Friday, September 30, 2011

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas

Okay, this cooking rut I'm in, it's for realz. I just haven't felt like cooking. I haven't been inspired by anything. I really just want to go back to Costa Rica and have someone else cook every meal for me. That was so nice.

But since THAT ain't gonna happen, I do need to get my act together. However, I really dread the idea of sitting down and making a weekly menu again. Somehow, just the thought of spending 1-2 hours pouring over cookbooks and inevitably making the same 15 or so dishes over and over again makes me want to cringe. I need a kitchen intervention!

I can say one good thing that has come out of my malaise, though - it has forced me to get creative and resourceful. Since I haven't been menu planning, I haven't been grocery shopping regularly, and I don't always have a variety of fresh ingredients on hand. I mean, it's hard to shop for produce when you have no idea what you'll be making. This afternoon, I was shuffling around my kitchen and poking in the fridge, freezer, and pantry, looking for something (anything!) to jump out at me. For produce, I had two giant sweet potatoes, one onion, some sad looking baby spinach, a knob of ginger, two limes, two lemons, and the ubiquitous carrot/celery/cucumbers I nearly always have on hand. Hmm...sweet potatoes. I love sweet potatoes. I had 5 brown rice tortillas and about 6 small corn tortillas in the freezer. I had black beans. Enchiladas? Let's see...

A few months ago, I had bookmarked this recipe from Gena's blog. Unbelievably, I had everything I needed to make the enchiladas, but almost nothing to make her tomatillo sauce. No tomatillos, no garlic, no jalapeno pepper. Still, I would not be deterred. I rummaged through my pantry and threw a bunch of stuff into my Vita-Mix to make the easiest, quickest, no-cook enchilada sauce you could imagine. And you know what? It was pretty good! Not at all authentic, mind you, but great in a pinch! :)

Pantry Enchilada Sauce
Makes enough for 1 pan of enchiladas

1 28-oz can organic whole peeled tomatoes
1/8 - 1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 4-oz can diced fire-roasted green chilies
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp agave nectar
1/2 tbs olive oil
2-3 dashes of Cholula original hot sauce
2 big handfuls of fresh baby spinach

Add all ingredients to blender and blitz until smooth.

Gena's enchiladas, by the way, were totally awesome :) Don't let the terrible photography make you think any different!

The filling is cooked and mashed sweet potatoes, onions, black beans, lime juice, and other spices. It's killer. I sprinkled a couple of handfuls of Daiya vegan cheddar cheese on top before I baked the whole enchilada (excuse the pun - I couldn't help myself). It's hard to believe how cheesy these enchiladas taste, considering there was only that handful of Daiya on top. Amazing! Sweet potatoes are the new cheese! LOL

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Moroccan Tagine with Spring Vegetables

My love affair with all things Moroccan has been well documented. I love movies set in Morocco (Casablanca and The Man Who Knew Too Much are two faves), I love Moroccan decor, and I love, love, LOVE Moroccan food. My infatuation with Moroccan food may, in fact, have begun when I first made the Moroccan Tagine with Spring Vegetables from Vegan with a Vengeance several years ago. Isa's deliciously spiced stew is one of my favorite meals ever, and it is, as she says, a veritable powerhouse of nutrition. The stew is an aromatic blend of veggies (zucchini, carrots, onions, garlic, ginger, green beans, tomatoes, spinach, cilantro, mint), red lentils, and spices (cumin, turmeric, coriander, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, pepper, and fresh lemon juice). That is a LOT of goodness in one pot! A smattering of raisins adds a slightly sweet touch, complementing the savory flavors.

I think it is traditional to serve tagine over couscous, but I opted for the more nutritious millet instead.

Every time I make this dish, I want to sit and watch Casablanca or The Man Who Knew Too Much!! With a nice ginger beer on the side. Mmmmm.....

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hodgepodge Salad

Yesterday was one of those days where I wasn't really sure what I wanted for dinner, but I knew I wanted something fairly light and healthy. I had an unusual mix of fresh veggies on hand - three red beets, the last few florets from my gigantic head of cauliflower - along with the usual salad suspects: some baby romaine lettuce, some baby spinach, carrots, celery, and cucumber. I also had a bounty of canned beans, a variety of nuts and dried fruits, and condiments galore. I didn't have a plan, but I knew I could make a main dish salad with what I had on hand.

So, I wrapped the beets in foil and put them in the toaster oven to roast. While they were cooking, I chopped up the cauliflower and steamed it in a little water on the stove. I whisked together the dressing from Gena's Fig and Pistachio Salad, and decided a little chopped fig and pistachio would be great on my salad, too. I put some romaine and spinach in my big salad bowl, topped it with the sliced roasted beets, steamed cauliflower, pistachios, chopped figs, chickpeas, dressing, and some freshly cracked pepper. You know what? It was really good!

The salad had a great variety of flavors and textures, and it made the perfect light meal!
I love big, hearty, main-dish salads. What are some of your favorites?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Ginger Peanut Soup and Coconut Bread

Another day, another batch of bad food porn. *Sigh* I will get around to reading my camera manual....I will get around to reading my camera manual...

I bought a really big head of cauliflower last week. I used about half of it in the 2nd Avenue Vegetable Korma, but I still had a good amount left over. I decided to put it to good use and make a special dinner my hubby really enjoys - Ginger Peanut Soup from How It All Vegan! and Luscious Coconut Bread from VegWeb. I know I've said it before, but I still feel the need to apologize for the bad pictures!

The soup is dynamite - it's really so, so easy to make, and it has a ton of good-for-you stuff in it, like broccoli, cauliflower, ginger, onion, garlic, tomatoes, and peanut butter. Sometimes I'll also add some chickpeas or tofu to the pot, but this was just the regular, straight-up version. I love to top our soups with some shredded coconut and chopped peanuts. It just adds that little somethin' somethin.'

The soup was murderously hot and we were starving, so I put some frozen spinach at the bottom of our bowls and added the hot soup on top. This is one of my favorite tricks - you cool your soup down AND add some more veggies! I do this with my son's hot foods all the time, usually with frozen peas :)

Of course, no soup is complete without a great bread alongside. The Luscious Coconut Bread is, indeed, luscious! It's sweet and moist and utterly delicious.

Soup and bread is one of our favorite combinations in the fall and winter, so you'll be seeing lots more over the coming months!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Three-Bean Cassoulet and Kale

I'm starting to realize something that's both good and bad. The good news is, the new camera I had to buy in Costa Rica did a pretty good job of taking pictures in Costa Rica. With all of the beautiful, bright sunshine, the outdoor pictures couldn't help but come out well. The bad news? Well, it turns out that the camera takes pretty lousy pictures indoors. I definitely need to read the manual and see if there is anything I can do to improve the picture quality. In the meantime, you and I will have to put up with some pretty unappealing food pictures :)

A couple of nights ago, I was in the mood for beans. This may or may not have something to do with the copious amounts of gallo pinto I consumed while in Costa Rica :) However, I've been decidedly lacking in motivation to cook again after being on vacation. What, no one is going to provide me with freshly sliced papaya, pineapple, and banana for breakfast? Or a beautifully arranged salad of avocado, hearts of palm, and tomato? Whaaat? Yeah, I haven't been feelin' it in the kitchen. So I decided to make a super-easy bean dish I'd made and enjoyed before - Three-Bean Cassoulet from 1,000 Vegan Recipes.

A base of carrots, onions, garlic, and celery is sauteed together, then mixed with tomatoes, spices, cannellini beans, navy beans, and great northern beans. After sprinkling with some panko bread crumbs, the whole skillet goes right in the oven to bake.

I also threw some kale in a pot to steam until tender. My hubby and I were both shocked when our son ate ALL his kale...and then asked for MORE! I guess all my talk about how it is so "kale-licious" is paying off :)

We were also in the mood for a little vino with our beans, so we opened up a bottle of Riesling we've had lurking in the downstairs fridge for almost a year. It must have been pretty doggone delicious, because we drank the entire bottle that night! 

In the morning, I was feeling a little guilty about my wine overconsumption, so I decided to atone with a simple tropical smoothie. I threw some frozen mango, frozen banana, and frozen pineapple in the Vita, along with some water and a dash of coconut milk. It was creamy, fruity, and refreshing, and most importantly, very hydrating :)

I've finished going through my Costa Rica pictures, so I hope to get that post done in the next couple of days. Stay tuned!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Eggplant Provencale

There's nothing better than free food, right? I think I've rhapsodized about this before. Recently, I was the lucky beneficiary of not one, but two people's garden overproduction, and on the same day, no less!

Bag-o-plenty #1 came from my hubby's parents, who had a bumper crop of tomatoes, purple eggplant, zucchini, and green peppers. Since I was too busy lazy to till my own garden this year, I've gotten downright giddy when gifted with others' homegrown produce. I love being asked, Do you want some of our extra veggies? Will you use them? Um, is the Pope Catholic?

Bag-o-plenty #2 came from my good friend, Allison. She had a monster bag of white eggplant and cherry tomatoes for me. She didn't ask if I'd want them. She knows me pretty well :)

So, I now had an unexpected (but greatly appreciated) bounty of tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, and peppers on hand. But what to do with them? I started flipping through my cookbooks, looking for inspiration. Then I remembered a recipe I had made a couple of years ago from Vegetarian Times for Eggplant Provencale. I was pretty sure it had all of these ingredients in it. Turns out - I was right!

Eggplant, tomatoes, green peppers, onions, and garlic are sauteed together, then tossed with chopped green olives, capers, parsley, and spices. 

A light coating of Italian breadcrumbs, nooch, and melted Earth Balance tops it off before baking.
I rounded out the meal with some steamed broccoli and brown rice rotini tossed with some eggplant pasta sauce. Yum!

The eggplant was silky, soft, and delicious, and the combination of tomatoes and breadcrumbs reminded me of Eggplant Parmesan. It was fabulous!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I'm Baaaack!

Sorry for the lack of posts, but I just returned from an ultrafabulous, 10th-wedding-anniversary trip to Costa Rica. It was 6 nights of pure awesomeness and I am going to recap the trip in a post (or two?) very soon. But for tonight, just a quick post featuring the delicious 2nd Avenue Vegetable Korma from Appetite for Reduction. This is an Indian curry loaded with veggies (cauliflower, zucchini, carrots, peas, ginger, onions, garlic) and delicately spiced with curry powder, garam masala, cumin, and coriander. I served it over brown basmati rice. Sorry for the crappy picture, but my good camera broke 2 hours after we got to Costa Rica, so I had to buy another camera at the only electronics store in La Fortuna. This store was named Gallo, which is Spanish for Rooster. An electronics store named Rooster. Need I say more?

I've got loads of pictures to sort through from Costa Rica, so stay tuned for my travelogue!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Caramelized Tempeh Shawarmas & Cowgirl Cookies

When I happen to have some cucumbers, tomatoes, and tempeh on hand, the first thing I want to make is some Caramelized Tempeh Shawarmas from The Vegan Table. Unfortunately, the one thing I did not have on hand was a package of lavash bread, which kind of makes the shawarmas shawarmas. Otherwise, it's just, you know, cucumbers, tomatoes, and tempeh.

But I didn't let a lack of lavash keep me from enjoying this tasty sandwich. No indeed. I just grabbed some brown rice tortillas from the freezer and kept on going!

The tempeh is steamed and then sauteed in some oil, tamari, and maple syrup. It gets this awesome salty-n-sweet coating which rocks my tastebuds! The salad part is just chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, and parsley, while the sauce is simply tahini, lemon juice, garlic, water, and salt to taste.

I opted to forgo the tortilla and just eat my tempeh and salad on top of some baby spinach.
My hubby wanted a wrap, so he had it with a tortilla. Lavash would have been better, but he still seemed to enjoy it :)
My mother's group, Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS), held a yard sale/bake sale fundraiser this weekend in order to raise money for childcare expenses. We have to pay for babysitters each week while us moms  have our meetings, and the costs do add up. I hoped a batch of Cowgirl Cookies from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar would be a big seller, and they were - I made 20 cookies and they raised $20! I mean, if I saw someone selling these cookies for $1, I'd buy one (or two, or three), too!

Oats, craisins, gooey chocolate chips, walnuts...what's not to love?
Of course, I did make 24...but only 20 were donated to the cause :) As my mom always used to say, Charity begins at home! :)
I also made a trip to Whole Foods the other day to stock up on my pantry essentials. I also stocked up on a non-pantry essential, 4 bottles of kombucha! I enjoyed a Passionberry Bliss booch on Saturday after running some errands.

Okay, the Vita-Mix is calling my's afternoon smoothie time! I think a Chocolate Mint smoothie will do the trick :)

Friday, September 9, 2011

Thai Chickpea Pizza

There is nothing better than kicking your weekend off with a pizza, right? Pizza just makes me happy. I love making all different kinds of pizza, too. Tonight it was an old favorite, Thai Chickpea Pizza. The recipe is a hodgepodge of different recipes, but it's largely based on the Simple Thai Pizza from A homemade crust is brushed with a delectable ginger-sesame oil mixture, par-baked, and then topped with a homemade peanut-lime sauce, chickpeas, scallions, carrot, pineapple, crushed peanuts, and cilantro. I often add a chopped bell pepper to the mix, too, but I didn't have any tonight (or cilantro, for that matter). No matter - it was still delicious!

Here's the par-baked crust, topped with the peanut-lime sauce and chickpeas:
Then it's covered with shredded carrot and sliced pineapple:
And finally topped with the scallions and peanuts:
It's an awesome blend of flavors and textures!
Question: What's your favorite pizza combo?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Salad on the Fly

I don't know how it happened, but suddenly, it was 5:30 and I still didn't have a clue what I was making for dinner. I was flipping through cookbooks, but nothing was striking my fancy. All I knew was that I wanted something relatively light and easy to put together.

I don't have a lot of fresh produce on hand right now, but I did have some baby spinach, some English cucumbers, three tomatoes, an orange bell pepper, and some celery. I also had some cannellini beans, kalamata olives, capers, and marinated artichoke hearts in the pantry, and some frozen cauliflower in the freezer. I could steam the cauliflower and toss it with some nooch, I thought. Then I could whisk up a balsamic vinaigrette to pour over the top. Mmmmm. Suddenly, I had dinner!

Salad on the Fly
Makes 4 entree sized salads

1/2 lb baby spinach
2 vine-ripened tomatoes, cut into quarters and thinly sliced
3/4 large English cucumber, chopped
1 orange bell pepper, thinly sliced
4 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1 15-oz can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 6-oz jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained
1/2 cup sliced kalamata olives
4 tablespoons capers, drained
1 lb bag frozen cauliflower, cooked according to package

Balsamic vinaigrette (I used the Basic Balsamic Dressing in 1,000 Vegan Recipes)

Divide the spinach among 4 bowls. Top each bowl with tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, celery, beans, artichoke hearts, olives, capers, and cauliflower. Drizzle each bowl with balsamic vinaigrette, to taste.

The warm cauliflower was awesome on this salad - it absorbed the dressing and got really yummy. Plus, the warm, soft texture was a nice contrast to the crunchy raw veggies and the tangy, salty olives and capers. This is what is so great about improvising with what you have on hand - you just never know what great new dish you'll come up with!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Bean & Corn Tortilla Lasagna with Avocado

Nothing strikes fear and trepidation in my heart quite like the prospect of making homemade lasagna. Even though it's one of my favorite Italian dishes, I think I've made maybe 5 lasagnas in the last 10 years. I keep thinking I'm going to make another one of these days...and then I start thinking of the lasagna noodles. And the tofu ricotta. And the sauteed veggies. And the sauce. And the layering.

And then I make myself a smoothie to calm myself down.

But a Bean and Corn Tortilla Lasagna from Eat, Drink & Be Vegan? Yeah, I could totally handle that.

Step 1 - mix a bunch of spices, beans, tomato sauce, and garlic & onion (uncooked! yeah!!) in a bowl
Step 2 - spread half the mixture on the bottom of a casserole dish
Step 3 - top with some corn tortillas, avocado slices, frozen corn, and lime juice
Step 4 - top with more tortillas, remaining sauce, and crushed tortilla chips
Step 5- top this with a sprinkling of vegan cheese
Step 6 - cover and bake
Step 7 - devour

Let's see - no precooking or sauteeing required; no noodles to boil; no complicated ricotta to make. Just mix, layer, and bake. My kind of lasagna!

Here it is, all assembled and ready for baking:

Here's a slice, fresh out of the oven!
And the inside "money shot." The avocado layer gives it a little somethin' somethin':
If only Italian lasagna was this easy!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Moroccan Lentil and Chickpea Soup and Chilled Cucumber Salad

Today was a wet, rainy mess. It has been in the low 60's most of the day, and it has rained nonstop and often in sheets. My hubby came home from work and told me that he had to turn on his little space heater at his desk. It seemed like a good night to make soup!

I was craving something brothy, and I just love Moroccan flavors, so I was psyched when I flipped through 1,000 Vegan Recipes and saw an easy recipe for Moroccan Lentil and Chickpea Soup. I just had to do a quick saute of some base veggies (onion, carrots, garlic, ginger) and spices (turmeric, cumin), add in some veggie broth, brown lentils, chickpeas, and crushed tomatoes, and let that baby simmer for an hour. I added in some frozen green beans, fresh baby spinach, and lemon juice at the very end. The recipe also calls for 1 to 2 teaspoons of Harissa, but I didn't want to make the soup too spicy for my son (or me), so my hubby just stirred a little Cholula hot sauce into his bowl.

I wanted something raw on the side to go with the soup. I had some beautiful English cucumbers in my crisper, so I flipped to the salad section of 1,000 Vegan Recipes and made the Chilled Cucumber Salad. Peeled and thinly sliced English cucumbers are tossed with minced scallions, fresh lemon juice, fresh minced parsley, olive oil, salt, and a drop of agave nectar. It was the perfect cool accompaniment to the hot soup.

Not bad for a soup and salad night! Best of all, my son ate his entire bowl, and that makes this Mommy very happy!

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Gravy Bowl

Mmmm....gravy. I don't mean the marinara kind, either. I mean, graaaavy. The brown stuff that you pour on taters and comes in a boat. Yeah, that gravy. It hasn't made an appearance on my dinner table in, well, forever. Or at least 5 years, since that's how long I've been vegan (Labor Day weekend 2006 is my "Veganniversary" :) I haven't had much need for gravy as a vegan. But then I was putzing around my kitchen this afternoon, trying to figure out what to have for dinner, and I was inspired by the Silky Chickpea Gravy in Appetite for Reduction. Suddenly, I had to have gravy for dinner. But what vehicle would I use?

Alas, I had to look no farther (further? whatevs) than the Elements of a Bowl section in AFR. And there it was: The Gravy Bowl. Oooooh. Yeah, baby. Brown rice, baked tempeh, steamed kale, and Silky Chickpea Gravy. All smooshed together in a gravy bath. And let the choir say AMEN!

I actually didn't have any kale on hand, but I didn't let that small little technicality stop me. I grabbed some frozen collards, frozen brussels sprouts, some leftover shredded carrot, and went to town. The baked tempeh was the Basic Baked Tempeh recipe from AFR, which I've made before and loved. While that was marinating and baking, I got the rice cooking, the gravy simmering, and the veggies steaming. In no time at all (well, that's not exactly took nearly an hour and a half, but it was easy!), I had two giant bowls ready, and one baby bowl for my baby bear.

Don't let the crappy pictures fool you...this was actually really good! The chickpea gravy was awesome, and it was really easy to make. I'm already dreaming up other ways to use it...I'm thinking there will be a bowl with some winter squash, cranberries, wild rice, and this gravy happening in the near future.

For breakfast, I tried a new smoothie, Chocolate Spiced Hemp Shake from Kristen Suzanne. Chocolate, hemp, cinnamon, and bananas...I mean, what's not to like? It was great for refueling after a hard workout.

Well, it's been a long day, so I'm off to rot my brain (aka watch Bachelor Pad). Good night!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Come On, Irene

When we last spoke eight days ago, Hurricane Irene was bearing down on New England. A lot has happened since then. Here's a recap.

So, Hurricane Irene became Tropical Storm Irene by the time it hit New England. That was good news. We ended up losing our power at noon on Sunday. It got pretty gusty at times, and there were some scary moments with the big trees blowing about, but all in all, we were really fortunate to escape the storm with basically no damage to our house or cars. Some of our neighbors weren't so lucky - more than one had cars that were either damaged or completely destroyed by falling trees and limbs. We also didn't get as much rain as forecast, so we were spared any flooding. Good thing, since we're still repairing our basement from the Great Flood of 2010 :)

Anyway, my hubby and I weren't terribly disappointed to be without power. We're both crunchy-granola types that enjoy hiking and being unplugged from the world, anyway. I joked that this would be our little cabin-in-the-woods vacation I wanted to take all summer, but never got the chance to :)

With the electricity out for the forseeable future, the race was on to use up our perishable foodstuffs before they went bad. I thought it would be a good excuse to get creative and put new twists on dishes in order to use up as much stuff as possible. And can I get an Amen for having a gas stovetop? Amen!

So, on Sunday night, I grabbed a package of tempeh, a yellow bell pepper, celery, some shredded carrot, the last of my baby spinach, a small can of tomato sauce, two half-used onions (red and white), and some garlic. By the light of my headlamp, I whipped up a souped-up version of Tempeh Sloppy Joes from The Vegan Table. There may have been even more stuff in there, but it was so dark, I could barely see what I was throwing in the pot. Whatever.

Who needs candlelight? Nothing says romance like a battery-powered lantern.
After we put the little bambino to bed, we upped the romance factor even more.

A glass of merlot, a puzzle, and a headlamp? Ooooh, baby.

Monday dawned a beautiful, sunny day, but alas, still no electricity. No matter, we still had fun. Hubby had to go to work, but my son and I spent most of the day cleaning up the yard and playing outside. We also worked on the puzzle together. Even during the day, we still needed the headlamp to see the puzzle well. Apparently, the headlamp didn't help my son see his pants, however.

By Monday afternoon, the food in my two refrigerators was pretty much toast. I can't tell you how difficult it was for me to pour out an ENTIRE, UNOPENED, 64-oz bottle of carrot juice (*sob), 5 unopened tubs of tofu, 4 unopened packages of tempeh, 3 unopened cartons of soymilk, 2 unopened packages of Tofutti cream cheese, and 1 unopened package of meatless meatballs. And a partridge in a pear tree. Oy. It was painful. I even swished the carrot juice in my mouth before I came to my senses and spit it out. Carrot juice!! Oh, it was agony.

For Monday's night dinner, it was pretty slim pickings. It was time to use up the rest of the produce in my fridge before it went bad, so I took it all out, chopped it up, and made a minestrone-esque stew. You know what? It was really good! So good, I even wrote down a recipe :)

Minestrone-esque Stew
Serves 2 hungry adults and 1 hungry toddler

1 large carrot, chopped
1 medium zucchini, chopped
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic, chopped
6 stalks celery, chopped
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 15-oz can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon instant veggie broth powder
dried basil, oregano, and Italian seasoning (to taste - approx 1/4 to 1/2 tsp each?)
water (as much as you'd like - I just added to the pot until it seemed right!)

Salt and nutritional yeast ("nooch"), to taste

In a medium pot, saute the onion in a little bit of olive oil until softened. Add the rest of the veggies and continue cooking until softened, approximately 7-10 minutes. Add the broth powder, beans, seasonings, and water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for approximately 10-15 minutes. At the very end, stir in some salt and nooch to taste.

At around 8:45 Monday night, the power came back on. And you know what? We kept on doing the puzzle. We did turn off the headlamps, however. You wouldn't believe how much easier it was to do a puzzle with the lights on. Who knew? :)