in the world.  Seriously.  Take advantage of the summer flavors and enjoy!

2 cups vegetable broth
2 tsp liquid smoke
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
Salt and pepper

6 portobello mushrooms, stems removed and gills scraped out with a spoon

2 cups fresh basil
3 tsp chopped garlic
3 Tbsp pine nuts
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper

12 slices of hearty bread (or 6 burger buns)
Additional toppings: mayo, lettuce, tomato, onion, as desired

In a medium sized bowl, combine broth, liquid smoke, balsamic vinegar, cumin, poultry seasoning, garlic powder, and onion powder.  Stir to mix well.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Arrange the mushrooms in a baking dish (it's OK if they overlap) and pour the marinade over them.  Swish the liquid around to wet all of the mushrooms and let sit for 10 min, flipping the mushrooms over after 10 min. 
While the mushrooms are marinating, prepare the pesto.  In a food processor, combine the basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil, and red wine vinegar.  Pulse the ingredients until pine nuts are finely chopped.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
Spray a large frying pan with cooking spray and heat on medium.  Add two mushrooms, pouring 1 Tbsp marinade over each mushroom, and cook 3-5 min on each side, until heated through.  Repeat with remaining mushrooms.
Top each mushroom with pesto and any additional toppings, as desired.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Dilly Chickpea Salad Sandwiches

Because it's picnic time!!!

 I love going on picnics.  There's something so magical about sitting outside, eating sandwiches and drinking wine with someone you're sweet on.  [As long is it isn't too hot, too cold, too buggy, too humid, too windy, too rainy, too early, too late, or marred by any other inconvenience that may be accompanied by "enjoying the great outdoors".]  Lucky for me, I've found a new picnic partner (and the weather was perfect!), so we set off for an evening of sandwiches, salad, cabernet, and good conversation by the lake.

I insisted on offered to make the meal, since I'm a total control freak I had a few good picnic ideas rolling around in the ol' noggin.  Of course my go-to sandwich is chickpea salad.  I changed it up a bit to taste more like a chickpea melt I've had at a restaurant in Grand Rapids that is absolutely to die for (the sandwich and the restaurant, actually).  This meant no pickle relish, fresh herbs, a bit more mayo [Side note: have you ever noticed that most summer salads are made with mayo?  Potato salad, egg salad, tuna salad... other salads.  I'm gonna have to come up with an alternative at some point.  One can only consume so much mayo before jeopardizing one's "girlish figure."].  But really it's very simple and absolutely delicious.  I was also going to post the quinoa salad I made, but, to be honest, it was only OK.  I may tweak the recipe later this summer and share it after I get the flavors and measurements right.  So for now, try out this creamy, dilly sandwich and I promise you'll fall in love.

15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced celery
2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill weed
1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise (I used Vegenaise original...though I could have gone with the low-fat)
3 Tbsp honey mustard
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp paprika
Salt and pepper
12 slices multi-grain bread
Romaine lettuce

In a large bowl, mash the chickpeas with a potato masher or a fork until all beans are broken up. Add onion, celery, and dill.  Stir in the mayo, mustard, and vinegar, and mix well.  Sprinkle with paprika and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
*Divide the chickpea salad among six slices of bread.  Top with a leaf of Romaine and another slice of bread.
Serves 6.  (Or two hungry people with leftovers for the week.)

*Let's get serious, I know y'all know how to assemble a friggin' sandwich.  But I also posted this recipe to a contest, and sometimes readers just want you to spell everything out for them.  It's whatever.

Oh yeah, and here are some bonus pics of my picnic view.  I love love love Lake Michigan.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Deanna's Lentil Vegetable Soup

Because it's OK to be a copy-cat sometimes.

You know how some people have a favorite restaurant that serves their favorite dish, and those people will always choose that beloved restaurant when given the option because they know they get to order that killer meal, and they look forward to it all day, and after they eat it they feel all warm and happy inside and know that their lives are now complete?  Yeah?  Well, I have a favorite canned soup that makes me feel that way.  I know, it's weird. But just work with me here.

When I don't have time to cook and I don't have any left-overs in the fridge, and I need something quick to grab for lunch, my favorite thing is Amy's Kitchen soup.  [Does this sound like an endorsement to you? Maybe I should write to them and ask for commission...]  Particularly the lentil vegetable soup.  I don't know what it is about that soup but I am completely in love.  However, at $2.50 a can, and more sodium than I ought to be consuming in one meal (I can eat the whole can in one sitting... and almost always do), I got to thinking that I could probably figure out how to make this soup myself.  So I set to work last week and came up with this.  It's not exactly the same, but it's awfully close and it's still delicious and filling and comforting and super duper simple to make.  That's not to say that I'll never buy the canned stuff again (let's get serious, with my lack of time management skills, I'll find myself starving for soup with not enough time to cook again at some point in my life... probably next week), but  this is a fantastic alternative.

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup green lentils
3 1/2 cups water
2 bay leaves
15 oz can diced tomatoes
1 cup vegetable broth
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
1 lb frozen mixed vegetables
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp molasses
A few drops of liquid smoke, optional
Salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil in a pressure cooker on medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic and saute for about 5 min or until onions are soft.  Add the lentils, water, and bay leaves and fasten the pressure cooker lid.  Turn heat up to high to bring the pot up to pressure.  Reduce heat to medium and cook for about 10 min.  Remove pressure cooker from heat and release the pressure (do this according to the directions for your own device).  Remove lid and return pan to medium high heat.  Add the tomatoes, veg broth, cumin, oregano, and  poultry seasoning, and stir to mix well.  Add in the veggies, balsamic vinegar, molasses, and liquid smoke (if using) and stir it all up.  Cook for another 7-10 min until veggies are cooked through.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Garlicky Black Bean Tostadas with Roasted Eggplant

Because it's contest time again!

I had taken a break from entering recipe contests for a while, for a variety of reasons.  For one, the contest themes either didn't apply to me or didn't appeal to me (I don't own a grill, so Grilling Recipes is right out.  I'm not even going to pretend like I want to create a Chicken Recipe.  I don't have a single Slow-Cooker Recipe in my repertoire.  In fact, I'm not sure where my slow cooker is...)  Also, I haven't really felt very inspired lately.  To be honest, I've been eating an awful lot of veggie wraps and canned soup these past couple of weeks.  However, I could use a little boost in my income, and I have more free time for cooking these days, since homework isn't monopolizing my evening hours anymore.  Thus, I decided to get myself back in the kitchen and back to recipe testing.  This month's contest theme is Mexican.  Oh yeah, I got this.

I actually cheated with this recipe: I used components from other recipes I've made in the past (garlic-lime black beans from just a few weeks ago, and a fire-roasted tomato and chipotle sauce that was never actually posted to the blog but comes from an old contest submission), adding the eggplant just to change it up a bit.  The end result was savory, smokey, spicy, and- hopefully- good enough to win.  We shall see.  In the meantime, I have some recipe "fixing" to do.  I had also experimented with a butternut squash soup, but accidentally made it melt-your-face-off hot.  So I'm gonna try to tweak that this week.  Stay tuned.

1 medium-sized eggplant
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

1 Tbsp olive oil
4-5 cloves garlic, chopped
3 stalks green onions, trimmed and thinly sliced, 2 Tbsp reserved for garnish
15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 Tbsp lime juice
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chile powder
14.5 oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 Tbsp chipotle chilies in adobo sauce
4 corn tostadas
Sour cream, optional

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Trim the stem end and bottom of the eggplant and then cut in half lengthwise.  Using a sharp knife, score the eggplant with diagonal lines, about an inch apart, to create a diamond pattern.  Drizzle each half with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place on baking sheet cut-side down.  Bake for 35 min, or until skin is wrinkled and flesh is soft.  Allow to cool just enough to handle.  Cut each half into one inch slices. 
In a large saute pan, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add garlic and green onion (reserving 2 Tbsp) and saute about 3-5 min until garlic is starting to brown but not burn.  Add the black beans and stir to cover with oil, lightly mashing the beans with the back of a spoon or spatula.  Add the lime juice, cumin, and chile powder and stir to mix well.  Continue to cook over medium heat 5 min or so, until beans are heated through.  be careful not to over cook, or the beans will dry out.  In that case, add a little more lime juice as needed.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, simmer fire roasted tomatoes and chipotle chilies over low heat for about 5 minutes, or until heated through.
To assemble:  Spread black bean mixture over each tostada.  Top with eggplant slices and spoon tomato sauce over top.  Serve with a dollop of sour cream and reserved green onions, if desired.
Serves 4

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Sweet Roasted Beets with Creamy Pasta

Because pasta is always the answer!!!

Woah, there has been an awful lot of celebrating going on over here!  I graduated and had a party; my dad (and his twin) turned 60 last week and we had a party; my sister moved out of our old house and into a beautiful new condo and... well, I guess we didn't technically celebrate, but there were several mimosas consumed over the course of the weekend.  Anyhow, my point is that I've been awfully busy and haven't had a chance to do any recipe testing until today.

With the advent of my newly acquired post-graduation freedom, I have made it my mission to teach myself new things.  First things first, I ordered a bunch of history books, in an effort to learn more about, well, history (let's get serious, I haven't studied that stuff since, maybe, middle school?).  OK, so I haven't actually started reading any of them yet, but I'll get there, I promise.  I also realized that I'm at a point in my life that it is no longer acceptable to say "I can't" or "I don't know how" or "I don't like that."  So, obviously, the first place to start was making myself like foods that I have been convinced I completely despise.  Because I like the challenge.

Beets are a remarkable little root vegetable, don't you think?  On the one hand, they possess an exquisite color and are super good for you- full of folate and manganese, and can help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke [this sounds like a pharmaceutical commercial...].  However they also smell and taste like dirt, making them highly unappealing to most sane persons.  Well my friends, today was the day I decided to cook beets in a way that made them both appealing and palatable.  Hence the pasta.  I mean, who doesn't love pasta???  This makes those pesky little beets totally worth trying at least, am I right?  [Just say yes so we can move on...]

Alright, let's get down to business: roasting makes everything better, this is a fact.  I roasted these babies with sweet onions and garlic, and plopped them atop a mountain of creamy pasta goodness and it was fricken' awesome.  Just try it.  Once.  To better yourself as a person.

4 small beets, peeled and cubed
8 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
1 large sweet onion, chopped
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups raw cashews, soaked
1/3 cup white wine (I used pinot grigio)
3 cups vegetable broth
3 Tbsp cornstarch
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tsp dried thyme
12 oz pasta
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Toss beets, garlic, and onions in a baking dish with olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake for 30-35 min, stirring once, until beets are tender.
In a blender or food processor, combine cashews, wine, veg broth, cornstarch, garlic, and thyme, and blend until smooth.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.  Pour sauce into a sauce pan and heat on high until bubbling, then turn heat down to a simmer, stirring constantly.
Meanwhile, heat a large pot of water to cook the pasta.  Cook according to directions on the package.  Drain and return to the pan.  Add the sauce and stir until all the pasta is covered.
Serve the pasta hot with a big heaping helping of the beet/onion/garlic goodness. 
Savor the deliciousness of roasted beets on pasta.  So good.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Garlic and Lime Black Beans

Because it's time to celebrate!!!

After two and a half years, 84 credit hours, the seemingly never-ending homework, papers, and group projects, behavior change projects, blood, sweat, and tears, mental meltdowns and an overall GPA of 3.91, I'm finally graduating from college!  The past three years have been a trip, I'll say that.  I left my previous career to study something completely different and take on a whole new lifestyle.  Besides changing my major after just my first semester, I have been met with challenges all over the damn place: relationship break-ups, three apartments, eight jobs, various illnesses, including a kidney stone, living way, way, way below the poverty line, and other bummer things that I won't dwell on.  But honestly, I wouldn't change it for anything.  Now, that's not to say that I'll jump at the chance to go back for my Master's any time soon, but I'm glad I can finally say I have a degree.  And guess what?  I already have a job!!!  Yee-haw!

So yeah, I'm pretty pumped.  My folks and my sister are coming down for the ceremony, and then Sunday we're going to have a family celebration dinner consisting of tacos and cake.  No, that's not gross, that's a fabulous combination.  Tacos are just so easy when you're feeding a crowd!  My mom and sister are taking care of most of the fixin's, but I'll be making fajita veggies and this tempeh and pecan taco filling.

I was going to stop at that, but I made something last night that turned out spectacular.  The roomie and I were celebrating several things- my last day of class officially over and the new job, as well as the interview she had yesterday.  I made tostadas, but the recipe I'm about to post (if I ever stop blabbing) is just for the black beans I made to put on them.  I also topped our tostadas with crumbled vegan chorizo, Daiya cheddar cheese, peppers, salsa, and sour cream.  Not gonna lie, these were awesome.  But anyways, the beans.  The beans were pretty stellar themselves.  They would be quite lovely in a wrap, taco, or burrito.  However they didn't look all that lovely when I tried to get a picture, so you get a snapshot of my assembled tostada instead.  Be very, very jealous.

1 Tbsp olive oil
4-5 cloves garlic, chopped
3 stalks green onions, trimmed and thinly sliced, 2 Tbsp reserved for garnish
15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 Tbsp lime juice
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chile powder

In a large saute pan, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add garlic and green onion (reserving 2 Tbsp) and saute about 3-5 min until garlic is starting to brown but not burn.  Add the black beans and stir to cover with oil, lightly mashing the beans with the back of a spoon or spatula.  Add the lime juice, cumin, and chile powder and stir to mix well.  Continue to cook over medium heat 5 min or so, until beans are heated through.  be careful not to over cook, or the beans will dry out.  In that case, add a little more lime juice as needed.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Asian Noodles with Bok Choy, Shiitake, and Tofu

Because it's OK to change your mind at the last minute.

I have been in quite the creative slump for the past two weeks.  I had spent about a week and a half house-sitting for a friend, and while he has a beautiful house with a fantastic kitchen, I never really felt inspired to cook anything new.  I mean, I did cook twice, but not anything worth blogging about.  I just haven't had any good ideas.  I blame it on school.  My brain is fried.  I've checked out.  I'm less than two weeks away from graduating and I can't wait.
Moving on... 

This dish- or rather, the original idea for this dish- was actually inspired by my culinary tourism class.  We're nearing the end of the semester, and our last unit covered tourism in Asia.  We watched several videos on Korea, Laos, Singapore, Shanghai, and Malaysia.  In these videos, there were so many beautiful looking noodle dishes, with broth and fresh veggies, that I was dying to whip something like that up myself.  I bought all the groceries I needed on Sunday, but by 9:30 last night I still hadn't cooked anything and was in desperate need for food.  So my idea for a long-simmering broth with noodles and vegetables, served with breaded and baked tofu turned into something quicker and easier.  And boy is it delicious!

Instead of a soup, this is more like a noodley stir-fry.  The sauce has a kick, which I enjoy, but if you don't like a lot of heat, I would skip the red pepper flakes.  Also, this makes a ton of food, so share it with friends!  Or strangers, whatever.

I'm feeling pretty pumped that my recipe creativity is slowly coming back.  Now to figure out what to make for Easter...

14 oz extra firm tofu, pressed and cut into cubes
3 tsp sesame oil, divided
14 oz stir-fry rice noodles
4 oz shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
3 stems green onion, thinly sliced
1 large bunch bok choy, trimmed, stalks chopped and leaves roughly chopped or torn
2 cups veg broth
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp molasses
2 tsp chili garlic paste
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp Chinese five spice
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

In a large saute pan, heat 2 tsp of the sesame oil over medium-high heat.  Add the cubed tofu in one layer and cook on each side until lightly browned.  This might take up to 10 minutes.  It did for me, anyway.  Take the tofu out of the pan and put it on a plate, or in a bowl, or whatever.  Just let it hang out for a sec.
Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the rice noodles as directed on the package.  In the meantime, get that pan back on the stove and add one more tsp of sesame oil.  Toss in the mushrooms, bok choy stems, and green onion, and saute for about 7 min.  Stir occasionally, and while that's cooking, make the sauce.
In a large bowl, whisk together the veg broth, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, molasses, chili paste, cornstarch, Chinese five spice, and red pepper flakes (if using).  Toss the tofu back into the pan with the veggies and add the bok choy leaves.  Pour in the sauce and turn the heat up a bit so that it starts bubbling.  Once the sauce starts to thicken, turn the heat back to medium.
At this point, the noodles should be done.  Drain and return them to the pot.  Pour in the sauce and veggies and stir to coat all noodles.  Serve hot.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Coconut Creamed Kale

Because alliteration is adorable.

Creamed spinach is a thing.  So is creamed corn.  I'm not sure if I've ever had either of them, but they've been on my mind lately.  I can't explain why, that's just how my brain works.  But I got to thinking, if you can cream spinach and corn, can you cream other veggies?  Peas?  That's a thing, too.  What else?  How about kale?  Specifically, the half bunch of kale left in my fridge from last week's recipe?

Of course, I couldn't just go and follow someone else's recipe for this sort of thing.  It had to be creative, otherwise I wouldn't have anything to blog about!  I've had a can of lite coconut milk in the cupboard for a while, and I liked the name "coconut creamed kale" so much that I figured I just had to make this happen! 

Traditional creamed spinach starts with a roux (butter and flour) but I decided that the coconut milk had plenty of fat without the added butter [besides, I'm trying to watch my girlish figure these days].  So I used cornstarch as a thickener.  And instead of traditional nutmeg, I added a dash of Chinese 5 spice.  Best. Idea. Ever.  Seriously, don't skip this ingredient- it totally makes the flavor of this dish.

So again, this is a side dish, I would guess it yields about 4 servings.  (Hard to say since I eat all of my meals solo these days and I have no sense of portion control.)  So I served mine with pan-fried tempeh, which I was originally going to include in this post as well but honestly, it wasn't that great.  I ended up smothering it with BBQ sauce.  Oh well, any excuse to eat BBQ sauce is good enough for me.

15 oz can regular or lite coconut milk
2 Tbsp cornstarch
Dash Chinese 5-spice
Salt and pepper
1 cup diced onion
3 cloves garlic
4 cups kale, stems removed and leaves roughly chopped or torn

In a high-speed blender or food processor, combine coconut milk, cornstarch, and 5-spice.  Blend on high for a couple of minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside.
In a large soup pot, saute onion and garlic on medium heat with about 1/4 cup of water.  Cook for 5-7 min until onions are soft, adding more water 1 Tbsp at a time if veggies start to stick.  Add the coconut milk mixture and increase heat to allow sauce to bubble and thicken, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat to medium low and cook another minute or two, adding a little more salt and pepper as desired.  Toss in the kale and stir to completely cover with sauce.  Cook on medium heat for 6-8 min, stirring frequently, until kale is wilted and heated through.  Serve hot.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Beer-Braised Potatoes and Kale

Because beer is better!  (No, that's not right.  Vodka is better, but that has nothing to do with this post.)

Want to hear a secret?  I hate holidays.  Yep, I do.  Pretty much all of them.  I hate the contrived way they make you feel obligated to celebrate meaningless occasions, like President's Day or Flag Day.  And I get that most holidays started out with meaning and purpose, to celebrate the life and accomplishments of some person or another.  But why do I have to wear green on March 17?  Why is everyone drinking so much beer?  Why don't these people admit to being Irish on any other day???

My family has a teensy-weensy bit of Irish in our ancestry, but I don't really identify with it.  I really don't care for Celtic music, I'm not a red-head (although I do have some pretty adorable freckles), I don't know a whole lot about Irish culture, except that their "cuisine" leaves much to be desired, and I'm not a big fan of beer (although I do like drinking and I have quite the temper).  This is all a round-about way of me saying that I wasn't originally going to make a wannabe Irish dish for St. Patrick's day, but as it turns out, I had half a bag of potatoes and a good idea.  So here it is.

This is my first attempt at braising, a technique of cooking ingredients (in this case, potatoes) in simmering liquid.  And I'm pretty sure I did it wrong, but whatever.  It was still delicious.  You could probably use any kind of beer you prefer, I just picked up some Guinness for "authenticity" [NOT VEGAN!!! Check comments below.].  And I chose kale over cabbage because I wanted that bright green color.   You know, for the simplicity of this recipe, it was really pretty amazing.  It's a side dish, not a main course, so I would say it yields about 4-5 servings.  I had mine with Tofurkey beer brats.  Aw yeah, those are the whip.

1 Tbsp non-dairy butter
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 lbs red-skinned potatoes, quartered (or cut smaller if the potatoes are kind of big)
1/2 cup vegan stout, or beer of choice
2 2/1 cups veg broth
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 bunch kale, stems removed and leaves roughly torn
Salt and pepper

In a large soup pot, melt butter over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic and saute for about 5 min, until the onions are soft.  Add the potatoes and arrange them so that they are in one layer and most of them are touching the bottom of the pan, cut side sown.

  Cook for about 5 min without stirring.  Pour in the beer and the veg broth, and stir in the brown sugar.  Increase heat to bring liquid to a boil, then reduce heat to low and let simmer, covered, for 10 min.  (Be sure to keep the heat on low and not low-ish.  I was trying to multi-task and had the heat up too high, resulting in mushy potatoes.  Don't let this happen to you!)
After 10 min, add the kale, stirring to cover the leave with the liquid in the pot.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.  Cook covered for about 5 min or until leaves are bright green and potatoes are cooked through.
Using a slotted spoon, remove potatoes and veggies from pan and place in a serving dish.  Cover to keep warm.  *With the remaining liquid, you have two choices for a sauce:  You can allow it to boil down, making sort of a glaze to drizzle over the potatoes, or you can add a thickener, such as flour or cornstarch, to make like a gravy.  I opted to reduce the liquid, and it went a little something like this...

Return pot to stove and increase heat to high to allow liquid to boil.  Continue boiling until liquid has reduced and thickened.  This took me almost 10 min.  I added pepper to the pot, but not salt, since reducing the liquid really concentrates the flavor of whatever you had put in there originally.  Since there was already plenty of salt from the veg broth, I didn't add any more.  When liquid has thickened, you can use it to drizzle over individual servings of potatoes.

Yield 4-5 servings.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Parsley Potato Soup

Because sometimes you buy an entire bunch of parsley for a recipe and then completely forget to add it to the dish you bought it for.

Yeah, so I had bunch of parsley left over from last week's gumbo.  [I also forgot to add the jalapeno I picked up, but I'll put that in something else later this week.  Burritos or chili, we'll see.]  I hate to waste food, so there was no way I was going to let this green bouquet of herbs wilt in my fridge.  But what exactly does one do with a bunch of flat-leaf parsley???

My first thought was oven-roasted parslied-potates.  Mmmm, roasted potatoes.  But there was no way I could  throw that much parsley in without overwhelming the dish.  So, you know, when all else fails... throw it all in a soup pot!  A huge soup pot, to be specific.  I used the same ingredient ideas I had for the roasted potatoes but made it soup instead.  [It's like magic!]  Besides all of the chopping, this comes together quickly.  And makes a LOT of soup.  So maybe share it with a friend... or five.

I like this soup, I really do.  It's more of a soupy soup than what I usually prefer (does that even make any sense???), but it's light and delicately flavored and quite delicious, if I do say so myself.  It's not super filling by itself (I had two big bowls) but would be a perfect starter course or served with a salad or a sandwich.  Or... whatever, how about I stop telling you how to plan your meals and just post the recipe?

Quick note about the wine: I used pinot grigio, mostly because the label on the bottle told me that it had "aromas of pear and Meyer lemon" and I thought that would compliment the parsley.  I don't normally drink white wine, but I'm sipping on a glass as I type this and it is fantastic!  However, since you'll only be using about 1/3 of a cup of wine altogether, I would recommend using a white wine you enjoy drinking, since you'll have quite a bit left.  Hey, that wine isn't going to drink itself, you know...   *wink*

1 1/2 pounds red-skinned potatoes, scrubbed and chopped
5 cups water
1 bunch of parsley, thick stems cut off and remaining stems and leaves chopped (I got about 4 cups)
6 Tbsp white wine, divided
1 large onion, diced
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced carrots
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups vegetable broth
15 oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 Tbsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper

In a large soup pot, toss in chopped potatoes and 5 cups of water, and add a dash of salt and put a lid on it.  Heat on high to bring water to a boil.  Set timer for 10 min.  Turn off the heat when the timer goes off. 
In a large saute pan, heat parsley and 2 Tbsp wine on medium heat, stirring frequently.  Cook for about 5 min until leaves are bright green and just getting wilty.  Add the parsley to the potatoes.  In the same pan, saute onion, celery, carrots, garlic, and 2 Tbsp wine on medium-high heat.  Cook for 5-7 minutes, or until veggies are soft.  Add these guys to the potato pot and turn the heat back on to medium-high.
Stir in vegetable broth, beans, 2 Tbsp wine, and lemon juice, and simmer for about 8-10 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014


Because there should be vegan versions of everything!

Last Sunday, the roomie and I volunteered at a gumbo cook-off event benefiting Ministry with Community, a daytime drop-in shelter located in downtown Kalamazoo.  I have been volunteering at MwC on and off for about two years and I absolutely love the place.  Everyone there- the staff, volunteers, members (the people they serve)- are all just fantastic.  This is the third gumbo cook-off I've volunteered at and it was better than ever!  Live music, over 30 restaurants participating in the gumbo contest, and lots of people (including several of my volunteer friends!), we had a blast.  But there was a serious lack of vegetarian gumbo!  So that got me thinking- why not make my own?

I had never made gumbo before.  In fact, I'm pretty sure I've never even eaten gumbo.  I know that it's a Southern dish that usually has seafood in it (blech), okra (not even sure if I like okra), and... other stuff???  Yeah, so I looked it up on Wikipedia.  [The Internet has all the answers.]  So gumbo is like a stew that is traditionally served over rice.  It can be thickened with file powder (dried sassafras leaves), okra, or a roux, but I guess not all three?  OK, well, I don't really like to follow the rules so I used all three anyway.  Oh yeah, I'm a rebel.

So I really just made a veggie stew, but you know what?  It was really frickin' awesome.  The store was all out of fresh okra so I bought pickled okra, chopped it, and used it as a garnish.  And it's amazing.  I'm not sure how I got this far in life without ever tasting pickled okra but man am I glad I know about it now!

Anyhow, I don't know how "authentic" this gumbo is, but I can say that it's delicious, easy to make, and will be happening again in the future!

3 Tbsp non-dairy butter
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup chopped celery
1 large bell pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
15 oz can diced tomatoes
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup water
15 oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 tsp file powder
Hot sauce, to taste
Pickled okra, chopped, for garnish
Cooked rice

In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat and stir in the flour until well combined.  Add onion, celery, pepper, and garlic  and saute for 5-7 minutes or until onions are soft.  Stir in the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, veg broth and water.   Toss in the kidney beans, then stir in the file powder and hot sauce.  I didn't measure how much hot sauce I put in.  It may have been two teaspoons, but I definitely added more to my own individual servings because it really enhanced the flavor.  In fact, I never even added salt and pepper.  Of course, you can, if you find it necessary.  I'm just saying I didn't need it.
Anyhow, once everything is in the pot, continue to let it cook over medium heat for 10 min or so, until all ingredients are heated through.  Serve hot over rice, top with chopped pickled okra if desired, and enjoy!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Stuffed Shells with Carrot "Cheese" Sauce

Because... more pasta!

I'm in a rut.  All of my "original" recipe ideas lately revolve around pasta.  Why?  There are so many other options!  Actually, this recipe came from the need to use up a package of tofu that was purchased a few weeks ago but forgotten about.  So really, I was brain-storming tofu recipes, and happened to decide on a pasta dish.  It is what it is.

So I made a tofu ricotta to stuff into pasta shells.  I thought the tofu was missing something, but The Dave (my official taste-tester) decided that this dish was totally blog-worthy.  I was actually much more impressed with the sauce.  I didn't want to go with a traditional tomato sauce, but wasn't quite sure what to do instead.  What happened was a white bean/carrot cheesy-tasting sauce that was out of this world!  I may play around with this recipe again, in an attempt to make a stellar- yet healthy- mac n cheese dish.

I'm not gonna lie- I dirtied a lot of dishes for this.  But it was awfully tasty and worth the messy kitchen, I promise.  But, as a side-note, I had way too many shells.  The box that the pasta came in is long gone- maybe it was a pound?  Anyway, I didn't need that many, nor did I have room for them all in the baking dish.  So maybe look for a smaller box of pasta?  Or only cook half for this recipe.  Sorry I don't have a better answer for that.  You can figure it out.  I have faith.

1 box large pasta shells
Tofu ricotta:
14 oz firm or extra-firm tofu, pressed
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Salt and pepper

15 oz can great northern beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 lb carrots cooked
1 cup vegetable broth
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp cornstarch
Salt and pepper

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray.  Set aside for a bit.
Cook pasta according to directions on package.  **If you haven't already cooked the carrots, you can steam them over the pasta.  That's what I did. 
In a large mixing bowl, crumble the pressed tofu.  Add the basil, vinegar, olive oil, garlic powder, and salt and pepper to taste.  Stir to mix well.
In a blender or food processor, toss in beans, carrots, veg broth, nutritional yeast, olive oil, cornstarch, and salt and pepper.  Blend until smooth.
When pasta is done, drain and arrange in baking dish.  Stuff shells with tofu mixture.  Pour sauce over everything, covering every shell.  Bake for 30 minutes or until heated through.  Serve hot.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Potato and "Sausage" Stuffed Peppers with Country Gravy

Because it was just so freaking awesome!!!

This post will be brief, but totally worth it.  I'm exhausted, I still have homework to do, and I have a long day ahead of me.  But this little pepper number I threw together over the weekend was just too good to keep to myself!

This is a breakfast/brunch recipe, but I suppose you could eat this any time.  I created it specifically for this month's contest held by Better Recipes, and boy am I glad I did!  The recipe could win one of two ways: judge's choice or reader's choice.  So if any of you have the hankering to hop over to the contest site and vote for this beauty, here's the link.

If you do go check out the recipe on that site, please don't judge me for hiding the fact that I used vegan ingredients when making it.  While their contests are legit and it's a very user-friendly website, Better Recipes is far from being a vegan (or very vegan-friendly) site, and I think that non-vegans are intimidated by vegan recipes (even though mine are super easy!) and therefore tend to avoid them.  So, in order to increase my chances of winning, I don't mention the fact that I used Lightlife sausage, Earth Balance butter, or Silk unsweetened almond milk.  But I did use those things, I promise!!!

So, take-home points of this post: I haven't gone mad and begun eating animal products again; I hope you'll vote for this recipe (every day until the end of the month would be just lovely); from now on, peppers should always be stuffed with sausage and potatoes; and everything should be smothered in this gravy.  Seriously.  I'll probably make a new biscuits and gravy recipe from this in the very near future.  Stay tuned!

 1 lb ground veggie sausage**
2 Tbsp non-dairy butter
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb diced potatoes
1/4 tsp paprika
6 large bell peppers (go for a variety of colors to make it extra pretty!)

Country gravy:
2 Tbsp non-dairy butter
2 Tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1-2 cups non-dairy milk
Salt and pepper

 Pre-heat oven to 350.
In a large frying pan, brown sausage over medium high heat until cooked through.  Remove sausage from pan and cover to keep warm.
**I used Lightlife sausage, which browns up nicely but has a flavor that is a little "off."  So, in an effort to make it taste more sausage-y, I added about a Tbsp of soy sauce and 1/2 tsp poultry seasoning while it was browning.  I would definitely recommend adding these if you use this brand.  It really made the "sausage" zing.
In the same pan, melt 2 Tbsp butter over medium heat.  Add onions and garlic and saute for 5 min.  Add potatoes and stir in paprika.  Cook for 10 min until potatoes are starting to get soft but not mushy.  Season with salt and pepper.
Cut the tops of the peppers to create lids.  Remove the seeds and ribs from the inside of the pepper.  Stuff each pepper with sausage and potato mixture and top with the pepper "lid".  Arrange stuffed peppers in a baking dish and cover with foil.  Bake for 35 min, until peppers are soft.
While the peppers are cooking, make the gravy.  In a medium sauce pan, melt 2 Tbsp butter over medium heat.  Stir in flour, paprika, and garlic until well combined.  Slowly whisk in milk, starting with one cup and adding more milk, one Tbsp at a time, until you reach desired consistency.  Allow the gravy to bubble and thicken, stirring constantly.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
When peppers are done, top with gravy and serve hot.