Monday, July 28, 2014

Cooking from My Cookbooks - 500 Vegan Recipes

Part 2 of my cooking from my cookbooks series features 500 Vegan Recipes by Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman. There are so many recipes in this book! I narrowed it down by first going to my pantry and picking one ingredient to use. Then I went to the index and found recipes using that ingredient. The ingredient was dried red lentils. The Chickpea Masala recipe on page 149 caught my eye.

I adore lots of spice and flavor. So when I read the ingredient list, I knew it would be a winner. I thought I had some garam masala in the spice cabinet, but I didn't. They included a great recipe for a garam masala spice mix on page 305. I quickly mixed the aromatic spices up in my spice grinder. The thing I love about red lentils is how fast they cook up. This is a pretty quick recipe to whip up. It is really filling and bursting with flavor. It reheats really well. I served it with some kale sautéed in garlic, ginger, lemon juice and tamari. It made enough for 4 good sized servings.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Cooking From My Cookbooks - 30 Minute Vegan

My cookbook collection has gotten pretty large over the years. So big in fact, there are some books that never get much attention. I thought I'd roll a few goals into one ongoing project: cooking something from all of my cookbooks, eating healthier by greatly reducing my use of processed food and eating out less. I may be a big old food geek, but I'm pretty excited about it.

I'm starting off by going alphabetically, but who knows how it will go. The first book I opened up was The 30-Minute Vegan by Mark Reinfeld and Jennifer Murray. This book was a gift from my lovely friend Julie. She is one of the most thoughtful people. She never forgets a birthday or any other holiday for that matter. I need to cook for her more often for sure. I think this gift may have been her hint to me.

I've been a bit lazy and not wanting to heat up the kitchen, so anything that required turning on the oven was a big no! I had some fresh spinach in the crisper and a hankering for greens. Fred always loves pasta, but is a self proclaimed "red sauce guy", so I wasn't sure this would be his thing. I opted for the Pasta Florentine (page 221). It wasn't red sauce, but how can you turn down a dinner you didn't have to make? I am not a huge fan of faux cheeses, so I left out the mozzarella. I did however slice up and brown some of Julie Hasson's Italian Sausages that I had made last weekend. They were yummy on this fairly simple pasta dish. I think without them it may have been a little boring. But it was a nice filling and quick week night dinner.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Weekend Sunny Breakfast (or brunch if you like to sleep in)

When I go to the farmers market or the grocery store, I always go overboard buying fresh organic produce. I always have things on the edge (and sometimes over the edge) of going bad. I hate to waste produce. Last weekend was another one of those days. So I decided to make a very vegiful healthy breakfast.

I had a rainbow of fresh veggies. The heat is starting to stress my fresh herbs so I cut a bunch of them to sue as well. This colorful scramble is full of antioxidants and nutrients. Most of all it is full of fresh herb flavor. I recommend slicing, dicing and chopping before you get started cooking to make things go easy peasy. So if you wake up tomorrow morning and want the sun to shine in your mouth, this might just be the recipe for you! Feel free to sub veggies you need to use up in your fridge.

Sunny Day Rainbow Scramble

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup thinly sliced cremini mushrooms
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
1 small zucchini, quartered and thinly sliced
1 medium tomato, diced
2 cups kale, stems removed torn into bite sized pieces
1 tablespoon minced fresh sage leaves*
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary*
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme*
1/2 teaspoon tumeric
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 1/2 teaspoon Braggs liquide aminos or low sodium tamari
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
1-12 oz package extra firm tofu, water squeezed out

In a 12 inch iron skillet or non stick pan over medium heat add olive oil. Let warm for about 30 seconds. Add onion and garlic and sauté until onions are slightly softened, about 2-3 minutes. Add mushrooms and yellow bell pepper and sauté for about 3-4 more minutes until mushrooms start to release their liquid. Add zucchini, tomato and kale. Saute until kale is wilted, about 3-5 minutes. Add sage, rosemary and thyme. Saute until herbs start to become fragrant, about 30 seconds. Crumble tofu into vegetable mixture. Sprinkle with turmeric, nutritional yeast, Braggs, salt and pepper. Gently stir until well combined. Cook, stirring occasionally to make sure nothing burns to the bottom, until tofu is heated through, about 3 minutes. Serve immediately. This also reheats well.

*measured after mincing

Friday, July 4, 2014

4th of Jul-fry! Fry Me Up Some Dinnah!

I don't know what it is about holidays, but they always make me want to stuff my face with indulgent things I wouldn't often make. Today was no exception. While I was working I was very well behaved. I made a very healthy juice with farm fresh carrots, cucumbers and beets from the garden and some other alkalizing veggies. Then I signed off and all sensibility left me.

I had some really beautiful baby portobello mushrooms. Not the tiny ones that are all different shapes and sizes, but the bigger ones that were gorgeous and pretty uniform in size. I thought about stuffing them or maybe even just sautéing them with a little thyme, salt and pepper. Then something happened. My inner fried food demon popped out and it was on! I whipped up a quick batter, heated up some oil in my trusty skillet and made a quick sauce for dipping'

The mushrooms were meaty and gorgeous sticking out of the perfectly golden and crispy coating. I tried one dipping sauce that just wasn't doing those 'shrooms justice. I regrouped and came up with what I thing is the perfect compliment to my golden beauties. The hint of lemon and the sweet tarragon in the sauce paired beautifully with the earthy mushies and the slightly smoky crust. These were pretty darn quick to make too. I made so many and couldn't stop eating them. It ended up being my entire dinner. Hee hee.

Golden Beauty Fried Mushrooms with Cheater Béarnaise

I recommend making the sauce ahead of time to let the flavors develop.

12 large baby bella mushrooms, stems removed and reserved

3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup corn starch (Rapunzel's is GMO free)
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup soy milk

Oil for frying (I used grape seed)

1 recipe Cheater Béarnaise (recipe below)

Add oil to iron skillet or other heavy bottomed skillet to a depth of at least 1 inch. Heat oil to 375.

Line a large plate with a paper bag topped with paper towels to drain mushrooms.

While oil is heating make batter. Add flour, corn starch, bread crumbs, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika and salt. Combine well. Whisk in soy milk until a fairly thick batter is formed. If batter seems too thick to coat the mushrooms, add a touch more soy milk.

Using a fork or a toothpick, dip the mushroom in batter and coat completely. Gently tap off excess. Carefully place mushroom into hot oil, using an additional fork to slide it gently off of the fork or pick into the oil. Repeat with each mushroom, cooking in batches. Make sure not to crowd the pan. Fry until golden on one side (about 3-5 minutes). Carefully turn over and fry for about 3 more minutes. Remove from oil and place on prepared plate to drain. These babies are very hot, so please let them cool for a bit lest you burn your poor tongue. Serve with Cheater Béarnaise.

Cheater Bearnaise

Makes 1/2 cup

1/2 cup Veganaisse or other vegan mayo
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon or 1/2 teaspoon fresh, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Dash Tabasco

In a small bowl, stir all ingredients until well combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least and hour. Will last several days in the fridge.

Monday, June 23, 2014

A Cool Appetizer for the Hot Summer

Summer is in full force. It's that time of year when turning on the oven is much akin to shoving splinters under your nails. When the temps heat up, I crave cool and easy dishes.

The other night, I needed a quick and easy appetizer to take to a potluck after work. It was my first time bringing food to this group, so I wanted it to be impressive, but also follow my mood for keeping cool. We have started getting some really nice big cucumbers. I knew those had to be a part of the plan. I plunked around Pintrest and found some very cute cucumber appetizers. One of my favorites was a cucumber-hummus cupcake. But I felt with the heat, even hummus might not hold up.

Then I went to the pantry and fridge to see what I could see. I had a few left over fresh shiitake mushrooms that were about at the end of their viable life. The pantry had some soba noodles and that did it for me. I was inspired to make a cool, asian inspired, easy to eat with your hands appetizer.

Soba and Shiitake Cucumber Cups

4 large cucumbers (about 2-2 1/2 inches wide)

Dressing ingredients

1 tablespoon red miso
2 tablespoons brown rice vinegar
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon low sodium tamari or soy sauce
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated or finely minced

Filling ingredients

2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1/2 cup diced fresh shiitake mushrooms
1 red jalapeño or fresno pepper minced
1 tablespoon finely diced sweet onion
1 large clove garlic minced
4 oz. soba noodles, broken in half and cooked according to package directions*

Black and/or white sesame seeds for garnish
Thinly sliced green onion tops for garnish (optional)

*IMPORTANT NOTE: make sure to rinse noodles under very cold water until completely cooled or they will get very gummy.

Peel cucumbers. Score the cucumber lengthwise with a fork all the way around. Slice into inch slices keeping thickness as even as possible. Using a small melon baller or small paring knife, carefully scoop out most of the seeds and flesh of cucumber to create a little bowl. Make sure to leave a little cucumber on the bottom for the bowl. Place in a single layer on serving platter and set aside.

In a small bowl whisk dressing ingredients together and set aside.

In a 10 inch iron skillet or sauté pan over medium heat. Heat sesame oil until just warm and not smoking. Add shiitake mushrooms, jalapeños and onion. Saute until shiitake mushrooms are softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté until garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat.

In a medium mixing bowl gently combine the chilled soba noodles, dressing and mushroom mixture.

Using a fork, twirl soba noodles to make a small and fairly tight "nest" of noodles**. Carefully place the "nest"inside the cucumber bowls. Repeat with remaining cucumber bowls and noodles.

Sprinkle each cute little bowl with sesame seeds and green onion for garnish. Serve immediately or they can be refrigerated for an hour or two before serving.

**NOTE: The mushroom mixture may fall out while twirling the noodles. Use a small spoon or your fingers to sprinkle some of the mixture on top of filled cucumbers.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Annual Chili and Beer War Submission for 2014

The 8th Annual Connell Chili and Beer War was yet another unqualified success. A great time was had by all. Every time I go, I make new friends and feel so welcome and happy. I told my lovely hostess this is one of those events where I sometimes lament about not eating meat. As I look around at all of the simmering creations in the crock pots, I am amazed at all of the creative culinary definitions of chili. My friend and hostess was so considerate. She made a vegan chile so that we could experience more than one of the entries. It was really awesome, chunks of hearty vegetables, beans and soooooo much flavor.

Mr. Host is a beer aficionado. He has probably done the beer tour at OC many times. He shared some fun brews with the crowd by serving tastings of several unique microbrews. I was pleasantly surprised by a pumpkin ale he offered. Nothing better than excellent beer with hot chile!

Our chili was pretty well received. The flavor was rich and smokey. When I discussed it with the prior year's champion (and third place winner this year), she suggested that while it had very good flavor, it needed more texture. I concur, so I made some slight adjustment in the recipe below to add beans for more texture.  I used the DePuy or French lentils because A) I had a small amount left in the pantry and B) they are the type of lentils that stay more firm when cooked for long periods of time. I love the smokiness of the paprika and chipotle in this. I hope you do to! This a a pretty spicy chili. If you are more delicate, reduce the amount of jalapeños by half and use a milder chile powder.

Smoky Red Hot Chili

1 cup french lentils (DePuy)
2 1/4 cup water
1 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 large pasilla chile pepper, diced
3 medium jalapeños, minced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon hot chile powder
1 tablespoon oregano
1/2 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1teaspoon chipotle powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegan brown or red ale beer
1-15 oz. can fired roasted crushed tomatoes
1-15 oz. can fire roasted diced tomatoes
1-8 oz can El Pato Salsa de Chile Fresco
1-6 oz can tomato paste
3 cups vegetable broth
2 bay leaves
1 cup organic textured vegetable protein (TVP)
1 - 15 oz can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

In a medium sized saucepan add lentils and water. Bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and simmer for 25-35 minutes until lentils are tender (they will still be somewhat firm).

In a large stock pot over medium heat add oil then onions and fresh peppers. Saute until softened and onions are translucent, about 7-10 minutes. If mixture starts to stick, add a little water Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add chile powder, oregano, cocoa, smoked paprika, cumin, chipotle powder and salt. Sauté until just fragrant, about 1 minute. Deglaze with beer and simmer for about 2 more minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, El Pato, tomato paste, vegetable broth and bay leaves. Combine well. Stir in TVP and beans. Let simmer for at least and hour to let those flavors develop.

Serve with diced green onions and vegan sour cream if desired. Oh and corn bread is a natural for this chili!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Tonapah Rob's Vegetable Farm and Bonus Recipe

The one thing I love about having a blog is that you can really write about whatever you want and whatever you love. Sometimes I write about things I think other people will like, sometimes I find some cool new restaurant, ingredient or cooking technique. This post is about something that makes me feel good about so many things: clean local food, environmentally friendliness and just good people.

A couple of weeks ago Fred, some of our friends and I took a drive out to Tonapah Rob's Farm located about 50 miles outside of Phoenix. My dear friend Jackie (who is my kindred spirit when it comes to cooking awesome food) booked a tour of the farm for our little group. She knows how passionate I am about organic and truly natural food, so she knew this field trip would make me a little giddy.

We arrived early so we could by some of the super freshly picked, pesticide, herbicide and GMO free vegetables from Rob's farm stand. There were beautiful carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, fennel, greens, onions and more. After hanging out for a while, we were ready for the tour. Rob started this farm about 18 years ago. It was originally 5 acres, but he has been able to recently purchase 4 more acres. He is passionate about growing chemical free and in synch with the local climate and critters. He is an advocate of continual learning and teaching on the farm. Nature is an incredible teacher. Over the years he has learned how to work with everything from beneficial bugs to crop rotation to the typical wind patterns of the area.

As we toured the property, I noticed that he is also big into repurposing. He found an old abandoned washing machine which now served as a salad/greens spinner!

He has unique methods of composting. He showed us a new technique he has learned over the past few years (compost tea). He showed us a comparison of artichoke plants living near the compost tea run off and farther away. The plants getting the compost tea were huge! It was amazing as you can see below.

He has green houses where he starts many of his plants. Which brings me to another very important part of his method. All of his employees must be drug and tobacco free. He is adamant about this policy. He also insists that visitors to the farm stand that are smokers not tour the property. He doesn't do this to be a hard-core anti-smoking guy. He has lost crops to the quick spreading tobacco mosaic virus because someone he hired lied about their smoking habits.

Many of us have heard the claims from biotech companies that genetically modified and pesticide laden crops are the only way to feed the world. Apparently, they haven't met the likes of Tonapah Rob and his dedicated crew. His farm has a sizable CSA following and he brings a lot of produce to a few selected markets in Phoenix. He has produced well over 1500 pounds of produce in weekend before he expanded to 9 acres without genetically modifying or using any chemicals, so I am sure the yield is even higher now. I'm thrilled to see the success of his crops, his farm stand and his CSA. Below are some shots of the healthy plants growing. The cabbage heads were amazing!!!

Our little group had lots of questions as we all do some of our own organic gardening. Rob took extra time to answer our questions and to provide some great advice to help our gardens flourish. We were grateful for his time and knowledge.

His website has all the details on his CSA (which is a great deal), the markets where you can find his produce, the farm stand and a little history about Rob and the farm. The home page lists the upcoming week's food offereings. There are also some recipes in case you need ideas on how to use all of those spectacular veggies. Speaking of recipes, I created a recipe using the veggies I bought on my last trip to the farm. It's a nutrient rich and toothsome dish that is great for dinner or reheated for lunch. The fresh fennel gives the tempeh that "Italian sausage" flavor.

Wild Rice with Roasted Vegetables and Tempeh Sausage Crumbles

6 -8 servings as a side dish 4 main dish servings

1 cup wild rice, rinsed
3 cups vegetable broth

2 cups fresh cauliflower florets
2 cups fresh broccoli florets
4 oz. small whole cremini mushrooms (or large ones halved)
3 cloves garlic, crushed (do not mince, keep clove intact)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt
pinch black pepper

8 oz. package non-gmo tempeh, crumbled
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cup fresh fennel, bulb only sliced thinly
1/2 cup sliced oil packed sun dried tomatoes (or rehydrated non-oil packed)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons tomato paste
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon Bragg's liquid amino or soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke.

Preheat oven to 375.

In a medium sized saucepan over med-high heat, add wild rice and broth. Bring mixture to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Cover pan and let simmer for 45-50 minutes until wild rice puffs open. Remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes the fluff with fork.

While rice is cooking, prepare roasted vegetables and "sausage".

Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Place cauliflower, broccoli, mushrooms and garlic cloves on sheet. Sprinkle with paprika, salt and pepper. Add olive oil and toss to coat. Roast mixture for 15 minutes.

In large iron skillet or sauté pan over medium-low heat, sauté crumbled tempeh in olive oil until slightly browned, about 5-7 minutes. Add fresh fennel and sun-dried tomatoes and sauté until fennel is softened, about 10-15 minutes. If mixture becomes to dry, add a touch of water. Add crushed red pepper and salt. Saute for about 1 more minute. In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine tomato paste, water, Bragg's liquid amines and liquid smoke. Pour mixture into pan. Cook until liquid is gone and mixture is almost dry. Stir in cooked wild rice and roasted vegetables. Serve immediately.

NOTE: Reheats very well!

I have been eating lots of the veggies raw with some hummus as a snack too. Look how beautiful that purple cauliflower is!

Below is information on the Farm Stand and location of the farm (information directly from

Make sure to go to the website for more detailed information on the CSA. Going to the farm and taking the tour is a lot of fun for a group of people or a family…very educational.

Note to my vegan readers: the farm is not vegan.

Tonopah Rob’s Vegetable Farm

Address: 35838 W. Buckeye Rd.  Tonopah, AZ 85354
Market hours:  Open every Saturday from 8 to noon.  Summer hours: 7 to 11 a.m.  The farm stand opens November 2, 2013.
To visit Tonopah Rob’s Vegetable Farm and if you are coming from the Phoenix area:
The Farm Stand will open the first weekend of November 3, 2013.
  • Take Interstate 10 west to exit 103 – 339th Avenue
  • Turn left – heading south
  • Drive 1.9 miles
  • To Buckeye Road
  • Turn right – heading west
  • Drive 2.3 miles – you will pass through a stop sign at 355th Ave (about one half mile west of 355th Ave.)
  • Farm Stand is on the right – look for the big yellow sign
Address is: 35838 W. Buckeye Rd. Tonopah, Arizona
My farm is only about 30 minutes from the I-10 and 101 Loop intersection. Be careful following online mapping services including Google, Yahoo Maps, and Map quest as they often direct you to turn on Van Buren – this is a mistake that will have you on the wrong street with no easy access to my farm! Telephone: 623-386-3033