Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Veggie Fajitas

Veggie Fajitas with Chips & Salsa
When we go out for Mexican food, I always order the same thing: Veggie Fajitas.

The meal usually includes Sauteed, Seasoned Vegetables, Refried Beans, Mexican Rice, Shredded Lettuce, Tomatoes, Corn or Flour Tortillas, and sometimes Guacamole. I ask them to leave off the Shredded Cheese & Sour Cream - and usually ask them to omit the rice, too (I prefer plain rice). And, of course, Chips & Salsa are generally included with the meal.

It's a wonderful meal, but the fat content is MUCH higher than is good for me. And, the price is about 3 times what I can make it for at home.

So, here's my home version:

Fajita Veggies
Saute in non-stick skillet till done
1 (12oz) bag Frozen 3 Pepper & Onion mix (or 1 Bell Pepper & 1 Onion, cut in crescents)
2 (4oz) cans Mushrooms, drained (or equivalent fresh)
Optional: Zucchini and/or Summer Squash Cut in quarters lengthwise & sliced, Chopped Tomato
1 1/2 Tablespoons Taco Seasoning (or, a little less than 1 packet store bought)
(I saute without oil or liquid - I only add a little drizzle of water if veggies stick, which is rare)

Serve with the above listed Accompaniments.

Tip for dining with Omnivores: I marinate beef strips in Fajita Marinade similar to this one, and grill the strips while I saute the veggies for this meal. I freeze the raw beef strips in the marinade, so at cooking time I just thaw and grill. Shredded Cheese & Sour Cream might also be welcomed by your Omnivore.

Make Ahead: Having homemade Salsa & prepared Rice on hand makes this go much more quickly. If you choose to have refried beans with this (I don't always) - then having some homemade on hand in the freezer, or just a can on the shelf (make sure they have no lard) can be a big help.

This is being shared on Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays, Simple LIving Wednesday, What's Cooking Wednesday, Penny Pinching Party

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Ants on a Log

Ants on a Log
This is a classic American kids' snack that is so simple my Little One can make it. Many of us learned the "recipe" from Scouts.  Thought I'd post it here for a bit of nostalgia for my American readers, and a nice snack idea for International readers.

When people ask, "What do Vegans find to eat?" they never think about the fact that they grew up eating fun, simple things like these!

Ants on a Log
Clean Celery and cut it crosswise, but not lengthwise into sticks
Spread inside with Peanut Butter
Top each "Log" with exactly THREE "Ants" (Raisins)
(My Little One is quite adamant - the recipe calls for exactly 3! No more, no less! ; )


These are great for an afternoon snack, picnic, or hiking treat.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Veggies in Indonesian Peanut Sauce

This  dish is a nice, flavourful way to serve vegetables. It is particularly well suited to complement or balance a  a meal composed of simple or bland dishes (whether Vegan or Omnivore foods). I believe the original idea came from a Donna Klein cookbook, but it has been modified from its original form.

Indonesian Peanut Sauce for Vegetables
Stir together thoroughly:
2Tablespoon Soy Sauce
2Tablespoon Rice Vinegar
2 teaspoons Dark Sesame Oil
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 Tablespoon Peanut Butter – a little more as needed
1 teaspoon garlic
1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon curry powder (I use less if hot, more if my homemade no-heat type)
1 Tablespoon Water (or as needed to thin sauce)

Steam 2 (12 oz)  bags California Veggies (or 1 1/2 pounds of a blend of Sliced Carrots with Broccoli & Cauliflower) .
Toss with sauce.
Serve room temperature or chilled.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Simply Asparagus

Broiled Asparagus. Notice how the color brightens,
and the few seared spots.
Asparagus is one of those wonderful vegetables that I could enjoy for dessert - I love it so much. And, I tend to think simple preparation is the best. It is wonderful grilled over charcoal, but that's not an option for us (our firecode forbids grilling) - so this is how I like it best. This is also a great option when it's too chilly for grilling.

Simply Asparagus

Wash the desired amount of Asparagus, and holding the base, bend it sharply and snap the end off off (the woody part breaks off this way, leaving the tender part).

Towel dry and lay on a rimmed cookie sheet.
Try to keep it in a single layer as much as possible,
so that it broils instead of steaming.

Asparagus before Broiling - notice that the color is not as bright.
Spray with a bit of Olive Oil.

Salt & Pepper lightly.

Slide pan of Asparagus onto the top shelf of your oven, and turn on the broiler. Check it every few minutes, and take it out when tiny seared spots start appearing, and color brightens (see picture). This doesn't take long - roughly 5 to 10 minutes.

Enjoy immediately.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Masala Dal

Masala Dal
I LOVE Indian Dal - as a result, I have several recipes for it. This is one that we all enjoy, and eat fairly frequently. This uses a packaged Spice Blend available from the Indian Grocery sold under several brands. If you have a favorite brand, use it - if not, try a new one : )

Masala Dal
In a saucepan, bring to a boil, then simmer about 20 minutes, or till done. (In CrockPot or Slow Cooker, this takes about 3 hours on high)
3 cups Split Masoor Dal (Also known as "Red Lentils" - which look Orange!)
Split Masoor Dal or Red Lentils
5 Cups Water

Make Flavour Packet (formally known as a "Tadke") seperately:
In a separate pan, Saute
A tiny bit of oil (about a teaspoon - you may use more if you like)
1 teaspoon Mustard Seeds, till they start to pop (or turn grey)*
Then add and saute a few minutes, till fragrant
2 teaspoons Minced Garlic
2 tsp dal masala (packaged blend of spices from Indian Grocery)
**Add "heat" if desired - a broken dry red chili or two, or a little cayenne, according to your tastes.
Then add:
1 T dry (or 2 T fresh) Chopped Cilantro
1 T Lemon Juice
Salt to taste (about 1 1/2 teaspoons here - adjust flavours at serving time)

Add Flavor Packet to Lentils just before serving.
Serve with Bread or Rice and Salad.
* Mustard Seeds can be popped just like popcorn - heat the oil, toss them in, and put on a lid to listen to them pop (they DO splatter hot oil, just like popcorn does - so be sure to use a lid! If your oil isn't hot enough when you add them, they might turn grey as they cook instead of popping. That's okay (even if not perfect) and they will taste fine. If they burn, however, toss them out and try again. Believe me, you will KNOW if they burn - much like popcorn - I don't have to describe the smell ; )
Make Ahead Tip: This entire dish can be frozen when finished - it freezes quite well. Sometimes I prefer to freeze just the cooked lentils & water, and freeze several different flavour packets separately, giving me flexibility at serving time. If you have a small freezer, you can make your Flavour Packets and freeze them on a bulk cooking day, then just boil the lentils & water on serving day - that makes it super-easy and almost instant, without taking too much time or energy on cooking day.
Tip for Dining with Omnivores: A dish like Chicken Tandoori can go well on the side here, without too much additional work.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Month of Vegan & Lenten Menus, with Recipes

Planning a Repeating Month of Vegan Meals Makes
Meal Planning a Breeze!
A while back I did a post on menu planning for a year - it turned out to be a pretty popular post. All sorts of blogs and websites discuss meal planning, and a lot of people seem to think they
should do it, but many have trouble getting it done. For me, it saves time, money and stress - so what's not to love? But, I don't like having to re-do it every week - that's a hassle!

While I sometimes do menu planning for a year, I also like to follow this simpler method. I make a plan for four weeks that can be repeated over and over. It can be used three ways: 1) strictly go through the schedule, using the days in order 2) if you don't like so much structure, but still want to enjoy the benefits, shop for a week's menu, and use it to glance at on those nights when you don't know what to cook, knowing that you have what you need on hand, or 3) use it for planning bulk cooking menus, and simply grab the meal you want out of the freezer whenever you want it.

I find it pretty easy to keep groceries on hand to make most of these recipes without a special shopping trip. I keep most of the pantry ingredients on hand all of the time, then I simply need to shop for produce. Since none of the recipes use meat and dairy which must always be served fresh, many of these recipes can be prepared without running out to the grocery for those basics.

This is my own perpetual Vegan menu. Our whole family uses this during times like Lent when we all eat Vegan meals (for those of us who are Orthodox Christians, we are currently in Lent). I have a separate menu for those times when some of us eat differently (and perhaps I'll post that another time.)

I find this menu format the easiest to use- it is a simple word processing document, so I can cut and paste things where I need them. If we eat out, or I want to try a different recipe one of the nights, no problem! I've seen all sorts of fancy, artistic menu planners, with color coding and "pieces" to move about to different nights, but to me nothing beats the simplicity and ease-of-use of a basic computer document. (Not to mention, that if I had something with pieces, my daughter would think it was the perfect toy - and soon the pieces would be lost!)

When planning a month's menu, I like to think of a theme for a day of the week and follow that. For Omnivores, that might mean Beef on Monday and Pork on Tuesday. For me, it might mean that one day each week is Soup, or Mexican, or Italian, or Pasta, or Lentils, or Greek, or Grains, or Something-over-Rice - well, you get the idea! Then, it is easy to fill in a month of Wednesdays, for example, with my chosen theme. It is also easy to bulk-cook a whole month of Wednesday meals in an hour or two. (I refer to this as "Vertical Meal Planning" - but I printed this menu portrait-style, so when you look at it here, it will actually be horizontal. I did that just to be confusing ; )

 I like to offer myself options for a given night - usually one more time consuming and one simpler, one for hot weather & one for cool weather, or two menus that are too similar to serve close together. I also plan things according to our typical schedule for a day - for instance, on Sundays we often have friends come to lunch right after Church - so I might plan something that can be made in advance or in the Slow Cooker.

I have a print-out of this menu hanging inside one of my kitchen cupboards - just open the door for a menu at a glance.

Maybe this perpetual menu will work for you. But, if it doesn't, you might enjoy making a perpetual menu of your family's favorite recipes.

I typically serve a variety of things with meals that are not listed here - maybe salad, slaw, bread, fruit, a pickle & olive tray, and dips or spreads, but I don't list these things on my menu in addition to the entrée. I think of them as accessories!

Most of the entrees here have already been listed on my blog, and so I provided a link. Some of them are still to come - If I remember, I'll add more links as time goes on.

(Bread, Salad & Fruit are Assumed)
Italian Rice Salad with Red Lentil Soup
Black Bean Soup or
*Tabbouleh, Lebanese Bean Salad, Dolmades, Hummus
* Lentil Rice (or other) Salad with Veggie Burgers
Three Bean Dal, Fattoush or Salad
Mediterranean Eggplant over Rice  or
* Stuffed Eggplant with Salad
* Chili-Topped Potatoes with Salad
Tofu Tamale Pie or
Kibbeh or
*Mushroom Barley Soup
*Split Pea Soup
Giant Beans
Veggie Burgers & Oven Fries
*White Beans (prepared the same way)


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Samali ( Greek Semolina Dessert )

Samali ( Greek Semolina Dessert )
A few years ago, when we were traveling, we went to Church on Sunday and met some lovely friends, who extended hospitality to us and really made us feel at home while away from home. In addition to all their other kindnesses, they made this dessert for us. And then, were willing to share the recipe!

Traditionally, this dessert is often made with dairy products, such as Greek Yogurt. But, since the Greek Orthodox Church encourages "fasting" - part of which is keeping a mostly Vegan diet - there are also some Vegan versions of the recipe.

Samali Dough being prepared for baking - Dough
scored in diamonds and Blanched Almonds being added.
Many Americans think only of Baklava when they hear "Greek Dessert" - but this one is an all-time favorite at our house - and much less time consuming to make than Baklava.
Golden Baked Samali, before Syrup is added.

Fasting Samali ( SHAH-mah-lee )
Mix Together
2 ½ cup Semolina
1 cup Sugar
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
Then Stir in
¾ cup Orange Juice/Mixed Fruit Juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
Press into 8 x 8 square cake pan (if it is not non-stick, you may want to oil it)

Score a diamond pattern on the surface (don't cut all the way through).
Press one Blanched Almond* in the center of each diamond

Bring just to a boil, then allow to cool while Samali bakes:
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 tablespoon syrup-type sweetener such as Agave or Corn Syrup. (Honey is traditional, if you use it)

Bake Samali 350degrees Fahrenheit for 50 minutes - or till golden brown.
Remove from oven and spread with
1 heaped teaspoon Margarine or Buttery Spread (such as Earth Balance)
cut diamonds all the way through.
Pop back in the oven for 5 more minutes.
Remove from oven and pour syrup over the top. It will seem like way too much, and will rise above the level of the dessert- but then in a few minutes it will soak in.
Store at room temperature (not in refrigerator).
I like to make this in the morning to be eaten at dinner the same day.
*If you buy Almonds which are not blanched already, bring water to a boil and drop in raw almonds. Boil for one minute and cool. Then twist them in your fingers, and the skins slip right off. This is a job that my young daughter can enjoy helping with - not at all difficult : )

This is being shared at Weekend Wonders

Monday, April 8, 2013

Mediterranean Chickpeas & Vegetables

Mediterranean Chickpeas and Vegetables
This is inspired by a recipe I found in Woman's Day Magazine many years ago. I've adapted it to our family's tastes and be both a little healthier and a little more frugal. I've been making it for many years now - and we always enjoy it.

Mediterranean Chickpeas over Rice
Saute till Zucchini and Onion are browned:
1 teaspoon Olive Oil (optional - None is okay, too)
2 or 3 Zucchini, cut in bite sized pieces
1 Chopped Onion or 1/2 of a 12 oz bag frozen chopped Onion
1 teaspoon fresh Minced Garlic
2 cans (15 ounce each) Chopped Tomatoes
2 cans (15 ounces each ) Chickpeas, drained OR 3 Cups Home Prepared Chickpeas
2 Tablespoons Caper Buds or 1/4 cup chopped Green Olives
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon fresh pepper
Simmer about 15 minutes, till liquid is reduced
serve over prepared couscous, bulgur wheat, or rice
May be Garnished with Toasted Slivered Almonds if desired

Freezes well.

Tip for Dining with Ominvores: serve a bit of favorite Grilled Meat, Poultry or Fish alongside. The flavours in this dish make it very compatible with fish or chicken, but it would also go well with Pork Souvlaki or other skewered grilled meat.

This is being shared on Anti Procrastination Tuesdays and What's Cooking Wednesday and Simple Living Wednesdays and Gluten Free Fridays

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Vegan Barbecue

Vegan Barbecue - Chewy Wheat Balls with Barbecue Sauce
over rice, with Edamame Succotash, Slaw and Corn Muffin.
I like to make this dish when Barbecue Ribs or Barbecue Chicken are on the Omnivore menu. If I recall correctly, I got the idea from this book by Bryanna Clark Grogan.

Chewy Wheat Balls
Stir till mixed - a springy dough will form
5 Tablespoons Vital Wheat Gluten Powder
4 Tablespoons Water
Break off 3/4 teaspoon to teaspoon sized pieces, and place on nonstick foil lined pan.
Bake 375degrees Fahrenheit, for about 20 minutes. Dough will puff into balls. If you don't bake them long enough, they will deflate dramatically immediately upon removal from oven (they can be popped back in - it's not a perfect fix, but it's okay). If they go too long, they will get hard and crunchy. About 18 to 20 minutes is generally right.

At this point, the balls may be cooled and frozen in a zipper bag for future meals.
The amount in this recipe makes about 2 meals for me with a child sized portion for my daughter.

Or, they may be tossed with a bit of your favorite store bought or homemade barbecue sauce, and heated in the microwave for 1 minute, or in the oven at 350degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes (a good option if you're already cooking something else like potatoes or meat).

I like to serve these over rice. They're very chewy, so you may want to cut them before eating them, and be extra cautious with children or adults who have problems chewing & swallowing.

Chewy Wheat Ball Dough, ready to go into oven.
Puffed, Golden Brown Chewy Wheat Balls.
These balls may also be tossed with other sauces (perhaps your favorite Chinese sauce) and cut in strips to stir fry, or prepare by some other method.

Tip for dining with Omnivores: this is the perfect vegan food to serve when Omnivores are having any meat with Barbecue Sauce.

This is being shared on Healthy Vegan Fridays