Monthly Archives: January 2015

Year of the Goat Vegetable Fried Rice

Vegetable Fried Rice Today’s post is part three of the Year of the Goat celebration. This recipe is the closest I’ve come to real Chinese restaurant fried rice. You can serve it alongside steamed or stir-fried vegetables. It can also stand on its own as a main dish. This dish is so simple, you can throw it together in about 30 minutes. The original recipe calls for scallions, carrots and peas. You can use onions instead of scallions; try edamame instead of peas; toss in some snow peas or chopped broccoli. You get the idea. I’ve added liquid smoke to give it that “pork fried rice” sensation, but you can leave that out if you don’t have it on hand. Check back in for my Vegetable Chow Mein recipe. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

 Vegetable Fried Rice

Cooking spray
1 cup carrots, shredded
1 cup scallions, sliced
3 cups cooked rice (Jasmine)
½ cup frozen green peas, thawed
2 to 4 Tbsp. low sodium soy sauce or Tamari
2-3 drops of liquid smoke
Coat a large non-stick skillet with cooking spray. Add carrots and scallions; saute until carrots are crisp-tender, 2 – 3 minutes. Stir together soy sauce and liquid smoke, if using. Add rice, peas, soy sauce and liquid smoke to skillet and stir to combine. Makes about 5 cups of rice.

28 Jan 2015

Buy the Book: Thug Kitchen Cookbook

Chickpea SammiesMy nephew Paul and his wife Shonda sent me the Thug Kitchen Cookbook for Christmas. Funny thing is, we sent them the same book. Great minds think alike, I guess. I’ve been giving cookbooks as gifts for many years, so I decided to start a category on Vegi-curious called “Buy the Book” so I can share some of my favorite reads. Today I made Smoked Almond and Chickpea Salad Sammies,  (pictured in this post) from the Thug Kitchen cookbook for lunch. The sandwiches are made with home-made smoked almonds, chickpeas, avocado, onions and celery and are so tasty. I used “Seeduction” bread from Whole Foods Markets. If you live near a Whole Foods, definitely check out their breads; if you don’t, simply use your favorite whole grain bread. One word of caution: in addition to tossing together some awesome recipes, the Thug Kitchen also tosses quite a few “F’s”. Once you get past this, you’ll be in for some good eats. I also made  Wedding Ball Soup with White Bean Balls and Kale from the book. The bean balls are a little time consuming, but well worth the effort. If you want to keep it simple, just make the soup. It’s all good. Thug Kitchen eat like you give a f**k . . .  buy the book! Thanks for being Vegi-curious. (more…)

25 Jan 2015

Year of the Goat Mixed Vegetables

Chinese Mixed VegetablesPlant-based Chinese food take-out sounds like a healthy option, but is it really? What could be so bad about vegetables, rice, lo mein or mei fun? Well nothing, that is until the chef starts adding oil, sugary sauces and salt into that wok. Did you know that just one  tablespoon of low sodium soy sauce contains 460 mg. of sodium? The Institute of Medicine recommends 1500 mg of sodium per day as the Adequate Intake level for most Americans, so you’re basically one-third of the way toward the limit after one meal. When are we going to stop the insanity?

Today’s post is part two of my Year of the Goat series. It’s basically a recipe for Chinese brown sauce and you add any combination of steamed vegetables that you like.  If you don’t have a vegetable steamer insert, get one.They’re inexpensive and can be stored inside of a pot. If you can’t wait to get to the store, simply take a small colander and place it into a larger pot; add just enough water to touch bottom of steamer insert; add vegetables; cover and steam to desired tenderness (about 5 to 8 minutes). The vegetable combinations are limitless: broccoli, carrots, peppers, onions, scallions, green beans, bok choy, water chestnuts . . .  you get the idea. The sauce is a variation of a recipe from the Forks Over Knives cookbook. The recipe makes a large amount of sauce, so you can make a huge pot of vegetables for your New Year celebration or stretch it out over a few days. If you do find yourself ordering Chinese food (after all, we all need a break once in a while), you can ask the chef to use low sodium soy sauce, as little oil as possible and no added salt. Better yet, why not order steamed vegetables with sauce on the side and please . . .  pass on those crispy noodles. Stay tuned for part three of the series — Vegetable Fried Rice. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Chinese Brown Sauce

1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/3 cup low sodium vegetable broth
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 – 4 tablespoons Hoisin or Szechwan sauce
2 tablespoons corn starch (or other thickener)

Whisk all ingredients in small pot. Bring to boil over medium heat until thickened. Pour over vegetables and mix well or serve on the side and drizzle on as needed.


21 Jan 2015

Year-of-the-Goat Spinach Dumpling Soup

Spinach Dumpling Soup 004Mom C. is spending a few days with us and I decided to make a plant-based Chinese dinner tonight. Meal preparation for three distinct palates can be a challenge, so I figured a Chinese buffet would be a safe bet. Spinach Dumpling Soup and No-Pork Fried Rice for Mom. I added Steamed Vegetables and Chinese Brown Sauce for me and Bruce. Up to my eyeballs in vegetables and soy sauce, I remembered that the Chinese New Year is approaching; so why not do a series of plant-based Chinese recipes? 2015 is the Year of the Goat. This is extra special to me since the goat happens to be my favorite farm animal. All of the recipes in this series are very simple to make that you’ll want to include them as part of your healthy, go-to arsenal. Today’s post will be the Spinach Dumpling Soup. Seriously easy and seriously delicious. All you need is a bag of frozen chopped spinach, vegetable stock, soy sauce and frozen vegetable dumplings. It comes together in about 10 minutes. For the stock I like to use Better Than Bouillon No Chicken base, but you could use plain vegetable stock. You can find the vegetable dumplings at Costco or in Asian grocery stores. I used Korean vegetable dumplings for this recipe. The number of dumplings depends on your personal preference, but use only the amount you plan to enjoy at one time. Add the steamed dumplings right before serving to prevent them from being overcooked. You can save the extra spinach broth and add more dumplings later in the week. Stay tuned for Steamed Vegetables with Chinese Brown Sauce, No-Pork Fried Rice, Vegetable Chow Mein and a bonus recipe. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Spinach Dumpling Soup

  1. 6 cups water
  2. 1 tablespoon Better Than Bouillon No Chicken base
  3. 2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
  4. 10 oz. package of frozen chopped spinach
  5. vegetable dumplings, steamed according to package directions
  6. hot mustard for serving

Bring water, Better Than Bouillon base and soy sauce to boil in 4 quart sauce pot. Add spinach and cook for about 5 minutes. Add steamed dumplings right before ladling into bowls. Serve with hot mustard.



17 Jan 2015

Magical Mystery Meat

Magical Mystery LoafAre you familiar with the term “mystery meat”? According to Wikipedia, it’s a “disparaging term for meat products, typically ground or otherwise processed, such as chicken nuggets, Spam, Salisbury steaks, sausages or hot dogs that have an unidentifiable source.”  I’m sure many a meatloaf falls into this category. Perhaps, too, all of the faux meat that vegans eat can be considered mystery meat. All kidding aside, I used to enjoy a frozen Salisbury steak now and then. A few weeks ago I worked up a recipe for Mushroom Lentil Loaf. When I develop recipes, I ask myself “what else can I do with this?” Why not shape it into oval patties, bake them and cover them with the mushroom gravy for good ol’ Salisbury steak? How about forming the mixture into burgers, bake them on parchment paper then nestle them on a bun with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, onions and ketchup or BBQ sauce? I thought about my Mom’s meatloaf recipe and baked in under a blanket of ketchup and onions. This was surprisingly tasty. I served it just like Mom did with a side of rice, but I might try it with some mashed potatoes the next time. With all of its versatility and goodness, this really is a Magical Mystery Meat.

One last note . . .  while this is a time-consuming recipe, it makes a lot of servings and fits into my “one mess, many meals” practice. You can easily get eight servings that can be frozen for enjoyment and convenience in the weeks ahead. If you’re making patties or burgers, bake them before freezing. Simply mix up the loaf (see recipe),  line a baking sheet with parchment, and bake for about 10 minutes per side in a 350 degree oven. If you make the loaf, cool it, slice it, then wrap individually in plastic wrap and place in a freezer bag. I hope you enjoy and thanks for being Vegi-curious.

 Mom’s BBQ Meatless Loaf

  1. One recipe of Mushroom Lentil Loaf
  2. 1 cup ketchup
  3. 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  4. one yellow onion, sliced

Mix ketchup and soy sauce in a small bowl. Spread a layer of ketchup in 9 x 11 baking pan. Form mushroom lentil mixture into a loaf and place in pan. Cover the loaf with ketchup and layer the top with onions. Bake until heated through. The ketchup should darken a bit and the onions should soften up. Add a little water to the pan and spoon the sauce over the loaf during cooking if necessary.

Makes about 8 servings.

14 Jan 2015

Roasted Winter Squash Soup and Lessons I’ve Learned

Winter Squash Soup 016Growing up with an Italian grandmother and a mom who were always up to something in the kitchen, it’s no wonder that cooking seems to come naturally to me. They gave me a good foundation,  a lot of family recipes and many happy memories. Through the years, I’ve learned a few lessons along the way and I was reminded of them while making today’s recipe for Roasted Winter Squash Soup.

Mise en place. A French culinary term that means “everything in its place”. Get all of your equipment in place and ingredients measured out before you start. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to wing it and left something out of the recipe. For today’s recipe, I’m modifying Emeril Lagasse’s recipe for Roasted Butternut Squash Soup (sans the sausage). It’s not a difficult recipe, just a long list of ingredients.

Winter Squash Soup 012







Safety first. Several years ago I purchased a mesh glove to prevent cuts. I haven’t used it in, well, in several years. Well, that girl came out of the cabinet today after I cut myself peeling the squash. I also recommend:

  • wearing closed-toed shoes in case you drop your knife
  • swim goggles when cutting onions
  • hearing protection when using a high speed blender

Winter Squash Soup 014Kitchen Hearing Protection 006 Learn to adapt. I could have searched for a “vegan butternut squash soup” to find recipes, but I found more variations by leaving out the “vegan” in my search and then left out the meat in the recipe. For this soup, I eliminated the sausage and added fennel seeds. You can learn a lot about cooking techniques from the masters, so look to them for inspiration and make plant-based adaptations.

“There are no mistakes in the kitchen; only new recipes waiting to be created. ” I heard this a long time ago and it is one of the best lessons I’ve learned. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake; and when you do, laugh at it and learn from it. Like my grandmother and mother before me, my hope is that I can pass on some of these lessons to you. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Roasted Winter Squash Soup
1 (1 1/2 pound) butternut squash, peeled seeded and rough chopped
olive oil (or water to saute vegetables)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup small dice onion
1/2 cup small dice carrot
1/2 cup small dice celery
1/2 cup small dice leeks
2 tablespoons minced shallots
1 tablespoon minced garlic
½ teaspoon fennel seeds (optional)
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1-1/2 quarts vegetable stock (or Better Than Bouillon No Chicken soup base)
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon fresh chopped sage leaves

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Place the chopped squash in a medium-size mixing bowl. Drizzle the squash with 2 teaspoons of olive oil and season salt and black pepper. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil and place the squash on top. Set the sheet pan into the oven and roast for 30 minutes, or until the squash is lightly caramelized and tender. Remove the squash from the oven and set aside.

While the squash is roasting, lightly coat a large sauce pan with oil (or use 2 tablespoons of water). Add the onions, carrots, celery and leeks and saute for 5 to 7 minutes. Add the shallots and garlic and cook for 1 minute stirring continuously. If using fennel seeds, add at this point. Deglaze the pan with the vinegar and add the stock. Place the squash in the pan with the maple syrup and sage.

Bring  to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Continue to cook the soup for 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are all tender. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup to a smooth consistency and velvety texture. Alternately, you can puree the soup in batches using a blender. Taste the soup and re-season if necessary with salt and pepper. Keep warm until serving.




07 Jan 2015

Hoppin’ John

Hoppin' John 004I’m making Hoppin’ John for dinner tonight. Hoppin’ John is a Southern dish made with ham hocks or bacon and black-eyed peas. Eating Hoppin’ John on New Years day is thought to bring prosperity and good luck. (I’m a few days late, but better late than never.) The peas are symbolic of pennies or coins. As blessed as I am, I’m not one to turn down another dose of good luck or a chance to share a healthy recipe, so here goes. The recipe uses dried black-eyed peas that are soaked, so it’s best to start this the night before. If you don’t have time, you can always quick soak the peas; just follow the directions on the back of the bag. Once the beans are soaked, it should only take about an hour from start to finish. Red or green bell peppers, onions and garlic are sauteed then simmered with the peas, tomatoes, broth and some seasonings. The liquid smoke acts as a healthy substitute for the ham or bacon. When done, ladle over white or brown rice and serve with extra hot sauce. Loaded with protein, fiber and no fat, this Hoppin’ John will bring you a big dish of healthy goodness and flavor . . .  and hopefully, some good luck for the New Year. It’s soooo good, I’ll be making this dish all year round. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Hoppin’ John

1 lb. dried black-eyed peas, soaked overnight
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 red or green bell pepper, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup diced tomatoes, drained
1 quart vegetable broth (I use Better Than Bouillon No Chicken base)
1 tsp. liquid smoke
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. dried thyme
Salt & pepper to taste
Few drops of hot pepper sauce

Heat 2 tablespoons of water in sauce pot. Add the onion, red or green pepper, and garlic and cook for 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook until thickened. Add the black-eyed peas, stock, bay leaves, thyme, liquid smoke, salt & pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 40 minutes, or until the peas are creamy and tender, stirring occasionally. If the liquid evaporates, add more water or stock. Adjust seasonings, add a few dashes of hot pepper sauce. Serve over rice with more hot sauce.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

03 Jan 2015

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