Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Quick Meal - Pasta Salad

Based on how my life has been lately, I need to have a quick meal idea handy. Although in ideal circumstances, I like to make things from scratch and always have the least processed foods to serve my family, lately I have kept some "convenience" foods like whole grain pasta, canned beans, and even (gasp!) minced garlic in a jar. =)

Today I made a pasta salad. This is what I had on hand: Whole wheat penne pasta, leftover cooked (long and slender) green beans, garlic, canned garbanzo beans (chick peas), carrot sticks, fresh broccoli, celery, 8-10 dried shitake mushrooms, and a small bottle of salad dressing (if I would've had onions, I would have added them too).

What I did:

Prepared the pasta in boiling water, drained and rinsed,
Cut the green beans up into shorter lengths,
Opened the jar on the garlic (see?=),
Drained and rinsed the canned beans,
Chopped the carrots,
Washed, trimmed, and blanched the broccoli in the boiling water before cooking the pasta, then drained and rinsed the broccoli,
Chopped up one stalk of celery finely,
Soaked, then sliced, the mushrooms.

Then I mixed everything together with the dressing. Chilled it until supper time. Then mixed once more before serving to mix the dressing again. If I hadn't had the bottled dressing, I would do the usual oil and vinegar (or lemon juice) and my homemade seasoned salt. I put the nutritional yeast on the table to top it off.

So for quick and convenient, this meal idea has saved the menu some days and helped use up those last bits of leftovers in the fridge. Even if the leftovers don't seem like much, a few beans here and some carrot sticks there give some nice color to a pasta salad.

For more kitchen tips, head over to Tammy's Recipes.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Oat Burgers

A name like oat burgers sounds like nothing special. But when I make these at our house, they are anticipated with much joy. Many people think that eating vegetarian must mean eating a lot of meat and cheese analogs (foods made to taste, look and feel like meat or cheese). There's the burgers, crumbles, meatless "bacon", slices, shreds, and other stuff out there.

I found that although I did eat some of these things at first and many of the dairy analogs (especially after going vegan), after a while, these things didn't appeal to me anymore. There's just something about eating good, whole, and if I may say, pure food. And I realized that there are a lot of claims about these foods on either side of the fence about how healthy they are for you.

Generally the less processed food, the better. If you look at a veggie burger in the frozen food section and the ingredient list is a mile long, put it back. Then go pick up some of these ingredients and make yourself some oat burgers. Or go make some of your own veggie burgers using this Meatless Burgers - Universal Recipe.

3 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups walnuts, chopped
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 1/2 cups water
2 Tablespoons olive oil
3 teaspoons (or more) sage
1 teaspoon salt or Homemade Seasoned Salt

Mix all ingredients well in a bowl* and let sit for 30 minutes to 1 hour (can refrigerate). This allows it to firm up to hold its shape better. I can get about 13 burgers out of this recipe if I use the canning lid shaping idea.

(*Vitamix help: put the water in the Vitamix container to the 1 1/2 cup mark, then add onion, cut into quarters, until you reach the 3 cup mark - this adds a little more onion, but we like it this way - then add your premeasured 1 1/2 cup (non-chopped) walnuts. Pulse at about 6-7 on low until chopped well but not pureed. Add to the rest of the ingredients, which are in another bowl, and proceed. This will still make your eyes a bit watery, but it's faster than doing it by hand.)

Once shaped, put on an oiled cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes and then turn over and bake another 10-15 minutes or until done.

Go ahead, put out the burger fixin's: ketchup, mustard, vegan mayo, romaine lettuce, sliced tomatoes, and maybe even some "5 S" Barbecue Sauce to top it off. Have a mouthful of fun! =)

Check out more kitchen tips at Tammy's Recipes.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Making Granola in the Crockpot

I am always interested in recipes using the traditional in a new way. For example, making good old fashioned granola in a crock pot. Enter this post on A Year of Crockpotting blog by Stephanie who made something in her slow cooker everyday in 2008.

I decided to try it. Since I have a large slow cooker, I made a double batch. Check Stephanie's blog post for her commentary on making it at her house. I made a vegan version (used oil instead of butter), but other than that I made it almost exactly the same.

It is nice not having to stir it all the time and ending up burning it anyway. This seemed so much nicer cooking it this way. I may try my other granola recipes with much less sweetener and oil like this one. It makes for a much looser cereal and not so much clusters, but I really enjoyed it.

Crockpot Granola

5 cups rolled oats (old-fashioned oats)
1/4 cup honey (or you can use maple syrup)
1/4 cup oil
1 Tablespoon flax seeds
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup dried fruit (added after unless you like it extra chewy)

Mix all ingredients in your crockpot. Cover and vent with a chopstick (or a wooden spoon like I did). Cook on high for 3-4 hours, stirring every so often. Stephanie says if you can smell it, you should go stir it. It can burn, but it won't burn near as fast as it could in the oven. After it is done to your liking, pour out on a cookie sheet or two to cool. Put into an airtight container.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Raw Chocolate Cake

I have tasted raw chocolate cake and it is good. From a good friend, here is her recipe for a rich treat! Oh, and by the way, the only way to eat chocolate in any dish - raw organic cacao nibs! =)

Raw Chocolate Cake

1 1/2 cup walnuts
10 dates (cut up into small pieces)
dash of salt
1/3 cup (or more) powdered organic raw cacao nibs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla (or seeds of 1 vanilla bean)
2 teaspoons water

Process walnuts and dates in food processor first. Then add salt and cacao powder. Next add the vanilla and water, mixing in between each addition. Can add more sweetener for more flavor.
Form into small cake shape on a serving plate and cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 30 minutes. Cut into small pieces and enjoy. Yummy!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

One Great Way To Cook Tempeh

Ever since my first taste of the Tempeh Reuben sandwich at the Mustard Seed Cafe, I have wanted to create it in my kitchen. I use this recipe and everyone loves it.

Tempeh is made from soy by itself or often with other grains and vegetables. If you've never had tempeh, you should try this. For those of you who used to eat meat, tempeh definitely has a "meatier" texture than say, tofu, but more crumbly than chewy seitan. Tempeh is also great crumbled for chili.

Tasty Broiled Tempeh

mild oil
soy sauce (I use Braggs Liquid Aminos)
garlic powder
ground coriander

Since tempeh comes in flat rectangular cakes, the way to get 4 square slices for sandwiches is to lay the tempeh on the cutting board, slicing horizonally as if to slice a piece of bread into 2 even thinner slices. Now that they are laying on top of each other, simply cut the two rectangles in half (like this: ==). Or you can slice them on a bias (slant) into "fingers" for non-sandwich recipes or for wraps.

Oil a cookie sheet liberally with mild oil. After slicing the tempeh as desired, place cut side up, on oiled cookie sheet, spray/sprinkle with soy sauce, then garlic powder and coriander. Place under a hot broiler until slightly browned. Using tongs (because it could fall apart on you if you use a fork), turn once, spray/sprinkle soy sauce again and brown on second side. Now it's ready for your recipe.

My favorite tempeh recipe:
Tempeh Reubens

rye bread/pumpernickel/whole wheat bread (toasted if desired)
hot cooked tempeh (see above recipe)
warm sauerkraut
creamy salad dressing (thousand island dressing variation)
vegan swiss "cheese" on top (optional)

Layer sandwich makings in order given and top with another slice of bread on top. Alternatively, you can use a wrap instead and eat burrito style. Yummy!

Check out Tammy's Recipes for more kitchen tips.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Creamy Salad Dressing

This is my coleslaw dressing recipe. But I've also used it for sandwiches and for dip on veggies. Use it with your own variation. Also great on tempeh reuben sandwiches!

Creamy Salad Dressing

1 cup vegan mayo (I like Vegenaise)
2 Tablespoons non-dairy milk or water (for thicker sauce, leave out)
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar or fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon honey or 1 teaspoon maple syrup
3/4 teaspoon salt (I use my homemade seasoned salt)
1/4 teaspoon paprika
dash red pepper

Mix well by hand. Chill. Makes about 1 1/3 cup.

"Ranch" Dressing
- add parsley, dried onion and dried garlic
"Thousand Island" Dressing - add a bit of tomato paste/sauce and chopped dill pickle

For a great Coleslaw - chop, shred or cut thinly any amount of the following as desired: cabbage, carrots, celery, onion and other misc. chopped leftover veggies like cucumber, broccoli, zucchini, colored bell peppers, cauliflower, etc. as desired. Mix creamy salad dressing with veggies and allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes or more in the refrigerator. Mix again when serving.