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.