Mushroom, Tomato, & Kale Farro & a Trip to Millennium

So, those of you who know me know that I spend a lot of time traveling, and this month has been one of those months. Though I now technically live in Florida, I spend a lot of time in California, where I am currently in the middle of a 5 week “visit.” Most of my time is spent in Sacramento, but this last weekend I got to hang out in San Francisco with friends, where we ate at OMGmyfavoriterestaurantinthewholewideworld, Millennium.  If you are vegan…or, um, human, and live near San Francisco and have never had Millennium, you are doing it wrong.  Trust me. 

I don’t have pictures of the food that I ate, because I was much more concerned with…well, eating it…but here’s a picture of the (birthday) boyfriend and I where you can almost see our plates.  His was a creole smoked tempeh that had a rice jambalaya and other amazingness, while mine was a potato tiki cake with black-eyed peas and…I don’t know…pixie dust and all things magical.  Nom.

Ken and I at Millennium

Someday I will review it properly.  Which just gives me a reason to go back. So, insist that I do that, will you?

Anyway, focusing on the recipe at hand.  So, I realized I have not ever posted a recipe using farro, which is strange, because basically I eat farro like three times a week. If you have never tried it, farro is a very easy-to-cook grain, (not, unfortunately, gluten-free) which is somewhat reminiscent of rice, only with a slightly nuttier flavor.  It is great to use in soups and salads, is very healthy, and I love it so much that I pretty much want to lay down in a field of it and make farro angels all day. But that’s, you know, kinda weird. So I won’t. 

Mushroom, tomato and kale farro

The directions here  will say “cook farro as instructed,” because there are several different types, and they are cooked for different lengths of time. I get a package from Trader Joe’s, which takes 10 minutes in boiling water. 

Regular disclaimer: I suck at and/or just don’t like measuring things, so these are approximate and you should use your judgement and yours will most likely turn out better than mine. Because good judgement has never been my strong suit.

 

Mushroom, Tomato, & Kale Farro

Mushroom, Tomato, & Kale Farro

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (uncooked) farro
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup mushrooms (of your choice), chopped
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes (if that seems redundant to you, feel free to omit. I love the combo of fresh tomatoes and the sundried ones)
  • 1 large handful baby kale
  • 1/4 cup basil, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp milk of choice (I used almond)
  • 1 tsp salt (I actually used more, but my salt tolerance is HIGH)
  • 1/2 tbsp pepper (or to taste)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano

Instructions

  1. Cook farro, as instructed.
  2. While farro is cooking, prepare other veggies.
  3. When farro is tender, drain, and return to stove, reducing the heat to low. Add in milk, tomatoes, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, salt, pepper and oregano and stir until well blended. Cook for 5 minutes, or until milk is mostly absorbed (the milk is not necessary, but I like the added creaminess it gives).
  4. Stir in kale.
  5. Serve!
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Month of Mediterranean Starts With a Village Salad

Happy New Year, everyone! 

So this month I’m focusing on Mediterranean food.  With fresh produce, whole grains and healthy amounts of olive oil,  Mediterranean cuisine is both full-of-flavor and will not force you to abandon your January resolve to be better.

VS

My first recipe of the month I hesitate to actually call a recipe. It’s basically chopping and throwing together. In Greece, a village salad includes feta cheese. Feel free to substitute with a vegan version of the feta, but I prefer to just leave it off completely.  The amounts of the following ingredients can vary due to your taste.  Which lends even more to my disclaimer, that this is a pretty weak excuse for a “recipe.”  It’s strong on taste, though, and really, that’s all that matters!

Village Salad

Village Salad

Ingredients

  • 3 medium or 2 large tomatoes
  • 1/2-1 cucumber
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1/3 cup banana peppers
  • 1 handful kalamata olives
  • 2 teaspoons capers
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Sea salt (to preference)
  • 1 teaspoon oregano

Instructions

  1. Chop tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, and green pepper. Mix with other ingredients in a large bowl until well coated with oil and vinegar.
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Easy Polenta Stack with Spinach, Mushrooms, and Tomatoes

Before I jump right in, I want to warn you that this is not going to be a well written recipe, because I made it tonight, and did not measure a single thing.  So, I could wait, and make it again, but it was SO good and SO easy, I want to share.  It’s so simple, in fact, that I feel pretty confident you can eyeball everything and be just fine!  If you nail down the measurements that work for you, feel free to leave them in the comments.  I’ll update the post the next time I make it-because there will definitely be a next time!

polenta and spinach2

Easy Polenta Stack with Spinach, Mushrooms and Tomatoes

1 package pre-cooked polenta

Olive oil

1/4 cup (ish) low-sodium vegetable broth

2 giant handfuls white mushrooms, chopped

3 or 4 giant handfuls baby spinach

1 medium/large sized tomato, diced

1 tablespoon (ish) italian seasoning

Pinch of salt and pepper

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees 

1. Grease baking sheet with olive oil. Slice polenta into small disks, and place on sheet.  Bake for about 20 minutes.

2. In a saucepan, drizzle a small amount (a tablespoon or two) of olive oil and mushrooms. Sauté for 5 minutes or so on medium-high heat.

3. Reduce heat to medium, add in vegetable broth, tomatoes, seasoning, salt and pepper, and stir.  Add spinach in a handful at a time, stirring it until it is cooked down.  Cook mixture for 5 minutes, and then simmer on low until polenta is done.

4. Stack on plate, alternating between polenta and veggie mixture.

(I warned you, not exact! But you get the gist.)

Black Bean, Walnut and Quinoa Burgers

Hello my long-lost friends!

My really long and drawn-out and really, really stressful move is (pretty much) done, and I’m starting to get settled here in the sunny state of Florida.  Though I was always a California fan, and will miss so-very-many things about living there, I have fallen in love with my new home.  It was 80 out by the time I got here at the beginning of February, and I have spent several days sitting meditating on the beach.  I’m not sure it gets much better than that.

Now that I’m getting settled, I’ve been able to get back in my *other* favorite place: The Kitchen.

After spending a few months in upheaval, and eating accordingly (i.e.: not well), I am really going to be focusing on whole foods, and cutting out the processed stuff as much as possible.

Black Bean Burger

Tonight, for example, I really wanted some sort of burger.  And while there are some FANTASTIC vegan options for frozen burgers, I really wanted something a little healthier.

So, I went to the cupboard, pulled out a few ingredients I had on hand, and threw this bad boy together. I was pleasantly surprised to have a black bean burger with a lot of flavor that didn’t require a ton of work.  This would be good, I imagine, with a whole variety of spices, including cumin, cayenne, garlic or chili powder, depending on the taste that you are going for.  I threw in some smoked paprika and chipotle, and, if you are a fan of HOT, it worked really well.

These are really filling and pack a powerful punch of protein as well!

Burger

Black Bean, Walnut and Quinoa Burgers

Makes 6 burgers (great for leftovers!)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees

1 cup walnuts

1 1/2 cup black beans, prepared and rinsed (if you are using canned, this is approximately 1 can) 

1/2 cup dry quinoa  (will make approximately 2 cups, cooked) 

1 tablespoon soy sauce, or, to keep the recipe gluten-free, tamari

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

Spices to taste (I used 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika and 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder. Warning: it was too spicy for my mom!) 

1. Prepare quinoa as directed on the package (or, if you got yours out of a bulk-bin and aren’t familiar with cooking it, find directions here).

2. In a blender or food processor, blend walnuts and soy sauce or tamari until well ground into small pieces.

3. Add in 1 cup black beans, 1 cup quinoa, salt, pepper and additional spices, and pulse until well blended. Consistency will resemble that of refried beans at this point.

4. Stir in the remaining beans and quinoa by spoon, until well mixed (to keep the consistency from getting too mushy, don’t blend on this step).

5 Using hands, form burger-sized patties and place on a greased baking sheet. This part will be messy! You were warned!

6. Cook for 30 minutes, carefully flipping 1/2 way through.

Place on your favorite whole wheat or gluten-free bun (or skip the bun all together!) and top however you like your burgers.  For this one I went with avocado, tomato, red onion, and  chipotle aioli…just because hot is never hot enough for me!  I make no promises that the patties won’t fall apart while you eat them. But, Carl’s Jr. makes an entire ad campaign out of the “if it doesn’t get all over the place..” so I figure it can’t be that big of a deal!

Jalapeño Cheese Broccoli and Rice Casserole

It occurs to me that this is the second time in a week that I have posted a recipe about a cheesy dish made spicy by jalapeños.  I would apologize for that, if it wasn’t my humble opinion that ALL RECIPES should be ”cheesy” and made spicy by jalapeños.

Broccoli Rice Casserole

Growing up, my mom always made the non-vegan version of this casserole on the holidays.  For the first couple of years of my veganism (before I had figured out this whole cooking thing), I did without.   So, when I first came up with a recipe that tasted exactly like the original, I almost cried tears of happiness.  Seriously.

Dramatic?

I tend to be like that.

I made the dish on Christmas for the Boyfriend and I, and then we ate leftovers the next day.  I will say, this is one of those meals that I actually enjoy more the next day.

broccoli and rice casserole

Jalapeño Broccoli and Rice Casserole

1.5 cups white rice (I would imagine you can use brown rice as well.  I think because I want my version to taste like my mom’s, I always stick with white)

1/2 Daiya cheddar wedge (or about 1.5 cups other cheddar alternative)

Chopped jalapeño.  This can be fresh or jarred.  Depending on how hot you like things, adjust measurement accordingly. When my mom is eating this, I do  about a 1/2 a jalapeño, because she can’t do anything that is very hot!  When it is just me and boyfriend, I do a little more than one full jalapeño, and if I am using jarred, I pour in a little of the jalapeño juice as well. 

2 large heads of broccoli

1.5 cups chopped mushrooms

1/2 cup diced yellow onion

1 cup almond, soy, or rice milk

1 cup vegetable broth

1 tablespoon flour

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1/2 tablespoon garlic powder 

2 teaspoons pepper

1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1. Cook rice, as directed.

2. In a pot, steam broccoli, either using a steamer basket or by setting broccoli heads in a 1/4 cup water and covering and cooking over medium heat.  You will want broccoli to be very tender and able to be broken apart with a fork.

3.  In a saucepan, add your mushrooms and onions and brown for about 5 minutes.

4. To the mushroom and onions, add milk, vegetable broth and flour and stir until flour is well dissolved.  Stir in soy sauce, garlic powder, salt and pepper.  Bring mixture to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

5. If using the Daiya wedge (suggested!), cut the wedge into very small pieces, so that it will dissolve quicker.  Mix cheese substitute into your saucepan and stir well.  Turn the heat up a bit, to about medium-low, and let the cheese dissolve, stirring frequently.

6. When cheese is melted, you are ready to put everything together.  In a bowl, mix together rice and broccoli, until broccoli is broken into small pieces and mixed well into the rice.  Fold in cheese sauce and your diced jalapeños. This can be cooked in a large bowl, or can be transferred to a casserole dish.  Cook on 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.

Happy New Year, Everyone!! And have a Happy and Delicious 2013!!

Spicy Vegan Artichoke Dip

Happy Holidays, everyone!

So, I have to admit that I am not the biggest fan of this time of the year.  In fact, a lot of days around Christmas I can be found doing a really good impersonation of the Grinch.

But, if the holidays have one redeeming factor to me, it is the excuse to eat copious amounts of food carbs, and not have to feel guilty about it. Eh, well, as guilty, at least.

My Christmas meal yesterday was tamed down a bit, since I spent Christmas alone with the Boyfriend, but I did make several of my favorite dishes, including this appetizer.

Is there a better way to ruin your appetite  than with a straight-out-of-the-oven artichoke dip, served with a Rosemary and Olive Oil bread (thank you, Whole Foods)? No? I didn’t think so either.

Also? It is so incredibly easy with a prep time of about 5 minutes, which is really handy when you are juggling the rest of your meal!

Vegan Artichoke Dip

Just a note: If you are making this as an appetizer for a large group of people, it is really not that big of a recipe.  It is basically the amount of the one thing of cream cheese you use (8 oz). If you need to make more, obviously you can double the recipe, but also, you may want to try adding in a bit of Vegenaise, or other vegan mayonnaise, as a filler.

Spicy Vegan Artichoke Dip

1 package of vegan cream cheese, 8 oz

1 jar of artichoke hearts, drained and diced, 6 oz

1 jalapeño, diced (or less, if you don’t like things as spicy).  You can also used jarred jalapeños for this-for those I would suggest about a handful, diced.

1/4 cup mozzarella Daiya, or your favorite cheese alternative

1 tablespoon nutritional yeast

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 dash of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a bowl, stir together all ingredients until well mixed in the cream cheese.  Spread evenly into a small casserole dish.  If you like a cheesier dip, sprinkle a bit of additional Daiya on top.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the top of the dip is golden.

Easy Vegan Beef Stroganoff

Yes, it is possible.

Thanks to the wonderful, wonderful people at Gardein and their Ah-mazing Beefless Tips.  To. Die. For.

I’ve been craving this one lately, which is strange, because to be honest, I never liked Beef Stroganoff when I WASN’T vegan.

This version was better anyway.

Vegan Beef Stroganoff

Vegan Beef Stroganoff

Noodles of your choice.  I can’t measure pasta.  I trust you to eyeball that one:) 

2 tbsp butter substitute 

1 package Gardein Beefless Tips

1 cup crimini mushrooms

1/2 cup milk substitute (I prefer almond)

1/2 cup veggie broth

3 tablespoons flour

2 tsp salt

2 tsp pepper

1 tsp garlic powder

1/2 cup vegan sour cream

Dash of paprika (optional) 

 

1. Cook noodles per package

2. in a medium saucepan, over medium heat, melt butter and add in entire package of beef tips.  Brown on each side for 3-4 minutes.  Add in mushrooms (you can chop, crumble, or add whole, depending on your preference) as you continue to brown meat.  Heat for an additional 5 minutes, stirring once.

3. Add milk and vegetable broth to saucepan.  Stir in flour, until completely dissolved.  Add salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for about 10 minutes, or until sauce has thickened.

4  Drain noodles and remove sauce from heat.   Stir in sour cream and a dash of paprika.   Serve over pasta.

 

Pizza-Quinoa Stuffed Bell Peppers

First of all: Hi.

It’s me.

The one who just disappeared for two months, right in the middle of my really over-ambitious attempt to blog more than ever.

As it turns out, that didn’t work out so well for me.

It feels like I have been making a lot of excuses on here, and so I apologize for that, but those of you who know me understand I why I haven’t been the best at updating, and for those of you who don’t…well, you will just have to trust me. I’m super trustworthy. And I have good reasons for being MIA.

But enough of that!

I am finally back to cooking regularly and coming up with some new and exciting stuff.

Like this one! Which came from me scavenging what I happened to have in my fridge (always the best way to come up with ideas-neccessity/invention)

Pizza Quinoa Stuffed Bell Pepper

Pizza-Quinoa Stuffed Bell Peppers

1.5 cups uncooked quinoa, rinsed

1 jar pizza sauce (14 oz) 

4 medium-sized green bell peppers

2 cloves of garlic, diced 

1/2 of yellow onion, diced 

2 tsp salt 

2 tsp pepper

1 tbs italian or pizza seasoning 

1 cup mozerella Daiya, or your choice of vegan cheese

Your favorite pizza toppings.  Some ideas: Olives, jalapeño, pineapple, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, scallions, basil, cilantro, vegan hamburger crumbles, vegan sausage 

(Our peppers featured 2 vegan italian sausages, 1 handful of diced jalapeños and 1 small can of sliced olives) 

 

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

1. Prepare quinoa as directed on package. I always suggest, for a little added favor, to substitute at least 1/2 the water out for veggie broth. It enhances the flavor.

2 While that is cooking, prepare your peppers for stuffing by rinsing and then removing the top and “gutting.”

3 Then, in a skillet, sauté your onion and garlic over medium heat until slightly browned.   Add in any vegan meat products (sausage, hamburger, etc), if you are including those in your dish, and cook until heated through.

4 Reduce heat until quinoa is finished cooking, and then transfer your quinoa into the skillet.  Mix all ingredients together, slowly folding in pizza sauce and any other toppings you are using (except for the cheese, that will be added on later), including the salt, pepper, and italian seasoning.

5. Stuff peppers until full and place in a shallow baking dish.  Cook for 20 minutes and remove to add cheese to the top of each one.  Return to oven for an additional 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

 

Oh, Starbucks, how you disappoint me…

Now, I am not a huge coffee drinker, and I only indulge in my Soy Hazelnut latte occasionally (typically if I stop at Starbucks I get an iced tea, and this isn’t an issue), but now I may do it even less.

Most of you know that historically, if you registered your Starbucks card, you got free soy and free syrup and a free drink every 15 drinks.  This was a great promotion, as it saved me over $1.00 on every drink.  As of today, however, you will instead receive a free drink every 12 drinks and soy and syrup are no longer free.

What I don’t like is feeling punished for being vegan.  As I’m assuming my lactose intolerant friends feel too.  I’m fine paying more for the syrup.  But soy should just be another milk.

Agree?  Write Starbucks and let them know!

 http://www.starbucks.com/customer-service/contact/starbucks-card-form

 

The Battle of the Vegan Mac and “Cheese”

I’m falling behind on my Vegan Month of Food posts.  Bad blogger!  But, good daughter, packer, and mover, because that’s pretty much all I have been doing.  Getting not one, but TWO homes ready to move 3000 miles.  Try that sometime. It’s good times.

That being said, I have still been doing some painstaking research for the blog.  You know what they say, you must sacrifice for your art. And I, being the selfless and dedicated writer that I am, have really taken sacrificing to a whole new level.   This week I ate not one, but two meals of mac and cheese, because I was determined to figure out which was better. The contenders? Amy’s “Rice Macaroni with Dairy Free Cheeze” or Candle Cafe’s “Macaroni and Vegan Cheese.

 I know. The horror. 

Oh, who am I kidding? It was heavenly, and really I think I just wanted an excuse to be able to eat both without just being an outright pig.

Here’s what I found:

First, let me say, my vote is with making your own. Because it’s simple and you can make as much or as little as you want, and most importantly, it is much, much cheaper.

However, I know that that’s not possible all of the time, and so which one of these great companies makes the better option for that?

Well, let’s see.

First, there is Amy’s.  A brand we all know well.

Amy’s mac and cheeze has long since been my go-to “I’m too tired to do anything for dinner but press buttons” meal.  My biggest complaint is that there isn’t enough of it (truthfully, that is true with both of them)!  The creamy Daiya cheese coats the rice macaroni and makes for a rich and delicious meal.  But it’s gone just way too soon.   If you are gluten-free, Amy’s is your automatic winner.  So, for that I’ll go ahead and give it 1 point. I’m also going to give it 1 point for the creaminess of the cheese, because, even though Candle Cafe uses the same brand of cheese, Amy’s comes already melted down, while I couldn’t ever get my Candle Cafe completely melted.

And here’s a big one for  me.  Amy’s gets 1 point for being cheaper. Since they both are sold at Whole Foods (I believe Candle Cafe is only sold there), I compared Amy’s, at $4.69 a box, to Candle Cafe’s $6.49 a box.  While both seem steep to me given how small the meals are, Amy’s is reasonable, while I have a hard time forking over almost $7.00 for any frozen meal.

Now, that being said, Candle Cafe’s offering does taste absolutely amazing.  While I didn’t find the cheese quite as creamy, the feel of the meal is much more homestyle.  So 1 point to them for that. The other big thing that the Candle Cafe meal has going for it is that, while it is a little bit bigger than the Amy’s, it has drastically fewer calories and less fat.  (At least 1 point, but probably 2…one for each).

So what did I think?  I think they are both terrific and it depends on what you are looking for.  Candle Cafe is going to be the clear choice if you are calorie counting, and is also my pick for those of you looking for a more traditional mac and cheese. On the flip side Amy’s is your option if you are  gluten free, or, like me, are a wee bit cheap.

It’s honestly a win either way.  After all, it’s mac and cheese, forcryingoutloud.

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