Sunday, February 24, 2013


My fiance has been hard at work collecting data and crunching numbers around the idea that it costs more to eat only a plant-based diet. If you're counting that everyone should be eating the recommended fruits, veggies and grains, the only real issue is protein and maybe the calcium associated with dairy?! He's got some pretty interesting results, so you should check it out.

One of the assumptions he's covering in a future blog entry is around vegan processed faux meats vs. more natural proteins (beans, tofu, nuts, etc.). He's done a much better job than I of transitioning away from the faux meats, so we'll see if his analysis will convince me to take the plunge away from the processed faux meats I hold so dear. In the meantime, let me tell you about a new one I've tried.

Introducing Trader Joe's Chickenless Mandarin Orange Morsels. I used to buy the mandarin chicken when I ate meat and I know it wasn't good for you, but it's their most popular frozen item in Minnesota, I think. The chickenless version has a lot of potential, but needs care in preparation and some spicing up. 

You need to cook the chickenless morsels in the oven or in a pan with a little oil to help develop a crunch to the breading so they're not soggy in the sauce. I also like to add veggies for at least the appearance of nutrition, so I sauteed onion with green and red bell peppers separate from the morsels. One of the ways to counteract the criticisms of the sauce being too watery is to cook the veggies (if you're adding them) separate from the sauce and cook off our drain their juices before adding the sauce. I ended up letting most of the juice from the peppers and onions cook away (I love high heat) and dropped the cast iron pan down to medium before adding in the sauce and let it bubble away for awhile not letting it burn, but also not overly stirring it onto the veggies so there was sauce for the morsels. I added some chili garlic sauce which honestly transforms the overly sweet trader joe's packet into some pretty tasty stuff. Right before you're ready to serve, add the morsels and ta-da...see picture above...not runny, not overly sweet, pretty darn delicious.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Hungary Hungry

I'm really liking this pre-made dinners routine. I've probably saved $25 bucks by having food ready to go in the fridge after a long day's work.  In addition to saving money, I'm glad I was inspired by Vegetarian Times' Cook Up a Storm article because I was getting bored with my standard fare. The last two meals reminded me of my Iron Range roots with a memory of Eastern European classics: cabbage rolls (sarma) and mushroom paprikash. I'm also happy to report Vegetarian Times has the recipes up for these dishes now (linked below.)

Tonight, we dove in to the mushroom paprikash. The only thing to make the dish vegan is to sub vegan sour cream for dairy. Easy enough. I'm getting to be a bit of an aficionado of vegan sour creams and I definitely have my favorites. The challenge is my favorite has palm oil in it which can be problematic for habitat destruction for orangutan. So, I tried a new brand this time: WayFare Sour Cream. It worked just fine in this dish, but it's a little more yogurt texture/flavor than sour cream to me. You can also make your own sour cream with silken tofu (New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook has a great recipe.)

My fiance commented that the paprikash had a good depth of flavor which really means it was satisfyingly delicious featuring tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, white wine, paprika and creamy goodness with the sour cream stirred in.

Last night, we baked the Middle Eastern cabbage rolls. I forget how much I love cabbage rolls. These were interesting with a sweet and salty stuffing of green lentils, currants, onions and kalamata olives. The tomato sauce was warm and inviting with cumin, marjoram (sub oregano if you don't have it) and allspice.
The photo isn't as appealing as the cabbage rolls. We had enough leftovers for me to bring them for lunch the next day and they were even better heated up in the microwave.

I'm already getting separation anxiety. We only have one more dish to go before my cooking storm passes as a distant memory caught on this blog.

Sunday: Broccoli Tomato Pizza
Monday: Zucchini Corn Cannelloni
Tuesday: Thai Sloppy Joes
Wednesday: Cabbage Rolls
Thursday: Mushroom Paprikash

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Fast Fix: Thai Sloppy Joe

Last night, both my fiance and I were running late from work and didn't have a chance to put the cabbage rolls I prepped this weekend in the oven. Thanks to Vegetarian Times' "Cooking Up a Storm" article, we had plenty of other quick dinner fixes awaiting us. We opted to dig in to the Thai Sloppy Joe recipe.

I served mine on whole wheat bread with shredded savoy cabbage leftover from the cabbage rolls, crushed peanuts and a siracha sauce. My fiance opted for lighter fare and served his lettuce wrap style in savoy cabbage leaves. The sloppy joe mixture was super easy: onion and bell peppers, crumbled tempeh, coconut milk, brown sugar, lime juice and a couple teaspoons of Thai Kitchen's red curry paste. It was great to sit down and share a late night vegan meal with my fiance, and we both agreed this was a recipe we'd make again. In the future, we thought it would be fun to go the route of lettuce wraps with cabbage, sliced cucumbers, fresh basil, peanuts, green onions, etc. When we make it again, we'll cut back on the brown sugar. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Cooking Storm

The Vegetarian Times magazine arrived during a particularly busy work week, and I remember grabbing it to flip through to calm my mind before bed when I stumbled onto "Cook Up a Storm". It sounded perfect - for 3 1/2 hours worth of investment on Sunday, we'd have home-cooked dinners all week long.

First things first, we needed to veganize the recipes and create a shopping list. It turns out that was really simple. All we needed to sub was vegan sour cream and daiya cheese, Veganomicon's cashew ricotta recipe and a pesto recipe. Easy peasy.

Tonight, we ate the Zucchini-Corn Cannelloni. The dish was really rich and satisfying. I opted for manicotti shells; rather than rolling my own from lasagna rolls as the recipe suggests. My easy stuffing tip is to put your ricotta mixture into a ziploc bag and cut a small corner off to create a piping bag. After you boil the shells until they're a little more firm than al dente and let them cool for a moment, pipe the mixture from your ziploc bag in each end before baking.

For the Broccoli-Tomato Galette, my fiance whipped up this easy vegan spinach pesto because we couldn't find basil at the store and all the prepared pesto had parmesan. We had some prepared whole wheat pizza crust, so we revamped the galette into a pizza and ate it the first night to save room in the fridge. It didn't hurt that it looked and smelled so good.

It really was a storm in the kitchen with all the work that I did, and I highly recommend having help or at least a bottle of wine if you decide to give it a go. That said, we're looking forward to the tasty treats that await our dinners in the fridge; including cabbage rolls, soup, thai sloppy joes, and a mushroom paprikash. Oohhh, which one next?

Sunday, February 10, 2013

V-day Inspirations

It's solidly post-holidays, but I still feel like my schedule is operating on octane. I was happy to take a break Monday night and check out Compassionate Action for Animals' Vegan Valentine's Day Dinner cooking class hosted by RebelGrrlKitchen's Raechel. The menu was fun and inspired, featuring something red or pink in each dish. My fiance wasn't able to attend, so tonight I treated him to my remake of the class recipes. They were a hit and are pretty easy to make.

Let's start with dessert. Amazingly simple, yet really satisfying, was RebelGrrlKitchen's Decadent Cherry Brownie Parfait. All you need to make this dish is a food processor and the ingredients. The "brownie" is walnuts, dates, cocoa powder, vanilla, a little sweetener and a pinch of salt. The cherry soft serve is frozen bananas and cherries, simple as that.

For the main course, RebelGrrlKitchen's Creamy Tahini Quinoa with Beets and Greens offers protein-powerhouse quinoa in a hearty, earthy tahini sauce with the sweetness of roasted beets and spinach. It's the year of quinoa, and this is a great food for people interested in getting more protein, iron and calcium in their diet.

Finally, the starter was a bright kale salad featuring pomegranate seeds and a citrus vinaigrette. I can't find the recipe on RebelGrrlKitchen, but it's pretty simple. For the dressing, mix 1 T olive oil, 1 T apple cider vinegar, 1 T soy sauce/Bragg's, juice of 1 orange and 1 t grated ginger. To make the kale more digestible, tear it into bit size bits and "massage" it by rubbing and crunching it up in the bowl.

Update: You can now find all the recipes on RebelGrrlKitchen's blog here.