Tag Archives: side dish

Impulse Buying: Air-Fried Zucchini Sticks

Zucchini Sticks

I know I have a problem when it comes to kitchen equipment, so I really try to avoid “impulse purchases”. I consider how much I will use it, how much space it will take up and if it will just end up on the Island of Misfit Toys (i.e. my basement). Once I decide to add another appliance to my arsenal, I usually read as many reviews and compare costs to make sure I’m getting the best one to suit my needs. I happened to be shopping for waste baskets at Bed, Bath and Beyond and thought I’d just “check out” what they had in the way of air fryers. Right on the top shelf was one made by Phillips.What really made it stand out was the face of Gordon Ramsey plastered on the box. He usually wears a scowl, so I figured this must be a good piece of equipment if he’s smiling about it. The air fryer already had a hefty markdown, and combined with my 20% coupon and Chef Ramsey’s endorsement I decided to bring this baby home. I’m happy I did. So far, I’ve made French fries, sweet potato fries, glazed tofu and these Breaded Zucchini Sticks — all without one drop of oil. The air fryer is so easy to use and clean. Just load up whatever you’re “frying” into the basket then set the temperature and timer. The only other thing you need to do is shake up the basket half way through. That’s it! For this recipe, I simply dipped the zucchini sticks in aquafaba (the liquid from canned chick peas) then coated them with seasoned bread crumbs. I “fryed” them at 350F for 25 minutes. To my surprise the coating did not fall off the surface and “fryed” up nice and crisp. If you don’t have or want to buy an air fryer, you can bake the zucchini in the oven. I served the zucchini sticks with some left-over red pepper sauce I had in the fridge, but I would probably just use some marinara sauce the next time I make these. The only impulse I have now is to create more recipes to make in my air fryer. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Breaded Zucchini Sticks

1 zucchini squash (about 1 lb.), cut into ½” thick sticks
½ cup bread crumbs
1 teaspoon oregano or other herb
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon tomato powder (optional)
Aquafaba (liquid from canned chick peas)

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine bread crumbs, oregano, garlic powder and tomato powder in shallow dish. Place aquafaba in a bowl. Dip zucchini sticks in aquafaba, then coat with bread crumbs. Place zucchini sticks in a single layer on baking sheet.

To cook in an air fryer:

Place zucchini sticks in basket of air fryer, alternating each layer to allow more even browning and to prevent them from sticking together. Fry at 350F for 20 to 25 minutes. About half way through cooking, gingerly rearrange the zucchini sticks and continue cooking.

To bake in an oven:

Preheat oven to 400F. Bake for about 20 minutes until browned, turning occasionally. Remove from oven and serve immediately.

08 May 2017

A Casserole for Every Season: Creamy Green Beans & Mushrooms

Green Beans & Mushrooms

Green Beans & Mushrooms

If you live in the US, you might be familiar with the green bean casserole that’s usually served around the winter holidays. It’s saved for special occasions because this decadent side dish made with cream of mushroom soup and fried onions is not something to be consumed on a regular basis. So why am I breaking with tradition and making it during the summer? Well, I happen to have mushrooms and a bag of green beans on hand. Besides, I don’t think the Pilgrims served it at their Thanksgiving banquet because green beans were not in season that late into the harvest. I decided to use my Instant Pot for this recipe. I started out making a mushroom gravy by sauteing onions and mushrooms in the Instant Pot, then added flour and a hearty vegetable stock. (I like the stock recipe from The Millenium Cookbook.) After adding the beans and pressure cooking for a few minutes, I stirred in a few dollops of cashew cream for another level of creaminess. A few shakes of truffle salt intensified the mushroom flavor. (Truffle salt may seem a bit extravagant, but a little goes a long way and is worth the indulgence.) I served the beans with corn on the cob and a baked potato, but they could be enjoyed as a complete meal or as a side to your favorite lentil loaf or seitan roast. These beans are healthy enough to be enjoyed any day of the year, yet decadent enough to serve as part of a holiday meal. Get to your local farm stand and pick up a bag of fresh green beans while they’re in season. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Green Bean & Mushrooms for Instant Pot

2 cups hearty vegetable broth
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
8 oz. white button mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons flour
1 lb. green beans, stems removed
Salt and pepper to taste (truffle salt adds a deeper mushroom flavor)

Set instant pot to saute setting. Add 2 tablespoons of broth and onions and cook until onions begin to soften and brown. Add mushrooms and continue cooking until lightly browned, adding more broth as needed to prevent sticking. Add flour and stir to coat. Add remaining broth and continue cooking until thickened (should be the consistency of a thick gravy). Add green beans and ¼ cup of water and stir. Set instant pot to manual setting and pressure cook on high for 2 to 3 minutes, then quick release pressure. If the bottom of the insert has browned, simply scrape up with rubber scraper to incorporate with the beans and sauce.


26 Jul 2016

It’s All Good: Spaghetti Squash with Peanut Sauce

Spaghetti Squash with Peanut Sauce

Spaghetti Squash with Peanut Sauce

You know the saying, “you have to take the bad with the good?” Well the bad thing is that I had several winter squash hanging around the garage that were, literally, going to go bad. The good thing is that it’s still cool enough to turn on the oven. I also have a small convection oven on my pseudo-outdoor kitchen (aka covered patio) that makes warm-weather baking do-able. I have one squash that looks like a small basketball, a few buttercup squash and one spaghetti squash. I baked the basketball and buttercup squash and finished them off with maple syrup and Chinese Five Spice seasoning. Keeping with the Asian theme, I used the peanut sauce recipe from the Forks Over Knives cookbook for the spaghetti squash which calls for the sauce to be tossed with broccoli and rice noodles. Roasting the spaghetti squash with minced garlic just adds another layer of flavor. Oh boy! This dish turned out great. This is a nice way to add more veggies to my plate and still enjoy one of my favorite sauces. If you want to have more room on your plate for something like sauteed greens, you can fill the buttercup squash with the spaghetti squash. Anyway you serve it, it’s all good. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Spaghetti Squash with Peanut Sauce

Makes 2 servings

  • One spaghetti squash, about 2 to 2-1/2 lbs.
  • 3/4 cup coconut water
  • 3 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 450F. Cut spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds. Lightly coat cut surface of squash with olive oil, if using. Sprinkle the minced garlic on surface. Place in large baking pan, cut side up, and bake until tender, about 1 hour.

While squash is baking, prepare the sauce. Combine coconut water, peanut butter, syrup, soy sauce minced ginger and red pepper flakes in small saucepan. Heat over low heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

When squash is ready, scrape out the flesh with a fork, working from the stem to the blossom end of the squash. Place into shallow serving bowl and toss with sauce. Garnish with cilantro.

19 Apr 2016

Rebuilding: Creamy Mushrooms & Leeks for Mashed Potatoes

Creamy Mushroom-Leek Saute

Creamy Mushroom-Leek Saute

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon a recipe for mushroom, leek and potato soup that looked very tasty. There were two problems, though. First, I really don’t care for soup all that much. Soup always leaves me wanting more  — and that something more is usually bread or dessert. When I do make soup, it’s more like stew — loaded with vegetables and grains and not much broth. Second, this recipe called for two cups of heavy cream. (Wow! I shutter to think that I probably would have made this in my previous life.) If I substituted cashew cream for the dairy cream, it would be rich-tasting, but it would also be too rich in fat and calories. Life can be full of compromises, but I don’t like to settle when it comes to food. So this recipe was on the back burner until I could come up with one that would satisfy my craving for creamy mushrooms and potatoes that’s rich in flavor, not in calories. What I cooked up was a “deconstructed” version of that soup. I rebuilt the recipe by sauteing leeks, garlic and mushrooms, added a splash of red wine and a healthy dollop of cashew cream, then spooned it over mashed potatoes. This dish is uncompromisingly creamy, savory and hearty and you won’t feel like you’re missing out on anything. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Creamy Mushroom & Leeks for Mashed Potatoes

  • 2 large leeks, rinsed and sliced thinly
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 lb. mushrooms, chopped (cremini, white button, shitakes, etc.)
  • ¼ cup red wine (optional)
  • ¾ cup vegetable broth (or 1 cup if not using wine)
  • ½ cup cashew cream

Mashed potatoes

Coat a non-stick skillet with olive oil (or heat up 2 tablespoons of water) over medium-high heat. Saute leeks until lightly browned. Add garlic and cook another minute. Add mushrooms and saute until brown and most of liquid has cooked out. De-glaze pan with wine or ¼ cup of the broth. Add remaining broth and cashew cream and heat thoroughly. Remove from heat. Serve over mashed potatoes.



14 Apr 2016

Hard to Beet: Beet Salad with Chickpeas & Kale

Beet Centerpiece

Beet Centerpiece

Beet Salad with Chickpeas & Kale

Beet Salad with Chickpeas & Kale

Beets have always been one of those “I’m-sittin’-on-the-fence-about” vegetables. I’ve tried boiling, roasting and pickling beets to serve as a side dish or as an addition to salads. I’ve even burgerized them. (Oh, I should share that recipe with you soon.) They’re labor intensive, even a little messy and take a long time to get fork-tender. And after all that, they’re rather bland. I received a beautiful trio of beets in my CSA share last week and figured if nothing else they’d make a nice table arrangement. Then Bruce mentioned that his friend likes to eat raw beets. Really? I never thought of that. I tried a little sliver and it was quite tasty, so I tossed a handful of beet matchsticks into the salad. Not bad at all. Since I had three beets available, I decided to come up with a recipe that would put more focus on the beets. As I usually do with chickpeas that are destined for a salad, I marinated cubed beets in the dressing before adding some greens. As long as I was marinating beets I might as well add some chickpeas to take this salad from side dish (or centerpiece) to main course. I went with balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard and honey.  I wanted a dressing that could stand up to kale and give a flavor boost to the beets. This is one hearty and healthy salad that’s hard to “beet”. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Beet Salad with Chickpeas & Kale

  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons honey or agave
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • Garlic powder to taste
  • 1 cup drained chickpeas
  • 1 medium beet, cut into chunks the size of chickpeas
  • 1 bunch of kale, de-stemmed and chopped (4 cups)

In large salad bowl, whisk together vinegar, honey, mustard and garlic powder. Add chickpeas and beets, stir and let marinate for at least 30 minutes. Add kale and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. You could add sunflower or pumpkin seeds, raisins, dried cranberries/cherries and chopped nuts.


11 Apr 2016

Peace & Harmony: Mashed Potatoes 4 Ways in an Instant

Mashed PotatoesI’m living in a blended family, but not blended as our society has come to know it. First we have Mom who is an omnivore. As much as I would like her to, she is not going to change her way of eating. Then there’s Bruce who’s on a mission to reduce his sodium intake and eat less refined foods. And then there’s me, the plant-based girl who just wants to have fun. Without any health issues to contend with I still like to salt my food and have some sugar in my baked goods. At times it’s a challenge to get everyone to agree, especially about food.  Last night I made mashed potatoes in my instant pot. In the four minutes that they were under pressure, I came up with a plan to appeal to everyone’s palate. After the potatoes and onions were mashed with some almond milk, I placed a portion in a separate bowl for Mom and, with a grimace, added some butter. The remaining potatoes were mixed with black pepper and brought to the table. Bruce had his potatoes straight up with a side of steamed vegetables. I divided my share in two and judiciously sprinkled black truffle salt on one half and a generous dusting of The Gentle Chef’s sour cream and cheddar seasoning on the other half. This dinner dilemma was solved with an ounce of ingenuity, a spoonful of diplomacy and a few pounds of potatoes.  Mashed potatoes can stand in as a side to a lentil loaf or bean dish or be the focal point surrounded by a side of steamed vegetables or sauteed greens. You could replace the onion with four large cloves of roasted garlic or add some herbs like rosemary or thyme. (If you don’t have a pressure cooker simply place the potatoes in cold water, bring to a boil, simmer until soft and drain.) However you serve them up, these mashed potatoes are sure to bring some peace and harmony to your table. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Mashed Potatoes 4 Ways in an Instant

Way 1:

  • 2 lbs. white potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • ¾ cup water
  • ½ cup hot non-dairy milk (or more if desired)
  • salt & pepper to taste

Way 2: add Sour Cream & Cheddar Seasoning from The Gentle Chef

Way 3: add truffle salt to taste

Way 4: substitute 4 large gloves of roasted garlic for onion

Place potatoes, onions and water in pressure cooker or instant pot. Set pressure to high, then cook for four minutes. Use quick release to open pressure cooker. Add hot milk, salt & pepper and mash to desired consistency.

25 Feb 2016

Arroz Rapido: Fast-Track Spanish Rice

Spanish Rice

Spanish Rice

A Cuban, a Puerto Rican and a Dominican walk into an office . . . Many years ago I learned how to make recaito, a green Puerto Rican seasoning base used to make Spanish rice. The recipe was based on the recipes from several co-workers of mine. While they came from different backgrounds, they had similar methods for making Spanish rice and they all used some version of recaito. It’s quite a production — cilantro, recao leaves, bell peppers, onions, garlic and aijes dulces. I usually make a big batch and freeze it small containers. How is it possible that I couldn’t find one small container today? No big deal. I had some of the ingredients on hand and went ahead with a scaled-down version: cilantro, garlic, onion and bell pepper. The measurements are an approximation as I just threw the ingredients in my mini-chopper. You can season the rice with store-bought Sazon, but since I’m trying to cut back on our sodium intake I make my own blend. To make your own salt-free Sazon seasoning, process one tablespoon each of cumin, coriander, garlic powder and annato in a coffee grinder. My three friends also agreed on another important aspect of making Spanish rice and that is getting the bottom layer of rice browned and stuck to the bottom of the pot. This lends a nutty, caramelized flavor to the rice. It’s a delicate balance between browning and burning the rice and it took me awhile to get it down. To brown, or not to brown; either way you’ll have Spanish rice that’s fast and flavorful. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Fast Track Spanish Rice

Makes 3 cups


  • ¼ cup cilantro
  • ¼ cup bell pepper
  • 2 tablespoons onions
  • 1 garlic clove


  • ¼ cup chopped tomato
  • 1 cup rice
  • 1-1/4 water
  • ½ teaspoon Sazon seasoning

Prepare the recaito: In mini chopper, process cilantro, bell pepper, onion and garlic until a chunky paste is formed.

Set Instant Pot to saute and brown the recaito for about one minute. Add tomato and stir for about 30 seconds, then add rice, water and Sazon. Cover and cook on high pressure for 3 minutes. Use instant release then remove cover when pressure is completely released. Set pot to saute and let bottom layer of rice brown slightly, about 1 minute. Re-cover and let rest for about 5 minutes.

Stovetop Method:

Brown recaito ingredients in sauce pot (you may need a little oil to do this), adding tomato and rice as above using 2 cups of water and cooking for 15 minutes.

18 Feb 2016

Waste Not, Want Not: Creamy Carrot Puree with Roasted Garlic

Creamy Carrot Puree

Creamy Carrot Puree

Not one to waste food, I save vegetable trimmings to make cooking stock. I don’t get hung up on what goes into the pot since I use the stock to flavor other recipes. I’m also not a super-taster so my taste buds are not that discerning when it comes to subtleties in food. I was making some stock today and decided to add a few carrots to the pot. As I was straining the stock I thought it would be a waste to throw out the carrots. Then I recalled having a buttery carrot puree in a French restaurant many years ago and decided to come up with a recipe of my own. After pureeing the carrots, I had about 1-1/2 cups of puree. I added cashew cream for richness, roasted garlic and maple syrup for a savory-sweetness and a pinch of Chinese Five Spice for a little zest. It’s easy to adjust the ingredients to your liking. Super simple, super tasty. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.


Carrot Puree with Roasted Garlic

Makes about 1-1/2 cups

  • About 4 large carrots, boiled
  • 2 tablespoons cashew cream
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 clove of roasted garlic
  • Chinese Five Spice to taste

Add all ingredients to container of food processor and process on high until smooth.



04 Feb 2016

True Grits: Cheesy Grits with Chives

GritsThere are certain foods that I just don’t “get”, and grits is one of them. I think you either LOVE grits or you could do without them. After all, it’s just crushed up corn that’s cooked like a porridge. Mom has been on a grits bender since her return from Kansas. She’s had grits just about every morning, usually with some butter and an egg on top. (I know . . . as hard as I try she’s not going to change her ways at this stage of the game.) Grits are a breakfast staple in the southern United States and there are probably more recipes for grits than there are for Bubba Gump shrimp.  (If you’ve seen the movie Forrest Gump, you’ll appreciate this.) Some of the recipes I found contained butter, cheese, heavy cream and half-and-half. Yikes! Well, I was feeling adventurous and decided to try my hand at mixing up a bowl of healthy grits. I added some nutritional yeast for the cheese flavor and black salt for an egg-y effect. The result was pretty cheesy (in a good way) and I’ll even go so far as to say that these grits were somewhat “buttery” tasting (nutritional yeast has that effect sometimes). Well, I’m no southern belle so I can’t confirm that these are “true grits”, but they were mighty tasty. If you’re looking for another breakfast option, try making a bowl of grits. As Jed Clampett would say, “Y’all come back now, ya’ hear?” Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

 Cheesy Grits with Chives

Makes one to two servings

  • ½ cup grits
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1/8 teaspoon black salt
  • ½ teaspoon chives, fresh or dried
  • a few drops of liquid smoke, optional

Place all ingredients in small microwave-safe bowl. Cook on medium power for 4 to 6 minutes, until grits absorb most of the water. Add more water and cook longer if necessary.

12 Dec 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

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