Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Roasted Broccoli with Tahini Sauce over Curried Squash

Somewhere amidst traveling, working full time, running, yoga and happy hour, I’ve lost the desire to stand in the kitchen for hours to impress…myself. I used to concoct these complicated displays with a bagillion ingredients, always making homemade seitan or soysage, whipping up my own Worcestershire sauce, etc. Has reality finally sunk in? Do I really have no time or energy to cook? No, it’s not quite that extreme. But I am understanding better and better the people who tell me they just don’t have the time or the know-how to do what I do.

Well neither do I right now. Ok, ok, I have the know-how. But that’s why I write this little ditty. For you. To impart how easy it is to truly concoct something incredible with just a few things on hand in about a half hour that will appeal to any veg hater out there. This is a beautifully simple dish.  If you look at the 3 components separately, nothing requires more than 5 ingredients.  Do the math people! Sorry, I’ve been watching a lot of Numbers on Netflix. But seriously, you absolutely have time for this.

This recipe is based on one I found on Vegetarian Times. I adjusted the Tahini Sauce to my taste and deviated quite a bit from the bulgur nonsense. I like my version, and so did my token omnivore, which (as you know) is always the final test to determine the final fate of my crazy kitchen madness. “Mmmmmm”s all around. If you need a little protein boost, this would go great with falafel or just some mashed chickpeas mixed right into that squash. Ok it’s go time - start preheating that oven (toaster oven will do for those of you who live in stupidly extreme climates like me).

Roasted Broccoli with Tahini Sauce over Curried Squash
Makes: 2-4 servings
Cook time: 30 minutes


For the Broccoli
1 broccoli crown/stalk, cut into small flowerets (about 3 cups)
1/2 - 1 T. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

For the Squash
1 small acorn squash, halved and seeded
1 T. veggie broth
1 tsp. curry powder
1/4 tsp garam masala
1 T. dried currants
Salt to taste

For the Tahini Sauce
1 T. tahini
1 T. lemon juice (about 1 whole small lemon)
1 small garlic clove, finely minced
1 T. veggie broth


Preheat oven to 450F.

In a medium bowl, drizzle broccoli with olive oil and coat generously with salt and pepper. Spread evenly over a foil lined pan and roast until browned and crispy around edges, about 25 minutes. Remove and set aside.

While the broccoli is cooking, place the squash flesh side down in a microwave safe dish about 2-3 inches in depth. Fill dish up to 1 inch with water and cover. Microwave on high for 7-10 minutes or until completely tender. Remove from pan and set aside until cool enough to handle. Scoop/scrape flesh from the peel into a mixing bowl. Add broth and mash the sqaush with curry powder and garam masala. Fold in currants and set aside (cover to keep warm).

Finally prepare the sauce, combin tahini and lemon juice into a small bowl. Whisk vigorously until tahini separates and then smooths out to a creamy texture (stick with me here, the tahini will "fall apart" in the lemon juice all oil-on-water like but after about a minute or so, it will start to thicken and will become very creamy). Add garlic and broth to sauce. Season with salt to taste.

To assmeble: pile up a huge mound of squash on a plate. Top with broccoli and drizze with sauce. Delish!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Funkalicious Fat Free Fried Rice

When I went through my little “raw” experimental phase a while back, I came out with some good lessons.

Some of these include:
  1. I have a lot to learn about effective sprouting.
  2. I should have spent the money on a square food dehydrator. Now I have to cut holes in wax paper around the center tube. I would make kale chips everyday if I didn’t have to do this stupid step.
  3. Cauliflower is a beautiful stand in for rice.

So without going too much into the first two lessons, we’ll skip right to the rice. One of my absolute favorite types of recipe in the uncooked world is cauliflower “rice.” When pulsed in a food processor, cauliflower beads up and actually looks like rice. The texture is somewhat similar, but it takes to flavor extremely well. And when it’s all ground up, you don’t feel like you’re eating straight up fiber. You don’t get the side effects of eating straight up fiber either, which is nice for you and your loved ones.

Deviating from the raw theme, I cooked the pulsed cauliflower in this recipe. It beats waiting the 20 minutes it takes to cook rice and the hours it takes to cool it before reheating again in a frying pan. This is quicker, healthier and easier. And truth be told, I’m all about volume. I have a weakness for incredibly tasty food and therefore like to eat LARGE amounts of it, like any other person lacking self control. But think of 2 whole cups of cauliflower compared to 2 cups of fried rice. Such an easy way to trick your brain! Not to mention you’ve got boat loads more nutrients in the cruciferous cruncher than in the bland, bleached rice.

* Tofu Tip: A super convenient way to add tofu that actually has flavor is to buy pre-baked and seasoned tofu. My favorite kind is from Trader Joe’s and costs a whole 3 bucks. You don’t have to cook it, press it or season it. Just add it on top!

Funkalicious Fat Free Fried Rice

Makes: 1 huge serving
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes


2 c. cauliflower flowerets

1 large garlic clove, minced
1 tsp ginger root, minced
1 tsp. jalapeno or Serrano pepper, minced
½ c. mushrooms, sliced
¼ - ½ c. veggie broth (homemade or bouillon)
¼ c. shredded carrots
¼ c. green peas, from fresh or frozen (thawed)
¼ c. yellow corn, from fresh or frozen (thawed)
1 stalk green onions, chopped
1-2 tsp soy sauce
Baked & seasoned tofu such as Wildwood or Trader Joe’s, cubed


In a food processor, pulse the cauliflower until completely crumbled and no large chunks remain, about 20-25 pulses. Be sure to NOT process into a puree. When you pulse the processor in short bursts, you’ll get lovely little rice looking beads. Remove and set aside.

Heat a skillet over medium high heat and coat with cooking spray. Add garlic, ginger and jalapeno and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add mushrooms and ¼ cup of veggie broth to deglaze the pan (you don’t want burnt garlic!). Lower the heat slightly and cook until most of the liquid is gone, about 1 minute. Add cauliflower, remaining veggies and 1 teaspoon of soy sauce. If pan is too dry or anything starts sticking to the bottom, deglaze the pan with another ¼ cup of broth. Add baked tofu at the end an any additional soy sauce to taste.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Pasta with Creamy Truffle Sauce

I got a little ambitious last weekend with dried beans. My dear red headed curly-Q and I headed to Flagstaff for some escape from the blazing Phoenix sun and wanted to make the weekend cheap. We did a pretty good job considering we made one trip to the grocery story and ate out once for breakfast. To keep the food cost down I grabbed a jar of beans and a jar of rice (that is how I store my bulk foods - in old applesauce jars) and a can of those spicy fire roasted tomatoes I've been so keen on for the past few weeks.

At first I thought that making a big batch of beans would be a good way to save some prep time throughout the next week. So I cooked up a bunch of anasazi beans, made our lovely dish in Flagstaff using half the amount and headed back to the heat with the leftovers. Each night throughout the next week I looked at those beans and thought "uhhhh so what do I do with these now?"

We tried a couple of things at home - beans and potatoes, roasted eggplant "hummus" but by the time I came up on the very last scoop, I just had to get rid of these suckers. I'm a three bean salad kind of girl, I don't like to stick to one variety for too long. So one additional idea came to mind. While many vegan sauce recipes out there feature pureed beans, I had never really tried it myself. It seemed like the sauce would be too lumpy. Sure I'll use a good pinch of garbanzo flour once in a while, but as a base? I wasn't convinced it would actually be creamy.

That's because I didn't my food processor enough credit or enough time to do it's thang. Patience. When you let it go for more than a minute, it really gets its groove. It tore through those beans after adding enough broth and gave me a straight up sauce in about 4 minutes. With a couple of flavor punches like truffle spread and a garlic, this dinner was no effort. Don't have a jar of truffle spread floating around? Go to an Italian grocer or substitute with olive tapenade, mashed roasted garlic cloves, or another paste-type item with a strong flavor. I'm convinced this could even be served in a diner and pulled off as gravy. Mmmm comfort food.

So wait, I said anasazi beans above and it says cannellini beans below. So which is it? I figure if red beans were delicious, cannellini would be down right spectacular. You make the call.

Pasta with Creamy Truffle Sauce and Oyster Shrooms
Makes: 3-4 servings
Cook time: 15-20 minutes


1 c. cooked cannellini beans
1 clove garlic
2 T. nutritional yeast
1 heaping T. truffle-mushroom pâté or spread
1 tsp lemon juice
½ tsp sea salt*
1 ½ - 2 c. broth (homemade or from bouillon)

1 T. olive oil
3 c. oyster mushrooms
Pinch of salt

Any kind of pasta cooked according to package directions
Freshly ground black pepper

*Note: reduce the salt if using broth made from bouillon.


In a food processor, combine beans, garlic, nutritional yeast, truffle pâté, lemon juice and sea salt. Process on high and slowly add broth through the chute, half a cup at a time until desired thickness is reached. Process until sauce is completely smooth, about 4-5 minutes. Transfer sauce to a saucepan and heat over medium low until bubbling.  Turn heat all the way to low. If mixture is too thin, let the sauce bubble until it thickens, whisking constantly to avoid clumps.

While the sauce is heating, prepare the mushrooms. In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and add the mushrooms without crowding too much. Cook for 4-5 minutes or until mushrooms are tender. Season with a pinch of salt.

To assemble, top prepared pasta with a generous helping of mushrooms. Top with ¾ cup of sauce and a good grind of black pepper.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

MexiTempeh with Cheesy Polenta

Leafy greens. Not featured in the title of this recipe, because this recipe is for those that don’t like leafy greens. For the vegetarians that hate vegetables. For the children that grew up on hot dish. This dish is every bit as comforting as the mysterious casserole and every bit as convenient as the sensational Hamburger Helper. Ok, maybe not every bit as convenient, but this is super easy. You have no excuses.

Back to the leafy greens. Hopefully everyone knows by now that these sturdy green leaves pack a lot of nutrition. Kale is now commonly referred to as a super food, and it is. Other types have just as much bang for their buck. Chard, beet greens, mustard greens – these are all not only healthy but they each have unique flavors and complexities. The trick is in preparing them with enough complimentary flavor to counter some of the minor challenges they have. One being bitterness and the other being texture. Cooked too short, they will be bitter and chewy. Cooked too long and they will be flavorless mush.

In the case of veg haters, the nutritional components and soft flavors of greens matter not. It is those that cook for veg haters that must meet the challenge. I am one of those cooks. Do I criticize my fellow herbivores or loving omnivores for hating on greens? I could never be so harsh. But I will sneak them into my meals. All of them.

One of my new favorite go-to greens is the Trader Joe’s bag of braising greens – conveniently washed and chopped for your green-sneaking pleasure. Whole Foods has also starting offering braising green in bulk next to the salad greens. So now you really have no excuses! For this particular recipe, the spicy pizazz of cumin and chili powder will help to mask your good intentions as well. The only thing I haven’t figured out yet is how to make the greens invisible.

MexiTempeh over Cheesy Polenta
Serves: 2
Cook time: 25 minutes


2 tsp. canola oil
½ medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, sliced or minced
½ pkg tempeh, crumbled/broken into large chunks
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. oregano
½ tsp. chili powder
½ tsp. paprika
½ tsp. black pepper
¼ tsp. salt
(If you don’t have all those, use 1-2 T. taco seasoning)
¾ c. canned fire roasted tomatoes with chilis such as Rotel
3 c. leafy greens (collards, kale, mustard, chard etc.)
2 tsp. flour (garbanzo, potato or all purpose)
Dash of cinnamon
¼ c. cilantro, chopped


In a deep skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat and add onion. Cook until translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and cook another 30 seconds until fragrant. Stir in crumbled tempeh and spices. Cook until tempeh starts to brown, about 8-10 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes.

When pan starts to become dry, add in tomatoes and leafy greens. Add ¼ cup of water if mixture is too thick to make a light sauce. Sprinkle flour over stew and stir to thicken. Cook another 5-7 minutes, or until greens are wilted and tender. Turn the heat off. Sprinkle a faint dash of cinnamon over the top and stir in cilantro. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cheesy Polenta


2 c. Water
½ c. Polenta
½ tsp Salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
½ tsp miso paste
¼ tsp turmeric
¼ tsp salt
2 T. Nutritional Yeast


In a large sauce pan, bring water to a boil. Slowly add polenta in an even stream, whisking vigorously to avoid clumps. When polenta comes to a boil, lower heat to low and add in remaining ingredients. Let polenta simmer another 15 minutes or so until tender.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Braised Celery with Mustard Mash

Celery Heads - they grow so big. And though that's what we all want from a seedling, sometimes a whole head of celery is just...a lot. I get excited about the outer crunchy stalks for a few days, maybe dip them in hummus or use them to make jambalaya, then tuck the rest away for another day. Then another week goes by and the last few stalks call it quits. But it's almost a resentful kind of quits because my celery never gets soggy or brown, it just wilts. "See me? I'm green still. But I've lost my snap. Thanks to you." That's what my celery says to me when it passes its dipper or scooper prime. So what can be done with that limp, abandoned and seemingly hopeless last bit of celery hiding in the back of your "crisper" that hasn't done too well in keeping your green stalks crisp? Embrace it. Ah-hem, excuse me, em-braise it.

Braising is a lovely technique if you have a dose of patience and an eye for when to stop the heat. It can be perfect for yielding effortless sauces but a curse if you neglect your veggies to the point of mush. It really doesn't take that long, and the ingredient list is short. The method works well on almost every vegetable, particularly those that have already lost their oomph. While I don't typically think of celery as a main gig in any dish, it's a terrific star in this fabulously simple dish.

Now let's get to the potatoes. But more seriously, let's get to the mustard. I had some mustard mashed potatoes on, of all places, an airplane. Yes first class on a transatlantic flight has its benefits, one being meals that more closely resemble food. Ever since the flight back from Italy, I can't mash potatoes without mustard. Stone ground, semi-sharp. I use Annie's Horseradish Mustard in these potatoes because I love anything with horseradish in it. For those that don't care for it, you can use any other stone-ground mustard or maybe even get funky with a Sierra Nevada Stout or Porter variety.

As for the crunchy peas - so many braised celery recipes I found used some kind of bacon or pork fat to flavor the celery. While that makes me wanna hurl just a little bit, I appreciate what the smokiness of bacon might contribute. Personally, I though using vegetable bouillon was more than enough to keep the celery flavorful, but I was curious about the bacon. So I concocted a little something as a garnish of sorts to just throw on top for fun. It was fun. It tasted fun. And I think my poor neglected celery-turned-belle-of-the-ball felt extra special too.

Braised Celery with Mustard Mashed Potatoes
Makes: 3-4 Servings
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes


For the celery
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 c. leeks or onion, sliced thinly
2 c. celery, chopped
1 1/2 c. vegetable broth
1/2 T. flour (chickpea or all purpose)
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper to taste

For the mashed potatoes
2-3 medium russet potatoes, cubed
1 T. stone ground mustard
1/2 T. Earth Balance
1-2 T. nutritional yeast
Salt to taste

Optional Topping
1/2 c. peas (frozen or raw, thawed if using frozen)
1 T. Veggie bac'un bits 


To make the celery: Heat olive oil in a deep skillet over medium high heat. Add onions and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add celery and continue to cook 3-4 minutes more. Add bay leaves and broth, stirring to make sure celery is dispersed in an even layer throughout the pan. Sprinkle the flour over the top and cover. Cook 15-20 minutes, stirring every few minutes, until celery is tender to your liking.

To make the potatoes: In a large sauce pan, bring potatoes to a boil. When boiling, reduce the heat to medium and cook at a low boil for 10-15 minutes or until a fork passes easily through the potatoes. Drain potatoes when done, reserving the cooking water for the mashing. Return the potatoes back to the warm pot and mash with a form or potato ricer. Add mustard, nutritional yeast, Earth Balance and 1/4 to 1/3 cup of the cooking water. Continue to mash until everything is incorporated and smooth. Add salt to taste.

Optional topping: Coat a small skillet with cooking spray and heat the peas until just warm and sizzling. Add bac'un bits and remove from heat. Stir until bac'un bits have warmed and use as garnish over potatoes and celery.

To assemble: Shape a big messy pile of potatoes into some kind of round volcano shape. Pour 1/2 cup of braised celery in the middle and top with a lil smokey scoop of green peas. Indulge.