Entree

All-Inclusive Thanksgiving Dinner: Stuffed Mushroom Stacks

Stuffed Mushroom Stacks

Every trip to the grocery store is an adventure for me. Even when I have a list in hand, I enjoy perusing the produce aisle looking for something unusual that I’ve never eaten or a seasonal favorite that I’ve waited an entire year to get my hands on once again. Sometimes, when I spot a standard item that looks super fresh I just go overboard and buy more than I need. This was the case when I picked up a three pound box of extra large snow white mushrooms at a mushroom outlet in Pennsylvania. They were beautiful and perfect . . . and I was happy! Since a lot of my thinking is done in the car, I pondered how I was going to prepare those beauties the entire ride home. With the Thanksgiving holiday just around the corner I thought about a family favorite — stuffed mushrooms. And then I thought about the turkey stuffing we used to make with mushrooms, celery, onions and sage. Why stop there? Why not place dollops of mashed white and sweet potatoes on top? And while I’m at it, I might as well make it festive with creamy mushroom gravy. This is a complicated recipe, but one that is achievable with some planning. First, I placed the sweet potatoes in the oven and baked them until soft. While the sweet potatoes were baking, I boiled the white potatoes on the stove top. I made the stock using onions and the mushroom stems. Next, I made the bread stuffing using one cup of the stock. You can make the gravy at this point or wait until after the stacks are assembled. If you’re feeling overwhelmed right now, don’t despair. Any or all of these elements can be done ahead of time depending on your time constraints and patience. You can use your own recipe for mashed potatoes. You can even use instant mashed potatoes; just use less liquid to achieve a stiffer consistency. You can also use canned sweet potatoes if you prefer. You can simply place dollops of mashed potatoes on top of the stacks instead of using a pastry bag and decorators tip. You can even assemble the mushroom stacks ahead of time and bake the next day. These Stuffed Mushroom Stacks require some thought and planning but they are worth the effort. It’s like an all-inclusive Thanksgiving dinner in every bite! You can serve them as an appetizer or as part of a buffet. You can plate them with green beans or shaved Brussel sprouts and cranberry sauce to serve as an elegant entree. Any leftovers can be served on a slider bun and rewarmed gravy the next day. On Thanksgiving and on every other day, I thank you for being Vegi-curious.

Stuffed Mushroom Stacks

3 lbs. large white mushrooms, stems removed and set aside

Mushroom Stock & Gravy

½ onion, thinly sliced
Reserved mushroom stems
2 Tablespoons red wine
4 cups of vegetable broth (Better Than Bouillon No Chicken)
2 Tablespoon arrowroot powder or corn starch
Black pepper

Lightly coat a medium saucepan with olive oil and heat over high heat. Add mushrooms and onions and cook until starting to soften and turn brown. Add red wine and cook until evaporated. Add vegetable broth (I use 1 teaspoon bouillon base to 4 cups of water for lower sodium). Reduce to simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Reserve one cup of the liquid to use in the stuffing. Remove from heat and let cool. When ready to thicken, add arrowroot and bring to a boil. Continue to cook until desired thickness is achieved. Remove from heat and let cool. You can puree the gravy in a blender and return to the saucepan until ready to serve. You can alternately use a hand-held immersion blender to puree the gravy right in the saucepan.

Stuffing

1 large onion (thinly slice ½ for gravy and mince ½ for stuffing)
2 celery stalks, minced
8 slices of sliced bread, toasted
1 cup of the reserved mushroom stock
Dried sage, oregano, marjoram to taste
Black pepper to taste

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add a few tablespoons of water to skillet then add the onion and celery. Saute until vegetables are soft and golden.
Cut or tear the toasted bread into small pieces, almost as if it’s shredded. Place in a large mixing bowl and add the vegetables, mushroom stock and seasonings. Toss until combined.

Mashed Potatoes

1 lb. potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks
2 Tablespoons (or more) soy yogurt or non-dairy milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Place potatoes in a medium saucepan and add cold water to cover by a few inches. Bring to a boil and cook until soft. Drain well. Use a potato masher to mash the potatoes. Mix in enough yogurt or milk to make the potatoes stiff enough to pipe onto the mushrooms. I don’t recommend using an immersion blender to remove lumps as this can make the potatoes gluey. Set aside.

Sweet Potatoes

1 lb. sweet potatoes, baked until soft
¼ to ½ cup oat flour (optional)
2 Tablespoons brown sugar (optional)

Remove the skin from the baked sweet potatoes. Place in a bowl and mash until smooth. If you want a stiffer consistency, add the oat flour one tablespoon at a time. Likewise, if you like sweeter add the brown sugar. You can use an immersion blender to remove lumps. Set aside.

Assembly:

Preheat oven to 400F.

Lightly coat a rimmed baking sheet with oil. Press the stuffing mixture into the mushroom caps, then pipe on either the mashed potatoes or sweet potato puree. Lightly coat the tops with non-stick spray. Place a few tablespoons of water in the bottom of the pan and place in oven. Bake until mushrooms are tender and browned and potatoes are browned, about 45 minutes. You can turn on the broiler during the last few minutes to brown the tops. You can assemble the mushrooms ahead of time, cover lightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

 

12 Nov 2017

Think Outside the Can: “Roasted” Tomato Soup

 

Roasted Tomato Soup

I’ve often wondered what’s the appeal of tomato soup. After all, isn’t just like a can of tomato sauce? Maybe the appeal is that it’s a light accompaniment to a sandwich. “How about some soup and a sandwich for lunch” sounds appealing. I just hadn’t come around to liking tomato soup until now. It all started with a large basket of plum tomatoes that I picked up for a song at my favorite Amish farm stand. I decided to roast the tomatoes with a small amount of olive oil, garlic and herbs. It sounds like a lot of effort, but most of the time is spent waiting for them to come out of the oven. I froze the roasted tomatoes in plastic pint-sized containers to use throughout the winter to make my Pasta with Roasted TomatoesThis got me thinking about making homemade tomato soup using roasted tomatoes. Now that sounds like something I could go for. I wanted to simplify the recipe and opted to replicate the flavor of roasted tomatoes by cooking canned tomatoes on the stove top. (Actually, I didn’t want to risk those beautifully roasted tomatoes on a potential flop nor did I want to spend the extra money on a can of fire-roasted tomatoes.) I cooked onions and garlic until golden, added drained tomatoes and cooked them on high heat to get everything to caramelize. I added a potato to impart a little creaminess and body to the soup. This soup is light enough to enjoy with a sandwich and substantial enough to fill the gap that a salad so often leaves you with. You could ladle the soup into a cup for an afternoon snack or serve it as a first course when company comes for dinner. Mmmm, Mmmmm, Good! Try this Roasted Tomato Soup and start thinking outside the can. Thanks for being Vegi-curious. 

Roasted Tomato Soup

1 yellow onion, chopped
3 to 4 garlic cloves, chopped
28 oz. can of diced tomatoes
3 cups vegetable broth
1 teaspoon sugar
1 small potato, chopped (about ¾ cup)

For the Croutons:

1 whole wheat or multi-grain bagel, cubed
2 Tablespoons yellow mustard
1 Tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon dried thyme or other herb

Drain tomatoes and reserve the juice. Set aside.

Heat a sauce pot over medium high heat. Add onions and cook until they start to soften and turn golden. Add garlic and cook another minute. Add the drained tomatoes and sugar. Cook on high until the tomatoes start to brown and the bottom of the pot develops spots of caramelization. Add the tomato juice, vegetable broth and potato. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Pour contents into a blender container and puree until smooth. You could also use a hand-held immersion blender and puree directly in the pot. Return to stove to heat. Garnish with croutons or air-fried zucchini. You can also stir in a spoonful of soy yogurt or cashew cream.

To make croutons:

Mix the mustard, nutritional yeast and dried herb in a large bowl. Add the bagel cubes and toss to coat evenly. Place the cubes into the basket of an air fryer set to 250F. Fry until the cubes are crisp throughout. Remove from basket and let cool. If you don’t have an air fryer you can bake them in the oven at 250F until the croutons are crisp and lightly browned.

05 Nov 2017

Never Stop Improving: “Chorizo” Beans

“Chorizo” Beans

My approach to a healthy lifestyle is to never stop improving. I developed this recipe while making my Vegetable Paella. We had dinner at a Peruvian restaurant in the Poconos over the weekend. Ohhhhh, they had Paella Mariscada on the menu. It stirred up memories that I couldn’t get out of my head. I used to order paella every time I went to a Spanish restaurant. Paella is such a special and impressive dish that I came up with my own version some time ago. My original recipe included rice, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, red peppers and peas. What’s missing is the flavor of chorizo, a spicy Spanish-style sausage made with pork. My plan today was just to add some type of large bean to the paella. Luckily I had a bag of large lima beans on hand. I thought I would cook the beans with some garlic, but then my imagination ran wild. Could I infuse the beans with the flavor of chorizo? I looked up a recipe for real chorizo to see what other seasonings go into it. Oregano, thyme, allspice and cloves. I added crushed red pepper, black pepper, brown sugar and vinegar to the mix. After quick soaking the beans, I placed them in a pressure cooker with all the seasonings. They were done in five minutes. I boosted the chorizo flavor by reducing the excess liquid. Oh, boy! These came out tastier than I expected. These “Chorizo” Beans are tasty enough to eat right out of the pot but they were destined to join the party going on in my paella pan. I added the beans at the point in the recipe when the mushrooms, peppers, artichokes and peas are arranged on top of the rice. Do they taste like chorizo? It’s hard for me to say since I used to eat chorizo only when I ordered paella and that was over five years ago. What I can say is that they are deliciously different than any other bean dish I’ve had. If you’re not up for making paella you can try smashing them into a crusty Italian roll, include them in a burrito or serve with rice. Try these “Chorizo” Beans on their own or add them to my improved Vegetable Paella and make it a Vegi-curious day.

Paella with “Chorizo” Beans

“Chorizo” Beans

The recipe is intended to be included in the paella, you might want to double or triple the ingredients if you want to enjoy the “Chorizo” Beans on their own.

1 cup dried large lima beans, soaked

6 oz. water
4 garlic cloves, whole
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon brown sugar
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Pinch of ground cloves

Drain beans. Add the beans and remaining ingredients to pressure cooker. Cook on high for 5 minutes and quick release pressure. When safe, remove lid. If you have an Instant Pot, you can set it to “saute” and reduce any excess liquid. If using a stove-top pressure cooker reduce the heat to medium-high and cook until the liquid has cooked down. You can make these without a pressure cooker, just allow additional time for the beans to cook. Enjoy as is or add to Vegetable Paella.

 

 

18 Oct 2017

Turning into Fall: Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes & “Fried” Zucchini

Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes & “Fried” Zucchini

I love this time of the year because there’s still a lot of fresh produce at the farm and with cooler temperatures creeping in I get to turn on my oven. It’s like I’m turning a corner and I still get to enjoy the good things about where I’ve been and where I’m going. I picked up some beautiful plum tomatoes and zucchini earlier in the week and put together this Pasta with Roasted Tomato and “Fried” Zucchini recipe. It’s quite simple. Just roast plum tomatoes with garlic and herbs, either air- or oven-“fry” thin slices of zucchini and toss with your favorite pasta. This recipe is what I like to call a “have-it-your-way” recipe because you can easily adapt it to your liking. I used a combination of fresh oregano and marjoram, but you can use any fresh or dried herbs you like. I used one-half pound of Barilla’s campanelle, which is a cut pasta that looks like a curled lasagna. You could probably get away with using more pasta. If you’re thinking about using this recipe as a side dish you might use a small cut of pasta, like orzo, and chop up the zucchini after it’s “fried.” This dish is fancy enough to serve on a special occasion and simple enough for a quiet family dinner. Any way you choose, you’ll have a fresh, delicious and healthy meal. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes & “Fried” Zucchini

8 very ripe plum tomatoes
olive oil to coat the pan
3 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
fresh or dried oregano and marjoram (or any herb you like)
salt and freshly cracked pepper

2 small zucchini

8 oz. dry pasta, cooked according to package directions

Preheat the oven to 325ºF (165ºC.)

  1. Lightly coat a large baking pan with olive oil. (Use one that’s just large enough for a single layer of tomatoes.)
  2. Cut the tomatoes in half horizontally then use a sharp knife to remove the stems. Lay them cut side down in the pan, then distribute the garlic, herbs and seasonings on top. Bake the tomatoes for two hours, or until they are completely softened and wilted and start to wrinkle. Remove from oven. Use a fork and a knive to break up the tomatoes to make a chunky sauce.
  3. Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise. Place the cut side down on a cutting board and thinly slice on a diagonal. Place the zucchini in a bowl, add one-half to one teaspoon of olive oil and toss to coat. Set an air fryer to 400F and cook the zucchini until they start to soften and get spots of brown. (See note on how to make the zucchini in a oven.) Remove and add to the pan with the roasted tomatoes.
  4. When pasta is cooked, add to the pan with the tomatoes and zucchini. Toss gently and serve.

Note: To cook the zucchini in the oven, raise the temperature to 400F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange the zucchini slices in a single layer. Bake until they start to soften and turn brown.

 

02 Oct 2017

Saving the Best for Last: Tofu Breakfast Bowl

Tofu Breakfast Bowl

On the last day of our Vermont vacation in July we had breakfast at the August First Bakery. Looking back, I wish we would have gone there on the first day of the trip as they had a few vegan options on the menu. Not only that, they bake delicious breads and pastries in their bakery next door. They have a tofu dish on the menu that they call a scramble bowl, but it’s not a scramble at all. A tofu scramble is supposed to mimic scrambled eggs and is usually mashed up and somewhat greasy. The tofu bowl that they make had large pieces of curry-seasoned tofu, home fries, kale and tomatoes. It was very tasty and filling, yet not too greasy. I came up with my own version for this Tofu Breakfast Bowl. I cooked everything in an air fryer. (You can make it in a non-stick skillet, but you might need a little oil to prevent the tofu from sticking to the pan.) You may want to make this on the weekend as it does require some time to get it all together. I recommend seasoning the tofu and letting it sit for as long as possible, so you might want to do this step either the night before or while you’re waiting for your coffee to brew. I soaked the cut potatoes because that’s what the owner’s manual for my air fryer suggests, but you can probably skip this step. I cooked the ingredients in batches according to how long they need to cook. I started with the bell peppers and onions as they have similar cooking qualities. This also allowed some time for the potatoes to soak. Then I crisped the potatoes. I saved the tofu for last to allow it to absorb the curry seasoning for as long as possible. After the individual components were done, everything went back in the air fryer to blister the tomatoes and let all the flavors mingle. It sounds like a lot of work, but it’s well worth the effort. This method allows each ingredient to shine in its own way without the need for any oil. This dish is spicy, savory, subtly sweet and, oh, so tasty. Any leftovers can be refreshed right in the air fryer for about 5 minutes. We may have saved the best for last on our vacation, but at least it was better late than never. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Tofu Breakfast Bowl

2 potatoes cut into 1” pieces
Salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder

1 lb. extra firm tofu
Curry powder or your favorite seasoning mix
1 to 2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey (optional)

1 bell pepper, cut into ½” pieces
1 onion, cut into ½” pieces

1 cup cherry tomatoes left whole

Soak the potatoes in water for about 30 minutes. Drain well and season with salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. Set aside.

Remove the tofu from the water and pat dry. Cut into large pieces – cut into 4 slices, then cut each slice into 8 pieces. Place in bowl and sprinkle a good amount of curry powder or other seasoning. Stir gently to coat. Let the tofu sit for as long as possible.

Set an air fryer to 400F. Place the onions and bell pepper into the basket and cook until the vegetables start to soften and turn brown. Remove from air fryer and place in a large serving bowl.

Place the potatoes into the basket and cook until tender and crisp. Remove from air fryer and place in the bowl with vegetables.

Place the tofu into the basket and cook until browned. If you want a glazey exterior you can remove the tofu before completely cooked, toss with maple syrup and then return to the fryer for about 5 minutes. Remove from air fryer and place in the bowl with vegetables. Add cherry tomatoes and mix gently. Return everything to the air fryer and cook until the tomatoes get soft and their skins blister. Remove and serve immediately.

Note: to make in a non-stick skillet, simply brown each component separately then mix everything together to heat before serving.

02 Sep 2017

Something About Cauliflower: Cauliflower & Farro

Cauliflower & Farro

There’s something about cauliflower that makes me buy it even though it’s one of my least favorite vegetables. Maybe it’s the fond and tasty memories of my grandmother’s cauliflower dishes. She would make cauliflower fritters that were dipped in an egg-based batter, then fried until they were crisp and brown. The other, somewhat healthier way she made cauliflower was with oil, garlic and pasta. Both were delicious and comforting, but these recipes don’t cut it if you’re following a low-fat, plant-based diet. I wanted to stir up those memories of my grandmother’s cauliflower with all of the flavor and none of the guilt. For this recipe I used an instant pot to cook the cauliflower. The first batch came out mushy, so I cut the cauliflower into larger florets and adjusted the cooking time and temperature. You can make adjustments based on your experience using a pressure cooker. I’m also providing instructions for making the cauliflower on the stove top if you prefer that cooking method. The garlicky flavor and creamy texture of the cauliflower is a nice contrast to the nutty bite of the farro. There’s something about this cauliflower that’s comforting, familiar, current . . . and tasty. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Cauliflower and Farro

6 garlic cloves, chopped
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 head of cauliflower, cut into large florets
¼ cup water

1 cup farro, cooked according to package directions

Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add a few tablespoons of water and the garlic. (You can use a light coating of olive oil if desired.) Cook until the garlic begins to brown. Add the fennel, red pepper, cauliflower and more water. Cover the pot and lower the heat to medium. Cook until the cauliflower is tender, adding more water if necessary. The idea is to use just enough water to prevent sticking yet having a little garlicky liquid to flavor the farro. Place the cooked farro and cauliflower into a large bowl. Mix well, breaking the florets into smaller pieces if desired. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Instructions for Instant Pot:

Set the instant pot to saute. Add garlic and a little bit of water or olive oil and cook until browned. Add fennel seeds and red pepper and cook another 30 seconds. Add water. Change the setting to pressure cook on low. Cover and cook for 4 minutes. Quick release pressure and when safe, remove cover. Place the cooked farro and cauliflower into a large bowl. Mix well, breaking the florets into smaller pieces if desired. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

 

23 Aug 2017

Freedom from Oil: Grilled Summer Squash

Grilled Summer Squash

Over the weekend Bruce and I visited a vegan cafe that we came across in the early days of our plant-based journey. I recalled that we were pleased with the food so we decided to fuel up there before a wine-tasting adventure in southern New Jersey. I figured the roasted vegetable wrap would be a good choice. It wasn’t. As soon as I unwrapped the wrap it was like the flood gates opened up on my plate — and the flood was mostly oil. I picked at the vegetables hoping to rescue them from the oil spill that left them tasteless and greasy. From the time we left the cafe to our arrival at the first winery our conversation turned to America’s dependence on oil. Olive oil to be specific. It’s everywhere; in restaurant food, in family recipes, on cooking shows. We’ve been brainwashed to believe that it’s a “good” oil. Olive oil is one of the most calorie-dense foods and, contrary to popular belief, it may not be “good” for your heart as we once thought. But don’t take my word for it. This article and video from Forks Over Knives is an excellent (and brief) explanation. Some people feel that oil is needed to help brown food, like roasted vegetables. I can tell you that those “roasted” vegetables in my wrap were not brown at all. I’ve been preparing whole food, plant based food for five years now and I’ve learned to brown vegetables without the use of oil. Just the day before our outing I grilled eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash that came out flavorful and browned — and the only oil I used was a coating of non-stick spray on the grill grates. (I guess that’s what I had in mind when I ordered my wrap.) If you feel that grilled vegetables need a little something, try some fresh garlic, balsamic vinegar and herbs. I made a light dressing for the zucchini and yellow squash that lets their delicate flavor shine through. You can serve grilled vegetables as an appetizer, as an add-in to a salad, in a sandwich or over your favorite grain. Treat yourself to a good non-stick skillet and try using a few tablespoons of water or broth when you want to brown vegetables. If you’re not ready to eliminate oil completely you can re-train yourself by first measuring the oil then spreading with a paper towel. Pretty soon you’ll be on your way to reducing your dependence on oil. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Grilled Summer Squash

a few zucchini and yellow squash, cut into 3/8″ thick slices

Heat an outdoor grill on high heat. Lightly coat the grates with non-stick spray. Place the zucchini slices directly on the grates. Close the cover and grill until the squash is browned, then turn over and brown the second side. Cooking time will vary depending on how hot your grill is. It may be necessary to reduce the heat to medium if the vegetables are browning too fast. Remove from grill and arrange squash on a serving plate, drizzling the dressing on each layer. Serve hot, at room temperature or cold.

Honey Summer Savory Dressing

½ cup white wine vinegar
1 garlic cloves, pressed
1 Tbsp. honey or agave
fresh summer savory to taste

Whisk all ingredients together. Drizzle over grilled vegetables. Season with salt and pepper.

 

 

10 Aug 2017

Summer Camp: Broccoli & Quinoa Salad

Broccoli & Quinoa Salad with Peanut Dressing

Where did July go? Between a visit from family, vacation and tending to my exploding gardens, I had some time away from Vegi-curious. It was like being away at summer camp. And speaking of camps . . . there are two of them when it comes to soaking grains — the soakers and the non-soakers. I have always been on the side of the non-soakers. I really never gave much thought to it until recently. I read somewhere that Basmati rice comes out much better when soaked. I decided to do a test and cooked both soaked and un-soaked Basmati rice. I couldn’t tell the difference in taste or texture. My mother’s physical therapist is from India, so I figured he could shed some light on the subject. He said that in India they soak all grains because it makes them easier to digest. Since I don’t have a problem digesting grains and soaking requires advanced planning, I’m staying in the non-soaker camp . . . except when it comes to quinoa. Quinoa has a bitter coating that protects this grain from getting eaten by birds. Many recipes recommend to rinse the quinoa before cooking. Even with rinsing I hadn’t taken a liking to the taste of quinoa. I wondered if soaking the quinoa would help. I soaked the quinoa for 30 minutes then cooked it in my rice cooker. I couldn’t believe that the once bitter-tasting quinoa now had a mellow, nutty flavor to it. I was so excited and couldn’t wait to try out some quinoa recipes. I came up with this recipe for Broccoli & Quinoa Salad out of my need to make a meal early in the day that could be re-heated in the microwave or served at room temperature. I mixed the quinoa with steamed broccoli and raw carrots. It would have been nice to add some chopped scallions. I dressed it with an Asian-inspired peanut dressing, but a simple vinaigrette or mustard-based dressing would also be nice. Simple and tasty.I can’t say how good the leftovers were because we ate the whole thing that night.

Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Broccoli & Quinoa Salad with Peanut Dressing

1 cup quinoa, soaked for 30 minutes
1 large head of broccoli cut into small florets
1 large carrot, grated
Chopped Thai basil
Peanut dressing, below

Rinse and drain quinoa. Cook according to package directions.

Steam broccoli for 4 to 5 minutes and rinse under cold water. Place in large mixing bowl with carrots. Add the cooked quinoa to the bowl. Add the dressing and stir well. Garnish with Thai basil. Serve immediately.

Dressing:

¼ cup peanut butter
3 Tbsp. reduced sodium soy sauce
1 Tbsp. maple syrup
1 Tbsp. minced ginger root
1 garlic clove, minced
Juice from ½ lime
Crushed red pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in blender and process until smooth. You can choose to simply whisk the ingredients in a bowl if you like. Set aside.

03 Aug 2017

Still Smokin’: Pasta Carbonara

Pasta Carbonara

This is a follow-up to my post on Smoked Shitake Mushrooms. The flavor of the smoked shitakes are so intense that a little goes a long way, so I’m still trying to come up with some recipes to use them up. I like to use cashew cream as a base for creamy pasta sauces and the smoked shitakes made me think of Pasta Carbonara. For this recipe I made a creamy sauce with raw cashews, tahini, lemon juice, garlic and a few smoked shitakes. (If you don’t want to smoke the shitakes, you can use liquid smoke.) I had about a half pound of cooked rigatoni pasta in the fridge that I “re-boiled” for 1 minute then added a cup of peas. I reserved some of the pasta water to thin out the sauce if needed. I stirred a few spoonfuls of the sauce into the pasta and peas. You can use as much or as little of the sauce as you like and add a few extra slivered smoked shitakes if you want a more smoky taste and some “meaty” texture. This dish came out creamy, smoky and oh, so yummy. It’s rich tasting, yet won’t weigh you down. This makes a nice meal to serve for a special occasion or you can make the sauce ahead of time and enjoy a decadent meal any night of the week. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Smoky Creamy Cashew Sauce

½ cup raw cashews, soaked and drained
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons tahini
1 Tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 garlic clove
A few slices of smoked shitake mushrooms
water

Process all ingredients in blender, adding more water to achieve desired consistency.

Use on potatoes, broccoli or other vegetables. Thin out and toss with cooked pasta.

08 Jul 2017

Some Like It Hot: Thai Stir Fried Vegetables

Thai Stir Fry

I sometimes wonder why people living in hot climates like to eat hot, spicy food. For instance, Thai food is known for its curry dishes. Thai curry pastes range from “Panang” or red which is the hottest, through “green” which is moderately hot, to “Massaman” or yellow which is mildly hot. I’ve tried them all and even the Massaman is not so mild. Perhaps if you eat hot food it makes the world around you seem not so hot. I wonder . . .

I started making my own curry pastes in an effort to reduce the amount of sodium in our diets. It takes some effort to find the ingredients and to make the curry paste, so if sodium is not a problem for you simply buy a container in an Asian section of your supermarket. A little goes a long way and you can store it in the refrigerator for months.

I picked up a head of broccoli at my favorite Amish farm stand. It had a nice crown of florets, but it also had a huge stem. I usually discard the stem, but I thought it would make a nice addition to a stir fry. I also used red bell pepper, celery, carrots and scallions in the stir fry (and no broccoli florets). This was a perfect way to use up broccoli stems which I would normally throw out. The broccoli stem’s texture is similar to that of the other vegetables, so everything cooks at the same time. I used some red curry paste and a small amount of Thai coconut milk to season the vegetables. I recommend starting with one teaspoon of curry paste and adding more according to your heat tolerance. The vegetables have a nice crunch and the sauce is intensely flavored and aromatic. This dish comes together so quickly and is so tasty that I’ll be making this on a regular basis. Why sweat it outside hovering over a hot grill when you can beat the heat inside with this Thai Stir Fry? Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Thai Stir Fried Vegetables

1 cup thinly sliced broccoli stems (use leaves if you have them)
1 large bunch of scallions (about 8)
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
3 celery ribs, thinly sliced
2 carrots, thinly sliced
1 to 2 teaspoons Thai curry paste
¼ cup Thai coconut milk

Heat a non-stick wok on medium-high heat. Add vegetables and stir-fry until fork tender and the edges start to brown. Add curry paste and coconut milk and heat one minute. Remove from heat and serve over rice.

22 Jun 2017

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