Slow Down: Vegetable Biryani

Vegetable Biryani

I started eating Indian food fairly soon after adopting a plant-based diet. The Indians have a way with chickpeas, lentils and spices that is intoxicating . . . and hot! I remember having dinner at an Indian restaurant and there was a shaker on the table with what looked like cayenne pepper. Ouch! My only complaint about eating Indian food out is that it tends to be oily and salty, so when I have something out I usually find a healthier way to make it at home. A few months ago I ordered Vegetable Biryani and fell in love with yet another Indian dish. Biryani is a spicy rice dish whose ingredients vary according the region it’s from. I broke with authenticity and adapted a recipe to my liking and not from any particular region. My first two attempts were done in an instant pot and the results were, well, blah. The vegetables came out over-cooked and the rice was leaning towards mushy. I decided to take it slow this time and made the Biryani on top of the stove. What a difference it made. The vegetables were tender yet still held their shape and the grains of rice were cooked but not sticky. (I don’t recommend using brown rice as the vegetables will be over done.) The seasonings were aromatic, spicy, hot and comforting all at once. Call me crazy, but the aroma has an almost relaxing sensation to it. Slow down and enjoy making (and eating) this scrumptious Vegetable Biryani. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Vegetable Biryani (Stove Top)

Olive or vegetable oil (optional)
1 Teaspoon cumin seeds (use black cumin if you have it)
1 bay Leaf
1 Inch stick of cinnamon
1 black cardamom pod
2 green cardomom pods
2 cloves

1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 serrano pepper. chopped (about 3 inches long)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 inch piece of ginger, minced

½ cup chopped potato
½ cup small cauliflower florets
½ cup chopped carrots
½ cup green beans cut into 1” pieces
¼ cup chopped red or green bell pepper
½ cup green peas

2 Tablespoons soy yogurt
1 teaspoon red chili powder
2 teaspoon Biryani Masala
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1 cup Basmati rice, preferably the extra-long, fancy grain
2 cups water

¼ cup chopped cilantro Leaves

Add a small amount of oil (or water) to a Dutch oven, then add the cumin seeds, bay leaf, cinnamon, cardamom and cloves and heat until aromatic.

Add the onions to the pot and saute until they begin to brown. Add ginger, garlic and serrano pepper and cook until garlic starts to turn golden. Add chopped potatoes, carrots, green beans, cauliflower and bell peppers and cook until they start to brown. Add the yogurt to the vegetables and stir to coat. Add chili powder,  Biryani Masala, turmeric and salt and stir to coat. Add the water then distribute the rice on top in a single layer above the vegetables. Distribute the green peas on top of the rice. Do not stir. Bring to a boil then cover and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes. If the rice is not cooked, add a small amount of water, re-cover and cook for another 5 minutes. Distribute the fresh cilantro on top of the Biryani. Do not stir the rice into the vegetables when ready to serve; just spoon it out of the pot as layered. If possible, remove the bay leaf and cardomom pods when plating the Biryani.

18 Dec 2018

Opa! Greek Style Chick Peas, Tomatoes & Pasta

Greek Style Chick Peas, Tomatoes & Pasta

The word “opa” in Greek has a few meanings. It can be a call for attention or be used to say “oops.” I was looking back through some of my recent posts and realized that they’re mostly breakfast and snack-type recipes. Opa! I can’t believe that I haven’t posted a solid meal in over a month! We’re a pretty hungry couple and breakfast and snack foods won’t sustain us for long, so I thought I’d better share a recipe that we had this week . Greek Style Chick Peas, Tomatoes & Pasta is a twist on one of my favorites, Gigante Beans, Tomatoes & Pasta.  The original recipe was made with gigante beans in a light tomato sauce and simmered for hours on the stove. This version is made with chickpeas in a more robust tomato sauce and is prepared in an Instant Pot. The sauce gets its Greek influence from anise seed, oregano and dill. Now, I’m not a really big fan of chickpeas and tomato sauce, but this came out delicious. The recipe makes about 1-1/2 quarts of sauce so depending on how saucy you like your pasta you’ll have enough sauce for 16 to 24 ounces of dry pasta. If that’s too much pasta for one meal you can freeze the sauce for a few months. You might also try serving it over farro. It turns out that the word “opa” has also come to be a form of praise. I hope your loved ones will say “opa” when you serve them Chick Peas, Tomatoes &Pasta. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Greek Style Chickpeas, Tomatoes and Pasta

Note: Depending on how saucy you like your pasta you will have enough chickpea-tomato sauce to cover more than eight ounces of pasta. I used one-third of the sauce for eight ounces of pasta and froze the remaining sauce in two containers.

1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked and drained

Olive oil (optional)
1 large onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon anise seed or 2 Tablespoons ouzo liqueur
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 cup water or vegetable broth (1 teaspoon Better Than Bouillon No Chicken base)
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes (try using half the amount)
½ cup chopped fresh dill

8 oz. dry pasta, cooked according to package directions

Set instant pot to high saute setting. Add a small amount of olive oil or water. Add chopped onions and garlic and sauté until onions are golden brown, 6 to 7 minutes. Add anise seed, oregano, and red pepper and cook one minute. Add red wine vinegar, tomatoes, water and soaked chickpeas. Set instant pot to pressure cook on high, cover and cook for 8 minutes. Let pressure go down naturally. When safe, remove cover. Remove to large serving bowl. Add cooked pasta and dill. Stir gently and serve.

DO AHEAD: chick peas can be made up to 1 day ahead. Cool slightly. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled. Rewarm chick peas before continuing, adding more chicken broth one-half cup at a time if they are dry.

08 Dec 2018

FaLaLaLa: Candied Nuts

5 Spice Candied Pecans

“Tis the season to be jolly. Falalala.” The holiday season is in full swing and everyone is busy. Decorating. Shopping. Baking. Merry Making. I thought I’d share a super simple recipe that can add a little sparkle to your holiday with hardly any effort at all. These Candied Pecans can add a festive touch to salad. They can be chopped up and sprinkled on top of non-dairy desserts like pudding or cheesecake. You can adorn iced cupcakes with a single candied pecan. Need something to take to a spur-of-the-moment cocktail party? Simply fill a mason jar with candied pecans and wrap it up with a pretty bow. You can experiment with different spices like cinnamon, Chinese five spice, pumpkin pie spice or curry powder. I’ve also used walnuts with equally good results. I just made a batch of candied hazelnuts with orange rind to use as a garnish for my upcoming Chocolate Budino recipe. Have a jolly good time and make a few different varieties to enjoy throughout the season. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Chocolate Budino with Candied Orange Hazelnuts

Candied Pecans

2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
½ teaspoon ground spice (cinnamon, five spice, pumpkin pie spice, etc.)
¾ cup pecans halves
½ teaspoon brown sugar (optional)

Heat the maple syrup and five spice over medium heat in an 8” non-stick skillet. Add the pecans and stir to coat evenly. Cook until the syrup sticks to the pecans. Add the brown sugar and stir to coat. Remove from heat and let cool. Store in a covered container.

04 Dec 2018

Yam-I-am: Chocolate Yam Pudding

Chocolate Yam Pudding

I never read any of the Dr. Suess books, but through the years I have heard parents and children reciting the catchy rhyme from Green Eggs and Ham. When I found out what the book was about I felt like Dr. Suess could been writing about me. The story of Green Eggs and Ham is about a strange creature that does not like green eggs and ham and his friend Sam-I-Am wants him to eat it. This becomes a refrain as Sam persistently follows his friend through an assortment of locations (house, box, car, tree, train, dark, rain, boat) and dining partners (mouse, fox, and goat). The friend finally gives in and tries the dish, just to make Sam “let him be”, and finds it quite tasty, happily responding, “I do so like green eggs and ham. Thank you. Thank you, Sam-I-am.”

Since I adopted a plant-based diet I’ve been trying to convince family and friends to give it a try.  I’m hoping, like Sam-I-am, that if I keep persisting I’ll eventually wear one of them down. Many of my recipes and meals include “unconventional” ingredients. Take this recipe for Chocolate Yam Pudding. The main ingredient is yams. Most people I know would wrinkle their noses at the thought of chocolate pudding made with yams. All I can say is, “don’t knock it until you try it.” There’s something magical about yams. Unlike white potatoes, yams do not turn gummy when processed in a food processor or blender. Surprisingly, they become sweet and creamy. When combined with cocoa powder, dates and vanilla they are transformed into a guilt-free, decadent dessert. I like to bake the yams until their syrupy juice oozes out of their skins. If you have a high-powered blender you don’t have to remove the skins. The pudding comes out smooth, creamy and slightly sweet. You can add more cocoa, use dark cocoa powder or add some instant espresso powder for a more intense chocolate flavor. Try different flavored extracts or even your favorite liqueur. There’s no doubt that if I were to serve this Chocolate Yam Pudding to and unsuspecting loved one, I’m sure they’d say “I do so like Chocoate and yam! Thank you! Thank you, Yam-I-am.” Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Chocolate Yam Pudding

1 cup soft, baked yam (skin and flesh)
¼ cup pitted dates, packed (about 8)
¼ cup non-dairy milk
¼ cup cocoa powder
2 Tablespoons maple syrup (optional for added sweetness)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place all ingredients in blender container with paddle top. Process on high until smooth. Place in covered container and refrigerate until cold.

27 Nov 2018

Sunday Best: French Toast

French Toast

When I was growing up my mom would make a special breakfast on Sunday and that usually meant pancakes or French Toast. If you’re a recovering omnivore then you know that it can be tricky to make certain foods, especially breakfast, without dairy. Take French Toast. It’s bread dipped in milk and eggs and cooked in butter. The only pure vegetarian thing about it is the bread. Every once in a while I get a craving for French Toast and came up with this dairy-free recipe. I make the dipping liquid with non-dairy milk and oats the night before to allow it to thicken. The next morning I toast the bread in the oven before dipping and browning. The pre-toasting prevents the French Toast from becoming soggy in the middle. I used whole wheat raisin bread that I made in my bread machine.  I recommend buying a loaf of bread that’s not sliced so you can make the French Toast as thick or thin as you like. I served the French Toast with warmed maple syrup. You can serve it with a side of veggie sausage patties or tempeh bacon for a more substantial breakfast. Make a stack of French Toast and make this your best Sunday ever. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

French Toast

6 to 8 slices of thickly sliced bread

1 cup almond-cashew milk
¼ cup old-fashioned oats
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1 Tablespoon flax meal
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon black salt
1/8 teaspoon turmeric

Place milk, oats, sugar, flax meal, vanilla, cinnamon, black salt and turmeric in blender container and process until smooth. Refrigerate for a few hours to allow the mixture to thicken.

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Place bread on baking sheet and bake until bread is dry but not toasted (about 15 minutes.)

Spray a light coating of non-stick spray on an electric griddle and heat on high. Pour liquid into a shallow dish. Drop toasted bread into mixture and quickly turn over to coat both sides. Place on griddle and cook until brown on both sides.

Serve with maple syrup.

11 Nov 2018

Over the Top: Gingerbread Granola

Apple Yogurt Bowl with Granola

I’ve always had the tendency to go over the top when it comes to food. In some respects it’s a curse because it creates a lot of work for me. I’d rather go the extra mile and cook with fresh vegetables which require more prep than frozen ones. I make my own yogurt and cheese alternatives as I don’t care for manufactured non-dairy products that are available in my area. And when it comes to baked goods I’ve always believed that home-made goodies taste better and are more wholesome. And so it goes for granola. Granola sounds healthy, but did you ever look at the nutritional information on a package? They are usually high in fat and sugar. I’ve found one brand, Bob’s Red Mill, which has an acceptably lower amount of fat and added sugar than other brands. About a month ago I felt like having something with a gingerbread twist to it and Gingerbread Granola is what I came up with. I was happily surprised that for once what was in my head came out of the oven the way I envisioned it on my first attempt. I whisked together maple syrup, molasses, almond butter and spices, tossed it with old-fashioned oats and baked it at a low temperature. The granola came out crispy, slightly sweet and spicy. I’ve had the jar sitting on my counter for a month and this morning  I’m enjoying my breakfast of yogurt and stove-top apples with Gingerbread Granola over the top. You can vary the recipe by using other nut butters or spices, adding cocoa powder, chopped nuts or seeds. When the granola comes out of the oven you can break it into large, snack-size chunks or crumble it up to use as a topping for yogurt, pudding or ice cream. Make a batch of Gingerbread Granola and do something over the top today. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Gingerbread Granola

Gingerbread Granola

4 cups old-fashioned oats

6 Tablespoons maple syrup
¼ cup almond butter
2 Tablespoons molasses
1 Tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/8th teaspoon ground cloves

Preheat oven to 300F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Measure oats into a large mixing bowl. Whisk together the syrup, almond butter, molasses and spices in small bowl. (You could process it in a mini-chopper.) Pour the mixture onto the oats and mix well using a spoon or your hands. Spread out into one continuous even layer about ½” thick. Place in oven and bake for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, break up the layer into large chunks and flip over. Return to oven and bake another 10 minutes. Continue to do this until the granola is crisp. Let cool in oven. Store in covered container.

03 Nov 2018

The Sauce is the Boss: Romesco

Farro, & Roasted Cauliflower with Romesco Sauce

When I say that “the sauce is the boss” it’s because I can take rather simple and bland-tasting food and make it luscious with just a spoonful of sauce. I’ve seen Romesco in recipes and on restaurant menus but never really paid attention to it. I used to think, “big deal, it’s a red pepper sauce” until I tasted it at the Skylark Diner in Edison, NJ. Who would think that you would see something like roasted broccoli, farro and Romesco on the menu at a diner? Well, lucky me, the Skylark had it on their special menu last weekend. Romesco has its roots in Spain. There are many variations, but the common ingredients are roasted red peppers, tomatoes, garlic, almonds, bread and sherry vinegar. What I like about Romesco, besides the ease of preparation and the taste, is its versatility. I used it as a foundation for a harvest bowl made with farro, roasted cauliflower, gigante beans and raddichio. I could see drizzling it on top of grilled Portobello mushrooms, bean burgers, polenta squares or cooked vegetables. If you’re having a party, you can serve the Romesco as a dip for raw vegetables or as a spread for pita wedges or crostini. For my first attempt at making Romesco I pureed it in a high-powered blender. The sauce came out silky smooth and creamy, which was fine but I thought it was lacking a little character. My next attempt was to make it in a mini chopper. This method allowed me to control the “character” of the sauce resulting in a slightly grainy texture. The rich flavor and grainy mouthfeel were the perfect complement to the mild flavor and texture of the farro, cauliflower and gigante beans. Romesco will store well in the freezer for a few months, so go ahead and double the recipe. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Romesco Sauce 

1 slice of bread, toasted
1 garlic clove, smashed
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
2 roasted red bell peppers (about ½ cup)
1/4 cup diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
cayenne pepper to taste
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Place toasted bread, garlic and toasted almonds into food processor. Pulse until the mixture is finely ground. Add remaining ingredients except parsley and pulse until smooth. Add water two tablespoons at a time to achieve desired consistency. Add the parsley and stir to combine. Pour into a covered container and refrigerate.



24 Oct 2018

Skillet Green Beans & Mushrooms

Skillet Green Beans & Mushrooms

Crispy Air Fried Onions

Every holiday season a popular side dish shows up on many dining tables. The Green Bean Casserole is a timeless, and time-worn, holiday favorite in the United States. The main ingredients are green beans, cream of mushroom soup and French’s Crispy Fried Onions. With all the other rich food that is typically served for the holidays do we really need this mushy, fat-laden casserole? I say “nay-nay.” So why not enjoy it as the main focus of an everyday meal? Why not indeed! Rather than approaching this as a casserole and smothering it with mushroom gravy I decided to make it as a skillet dinner. I prefer my vegetables cooked long enough to allow the aromatic flavors to seep in yet still have some bite to them. By browning the mushrooms, green beans and onions separately and making a light gravy prevents each ingredient from getting lost in the sauce. While manning the stove, I air fried onion slices without any oil in an air fryer and pressure cooked mashed potatoes in an instant pot. You can use all of the air fried onions to top off the skillet or use the extras in other recipes. Make this Green Bean & Mushroom Skillet dinner and enjoy a healthy, holiday-worthy food any day of the year. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Skillet Green Beans & Mushrooms

Olive oil (optional)
8 oz. cremini or white button mushrooms, cut into thick slices
2 yellow onions, thinly sliced and divided
1 lb. green beans, stems removed
1 cup water or vegetable broth
2 Tablespoons soy milk
1 Tablespoon corn starch
Salt and pepper to taste

Place slices from one onion in the basket of an air fryer. Air fry at 325F until the onions are golden and crisp. While onions are frying, prepare the vegetables.

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. (You can coat the skillet with a small amount of oil if desired.) Add the mushrooms and cook until browned. Remove from skillet and set aside.

Add the onions to the skillet and cook until golden, adding water one tablespoon at a time to prevent sticking. Add green beans and stir to combine. Add more water and cover. Cook until green beans are tender. Add mushrooms to skillet.

Whisk together water or broth, soy milk and corn starch. Add to skillet and cook until the sauce has thickened slightly. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange air-fried onions over top. Remove from heat and serve over mashed potatoes.


30 Sep 2018

Apple & Oat Muffins

Apple & Oat Muffins

I love to cook and bake, so sometimes it’s hard to choose which recipes to share. Sometimes it depends on the weather. We’re in a cold and rainy weather pattern this week so I figured it’s a good time to stock the freezer with some baked goods before Indian Summer decides to roll in. I’ve been making Glorious Morning Muffins with oats, oranges and carrots for a few years and decided to come up with a version using apples. This recipe for Apple & Oat Muffins is loaded with apples and oats. What it doesn’t have is any oil, refined sugar or refined flour. (If you used gluten-free oats, then it doesn’t have any gluten either.) There’s only two tablespoons of almond butter so they are low in fat. What isn’t missing from these muffins is moisture or flavor. They’re good for breakfast, coffee break or as a snack. Bake a batch today and make it a Vegi-curious day.

Apple & Oat Muffins

makes 12 muffins

Liquid Ingredients:

½ cup applesauce
½ cup chopped dried pitted dates
1 Tablespoon flax meal
2 Tablespoon almond butter
¼ cup pure maple syrup
¾ cup plain non-dairy milk (soy, almond, cashew)
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract

Dry Ingredients:

2-1/4 cups old-fashioned whole oats (not instant)
1 tablespoons non-aluminum baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 to 2 teaspoons cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt

1 apple, grated
¼ cup raisins

Preheat oven to 375F. Line a muffin tin with 12 paper liners for small muffins.

Place the dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to break up the oats slightly. Remove and place in a large mixing bowl.

Add the liquid ingredients to the food processor and process until the dates are finely minced. Add to the mixing bowl with the dry ingredients. Fold in grated apple and raisins.

Using a scoop or large spoon, fill the muffin tins 2/3 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes, turning the pan once about halfway through. Cool about 10 minutes before removing to a rack.


11 Sep 2018

A Grandmother’s Magic: Cauliflower Breakfast Burrito

Cauliflower Breakfast Burrito

I spent a lot of time cooking with my grandmother and picked up a few of her good habits. She never wasted food. She had a way of using leftovers to create completely different dishes that was almost magical. And she was able prepare a meal off the top of her head without using any measuring cups. She would just add ingredients into a pot and serve up a delicious meal, much like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat. And that’s how I learned to cook. When I develop a recipe it usually starts out with me just throwing ingredients together. If I think others will like it I’ll write it down. So here’s how I came up with today’s Cauliflower Breakfast Burritos. I had some roasted cauliflower and No-Cook Cheese Sauce left over from two different recipes that I made earlier in the week. I re-heated the cauliflower in a non-stick skillet, seasoned it with turmeric, Indian black salt and vegan bacon salt, stirred in the cheese sauce then wrapped it up in a whole wheat tortilla. You don’t need a recipe for the burritos, so I’ll share the recipe for the cheese sauce in this post. You could forego the sauce and simply add some nutritional yeast into the cauliflower. You can add in other cooked vegetables like peppers, onions, zucchini and even black or pinto beans. Why not top it with your favorite salsa or hot sauce? You could probably use a bag of frozen riced cauliflower in a pinch. It’s really up to you, so throw together some breakfast burritos and make some magic of your own. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

No-Cook Cheese Sauce

½ cup raw cashews, soaked and drained
½ sun-dried tomato (soaked with cashews)
6 Tablespoons soy milk
½ teaspoon lactic acid (or 1 teaspoon lemon juice)
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon prepared mustard
¼ to ½ teaspoon salt

Place all ingredients into container of high-powered blender and process until smooth. Pour into squeeze container and refrigerate.

03 Sep 2018

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