Monday, October 31, 2011

Meal Plan for the Week of October 31

Still on my pantry/freezer challenge, which for me means coming up with things on the fly as I go. To make it a little more interesting, I’ll try posting a quick blurb about what I do end up making each day. I’d like to whittle the freezer down at least to the point where I “reboot” it.

Mike has been feeling under the weather for the last few days, so I’ve been trying to keep it simple, hot, and nourishing. I guess the delivery pizza on Saturday wasn’t terribly … healthy, but it seemed to make him feel a bit better. Yesterday was split pea soup, which ended up being very tasty and apparently soothing for my sick spouse.

The recipe this week is a beverage this time. It started off as an autumn sangria, but with the addition of bourbon I’m not quite sure if it’ll keep that name. More later!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Vegetarian Coq au Vin

First, to apologize to all those that like it, I finally developed this in response to the coq au vin at Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival this year. I personally thought it was bland, “gloppy,” and tasted like beef stew instead of coq au vin. (yes, for the interests of science, I did taste it!)

So that said, I’ve had this planned in the back of my mind and finally decided to put a recipe together. It actually went through 1.5 iterations before the final output – my seitan-making still leaves a lot to be desired. After making terrible homemade seitan and simmering it in the sauce, it ended up tasting mushy. The vegetables and the sauce were very good, but the texture of the seitan was taking away from it. I ended up picking out the pieces of seitan, stirring in sliced Gardein scallopini (my favorite), simmered, and it’s in a much better place. I’m not claiming this is anywhere near authentic – without chicken thighs, it definitely is not. But it’s a hearty, filling, and tasty vegetarian dish that’s perfect for the cooler nights ahead.

I decided to serve this over a half and half mixture of pureed cauliflower and mashed potatoes. I’ve loved pureed cauliflower since I discovered it in a cookbook, not for its potato replacing ability, but for its own flavor. On my own, I can easily steam a bag of frozen cauliflower, add a little butter and Parmesan, spin it in the food processor, and eat the whole thing. Since Mike’s a little more iffy on that, and I wanted something that could “absorb” flavors a bit more, I added one enormous potato to the pureed head of cauliflower, which met with his approval. I’ll be putting it in its own post, so I can keep it separate from the vegetarian coq au vin. You can also serve it over just about any carb you like: regular potatoes, egg noodles, even a thick slice of crusty bread would be lovely.

And if I may, I do think it tastes better than Epcot’s!

The next time I make this, I want to garnish it with gremolata (lemon zest, minced garlic, minced parsley) even though that’s Italian, and this is French – I think it would add a little brightness.


Vegetarian Coq au Vin

Serves: 6 with accompanying carb; 3-4 without


1 package Gardein Chick’n scallopini

6 slices tempeh bacon, sliced (I used Tofurky brand, since that’s what our local store sells)

2 tbsp olive oil

10 oz. pearl onions, peeled

4 cloves of garlic, smashed

2 stalks of celery, sliced into 1 inch slices

4 medium carrots, sliced 1/4 of an inch

8 oz. cremini mushrooms, washed and quartered

2 tbsp flour

1 bottle of dry red wine (yes, a bottle! I used Cabernet)

1 cup vegetable or vegetarian chicken broth

1 tsp dried thyme

8 large sprigs of fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp brandy

Salt and pepper to taste


Heat a large, stainless steel skillet over medium heat. Partially thaw the scallopini and slice it into 1/2 inch thick slices. Add both scallopini and tempeh; cook for 5 minutes or until browned on all sides. Remove from pan and set aside.

Add olive oil, onions, garlic, celery, carrots, and mushrooms to the pan. Sprinkle with salt and cook for 5 minutes, or until softened and the mushrooms begin to give up liquid.

Sprinkle flour into the pan and stir quickly. Cook for an additional minute, then add wine, broth, dry and fresh thyme, bay leaves, and reserved scallopini and tempeh. Turn up heat and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 45 minutes. Remove the thyme sprigs and bay leaves and stir in the butter and brandy. Add salt and pepper to taste, and adjust seasonings as needed. Serve over carb of choice.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Meal Plan for the Week of October 17

Breakfasts: Mini veggie quiches – these worked well last week, and Mike enjoyed them as well.

Lunches: Leftovers, as usual. Probably some egg salad for me here and there.

Dinner 1: Pizza and side salad – going to be working on improving my bread-making ability, of which I have near-zero.

Dinner 2: Japanese golden curry with tofu and vegetables, rice (whoops, didn’t get a chance to make this last week)

Dinner 3: Vegetarian version of 1905 salad – from the Columbia Restaurant, in my hometown area of Tampa

Dinner 4: Hot pot (COLD night for us this week! 70F for a high and 52F for a low!)

I have a lot of odds and ends in the fridge and freezer that I need to use up, so a low key week this week. Friday will probably be a nebulous “other” but I’ll make something warm and hearty for our mini cold front.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Beefless Stew

This was supposed to be a post about seitan au vin, but as I’ve been having issues with my homemade seitan and had to spend extra time fixing the recipe, Mike encouraged me to write up and post about the “beefless” stew that I made over the weekend.

We had a rare, completely rainy, sort-of chilly weekend this past weekend. I’m starting to crave cooler temperatures and comforting food, so I took this as an impetus to make a vegetarian version of beef stew.

(I’ll take this time to make an aside note – I really do generally dislike using processed food and rarely buy any, but I love Gardein products. I usually keep some in the freezer because they make it easy to make a healthy, protein-rich, and quick meal. And sometimes I really don’t feel like making homemade seitan or taking the time to press and bake tofu to the texture that we like. And no, I’m not being paid to talk about their products.)

All that said, I’ve used the Gardein Beefless Tips a few times in various dishes, but I don’t feel as if they’re as versatile as their “Chick’n Scallopini” product. However, I had the craving for a rich stew and crusty bread and knew that I could use the Beefless Tips well in that application.

I started off with the recipe developed by Tal Ronnen, Gardein’s chef, that was apparently showcased on Ellen’s show. It had a lot of basic elements that I would have put into a recipe like this, but I used it as a jumping point to make the recipe my own. When I cook, I probably never actually follow a recipe (which can be good or bad!) and the ingredient list and method is really never completely written until after I take the first bite at the table. That was absolutely the case with this stew.

I knew I wanted plenty of leftovers, so I immediately doubled the ingredient list except for the oil. I also added quartered cremini mushrooms, since I think they pair well with the deep, rich flavors that I was looking for. I kept the vegetables in larger, heartier pieces and ended up using much more flour as I and Mike both agreed the liquid was too thin. I did use pearl onions, and resigned myself to peeling fresh ones while the TV was on in the background. I’ve tried frozen ones and find them watery; I’ve tried the “fast” peel method I’ve read online, and that never really worked for me. I made sure to use waxy red potatoes, as they keep their shape when boiled.

As I’ve encountered sometimes, at the end the stew was missing “something” but I couldn’t place it; I couldn’t think of any other herbs or spices to try. In these cases, I have three things I try: salt, fat, or alcohol. I felt the salt level was fine, so I tried adding a little extra oil, then a little butter. Neither of those fixed it. Scanning the pantry, I finally remembered the bottles of marsala and sherry I keep for cooking, and took those down. A splash of each went into the pot, I stirred and let it cook a few more minutes, and that was it! And, as I hoped, the stew only got better after sitting in the fridge a couple days. I actually had a small bowl for breakfast today and it tasted great!

If you can’t find or don’t want to use the Gardein Beefless Tips, try seitan instead, or double the amount of mushrooms.

(As usual, brown dishes don’t tend to be the most photogenic.)


beefless stew

Beefless Stew

Serves: 8

Note: if the butter is substituted with an additional tablespoon of vegetable oil, this dish is vegan


2 Tbsp Olive or vegetable oil

2 packages of Gardein Beefless Tips

10 oz pearl onions, peeled

6 stalks of celery, sliced into 1 inch thick pieces

4 cloves of garlic, minced

4 medium carrots, sliced into 1/2 inch thick pieces

8 oz cremini mushrooms, washed and quartered

2 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp dried rosemary

1/2 cup flour

6 cups vegetarian “beef” broth

2 cups dry red wine

6 small red potatoes, washed and quartered

1/4 cup marsala wine

1/4 cup sherry

1 Tbsp butter

Salt and pepper to taste



In a large pot, heat the oil over medium high heat and add the Tips. Cook, stirring occasionally, until browned on all sides or about 5-10 minutes. Remove from the pot and set aside.

Add onions and celery and sprinkle with salt. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes. Add garlic, carrots, mushrooms, thyme, and rosemary. Cook for another 10 minutes. Slowly sprinkle in flour, stirring briskly to avoid clumps. Allow to cook for one minute. Slowly stir in broth and wine, then add potatoes. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium. Simmer for 45 minutes. Add Beefless Tips back in and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in marsala, sherry, and butter; salt to taste.

If the stew is not as thick as you’d like, make a slurry of 1/4 cup cold water and 2 Tbsp flour and slowly pour into the pot. Bring the stew to a boil once more and reduce heat.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Meal Plan for the Week of October 10

I’m trying to get back in the swing of making set meal plans each week. It keeps me on track cooking-wise, makes my shopping times and bills shorter, and helps me waste less produce.

Because our schedule can change during the week, I’m not making a set meal for each day, but rather choosing four dinners and making them when it’s the easiest. Lunches are almost always leftovers, and I want to also get back into the swing of using our Laptop Lunchboxes for Mike’s lunch at work.

In general I use my own recipes/brainstorming, but I’ll link to a recipe when I use something else.


Breakfasts: Mini veggie quiches

Lunches: Leftovers from dinner

Dinner 1: Seitan au vin with mashed cauliflower and potato

Dinner 2: Veggie sausages, roasted sweet potato wedges, Brussels sprouts

Dinner 3:Jerk seitan, onions, and peppers

Dinner 4: Japanese golden curry with tofu and vegetables, rice

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Roasted Butternut Squash Bisque

Sorry for the short hiatus! Had to take some time off to celebrate Mike’s and my birthday, and it was a busy week. Back on schedule now!

This is a slight variation on the first recipe I developed from scratch, many years ago. The original is a curried butternut squash bisque, so I wanted to bring it back home to a simpler recipe that could have the curried version as a variation, but also be used for other variations as well.

The vegetables are roasted to reduce the water content and bring out the rich flavor through caramelization of the sugars. The final dish has a sweetness that generally doesn’t require apples or added sugars.

If I’m busy, I start this recipe the day before to get the vegetables roasted. In fact, the recipe can be up through the last step of adding the half and half and gently heated on the stovetop the next day. You can even freeze the vegetable puree base and thaw and add the half and half.

For the puree, I prefer to use the countertop blender because it gives a smoother puree, but feel free to use a stick blender inside the stock pot for less cleanup and one less step.

This is my grandmother’s favorite soup!


Roasted Butternut Squash Bisque

Serves 8-12


1 large butternut squash

1 medium sweet potato

1 large onion

1 head of garlic

Olive oil

1/4 cup of fresh sage, finely chopped

2 tsp dried thyme

8 cups of vegetable broth

1 cup of half and half (or for a more decadent dish, light or heavy cream)

1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat the oven to 375 F.

On a sturdy surface and with a very sharp knife, carefully cut the butternut squash in half vertically. Scoop out the seeds and strings and set aside. Drizzle a baking sheet with olive oil, place the squash cut side down, and put into the oven.

Peel the sweet potato and cut into large chunks. Cut the onion into quarters and peel. Slice the top 1/4 off the head of garlic, place in a sheet of aluminum foil, drizzle with olive oil, and wrap tightly. After the squash has been in the oven for 30 minutes, turn over to peel side down and place the sweet potato, onion, and garlic on the baking sheet as well.

Check the vegetables after 30 minutes and turn the onion and sweet potato if they are beginning to brown too quickly. The vegetables should be ready after another 30 minutes, a total of 90 minutes.

Optionally at this point, bring the vegetable broth and the reserved seeds and strings to a simmer in a large pot. This step is not required but does bring out a little extra fresh squash flavor.

Remove the vegetables and allow to cool enough so that the peel can be removed from the butternut squash. This usually can be done easily at this point, but the flesh can be scooped out if needed. Squeeze the garlic cloves from the head. Add the vegetables to a blender and puree until very smooth, adding broth if needed to encourage blending.

Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add the sage and thyme and cook for 1 minute. Strain the broth and discard the solids if it has been simmering with the seeds. Add the broth and vegetable puree to the pot and bring to a gentle simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the half and half (or other cream) and nutmeg, and adjust seasonings. Serve immediately with crusty whole grain bread.


Curried Butternut Squash Bisque

Substitute 1-2 tbsp curry powder and 1 tsp chipotle powder for the sage and thyme. Cook the spices for 2-3 minutes to bring out the flavors.