Monday, February 28, 2011

Vegetable Enchiladas



I've made vegetable enchiladas before, but the ones I made this past weekend were the best!

The canned enchilada sauce - in this case, La Victoria (mild) brand - makes a world of difference in terms of taste. I've made enchilada sauce from scratch in the past, with so-so results. Having tasted the canned version, I really don't have a desire to go back to homemade.

The recipe for these vegetable enchiladas comes from Sunset Magazine. I began subscribing to Sunset last year primarily for its landscaping design articles. But, Sunset also has some good vegetarian recipe write-ups.

I did modify Sunset's recipe to make what was already a fairly healthy version of vegetable enchiladas even more healthy. Specifically, I substituted canned refried beans with this semi-homemade version I found online at Pinchmysalt.com. The semi-homemade version is essentially the same recipe found on cans of pinto beans purchased at Latin markets and contains way less sodium than that found in canned refried beans. In addition, I replaced the corn tortillas with whole wheat tortillas.

This dish is really simple to make. As you can see from the photo above, I served the enchiladas with a simple side salad and saffron rice. I highly, highly recommended you try this recipe!

Vegetable Enchiladas (from Sunset Magazine)
(9x13-inch Baking Dish Version)
Serves 6-8
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 8 ounce bag of spinach leaves
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 15-ounce can refried beans (or make own using semi-homemade version above)
  • 1 15-ounce can low-sodium black beans, drained
  • 10 corn (or whole wheat) tortillas, quartered
  • 19 ounces (approximately) canned enchilada sauce (I used two 10-ounce cans of La Victoria)
  • 1 cup (I used about 1 1/2 cups) Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
  • green onions, sliced, for garnishing
  • Vegetable oil
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

Heat approximately 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until they become translucent, about 3-5 minutes. Add the spinach leaves and continue cooking and stirring until they start to wilt. Add the corn and continue cooking until heated through. Set this spinach-corn mixture aside.

Spread one-third of the enchilada sauce over the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish and top with one-third of the tortillas. Layer with the refried beans, the black beans and half of the remaining enchilada sauce. Top with one-third of the cheese.

Next, layer with half of the remaining tortillas, all of the spinach-corn mixture and half of the remaining cheese. Top with the remaining tortillas, the remaining enchilada sauce and the remaining cheese.

Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, until the sauce starts bubbling and the cheese has melted. Garnish with the green onions before serving.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Salt-free Vegan Vegetable Bouillon Cubes - Free Shipping!

I mentioned in an earlier post that I would probably have to find a better deal online, rather than Amazon.com, because I couldn't find a free-shipping option for the salt-free vegan vegetable bouillon cubes. Perhaps I missed it, but I just came across this on Amazon.com this evening:

http://www.amazon.com/Rapunzel-Pure-Vegetable-Bouillon-2-4-Ounce/dp/B001E5DZJS/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&s=grocery&qid=1298694519&sr=8-6

Time for me to stock up!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Pasta Al Pesto (with Gardein Chick'n Filets)



No chicken was used in this dish. Seriously.

Earlier this year, I saw Gardein (garden + protein) chick'n filets at my local natural foods grocery store and decided to try them out. I was fully expecting to dislike them, but they actually taste quite good. Even though I have not had any chicken since turning veg in 2007, I can say that these filets do not really taste like chicken; rather, they taste like a more flavorful seitan. The texture of the filets is also similar to seitan, which is not surprising given that both contain wheat gluten.

This pasta al pesto (approximately two servings), is really simple to make, especially if you use pre-made basil pesto from your grocery store.

Cook approximately 12 ounces of pasta (really, any kind will do) in a large pot of boiling water.

While the pasta is cooking, heat approximately one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Dredge the Gardein filets (from one package containing 4 filets) in some flour and cook in the skillet, approximately 4 minutes per side. Remove the filets from the skillet and cut them into bite-size strips.

Add the pre-made basil (7 ounce container) to the skillet and heat through. Add the chick'n strips. Reduce heat enough to keep the pesto and chick'n strips warm while the pasta is still cooking. Add the cooked pasta to the skillet, toss, and serve.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Vegetarianism all the rage in MMA, from Yahoo! Sports

Arnold Amateur Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) Competition
Arnold Amateur Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) Competition, from flickr member fightlaunch

Article profiles the vegan/vegetarian diets of Mixed Martial Arts fighters Jon Fitch, Jake Shields, Nick Diaz, Nate Diaz, and Mac Danzig.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Amazing Raw Food in Washington, DC

a raw-food pizza..
"a raw-food pizza" by flickr member francistoms

I hesitate to post this, because it might make it harder for me to book a reservation for next month!

Last Friday night, my partner and I, and five others, went to a "restaurant" that served only raw food. The word "restaurant" is being used here in quotes, because it is my understanding that the chef, Elizabeth Petty of Elizabeth's Gone Raw, rents out the space, a rowhouse on L Street, NW, a few times every month to host these special events. The dining room seats about 75 people.

As a lead-up to Valentine's Day, every course served on Friday contained raw cacao as an ingredient. I regret not having taken any photos of each dish with my iphone, but the full menu description from that evening can be found here. The dishes were served in the following order: 1) rosemary pear soup with chocolate creme fraiche; 2) spinach salad with fennel; 3) chocolate hemp cracker; 4) chocolate coffee sorbet; 5) chocolate coconut spring roll on spicy kelp noodles (blew me away!); and 6) cacao cake with lavender (again, blew me away!). While we were waiting to be seated, we got to munch on "cheesy" (from nutritional yeast, I assume) kale chips, while drinking a glass of bubbly.

In a nutshell, it was the best vegan dining I have ever experienced. By evening's end, I was full, but not stuffed. And no, I was not eating cold food. Almost every course was served at, or close to, room temperature. More information about upcoming events, hosted by Ms. Petty, can be found here.

Personally, I would like to incorporate some raw food as part of my own diet. I do have a raw foods cookbook, but I have avoided trying any recipes from it because of the extensive preparation required and, let's be frank, the significantly higher costs associated with purchasing fresh vegetables. (There's just something wrong when you find yourself paying $2.99 per pound for red or green bell peppers, yet, thanks to generous federal subsidies, you would only be paying $1.79 per pound for corn-fed pork chops. And do not even get me started on the poor-people-are-overweight-because-they-lack-any-sense-of-personal-responsibility stance you often hear from some our political representatives.)

A final word in this post on the subject of my own diet: I am down exactly 10 pounds since the start of the new year, thanks to portion control and exercise (spinning and tennis). Woo hoo! Recently, I received the book, The Carb Lovers Diet. I purchased it, because, well, I LOVE pasta. I'm still going through the book and am looking forward to sharing any interesting information from it that I come across.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Salt-Free Vegan Vegetable Bouillon Cubes



Early last year, I came across these vegan vegetable bouillon cubes by Rapunzel, with no salt added, at a natural foods grocery store called Jandi's in Oceanside, New York. Jandi's, by the way, is awesome. It even has a vegetarian deli!

Nowadays, I rarely purchase cartons of vegetable broth. Even those cartons of low or reduced sodium vegetable broth still contain, in my opinion, too much sodium. These eight vegan cubes per package make approximately 16 cups of broth. These are especially great to have when you're making soups that call for 6 or 8 cups of vegetable broth. Rather than having to open two cartons of veggie broth, I just toss 3 or 4 cubes directly in the cooking pot, along with 6 or 8 cups of water, and stir until the cubes dissolve.

They're very flavorful. I had been ordering these from Amazon.com and getting free shipping. The Amazon.com reviews for this product are generally positive. Unfortunately, I don't see the free shipping option anymore on that website, so I may have to see if Whole Foods has them in stock or find a better online deal.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Black Bean Soup



A few weeks ago, I had the vegetarian black bean soup at the Au Bon Pain near where I work.

I found a similarly good recipe for vegan black bean soup posted by YCHRISTINE at allrecipes.com. I followed the recipe exactly as written.

Thumbs up!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Kale Lasagna Diavolo



Wow! Happy New Year! It's been a loooong time since I last posted anything on this blog. The lack of posts (since July) was the result of a couple of things: 1) things got really busy at my day job (labor lawyer) so I found myself eating much of the same ol' same ol' (honestly, I'm tired of penne alla vodka) for the last six months ; 2) some blogger burnout (I've got nothing but respect and admiration for y'all who post daily or close to that!) and 3) home renovation projects that suddenly had to get done and paid for (rain water seeping into the basement as result of a concrete patio tilting toward the house is probably not a good thing).

In the meantime, I had gained a ton of weight (actually 15-17 lbs) because of stress caused by nos. 1 and 3 above. This year, though, I started a low calorie diet and have, since, lost 6 plus pounds. I'm not doing anything trendy to lose weight. I'm not depriving myself of any particular food desires. But, by habitually watching what I eat and controlling my portion sizes, I've gotten accustomed to feeling full and satisfied after each meal.

Thus, I was full after having just 1 1/2 servings of this relatively low-calorie, low-cost kale lasagna, the recipe for which came from the January/February s issue of Vegetarian Times. This past weekend, I made this lasagna a second time and froze individual portions for the weekday. It's cheaper than buying Amy's frozen lasagnas. It's simple to make and delicious. I did make more sauce than called for in the original recipe this past weekend. I also added some dried Italian seasoning, because I did find the sauce somewhat plain-ish the first time around. These changes are reflected in my listing of the ingredients below.

Kale Lasagna Diavolo
Serves 6-8

  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 8oz bunch kale, stems removed
  • 1 15 oz package fat-free ricotta cheese
  • 4 oz chevre or goat cheese.
  • 3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped (original recipe calls for 2 cloves)
  • 1 28 oz can tomato puree (original recipe calls for 2 cups)
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes(original recipe calls for 1/2 tsp)
  • 9 lasagna noodles, cooked and drained (Depending on their size and the size of your baking pan, you may need more or less noodles for this 3-layer lasagna. Original recipe calls for 6 lasagna noodles to be layered in an 8 x 8-inch baking pan.)
  • 1/4 cup or so grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp dried Italian seasoning or 1/2 tsp dried oregano and 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat an 8-inch square pan or (in my case) a 7 x 11-inch baking dish with oil. Cook kale in a large pot of boiling water for about 2 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. (To save time, you could remove the leaves using tongs and cook the noodles in this water.) Using your hands, wring out the water, chop the leaves, and them aside.

Using a fork, thoroughly mash the ricotta and chevre together in a bowl and set it aside. Heat 1 tsp of olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for about 1 minute. Stir in the tomato puree, the Italian seasoning, and salt and pepper, to taste, and simmer for about 5 minutes.

Spread 1/4 cup of the sauce on the bottom of the baking dish. Place 1/3 of the cooked lasagna noodles on top of the sauce. Top with half of the cheese mixture, half of the kale, and 1/3 of the remaining sauce.

Add another layer of noodles and repeat with the remainder of the cheese and kale, and 1/2 of the remaining sauce. Add the third layer of noodles and cover with the remainder of the sauce. Sprinkle the top with the Parmesan cheese and bake uncovered in the oven for about 15-20 minutes, until the cheese has melted.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Ma-Po Tofu (Tofu in Black Bean and Chilli Sauce)



Lately, I've been learning how to cook Chinese vegetarian dishes. I love Chinese food. However, I've found it somewhat difficult to find vegetarian dishes at Chinese restaurants. I've been to Chinese and Thai restaurants where dishes containing meat broth are referenced in the menu as being vegetarian. And then, of course, there's the issue of MSG. I loves me my sodium; but I don't enjoy the headache that sets in after having a meal.

To learn more about Chinese cooking, I've been reading cookbooks on the subject and watching the new Cooking Channel show, "Chinese Food Made Easy." Speaking of the Cooking Channel, have you seen it? I love it! It's what the Food Network used to be before it turned much of its focus (or so it seems) to reality-based programming. I enjoy the diversity the Cooking Channel offers with regard to World cuisine: Indian ("Spice Goddess"), French ("French Food at Home"), Chinese, Asian fusion ("Simply Ming"), Italian ("La Dolce Vita"), etc.

There are a lot of ma-po tofu recipes that can be found on the internet. Many of them call for the use of chicken stock. The following recipe, which comes from the book World Vegetarian Classics by Celia Brooks Brown, uses stock made from dried shiitake mushrooms. I've made this a few times already, and it has quickly become part of our regular rotation of weekday meals.

If you don't have any red chillies, then use red pepper flakes. I also use about 1 teaspoon or cornstarch, rather than 1 tablespoon of cornstarch as called for in Brooks' recipe, because I prefer a sauce that's less gelatinous.

Finally, prepare the rice ahead of time, because this dish does not take long to prepare, especially when using jarred black bean sauce and hoisin sauce.

Ma-Po Tofu
(Tofu in Black Bean and Chili Sauce)
Serves approximately 4

1 small handful sliced shiitake mushrooms
1 cup boiling water
1 pound firm tofu, drained and cut into cubes
3 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 large green bell pepper, chopped into bite-size chunks
1 large fresh red chili, deseeded and sliced (adjust amount according to heat preference)
2 large garlic cloves, minced or sliced
1 tablespoon cornstarch

For the sauce:

2 teaspoons black bean sauce

3 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon sweet chilli sauce
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
1 teaspoon sugar

Place the shiitake mushrooms in a small bowl. Pour the cup of boiling water over the mushrooms and let stand for about 5 minutes. Drain the mushrooms, reserving the water, and set them aside.
Stir the cornflour into the reserved water and set that aside.

Place all of the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and stir to combine.

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the mushroom, green pepper, chilli, and garlic to the skillet and cook until the garlic becomes soft, about 3 minutes. Stir in the sauce mixture.

Next, stir in the reserved water (with cornstarch). Continue cooking until the sauce thickens and becomes bubbly. Add the tofu cubes and stir until they are warmed through.
Serve with rice.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Chinese-Style Pickled Cucumbers



Recently, I had dinner at a Chinese restaurant in Falls Church, Virginia, called Hong Kong Palace (6837 Leesburg Pike). Upon entering, I was given the option of ordering from either the "American menu" or the "Chinese menu." I took both menus, because I had a craving for Americanized vegetable lo mein. From the Chinese menu, I ordered pickled cucumbers as an appetizer. After dinner, I thought to myself, I have to find a recipe for this dish!

Finding a similar recipe on the internet was not difficult. The version below is a hybridization of this recipe from Appetite from China and this recipe from Geema. While I would have preferred to use Thai red chilis, or any red chilis for that matter, they simply were not available at the grocery store. Hence, I used the more readily available red pepper flakes.

This dish is easy to prepare and makes a great side dish for an Asian entree. In my case, I served this dish with mapo tofu (tofu in a spicy chili sauce), the recipe for which I plan on posting sometime next week.

Chinese-Style Pickled Cucumbers

5 to 6 Kirby cucumbers
Salt for tossing cucumbers
1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar
1 medium-size carrot, thinly sliced (using a vegetable peeler)
Sesame seeds, for garnishing (optional)

Cut the cucumbers lengthwise into quarters and then into 1 to 2-inch pieces. Place the cucumbers in a colander, toss them in some salt, and let stand for about 20-30 minutes.

Thoroughly rinse the cucumbers under cold tap water and pat dry with a towel. Place the cucumbers and carrots in a bowl.

Heat the sesame oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the pepper flakes and cook until they start to deepen in color. Take the skillet off the heat and let cool to room temperature.

Combine the vinegar and sugar in a small bowl. Pour this mixture over the cucumbers and carrots and toss. Add the chili-infused oil to the bowl of cucumbers and carrots and toss. Let stand for about 1 hour, until cooled. Sprinkle with sesame seeds before serving.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Sandwich: Grilled Gruyere with Green-Olive Tapenade



This recipe for grilled gruyere with green-olive tapenade comes from an old issue of Metropolitan Home magazine. It was included in an article entitled "The Great American Sandwich." The article, including recipe, can be found here.

I made this sandwich last weekend. I pretty much followed the recipe as written. I did find, though, that melting the gruyere just on the grill took much longer than the time specified. As a result, I ended up burning the ciabatta rolls. I solved this problem by lightly melting the cheese on the top and bottom half of each roll in the microwave for about 20-30 seconds, assembling the sandwiches as shown in the photo above, and then grilling the sandwiches for 2-3 minutes per side.

This was so delicious. Definitely a keeper.

Grilled Gruyere with Green-Olive Tapenade
Makes 4 sandwiches

For the green-olive tapenade:

2 cups green olives, pitted
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
3/4 teaspoon black pepper

4 ciabatta rolls, approximately 3 inches by 3 inches
1/2 pound gruyere cheese, cut into 12 slices (approximately 1/8-inch-thick each)

Combine all of the tapenade ingredients in a food processor and pulse a few times until the mixture becomes spreadable, but not smooth.

Add 1 slice of cheese to the bottom half of each ciabatta roll. Add 2 slices of cheese to each top half. Place each top and bottom face-up in the microwave and heat for 20-30 seconds, until the cheese begins to melt. Assemble the sandwiches by layering approximately 2 tablespoons of the green-olive tapenade between the top and bottom half of each roll, as shown in the photo above. Place the sandwiches on a hot grill, weighing them down with another heavy skillet. Grill for about 2-3 minutes on each side until heated through, and serve.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Baked Eggs with Tomato Sauce, Spinach and Mascarpone



I love modern design, particularly mid-century modern design, and one of my favorite magazines covering modern design was Metropolitan Home. Seriously mad design porn! Sadly, Met Home is no more. As a result of the economy, the publisher of Met Home shut down the magazine in December 2009.

The following recipe (slightly modified) comes from an old issue of Met Home. The recipe, as printed in Met Home, can still be found online. I've been wanting to try this recipe for the longest time. What I loved about this dish was that it was ridiculously simple and fairly inexpensive to make. And it tasted really, really delicious!

I already had all of the ingredients in my pantry, except the mascarpone. This dish only took about 25 minutes to prepare, which, for me, makes it an ideal weekday meal .


The following recipe will serve three using 8 1/2-inch by 5-inch gratin dishes.

Baked Eggs with Tomato Sauce, Spinach and Mascarpone
Serves 3


1 large onion, chopped
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, chopped, with juices reserved

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
8 ounces frozen spinach leaves
6 eggs
1/2 cup mascarpone
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Baguette, sliced


Place rack in middle of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees.

Place the frozen spinach in a bowl and cover with very warm tap water. Replace water at least once to thoroughly thaw out.


Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until they become soft, about 5 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes with their juices and cook uncovered for about 10 minutes.


Divide the tomato sauce among three gratin dishes. Using a spoon, make two indentations in the sauce in each dish and crack and an egg into each indentation. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove
the spinach from the bowl and squeeze out the water. Scatter the spinach leaves around the eggs in each dish. Place the dishes in the oven. Bake the eggs until the whites are set but the yolks are still runny, about 10 minutes.

Remove the gratin dishes from the oven, spoon dollops of mascarpone cheese around the eggs and spinach and serve with slices of baguette.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Uncover Investigation Revealed Animal Abuse at Conklin Farms Inc.


"Cow Field" from flickr member

I think it goes without saying that anyone who would beat a cow with a crowbar and stab a cow with a pitchfork is one sick fuck.

I forced myself to watch the entire undercover video taken by the non-profit, Chicago-based animal advocacy group,
Mercy for Animals. I was so disturbed by the images shown in the video that I actually started gagging while watching it.

Yesterday,
an individual was arrested and charged with several counts of animal cruelty in connection with the abuse depicted in the video.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Barbecue Tempeh Sandwich



This past weekend, I was reading the latest issue of Vegetarian Times and came across a recipe for a barbecue seitan sandwich.

It looked delicious, but I really don't like seitan all that much. So, I started searching online for a tempeh barbecue recipe and came across one at naturalhealthmag.com.

I followed the recipe as written, except I decided to use packaged broccoli slaw in lieu of grating my own cabbage and carrots and mincing my own red onion. (I know, that's so Sandra Lee!)

I thought the end result was ok. This is not a dish that I can see myself making again, and I really can't explain why that's the case. Maybe I'm just not a barbecue type of person.

The baked red potatoes, on the other hand, were awesome. I just took some red potatoes, tossed them in some olive oil, dried thyme, dried basil, salt and pepper, and baked them uncovered in a 450 degree oven for approximately 45 minutes. A very simple side dish.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Southwestern Bean Cakes



My partner and I have this routine where he cooks dinners on Saturdays and I cook dinners on Sundays.

The weather was so hot outside last Sunday that I really wanted something light and simple. The solution was found in a cookbook I received two year ago for Christmas from my sister entitled, "A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen," by Jack Bishop.


I grabbed the book and just started flipping through it when I came across a recipe for Southwestern Bean Bakes.

In a nutshell, these were easy to make. They also tasted surprisingly very good, given the minimal number of ingredients required. This is a seriously low-cost meal.


And I liked the fact that these bean cakes made for a fairly low-calorie dish, because I still have about 10 more pounds to lose.

At the author's suggestion, I served these bean cakes alongside a simple baby spinach salad
lightly dressed with olive oil, lemon juice and kosher salt.

Southwestern Bean Cakes

Makes approximately 7-8 cakes

  • 2 15-oz cans cannelleni beans, rinsed and thoroughly drained
  • 1/4 cup vegetable broth
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • 3 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon minced jalapeno pepper (add more for extra heat)
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup (at least) cornmeal or polenta
  • Extra virgin olive oil
Add the cannellini beans, vegetable broth, and lime juice in a large bowl. Mash the beans using a potato masher.

Next, stir in the cilantro, pepper, and chili powder. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in 1/4 cup of cornmeal. Continue stirring in more cornmeal in small amounts until you can form the mixture into 3-inch cakes.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the bean cakes and cook until browned, approximately 4 minutes per side. (Add more oil to the pan if necessary.) Serve immediately.