Thursday, May 17, 2012

Ben's Special Tofu, adapted

David's son Ben makes a dish he calles Ben's Special Tofu. He stir-fries soft tofu with a variety of mushrooms and tops it with hoisin sauce. At some point we made that dish, though I'm not sure I posted it here.

Tonight, David is out of town and I had a plethora of fresh spinach grown right here in the North Country to eat up. Ben has always said that his tofu dish could use some veggies. This was great!

I made a sauce using
2 T sherry
2 T soy sauce
2 T sesame oil
2 T hot sauce
2 T hoisin sauce
I put some of the sauce over the tofu and let it marinate for about 10 minutes (longer would have been better).

Then, I chopped up bunches of mushrooms and an onion, and stir fried them until they were well-cooked. I took the tofu out of the marinade and added it to the pan. I returned the marinade from the tofu to the bowl with the rest of the sauce and added 1 t of cornstarch to thicken it when it hit the heat. (You could never do this if you were marinating meat, but with tofu there's no danger of disease.)

I trimmed the spinach and cut off the tough ends. When everything else was cooked, I added the spinach and cooked just long enough for it to combine with the other ingredients. I poured the sauce over the top, stirred a couple of times, and then shut off the heat. I served this over quinoa and have enough left-overs for a couple nights of being home alone!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Thai Green Curry with Tofu

David and I hosted my mom for a visit last weekend. Saturday night, we invited a friend to dinner for some Thai tofu and Five Crowns.

This was one of those "kitchen sink" dinners where I just kept popping stuff in.

Put together a stir fry of your favorites. Some advice about the best way to do this is here.

For the green curry sauce, I combined the following in a saucepan over low/medium heat, stirring until it was well mixed. I let it simmer for a while and then took it off the heat until it was time to pour it over the stir-fry.

1 can coconut milk
roughly 2T green curry paste (use more if you like spice, less if you don't)
the juice of two limes
roughly 2 T fish sauce
a heaping teaspoon of the following - gilgal (it's a root much like ginger, which you can buy preserved), kaffir lime leaves, cilantro, chopped lemongrass.
about 1/2 T brown sugar

We served the dish over a crispy rice cake.

Alas, there are no pictures.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Pepper Monkey on a Rice Noodle Cake

Life has felt very busy since David and I returned from Houston. Several nights, we've simply eaten at the bottom of the hill at our favorite Milan eatery, The Village Deli and General Store.

However, since I [almost] always snap a pick of what I cook these days, I have evidence that I cooked more than I thought I did!

This meal is comprised of two different recipes. David said it was his favorite meal since the end of Lent.

The Pepper Monkey from V Cuisine: The Art of Vegan Cooking by Angeline Lindardis (Whitecap, 2007)
You could call this Tofu au Poivre, it is in fact a pepper monkey.

14 oz tofu
2 T olive oil
3 T balsamic vinegar
4 T dark soy sauce
1 t garlic powder
1 t onion powder
1/2 t ground cumin
1/2 t ground sage
freshly cracked pepper
1 c dry red wine
1 large onion cut into quarters
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
1 c parsley
2 c crimini mushrooms, halved
1 red pepper, cut into rings
1 green pepper, cut into rings
coarse sea salt
olive oil

1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 F.
2. Oil a 13x9 casserole dish.
3. Slice to tofu into rectangles about 1/2 inch thick. Set them into the oiled pan, keeping them all flat if possible.
4. Mix together olive oil, vinegar, soy sauce, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin and sage. Pour over tofu, cover with plastic wrap, let sit for 20 minutes.
5. Uncover tofu. Coat each side with a layer of freshly ground pepper, return to pan.
6. Pour wine into pan. Add veggies, beginning with onion.
7. Cover with foil, bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and vegetables.
8. Put broiler on high, leave pan in middle of oven. Cook on one side 4-5 minutes, then flip.

Some notes:
I didn't read the recipe super carefully, and so I set the tofu aside after coating with pepper, put in all the veggies and topped them with tofu. This caused me to climate the broiling step. We thought it was perfect as prepared.
Also, we had no parsley and no peppers of any kind and the whole thing tasted great.
The pan sauce was terrific atop the noodle cake!

The timing is just about right to cook the noodle cake while the tofu bakes. You might give the tofu a five minute head start.

Crisp-Fried Noodle Cake - another great recipe from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman (Wiley, 2007)

noodles (the recipe suggests 12 oz of fresh Chinese egg noodles or 8 oz of any dry long noodles or pasta - we used 14 oz of rice noodles)
1 T soy sauce
1 t dark sesame oil
1/2 c chopped scallions or chives
1/4 neutral oil (I used canola)

1. Prep the noodles as the package suggests. Drain and rinse. Set aside. If you wait any length of time, leave the noodles soaking in cold water, otherwise they get sticky (says the voice of experience!).
2. Just before cooking drain (if you haven't already) and then toss the noodles with the sesame oil, soy sauce, and scallions.
3. Put 3 T of oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat. When hot, add the noodles. Let cook undisturbed until brown and crisp on the bottom. This takes about 15 minutes. Resist looking as much as you can!
4. Use a large spatula to flip the noodles, first adding remaining oil to pan. Brown on the other side. Slide onto a plate. Sprinkle with a bit of additional sesame oil (you might skip this step, we found it plenty oily enough!) and soy sauce. Cut into pieces and serve.

Some notes:
1. This does not re-heat well. So serve when you have company or are very hungry. Our next-day leftovers were kind of chewy and blah.
2. The flipping is a bit dangerous. We actually did this twice and the second time put a pizza stone onto the fry pan, flipped that over, then re-oiled the pan and slid the cake from the pizza stone.
3. Flipping the noodle cake takes a bit of getting used to - be prepared for bits of noodle all over your stove! :)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Live and Learn

I'm a bit of a Food Network addict. I love to watch cooking shows. David, for the most part, does not. But, he does have a particular fondness for Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives - a show where host Guy Fieri drives around the country looking for small and offbeat diners, drive-ins and dives (you could have guessed, right?).

Last week we saw a show featuring restaurants on Route 66. One of the places featured a chicken dish that looked divine. Despite our pledge to eat less meat and cook very little of it, we were both intrigued. I googled it. I bought the ingredients. And... we both got really sick of all the meat, almost immediately. Wow!

Tonight, eating the left-overs, David noted that the food we ate all during Lent was amazing - 9/10. And, he gave this dish a 4/10. So, live and learn. We really are going to eat less meat!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Lenten Discipline: The Final Report

I know we just celebrated the Third Sunday of Easter, but such is the life of a priest. I'm only now getting the chance to really think through and check in on our Lenten Discipline.

I think we were about two weeks into Lent when David asked me, quite seriously, "Do we have to go back?" After I laughed about the steaks in our freezer, I replied simply, "No." We've loved experimenting with new recipes, cooking together, and trying new foods. And, we've loved having our food consumption make a a smaller impact both on the planet and our budget.

Neither of us is a budgeting whiz! So, I can't say beyond the shadow of a doubt that we saved X dollars through our eating choices. However, since one tub of tofu used to produce two portions, and now it produces six portions, I think I can state with certainty that we did save money.

So, what we've decided to do is to choose to eat less meat. We won't throw away the meat in our freezer. We'll enjoy the occasional bacon (as we did this morning). When we are out, we'll eat as we please. However, most of the meals we cook for ourselves will be vegan/vegetarian.

I also have to share that there were health benefits to our choices, as well. We certainly didn't take on this Lenten discipline to lose weight. But, I did! About 10 pounds worth. So, if a healthier lifestyle is something you are looking for, consider eating less meat!

I've really appreciated the positive response these posts have generated. So, I'll continue to post recipes and pictures as I am able. Keep those comments coming - let me know what you've tried and liked.

Finally, since I made it again last night, here's the Thai Tofu Soup from the last post!

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Last Lenten Recipe: Thai Curry Vegetable and Tofu Soup

OK. I'll admit it. I'm kind of out-of-control when it comes to cookbooks, recipes, cooking magazines, etc. On Holy Saturday, I ducked into the store to get one thing - and found this magazine on display by the register: Real Simple - Easy, Delicious Home Cooking, Spring/Summer 2012. Generally, I find that things in Real Simple are often neither. But, as I waited in the long line and perused the recipes, I was totally hooked. So, into the bag it went! That very night, I made Thai Curry Vegetable and Tofu Soup and served it over white rice before we headed off to the Easter Vigil. Wow!

Thai Curry Vegetable and Tofu Soup
2 c low sodium vegetable broth
1 can coconut milk
1 T red curry paste (I only had green, and it was fine)
1 t grated fresh ginger
kosher salt to taste
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps thinly sliced (no shiitakes, only regular old mushrooms, again this substitution was fine)
1/4 pound green beans, trimmed and halved (no green beans, only snap peas, again fine)
2 carrots, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise
14 oz extra-firm tofu, drained, pressed, and cut into cubes
1/4 pound snow peas (skipped these)
2 T fresh lime juice
1/4 c torn fresh basil leaves
Asian chile garlic sauce for serving

1. In a large sauce pan, whisk together the broth, coconut milk, curry paste, ginger and 1 t salt. Bring to a boil.
2. Add mushrooms, green beans and carrots. Simmer until just tender - 3 to 5 minutes.
3. Add tofu and snow peas, simmer until snow peas are bright green, about 1 minute more.
4. Stir in lime juice, sprinkle with basil leaves, and serve with chili-garlic sauce.

I didn't have lime juice, basil,or chile garlic sauce. I found the soup a tiny bit flat and so instead added some soy sauce, fish sauce, and about 1 t of sugar. I served topped with crushed red pepper flakes.

Maundy Thursday Lentil Soup

This year on Maundy Thursday (the Thursday in Holy Week) we marked the day with a simple potluck supper embedded in a Eucharist. Folks brought a variety of things to share: cheeses, dried fruit, olives, hummus. I made a giant pot of Lentil Soup to share. This recipe is from Alton Brown - and can be found here.

Lentil Soup

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped carrot
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 pound lentils, picked and rinsed
  • 1 cup peeled and chopped tomatoes
  • 2 quarts chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground toasted cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground grains of paradise
  • 1. Place the olive oil into a large 6-quart Dutch oven and set over medium heat. 
  • 2. Once hot, add the onion, carrot, celery and salt and sweat until the onions are translucent, approximately 6 to 7 minutes.
  • 3. Add the lentils, tomatoes, broth, coriander, cumin and grains of paradise and stir to combine. 
  • 4. Increase the heat to high and bring just to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook at a low simmer until the lentils are tender, approximately 35 to 40 minutes. 
  • 5. Using a stick blender, puree to your preferred consistency. Serve immediately.
I never got a picture, sorry!

April 4, 2012: Super-simple Rice and Beans for Holy Week!

Rice and beans is one of the easiest (and healthiest) suppers you can make. Oh, and it's super-cheap, too.

2 c cooked beans - choose your favorite kind (in this case, I used pinto)
2 c cooked rice (brown is healthiest, of course, but I had rice on hand and no time to waste)
salsa - you can make your own, or, in this case, we had some great fresh salsa from the produce aisle
toppings - You can get elaborate, or be simple - in our case, it was just a dollop of vegan sour cream. Other toppings could be: shredded cheese, chopped jalapeños, black olives, shredded lettuce, or whatever suits your fancy.

1. Warm the beans. I used a medium sauce pan, a bit of water, and medium heat.
2. Put some rice in a bowl, top with beans, top with toppings, and eat.

March 25, 2012: A Three Part Dinner

The recipes in this three-part dinner come from three sources: A package, my Mom, and our last Community Supper at St. Barnabas.

Pan-Fried Tempeh
If you are not familiar with Tempeh, you should try it.  It's made of fermented soy beans. I tend to think of it as tofu's uglier, but tastier cousin! You can do many different things with it. Our favorite way to eat it is in a simple pan-fry.
1/2 package of tempeh, cut into strips (for 2 people) (The package instructions say 1/4 inch, but mine tend to be a bit thicker. I get six strips out of 1/2 package.)
1 T olive oil
1-2 T soy sauce
1. Heat olive oil and soy sauce in a medium size fry pan.
2. Place tempeh strips in, one of the wide sides down.
3. Saute for about a minute, then flip over (You want to do it this way, as the tempeh will absorb the soy sauce and the oil, and this gives the liquid a chance to absorb on both side. I neglected the first time, and I had half dark/half light tempeh.)
4. Continue to saute, first one side, then the other, until lightly browned and heated through, about 5 minutes.

Pan-fried Zucchini
Yvonne and Larry made this at our last community supper and I was so enchanted with it that I've made it three times since!
1 Zucchini per 2 people
1 T olive oil
spices of your choice
1. Halve the zucchini, first the short way, and then the long way, and trim off the ends.
2. Rest each quarter of the zucchini on a cutting board, and trim a thin piece off of the outer side of the zucchini. When you are done, you should have four thick planks of zucchini.
3. Lay the zucchini, one wide side up, on the cutting board. Season as you like. (I've done this now with salt, pepper, and then either garlic powder, middle eastern spices, curry powder, or basil, depending on the dish.)
4. Heat oil in a medium sized fry pan over medium-high heat. Place zucchini, spiced side down, and fry for 3-4 minutes, until the bottom caramelizes. While it's frying, repeat the spice process on the now exposed other wide side.
5. Flip and fry 3-4 minutes on the other side.

Vegan Creamed Spinach
This recipe is one my Mom used to make with milk. It was lovely subbing in soy for the milk. This is a great way to deal with spinach that may be getting past its prime, as was our case this night!
1 pkg baby spinach
1 small onion, chopped
a pinch of salt
1 T flour
roughly 1/2 c plain soy milk
2 T olive oil

1. Heat the olive oil in a large fry pan over medium high heat.
2. Add the chopped onion and a pinch of salt.
3. Saute until soft, roughly 5 minutes.
4. Sprinkle flour over onions/oil and stir to combine.
5. Add spinach and sauté until the spinach starts to cook down, 2-3 minutes, usually.
6. Pour soy milk over the spinach and stir until combined and heated through.

April 1, 2012: Stir-fried Rice Noodles with Quick-Braised Vegetables, Thai Style

This keeper is adapted from a recipe in Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food, John Wiley & Sons, 2007.  He gives some great suggestions for vegetables to use, but I just used what we had on hand. Prepping all the veggies takes a bit of time, but the whole thing comes together quickly after that.

1/3 package rice noodles, prepared according to package directions, rinsed in cold water, and drained
3 T oil (I always use olive)
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 chile, chopped (or you could use 2 dried chiles, or 1 t chile paste, or eliminate the chiles all together if you aren't a spice fan)
lime leaves or lime zest (we didn't have any, so I skipped this - it would have deepened the flavor, for sure)
a quantity of fresh vegetables, chopped into bite-sized pieces (we used mushrooms, broccoli, and snap peas - and we pressed 1/3 of a package of tofu and added it in with the mushrooms)
1 can coconut milk
3 T fish sauce - this is a place where I go ahead and use the real thing, not a vegan alternative. You can sub soy sauce or fish-less fish sauce if you prefer.
salt and pepper
lime wedges for serving

1. Put the oil in a large skillet or wok over high heat. Sauté the garlic and onions for about 5 minutes until soft.
2. Stir in chiles and lime leaves.
3. Add vegetables - put in the longest cooking first, followed by the shorter cooking ones. Sauté, stirring frequently. Depending on the veggies you use, this could take 5-15 minutes.
4. When the veggies are nearly done, add the rice noodles and sauté very briefly, to heat through.
5. Stir in the coconut milk and simmer until thickened, then add fish sauce, salt and pepper.
6. Serve hot with lime wedges.

Taste this before you serve it. You may want to adjust spices with more fish sauce, or chile sauce, or by adding a bit of sugar. Trust your own palate and what you like as you finish this up.

March 21: Sesame Noodles

There are some recipes I have been carrying around with me for decades. This one is part of that collection. It was given to me years ago (quite possibly almost 20 years ago) by a friend of a friend. It's been so long, I can only remember her first name - Cathy. I don't know where she got it, but she wrote it out for me on a little piece of legal paper, and I've been making it off and on for a long time. This time I adapted it, and liked it even more.

1/4 c tahini (first adaptation - I used peanut butter instead)
1/4 c warm water
1/4 c soy sauce
1/4 c vegetable oil
2 T sugar
2 T cider vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 t chili oil (second adaptation - no chili oil in the house, so I used hot sauce!)
2 t sesame oil
1/2 c green onions
1 cucumber, chopped
1 1b of spaghetti (third adaptation - instead of spaghetti, I used soba noodles)

1. Whisk together the tahini/peanut butter (whichever you use) and warm water. (I moved this process along by using boiling water.)
2. Whisk in all other ingredients (except vegetables and pasta)
3. Cook the noodles according to package directions, then drain.
4. Coat noodles with sauce - add cucumbers and green onions.

This whole recipe can be made in the time it takes to cook the noodles.

I served it with a side of braised tofu.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

March 19: Braised Seitan with Red Wine and Mushrooms

If you've not delved deeply into vegetarian food, you may be wondering about seitan. It's made from wheat gluten, is a complete protein, and has the texture of meat. I hadn't eaten it in years, but found some at the Littleton Coop and decided to get it. You can also make your own, which would be much cheaper than buying it. You can find many sites with instructions - here's a great one with pictures:

I found this recipe in my vegetarian crockpot cookbook - Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker: 200 Recipes for Healthy and Hearty One-Pot Meals that are Ready when You Are by Robin Robertson (Harvard Common Press, 2004). The flavor was amazing.

2 T olive oil
1 pound seitan, cut into 1/2 inch slices
6 shallots, quartered (you could certainly use an onion if you have no shallots - we had some left over from the last Farmer's Market of the fall - if you use an onion, chop it roughly)
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz small white mushrooms, sliced or quartered
1/2 c vegetable stock
2 T tomato paste
1/2 c dry red wine
1 T minced fresh time or 1 t dried
salt and pepper to taste
[1/2 t Gravy Master or other vegetarian browning liquid]
3 and 1/2 or 4 quart slow cooker

1. Heat 1 T oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add seitan and cook until brown on all sides, about 10 minutes. Remove and set aside.
2. Return skillet to heat. Add other T oil. Add shallots and cook until softened and slightly brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
3. Place shallot mixture in crockpot. Add mushrooms and seitan. Stir in stock, tomato paste, wine, and dried thyme (if using). Season with slat and pepper. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.
4. Near the end of the time, stir in fresh time (if using).

The recipe suggests scooping out 1 c of mushrooms at the end and blending in a blender or food processor with the Gravy Master and then returning it to the pot to thicken the sauce. We had no Gravy Master, so I eliminated this step. Instead, I took a bit of sauce and mixed it with 1 t cornstarch and then returned that to the pot for about 5 minutes. It thickened the sauce enough for us.

This was wonderful served over quinoa, with a side of roasted asparagus.

March 17: Vegan Veggie Enchiladas

I love enchiladas. Really love them. But, since going back on the no-cheese diet, it's been hard to eat them. So, I wracked my brain to remember how I used to make vegan enchiladas - and came up with this recipe.

1 clove garlic, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1-2 T olive oil
1 8 oz package mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 package fresh spinach
1 15.5 oz can of beans (use your favorite - black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans - all are good)
approx 2 cups of cooked grain - rice, quinoa, again, whatever you like
4 flour tortillas (medium size or larger)
1 can enchilada sauce  (Note well -- all sauces are NOT created equal. Some cans of sauce are wonderful and some taste terrible - it's up to you to decide what you like.)
a 9x11 baking pan and some non-stick cooking spray
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1. Sauté the garlic and onions in the olive oil until soft, then add mushroom, cooking until they soften and get brown on the edges.
2. Add spinach - cook until it wilts a bit and reduces in size.
3. Spray cooking pan with non-stick spray, then pour 1/3 can of enchilada sauce into pan.
4. Place approx 1/2 c grain, 1/4 of veggie mixture, and 1/2 cup beans in the center of a tortilla. Roll. Place in pan. Repeat until all four enchiladas are made.
5. Top with remainder of enchilada sauce, cover with tin foil.
6. Bake at 350 for roughly 30 minutes. Uncover and bake another 5-10 minutes until sauce is bubbling.
7. Serve - We topped ours with some jarred salsa and a bit of vegan sour cream.

This makes four large enchiladas - enough for two meals for a family of two.

March 14: Iron Chef - Milan (aka, another Tofu Stir Fry)

After making many stir fries from the Wok Fast cookbook, I decided to go it on my own and see what I could come up with. So, based on what we had in the fridge and in the cupboard, here's my own version of a stir fry sauce. It was pretty good!

1/4 c vegetable stock
1/4 c cooking sherry
1/4 c sesame oil
1 T soy sauce
1 clove garlic
1 T chopped ginger
1 t corn starch

Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl, and when the stir fry is nearly done, add to the pan. Cook another minute or two and the sauce will thicken.

Two Stir-Fry Sauces

One of our Lenten lessons has been how little tofu you actually need to make a meal. It used to be that when we made a stir fry, we opened a container of tofu, pressed the tofu cake, and then used the whole container to make a stir fry, which David and I ate in a single sitting. What we learned is that we only need 1/3 of a container of tofu to make dinner for two.  So, once we open a container, we need to make three meals of the tofu in fairly short order - or then we have to throw the tofu away.

So, here are two yummy and easy stir fry sauces that can go over any stir fry - see the post below for some stir-fry basics. They both come from the cookbook called Wok Fast by Hugh Carpenter and Teri Sandison (Ten Speed Press, 2002). I think it's long out of print, but we found a used copy online last summer after a friend recommended it. "The sauces for stir fries are worth the price of the book," she said. She was right.

Cantonese Black Bean Sauce
1/4 c chicken broth (I used vegetable broth and it was just fine)
1/4 dry sherry or Chinese rice wine (I used cooking sherry)
1 T soy sauce
1 T sesame oil
2 t black bean garlic sauce (you can by this in the International section of any larger grocery store)
2 t corn starch
1 t sugar
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper, or Asian chile sauce (siracha would be great, I used a Thai chile sauce - and we like spice, so I used a bunch of it!)

Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl. When the stir fry is nearly done, add to the pan. Cook another minute or two and the sauce will thicken.

Spicy Peanut Stirfry Sauce
3 T chicken broth (I used vegetable broth again)
3  dry sherry or Chinese rice wine (I used cooking sherry)
3 T creamy peanut butter
2 T oyster sauce
1 T hoisin sauce
1 T sesame oil
1 T Asian chile sauce (again, siracha would be great, but what I had was a Thai chile sauce, and I used more than 1 T)
2 t cornstarch
(I felt like it could have been sweeter, so I added a bit of sugar, less than a t)
Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl. You might want to put the peanut butter in the microwave for 20 seconds to soften it). When the stir fry is nearly done, add to the pan. Cook another minute or two and the sauce will thicken.
Black Bean Sauce

Spicy Peanut Sauce

Monday, March 19, 2012

March 8: Vegan Quesadilla

So remember the rice and beans from the other night? We had leftovers, but not enough to make a full meal of just the rice and beans. We both love quesadillas, but now I'm dairy free, and traditional quesadillas have cheese.  So, I wondered if I could make a vegan version that tasted good and stayed together. We also had some of the warm tomato salad left over, so this used up all kinds of ingredients. The whole thing won for ease and also for allowing us to use food we might have tossed in a less careful week.

Main Ingredients
about 1.5 cups black beans
about 1.5 cups white rice
about 2 c spinach
3-4 mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 onion, finely chopped
Leftover warm tomato salad
small corn tortillas (2 per quesadilla)

1) Turn the black beans into simple refried beans. Put them in a fry pan with a bit of oil, and then as they heat up, mash them using a fork or a potato masher. Set aside.
2) Heat up the rice in the microwave - about 1 minute on high should do.
3) Cook up your veggies. I did a quick sauté of the onions and mushrooms (and probably some garlic) in a fry pan and then as I was taking it off the heat, I added the spinach and stirred it up so that it wilted.
4) Coat a fry pan with non-stick cooking spray. Heat it up. Put down one tortilla.
5) Build your quesadilla - start with the beans, press some rice onto them, top with veggies, top with warm tomato salad, put the other tortilla on top.
6) Heat until the bottom tortilla begins to brown, then very carefully FLIP the quesadilla. Heat the other side, slide onto a plate.

As you'll see below, without the cheese to hold it all together, some of the filling fell out. As my Mama would say, "It's all going to the same place!"

Well, maybe someday, but for some reason, this picture won't load. So, I'm calling it quits for now and heading to bed! Picture any quesadilla you've ever seen! :)

March 7: Marinated Tofu and Roasted Veggies

This winter, we became completely addicted to roasting vegetables. It's pretty fast and super flavorful. This whole dinner was on the table in about 35 minutes from start to finish. If you can let the tofu press for a couple of hours, that's great, but any time at all helps the marinade soak in.

Marinated Tofu
about 5 oz of tofu, pressed, and cut into slices (mine were about the size of a half-slice of regular bread, and just a tad thinner) - I got four slices out of 5 oz.
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 dry cooking wine or cooking sherry
about 1 T olive oil
1 clove chopped garlic
a nickel sized slice of ginger, chopped
a sprinkle of dried pepper flakes

1. Mix the marinade ingredients together.
2. Soak the tofu in the marinade, turning periodically. The longer you soak, the deeper the flavors.
3. Fry over medium high heat until the outside gets a bit crispy. Turn so that both sides get cooked. You can also braise the tofu in the marinade if you prefer.

Roasted Vegetables
You can roast just about anything, and frankly it's a bit like stir-frying, in that the harder the veggie, the longer you roast. If you are going to roast veggies together, you don't want to mix hard ones and soft ones - or you'll have some burned to a crisp and some raw. Tonight's collection was:
1. Chop the veggies into bite-sized pieces.
2. Put them in a bowl and top with olive oil then mix well.
3. Add spices (you could use salt and pepper, garlic powder, or make a mix of your favorite spices) - in this one I used zatar, a Middle Eastern spice mix.
4. Roast at 450 degrees.
5. The veggies are done when they begin to get brown on the outside. These took about 12 minutes.

March 6: Rice and Beans

If you are looking for a super easy supper that will give you as much protein as a meat-heavy dish, look no further than rice and beans. I don't understand the science of it, but I do know that when rice and beans are eaten together, they form a complete protein.

Weeks ago, we cooked three different collections of dried beans (pinto, kidney, black) and froze them in 2 cup bags. This meal was as easy as 1) make rice 2) thaw beans and re-heat them in a bit of water 3) put rice in bowl and top with beans 4) add a few veggies.

Since we had some tomatoes in the fridge that were going south fast, I made a version of the salsa that I canned this summer as my topping. If you can eat dairy, throw some cheese on top, too.

I called this Warm Tomato Salad:
2 tomatoes seeded and chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 jalapeño pepper
about 1/4 cup white vinegar
2 T sugar
Cook all these ingredients together in a small saucepan for about 5-10 minutes. Top rice and beans with the salad.

Tofu Stir Fry Basics

Looking over the pictures from the last few weeks, I can see that I've made a whole bunch of tofu stir fries. I'll do posts with the specifics of the sauces, but there are some basics to how to stir fry.

You really want to start by pressing the tofu.  You can press the tofu between two plates, or under a bowl with some water in it.  However you do it, if you get some of the moisture out, it will absorb more flavor.  At one point, David bought us a lovely little tofu press on  It's not super cheap, but I'd sent more bowls of water crashing onto the kitchen floor than I care to count!  So, for us this little gizmo was worth the $35 bucks.

Here's a stir fry basic recipe:
Press about 5 oz of tofu (this is a third of the cube that you get a normal size pack of tofu, and is a perfect amount for 2 average adults)
1 small onion, chopped
1-2 cloves of garlic, depending on your preferences
1-2 T oil, I use olive for everything. Others prefer canola or peanut.
a variety of vegetables - you really can stir fry almost anything. We love - carrots, broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms, brussels sprouts, pea pods, spinach, and peppers. Use what you love - leave out what you don't.

Chop the veggies into roughly bite-sized pieces, and as you chop them, sort them by hardness - carrots and brussels sprouts are super hard, broccoli, asparagus, are medium, pea pods and bean sprouts are pretty soft. Greens go last. Mushrooms are the exception. They are soft, but I like them well cooked. You want about 4 cups of chopped veggies for two people for supper.

Stir fry in this order:
1. Onions and garlic: 2-3 minutes
2. Tofu: 5 minutes or so
3. Mushrooms: can add with the tofu
4. Hard veggies: 5 minutes
5. Medium veggies: 3-5 minutes
6. Soft veggies: 2-3 minutes
7. Just before taking off the heat, throw in any greens like spinach: 1 minute or less

You know that you are done when green vegetables turn BRIGHT green. If you stop too soon they are too hard.  If you stop too late, they are squashy. You'll make a few mistakes at the start, but keep going. You can have a super inexpensive and scrumptious dinner on the table in 20-30 minutes, 

Top with some kind of sauce. You can be minimalist and just add a bit of soy. Or, in some following posts, I'll share some ideas.

Catching Up

We all know that old saying about the road to hell and good intentions! I'm happy to report that David and I have eaten a great deal of wonderful vegetarian food in the last two weeks.  And, that I photographed each meal before we ate it.  I'm sorry to report that I have not had time to sit down and write! 

So, my attempt this evening is to write a number of blog posts and get all the recipes up here. Thanks for your patience!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Fennel and Tomato Ragu

I know this Lenten discipline is supposed to be all about simple eating.  And, in many ways, it has been.  But sometimes, especially when you live in the North Country, you have to take what you get when you can get it.

I love fennel.  Really love it.  And, I have set aside countless recipes because fennel bulbs cannot be found in our lovely little IGA.  So, you can imagine my joy when, upon rounding the corner last week, I came upon TWO fresh fennel bulbs in the produce section.  I bought them both.  The next day, I happened upon the March 2012 issue of Vegetarian Times, which boasted simple one-dish suppers on the cover and happened to have a collection of fennel recipes, as well!  (And, did I mention vegan cupcakes?)

This recipe called to be served over orzo pasta.  We had rice, so that's how we ate it.

Fennel and Tomato Ragu [from Vegetarian Times, March 2012]
1/4 c sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
3 T tomato paste (we made our own, last summer - divine)
1 large fennel bulb, cut into 16 wedges (I wound up roughly chopping it)
2 c diced carrots
2 c chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 28 oz can, fire roasted tomatoes (we froze roasted tomatoes with garlic last summer, and used those)
2 15 oz cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

1. Place sun-dried tomatoes in a bowl, cover with boiling water, soak 30 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and set aside.
2. Coat dutch oven with cooking spray, heat over medium heat.  Add fennel, top with carrots and onions. Cook 5 minutes without stirring. Stir, then sauté for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Add in garlic, stir, cook 30 seconds.
3. Add tomatoes, beans, and sun-dried tomato mixture. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low. Simmer 20 minutes.
4. Serve over orzo or rice. (Or, frankly, anything that sounds good to you - I bet this would be delicious on roasted potatoes, or topping a baked potato.)

Miso Soup for Lunch

David's go-to lunch is crackers and cheese.  Now that I've pretty much sworn back off dairy (and eggs), I need some other go-to lunches.  Yesterday, I made us miso soup.  It's nearly as fast as crackers and cheese and so good. This recipe comes right off the miso container, which in this case is South River Certified Organic Hearty Brown Rice Miso - from my old stomping grounds of Western Mass (Conway, to be specific).  This version of miso is strong and very tasty.

Onion Miso Soup [adapted from South River Miso. Their recipe is for a pretty hefty batch of soup - my adaptation makes enough for 1 or 2, depending on how hungry you are.  The label says that you can get more Miso recipes on their website:]

1 T or so, olive oil
1 onion, roughly chopped
3 or four mushrooms, roughly chopped
2 C water
1 or 2 T miso (use more if you like a strong flavor, less if you want it more subtle)

1. Heat the olive oil in a sauce pan over medium heat.
2. Add the mushrooms and onions and sauté until they are soft and the onions start to turn brown.
3. Add the water, and bring to a boil.
4. Put the miso in a small bowl.  Add about 1/2 cup of the hot liquid from the soup to the miso, and stir until the miso is dissolved.  Add the miso plus liquid mix back into the soup.
5. Heat another minute or two until the soup is hot through.

I have a lovely picture of this soup, but it won't upload - have been trying for 30 minutes or so.  I'll post this now and upload later.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Leftovers Night: "Really Risqué" Fried Rice with Tofu

          Last night's supper was inspired by two things.  First, and foremost, we had leftovers that needed to be eaten or pitched.
          While not officially part of our Lenten discipline (though it probably should be) we are also trying to be more organized about what we'll actually eat.  With two people working it's easy to imagine that we will have time to cook, and then not have that time, and wind up throwing out food.  So, using leftovers creatively is a goal here.
          The other inspiration was my memory of how much we both loved earlier explorations of this dish!  This is a great recipe if you are new to stir-frying or new to wok cooking.  It's very easy and the flavors are wonderful.

Really Risqué Fried Rice (with Tofu) [adapted from Wok Fast by Hugh Carpenter and Teri Sandison, Ten Speed Press, (c) 2002.]
4 c cold cooked rice (white or brown)
1/2 c pine nuts
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped
3 scallions (didn't have any, so used 1 regular onion, chopped)
3 T oil (I used olive, my standard go-to)
1/2 c currants (didn't have any, forgot to add raisins!)
some tofu - this isn't in the original recipe, but I was looking to add some protein and make this a one dish supper, so I diced some leftover tofu into small squares, and tossed it in with the onions and peppers

"Really Risqué" Sauce (not sure why they call it this - it's not spicy or anything!)
1/4 c dry sherry
1/4 c tomato sauce (I had some home-made tomato paste to use up, so used that - it gave a slightly stronger than expected tomato flavor, but tasted good)
3 T oyster sauce
1 T hoisin sauce
1 T dark sesame oil (I only had regular and it was fine)
2 t cornstarch
1/2 t freshly ground pepper

1. Make the sauce - mix all of the ingredients together in a small bowl.
2. Put the cold rice in a ziploc bag and break up all of the clumpy bits.
3. Toast the pine nuts in a skillet until golden brown.
4. Stir fry your chopped veggies and tofu until cooked, but still firm.
5. Add the rice - cook until heated through.
6. Add the sauce - cook until hot.
7. Toss in the pine nuts just before serving.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Vegan Mac and Cheese with pan roasted Brussels sprouts

In late 2006, I was diagnosed with two food allergies: dairy and egg whites.  For about three years, I ate exactly what I was supposed to - no cheating at all.  But really, eating dairy and egg free can be a challenge for two reasons.  One is that living in rural areas, it can be hard to find ingredients to cook without dairy and eggs.  The other is that as a priest, I am often not in charge of my own food.  Potlucks, visits to people in their homes, and other church events, often leave me eating what others have cooked.  It just feels ungrateful to turn things down, or to start asking probing questions about what's in everything.

So, in 2010, I started taking medication that would allow me to eat whatever I want.  Frankly, the results have been mixed, and I was recently forced to admit that I don't feel as well as I did when I was not eating what my body did not want me to be eating.  So, I am back to eating more like a vegan.

My first experiment with vegan "Mac and Cheese" was really grim.  It was gloppy and tasted horrible.  This new recipe is truly amazing.  It has much of the consistency of Mac and Cheese, but doesn't leave you with a greasy feeling in your mouth like regular Mac and Cheese.  I did some adapting of the original recipe, based on what I had on hand - and we loved it.

Macaroni and "Cheese" [adapted from V Cuisine by Angeline Linardis, Whitecap Books, 2010].
3 T olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 T flour
1/4 c cooked carrot (I used a whole carrot, which was probably closer to a cup)
2 heaping T nutritional yeast
1 T chopped parsley (didn't have any, so I used about a T of dried tarragon, since I love it)
about 1/2 c unsweetened soy milk
1/2 t tumeric
1 t paprika (plus some for the top)
2 c cooked pasta (I had closer to 4 c on hand, so just used that, and the dish had a thinner sauce)

1. Cook the onions and garlic in the olive oil until softened.  Use the flour to make a roux, and then stir in the soy milk, stirring as you go.
2. Combine the onion-garlic-soy mixture with all of the other ingredients in a blender until smooth.  You may have to add more soy milk (I'm guessing I did because I used more carrot than the recipe called for).  Stop blending when you like the consistency that you get.
3. Mix the sauce with the cooked pasta.
4. Put it into large pie plate (I have a deep dish one) or 9x9 baking dish, sprayed with cooking spray.  Sprinkle with bread crumbs and paprika.
5. Bake at 350 for about 25 minutes.  The sauce should be bubbling and the topping golden brown.

We ate this with a side of pan roasted Brussels sprouts.  This recipe's a keeper!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday, February 24: Buffing up the Pantry

The other thing that we did today was cook beans.  I know in my heart of hearts that using dried beans is cheaper and better than using canned ones.  My problem is that I don't usually have (or make) the time.  I knew I'd be home all day working at the dining room table, so that I could swing cooking and freezing bunches of beans.

Last night, I set 2 pounds of dried black beans, 2 pounds of dried kidney beans, and about 2.25 pounds of dried pinto beans to soak.  Over the course of the day, I cooked them up, one batch a time.  Tonight, we put them in ziplock freezer bags, in quantities of 3 cups per bag.

The economics of using dried versus canned are pretty clear.  If memory serves, we bagged 12 cups of black beans and 15 cups of kidney beans and pinto beans.  These beans were organic - and we paid (per pound) 3.86 for the black beans, 3.82 for the kidney beans, and about 2.00 for the pinto beans.  That means that rather than paying somewhere between $1.00 and $1.50 for a can of beans, our cost was .97 for the black beans, .76 for the kidney beans, and .40 for the pintos!  Hooray.  

Friday, February 24: Marinated tofu, pan roasted brussels sprouts, rice

David and I decided we would dedicate as much of today as we could to working on our taxes.  On some Fridays, I cook something more involved, just because I can.  Today, taxes got our attention, so I made a simple supper.  Tonight's dishes came (mostly) out of my own head.  I would, however, be remiss not to thank my friend Lynne, who first introduced me to the idea of pressing and marinating tofu.

Lynne's tofu - adapted
roughly 7oz tofu, pressed to remove most of the liquid, cut into thin slices
1/4 c soy sauce
1/4 cooking sherry
about 1/8 cup olive oil
1 T ginger, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, pressed
about 1 t red pepper flakes
1. Mix together the marinade ingredients.
2. Marinate the tofu.  I kept mine in a tupperware on the counter all day and periodically turned it over, so that both sides of the tofu were soaked in the marinade.
3. Spray a non-stick skillet with cooking spray (or you could use olive oil).  Cook the tofu over medium high heat, flipping it once.  You want it to brown and develop a light crust.
4. I turned the marinade into a sauce - you couldn't get away with doing this if you marinated meat but you can with tofu.  Add a bit more soy and sherry to the marinade.  Place in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat.  Add 1t cornstarch, dissolved in some cool water.  Stir until thick.  Use to top the tofu and the rice.

Pan Roasted Brussels Sprouts
2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped or sliced
8 brussels sprouts, washed, ends trimmed off, and loose leaves removed
1/8 cup olive oil
1. Slice the brussels sprouts in half (top to bottom).
2. Heat the oil in a pan, over medium heat.  Add garlic.
3. Place the brussels sprouts in the pan, cut side down.  Cover the pan with a lid.  Roast until the cut sides are dark brown and the sprouts are cooked through.  Probably about 12 minutes.

We served the tofu and brussels sprouts with a side of white rice topped with the soy-sherry sauce.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Thursday February 23, 2012: Refried Beans and Guacamole

          Two years ago today, David and I met in the International Departures area of Dulles Airport.  We were both part of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia's pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and were awaiting the first leg of our trip - a flight to London.  Memories of that meeting are very clear for both of us.
          I was starving (this will surprise no one who knows me!) and decided I'd go find a snack.  I came back to my friend Anne with two tacos, along with some chips and guacamole.  There I was, up to my elbows in dripping tacos, when David came by to say hello to our little group and introduce himself.  After greeting us, he took one look at me and said, "You look like a girl who could use some napkins," and went off to find me some.  When he returned, I replied, "You look like a boy who could use some guacamole," and shared my snack with him (and the others around us).
         Neither of us had any inkling in that moment that less than three weeks later, we would be talking about a future together.  Our love for one another developed as we walked, talked and prayed together around the holy sites of the Holy Land.
          Last year, we decided that we should always commemorate this day with Mexican food of some kind.  There's not a Mexican restaurant in Coos County, so we opted to cook at home tonight.  Our menu - soft tacos with homemade refried pinto beans, guacamole, lettuce and tomatoes.  Perhaps not the simplest (or cheapest) vegetarian meal, but true to our tradition!

Refried Beans [From How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman, Wiley (c) 2007.]
1/4 C olive oil
3 C cooked pinto beans (I used 1 can, drained and rinsed - I planned to cook dried beans, but I simply ran out of time this week.)
1 C chopped onion
1 T cumin
salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper to taste
1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat.
2. Add the onions, and cook about 10 minutes, until they are golden brown.
3. Stir in the cumin and cook 1 minute longer.
4. Add the beans.  Mash them with a fork or potato masher.  They will heat through as you mash.
5. Top with salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper to taste.

Guacamole [Adapted from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman, Wiley (c) 2007, based on what I actually had in the house.]
2 avocados, sliced in half, and pitted
1 lime
approx 1/3 cup chopped onion (I used the rest of the onion from the refried beans)
cilantro (about 1/4 fresh - I only have cilantro in a tube)
1. Scoop the flesh of the avocado into a bowl or mortar and pestle.  Mash well.
2. Add onion, cilantro, lime juice, salt.  Mix well.
3. Taste. Add more of whatever you need to enhance the flavor.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ash Wednesday

I love Ash Wednesday.  I've been reading differing views about this day during quiet moments throughout the day.  Some love it - others hate it - finding it too gloomy and depressing.  As I said in my sermon this morning, I need this yearly reminder of how to live.  Ash Wednesday resets my internal compass and re-orients me back towards God.

I feared the busyness of this day might prevent my from actually cooking - but I was able to get home for a few hours.  David responded to the question, "Rice and Beans or Pad Thai?" with an enthusiastic "Pad Thai!"  Lacking a few ingredients, this isn't authentic Pad Thai, but it is a simple way to cook rice noodles and tofu.  (And, for the purists, isn't strictly vegetarian, as it contains 2 tablespoons of fish sauce).

Adapted Pad Thai (feeds 4) - [Adapted from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman, Wiley, (c) 2007.]

12 oz flat rice noodles
boiling water
peanut oil (or other neutral oil)
8 oz pressed tofu, cut into small cubes (pressing the tofu helps it to absorb flavor - you can do this by putting a plate on it, and a can on top of the plate - best done in the sink or with drainage!)
1 head of broccoli, chopped into small pieces

For the Sauce
2 T fish sauce
2 t ketchup
2 t sugar

For the Topping
1/4 cup chopped peanuts
1/4 c fresh cilantro (I only had cilantro in a tube, so I added it to the sauce!)
1 lime, cut into wedges

1. Place the rice noodles in a bowl and cover them with boiling water.  Leave to soak for 15 minutes, or so.  Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water.
2. Stir fry the tofu and broccoli in oil - start the tofu and add the broccoli after 3-4 minutes.  You want the to tofu to begin turning a lovely golden brown before putting in the tofu.
3. When the broccoli is bright green, remove the tofu and broccoli to a bowl.
4. Put the softened rice noodles into the hot pan, with a bit more oil (less than a T) then add the sauce ingredients.  (I mixed them together ahead of time, but the recipe did not call for doing so.)
5. When the noodles are heated through, add the tofu and broccoli back in.
6. Serve topped with chopped peanuts and a squeeze of lime juice.

Authentic Pad Thai would have some lightly scrambled egg and some bean sprouts, and would not have broccoli.  I can't eat eggs and we had no bean sprouts, so I changed it up.  Verdict - worth repeating.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Eating More Simply for Lent

          The alternative Old Testament passage for Ash Wednesday is from the prophet Isaiah (58:1-12, if you'd like to read the whole thing).  The passage that I've been meditating on for the last couple of weeks reads as follows: 
6Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? 7Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? 
          It's preceded by a collection of verses where God (speaking through Isaiah) chastises the people for fasting to suit their own purposes, all the while oppressing others in their midst.  This year, we want our Lenten discipline to make a difference.  This year, it's not enough for us to simply give up something we care about.  
          This year during Lent, David and I have decided to eat more simply.  For us, that means eating less food and mostly vegetarian.  We're going to try to cook at home more, to eat smaller portions, and to have the meals we prepare for ourselves be vegetarian. 
          We'll use this blog space to share what we do, to post pictures of the food we prepare, and to list the recipes we make, in case you'd like to join us periodically.  
          At the end of Lent, we plan to make a donation to Episcopal Relief and Development, using the money we saved from eating in our usual way, to essentially share our bread with those who are hungry.  We hope you'll join us.