Saturday, January 31, 2009

Tofu Scramble Burritos

Last night I went out and bought the ingredients to make my first tofu scramble, which was inspired by one of my newest favorite blogs, Yeah, that "Vegan" Shit. I decided to do a variation on their breakfast burrito filled with a tofu, vegetables, soysage (that's sausage made out of soy). I also added some pinto beans to the scramble that were hanging out in the fridge, to give the whole thing lots of protein.

To be honest, if I hadn't known there were tofu in this, I would have seriously thought it was eggs. The tofu was just as fluffy as scrambled eggs. I had never used Gimme Lean brand soysage, but it was really good. It captured the flavor of sausage, but honestly the texture reminded me of mashed beans, but not in a bad way. It took a while to break it up in the pan, though. I added Tex-Mex spices and lots of veggies to this, too, to make it well-rounded. Then, wrapped it all up in a whole-wheat tortilla. The best thing about scrambled tofu is, unlike scrambled eggs, the tofu is reheatable, so I have a few more days of a filling breakfast. This was very filling and energizing.

Tofu Scramble Burritos

1/2 tsp canola oil
1/8 tsp turmeric
1/4 finely diced onion
1/4 cup finely diced bell peppers, any color
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup seeded, diced tomato
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 cup drained, rinsed organic pinto beans
1/4 of a tube of Gimme Lean, sausage style
1/2 lb extra-firm tofu
salt and pepper, to taste (about 1/4 tsp of each or so)
Garnish: scallion and cilantro (optional)
2-3 Whole wheat tortillas

1. Heat a medium pan over medium heat. Add the oil and allow it to heat, about 30 seconds.
2. Add the turmeric to the oil, stir to combine, then immediately add the onions. Cook the onions until they are partially translucent, then add the peppers, garlic and tomato. Cook until the onions are translucent and the tomato moisture has evaporated.
3. Add the salt and pepper, chili powder, and cumin and stir to combine.
4. Add the beans and sausage to the vegetables. Break the sausage into little chunks with your spoon. Cook this mixture, stirring, until the moisture from the beans has evaporated and sausage and vegetables have started to caramelize, about 5 minutes.
5. Using your fingers, crumble the tofu into the pan. Stir to combine, and let cook about 5 minutes, or until the tofu has heated through and has started to caramelize.
6. Fold in some scallion and cilantro for garnish, taste the scramble for salt and pepper, and then roll the mixture into tortilla.

Servings: 2-3 burritos
For 1/2 of the scramble, in a tortilla
Calories: 296
Fat: 11.1 g
Saturated fat: 0.8 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 636 mg
Carbohydrates: 30.4 g
Fiber: 4.8 g
Sugar: 3.4 g
Protein: 17.5 g

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Spicy Oven Fries

When afternoon snack-time rolled around today, I happened to be at home but didn't really have anything to snack on. Then I thought about how good french fries sounded, and decided to make some homemade Spicy Oven Fries---which I have been making for myself since I was 12! These are much healthier than deep-fat fried ones, and have a lot more flavor too from all of the spices. Any spices will do for these, but herbs must be dried, because fresh herbs become blackened when they're roasted at a high temperature. Make sure to crush any dried herb in your palm to help release the oils. Though it may seem strange to spray the cookie sheet and toss the potatoes with oil, the oil on the potatoes isn't enough and they will definitely stick, so be sure to give the pan a thorough coating of cooking spray. These fries can be served as a snack, appetizer, or as a side dish.

Uncooked potatoes, ready to go into the oven!

Spicy Oven Fries

1 lb potatoes (about 1 large or 2 medium)
1/4 tsp salt + more, to taste
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp dried parsley
ground cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
cooking spray
fresh cilantro for garnishing, ketchup or other sauces for dipping

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
2. Cut the potatoes into thick matchsticks. You should be able to get about 30 fries or more from 1 lb of potatoes.
3. Line a large cookie sheet with foil. Spray the foil with cooking spray. Place the potatoes on the sheet and toss them with the salt, black pepper, chili powder, parsley, olive oil and cayenne (if desired). Spread the potatoes out so for the most part they aren't touching.
4. Bake the potatoes on the middle rack of the oven for 20 minutes. *Toss them and bake another 20 minutes or until they are crispy and golden. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with a little more salt, if desired. Remove the fries to a serving dish and sprinkle with chopped fresh cilantro.

*Note: for extra-crispy fries, turn the heat to 475 after flipping and then cook for 10-15 minutes.

Servings per recipe: 2
Per servings:
Calories: 180
Fat: 2.6 g
Saturated fat: 0g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 312 mg
Carbohydrates: 36.4 g
Fiber: 5.9 g
Sugar: 2.7 g
Protein: 4.0 g

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Crockpot Chole Curry

When one of my fellow grad students brought me back some spices after his trip home from India, I couldn't wait to cook something with them. One of the spices was chole masala, a dry spice mixture that goes with chickpeas, or chole. Curries with chickpeas are my absolute favorite because they generally have lots of spices, juicy tomatoes, and all the protein the chickpeas provide. Now that I have the chole masala, I feel like I can produce a relatively authentic, Indian/Pakistani chole curry.

My chole curry uses dried chickpeas, which are inexpensive, however they take a long time to cook. Therefore, the good ol' crockpot is a valuable tool. As opposed to just chucking all the ingredients in, this recipe calls for cooking the spice mixture separately, to yield a more authentic and well-developed flavor. You can do it without preparing the spices and tomatoes separately, but you won't have nearly the same level of flavor.

Crockpot Chole Curry

2 cups dried chickpeas
4 cups water
4 whole cloves
2 green cardamom pods
1/8 tsp cinnamon
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2" piece of ginger, grated
green chili (such as jalapeno or Serrano), to taste (optional)
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1 14.5-15 oz can petite diced tomatoes
2 tsp vegetable or canola oil
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp garam masala
2 tsp chole masala
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
ground cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)
1 cup water
salt, to taste
lemon juice and cilantro, to taste, for garnish

1. Rinse the chickpeas with water until the water runs clear. Add the chickpeas to a medium bowl along with the 4 cups of water and soak for at least 3 hours or overnight.
2. Heat a medium pan over medium heat. Add the oil and allow the oil to warm, about 30 seconds. Using the container they came in, apply some gentle pressure to the cardamom pods to slightly pop them open. Add them to the oil along with the cloves and stir-fry for 30 seconds.
3. Add the turmeric to the oil, stir to combine, then immediately add the onions, a little salt, to taste, and the cinnamon, garlic, ginger, and green chili (if using) and cook, stirring often, 3-4 minutes.
4. Add the tomatoes to the onion mixture and cook, partially covered, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes or until the mixture reduces and the oil starts to separate from the mixture.
5. Add the chole and garam masalas, cumin, cayenne pepper (if using) , and coriander and stir to combine. Cook for one minute longer. This mixture can be made at the same time the chickpeas are being prepped for their soaking and stored overnight in a separate dish. The spice mixture can also be prepared at the moment you put the chickpeas into the crockpot, however allow add the chickpeas and the crockpot to warm slightly, since you should not add hot ingredients to a cold crockpot or else it could crack the crockpot.
6. Without draining the chickpeas, add them to the crockpot along with the spice mixture (per the directions in step 5) , 1 cup of water, and salt. Cook over high heat for 6-8 hours or low heat for 8-10 hours. Add some cilantro and lemon juice to taste right before serving. Serve with basmati rice.

Servings per recipe: 6
Per serving:
Calories: 295
Fat: 5.9 g
Saturated fat: 0.7 g
Sodium: 417 mg
Carbohydrates: 49 g
Fiber: 13.8 g
Sugar: 11.7 g

Protein: 14.5 g

While the amount of water I'm using in this recipe has always seemed to work for chickpeas, it could be variable depending on how old or how large your chickpeas are. If your chickpeas have soaked up most or all of the water, you might want to double the water that is being added to the crockpot in step 6.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Red Lentil-Cauliflower Curry

The first time I had curry I was a freshman in college. My dorm cafeteria had chickpea curry and basmati rice on the menu one night. Having an adventurous pallet, I went for it. Well, it was love at first bite. After that, I started frequenting local Indian restaurants. I wasn't satisfied by that, though---I had to learn how to make this stuff myself!

Tonight I tried another adventure in curry making---a curry with red lentils, which I have never cooked with before. In their raw form, red lentils look more like neon orange, however in the cooking process their color mellows to a mustard yellow. They're quick-cooking, which is ideal for me because some curries take a long time to make! The recipe I made tonight was another one from Veganomicon (by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero). It was Red Lentil-Cauliflower Curry. The lentils and cauliflower had a buttery, creamy texture. The flavor was brightened by the addition of cilantro and lime. Parsnip, which is one of the vegetables in this curry, was a very unusual addition; I had never had curry with parsnip in it. I happen to love parsnips---they're like spicy carrots, and they added some sweetness to the curry. One thing that I did change was the addition of garam massala, because I didn't think the spices were assertive enough. I added the garam masala 10 mintues after adding the cauliflower. I also cut back on the oil. The recipe calls for 3 tbsp of oil, but I opted for cooking spray, which worked just fine. This dish would probably work equally well with potatoes or chickpeas. I had this with basmati rice, but since there wasn't a lot of gravy in this curry, it would probably be good with naan bread or chapatis as well.

Red Lentil-Cauliflower Curry

*cooking spray (or 3 tbsp grapeseed or peanut oil)
1 lg onion, chopped
1 lg chile pepper (jalapeno or serrano), minced
2 lg shallots
1 (1/2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 lg parsnip, peeled and chopped
2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 1/2 cups red lentils, sorted and rinsed
4 cups water or vegetable broth
1 1/2- 2 lbs cauliflower (about one medium-size head), trimmed and sliced into small florets
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
2 tbsp lime juice
1 1/2 tsp salt
*2 tsp garam masala
*extra 1/2 cup water

1. Have all of the ingredients chopped and readily at hand.
2. In a large stockpot, heat oil (*or cooking spray) over medium heat. Saute the onion and shallots until tender and translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the grated ginger and chile, and saute for 1 minute. Add the spices and briskly stir0fry for 30 seconds, then add the parsnip and stir-fry for another minute.
3. Slowly pour in the vegetable broth (or water), then stir in the lentils. Cover the pot, raise the heat to high, boil for 1 minte. Give the mixture a stir, then cover the pot and lower heat to medium-low. allow the lentils to simmer for 10 to 12 minutes. They should turn light yellow and look mushy.
4. Add the cauliflower florets and *extra 1/2 cup water, stirring to coast with the lentils. Partially cover and cook 10 minutes, then add the *garam masala. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes more, until the cauliflower is tender but not completely falling apart. Remove from the heat and stir in chopped cilantro, lime juice, and salt.
5. Allow the curry to sit, covered, for about 15 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to meld and the mixture to cool slightly. Makes 4-6 (really large!) servings.

For 1 of 6 servings (made without oil):
Calories: 216
Fat: 0.8 g
Saturated fat: 0 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 636 mg
Carbohydrates: 38.9 g
Fiber: 18.9 g
Sugar: 5.1 g
Protein: 15.2 g

As a side note, I just realized I forgot to add the turmeric. Turmeric doesn't do much in terms of flavor, but it would have made this whole thing a lot more yellow...

Blueberry Pancakes with Strawberries

Yesterday I went to Savannah, GA, with a couple of my friends to go to some of the
fabulous grocery stores they have there. I picked up some beautiful Florida berries. This morning, when I woke up I thought that there was no better way to eat those lovely berries than to put them in pancakes. Right before I went for my usual Betty Crocker pancake recipe, I thought I would challenge myself to making a batch of vegan pancakes. I've had a lot of trepidation about making recipes such as pancakes and quick breads vegan. I was afraid there wouldn't be any rise or golden-brown deliciousness. I was totally wrong. These pancake were as fluffy and as golden as any other non-vegan pancakes, and most importantly, they tasted really good too! The blueberries burst inside the pancakes, so it was like they had their own syrup already.

Blueberry Pancakes with Strawberries

For the pancakes:
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp organic cane sugar
1 1/2 cups light plain soy milk
2 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
50 large blueberries (about 1/2 cup)
non-stick cooking spray

1. Add the first four ingredients to a medium bowl and stir with a folk to "sift."
2. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the next three ingredients.
3. Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium heat. Add some cooking spray and pour in quarter cup-fulls of batter. Drop 5 blueberries onto the batter. Cook the pancakes until they are puffy and bubbles form on the edges. Flip and cook on the other side until they are golden-brown.
4. Serve warm, topped with some strawberries. Makes about 10 pancakes.

For the strawberries:

10 large strawberries
2 tsp organic cane sugar

1. Slice the strawberries and place in a small bowl with the sugar before making the batter. Set aside.

Makes 10 pancakes:
Per pancake, with 1/10 of the strawberries:
Calories: 109
Fat: 3.3 g
Saturated fat: 0 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 136 mg
Carbohydrates: 17.5 g
Fiber 0.8 g
Sugar: 4.5 g
Protein: 2.6 g

I noticed that while making the pancakes, some blueberry juices stuck to the bottom of the pan, however it didn't cause any problems with the pancakes. Between batches I made sure to spray cooking spray in between, and I used a non-stick skillet, so that could have helped with keeping any blueberry remains from marring the rest of the pancakes

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sun-Dried Tomato and Lentil Burgers

I received several cookbooks for Christmas this past year, and while I was at home I took advantage of my parents being available as taste testers for anything I prepared. One recipe that was a particular success was from the cookbook The Complete Vegan Kitchen by Jannequin Bennet. The recipe was for Sun-Dried Tomato and Lentil Burgers. The walnuts add a lot of crunch and the sun-dried tomatoes add sweetness. The burgers themselves are pretty delicate in texture, so be careful when flipping them in the pan. Don't do the flip-every-five-seconds-and-mash-down thing that some people do (you shouldn't do that no matter what your burger is made out of!)

The recipe calls for two cups of cooked lentils, however they don't tell you the proportion of dry lentils and water you need to yield two cups of lentils or even the best way to season them. I've developed my own recipe to use in this instance.

Lentils for the Sun-Dried Tomato and Lentil Burgers

1/3 cup brown, red, or yellow lentils
2 cups water
2 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
2 whole cloves
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper

1. In a saucepan, add the water, garlic, cloves, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat.
2. Add the lentils to the boiling water. Cover and drop heat to between medium-low and medium. Cook for 40 minutes or until the lentils are very soft and the water is absorbed.

*This can be done the night before you want to make the burgers. Extract the spices and place the lentils in a sealable container. Then proceed with the recipe.

Sun-Dried Tomato and Lentil Burgers

2 cups cooked brown, red, or yellow lentils
cooking spray**
1 small onion, finely diced
1 tsp minced garlic
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes, coarsely chopped***
1 tsp chopped fresh sage or 1/3 tsp ground sage
1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves or 1/8 tsp dried thyme
1/8 tsp black pepper

1. In a medium mixing bowl, mash the lentils with a potatp masher or fork.
2. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Spray with cooking spray and add the onion, garlic, and walnuts. Cook, stirring only occasionally, until the onion is browned. When the onion begins to collow, reduce the heat to medium and cook until the onion is caramelized and the walnuts have begun to toast, about 4 minutes.
3. Add the onion mixture to the lentils. Add the sun-dried tomatoes, herbs, and pepper to the lentils.
4. form the lentil mixture into 4 patties. Wipe the pan you used before clean with a paper towel and heat over medium-high heat. Spray with cooking spray. Fry the patties until they are nicely browned, about 5 minutes. turn and fry the other side, about 4 minutes.

**The recipe originally called for oil for sauteing, however I noticed the first time I made these that this oil was uneccesary as long as you are using a non-stick skillet. If you are using a regular skillet, divide 1 tbsp oil between the step for sauteeing the onions and for cooking the burgers.
***I couldn't find oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes at the store, but instead found the dry-packed kind. I used about 8 of them and reconstituted them in boiling water. I left them in the water for the length of time the onions were sauteing.

Serve these on whole-wheat buns with thick slices of tomato, purple onion, lettuce, pickles, and anything else that comes to mind!

Servings per recipe: 4
Per burger:
Calories: 178
Fat: 5 g
Saturated fat: 0 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 149 mg
Carbohydrates: 24 g
Fiber: 11.1 g
Sugar: 2.5 g
Protein: 10.7 g

Monday, January 19, 2009

Udon with Shiitake Mushrooms and Kale in Miso Broth

I received Veganomicon: the Ultimate Vegan Cookbook by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero for Christmas this past year, and it has turned out to be the best present. I haven't had a single recipe disappoint me. In my opinion, it's as much of a go-to cookbook as the Betty Crocker Cookbook or Better Homes and Gardens cookbook...all of which are full of classical dishes.

I made Udon with Shiitake Mushrooms and Kale in Miso Broth tonight for dinner. It was my first time cooking with miso, a thick paste made from the firmentation of rice, barley, or soybeans with a particular fungus. It smells a little like yeast bread dough. I chose to use a light miso, which has a milder, less-salty flavor. The recipe says you can either use light or dark, with the preface that you might want to add more of the light since it's less pungent. I ended up using the amount called for in the recipe, despite the fact that it was a milder miso.

I would describe the final product as very comforting. The udon had a really gentle ginger-garlic flavor, and was slightly sweet from the onions and miso. The mushrooms added and earthiness while the kale added a little bitterness, so the overall flavor was very balanced. There wasn't a lot of broth, but what was there was relatively thick and rich. It was very unusual in my opinion to rinse the pasta with cold water after cooking it, but I suppose if you hadn't the starch left on the outside of the pasta would have absorbed all the broth. I was really pleased with this recipe.

The one qualm I have with this recipe is that it calls for 2 tsp of soy sauce, but the directions never tell you when to add it. Therefore, I guessed it would go in along with the miso, and added an "*" by the word to indicate my assumption. Whether or not it was supposed to go in that step or even at all, the recipe turned out great nonetheless.

One other change I have made was to reduce the oil from 2 tbsp of vegetable oil to 1 tsp of canola oil. I feel that canola is more heart-healthy, plus if you are using a non-stick skillet, you don't need that much oil. By reducing the oil, the recipe went from 366 calories (9 g fat, 1 g saturated) to 296 calories (2.2 g fat, 0 g saturated). Feel free to change it back to the original version if you wish.

Udon with Shiitake Mushrooms and Kale in Miso Broth

1/2 lb fresh or dried udon noodles
1 tsp canola oil
1 medium-sized red onion, sliced into thin half-moons
4 oz shiitake mushrooms, stems trimmed, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp ginger, minced
2 tbsp mirin (optional)
2 cups water
3 tbsp miso
4 cups chopped kale
2 tsp soy sauce, or to taste

1. Bring a pot of water to boil. Cook the udon according to the package directions, about 10 minutes. When done, drain and rinse with cool water until ready to use.
2. Meanwhile, preheat a large skillet over medium heat. Saute the onion and mushrooms in the oil for 5 to 7 minutes, until the mushrooms are tender and the onions are soften but still have some crunch. Add the garlic and ginger, and saute for another minute.
3. Add the mirin, water, *soy sauce, and miso and bring to a gentle boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and add the kale. Toss the mixture around with tongs until the kale has wilted. Add the noodles and use a pasta spoon to stir them into the broth for about 2 minutes.
4. Divide the udon and vegetables among the bowls and spoon some broth over each serving.

Servings per recipe: 4
Per serving:
Calories: 296
Fat: 2.2 g
Saturated fat: 0 g
Sodium: 1357 mg
Carbohydrates: 59.4 g
Fiber: 5.7 g
Protein: 12.1 g

Creamy Basil Pesto, Spinach, and Artichoke Dip

Last night was game night/potluck at my friend's house. As always, it was a good time and there was plenty of good things to eat. We sort of ended up calling it a "dairy party," because we had brie and boursin cheeses, my Creamy Basil Pesto, Spinach, and Artichoke dip, and a really delicious frozen cheesecake pie. And we had chili, which kind of wrecked the impromptu "dairy party" theme, but whatever.

I hadn't made this dip in a long time, but I remembered it hanging out in my repertoire, so I decided to dust it off and give it another try. It ended up going over really well...actually, we sort of demolished it. But that's the whole point, isn't it?

Spinach and artichoke dips are on almost every restaurant menu I see, but a lot of times they disappoint me. Often, it seems like they've taken alfredo sauce and mixed a little artichoke and spinach in, which makes for a really weak dip. My dip is really all about intense garlic and basil flavor plus big chunks of artichokes and spinach. This isn't a wimpy dip. I like to use low-fat cream cheese and sour cream in here so I feel borderline virtuous. Any basil pesto will do; I tend to use the one in the pasta sauce section of the grocery store, because I can generally depend on it being there, plus I oftentimes have it on hand since pasta pesto is my all-time favorite thing to eat. But I diverge...

Creamy Basil Pesto, Spinach, and Artichoke Dip

1 8 oz package low-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
2 cloves garlic, grated
black pepper, to taste
8 oz low-fat sour cream
6 tbsp prepared basil pesto
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, divided
1 14 oz can water-packed artichoke hearts, drained
1 10 oz package frozen spinach, thawed

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In medium bowl, blend cream cheese with a hand mixer until softened. Blend in garlic, pepper, sour cream, basil pesto and 1/8 cup of parmesan cheese.
3. Inspect the artichoke hearts for any rough-looking chokes, and remove them if there are any. Roughly chop the artichokes and blend them with the hand mixer into the cheese mixture.
4. Place the spinach in a clean kitchen towel. Fold the towel up around the spinach and squeeze the living daylights out of it to remove as much green liquid as possible. Roughly chop the spinach and fold it into the cheese mixture withe a rubber spatula (do fold the spinach in, don't use the hand mixer, otherwise it makes a huge, tangled, spinachy mess on the beaters).
5. Lightly grease a 1.5 qt casserole dish. Smooth the dip into the dish and evenly top with remaining 1/8 cup Parmesan cheese. Place in the oven and bake until the edges brown.
6. Switch the oven to broil, and move the casserole dish so that it is about 5 inches from the heating source. Leave the oven door open slightly and watch it brown. The time it takes is really dependent on your oven. I like to keep an eye on it the whole time, because it will burn quickly. This is a good time to check your voice mail or catch up on gossip with friend over the phone. Whatever you do, just don't walk away from this because the moment you do, it'll burn.

Servings per recipe: 12 (or in our case, 6 adults and a 2 year-old baby)
Per serving:
Calories: 137
Fat: 11.3 g
Saturated Fat: 7 g
Cholesterol: 31 mg
Sodium: 148 mg
Carbohydrates: 5.9 g
Fiber: 2.3 g
Sugar: 0.5 g
Protein: 4.7 g

Serve this with crackers, melba toast, bread, pita wedges, crostini, or tortilla chips...basically anything that need to be topped with something creamy and hot. This is a great make-ahead dish. Just pop the cooled dish into a 350 degrees F oven until it's warm, and voila!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Tempeh with Mango Sauce

My room mate's friend left a mango at our place, and I couldn't bear to let it go to waste! I happen to love mango, but as much as the thought of eating it straight up was appealing, I was hoping I could do more with it. I had some 5-grain tempeh hanging out in the fridge, so the two came together. I made a sweet-sour-savory sauce with the mango to cover some lightly-crisped tempeh slices. The sauce was thick and rich, sort of like a chutney. I served the tempeh on a bed of whole wheat couscous with a side of steamed veggies (broccoli, carrots, water chestnuts, and edamame). Diced jalapeno may be included in step one for a little more kick.

Tempeh is totally delicious, so don't be turned off by it if you think it might be weird. It's basically a soybean cake, but unlike tofu, the whole bean is processed. Many times there are other beans and whole grains mixed in, giving it a nutty flavor and a lot of texture.

Tempeh with Mango Sauce

1 large, ripe mango, peeled, seeded and diced
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp freshly-grated ginger
8 oz tempeh
1 tsp canola oil, divided
1/4 tsp ground coriander seed
1/4 tsp ground cumin seed
1 tsp minced fresh parsley or cilantro
1 tbsp natural rice wine vinegar (aka: unseasoned rice wine vinegar)
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp honey or agave nectar

1. Cut the tempeh into 4 pieces. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 tsp of the oil and distribute the oil around the pan. Place the tempeh pieces into the pan and allow to brown, about 3 minutes. Flip the tempeh pieces over and brown on the other side, about 3 more minutes. Set the tempeh aside on a place.
2. Maintaining the medium-high heat, add the remaining 1/2 tsp of oil into the pan, allow to warm about 30 seconds, then add the mango, onion, garlic, and ginger. Saute the mixture about five minutes, or until the onions are translucent, stirring often. Break up the mango chunks with the back of a spoon.
3. Sprinkle in the coriander and cumin and stir them into the mango mixture. Allow the mixture to cook 1 minute more.
4. Add the soy sauce, honey or agave nectar, and vinegar and stir to combine. Drop the temperature to medium and cook 3 more minutes or until the sauce darkens slightly. Stir in the coriander or parsley.
5. Push the sauce aside in the pan. Add the tempeh back and top each piece with some sauce. Cook 1 minute more, then flip, recover the tempeh with the sauce, and then cook 1 minute more.
6. Serve the tempeh atop a bed of rice, couscous, quinoa, or another favorite grain.

Servings per recipe: 4 (or 2, if you are very hungry)
For 1 of 4 servings:
Calories: 168
Fat: 6.4 g
Saturated fat: 1.3 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 233 mg
Carbohydrates: 19.8 g
Fiber: 1.2 g
Sugar: 11.1 g
Protein: 11.4 g

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Quinoa Vegetable Soup

Sometimes the best recipes come out of a moment of desperation: like, I'm hungry NOW and I don't think I can throw anything I have together to make something delicious---yet you still are able to come up with something. That actually happened to me today. I had a stocked pantry, yet nothing would combine well...or so I thought.
I recalled a recipe I saw on one of my favorite cooking blogs, (posted on my sidebar). It was for a quinoa soup. I had basically everything I needed for it, so I went for it, just with my own little spin, simply because I don't have a pressure cooker here with me in Georgia. This soup is really more of a method than a recipe because you can add whatever veggies or legumes you have on hand. I added canned chickpeas and frozen corn, peas, and green beans. It turned out to be just the thing I needed on a cold day.
Quinoa, by the way, isn't a grain at all. It's a seed, or "pseudocereal" that is indigenous to the Andean region of South America. The flavor is similar to rice, in my opinion, but the granules of quinoa "pop" as you eat them, which is very fun.

Quinoa Vegetable Soup

1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
2 c assorted vegetables and/or legumes (canned or frozen)
4 c vegetable broth
1/4 c quinoa
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Heat a large saucepan over medium high heat. Add the oil and heat about 1 minute. Add the onion and garlic and saute until they are tender, stirring often, about 5 minutes.
2. Add the broth and vegetables and turn the heat to high to bring the mixture to a boil.
3. Add the quinoa and stir to combine. Put a lid on the pan and drop the heat to medium-low. Cook for about 20 minutes or until the quinoa are plump and al dente.

Servings per recipe: 2
Per serving:
Calories: 285
Fat: 5.4 g
Saturated fat: 1.1 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 1541 mg
Carbohydrates: 40.6 g
Fiber: 8 g
Sugar: 7.6 g
Protein: 19.2 g

Friday, January 16, 2009

Tofu and Broccoli in Garlic Sauce

I love tofu and broccoli in garlic sauce from Chinese restaurants. The last time I had it, however, the sauce was greasy, even with steamed tofu! It was then I decided to make a healthier version. My healthier version has lightly crisped tofu chunks with lots of steamed broccoli and a garlicky, gingery sauce. Low sodium soy sauce may be used for this recipe, too, to help reduce the sodium content. Feel free to add red pepper flakes or Szhechuan hot sauce to the marinade.

Tofu and Broccoli in Garlic Sauce

1 lb extra-firm tofu
1/4 c honey or agave nectar
1/3 c soy sauce
1/2 c water
1/8 c natural rice wine vinegar (aka: unseasoned rice wine vinegar)
4 tsp corn starch
1 tbsp canola oil, divided
1/2 cup water
6 cups broccoli florets (about 3 large broccoli crowns)
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tbsp finely minced ginger
4 cups prepared rice, brown or white

1. Cut the tofu into 3/4" cubes.
2. Combine the honey or agave nectar, soy sauce, 1/2 cup water, and rice wine vinegar into a shallow bowl. Add the tofu cubes to the soy sauce mixture, tossing to coat. Make sure all the tofu is submerged. Marinate for at least 30 minutes to an hour.
3. Heat a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add 2 tsp of the oil. Remove the tofu cubes from the marinade, and allow the excess to drip off the cubes before adding them to the hot pan. Reserve the marinade. Cook the tofu cubes until they are caramelized on most or all of the sides, about 15 minutes.
4. Remove the tofu cubes to a plate. Add the remaining 1 tsp of oil and then add the garlic and ginger. Stir-fry the garlic and ginger 1 minute, then add the broccoli and remaining 1/2 cup water. Allow the broccoli to steam, stirring frequently. Once the water has evaporated, the broccoli should be tender-crisp.
5. Add the cornstarch to the marinade and blend thoroughly. Add this mixture to the broccoli and drop the heat to medium; bring the sauce to a boil. Add the tofu cubes to the sauce and allow the whole mixture to cook together about 3 minutes more, stirring often.
6. Serve over rice.

Servings per recipe: 4
Per serving, without rice:
Calories: 263
Fat: 10.7 g
Saturated fat: 1 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 1254 mg
Carbohydrates: 31.8 g
Fiber: 4.3 g
Sugar: 20.6 g
Protein: 16.6 g

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Sweet Potato Crisp

Sometimes it's difficult for me to think of dishes that are distinctly "Indiana," however there is definitely one that comes to mind because whenever I mention it to people from other places, I generally get a confused looks from them. This is a dish that generally hits my family's table every autumn and winter for the holidays. The dish I am talking about is called Sweet Potato Crisp. Most sweet potato dishes consist of mashed sweet potatoes with marshmellows on top, but this is a spiced sweet potato mash heaped with a pecan and oatmeal crumble. My grandma serves this as a side dish (we like things sweet in Indiana) but I think it's certainly suitable as a dessert. This is my spin on a classic Hoosier dish.

Sweet Potato Crisp

For the sweet potato mash:
3 lg sweet potatoes (about 1 lb)
1/4 c white sugar
1/4 c brown sugar
4 tsp margarine or butter, softened
pinch of salt
1 egg, beaten
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon

For the crumble topping:
1 1/2 c oats (old-fashioned or rolled oats are both fine)
1/4 c unbleached flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 c sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c butter or margarine
1/4 c chopped pecans

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Scrub the potatoes and wrap them in foil. Place in the oven and roast for about 1 hour or until soft.
2. Remove the potatoes and allow them to cool so that you can handle them (alternatively, cool them to room temperature and leave in the fridge till the next day). Reduce (or preheat) the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Remove the flesh from the potatoes; discard the skin. Mash the potatoes with a fork or potato masher, then add the rest of the "mash" ingredients. For a smoother consistency, whip with a hand mixer. If using warm potatoes, add the egg slowly while blending it into the potato mash to prevent curdling.
3. Spray a 1.5 qt baking dish with non-stick spray. Pour in the potato mash.
4. For the topping, melt the butter in a bowl, and then blend in the rest of the ingredients until it forms small clumps. Pour the crumb mixture all over the potato mash to the edge of the dish. Bake for 35 minutes or until it is browned on top. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Servings per recipe: 10
Per serving:
Calories: 302
Fat: 12.6 g
Saturated fat: 6.3 g
Sodium: 114 mg
Carbohydrates: 45.5 g
Fiber: 3 g
Sugar: 28 g
Protein 3.5 g

Monday, January 5, 2009

Garlic and Cinnamon Roasted Potatoes and Mushrooms

I happen to love roasted vegetables. Roasting intensifies the flavor of any vegetable, plus it makes the outside crispy while making the inside soft, and in the case of potatoes, very creamy. Different kinds of vegetables can be combined on one pan, so you can have variety in one dish. Roasting a mixture of vegetables is great for company, because it decreases your need for a lot of side dishes, thus decreasing the amount of work for you! A lot of times for dinner I will just make a whole bunch of vegetables and have a huge plateful, plus a salad. If you wrap your baking sheet in foil, cleanup is virtually nonexistent-all you have to wash is the cutting board, knife and vegetable peeler.

This particular roasted vegetable mixture was inspired by a meal I had at a restaurant where I live in Georgia called Emma's. I had the only vegetarian main-course on the menu, which included a garlicky sweet potato, white potato, purple potato, mushroom and red bell pepper hash. It was delicious, but I figured I could accomplish a similar dish with roasting. The result of my effort combines potatoes with mushrooms as well as an unlikely pair: garlic and cinnamon. The garlic turns sweet as it is roasted. As far as the cinnamon goes, most people think of it as a sweet spice, however it is only sweet because it is commonly combined with sugar. Cinnamon by itself simply supplies warmth to a dish. The potatoes become sweet and creamy and the mushrooms add an earthiness to balance the whole dish.

Garlic and Cinnamon Roasted Potatoes and Mushrooms

3 cups cubed Idaho potatoes (peeling them is optional; about 2 medium potatoes)
3 cups cubed sweet potatoes, peeled (about 2 medium potatoes)
4 oz sliced cremini mushrooms (aka: baby portobellas)
4 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
1/4 tsp salt (preferably coarse kosher or sea salt), divided
1/4 tsp black pepper, divided
1 tbsp dried parsley, divided
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
2. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and thoroughly spray the foil.
3. Crack the garlic cloves with the side of a knife. Remove the peel.
4. Add the potatoes, whole garlic cloves, 1 1/2 tbsp oil, 1/2 tbsp parsley, 1/8 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp pepper and the cinnamon to the baking pan. Toss the ingredients around with your fingers to thoroughly coat everything. Place in oven and roast 35 minutes, tossing one to three times during cooking.
5. Meanwhile, add the mushrooms to a small bowl and toss with remaining 1/2 tbsp oil, 1/2 tbsp parsley, 1/8 tsp salt aand 1/8 tsp pepper. Once the 35 minutes have ellapsed, toss the potatoes with the mushrooms. Roast 10-15 more minutes, or until mushrooms are softened and browned, tossing once in between.

Servings per recipe: 4
Per serving:
Calories: 281
Fat: 7 g
Saturated fat: 1 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 208 mg
Carbohydrates: 50 g
Fiber: 8 g
Sugar: 11.5 g
Protein: 5.6 g

Roasting vegetables is purely a method, so apply this method to any other firm veggies. Be sure not to use fresh herbs, however, because they'll burn to an unappetizing crisp in the oven.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Pomegranate, Apple and Pecan Salad with Pecan-crusted Goat Cheese and Honey-White Wine Vinaigrette

Pomegranates are one of my favorite fruits because not only are they delicious but also packed with antioxidents. Since they are only in the store during winter, I like to take advantage of their availability as much as possible. Besides eating them as is, they are awesome in a salad because they add the elements of sweet and tart plus crunch from the seeds. That brings me to one important point: yes, the seeds are edible. I've seen many people trying to nibble the fruity parts off of the seed but that is totally not necessary...and exceedingly tedious. The little "berries" inside the pomegranate are actually called arils. To remove the arils from the fruit, there are two basic methods that I have used. For one of them, remove the top and bottom of the fruit, then score the outside of the fruit with a knife. Then, insert the whole thing into a bowl of water and pull apart and scrape the arils out. The white pith will float to the top and the arils will sink. The other method has to be my favorite-I call it the bashing method, where you score the fruit as above, however instead of twisting the fruit under water, twist it over a bowl and then bash sections of the broken fruit with a wooden spoon. With the bashing method, however, the arils tend to break a little more, increasing your chances of getting juices everywhere---it's such a great stress reliever so I think it's worth it, however. Plus, if you are adding the arils to a salad, the juices just get added to the dressing and flavor the salad. I've created a salad here that incorporates pomegranates along with warm goat cheese.

Pomegranate, Apple and Pecan Salad with Pecan-crusted Goat Cheese and Honey-White Wine Vinaigrette

For the dressing:

3 tbsp honey
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Blend vinegar and honey in a bowl.
2. Slowly whisk oil into vinegar-honey mixture.
3. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

For the pecan-crusted goat cheese:

1 6-oz log of goat cheese, very cold
2 tbsp plain or seasoned bread crumbs
2 tbsp ground pecans
salt and pepper, to taste
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Heat a medium oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat.
2. On a small plate, combine bread crumbs, pecans and salt and pepper, to taste.
3. Cut the goat cheese into 8 slices with a very sharp knife or unflavored dental floss.
4. Coat each piece of cheese with the bread crumb-pecan mixture, gently pressing the crumb mixture into the cheese.
5. Add the oil to the skillet, allow to warm for about 30 seconds, then add coated cheese slices.
6. Allow the cheese to cook for about 3 minutes, then place the cheese in the oven and continue cooking, 5 more minutes until lightly browned.
7. Remove the cheese from the oven and rest in the pan, 5 minutes.
8. Top each salad serving with 2 slices, flipping the slices over to show the well-browned bottom side.

For the salad:

5 oz mixed salad greens
1 medium crisp apple (such as gala), thinly sliced
arils of half a pomegranate
1/4 c chopped pecans

1. Add all ingredients to a large salad bowl.
2. Once the goat cheese has finished resting, dress with honey-white wine vinaigrette.
3. Divide salad onto four serving plate.
4. Top each plate with 2 of the goat cheese slices.

Servings per recipe: 4
Per Serving:
Calories: 411
Total fat: 28 g
Saturated fat: 12 g

Cholesterol: 45 mg
Sodium: 185.5 mg
Carbohydrates: 27 g
Fiber: 1.7 g
Sugar: 13 g
Protein: 15 g

This salad is has been prepared as a meal-sized salad, however it can be divided into eighths for an appetizer-sized salad.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Bean and Cabbage Stew and my birthday

I'm at home with my family in Indiana for the holiday season, and since it was New Year's, we had to eat something with cabbage in it (in this part of the country, cabbage is the food that symbolizes prosperity, whereas in ot her parts of the country it's blackeyed peas or lentils). Last night, we made a recipe we've been ma king for years. It comes from the book FOOD by Susan Powter, which is a great lifestyle/recipe book-very inspirational stuff. Anyway, the recipe is Bean and Cabbage Stew, and it's probably the healthiest thing you could ever eat-great when your sick. I consider it a blank canvas because you can do so much with it-chuck in whatever herbs and veg you like-be creative. The recipe calls for caraway seeds, and I don't care for them much, so I'll list them as optional.

Bean and Cabbage Stew

1 tbsp vegetable oil (I use extra virgin olive oil)
1 large onion, chopped
3 medium potatoes, peeled an d cut into 1-inch cubes
3 medium carrots, sliced
1 1/2 tsp caraway seeds (optional)
2 1/2 c vegetable broth
4 c cabbage chunks
1 c frozen peas
1 14.5-15 oz can Great Northern beans
1 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp black pepper

1. Heat oil in a large skillet. Add onion, potatoes, and carrots. Cook until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.
2. Add caraway seeds (if using) and saute for 1 more minute. Add broth and cook until carrots are almost tender, about 7 to 10 minutes.
3. Add cabbage and peas and cook for 10 minutes, covered. Add beans, salt, and pepper, and cook 5 more minutes, uncovered.
4. Check vegetables and seasonings, and serve.

Serving size: 20 oz
Servings per recipe: 4
Per serving:
Calories: 313
Fat: 4 g
Saturated fat: 0 g

Powter, Susan, FOOD, New York, New York: Simon & Schuster Inc, 1995.

Last but not least, it's my birthday today! The funny thing is, instead of going out for any fancy dinner, I'd much rather go out to my favorite little Chinese restaurant here in town. I'll probably do just that, too! I guess I am a person who enjoys simplicity, well, occasionally, that is.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A new year, a new inspiration

Happy 2009 everyone! Thanks to the support of friends and family, I have been inspired to start a blog of my cooking escapades. The focus of this blog will be of course, cooking and recipes. Maybe I'll throw a cookbook review in for kicks-my collection is always growing!

As for my cooking, I like to draw inspiration from my travels. While I still cook many of my favorite dishes that I came to love growing up in Indiana, all the places I have been influence me every time I step into the kitchen.
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