Tag Archives: entree

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

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

Tofu Trials: Five Spice Maple-Glazed Tofu

Five Spice Tofu & Snow Peas

I bought some beautiful snow peas the other day at an Amish farm stand. When snow peas are fresh from the fields they really don’t need to be fussed over. In fact, I’ll eat a handful of them while I’m getting them ready for steaming. I only had a pint of snow peas and no other vegetables that would go with them, so I decided they would make a nice side dish for tofu. I purchased an air fryer a few months ago and like the way it makes tofu. Here are a few things I’ve learned about air frying tofu.

  • Marinating the tofu is pointless. The tofu doesn’t absorb the flavors of the marinade and the exterior does not crisp up.
  • It’s much easier and I’ve had better results just sprinkling or coating the tofu with dry spices and letting it sit for a few hours. (You probably don’t even need to wait before cooking.)
  • I also discovered that pressing the tofu makes it too dry. Since the tofu spends enough time in the fryer (or oven), pressing out the excess liquid is an unnecessary step and does not enhance the texture.
  • To achieve a glaze-like surface, I’ve had good results cooking the spiced-coated tofu until it starts to develop a crisp exterior, then tossing it with barbeque sauce, maple syrup or other “glazey” ingredients.

For this recipe, I sprinkled some Chinese Five Spice on the tofu, air fried it for 15 minutes, then tossed it with a smidgen of oil and maple syrup and continued air frying until it had a crispy, glazed surface. The meal was rounded out with steamed snow peas and Jasmine rice then drizzled with a ginger-peanut sauce. This turned out to be a simple meal that’s simply delicious. If you don’t have an air fryer, you can bake the tofu in the oven. You can use this method to come up with your own favorite tofu recipe by just varying the spices and glazes. If you like Texas barbeque, try sprinkling the tofu with a smoking rub, then coating it with your favorite barbeque sauce. Serve it with potato salad and corn on the cob. Or how about an Indian version that’s sprinkled with curry powder and coated with chutney and served with samosa potatoes or Basmati rice and peas? I’d love to hear about your own tofu trials. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Five Spice Maple-Glazed Tofu

1 lb. firm or extra firm tofu
½ teaspoon Five Spice powder
½ teaspoon oil (optional)
1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey

Cut tofu into 1” pieces and add to bowl. Toss with Five Spice seasoning and allow to marinate for a few hours.

To make in an air fryer:

Arrange seasoned tofu in a single layer if possible. Set temperature to 350F and cook for about 15 minutes. Remove from fryer and place into mixing bowl. Add maple syrup and oil and toss to coat. Return to fryer basket and continue cooking for another 10 minutes or until crisp. Serve immediately with steamed vegetables and rice.

To make in an oven:

Preheat oven to 400F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Place seasoned tofu in a single layer on parchment paper. Bake until tofu starts to dry out and brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and place in mixing bowl. Add the oil and maple syrup and toss to coat. Return to baking sheet and continue baking until the exterior of tofu is glazed and brown. Serve immediately.

16 Jun 2017

Magnifique: Mushrooms in the Style of Bourguignon

Mushrooms Bourguignon

I picked up a bag of baby portobello mushroom caps the other day not knowing what I was going to do with them. At two bucks a bag, I figured I’ll find something to make with them. These baby portobellos were about 3″ in diameter and had a nice thickness to them. It’s interesting how inspiration comes about, but the word “medallions” came to mind as I was gazing so lovingly at them. I wanted to make something hearty and meaty and thought of Beef Bourguinon. I used Ina Garten’s recipe as a guide for this recipe. I sauteed onions and garlic, browned the mushroom caps then cooked them in cognac and red wine. The mushrooms had a rich taste and meaty texture. The onions added a subtle, sweet contrast to the deep flavor of the mushrooms. Magnifique! I served the mushrooms with baked potatoes and mesclun salad, but they would also pair well with mashed potatoes and sauteed green beans. The next day, I made a Bourguignon slider with the leftovers and a small dinner roll. These would also make a nice addition to a buffet or cocktail hour. Make these Mushrooms Bourguinon and make something magnifique for dinner. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Bourguignon Slider

Mushrooms in the Style of Bourguignon

¼ cup dry red wine
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
About 1-1/4 pound small Portobello mushrooms (3” diameter)
Olive oil (optional)
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, sliced
1 Tablespoon brandy
Dried thyme, salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together red wine and tomato paste in a small bowl and set aside.

Remove stems from mushrooms and reserve for another use.

Coat a large non-stick skillet with a small amount of olive oil. (You can omit the oil and use a few tablespoons of water.) Saute the onions over medium heat until they start to brown slightly. Add garlic and continue cooking until golden. Remove the onions and garlic to a plate.

Recoat the skillet with oil if desired. Place the mushroom caps top side down and cook until they start to brown. Turn mushrooms over and continue to cook until they brown and start to soften. Arrange the onion slices on top of the mushrooms. Add the brandy to de-glaze the pan, then add the red wine mixture thyme, salt and pepper. Cover skillet and cook on low heat until the sauce thickens and turns dark brown. Remove from heat and serve with baked or mashed potatoes and a green vegetable.

06 Jun 2017

Don’t Fear the Fava: Asparagus & Fava Bean Salad

Asparagus & Fava Bean Salad with Quinoa

Ever since I saw “The Silence of the Lambs” many years ago, I’ve shied away from eating fava beans. It probably has something to do with Hannibal Lechter’s famous line that’s too gruesome to repeat on a food blog. A few months ago I mustered up the courage to buy a bag of dried, unpeeled fava beans. After soaking, peeling, boiling and then incorporating them into a recipe, I was left wondering what the fascination with fava beans was all about. This week’s CSA share included a bag of fresh fava beans. I peeled away the thick, spongy pod to reveal less than a cup of bright green beans. I boiled the beans for two minutes before peeling away the tough skin. A cup of fava beans is not enough to stand by themselves as the focal point of a meal, so I decided to use them in a salad with asparagus, green onions and a lemon-thyme dressing. The salad looked bright and pretty and tasted delicious. Yet, it didn’t look like it would make a substantial meal on its own. I wanted to add one other element that would round out the plate but not over-shadow the salad. My first thought was to add a grain. Farro has a nice texture and a nutty flavor, so I loaded up the steamer and waited. While the farro was cooking I thought that quinoa would make a nice pairing. As soon as the farro was finished, I steamed some quinoa. Both grains complemented the salad perfectly. I might also try serving the salad over fresh baby lettuce, arugula, spinach as an appetizer or side dish. I look forward to seeing more fava beans in my future. And If I don’t, I’ll just use fresh peas or lima beans instead. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Asparagus & Fava Bean Salad

Note: if fresh fava beans are not available, substitute cooked lima beans, green peas or additional asparagus.

1 lb. asparagus
1 cup fresh fava beans
4 green onions, thinly sliced
Lemon Thyme Dressing (recipe below)

Trim the tough bottoms from the asparagus. Cut into one-half inch pieces. Place in steamer basket set over water and steam for about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and rinse under cold water. Drain and place in shallow serving bowl.

Bring a small pot of water to boil. Add unpeeled fava beans and boil for two minutes. Remove from heat, rinse under cold water and drain. Remove and discard the skins. Place the peeled fava beans in the bowl with the asparagus. Add the green onions and lemon-thyme dressing to the bowl. Stir to combine. Adjust seasonings. Let marinate if time allows. Can be served cold or at room temperature.

Serve over greens, farro or quinoa.

Lemon Thyme Dressing

¼ cup fresh lemon juice
2 Tablespoons honey or brown rice syrup
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 small garlic clove, pressed
½ teaspoon dried thyme
Black pepper and salt to taste

Place all ingredients in glass measuring cup and whisk to combine.

 

31 May 2017

Remodeling: Mushroom Gyro Wrap

Mushroom Gyro Wrap

Long before adopting a plant-based diet one of my favorite sandwiches was a Greek Gyro. I started out ordering them with the “mystery” meat that’s sliced from a slab of lamb (and who knows what else) spinning around on a rotisserie. I migrated to Gyros made with grilled chicken breast thinking that was a healthier choice. Some time ago I remodeled my Gyro with this Greek mushroom and chickpea version of the “mystery” meat which is very tasty, but requires a small amount of effort. I wanted to come up with a newer model that was scaled back in terms of prep time and calories. My latest remodeled Gyro recipe has two key aspects that I wanted to replicate, one being the distinct flavor of marjoram, rosemary and garlic and the other being the creamy tang of Tzatzki sauce. I decided to grill some cremini mushrooms (I would have used portabellos if I had them) and seasoned them with garlic powder, marjoram and rosemary.  For the Tzatziki sauce I used a combination of raw cashews (for creaminess) and soy yogurt (for tanginess). I make my own since I don’t like what’s available in the stores near me, but you can use store-bought vegan sour cream or just plain soy yogurt to keep it simple. After grilling and seasoning the mushrooms, mixing up the Tzatziki, and slicing up the tomato, lettuce and onion, I took a pocket-less pita out of the freezer only to find that it was dried out and lost it’s ability to bend without breaking. Luckily, I had some fresh (and supple) flour tortillas on hand, which made for a lighter and neater wrap. With its Greek-inspired seasonings, mushroom “meatiness”, creamy Tzatziki sauce, onions, lettuce and tomatoes this wrap has everything I want in a Gyro. Start remodeling your life today by building yourself this healthy and delicious Mushroom Gyro Wrap. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Mushroom Gyro Wraps

Makes 6 to 8 wraps

Olive oil (optional)
1 lb. mushrooms, sliced (cremini or portabellos recommended)
dried marjoram, to taste
dried ground rosemary, to taste
garlic powder, to taste
Salt and black pepper to taste

Tzatziki Sauce (recipe follows)
Flour tortillas
Lettuce, chopped
Sliced tomatoes and onions

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. (You can coat the skillet if desired.) Add mushrooms and cook until brown and most of liquid has evaporated. Season the mushrooms with marjoram, rosemary, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Remove from heat.

Tzatziki Sauce

1 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight
1 cup plain, non-dairy yogurt
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and minced
Salt to taste
4 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

Drain cashews and place in container of high-powered blender. Add just enough water to cover and process until smooth. Place into a small mixing bowl along with remaining ingredients and stir. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

To assemble Gyros:

Place a tortilla on piece of aluminum foil. Layer the lettuce, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms and Tzatziki sauce on tortilla. Roll up forming a conical-shaped wrap and secure with aluminum foil.

Mushroom Gyro

16 May 2017

Bowled Over: Fennel, Farro & Fagioli

Fennel, Farro & Fagioli

Have you ever been “bowled over”? The term is synonymous with amazed or astonished. When I uploaded this photo of my Fennel, Farro & Fagioli it struck me how a dish of full of beans, fennel, farro and greens could have the ability to bowl me over. This recipe hits on so many aspects of a complete whole food, plant-based meal. It’s made with beans, greens, vegetables, whole grains and uses very little/no oil and salt. Who could ask for anything more? Bowl someone (or yourself) over today with a bowl of Fennel, Farro & Fagioli. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Fennel Farro e Fagioli
Makes 4 servings
1 small onion
1 small fennel bulb
1 carrot
1 celery stalk
4 garlic cloves
Olive oil (optional)
½ tsp. fennel seeds, ground
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3 cups white or red beans (or two 15 oz. can)
½ cup uncooked farro
3 to 4 cups water
1 teaspoon Better Than Boullion vegetable or “No Chicken” base (optional)
a few handful of arugula or other greens
Cut onion, fennel, carrot and celery into pieces. Process in food processor until finely chopped. Add garlic and pulse a few times.
Coat bottom of large saucepot with olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. (You could heat 2 tablespoons of water to omit the oil.) Add vegetables and cook until softened and lightly browned. Add ground fennel and red pepper and cook for 1 minute. Add tomato paste and stir to combine. Add farro, beans, water and bouillon. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Cover and cook for 25 minutes. Add arugula during the last few minutes of cooking.

16 Feb 2017

Supersized: “Chic” Filet Sandwich

Chik-fila Sandwich

There’s a fast food restaurant chain in the US called Chick-fil-A that serves, you guessed it, all types of chicken sandwiches. I took my Mom there once and ordered a bean salad for myself. It was enough to fill a thimble. Why is it that plant-based food options in fast food restaurants are not supersized? Why can’t they offer some kind of veggie burger? That’s how I came up with my “Chic” Filet Sandwich.  Bruce and his friends used to go there for lunch and he would jokingly pronounce it as “chic-filet.” One definition of chic “is a style that expresses specified trendy lifestyle or activity.” Since more and more people are adopting plant-based diets for health and humane reasons, “Chic” Filet seems apropos. 

I sauteed onions, carrots, celery and mushrooms to give the burgers a chicken soup flavor and added cannelini beans for substance. You can experiment with the seasonings to suit your taste (or what’s on hand in your pantry). I use either a 1/3 cup measure for an average size burger or a 1/2 cup measure for a supersized one. I made a plain mock mayo using raw cashews. You can spice it up by adding a small amount of the adobe sauce from canned chipotles, Siracha sauce. If you don’t eat cashews, you could try mashed avocado. Tasty, satisfying and it passes my “stays-within-the-bun” test. Make some “Chic” Filet Sandwiches and start a new trend of supersized healthy eating. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

“Chic” Filet Sandwich

1 medium onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 oz. mushrooms, chopped
1 can cannellini beans, drained
¼ cup bread crumbs (oatmeal for gluten free)
1 Tablespoon mustard
2 teaspoons savory, marjoram or thyme
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon Sazon seasoning (or other seasoning blend)
Salt and pepper, to taste

hamburger buns, sliced tomatoes, onions, lettuce for serving

Brown mushrooms in non-stick skillet. Remove to food processor. Brown onions, garlic, carrots and celery in non-stick skillet. Add spices and herbs and cook 1 minute. Add to food processor along with remaining ingredients and pulse until combined. Using either a 1/3 or 1/2 cup measure, portion out the mixture and form into patties. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerate until firm.

Heat an electric griddle on high and cook burgers until browned on both sides, about 15 minutes total. You can also bake in a 375F oven, turning once halfway through cooking (about 20 minutes total). Serve on your choice of bun with lettuce, tomato, onions and top with cashew mayo or your favorite condiment. You can individually wrap and freeze the burgers after they are cooked.

Cashew Mayo

½ cup raw cashews soaked
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/8 tsp. black salt
1/8 teaspoon mustard powder
1/8 teaspoon sugar

Process in blender until smooth, adding water as necessary to thin.

31 Jan 2017

Sultry Soup: Turkish Red Lentil Soup

Turkish Red Lentil Soup

When I think of Mediterranean cuisine, one word comes to mind: sultry. What appeals to me about this food is how somewhat common herbs, spices and aromatics get blended into a dish in an exotic way. A few weeks ago, Bruce and I tried out a restaurant that I’ve been wanting to go to for a long time. The Mediterranean Grille serves tasty food with a Moroccan and Turkish influence. We ordered a vegetable tagine, Zalouk (eggplant dip) and Turkish Red Lentil Soup. Everything was so delicious that I couldn’t wait to come up with my own versions. Why am I so excited about this soup? Well, it’s made with one of my favorite legumes, red lentils. It contains bulgur, a grain that I’ve wanted to include in my recipes but haven’t gotten around to. And, I love the flavors of Mediterranean cuisine. It comes together quickly, cooks in one hour and fills your home with an enticing aroma. You can round out your meal with some olives, a bowl of your favorite hummus and warm pita or rustic bread. Oh, this is so good.Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Turkish Red Lentil Soup

makes about 3 quarts

1/2 cup soaked bulgur (see notes)
2 onions, finely chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon coriander
1 cup red lentils
2 tablespoons tomato paste
12 cups vegetable stock or water
Lemon slices for serving

Heat a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions, carrots and garlic and cook until they are golden, about 5 minutes. Add the paprika, cumin, coriander, lentils and bulgur into the onions and stir to coat. Add the tomato paste and water or vegetable stock; bring to a boil, then cover and cook until soft and creamy, about 1 hour. Ladle into bowls and garnish with lemon slices.

To soak bulger: Place ¼ cup dry bulgur in small bowl and cover with ¼ cup boiling water. Let stand 1 hour. This should yield ½ cup of soaked bulgur.

 

25 Jan 2017

Multitasking: Cannelini Beans & Sun-dried Tomatoes in an Instant Pot

White Beans & Sun-dried Tomatoes

Multitasking. The term goes back to 1965 and refers to the ability of a computer to apparently process several tasks, or computer jobs, concurrently. The term has since been expanded to “human multitasking”  as an apparent human ability to perform more than one task, or activity, over a short period of time. There are therapeutic benefits of being “in the moment” and concentrating on one task, but sometimes life just does not allow for that. I owe today’s recipe to my need and ability to multitask. The morning started out as usual. Take out and feed Caitie; breakfast with Bruce and he’s off to work; a little therapeutic internet surfing for me; and meal planning. When I looked at the time, it was after 8:00, which is the time to get Mom out of bed. I had some cannelini beans soaking on the counter to be used to make pasta fagioli. I typically make this dish on the stove, but decided to throw it together in my Instant Pot. I sauteed a lot of garlic then added sun-dried tomatoes, crushed red pepper, the beans, water and some seasonings, set the timer for 8 minutes and let the pressure release naturally. In that time, I was able to get Mom ready, put in a load of laundry and start re-organizing the linen closet. The aroma that was drifting up to the second floor (and lingers throughout the day) was so intoxicating that I couldn’t wait to come downstairs to taste the beans. It was only 9:30 in the morning and I was enjoying some toasted sour dough bread with a spoonful of creamy, garlicky beans. What a way to start the day! Whether you’re a single  professional, working mom or dad, or a busy home economist, this is a great way to get things done and still enjoy a healthy, delicious meal. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Fagioli for Instant Pot

1 lb. cannellini or other white beans, soaked overnight and drained

1 teaspoon olive oil (optional)
¼ cup chopped garlic (about 6 extra large cloves)
Crushed red pepper, to taste
½ cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
2-3/4 to 3 cups water
1 tablespoon dried oregano
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

Cooked pasta or farro for serving

Set electric pressure cooker to saute setting. Heat olive oil and garlic and cook until starting to turn color. Add red pepper and sun-dried tomatoes and stir. Add about 2 tablespoons of water and cook about 1 minute. Add remaining ingredients. Pressure cook for about 8 minutes and let pressure come down naturally. Remove cover when safe. If there is too much liquid, set to saute and reduce to desired thickness. If not enough liquid, add additional water. Stir in parsley before serving. Serve with cooked pasta or farro.

11 Jan 2017

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