Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Autumn Pasta

 

So, despite the fact that I’m vegetarian, it seems to surprise people that Mike and I don’t eat a lot of pasta. I like pasta, but I can take it or leave it; bread is where it’s at! However, sometimes I really get in the mood for a hearty pasta dish, and lately I’ve been hankering for a fall-themed pasta. Autumn is really my favorite time of the year for cooking, because I love the flavors – winter squashes, apples, cranberries, maple, Brussels sprouts, pecans, I could go on forever!

Lately when I make pasta, it’s been pasta with a collection of vegetables plus a protein, with just a little oil instead of a sauce. I don’t really like heavily sauced pastas, since I think it tends to muck up the flavor of the other ingredients (except my penne alla vodka – that highlights the sauce!). As well, when I choose vegetables for a pasta dish, I like to have a variety of colors, especially red and green.

Racking my brain for fall flavors, I first came up with butternut squash, red bell peppers, broccoli rabe for the base vegetables. However, when I cooked the broccoli rabe, I struck out again for the third time in cooking this vegetable. I’ve tried it every which way – steaming, blanching then stir-frying, simmering in veggie stock…none of them seem to work for me. Luckily I had Brussels sprouts, one of my absolute favorite fall green veggies, in the crisper and the food processor was quickly put into use shredding a massive amount of sprouts. If you think you don’t like Brussels sprouts, give them a try shredded and sautéed. I’ve converted many people this way!

The steps may sound a little complicated, but it ends up just building layers of ingredients to toss together in the end. As noted, the squash can be done ahead of time, as can much of the vegetable prep. Once all of the separate parts are done, the dish comes together very quickly. It also can be cut in half, as I did, with the other half of the squash used for another purpose (soon to come – my Curried Butternut Squash Bisque, Lightened Up!).

autumnpasta[9]

Autumn Pasta

Serves 8

Olive oil

1 box Barilla Plus penne

1 large butternut squash

2 large shallots, diced

3 lbs Brussels sprouts, trimmed and shredded

4 red bell peppers, julienned

1 package of Tofurky Kielbasa, or your favorite veggie sausage, cut into coins

2 Tbsp walnut oil

Parmesan, for garnish

Toasted pecans, for garnish

Salt and pepper

 

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Cut the butternut squash in half, scoop out seeds (I set these aside for soup stock), and peel with a vegetable peeler. Cut into cubes, toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast on a large baking sheet until browning, stirring every 10 minutes. (This can be done a day before and refrigerated until ready to use)

Cook the pasta according to directions and set aside.

Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat, and cook the veggie kielbasa until browned, 5-10 minutes. Remove to a large serving bowl.

Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in the skillet, reducing heat to medium, and add shallots. Cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add Brussels sprouts and a few tablespoons of water, and cover for 3 minutes. Remove cover, turn heat to high, and cook, stirring frequently, until the sprouts start to caramelize. Add julienned peppers and roasted squash, tossing quickly, and remove to the bowl containing the sausage.

Drain pasta when it is cooked al dente and fold into the vegetable mixture. Add walnut oil, salt and pepper to taste, and parmesan and pecans if desired.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Broccoli Sandwich

Broccoli…sandwich?
Yep. It’s actually one of my favorite types of sandwiches and I like to make it when I have all of the ingredients around and they’re high quality. I can’t even remember the first time I came up with the idea, but it was love at first bite. However, I definitely think it’s best made with fresh broccoli. I love frozen broccoli and it gets used often around our household, but the texture of fresh is imperative here.

There’s so much I love about this sandwich. It’s filling, with the fiber and protein from the broccoli and whole grain bread. It’s tasty, from the perfectly-cooked broccoli and the fresh grated Parmesan cheese. And it’s healthy, with up to two servings of veggies depending on how full you stuff it!

You can easily make a larger batch of the filling and then use it over the course of a couple days to make a sandwich in minutes without having to fuss with steaming the broccoli.


IMAG0008

Broccoli Sandwich

Serves 1

2 cups of fresh broccoli florets

1 Tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter

1 clove of garlic, finely minced

2 slices of whole grain bread

Salt and pepper to taste

Steam the broccoli until it is green but very tender to the fork, about 5-7 minutes. Place in a bowl with the Parmesan cheese, butter, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Mash well with a fork until it has a uniform texture with no lumps.

While the broccoli is steaming, toast the bread to desired doneness. Place on a plate on top of a paper towel to prevent the bread from steaming and becoming uncrisp.

Spread the broccoli mixture on the bread and sprinkle with additional salt, pepper, or Parmesan as desired. You may do this as an open-face sandwich as above, or as a regular style sandwich. I find the open-face style to be a little easier to eat!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Beer Baked Beans

It’s been a little too long since I’ve posted. Life got in the way.

Right after my last post, my precious cat of 17 years, Whiskey, quickly went downhill and we had to make the difficult decision to put him to sleep. It pains me to even write that…

After that, Mike had has wisdom teeth removed. Then I came down with a terrible cold. Then we both got bronchitis. On and on.

So here we go, a new month, a restart!

I puffy heart these baked beans! It’s hard to find good vegetarian baked beans, so I had to design my own recipe. It does take a shortcut, starting with canned vegetarian baked beans (Bush’s, to be precise), but what it turns into is a million miles from canned. It does take a while, but most of the time is just sitting on the stove or in the oven. If they’re cooked in the oven, you don’t even have to stir as often! I like to start them the morning of or the evening before a cookout. And of course, they only get better as they’re stored in the fridge.

Yes, there is liquid smoke down there. I like it, a little bit adds a subtle smokiness that I still crave in baked beans. Feel free to leave it out though.

I have pictures, but to be honest, they don’t look terribly…polite. I will update this next time I make them and try to take better pictures.

 

Beer Baked Beans

12-16 servings

1/4 cup olive oil or butter

2 large sweet onions, chopped

2 large cans of Bush’s vegetarian baked beans

1 15oz can of pinto beans, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup BBQ sauce

1/4 cup spicy mustard

1 12oz bottle of beer

Liquid smoke

Salt, pepper, and hot sauce to taste

 

Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions and turn heat to medium-low. Cover and cook until lightly caramelized, approximately 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 250 F.

Add baked beans, pinto beans, BBQ sauce, and mustard. Stir to combine, replace cover, and place in the oven. Cook for 4-6 hours, stirring every so often. Alternately, this can be cooked on the stove over medium-low to medium, but must be stirred and checked more often to prevent burning due to a concentrated heat source.

When the consistency is to your liking, remove from oven, stir in beer, and cook uncovered on the stove to evaporate additional moisture, if desired. Add liquid smoke to taste – a few shakes is usually good. Also add salt, pepper, and hot sauce to taste.

These store well in the fridge and also go really well over toast for Americanized beans on toast!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Mom’s Pasta Salad

 

One dish of our mom’s that my brother and I loved when we were growing up was something she made every summer. For every holiday barbecue, my mom would make a huge pasta salad. She always said that she made it up one day from a whole bunch of different ingredients in the fridge.

Once I went to college, I had to call her and get the recipe so I could start making it for my friends. Since then, it’s evolved a little bit – I add extra vegetables and I make my own Italian-style dressing. You can always change the ratios of the ingredients in this pasta salad; it’s very forgiving.

I love serving this at summer holidays with my Nana’s potato salad, and my own baked beans; it makes me feel like I have my mom and my grandmother in the kitchen with me.

Make sure that when the pasta is prepared, that it is a step before al dente. Otherwise when the finished dish marinates in the refrigerator, the pasta will turn mushy from soaking up the dressing. I’ve also found that the broccoli tastes best when it’s very quickly blanched by draining the pasta over it in a colander. That way, it doesn’t get over-cooked, but is a little more tender than if raw.

My mom always made it summer sausage or pepperoni, but I haven’t found a vegetarian sausage product that I like cold yet. Baked tofu or beans would make a nice protein addition to this salad. I also like to use the Barilla Plus rotini, as I have in the picture below, for additional protein. These changes can make it more of a vegetarian main dish.

IMG_0236

Mom’s Pasta Salad

Serves 12-16 as a side dish

1 16 ounce box of tri-color rotini pasta (or your favorite type of rotini)

1 large bunch of broccoli

1 large red pepper, chopped

1 large yellow pepper, chopped

1 15 ounce can of black olives, sliced

1/2 large red onion, finely chopped

8 ounces Colby Jack (or your favorite cheese), cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1 cup olive oil

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp Italian seasoning

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Prepare pasta until a step before al dente (so that when the pasta soaks up dressing, it remains al dente and not mushy).

Cut the florets from the broccoli stems, and chop into bite-sized pieces. Save the stems for a later use. Spread broccoli over the bottom of the colander that will be used to drain the pasta.

Combine the next five ingredients in a very large bowl or storage container.

In a measuring cup, combine the olive oil through the remaining ingredients and whisk.

When the pasta is not-quite-al-dente, drain over the broccoli and immediately rinse with cool water. Drain thoroughly and add to the vegetable and cheese mixture.

Pour the dressing over the vegetables and pasta and mix well. Store in the refrigerator for six hours or overnight. Check and adjust seasonings before serving. This keeps well for 3-4 days, and leftovers are delicious!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Easy Marinara Sauce

I love making things from scratch that a lot of people buy prepackaged, and pasta sauce is definitely one of them. It tastes so much better to add my own ingredients and make it to my specifications than to buy a jar of sauce, and I always have the ingredients in my pantry anyway.

I like to add some embellishments sometimes, including balsamic vinegar or a handful of Parmesan cheese. As it stands, though, this is vegan.

This can be turned into pizza sauce by cooking and reducing further to remove additional water.

You get to see it below in my favorite application, which is as a pizza sauce!

IMG_9725

 

Easy Marinara Sauce

Enough for 1 lb of pasta or four medium pizzas

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 28 ounce can tomatoes (or two 15 ounce cans)

1 Tbsp Italian seasoning

1/2 cup red wine

 

Heat the olive oil in a large sauce pot over medium and add the onion. Sauté for 10 minutes, or until starting to brown. Add garlic, cook for an additional 30 seconds, then add tomatoes, Italian seasoning, and red wine. Cook for 10 minutes, then blend with a stick blender or move to a regular blender and puree.

To make a pizza sauce, return to the sauce pot and cook for an additional 15-20 minutes or until reduced.

This freezes beautifully in individual portions.

Note: This can also be turned into a vodka sauce by exchanging 1/4 cup vodka for the red wine and adding cream as desired.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie with Herbed Mashed Potatoes

Ever since mid March when I picked up a literally Costco-sized bag of potatoes at said warehouse store, I’ve been trying to find new recipes for them. I’ve never really been much of a potato person; bread is truly my starch of choice. So it’s been a bit of a challenge – the baked potato soup was just ok, the baked potatoes with broccoli and fresh cheese sauce garnered praise from Mike, but I think this has been the best dish so far.

Since going vegetarian almost three years ago, it’s something I’ve tried to work with on and off (even trying a lower carbohydrate cauliflower version), but each time it’s been too soupy or too bland. This time, I reduced the liquid I added by quite a bit, added flour, pumped up the savory additions to the vegetable layer, and added a thin layer of sharp cheddar to the top. It was a happy ending to meal I felt I was forcing myself to cook, rather than defaulting to what I call “lazy dinner” – cheese, crackers, fruit, and hummus.

I do try not to use meat substitutes TOO often, but I like the texture of Boca Crumbles in this dish. You can use other veggie crumbles or even chopped up veggie burgers work well.

I still have a lot of potatoes to work with. I’m thinking there’s gnocchi or lefse in my future…

IMG_9877

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie with Herbed Mashed Potatoes

Serves 10-12 with a side vegetable

4 large Russet potatoes, peeled and chopped

2 tbsp olive oil

2 medium onions, chopped

3 cloves of garlic, minced

12 ounce package of vegetarian crumbles

1 carrot, peeled and sliced

6 stalks celery, sliced

8 ounces baby portabella mushrooms, sliced

3/4 cup frozen peas

2 Tbsp flour

2 Tbsp barbecue sauce

1 tsp soy sauce

2 tsp dried thyme

1/2 cup water

2 tsp vegetarian “beef” flavored bouillon base

1/3 cup marsala wine or red wine

3 Tbsp unsalted butter

1 cup milk

1/4 cup finely chopped mixed herbs (basil, oregano, rosemary, etc - your choice)

2 ounces sharp cheddar, finely shredded

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Pre-heat the oven to 400 F and spray a 9x13 baking dish with nonstick spray.

Fill a large pot halfway with water and add the potatoes. Heat on medium high, bring to a boil, and let cook until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork.

While the potatoes are cooking, add olive oil to a nonstick pan. Turn heat to medium and add onions and sprinkle with salt. Cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally and allow to brown. Add garlic and the next four ingredients, stirring to combine. Let cook for five minutes, then turn off heat and add frozen peas. Sprinkle flour over vegetable mixture and quickly stir to ensure there are no lumps.

Combine the next six ingredients in a small bowl, and stir into vegetable mixture. Taste and add salt and pepper to adjust seasonings.

Once the potatoes are tender, drain and return to the pot. Add butter, mash completely, then stir in milk and herbs. Add salt to taste.

Pour the vegetable mixture into the baking dish, then smooth mashed potatoes over, making sure to seal the sides. Evenly sprinkle cheese over the top. Place into the oven and cook for 30 minutes. Turn oven to 450 F and cook for an additional five minutes, or until the top is beginning to brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for ten minutes before serving.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Nana’s Stuffed Artichokes

When my brother and I were growing up, our nana loved to cook for our family. One of our favorite things of hers was stuffed artichokes; it was always such a treat when my mom came home from my nana's house with a Tupperware containing fresh, steaming stuffed artichokes. When my brother and I were younger, we didn't like them very much, so my mom was dismayed when we finally developed a taste for them.

Since moving away from home, I'd only had one chance to have my nana's artichokes. They're the thing of legend in my family, so my brother and I have been trying to make them for years. Every spring we've looked for the perfect artichokes, try working out a recipe, and get disappointed when it doesn't taste the same. Ultimately, most of the issue is in the preparation and having the patience to gently fill the artichokes. This time, I sat down, put on some music, and got to work. And, while it doesn't taste exactly like my nana's artichokes, they're pretty close, and pretty amazing. And yes, I do use garlic and onion powder here – they work very well in this application.

Mike doesn't quite like stuffed artichokes...yet? Maybe someday it'll be my turn to be dismayed when I have to share!

 

artichoke

 

Nana’s Stuffed Artichokes

Note: this does take time, patience, and a steady hand. It’s more of a weekend recipe than a weeknight recipe.

Serves 4

1 tbsp lemon juice

4 cups breadcrumbs (homemade preferred)

2 tbsp Italian seasoning

2 tsp garlic powder

2 tsp onion powder

1 tbsp kosher salt (or 1/2 tbsp table salt)

1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan

4 large artichokes

Olive oil

Vegetable broth

Salt and pepper to taste

Melted butter for dipping

Fill a large bowl with cool water and lemon juice. This is to keep the artichokes from browning when cut.

Combine the breadcrumbs through the next five ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Each artichoke will be filled with a quarter of this stuffing mix. Set a large stock pot on the stove so that the filled artichokes can be placed directly into the pot.

Wash the artichokes. Starting with one artichoke, slice off the stem at the bottom of the artichoke, peel, and place in the bowl. Lay the artichoke on its side on a cutting board and cut off the top of the artichoke, revealing the top of the “choke,” which is inedible. With scissors, snip off the sharp spine from each leaf. With a sharp-edged spoon (a grapefruit spoon works well here), dig the choke out, scraping all of the fuzzy parts from the heart. This doesn't have to be perfect, but the more that's scraped out, the easier the heart will be to eat in the end. It does take some effort and patience. Once the artichoke is cleaned and trimmed, place into the bowl with lemon juice and water. Repeat with the remaining three artichokes.

Once the artichokes are prepped, remove one from the bowl and drain. Fill the center with the stuffing. Moving around the artichoke and using a small spoon, fill each leaf with stuffing. You'll have to spread the leaves out by hand to be able to fit stuffing amongst all of the leaves. This also takes some patience and the artichoke must be handled gently. Once the artichoke is filled, place onto the bottom of the pot. Repeat with the remaining three artichokes.

Once the artichokes are filled and in the stock pot, drizzle olive oil all over the artichokes. Fill the stock pot with vegetable broth until it comes halfway up the sides of the artichokes. Pour about 1/4 cup additional vegetable broth down the center of each artichoke to ensure that the stuffing is moistened. Remove the stems from the bowl and place around the artichokes in the pot.

Turn the heat below the stock pot onto medium high and cover. Once the broth is simmering, reduce the heat to medium and keep covered. Cook the artichokes until a leaf comes off easily when pulled, or about 45 minutes. Remove each artichoke from the pot gently with a large slotted spoon. Allow to cool slightly before eating. These also store and reheat very well.

Serve the artichokes with a dipping sauce, if desired. An easy one is to combine melted butter with an equal amount of vegetable broth from simmering the artichokes. Garlic aioli also complements artichokes very well. Eat the artichokes by removing a leaf, gripping by the top, and scrape your teeth to pull the "meat" off. It's terribly ungraceful and messy, but delicious! Once the leaves are gone, trim the heart and eat. The peeled stems also taste just like the heart.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Red Lentil and Spinach Soup with Lemon Coriander Yogurt

 

I was in the mood for lentils the other day, but not anything very heavy or too strongly curry flavored. On top of that, I was craving more “spring” flavors, especially because it’s finally starting to warm up here in Orlando. Scratch that, it went from winter to summer over the course of a week! We have such odd weather in Florida during the spring – but then I’d rather have that than shovel snow.

I decided to go for a light curry flavor here and pair it with lemon and spinach. The lemon keeps it fresh-tasting, while the yogurt cools down the slight heat from the curry powder – I use Penzey’s Hot Curry Powder. The red bell pepper garnish gave it a nice crunch with a little sweetness. Cilantro would also be great as a garnish, as coriander is the seed of cilantro. I love using frozen spinach in a soup like this; it defrosted nicely after I pureed the lentils and onion, with no extra work cleaning and chopping.

The result is a fresh tasting, light soup with bright flavors. This also reheats well and can be served the next day if you have leftovers.

 

red lentil spinach lemon soup

 

Red Lentil and Spinach Soup with Lemon Coriander Yogurt

Serves 4

 

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 medium onion, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tbsp good quality curry powder

1 Tbsp garam masala

1 1/2 cups red lentils

6 cups vegetable broth

10 ounces frozen spinach

Zest from one lemon, with 1 tsp set aside

Salt and pepper to taste

1 large red pepper, chopped, for garnish

 

Yogurt:

1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 cup Greek yogurt

1 tsp coriander

1 tsp lemon zest

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large stock or soup pot. Add onion and cook until translucent, about five minutes. Add garlic, curry powder, and garam masala and cook for one minute. Add lentils and vegetable broth and cook until lentils are soft, about 25-30 minutes. Using a stick blender, puree the soup (you can also transfer the soup to a regular blender if you don’t have a stick blender; return the soup to the pot afterward). Add spinach and heat through until fully defrosted. Stir in lemon zest and salt and pepper to taste.

While the lentils are cooking, combine yogurt ingredients and set aside.

Ladle the soup into bowls and top with a spoonful of the yogurt and chopped red bell pepper.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Mediterranean Vegetable Sauté over Spaghetti Squash

This is one of my favorite quick, easy, and light dishes especially for spring and summer; and if you cook the spaghetti squash ahead of time, it can go together in less than 15 minutes.

I learned about spaghetti squash in the Great American Carb Reduction times of 2004-2006 or so - supposedly a great substitution for pasta. It took a while to sell me on the idea and the flavor, and I’m not sure I see it as a direct substitution necessarily, though it is tasty. I think spaghetti squash is a great addition to pasta, and you can absolutely serve this dish over angel hair pasta - especially whole wheat. However, sometimes I'm still looking for something very light, and this fits the bill. As usual, it's not terribly authentic, but I think the flavors work very well together, especially for such a quick meal.

The artichoke hearts, olives, and feta cheese bring a lot of salt to the dish, but do check before serving in case you need to add more.

med spaghetti squash 

Mediterranean Vegetable Sauté over Spaghetti Squash

Serves 4

1 medium spaghetti squash
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large red pepper, chopped
1 large yellow pepper, chopped
2 medium zucchini, chopped
1/2 red onion, diced
1 tsp dill
1 tsp oregano
15 ounce can artichoke hearts packed in water, quartered
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped
Zest from one lemon
1 tbsp lemon juice
6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Carefully cut the spaghetti squash in half, and place the squash cut side down on a baking dish. Bake in the oven until cooked through, or 45 minutes. Allow to cool partway, then take a fork and rake across the flesh of the squash. The flesh should come apart in strands that resemble spaghetti. Put aside in a dish.

While the squash is cooking, heat the olive oil in a non stick pan over medium-high heat. Add the peppers, zucchini, onion, dill, and oregano, and cook until just crisp-tender, 2-3 minutes. Stir in the next four ingredients and just heat through, about one minute. Remove from the heat. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Portion the spaghetti squash strands into four bowls, top with vegetable mixture, then sprinkle with feta cheese.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Zucchini, Red Pepper, and Onion Tamale Pie with Cilantro Cheddar Cornbread

Though it sounds a little fancy, this is a relatively simple recipe. It comes together from vegetables purchased at the farmer's market last weekend and a love for tamale pie recipes. Cornbread is one of my absolute favorite foods, and I don't make it enough. Of course, a cast iron skillet would help with that, which for some reason I still don't own.

This got a huge thumbs-up from Mike, who loves anything and everything Mexican-TexMex-vaguely US Southwestern flavored. It's great with sour cream, avocados, olives, any of your favorite Tex Mex type garnishes. I love it with lots of hot sauce, but then, what doesn't hot sauce go with?




Zucchini, Red Pepper, and Onion Tamale Pie with Cilantro Cheddar Cornbread

Serves 8

1 tbsp olive oil
1 large sweet onion, diced
2 medium zucchini, diced
2 medium red peppers, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp chipotle chile powder (or other any other powdered chile)
3/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp kosher salt (or 1 tsp table salt)
3/4 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup frozen corn
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
4 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded

Additional shredded cheddar cheese for sprinkling on top, if desired

Preheat oven to 375 F. Spray an 8" x 13" casserole dish with nonstick spray and set aside.
In a large nonstick skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until starting to brown, about 15 minutes. Stir in next seven ingredients and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for additional 2-3 minutes.

While the vegetables are cooking, in a large bowl combine cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir in milk and eggs, then remaining ingredients.

Move vegetables into casserole dish and pour cornmeal mixture over the top, spreading evenly. Sprinkle additional cheddar cheese on top, if desired. Bake in oven until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the cornbread comes out clean. Remove from oven and let sit for five minutes before serving.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Basic Seitan


I tried store-bought seitan a long time ago, when I first went vegetarian, and thought it was awful. I used it in a stir-fry. Mike and I each took one bite and we threw the entire thing out. It wasn't until a while later when I tried seitan at the hot bar at Whole Foods that I realized it could be delicious.

The first time I made it at home, I followed the recipe for Seitan o' Greatness from the Post Punk Kitchen forums. What a difference! Not only was it much, much cheaper, but it was also tasty as well!

I've now made seitan at home a dozen times or more, and I tweak the recipe each time. This is a rough estimation of the way I make it at home, but you may need more or less liquid or dry ingredients. You can add anything you like to this - I often make an Italian-ish version, but go crazy. When you see vegetarian sausages in the refrigerated section, often they're an offshoot of seitan, so if the flavors interest you, try them on your own. Use this in any recipe calling for meat or meat substitutes. I even like to eat it on it's own - it's incredibly filling!

Also, this recipe can be time consuming. Plan ahead, and feel free to make large batches to store in the freezer - it freezes very well.

The version I have a picture of below has sundried tomatoes and fennel seed. I soaked sundried tomatoes in hot water and used that as the liquid, then added Italian seasoning, minced garlic, and fennel seeds. Soon I'd like to try butternut squash, sage, and toasted pecan!

Note: I find vital wheat gluten in the bulk section of my local health food store. Some Whole Foods Markets also carry it, both in bulk and in the flours section. You can also use soy flour instead of chickpea flour, or more vital wheat gluten, but I like the texture that chickpea flour gives the seitan. You can find it easily at an Indian grocery store.




Basic Seitan

Serves 6-8

2 cups vital wheat gluten
1/2 cup chickpea flour
2 cups vegetable broth
2 Tbsp oil or nut butter
2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder

Any additional seasoning that you like - cracked pepper, herbs, curry powder, soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, Italian herbs, sauteed vegetables or fruits, garlic, nuts, etc. Make sure you do add some flavors, as this is a very basic recipe and rather bland on its own.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the flours and attach the dough hook. Add liquid, olive oil, and salt and mix until the dough comes together without sticking to the bottom of the bowl. (This may require adding additional flour or liquid - it's never worked the same twice for me.)

Once the dough comes together, let it knead for 10 minutes. Let rest for 30 minutes, then knead for another 10 minutes.

While the dough is going through it's final kneading time, take a large skillet and place a metal steaming basket inside, along with 1-2 inches of water. Remove the dough, cut into four equal pieces, and shape as desired. Place onto the steaming basket, cover, and steam for 45 minutes, adding additional water as needed. Let cool while still covered, and store for later or use as needed.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Cheddar and Green Onion Smashed Potatoes

I've been away from cooking for a few days now because Mike and I visited his parents over the weekend, and I promptly developed a nasty cold on our way home. I did manage to try out one new recipe that went over well when I tested it on a few people.

For some reason I don't eat too many potatoes (bread is my carb of choice!), but I've been working on a "meat"loaf recipe and potatoes sounded like just the thing to go with it. I wanted to jazz them up a bit beyond regular mashed, and this is what came of it. I love the combination of really sharp cheddar cheese and the fresh onion-y taste of green onions - it works in so many dishes, and these potatoes make it shine. I also stirred in 4 cloves of finely minced garlic, but if that's too much for you, feel free to omit.

It's not the healthiest of recipes, but the dairy products are spread out over 6-8 servings.




Cheddar and Green Onion Smashed Potatoes

Serves 6-8

2 lbs small red potatoes, skin on and washed
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup half and half
1/2 cup low fat sour cream
6 oz sharp cheddar cheese, grated
6 green onions, thinly sliced
4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
Salt and pepper to taste

After washing the potatoes, cut them into uniform pieces and place into a large pot of salted water. Bring to a boil and cook until they can be pierced easily with a fork, 15-20 minutes.

Drain the potatoes and mash the butter into the potatoes first with a potato masher. Mash into the consistency you prefer (for smashed, I like it a little chunky), then stir in the remaining ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Creamy Tomato Soup

I adore creamy tomato soup - okay, who doesn't? Canned tomato soups never seem to hit the spot, however; they're tinny and lack flavor. And cream of tomato soup is extremely easy to make at home! In fact, I nearly always have the ingredients around, so it's a recipe I can whip up on a whim.
I love pairing it with grilled cheese, and if I'm feeling even more indulgent, Goldfish crackers to sprinkle on top. You can also flavor the soup however you like, when you start from the basic recipe - you can add curry or garam masala to give it an Indian flair, or basil and oregano for an Italian flavor. I normally add either Penzey's Tuscan Sunset or Pizza Seasoning because they're quick, tasty, and readily available for me. Adding cheese boosts flavor and protein content, and you can stir in any vegetable you'd like as well - I love spinach in it.

This time around I halved the recipe, added 2 tsp Italian seasoning, 2 oz of Parmesan cheese, and 1 cup of chopped baby spinach. I also used Muir Glen fire roasted tomatoes - they give a lot more flavor than regular canned tomatoes. You can use tomato sauce in place of chopped tomatoes for a smoother texture.

Give this a try the next time you're in the mood for tomato soup and grilled cheese, and I promise you'll never go back to canned.




Creamy Tomato Soup

Serves 4 as a side dish to a sandwich or a salad, 2 as a main dish

2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
4 cups of milk
28 ounce can of chopped tomatoes, pureed
Salt and pepper to taste

Optional: additional seasonings such as curry powder, garam masala, basil, oregano, Parmesan, cheddar, smoked salt, cumin, cayenne pepper - the options are endless.

Heat butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, and whisk in flour when the butter has melted. Allow to cook for one minute, then slowly pour in milk while continuing to whisk.

Allow to thicken, approximately five minutes, then stir in tomatoes and optional seasonings, and cook for an additional five minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Poached Eggs over Asparagus

Good-looking asparagus is finally starting to show up at Publix! Costco still has huge woody asparagus, but I picked some up at Publix that are thinner than pencils. The thinner the asparagus, the better! Spring fruits and vegetables are beginning to come into season and I'm excited, even though the weather here in Florida has been unseasonably chilly.

Usually I do something boring with asparagus and broil it with olive oil and balsamic, but I wanted something that highlighted the asparagus more. I'm back on my upswing of enjoying eggs - I go back and forth - so I was thinking of the classic dish of poached eggs over asparagus. I also wanted to have a light sauce over the dish, but definitely not hollandaise - that's a rare treat. I know that mock hollandaise is sometimes made with yogurt, so I came up with a creamy mustard dill sauce that goes together very easily. I garnished this with lemon zest because I don't think lemon zest is used enough as a garnish for savory foods, and perks up so many dishes.

Finally, to give the dish a little more substance, I served it over thickly-sliced toasted whole grain bread. If you shop at Publix, I love to use their whole grain seeded loaves, and slice it myself.




Poached Eggs over Asparagus with a Creamy Mustard Dill Sauce

Serves 2

1/2 lb asparagus
4 fresh eggs
1 tbsp vinegar
1/2 cup full fat yogurt
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp dried dill (or 1 tbsp fresh)
1 clove of garlic, finely minced
2 slices of whole grain bread
Zest of one lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

Trim the asparagus and place it into a steamer basket in a large saucepan with an inch of water below. Cover, turn to medium high, and steam until crisp-tender, approximately 5 minutes.

In a shallow pan (I like to use my large, deep skillet), heat 3 inches of water and the tablespoon of vinegar to a simmer. Crack two eggs each into two small bowls or ramekins, and when the water is gently simmering, quickly pour the eggs into the pan. Gently move the white over the yolk. Poach for three minutes for medium-done yolks. Toast the bread while the eggs are poaching.

Meanwhile, in a small microwave-safe bowl, combine the yogurt, mustard, dill, and garlic with salt and pepper to taste, and heat until warmed through.

On a plate, place the bread, asparagus on top, then the poached eggs. Drizzle 1/2 of the sauce over the eggs and sprinkle with the lemon zest, salt, and pepper, and serve.

Note: if you're not a fan of poached eggs, you can always use hard boiled eggs, slice them, and arrange over the asparagus as well. Thanks to Jenn for the input!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Jambalaya

This recipe basically came about due to a desire to do a little "something" to celebrate Mardi Gras. After a long Valentine's weekend, Mike and I preferred to stay in, so I set about working on a proper jambalaya recipe. I've always only ever made jambalaya with the box of Zatarain's, so it's high time that I actually developed my own recipe.

I'm not claiming in the least that this is authentic, though I tried to capture the flavors of New Orleans. I like the Tofurky brand of sausages as I cannot find vegetarian andouille very easily, but if you can, feel free to substitute. I also added quartered mushrooms for their meaty texture. I probably use more garlic than 4 cloves when cooking for Mike and I, since we're garlic fiends, so add more if it suits you. This is also "accidentally" vegan, as written!



Jambalaya

3 tbsp vegetable oil, divided
2 vegetarian sausages (I prefer the Tofurky brand), sliced into 1/4 inch coins
2 large onions, chopped
1 large green pepper, chopped
1 large red pepper, chopped
4 stalks of celery, chopped
8 ounces cremini mushrooms (also known as baby portabellas), trimmed, washed, and quartered
4 cloves of garlic, minced
3 bay leaves
2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 cup brown rice, uncooked
1 can chopped tomatoes, undrained
2 cups vegetable broth
1 tsp Tabasco sauce (or more to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped parsley and green onions, for garnish

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat, and add vegetarian sausage. Cook until sausage is browned, or 5 minutes. Turn heat to medium and add remaining oil, onions, peppers, celery, and mushrooms, and sprinkle with kosher salt. Cook until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds, until garlic is fragrant.

Add the next nine ingredients, cover, and simmer until the rice is cooked through, about 40 minutes. Add salt and fresh black pepper to taste. Remove bay leaves and serve sprinkled with chopped parsley and green onions, and as much Tabasco as you please!