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SusanV I'm SusanV, and I love good food. Join me as I create delicious dishes made with whole foods and without a lot of processed fat and sugar. Want to know more? Check out my FAQs, look through my recipe index, or get inside info on Facebook. Like what you see? Then subscribe to receive email updates. But above all, enjoy!

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Friday, March 31, 2006

Chickpeas, Potatoes, and Green Beans in Cauliflower Sauce

One of my most recent cookbook acquisitions was Neelam Batra's The Indian Vegetarian. It contains a wealth of information about Indian cooking, and I've been meaning to cook a recipe from it ever since I got it, but something always stands in my way. Either I don't have all the ingredients or the recipe would take too long to prepare. (Yes, I know there's this little concept called planning, but it just hasn't caught on in my psyche yet!)

Anyway, I bought two cauliflowers thinking that I would make Whole Cauliflower Baked in Classic Curry Sauce. It didn't look to be that time-consuming, a little more than a half hour, until I took a look at the Classic Curry Sauce, secreted away in another recipe. It required at least another 50 minutes. So I gave up my dream of whole baked cauliflowers on a Thursday night and added the recipe to my Weekend-Only list.

But I did have those cauliflowers just sitting in my fridge, and I wanted to use at least one of them while they're fresh. So I scoured the book and found a recipe for Cauliflower Broth that Ms. Batra says can be a base for a sauce or a soup. I elected to use it as a sauce for chickpeas and potatoes, and I adapted it as I went along, using my Foolproof Recipe Adapting Technique (TM): I dip a little of the sauce out into a bowl, add a tiny pinch of whatever spice I'm considering throwing in, and taste. It's prevented me from making some big spicing mistakes in the past.

One more thing, before I show you the not-so-lovely photo: This is a great "sneaky mom" dish if your child (or spouse, for all I know) doesn't like cauliflower because the cauliflower is completely blended into the sauce. I figure, "What they don't know can nourish them."

Oh, one more one-more-thing: This is a very mild (not spicy) Indian dish, so that's another point in its Kid-Friendliness favor. I served this with Fiery Onion Relish, a recipe I originally got from Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant. The photo below shows a little dollop of relish on top; I actually ate it with about three times that much. I like breathing fire! But my daughter E. enjoyed hers plain, and if you like complex yet delicately seasoned food, you should like this without any embellishment.

Chickpeas, Potatoes, and Green Beans in Cauliflower Sauce

Chickpeas, Potatoes, and Green Beans in Cauliflower Sauce

1 head cauliflower, cut into pieces
4 cups water
4 large cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger
4 bay leaves
4 curry leaves (optional)
1 tablespoon ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon garam masala (homemade, or find a brand you like)
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

3 cups cooked chickpeas
4 medium red potatoes, chopped into 1/2-inch cubes
2 cups sliced green beans, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup plain soymilk
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Place all the sauce ingredients into a large pot, bring to a boil, and cook, covered, over low heat until the cauliflower is tender, about 20 minutes. Remove the bay and curry leaves, and puree everything else in a blender (I use my trusty Kitchen Aid hand blender right in the pot).

Return the sauce to the pot and add the chickpeas, potatoes, and green beans. Cook until the potatoes are tender and the sauce has thickened, about 20 minutes. Check the seasonings and add more as desired. Add the soymilk and lemon juice, stir, and cook for 5 more minutes. Serve over basmati rice topped, if you like, with Fiery Onion Relish.

Fiery Onion Relish

1 large onion, minced
4 teaspoons fresh lemon or lime juice
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2-1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)
salt to taste

Mix all ingredients and allow to stand for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. It should be so spicy that a little goes a long way! It will keep refrigerated for several days.



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Thursday, March 30, 2006

Creamy Mexican Chayote Soup

I made this light soup one night when my husband was out of town and I wanted something simple to serve with the bean burritos my daughter and I were having for dinner. Its delicate taste is hard to describe and may not be for everyone--E. declared it "yucky," but she's 8--but I actually liked it better each time I tried it--and I wound up eating the leftovers for lunch two days in a row.

Creamy Mexican Chayote Soup

Creamy Mexican Chayote Soup
(adapted from this recipe)

2 large chayotes, peeled and sliced
2 onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 potato, peeled and shredded (I used a red butter potato)
3 cups fat-free vegetable stock
salt and white pepper to taste
Garnish: slices of green onion and fresh squeezes of lime.

Simmer chayote slices in 2 cups salted water in a medium saucepan until tender, about 20 minutes.

Sauté onion and garlic in a large, non-stick saucepan until the onion is soft. Add the shredded potato and stir for a minute. Pour in vegetable stock, bring to a boil, and cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes, until thickened.

Add the chayote and its cooking water to the stock, and using a hand (immersion) blender, puree the soup right in the pan. Stir and season to taste. Let simmer, uncovered, for about 5 more minutes. When ready to serve, ladle into bowls, sprinkle a few green onion slices on each and squeeze in some fresh lime.

divider thingy

Soup is an excellent way to start a meal, especially if you're trying to cut calories. This soup is very light, getting most of its calories from the one potato. It makes about 5 servings with 44 calories and 1 gram of fat per serving. If you'd like to make it richer, try substituting unsweetened soymilk for one of the cups of vegetable broth. And if you'd prefer a less delicately flavored soup, try sprinkling a little cumin on top.



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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Zucchini Stuffed with Pinenuts and Herbed Basmati Rice

I know it's finally Spring when my backyard shade garden becomes filled with mint plants. I decided to take advantage of my mint abundance and make a recipe I've been dreaming up ever since a photo in Paul Gayler's A Passion for Vegetables caught my eye: 4 young zucchini hollowed into tubes and filled with...something. Never mind what was inside Paul's zucchini--it wasn't vegan, anyway. I just liked the look of them, but it took the arrival of the Spring herbs to turn on the lightbulb over my head.

Zucchini Stuffed

Zucchini Stuffed with Pinenuts and Herbed Basmati Rice

6 small zucchinis
olive oil or olive oil spray
1/2 large onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 cup cooked brown basmati rice
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
2 tablespoons minced fresh mint
1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano
2 tablespoons fresh Meyer lemon juice
1 tsp. grated Meyer lemon peel
1/2 tsp. salt (optional)
grating fresh pepper

Trim the ends off the zucchini. Using an apple corer, remove the flesh from the zucchinis, being careful not to cut through the outer wall. Chop the zucchini flesh and measure out 1/2 cup; set the remaining zucchini flesh aside for another use (I added it to the Middle Eastern Red Lentil Soup I served with this).

Spray a non-stick pan with olive oil spray, or use a small bit of olive oil. Sauté the 1/2 cup chopped zucchini, onions, and garlic over medium-high heat until onion begins to turn translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the pine nuts and stir and cook another two minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the rice and remaining ingredients.

Use a small spoon to fill the hollowed zucchini with the rice mixture. Work from both ends, making sure zucchinis are completely filled. Brush or spray them quickly with a small amount of olive oil, and place them in a dish under a preheated broiler for 10-15 minutes, watching carefully and turning regularly, until tender and lightly charbroiled.

This recipe is geared toward what's fresh in my garden right now, so feel free to experiment with other herbs. I feel very fortunate that I have oregano that stays green year-round, parsley that never dies, and, most important of all, parents who grow Meyer lemons! If I were to make this recipe later in the summer, I would definitely choose to use plenty of basil and perhaps fresh tomatoes, and I would cook them on the barbecue grill. But that's something to look forward to in June.

If you have to make this with dried herbs, just use about 1/3 of the amount called for. And I have to say that the rice tastes wonderful on its own, so consider making it as a side dish if you don't feel like stuffing zucchini.


This is my (almost too late) entry in Sweetnicks' weekly round-up of antioxidant-rich recipes, ARF/5-A-Day Tuesday.



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Monday, March 27, 2006

Somen with Tofu and Asparagus in a Chinese Dressing

Once again, I'd fooled around too long reading about food and it'd gotten too late to cook any food! Or maybe I wasn't reading but enjoying some time with my husband or working in the yard. Whatever the reason, dinnertime on Saturday came, and I was totally unprepared for it.

But at least there was some food in the house. D. had grabbed asparagus at the store when he saw it was on sale, and I still had half a pound of tofu left over from making Wednesday night's Yin & Yang Tofu. And we always have pasta in the pantry, so I set a large pot of water on to boil while I pondered the possibilities. I decided to use our favorite asparagus recipe and just extend it to include tofu and to serve the whole thing over buckwheat somen, one of the fastest cooking pastas. The whole thing came together in under 30 minutes (including photography!)

Somen with Tofu and Asparagus in a Chinese Dressing

Somen with Tofu and Asparagus in a Chinese Dressing
(the name takes longer to say than the dish does to cook)

4 tbsp soy sauce, divided
2 tsp. dark sesame oil, divided
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. mirin
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
8 ounces extra firm tofu, cut into cubes (or rectangles)
1 pound asparagus, ends trimmed, sliced into 1-inch pieces
8 ounces buckwheat somen or soba noodles

First off, don't throw anything away in this recipe! You're going to re-use the marinade as well as the asparagus cooking water.

Place a large pot of water on to boil. In a large bowl, mix together 2 tbsp. soy sauce and 1 tsp. sesame oil. Add the tofu and marinate as you heat a non-stick skillet lightly coated with oil or pan spray.

Trim and chop the asparagus. When the skillet is hot, lift the tofu out of the marinade with a slotted spoon and put it in the skillet. Cook, turning, until brown on all sides.

While the tofu is cooking, add 1 tbsp. soy sauce plus the sugar, mirin, red wine vinegar, and minced garlic to the marinade. When the tofu is done, add it to the marinade in the bowl, stir it, and set it aside.

By now the water should be boiling. Add the asparagus and cover. Cook for 2 minutes. Remove asparagus with a slotted spoon and toss it together with the tofu and marinade.

Return the water to a boil, add salt (optional), and add the somen. Cook until pasta is tender, about 4 minutes. Drain it, return it to the pan, and toss it with 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and 1 tsp. of sesame oil. Serve immediately with asparagus and tofu mixture on top. Serves 3, if one of the 3 is small.

fancy divider

This was absolutely delicious and kid-friendly. The asparagus was tender yet still crisp, and the tofu was surprisingly flavorful for having marinated such a short time. Unfortunately, this recipe does not make a lot, so I recommend doubling it or serving it with some side dishes if you've got more than two hungry people to feed.


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Sunday, March 26, 2006

Coconut Chai Breakfast Cake

I got the urge to bake at about 9:30 last night, so I decided to make something we could eat for breakfast this morning. Of course, we wound up eating part of it last night because it smelled so good in the oven, but there was plenty left for a leisurely Sunday morning breakfast.

Coconut Chai Breakfast Cake

Coconut Chai Breakfast Cake

1 cup strong chai tea
1/3 cup uncooked quick (not instant) oatmeal
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup unbleached white flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger (use more for a spicier cake)
3/4 cup vegan sugar (I used demerara)
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tbsp vinegar
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup flaked coconut, 2 tbsp reserved

Prepare the chai ahead of time by steeping two teabags (I used decaffeinated Tazo Chai) in one cup of boiling water until cool.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan.

Combine the dry ingredients (oatmeal through sugar) in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add the chai, applesauce, vinegar, extracts, and all but 2 tablespoons of the coconut. Mix well, and pour the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with the reserved coconut and bake for about 25 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Serve warm or at room temperature.


This turned out lightly spiced, lightly sweet, and very dense. E. liked it so much that she asked for it to be her birthday cake. I think it works better as the equivalent of a coffee cake (a chai cake?) than as a birthday cake. It was actually perfect for breakfast. . . and for a midnight snack.

Here's the nutritional breakdown, based on 9 servings: 179 Calories; 2g Total Fat; (11% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 38g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 273mg Sodium; 3g Dietary Fiber; 3 Weight Watchers Points

UPDATE: Check out the new sugar-free version!


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Saturday, March 25, 2006

Lotus Root Chips

Okay, you know you can make potato chips in the microwave. But can you do the same thing with lotus root? I decided to find out after seeing these fried lotus root chips on the what the hell does a vegan eat anyway blog.

The answer is Yes! And how do they taste? Pretty much like potato chips, with holes. Then why should you make these instead of potato chips? Well, you shouldn't...unless you've got a spare lotus root or just like the happy-daisy look of them.

Lotus Root Chips

Lotus Root Chips

Peel the lotus root. Use a mandolin or other uniform slicing tool to very thinly slice the lotus root. You want all slices to be the same thickness, the thinner the better.

Rub a microwaveable plate with oil, and arrange the slices in a single layer, not touching or overlapping. Microwave until they become almost uniformly brown. Start with 2 minutes and add minutes until they are done. (Mine took about 7 minutes.) Be careful not to burn them, but don't under-cook them or they will not be crispy.

When they're brown, remove them from the microwave, sprinkle them with salt or other seasoning (I used a spicy Cajun blend), and allow them to cool. They will become crispy as they cool.

Enjoy! They're not very substantial because of all the holes. But the same technique will work with potatoes, so why not peel yourself a potato and enjoy some virtually fat-free potato chips. Or...hmmm...do you think this would work with parsnips?



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Friday, March 24, 2006

My Favorite Lasagna

Last night I had the pleasure of having dinner with a group of people taking a Civil Rights Tour through the South. The menu for the night was barbecued pork sandwiches and pork-and-beans, the idea being to give them a little taste of local cuisine (which revolves around pork, apparently). The only problem: Several of the 30 participants were vegetarian. When the planners of the dinner realized this, a call went out for vegan dishes, and I was happy to oblige with my potluck standard, Easy Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna.

I've been making this recipe for years, and I can't bring myself to change it. I keep thinking I should do something to fancy it up, but it's my daughter's all-time favorite food, so I never want to risk ruining a batch. (This is a kid who has written several essays this year about her love for lasagna; her hero is Garfield.) Recipes for vegan lasagna abound, and I'm sure you can find fancier, richer tasting versions, but for sheer easiness of preparation and basic yumminess, this one can't be beat. You don't need to pre-cook the lasagna noodles, and you can make it super-easy by using jarred spaghetti sauce.

Easy Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna

Easy Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna
(printer-friendly version)

1/2 lb fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp. chopped garlic
2 tbsp. water
2 26-oz jars of spaghetti sauce (or your favorite pasta sauce)
9 lasagna noodles (regular lasagna noodles, uncooked)
Soy Parmesan (optional)
Sliced black olives (optional)


10 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 lb tofu (firm, reduced-fat recommended--not silken!)
1 tsp. salt (optional)
2 tbsp. nutritional yeast (adds a cheesy taste)
1 1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. rosemary, crushed
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

Sauté the mushrooms and garlic over medium heat in the 2 tbsp. water until tender; cover between stirring to keep them from drying out. Remove from heat and add the spaghetti sauce.

Place the tofu and thawed spinach in the food processor and process briefly. Add the remaining filling ingredients to the processor and blend until smooth. (You may do this without a food processor by using a potato masher on the tofu.)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Spread half of the sauce in the bottom of a 9x12-inch pan. Place a layer of noodles over the sauce, using three dry noodles and leaving a little space in between them. Spread half of the tofu mixture on the noodles (I drop it by spoonfuls and then spread it). Cover with another layer of 3 noodles and then spread the remaining tofu mixture over them. Top with a final layer of noodles, and pour the remaining sauce over this. Cover the dish tightly with foil, and bake for 30 minutes. Then, remove the foil and bake for another 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with soy Parmesan and sliced black olives if you want. The lasagna will cut better if you allow it to cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Makes about 9 servings. Nutritional breakdown will change depending on the exact ingredients you use. Using regular (not light) tofu and Classico Mushroom & Ripe Olive Pasta Sauce (with 60 calories and 1 gram of fat per 1/2 cup) and no optional ingredients, one serving provides 453 Calories (kcal); 5g Total Fat; (10% calories from fat); 20g Protein; 83g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 546mg Sodium; 9g Fiber. Weight Watchers Flex Points: 9.


The lasagna seemed to be a hit at last night's dinner. The pan returned home empty (and not just because E. ate 4 pieces!) I regret that I never got the opportunity to find out who the vegetarians in the group were, but it felt good just to know that they were there.


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Thursday, March 23, 2006

Yin & Yang Tofu with Bean Sprouts Salad

Dinner for One

Dinner for One

I enjoy cooking for others, and I rarely go to much trouble on the rare occasions when I'm on my own for dinner. Last night, however, I went to a small bit of trouble and treated myself to a dish I'd been creating in my head for a couple of weeks: Yin & Yang Tofu.

I'd gotten the idea from a strange source, a mystery novel I picked up while on vacation called The Pearl Diver by Sujata Massey. Well, it was supposed to be a mystery, but to me it was all about food! Much of the action takes place in an Asian fusion restaurant in Washington, DC, and every time the discussion turned to food, I couldn't help thinking, "How can I veganize that?" There was a brief mention of a dish called Yin & Yang Shrimp--shrimp covered on one side in black sesame seeds and on the other with white, hence the name--and I could hardly focus on the rest of the book for trying to work out how, exactly, I was going to make this with tofu.

It turns out it wasn't too hard. I marinated the tofu, dredged each side in the different colored sesame seeds, and then tried to pan fry it. This attempt was a failure. The sesame seeds didn't stick, and the tofu didn't firm up to the proper dipping consistency; it remained disappointingly flaccid, the sesame seeds falling off as I attempted to maneuver it into the dipping sauce. My second attempt worked out much better:

Yin & Yang Tofu

Yin & Yang Tofu

2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. mirin
1 tsp. dark sesame oil
1 tsp. cornstarch
8 ounces extra firm tofu (sometimes called "hard" tofu in Asian markets), cut into 2 inch long x 1 inch wide x 1/2 inch thick strips
black sesame seeds
white sesame seeds
more cornstarch

Mix the soy sauce, mirin, sesame oil, and 1 tsp. cornstarch together. Add the sliced tofu and marinate for as long as you can, rearranging as necessary so that all surfaces of the tofu come in contact with the marinade. The longer you marinate the greater the flavor, but if you have only 15 minutes, that's fine.

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Oil a non-stick cookie sheet. Put some black sesame seeds on one plate and white in the other and add cornstarch to each. (Sorry, I didn't measure here, but I'm guessing it was 1/4 cup seeds to 2 tsp. cornstarch.)

Drain the tofu. Carefully dredge one side of the tofu in the black sesame seeds, turn it over, and dredge the other in the white. Do this carefully so that your seeds don't fall off and become mixed. (A much easier solution is to do half the pieces in white and half in black.) Place each piece on the cookie sheet. Spray the tops lightly with oil, and then bake for 15 minutes. Turn carefully and bake for 10-15 more minutes, until browned on the sides. Allow them to cool before eating with dipping sauce.

I served them with two sauces. My overwhelming favorite was the Miang Kum sauce from a few nights ago (yes, I'm still obsessed with that sauce!) It was just the perfect combination of coconut sweetness and tamarind tartness. I also made a new sauce, which was good and very easy to make:

Apricot Duck Sauce

1/4 cup all-fruit apricot preserves
1/8 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 tbsp. grated peeled ginger
1 tsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. finely chopped green onion

Mix the first 4 ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave, stirring occasionally, for about 2 minutes. Add chopped green onion and serve when cool.

Along with the tofu, I served (myself) Mung Bean Sprout Salad, but I cut the recipe in half and added a generous amount of cayenne pepper. Yes, when eating alone I can spice to my heart's content!

The tofu was good, and it was even better, cold, as breakfast this morning. But it wasn't that much better than regular baked tofu, so I doubt I'll go through the trouble again. But I will pick up another of Sujata Massey's novels. I hear the earlier ones are set in Japan, so I expect to be salivating my way through them, too.


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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Mirliton and White Bean Stew

One of my favorite Louisiana ingredients is mirliton. If the name doesn't sound familiar to you, perhaps you'll recognize it as chayote, vegetable pear, chouchou, choko, vilati vanga, or one of the other many names it goes by. It's a little hard to describe the flavor and texture because it really isn't like anything else. It's not starchy like a potato or winter squash, yet it's not as watery as a zucchini or cucumber. If you find nice, young ones, the taste is delicate and almost buttery. There really is no good substitute (but if you absolutely must substitute, try zucchini, and cook it for a shorter time).

My usual way to prepare mirliton is to stuff it. But I wanted to try something a little different this time, so I went looking for mirliton recipes. I did a google search on chayote and came up with more recipes than I would have imagined, including several enticing Indian ones. Chayotes are one of the most reasonably priced vegetables in my local supermarket, so I'll have plenty of opportunities to explore all the international possibilities for cooking them. Last night, I decided to stick with what I know and love, Cajun cooking, while trying something a little different.

Enter Emeril. Yes, that Emeril! I owe him a big thank you because his recipe for Crawfish and Mirliton Soup provided the inspiration and technique for this stew, which I have to count among my new favorites. He uses tomato paste as the basis for his soup instead of a roux made of fat and flour. Get this: It's naturally fat-free! And it lends a deep, tomato-y richness to the soup. I'm going to be using this trick more often.

I've made this less spicy than Emeril would have, but it still turned out too spicy for my daughter E. (who wound up eating rice with edamame instead). If you've got a jar of Emeril's seasoning or another cajun spice blend, feel free to use it instead of the combination of spices that I use. But do use the dulse or other seaweed, which gives it a slightly fishy taste.

Mirliton and White Bean Stew

Mirliton and White Bean Stew

1 large onion, finely chopped (tip: use the food processor for all the finely chopped ingredients)
1 finely chopped green bell pepper
2 ribs celery, finely chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons tomato paste
6 cups vegetable broth
3 cups cooked white beans (Great Northern or Cannellini)
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons dulse or other powdered seaweed (to taste)
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground thyme
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
salt, to taste
1/2 teaspoon liquid crab boil
Pinch cayenne pepper
2 cups peeled, seeded and 1/2-inch diced mirlitons (about 2 large mirlitons)
16 ounces diced tomatoes
2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
freshly cooked rice, for serving

Heat a large non-stick pot over medium-high heat. (You may choose to give it a quick spray of olive oil before heating.) Add the onions, bell pepper, and celery, and cook, stirring, until the onions begin to caramelize, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and tomato paste and stir for another minute.

Add the vegetable broth, beans, bay leaves, and next 10 ingredients. Stir well, bring to a boil, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the mirliton and cook until it is just tender but not over-cooked, about 10-15 minutes. Add the tomatoes, fresh oregano, and parsley and cook for another 5 minutes. Check the seasonings, adding more if needed, and serve over rice.

It was good, really really good. I'm looking forward to leftovers for lunch.

More Louisiana recipes: Tofu Jambalaya, Stewed Okra and Tomatoes, Red Beans and Rice, Chickpea Gumbo (guest post at Veggie Venture) and Patty Pan Squash Stuffed with Cajun White Beans


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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Beefless Stew

Yesterday was supposedly the first day of Spring, but you wouldn't know it from our weather. It's been raining for days and the temperature has been pretty chilly for Mississippi. So last night I resorted to a favorite family comfort-food: Beefless Stew.

I don't use a lot of processed soy products in my cooking, but every now and then a little TVP really adds some meaty texture to a dish. TVP stands for textured vegetable protein, and it's basically defatted soy flour that has been cooked and extruded into different shapes and sizes. If you're lucky, you can find it in your local natural food store, but if you're me, you have to order it online. My local co-op, though I cherish it greatly, has granular TVP and chicken-style TVP but never the chunk beef-style.

Beefless Stew

The basic recipe for Beefless Stew is endlessly adaptable; I never make it the same way twice, adding herbs to taste and varying amounts to fit the ingredients I have on-hand. For instance, that batch of stew you see in the photo above (which was taken by my budding photographer daughter) contained only about 2 ounces of mushrooms and they were baby portabellas, because that's all I had in the fridge. And I didn't use the millet this time around, so it's completely optional. And ditto for the wine: the red wine adds a great deal of flavor, but I didn't have any so I skipped it. And I had yukon gold potatoes instead of red.

Anyway, you get the picture. It's home-style cooking at its easiest--just toss it all in a pot and cook. If you make it and use any new ingredients, please drop me a comment and let me know. It's my mom's recipe, but I won't tell her you changed it!

Well, in the crazy, multiple-personality spirit of Spring in the South, today is a gorgeous, sunny miracle. I'm going to take my twisted ankle and my dog out for a little walk (hobble?) in the yard. I wish you all sunshine and blue skies, too!


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Monday, March 20, 2006

Bean Sprouts and Broccoli Slaw Salad with Coconut-Ginger Dressing

Thai-Inspired Salad

The dipping sauce for the Miang Kum Rolls was still on my mind yesterday morning when I needed to throw together a couple of quick dishes for a potluck lunch. I'd decided to make the Thai-Style Vegetable Curry that I'd made the very first week of this blog; we'd loved it and planned to have it again, but the problem with writing a food blog is that you need to be cooking new dishes constantly so you have something to write about. Yesterday's potluck was a good excuse to make a dish that had already been tried and loved.

But it was also a good chance to try something new. I had a bag of mung bean sprouts that I needed to use before they went bad and an idea for the dressing. I decided to throw in some packaged broccoli slaw and sliced red pepper to create another delicious Thai-inspired dish:

Bean Sprouts and Broccoli Slaw Salad with Coconut-Ginger Dressing

1/4 cup plus one tablespoon toasted coconut (reserve 1 tbsp. for garnish)
1 tablespoon peeled and coarsely chopped ginger
1 tablespoon chopped green onion (shallots may also be used)
1 teaspoon light-colored miso
1/3 cup vegetable broth
1/8 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1/4 cup dark vegan sugar (palm sugar, if available, but both turbinado and demerara work well)
1/4 teaspoon tamarind concentrate (or 1/8 cup tamarind liquid)
2 teaspoons soy sauce

4 cups mung bean sprouts
4 cups broccoli slaw (shredded broccoli stems, cabbage, and carrots)
1/2 cup slivered red bell pepper

Toast the coconut and set one tablespoon of it aside. Place the other 1/4 cup of toasted coconut into the blender along with the other sauce ingredients. Blend until relatively smooth, scraping the sides of the blender as needed.

Bring a large pot of water to boil; once it's boiling, add the mung bean spouts, cover, and cook for 2 minutes after the water returns to a boil. Drain them immediately in a colander and rinse with cold water. Shake them dry.

Combine the sprouts, broccoli slaw, and red pepper in a large bowl and toss with the dressing. Refrigerate until ready to serve (the longer, the more flavorful). Garnish with reserved coconut just before serving.

This seems to have been a big hit at the potluck. It and the Thai curry were completely devoured (damn--no leftovers!) My husband said that both dishes received a lot of compliments. Unfortunately, I didn't get to hear them: While running back and forth to the car to bring in all the food, I twisted my ankle badly and spent the whole lunch elevating my foot and icing my ankle. I will be doing much of my cooking sitting down for the next few days! :-)


Since it seems to fit the category well, this recipe is my entry in Sweetnicks' ARF (Antioxidant Rich Food) 5-A-Day Tuesday event. Check out all the other healthy entries!



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Sunday, March 19, 2006

Korean Tofu and Vegetable Stew

I've been eager to use the new bowls I got from the Korean grocery store, so I looked around the internet until I found a stew that looked perfect at Vegetarian Times. I have to admit that I hardly changed anything about this recipe, just made a few substitutions for ingredients I didn't have. The result was great, but not spicy at all. I blame that on a jalapeño that was really mild. In the end, that was a good thing since I'm feeding a spice-hating child. But I suggest serving this with some spicy kimchee or hot sauce that can be added at the table.

Korean Tofu and Vegetable Stew

Korean Tofu and Vegetable Stew

3 cups water
5 Tbs. red miso, or to taste
¼ lb. mushrooms, thinly sliced (shiitake preferred, but I used baby portabella)
5 cloves garlic, crushed and finely chopped
14 ounces medium-firm tofu, sliced into 1x¼-inch pieces
1 lb. baby bok choy, cut into 1x1½-inch-long pieces
1 lb. daikon, peeled and sliced into 1x¼-inch pieces
½ lb. summer squash, sliced into 1x¼-inch pieces
2 large Korean green onions or 4 scallions, white and pale green parts only, cut diagonally into ¼-inch-long pieces
1 jalapeño, seeded, deribbed and cut diagonally into ¼-inch-long pieces
½ red bell pepper, seeded, deribbed and cut diagonally into ¼-inch-long pieces
2 tsp. sesame oil
kimchee or sriracha hot sauce, for serving

Pour water into a large deep skillet with a domed cover. Add miso, and stir to dissolve. Add the mushrooms and garlic and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Place the tofu, bok choy, daikon, and squash in the skillet in a pinwheel pattern. Cover, bring to a boil and cook about 10 minutes.

Place the green onions and peppers evenly between the other ingredients and cover again. Cook for a couple of minutes, or until green onions and peppers become fragrant and colors turn bright. Cook the stew no longer than 15 minutes total. Drizzle sesame oil over all just before removing from heat. Stir and serve immediately in heated bowls with steamed rice.

It's really a beautiful dish when the vegetables are all separated like this. That's the only reason I can think of to cook it this way--it makes a nice presentation until you stir all the ingredients together.

If you're counting calories, this is the recipe for you! Though it's supposed to serve 4-6 people, it came out to be more like 6-8 servings. At 8 servings (without rice), it breaks down to 105 calories, 4 grams fat, 12 grams total carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, and 7 grams protein. Eat up!


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Saturday, March 18, 2006

Miang Kum Rolls

Miang Kum Rolls

What do you get when you combine a Thai snack food with a Vietnamese spring roll wrapper: Miang Kum Rolls, of course!

Here's the back-story: I was thinking of making up a batch of Spring Rolls, to go with the Korean Stew I was planning for dinner last night. And I also had a craving for Miang Kum, the Thai appetizer that consists of spinach or lettuce leaves (or betel leaves, in Thailand) wrapped around spicy and sweet goodies, such as chopped ginger, chili peppers, and toasted coconut. Then it hit me: I could put all those ingredients, along with the spinach, into a rice paper wrapper! It'd be much easier to eat, and they could all be prepared ahead of time, instead of each diner preparing his or her own.

Minag Kum ingredients Of course, this way the work is all on the cook, so you may want to skip my wrapping idea and do it the traditional way. If that's the case, just prepare the filling ingredients and the sauce, set them out with some medium-large spinach leaves, and instruct your guests to place bites of the fillings on the leaves, drizzle them with sauce, pinch closed, and eat. Either way, it's delicious! And here's a Must-Try Alert: this sweet-and-gingery, practically raw sauce is INCREDIBLE! Even if you don't make the Miang Kum, make the sauce, even if all you have to dip in it is your fingers. I plan to make it my new salad dressing.

Miang Kum Rolls
(makes 8 rolls)

Before you begin: Dry toast 1/2 cup of unsweetened shredded dried coconut in a skillet over medium-high heat. Cook and stir constantly until it is mostly browned, and remove it to a plate to cool. You'll use half of it in the sauce, and half as one of the fillings.


1/4 cup toasted coconut
1 tablespoon peeled and coarsely chopped ginger
1 tablespoon chopped green onion (shallots may also be used)
1 teaspoon light-colored miso
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1/4 cup dark vegan sugar (palm sugar, if available, but turbinado or demerara works well)
1/4 teaspoon tamarind concentrate (or 1/8 cup tamarind liquid)
1 teaspoon soy sauce


1/4 cup toasted coconut
1-2 tablespoons chopped, peeled ginger
2 tablespoons chopped limes, including peel
1-2 tablespoons chopped chili peppers (I used jalapeño)
1/2 cup peanuts, toasted and chopped (may use crushed dry-roasted peanuts)
baby spinach leaves, as needed

8 rice paper wrappers (these are dried sheets found in Asian markets)

Blend all sauce ingredients in a blender until smooth and set aside. Have your filling ingredients assembled before you start making the rolls.

Prepare a pot of warm water large enough to hold the spring roll wrappers. Place 2 wrappers into the water. Wait a minute or two until they are soft, and then remove them to a clean towel, being careful not to tear the wrapper. Place one wrapper on a plate or other work surface. Place a layer of spinach leaves in a horizontal line just below the center of the wrapper; top them with the fillings of your choice, and then cover the fillings with another layer of spinach leaves. Fold the bottom of the wrapper up over the filling, then fold each side toward the center. Roll from the bottom to the top of each roll, as tightly as you can without ripping the wrapper. If you do rip it, just keep rolling: small rips shouldn't affect the finished roll.

Start soaking two more wrappers as you begin work on the second roll. Repeat until completed, covering the finished rolls with a moist towel to prevent drying out. Serve at once with the dipping sauce.

As I said, the dipping sauce is not to be missed. It is based on a recipe in Nancie McDermott's Real Vegetarian Thai, though her recipe cooks the sauce and uses twice as much sugar. I may try it that way some day, but for now, this is my new found favorite dipping sauce.

Kid-Friendly Tip: E. loved these, but I had to leave out all of the "spicy" fillings; what was left was spinach leaves, peanuts, and coconut. But at least she was eating raw spinach!


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Friday, March 17, 2006

Home from Vacation

Lake Ouachita

Just a short note to let you know that I'm back from vacation and will be posting some recipes soon. We had a great time at Lake Ouachita State Park near Hot Springs, Arkansas. The weather and the scenery were beautiful. We did some simple cooking in the cabin, but nothing to write about. The one vegetarian restaurant we found, right across the street from Bathhouse Row in Hot Springs, was called I Relax. It had a simple menu of veggie sandwiches on Ezekiel bread and juices, and it was a welcome relief from the other "home-style" restaurants on that street that served only meat dishes.

My only other food-related experience worth noting is that we stopped in Lake Providence, Louisiana, and bought several different types of Panola hot sauce and a jar of Panola spicy olives, made right there in Lake Providence. I will leave you with this sign, spotted in the flat lands of the Mississippi delta in northeast Louisiana:

We didn't stop there, but we had fun thinking of slogans for future ad campaigns. My sister came up with the winner: "Jehovah Java--Righteous Good Coffee!"


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Sunday, March 12, 2006

Stewed Okra and Tomatoes

A great okra dish starts with choosing okra that is fresh and young. Test it by bending the tip back. If it snaps off, the okra is fresh. If it doesn't, don't buy it.

This is a fast, easy way to cook okra that preserves the fresh taste by not over-cooking it. The okra is cut in half lengthwise, which saves time and keeps the lovely shape of the vegetable. You may notice a little bit of stickiness as you cut it and begin cooking it, but by the time it's done, all of that sliminess will be cooked out.

Stewed Okra and Tomatoes

Stewed Okra and Tomatoes

1 onion, chopped
1/2 large bell pepper, chopped
2 ribs celery, sliced
1 pound fresh okra, stem end removed and sliced lengthwise
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 15-ounce cans diced tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. cayenne (red) pepper, or to taste
generous grating fresh black pepper
1 tsp. salt (or to taste)
1 tsp. red wine vinegar

Heat a large non-stick skillet rubbed or sprayed lightly with olive oil. When it's hot, add the onion, bell pepper, and celery and sauté for about 3 minutes. Add the okra and garlic and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until the okra is beginning to brown. Add the remaining ingredients, reduce the heat, and cover. Cook for 10 more minutes. Remove the bay leaves and serve alone or with rice.

This is delicious as an accompaniment to yesterday's Tofu Jambalaya. You won't believe how wonderful fresh okra can taste!

I'll be away from the computer for a few days, enjoying some time with my family, but I'll answer your emails and comments when I return. Meanwhile, check out some of my favorite recipes from the past year or so at Fatfree Vegan Recipes. That link will take you to a list of all the Recipes of the Week, which I personally tried and enjoyed. I hope you find some you enjoy too!


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Saturday, March 11, 2006

Tofu Jambalaya

I'm going to be away from the computer for a few days, but before I go, I'd like to share with you a couple of recipes from my native state, Louisiana.

First up is a somewhat non-traditional jambalaya, based on a recipe for Chicken Jambalaya that I used to love in my omnivore days. It came from a book called River Road Recipes, one of those collections of recipes of the type you can find in most states, put out by the Women's Auxiliary or the Junior League or whatever. It's food the way people actually cook at home rather than how some fancy chef does it, so many of the recipes are easy and use short-cuts that save time. And they're tested on family and friends, so they're good. Like this one.

This is more like a paella or Spanish rice than a jambalaya, but I've been cooking it for years and everyone who tries it likes it. It uses tofu that has been frozen and thawed, giving it a spongy texture that absorbs the seasonings and makes it chewy. To work right, the tofu needs to be frozen for at least 24 hours. The simplest way to to do this is to slice it into 1/2-inch slices, put them into a freezer bag, and freeze. When it's time to cook, either defrost them in the fridge for a few hours or in the microwave. Squeeze them gently to remove all water and them cut them into cubes.

Tofu Jambalaya

Tofu Jambalaya

1 lb extra-firm tofu, frozen and defrosted
1 lg. onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped (green and/or red)
2 ribs celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup white rice
1 lg. can diced tomatoes (28 ounces)
1/2 cup tomato juice or water
2 1/2 tsp chili powder (may use part chipotle chili powder)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp Liquid Smoke seasoning (optional)
red (cayenne) and black pepper to taste

Prepare the tofu by gently squeezing out the excess water and cutting it into 1/2-inch cubes. Set aside.

Oil or spray a large, non-stick pot with a light coating of olive oil. Over medium-high heat, sauté onion, bell pepper, and celery until soft. Add rice and garlic and cook, stirring, until it browns slightly. Add tomatoes, water, chili powder and other seasonings, and stir. (It's the cayenne pepper that makes this spicy, so be sure to add plenty!) Gently stir in tofu, cover tightly and put on low heat. Cook for 30 minutes or until rice is done and liquid is absorbed.

This makes about 4-6 servings. Once you've had this recipe, you'll do like I do and keep a package of tofu in the freezer at all times!

Note: You can do this with brown rice, but it takes about twice as long to cook and requires at least a cup more liquid. And, to tell you the truth, it doesn't taste as good. But feel free to try it that way.

More Louisiana recipes: Mirliton and White Bean Stew, Stewed Okra and Tomatoes, Red Beans and Rice, Chickpea Gumbo (guest post at Veggie Venture)


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Friday, March 10, 2006

Tamale Bites

Tamale Bites

A recent post at Vegan Lunch Box actually had me out looking to buy a Twinkie pan! Jennifer, inspired by a tip from a reader, made vegan corn dogs for her son using a Twinkie pan. This, I thought, was brilliant. After all, if you can put a veggie dog inside of corn bread, you can also put other, possibly healthier, things inside. The possibilities are endless!

Well, maybe not endless. After all, there are only so many foods that go with corn bread, and of those foods, only a few are both healthy and tasty. But the idea is a good one--a hand-held food that kids like and that travels well. I started thinking of the things my daughter E. likes best--lasagna, spaghetti, macaroni and "cheese," burritos--and figured that only one option really fit: Mexican-style beans in corn bread.

The only problem was that I didn't have a Twinkie pan (am I the only person in the US who hasn't ever had a Twinkie?) And none of my local stores had one either. I finally found a silicone pan that looked promising; it had nine 3x1-inch rectangular molds, and while they were smaller and less rounded than the Twinkie molds, I thought they would do. So I bought it, and Tamale Bites were born:

Tamale Bites
(or Bean Bites, as E. suggested)

Bean Filling:

1 can (1-1/2 cups) black beans
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
salt to taste

Mash half of the beans well. In a non-stick skillet, sauté the onion until it's translucent; add the garlic and bell pepper and cook for another two minutes.

Add all remaining ingredients, including the beans. Stir and cook until hot throughout and set aside.

Cornbread (recipe adapted from Food for Life, by Neal Barnard, M.D):

1-1/2 cups soymilk
1-1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons agave nectar
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup unbleached all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour (I used 1/2 c. unbleached and 1/2 c. whole wheat)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons ground flax seeds

Mix the soymilk, cider vinegar, and agave nectar together and set aside.

Oil your pans and preheat the oven to 375 F.

PanMix all the dry ingredients together. Add the soymilk mixture, and mix only until blended.

Pour a thin layer of batter into each cup. Carefully spoon a strip of filling over the batter . (See photo at left.) Cover the filling with more batter. Try not to over-fill the molds.

Bake for about 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out without batter stuck to it. (It may have beans on it, though.) Allow to cool in the pan.

I had a lot of batter and filling left over, so I got out my cupcake pan. I made a few using the same technique as the "bites," and then just for fun I mixed the batter and the beans all together:

Tamale Muffins

They were good, but you wouldn't want to bite into one expecting blueberries!

I served these with salsa for E., while D. and I had them with a Mexican eggplant dish that came out spicier than I intended. They were great, and E. decided to take a couple to school for lunch today.

We decided that we'll definitely make these again, with a few changes:

  • less corn bread and more filling
  • a little more seasoning in the filling
  • for E.--refried beans instead of black

I have to say that E. is very interested in the veggie dog version, so I expect I'll be making up a batch of corn dogs soon.


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Thursday, March 09, 2006



This qualifies as a "Fatfree Tip" rather than a real recipe. Many of you already know this, but for those of you who don't, you can make a great, almost fat-free tostada by taking an uncooked corn tortilla and crisping it in the oven for a few minutes. I baked mine at 400 F for about 5 minutes. You have to watch them carefully or they'll burn, and if you don't leave them in long enough, they'll be chewy rather than crispy. But when you get it right, they're really good--and they contain a fraction of the fat of a fried corn tortilla.

This one is topped with fat-free refried beans, lettuce, tomato, avocado, and red onion. It's a great meal when you're pressed for time, and kids love it!



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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Creamy Scalloped Potatoes

Even though she was raised on a vegan diet, my daughter E. doesn't give her "Kid-Friendly Seal of Approval" to many dishes, particularly those that try to imitate the taste of cheese. Though she's never eaten real cheese, she fell in love years ago with "Chreese," a dry mix made by Road's End Organics. Her tastes are so finely attuned to Chreese that she can detect my attempts at counterfeiting it just using her sense of smell. If it's not Chreese, a fake cheese sauce doesn't stand a chance with her.

Until now. Creamy Scalloped Potatoes has passed the ultimate kid-friendly test--The Cheezy, Unfamiliar, Gross-Looking Potato Dish Challenge. It has succeed even though it breaks three of E.'s rules: (1) All Cheezy Sauces Must Use Chreese; (2) No New Foods; and (3) All Potatoes Must be Baked, Mashed, or Oven-Fried. (All kids have rules. And we parents appreciate their long lists of food aversions as signs of their nascent individuality and quirky personalities . . . when we're not fantasizing about shipping them off to some raw foodist boot-camp in Idaho!)

As I brought E.'s plate to the table, I was greeted with the words, "I'm not eating that!" I returned with the parental standard, "You have to at least try it." This was followed by much grumbling, which was followed by much eating of the other foods on her plate. Finally, she reached the Cheezy, Unfamiliar, Gross-Looking, Un-baked-mashed-or-fried Potato Dish. She took a bite, then another, then another. "Hey," she exclaimed, "you have got to put this on your kid-friendly list! I love it!"

So there you have it: a ringing endorsement for a cheezy-sauced recipe. And a list of rules that just got a little shorter.

Creamy Scalloped Potatoes

Creamy Scalloped Potatoes

Usually scalloped potatoes have to bake for an hour or so. I've cut the baking time by pre-cooking the sliced potatoes. But be careful--sliced potatoes can become over-cooked quickly.

2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes (I used 8 medium)
water, to cover
Paprika or white pepper
Salt (optional)
Sauce ingredients:

1 1/4 cups water
1 cup plain soymilk
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 tablespoons raw cashew butter
1 teaspoon white miso

Place a large pot, half-filled with water, to boil while you prepare the potatoes. Using a mandolin, food processor, or a very steady hand, slice the scrubbed potatoes into 1/4-inch thick slices. They need to be a uniform size, so a mandolin is preferred.

When the water is boiling, add the potato slices and make sure they are covered with water. If not, add just enough to cover. Boil for 5-8 minutes, just until barely tender. Be very careful--they go from raw to falling apart in seconds. You do not want them to fall apart!

As soon as the potatoes are tender, remove them from the heat, pour them into a colander to remove the water, and rinse them with cold water.

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Prepare the sauce by blending the sauce ingredients together, either in a blender or with a hand blender, until smooth.

Place the potato slices into an oiled casserole dish one layer at a time. Sprinkle each layer with a little salt and paprika or white pepper before adding the next layer. Stir the sauce, and pour it over all the potatoes. Sprinkle with paprika.

Bake at 400 F for 20 minutes, or until sauce has thickened throughout. Serve warm. Make your kids taste it!



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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

African Pineapple Peanut Stew

Several years ago, my husband and I were thumbing through Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home when my husband stopped at this recipe and said, "Let's try this one." I looked at it. . . and then I looked at him like he was insane. Pineapple, onions, and kale? And peanut butter? What kind of crazy combination is that?

That was before I learned something that D. already knew: Unusual combinations often make the best dishes. We tried this mixture of peanut butter and pineapple, and it was terrific. And it was the first time I really loved kale.

Since then, this dish has become a favorite, but one we have very seldom. Its higher fat content puts it into the category of "special occasions" for me. I have adapted the recipe to remove the oil in the original, which is really unnecessary for sautéing. And I've increased the kale and replaced the cilantro with parsley (because I can't eat cilantro). But I haven't been able to reduce the amount of peanut butter and have it taste right. A full half-cup is needed to create enough sauce for the kale. (The original recipe is here, if you're interested.)

African Pineapple Peanut Stew

African Pineapple Peanut Stew

1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1-2 bunches kale (4-8 cups sliced)
2 cups undrained canned crushed pineapple, in juice (20-ounce can)
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 tablespoon Tabasco or other hot pepper sauce (I actually use about 3 tablespoons of a favorite Louisiana hot sauce that isn't as spicy as Tabasco)
1/4 cup chopped parsley
salt to taste
crushed skinless peanuts
chopped scallions

Prepare the kale by washing it and removing the large center stem from each leaf. Stack the leaves on a cutting board and slice them into one-inch thick slices.

In a large, covered wok or Dutch oven (non-stick preferred), sauté the onions for about 6 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic, and stir for another minute.

Add the pineapple and its juice to the onions and bring to a simmer. Stir in the kale, cover, and simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring a couple of times, until just tender. Mix in the peanut butter, Tabasco, and parsley and simmer for 5 minutes. Add salt to taste, and serve topped with crushed peanuts and scallions, over rice or other grain. (This makes about 4 servings.)

Each Tuesday, Sweetnicks hosts a round-up of recipes that feature antioxidant-rich foods. If you're looking for some new ways to fix fruits and vegetables, check it out. The round-up usually is posted late Tuesday or early Wednesday.


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Sunday, March 05, 2006

Spiced Moong Dal

Moong DalThanks again to Sailu's Foods, I have found the ultimate in fast foods. Split yellow moong dal (pesara pappu) are tiny lentils that have been split and de-hulled; they cook up super-fast with no need for soaking or pressure cooking.

Last week I went looking for these in a local Indian grocery store, and I came out with them. . . and four other types of dal. When I got home, I laid them all out on the counter along with the dals I already had. My daughter suggested I make "8-Dal Soup," leading me to try an experiment that failed, badly. So, no 8-Dal Soup recipe. Consider yourself lucky.

Anyway, to get back to the dal at hand, this simple recipe is taken almost exactly from Sailu's blog. The only change I made was to eliminate the ghee and substitute 1/4 teaspoon of canola oil, for "blooming" the spices. I feel that cooking the spices in a tiny bit of oil helps release their flavor, but if you want to eliminate even this bit of oil, feel free to experiment with dry-frying the spices. Just be careful they don't burn.

Pesara Pappu Kattu

Spiced Moong Dal

1 cup split moong dal (pesara pappu)
3 cups water
1/4 tsp. canola oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 green chilies, slit lengthwise
2 dry red chilies, deseeded and torn into pieces
1 tsp grated ginger
10 curry leaves
1/4 tsp turmeric
big pinch asafoetida (hing)
1 tbsp lemon juice

Cook the moong dal in 3 cups of water until soft (about 15 minutes).

Heat the oil in a medium-sized pot and add the cumin seeds; cook them until they brown, but be careful not to burn. (I cooked them for about a minute.)

Add the red chilies, green chilies, curry leaves, and ginger, and cook for a few seconds. Then add the turmeric and asafetida, stir, and immediately add the cooked dal. Check to make sure there's enough water, and if not, add some. (At this point, you can make this a soup by adding even more water. I served it as a thick bean dish and added only about a cup of extra water.)

Add salt to taste, and simmer for about 10 minutes. Just before serving, add lemon juice. Serve with rice or bread (pictured above with onion naan).

This was flavorful but not too spicy. To make it more spicy, include the red pepper seeds.

This was my first time using curry leaves, but now that I have a bag full of them, I'm going to be looking for other ways to use these aromatic leaves. If you are also new to curry leaves, this web page contains some valuable information, including the fact that curry leaves can be frozen, and that they should not be removed from the branches until just before cooking.



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Saturday, March 04, 2006

Pav Bhaji (Spicy Mixed Vegetables on Buns)

Sailu at Sailu's Food recently posted this amazing recipe for Pav Bhaji, which she describes as "the quintessential Mumbai street food," and I couldn't wait to try it. After all, I love Indian food, and this recipe contains bunches of vegetables and lots of spiciness. So last night, while daughter E. (aka "the spice hater") was off with friends, D. and I sat down to a great meal.

My version didn't have quite as many vegetables as Sailu's--I was missing beets, which gave hers such a beautiful, vibrant color. I also took out the oil and ghee, which are both traditional ingredients, but it still turned out delicious.

(For another take on this delicious dish, check out my Dal Bhaji version.)

Pav Bhaji (Spicy Mixed Vegetable Sandwiches)

1 large onion chopped finely
1 tsp ginger, minced
1 tsp minced garlic
2 green chillies, slit lengthwise
1 bell pepper, finely chopped
3 roma tomatoes, finely chopped
1 cup each of each of these vegetables, finely diced: green beans, carrots, cauliflower, cabbage
2 cups diced peeled potatoes
1/2 cup frozen green peas
3 tsps pav bhaji masala (spice mix available at Indian markets)
1 tsp red chili powder (powdered chili peppers, also available at Indian market)
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
salt to taste
1/2 tsp lemon juice
buns (called pavs), for serving (I used whole wheat hotdog buns, halved)

Cook the green beans, carrots, cauliflower, cabbage, and potatoes in water until soft. (I did this in the pressure cooker, with one cup of water at high pressure for 5 minutes.) When they're soft, add the peas and mash the vegetables well, in the liquid.

Heat a good non-stick wok or large pot. Add the onions and cook, adding a little water as necessary, until they begin to brown, about 4 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic, and green chillies and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the bell peppers, and cook for another 2 minutes.

Stir in the pav bhaji masala, red chili powder, turmeric, and salt. Add the tomatoes, and cook until they start to break down, about 5 minutes. Add the mashed vegetables and 1/2 cup water and adjust salt. Cook on low for about 20 minutes. Add lemon juice and serve on toasted buns or other bread.

Though it wouldn't be traditional, this is also excellent over rice, for those of us who want to avoid flour products. Be warned--it's spicy! I cut down the amount of chili powder in the original recipe, but to an American tongue, it was still spicy. Fortunately, D. and I both love spicy foods, so this was a real winner. While the kid's away, the parents can play! ;-)

I served this along with another of Sailu's recipes, but you'll have to wait until tomorrow to find out what it was. Thanks, Sailu, for a wonderful meal!



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Friday, March 03, 2006

Brussels Sprouts with Basil and Garlic

Brussels Sprouts with Basil and Garlic

Here's a quick recipe. I had a craving for Brussels sprouts, and there was about a pound of fresh ones in the fridge, so I decided to cook them up for lunch. Here's what I did:

Brussels Sprouts with Basil and Garlic

1 pound fresh Brussels Sprouts, ends trimmed, shriveled leaves removed, and halved (see cooking tips here)
1/3 cup chopped red onion
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 cup vegetable broth
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tsp. red wine vinegar
1-2 tablespoons sliced almonds

Heat a non-stick skillet sprayed or wiped with oil over high heat. When the pan is hot, add the onions and cook for one minute, stirring constantly. Add the sprouts, cut side down, and cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and basil, and stir.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the vegetable broth and salt and pepper. Cover immediately, and cook until just tender, about 4-5 minutes. Check one for doneness. Stir in the vinegar and serve topped with almonds.

And yes, I did eat these all by myself. They and some fresh pineapple were my lunch for the day.



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Thursday, March 02, 2006

Korean Grocery Store Finds

It was exactly a week ago that I was lamenting my inability to find the stoneware bowls to make Dol Sot Bibimbab (aka Bibim bap, to some spellers). Well, I lamented too soon! Last weekend I had the chance to visit the only Korean grocery store within miles of here, and I was amazed to find, stacked on a low shelf with the noodles--nowhere near the other dishware or cooking utensils--the bowls I'd been looking for, along with the heavy plastic trays that go under them to keep them from burning the table.

Korean Stoneware Bowl and Tray

These single-serving bowls can go into the oven or right on the stove burner. Take a look at the bottom:

Bottom of Korean Stoneware Bowl

These will also be great for serving anything that I want to keep warm, such as stews. I'm going to experiment with other recipes soon, but first I'll be making up a batch of Bibimbab. I'll cook the rice in the rice cooker as always, put it into the bowls and then heat them in the oven before adding the toppings and serving. That's my plan, but I don't have precise instructions. If someone knows more, please let me know.

That was a surprise find. What I went expecting to find, and did, was the Kochu Chang (Hot Pepper Paste) that I had to improvise last time.

Kochu Chang

You'll note that it doesn't say Kochu Chang (or Gochujang, as it's sometimes spelled)--at least not in English. This particular brand said Hot Pepper Paste, but some brands don't have any name listed in English. Your best bet is to ask the people working in the store.

Another View of Kochu Chang

That's a shot of the top of the package I bought. There were about four different brands in the store I visited, and since all had basically the same ingredients--glutinous rice, red pepper powder, wheat flour, corn syrup, salt--I picked the least expensive one in the largest container. I'm cheap, and I don't know when I'll be getting back to shop there again.

Bibimbab is the Recipe of the Week at my site, Fatfree Vegan Recipes. So find a Korean grocery store, buy some kochu chang, cook some rice, and throw some veggies (seasoned with sesame oil) on top. You've just made your first bowl of Bibimbap. Enjoy!

And, in case you're wondering, I don't have any recipes or food photos for you today. Last night, we ordered sushi, and I haven't yet felt the compulsion to photograph food I didn't cook. If I keep food blogging long enough, I'm sure that will come!


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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Hurry-up Hoisin Tofu and Vegetables with Rice Noodles

I debated whether to post this recipe at all because it wasn't a big success. D. and I liked it, though I thought it could have been better; E. hated it, which is a shame because she loves noodles and tofu.

It was a bad night for cooking at all because I had to leave at 7:00 for a meeting, and D. didn't get home from work until 6:30. I had planned to scramble up some tofu--a quick meal--but when I got to the kitchen I saw that the only tofu we had was this excellent locally-made tofu, dense and firm and perfect for a stir-fry. I didn't want to "waste" it on a scramble, so I starting cutting veggies to toss together a casual stir-fry.

That would have been fine, only I decided to try a sauce, slightly adapted, from a recipe on my website. I should have done more adapting. I knew that 1/4 cup was too much seasoned rice vinegar, but I put it in anyway. Always trust your gut! Once that rice vinegar was in, there wasn't much I could do without making the whole thing too watery. Make it a soup? Only by then, it was 6:45 and I had to finish cooking it, eat, and run. And take the photo. ;-)

Notice my time-saving techniques, particularly using the same water to blanch the broccoli and cook the noodles.

Hurry-up Hoisin Tofu and Vegetables with Rice Noodles

Hurry-up Hoisin Tofu and Vegetables with Rice Noodles

1 pound tofu
soy sauce
sesame oil
7-8 ounces rice sticks or noodles
1 head broccoli, cut into small flowerets
2 medium zucchini, sliced into finger-sized pieces
1 portabella mushroom, halved and sliced
1 small red bell pepper, chopped coarsely

Sauce (mix all ingredients together):

1/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar (remember what I said and use less unless you like very vinegary things!)
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
sprinkle red pepper flakes

Put a large pot of water on to boil while you cut your vegetables and make your sauce. Have all ingredients ready to be cooked--this moves quite fast once you start cooking.

Slice the tofu into "slabs" about 1/2 - 3/4 inch thick. Dip each one into a mixture of soy sauce and sesame oil (just a few drops), coating both sides. Set aside while you heat an oiled, non-stick skillet or wok until hot. Put the tofu slices into to the hot skillet and cook until browned on both sides. Remove to a cutting board and cut tofu into cubes. Set aside. Keep the skillet hot.

When the water has reached a boil, put your broccoli in to blanch for 2 minutes (no more!) Remove the broccoli with a slotted spoon, rinse with cold water, and set aside. Use the same water to start cooking your rice noodles. They should be cooking, until al dente, while you proceed with the rest of the recipe.

To the hot skillet, add the zucchini and stir-fry it for 1-2 minutes, to sear briefly on all sides. Add the mushrooms and red pepper and 1/4 cup of water. Cover and steam for 2 minutes. Remove the cover and add the broccoli, tofu, and sauce, and heat until warm, about 2 minutes.

When the noodles are done, drain them and add them to the tofu and vegetables. Serve hot.

Like I said, D. and I liked it, though the taste did take a little getting used to. With less vinegar, this could be great. Next time, I would use maybe a tablespoon or two of vinegar and replace the rest with water.


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