Monthly Archives: October 2015

Photo-chopped: Bok Choy Soup

Bok Choy Noodle Soup

Bok Choy Soup with Noodles

I recently started an on-line food photography course in the hopes of posting some beautiful pictures of my recipes. In the process, I’m becoming somewhat disenchanted with the whole concept of food photography. I follow a lot of food blogs and the photographs are gorgeous. The lighting casts just enough shadow. The background is blurred. The food is glistening. The image of steam is captured rising out of the pot. The setting is rustic-chic. Perhaps one element is purposely (and perfectly) out of place. Photoshopped? Maybe.  Perfect food. Perfect pictures. Perfect world. But not a real world. When I say that the heart of the home is in the kitchen I speak from a lifetime of cooking and enjoying food with my family. The dings in our pots were blackened from cooking; they were not “distressed”. We had our meals on everyday dishes. The serving bowls were not eclectic; they were mismatched but always the right size for whatever was served from them. Our forks and spoons were stainless, not antique silver picked up at a garage sale. And, yeah, we wiped our chins on paper napkins. We cooked. We ate. We cherished our time at the table. When I started Vegi-curious, my aim was to encourage others to explore the benefits of a plant-based lifestyle. I want my food to be healthy and tasty and my recipes to be approachable. I would not want you to be discouraged to try one of my recipes for fear that your results wouldn’t look picture-perfect. After all, that would defeat the whole point of my blog. My personal goal may be to take better photographs, but the bigger picture is to show what real plant-based food is all about. So here’s my recipe for  Bok Choy Soup. The photos don’t do it justice, so I hope you try it and see for yourself. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Bok Choy Soup

Makes 2 to 4 servings

Sesame oil (optional)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced ginger root
2 heads of bok choy, stems slivered and greens chopped
4 cups vegetable broth
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Chinese hot mustard or Siracha sauce for serving (optional)
Rice or noodles*

Coat large stock pot with sesame oil and heat on medium-high heat. Lightly brown garlic and ginger. (You can omit the oil by adding water 2 tablespoons at a time.) Add bok choy and stir until it starts to wilt. Add remaining ingredients and cook until bok choy has reached desired tenderness. Ladle over rice or noodles.

*I used brown rice for one bowl and Canton noodles made with wheat flour for the other bowl. You could also use rice noodles.

29 Oct 2015

Mystery Meat: Mushroom Gyros

Gyro

When I was working up this recipe, Bruce told me a story that happened many years ago while patronizing the grease trucks at Rutgers University. One of the trucks was selling Gyros, a Greek sandwich made with some type of ground meat, lettuce, tomatoes, onions and Tzatziki sauce wrapped in a pita. He asked what kind of meat they used on the gyros and, to the chef’s dismay, another student waiting on line replied, “It’s a mystery, nobody knows.”  If you’ve ever had a gyro before you’re probably familiar with the greasy slab of animal by-products revolving ever so slowly on a rotisserie. Even though I threw back a few Gyros in my younger days, that meat is still a mystery to me. I wanted to use up some more of that box of portabellas from last week and thought I could make a mushroom mystery meat substitute to use for my Gyros. I started the “mystery” part of the recipe the day before by making a mushroom-chickpea loaf seasoned with marjoram and rosemary. If you can’t find marjoram in the store, you can purchase it at Penzeys. It’s definitely a nice addition to your spice rack and this recipe. You can substitute oregano or thyme if you don’t have it. The next step was to make the Tzatziki sauce, which is a blend of yogurt, cucumbers, garlic and red wine vinegar. I found a soy yogurt recipe in The Non-Dairy Evolution Cookbook that’s made with cashews, soy milk and vegan yogurt starter, but feel free to use whatever yogurt you can get your hands on. When you’re ready to assemble the Gyros, warm up a few pocket-less pitas, layer on lettuce, tomatoes, onions, sliced mushroom loaf and pour on the Tzatziki. It’s no mystery to me: these Mushroom Gyros are filled with all that is good. Make yourself a Mushroom Gyro and make it a Vegi-curious day!

Mushroom Gyros

Makes 6 to 8 wraps

  • Olive oil (optional)
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 lb. mushrooms, chopped (portabellas or cremini recommended)
  • 2 teaspoons dried marjoram
  • 2 teaspoons dried ground rosemary
  • 1 can chick peas, drained
  • 2 teaspoons Better Than Bouillon No Chicken or No Beef Base
  • 1 tablespoon vegan Worstershire or Soy sauce
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • Tzatziki Sauce (recipe follows)
  • Pocket-less pita bread
  • Lettuce
  • Sliced tomatoes and onions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat an 8-inch loaf pan with oil. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper.

Lightly coat non-stick skillet with olive oil. Saute onion until lightly browned. (You can saute onion in water by adding 2 tablespoons of water at a time to prevent sticking.) Add mushrooms and continue to cook until brown and most of the liquid has cooked out of them. Add marjoram, rosemary, soup base, Worstershire or soy sauce, salt and pepper and cook 1 minute. Remove from heat and place in food processor along with chick peas. Process until a chunky paste is formed. Press into prepared loaf pan and bake until firm, 45 minutes to one hour. Let cool overnight before slicing.

 Tzatziki Sauce

In small bowl, stir together:

  • 16 ounces plain, non-dairy yogurt
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and minced
  • Salt to taste
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

To assemble Gyros:

Place pita bread on piece of aluminum foil. Layer lettuce, tomatoes, onions, mushroom gyro slices and Tzatziki sauce. Roll up forming a conical-shaped wrap and secure with aluminum foil.

 

23 Oct 2015

“Weh no kill, fatten”: Jamaican Mushroom Patties

 Jamaican PattiesSay what? “Weh no kill, fatten” is a Jamaican saying that loosely translates into “If you eat something that doesn’t kill you, it nourishes your body.” Well, that’s apropos for a plant-based recipe blog, so I might as well put it out there. Which brings me to today’s recipe. I’m still working on that box of portabella mushrooms and wanted to make something fun. Sometimes I get tired of stews . . . and beans . . . and sauteed vegetables and would just like to have something with a little “bite” to it. Since portabella mushrooms are known for their “beefy” qualities I decided to play around with Jamaican patties. I didn’t want to bother with making my own dough, so I called on the Indian Roti I used for my Samosa-dillas. (These frozen flat breads are quite versatile, so I’ll be playing around with them for some time.) The filling was quite simple: sauteed onions and mushrooms, a bunch of Jamaican aromatics, bread crumbs and walnuts. You can adjust the Jerk sauce and Scotch Bonnets depending on how high on the Scoville Heat Scale you want to go. These patties make a nice meal sitting next to Kale with White Beans and Yams. Having a party? Serve them as hors d’oeuvres before sitting down to a nice bowl of Jamaican Red Bean Stew.  Ya, mon, these be jammin’. These patties certainly won’t kill you, so nourish your body and make it a Vegi-curious day!

Jamaican Mushroom Patties

Makes about 24 patties

Olive oil, optional
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 lb. cremini or portabella mushrooms, finely chopped
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons Jamaican curry powder
2 teaspoons Scotch Bonnet sauce*
1 tablespoon Jamaican jerk sauce
½ cup walnuts, minced finely
½ cup bread crumbs
about 12 frozen Roti flat breads

Lightly coat non-stick skillet with olive oil and heat on high. Add onions and saute until light brown. (You can omit the oil by adding water 2 tablespoons at a time to prevent sticking.) Add mushrooms and cook on high until browned and liquid from mushrooms has evaporated. Add thyme, curry powder, Scotch Bonnet sauce, jerk sauce and continue cooking another minute. Remove from heat and stir in walnuts and bread crumbs. Mixture should be have the consistency of a thick paste.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 450F. Using an electric griddle or a non-stick skillet, lightly cook one side of the roti so that it softens and begins to cook. Remove to cutting board and slice in half. Place a heaping spoonful of mushroom paste onto the cooked side of one half of each semi-circle; fold over to form a triangle and pinch edges together. Place onto baking sheet and repeat with remaining filling and roti. Bake for 10 minutes per side. Depending on your oven they could take up to 30 minutes to brown.

*If you can get a fresh Scotch Bonnet pepper, you can mince it and add to desired degree of heat.

 

21 Oct 2015

My Eyes are Bigger Than My Refrigerator: Kale with White Beans & Yams

Kale with White Beans and YamsMaybe you’ve heard that old saying, “my eyes are bigger than my stomach” before. When I go shopping, it’s more like “my eyes are bigger than my refrigerator.” I went to an Amish farm stand last week and came home with a trunk full of vegetables and I haven’t even started to hoard any baking pumpkins yet. Anyway, the fridge in the basement is stuffed with spinach, kale, tomatoes, apples, peppers, lettuce, cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower, turnips. Oh, and don’t let me forget about the huge box of huge portabellas and two bags of shitakes from the mushroom farm around the corner from the farm stand. How can I resist the manager’s special of $5 for the whole box of portabellas and $2 for each one-pound bag of shitakes? I sent Bruce down to get out the box of vegan cupcakes I made and he asked, “what box?” You know, a bag of greens can take up a lot of real estate and hide a box of cupcakes (and who knows what else) so I came up with this dish made with kale, yams and white beans to make some room in the fridge. It’s hearty enough for a main course or can be served alongside a lentil loaf or grilled portabella. Simple and seasonally delicious. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Kale with White Beans & Yams

Makes 2 to 4 servings

Olive oil (optional)

  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 large yam, about 1 lb.
  • 2 lbs. kale, ribs removed and broken into pieces
  • ½ teaspoon Better Than Bouillon No Chicken base diluted in 1 cup hot water*
  • 1 can white beans, drained
  • 1 tablespoon Mirin
  • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke

Coat non-stick skillet with olive oil. Add garlic and saute until golden. (You can saute garlic by adding 2 tablespoons of water or broth instead of the oil.) Add yams and cook about 5 minutes. Add a little water if necessary to prevent sticking. Add kale and broth. Cover skillet and cook until kale is wilted. Add beans, mirin and liquid smoke and continue to cook, uncovered, until liquid evaporates.

 

*You can substitute any vegetable broth for the No Chicken soup base.

 

19 Oct 2015

Lost & Found: Roasted Cauliflower & Garlic Soup

Cauliflower Soup 008

Cauliflower has to be one of the most boring vegetables I’ve ever encountered. I do want to like it, but unless you batter and fry it, smother it in cheese sauce, or toss it into a sea of olive oil and garlic, it’s rather tasteless. Always on the lookout for an easy and tasty way to include cauliflower in my meal plan, I found a recipe for Roasted Cauliflower Soup on one of the Facebook pages I follow and then I lost it. Luckily, I only had a school night Caramel Apple Martini last night, so I had some recall of what went into it and came up with my own recipe. I roasted the cauliflower with some whole garlic cloves, then simmered it with potatoes in vegetable stock. I stirred in a bit of nutritional yeast to give it a buttery essence. It was creamy with a mellow garlic flavor and delicious. I floated a slice of Italian toast with a smear of almond cheese for an added touch. I think I found my go-to cauliflower recipe and the timing’s just right. Cauliflower is in season now in a rainbow of colors, so pick some up at your local farmers market this week. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Roasted Cauliflower & Garlic Soup

 Makes 4 servings

  •  Olive oil (optional)
  • 1 large head of cauliflower broken into small florets
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
  • 1 large potato (about 10 oz.), cut into 1” cubes
  • 5 cups vegetable broth or Better Than Bouillon No Chicken soup base
  • 2 teaspoons nutritional yeast
  • Salt, pepper to taste

 

Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 400F. If using oil, toss cauliflower with oil. Spread out cauliflower and garlic on baking sheet, keeping garlic in a separate corner. When garlic starts to brown, remove to large sauce pot. Continue roasting cauliflower until browned. Reserve 1 cup of roasted cauliflower and add remainder to saucepot along with broth, potato and nutritional yeast. Bring to boil then reduce to simmer and cook until potatoes and cauliflower are tender. Using an immersion blender, puree soup until smooth. Stir in reserved cauliflower.

14 Oct 2015

T.G.I.F. Salted Caramel Apple Martini

Caramel Apple Martini Thank Goodness, It’s Flowing.

“I love this time of the year.” You’ll probably hear me say this whenever the seasons change. Perhaps it’s a day at the orchard picking apples, putting out a big pumpkin and Indian corn on the porch, feeling the cool air on my face or hearing the sound of crisp leaves under my feet, but there’s something exhilarating about autumn. These are some of the inspirations behind my posts, but some of my ideas are inspired in part by what I experience while visiting a favorite restaurant. Grain on Main opened up recently and has become our favorite restaurant in town. They have a great bean burger and a grilled veggie sandwich for me and Bruce and a lot of tasty choices for Mom. If you ever tried dining out with what I call “mixed”  company (i.e. herbivores and omnivores), you can appreciate this triumph.  A few weeks ago, I ordered their Caramel Apple Martini and knew I was going to mix these up at home. This martini is made with apple cider, caramel vodka, butterscotch schnapps and rimmed with caramel sauce. Yummmmm! I consulted my mixologist (aka Bruce) and we came up with our own, albeit “boozier”, Salted Caramel Apple Martini recipe. Since the caramel sauce was a little distracting (and contains cream or butter), I opted to rim the glass with grated dark chocolate and kosher salt. A word of caution — this martini has some kick to it, so let me tell you about the School Night version. In my early forties I went back to school to become certified to teach Home Economics. My time in the classroom as a returning college student was extremely rewarding. My time in the classroom as a teacher, sorry to say, was disheartening.  To get me through the week, Bruce came up with the School Night Cosmo; just enough booze to take the edge off, but not too much that I would wake up with a brain fog. They were very therapeutic. Since I starting following a plant-based diet, alcohol seems to hit me a little harder so there’s still a need for School Night versions for many of our cocktail recipes and I’ll share both versions with you. Take delight in all the splendor that autumn has to offer, shake yourself a Salted Caramel Apple Martini and make it a Vegi-curious day!

Salted Caramel Apple Martini

 (The measurements in parentheses are for a school night version)

For rimming the glass:

1 ounce dark chocolate grated

¼ teaspoon kosher salt (or more to taste)

For the cocktail:

Crushed ice

2 parts caramel-flavored vodka (2 parts for school night)

1 part butterscotch Schnapps (1 part for school night)

1 part apple cider (3 parts for school night)

Using your finger, coat the rim of the glass with the schnapps then dip the glass into the grated chocolate-salt mixture.

Fill cocktail shaker half way with crushed ice. Pour vodka, schnapps and apple cider over ice, shake, strain into martini glass and enjoy.

 

12 Oct 2015

Smoke & Mirin: Taking the Mystery Out of Greens

Turnip ThinningsSweet n' Smoky Greens

As Bruce and I were driving up the dirt road leading to the CSA we joined and wondered what was in store for us this week. The cool thing about belonging to a CSA (community sponsored agriculture) is that you’re bound to have some kind of surprise in your share. It definitely forces you to think outside the box. This week we received turnip thinnings — you know, the tiny plants that you pull out of the ground when “thinning out” your rows of turnips so the ones left in the ground will have room to grow nice and big. Right. Anyway, the thinnings are lovely greens attached to a tiny turnip. The sign read, “use the whole thing”. Great. I’ve struggled with acquiring a taste for greens, but I wasn’t about to let any vegetable intimidate me. While the health benefits of greens are appealing (anti-oxidants, fiber, calcium, folic acid, phytonutrients, etc.), their taste just does nothing for me. When eaten raw, they can be bitter. When you cook them, they lose their flavor. I was determined to solve the mystery of preparing tasty greens. I’ve been on a liquid smoke kick these days, so I decided to make some sweet and smoky greens. A little time in the skillet, then a little garlic, a splash of Mirin (sweetened sake) and a dash of liquid smoke was just enough to cook out the bitterness while kicking in a little flavor. The first time I made this recipe, I used Swiss chard. The variety was small, so I left the leaves whole with the stems attached. Depending on the greens you use, you might need to remove thick stems and/or cut the leaves into manageable pieces. It’s no longer a mystery to me; the only smoke and mirin in my house is right in my pantry. Make some sweet n’ smoky greens and make it a Vegi-curious day!

Sweet n’ Smoky Greens 

Makes 2 servings

  • 1 lb. greens (mustard, collard, kale, turnip, chard)
  • Olive oil (optional)
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon Better Than Bouillon No Chicken base diluted in 1 cup hot water (or vegetable broth or plain water)
  • 1 tablespoon Mirin
  • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke

Depending on the type and size of the greens, you may need to remove stems and/or cut into pieces. Coat non-stick skillet with olive oil. (You can saute garlic by adding water 2 tablespoons at a time for a fat-free version.) Add garlic and saute until golden. Add greens and about half of the broth. Cook until chard begins to wilt. Add more broth if necessary, then cover skillet and continue to cook on medium heat about 5 minutes. Add Mirin and liquid smoke and continue to cook until liquid evaporates.

07 Oct 2015

Back to Basics: Easy as Apple Pie

Apple PieApple Pie SlicedLess is more. I think I used that phrase in a recent post and I’m still liking it. It seems that sometimes we complicate the simple things that don’t need complicating. Last weekend we made another road trip to New Jersey. Bruce asked me to pick up an apple pie while I was at the store. (In case you’re wondering . . . yes, we do eat apple pie but we try to keep it to a minimum.) As I was scrutinizing the labels, I couldn’t believe what I was reading: apples, sugar, flour, vegetable shortening, milk fat, rice flour, maltodextrin, modified corn starch, salt, glycerine, water, dextrose, eggs, cinnamon, potassium sorbate, preservative, artificial and natural flavors, malic acid, guar gum, citric acid, beta carotene, colors, mono and diglycerides, fructose, milk casein, spices, soy lecithin, carrageenan gum, disodium phospate. WOW! I dropped that pie like a hot potato.

I really wanted to indulge Bruce with a pie so I got to thinking (and this is when I get a little teary-eyed).  I remember my grandmother showing me and my friend Vikki how to make apple pie when we were kids. (Vikki passed away several years ago, but she always made it a point to tell me how special that day was.) Without using a recipe we made a crust with vegetable shortening, flour, water and salt. Then we tossed sliced apples with sugar, cinnamon, lemon juice and flour; put it all together and popped it in the oven. That was it. A perfect apple pie.

Since we were “roughing” it at Mom’s house I decided to forego making the crust from scratch and picked up Marie Callender’s frozen pie crust and 6 Granny Smith apples. (One note about pre-made pie crusts: most of them contain lard, so make sure you read the labels carefully.) Just look at that pie. When I pulled it out of the oven I knew I was going to share this with you, so please forgive the cell phone pictures. The crust browned up nicely and was very flaky. The apples did not turn to mush and the juices baked into a sweet cinnamon syrup. The only thing I would do differently would be to serve it a-la-mode with some non-dairy ice cream. I couldn’t help but feel my grandmother’s loving hands and Vikki’s happy spirit guiding me through this Perfect Apple Pie. Make some memories with someone you love and make it a Vegi-curious day!

Apple Pie

2 frozen pie crust shells

6 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into 2” slices
½ cup raisins, optional
½ cup sugar (white or brown)
2 tablespoons corn starch
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Cinnamon to taste

 

Preheat oven to 400F.

Let pie crust thaw at room temperature. While pie crusts are thawing, toss remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Fill bottom crust with apple slices, placing them so there are no large gaps. Invert the top crust onto the filling and seal the edges.

Place pie on baking sheet. Bake until crust is golden brown, about 45 to 50 minutes. Since oven temperatures vary, keep any eye on the crust and make any necessary adjustments. Cool slightly before slicing.

02 Oct 2015

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