Monthly Archives: September 2010

Vegan Inside Out Tempeh Asian Dumplings and Sugar Snap Pea Salad

One good thing about waiting in a doctor’s waiting room is the time to catch up on some of my magazines. This week that made for two delicious meals — this one and a trio of Indian dishes (that’s next up).

First up, the snap pea side dish. I snagged this out of a magazine at the office, and only had time to quickly jot down the ingredients as they called my name. SO, I have no idea if there is some order or technique I’m supposed to follow or how many it’s supposed to serve or anything. I just tossed everything in a container and stirred it up, then put on the lid and shook it up (and of course I can’t leave well enough alone, so I had to doctor it up a bit…)

• Sugar Snap Peas (not to be confused with flat snow peas) — I just grabbed some out of the bulk section at my local market. I’m not sure how many the recipe calls for!
• 1 Tbsp. lime juice (I ended up using the juice of one lime, about 2 Tbsp.)
• 1 tsp. fresh ginger, minced/grated through a microplane
• 2 Tbsp. olive oil (I did half olive oil, half sesame oil)
• red onion (I thinly sliced about 1/2 a small red onion)
• salt and pepper to taste
• sesame seeds
(Though it didn’t call for it, I think I included a splash or two of rice vinegar too)

This side dish/salad ended was really good! Very light and flavorful. It seems like the type of thing that would help it feel like summer, even on Christmas.

Next up, the “inside out” dumplings — much easier than meticulously stuffing wontons! I got this recipe out of my Whole Living magazine, in a feature of 6 “DIY Takeout” recipes (where one of my Indian dishes came from too). It’s supposed to be pork, but I swapped that out for crumbled tempeh and — voila! — a delicious asian vegan dish.

Of course, I doctored this up a bit too. It turned out really well! (I believe my not-hungry squeeze, while getting a third small helping, said something like, “I could eat this everyday and I would kill the leftovers at lunch. You should just make a giant pot of this next time.” I’m not sure you get a better endorsement than that.

• 3-4 Tbsp. oil — the recipe calls for olive oil, I did a mixture of olive, sesame and ginger oils (you may need more, since there’s no fat from the meat!)
• 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (I actually forgot they were in there…I’ll probably do more next time)
• 3 cloves of garlic, minced
• 1 Tbsp. ginger, minced
• 2 scallions, whites and greens separated (I used 5-6, keeping some pieces big and slicing the rest), thinly cut on the bias
• 1 pkg. of tempeh (I went with flax tempeh tonight)
• 1 lb. baby bok choy, leaves separated and rinsed, with large stems sliced in half length-wise
• 1 carrot, grated
• 2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar (maybe I could have gone with rice wine vinegar here? Maybe next time…)
• kosher salt to taste
• 6 oz. fresh wonton wrappers

1. Heat oil and pepper flakes over medium heat. Add garlic, ginger and scallion whites. Cook, stirring until scallions are tender, about one minute. (*Note: now’s a good time to get a small pot of water boiling — you’ll cook your wontons in it at the end!)

2. Add tempeh, crumbling with hands as you add it. Cook for 3 minutes.

3. Add bok choy, cover and steam until tender, about 5 minutes. (Add more oil here so it doesn’t burn, if you need to)

4. Remove from heat and add grated carrot. Add vinegar and salt. Set aside.

5. When water is boiling, add wontons one at a time to the water and cook until al dente, about 1 minute. Drain and add to pot.

Serve with scallion greens on top.  It also seems like this dish would be good with crushed peanuts too, but I’ll have to try that next time! I can’t wait for lunch tomorrow! Yum.

Spotlight on…Nutritional Yeast

A few months ago, a friend asked me to do a post on nutritional yeast and I’m finally getting around to it! I finally bought some a few weeks ago and cracked it open recently and sprinkled quite a bit of it on yet another version of the soup I keep making. That’s when another friend said, “Doesn’t that give you yeast infections?”

I decided it was time to get to work. I liked that I was getting the whole B complex of vitamins and then some, as well as some protein (2 g. per Tablespoon) and fiber (1 g per Tablespoon).  And it thickened up my soup nicely.

But the yeast infection thing — total deal breaker if it’s true. The good news? It’s not! At least as far as I can tell from the various sites I visited.

Here are a few things I learned:
• Yeasts are a fungi — like mushrooms. It’s cultivated for its nutritional content and some consider it the same as fruits and vegetables.

Though there are many different companies who make nutritional yeast, I have Bragg brand, pictured above. Here’s what its Web site says about how they cultivate it:

Bragg derives its primary grown nutritional yeast from pure strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae grown on mixtures of beet and cane molasses in combination of nutrients.  When the fermentation process is complete, the yeast is harvested, thoroughly washed and cleaned, and dried on roller drum dryers.  This special and unique drying process is the secret to the wonderful flavor of Bragg Premium Nutritional Yeast.”

• Nutritional yeast isn’t “alive” like that used in bread or beer making. It also doesn’t contain candida (the yeast involved in infections). ALSO, yeast infections happen because of a bacterial/pH imbalance. Nutritional yeast doesn’t affect that. Just unfortunately has the same name! Also, because this yeast isn’t alive, people who have trouble digesting yeast generally have no trouble with nutritional yeast. However, if you are allergic to yeast, you shouldn’t eat it.

• Vegetarians and vegans are generally lacking in B vitamins because they’re found in animal products. So, that’s one big way nutritional yeast can help supplement a vegetarian and vegan diet.  It’s said to help immunity, help lower cholesterol and have cancer-fighting properties.

• Among the ways people use it, I’m just starting to try, but here are a few I stumbled upon on various sites: In mashed potatoes, on pasta dishes, on popcorn,  in sauces, gravies and stews, on rice, on vegetables, in soups… basically anywhere! It’s got a mild flavor and some tend to use it like they do parmesan cheese (which I can kind of see), but really I think it’s its own thing.

I’m going to keep trying it out and see how I can use it. Please comment and let me know how YOU like using nutritional yeast!

Banana Oatmeal Breakfast Bars

A good friend of mine said she wanted to make some healthy, no sugar breakfast bars. M came over and got to work, basing them on a recipe she found on line. I did little, other than flour the pan, sprinkle a few flax seeds and offer my 2 cents from time to time. Though they didn’t turn out as granola-bar-like as we thought, and a little more muffiny, they taste really good! They’re pretty dense, but full of all kinds of good things.

I’ll post the recipe we based it off of and you can doctor it up your own way like we did. Among our changes: we used less than the called for butter and added a few Tablespoons of natural peanut butter, we added about 1/4 c. ground flax seeds/flax meal and sprinkled some whole flax seeds on top. She used honey instead of so much sugar, diced apples, sliced almonds and a little water to thin it out as necessary (it occurred to me this morning when I opened my refrigerator — we should have used almond milk!) Als0 — keep an eye on the time. We cooked for about half as long and it was perfect!

I think it was an amazing first attempt and I’ll definitely make these (or something like it) again. Also, though it didn’t look like it would, it nicely filled the bottom of a 9×13 pan and left us with 2-3 dozen small bars.

Here’s the original recipe, from

• 1 1/2 c. flour
• 1 tsp. salt
• 1/2 tsp. baking soda
• 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
• 1 tsp. cinnamon
• 1/2 c. soft butter or margarine (we used Earth Balance vegan sticks)
• 1 c. brown sugar
• 1 egg
• 3 medium mashed bananas
• 1 tsp. vanilla
• 1 1/2 c. raw, quick-cooking oats
• 3/4 c. (total) chopped nuts, raisins, and dates (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Grease and flour 13×9 inch baking pan.

2. Sift together: flour, salt, soda and spices, set aside.

3. In large bowl, beat until light and fluffy: butter, sugar, egg. Add bananas and vanilla beat until smooth.

4. Gradually stir in flour mixture and oats until well combined. (If it seems to be getting a little thick, slowly add about 1/4 c. non-fat milk as needed.)

5. Stir in nuts etc. Bake until golden (about 25 minutes) — keep an eye on it! We only baked about 10-12 minutes and it was starting to brown and cooked perfectly! Beware!

Steamed Artichokes with Mustard Vinaigrette, Spaghetti Squash and Veggies, Bruschetta

Sometimes, dinner just happens. You look at the random mixture of ingredients sitting on your countertop and go for it. I realize that many people don’t understand this and can’t imagine either A) not using a recipe or B) actually making dinner instead of picking up takeout.

If you fall into either category, you’re in luck. All three of the things I made for dinner the other night are easy (no, ACTUALLY easy) and only involve a few ingredients each. Give yourself an hour or so and get ready to impress your guests.

First up, the artichokes. I love artichokes and it’s hard for me to not order them when they’re on an appetizer menu. Maybe it’s because they always seemed kind of mysterious. I’d never gone to the trouble of making them, so they always seemed indulgent somehow. The last time I ordered one was several months ago at a local sushi place (where I love everything I’ve ever had). Unfortunately, whatever it was served with was poured on top of it and it was beyond greasy (as in, grease dripping down my arms when I would bring each leaf up to my mouth). It was at that point I thought, “Wait, can’t you just steam these? It can’t be that hard…”

I still didn’t manage to get around to it! Then a visit from my dad and stepmom last week left me with a new Cook’s Illustrated cookbook, Perfect Vegetables. The book features information and recipes including each of more than 50 favorite vegetables — as chosen by the magazine’s editors. First up: artichokes. The time had come.

I had a bunch of random ingredients at home, including a spaghetti squash, peppers, onions, tomatoes and a few other random things. I had about 90 minutes until I said dinner was served, so I bolted to the store for artichokes, basil and a baguette and quickly got home and to work. Here’s how it all went down.

Artichokes with Mustard Tarragon Vinaigrette
I don’t know what to look for when it comes to artichokes. They were a lot more round than I feel like I usually see, but I grabbed two and figured it would all work out. It did! And considering tarragon is basically the only herb that survived my neglect this summer, I had to use the following dipping sauce of the three offered in the book.

Whisk together:
• 6 Tbsp. olive oil
• 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
• 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
• 1 Tbsp. minced fresh tarragon
• 1 medium garlic clove, minced
• salt and pepper to taste

This can be made ahead but Cook’s recommends adding the fresh herbs just before serving.

You will need 1-2 onions, 1 lemon, several cups of water and artichokes.

1. Fill a bowl with cold water. Cut a lemon in half and squeeze water in to the bowl, then drop lemon halves into it.

2. If artichokes have pin-like thorns on the ends of the leaves, grasp artichoke by the stem and cut tips of leaves with kitchen scissors. (I didn’t have to do this). Rest artichoke on cutting board and, holding the stem to steady it, cut off the top two layers of the leaves with a sharp chef’s knife. You can now cut the stem off to make for a flat bottom — and drop them in the lemon water.

3. Whether you have one large onion, or two smaller ones like I did, cut a 1 1/2-inch slice out of the center of an onion for each artichoke. Pop the center few rings out of each slice (so there’s a whole for steam to rise), leaving about 3-4 rings together intact — enough for the artichoke to rest on and remain steady. I don’t see any reason why a steamer wouldn’t work here as well, but I went with the ol’ onion trick they offered for the fun of it. (Oh, yes, this is my kind of fun.)

4. Place onions in bottom of large pot or dutch oven and fill with water (I used the lemon water) up to 1/2-inch below top of onion slices. Set artichokes on top of onions. Bring water to boil over medium-high heat. Cover and cook until the outer leaves release easily when pulled. About 30 minutes. Check the pot periodically to make sure the water hasn’t boiled dry — add as needed.

5. Remove artichokes with tongs and let cool 15 minutes before serving, or chill and serve cold (I did this with the leftovers — equally delicious). Remove each leaf, dip in vinaigrette, then scrape the bottom “meaty” part off with your teeth (basically the part covered in vinaigrette in the very top photo), discarding the bulk of the leaf. When you’ve removed all of the leaves, discard the hairy “choke” and eat the heart (with a fork and knife if you’re civilized. With your hands if you’re me). Delicious!

So easy and looks totally fancy and impressive (if you ask a simple gal such as myself). If you’re my next dinner guest, get ready — we’re having artichokes. The vinaigrette was really good — I think it would be great on any vegetable or salad.

Spaghetti Squash and Vegetables
• one spaghetti squash
• any veggies you like
• olive oil
• salt and pepper and any other herbs you might want to add

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Slice squash in half, remove seeds/pulp from center and place face down on baking sheet (I lined mine with foil). Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. When you can pierce skin easily with fork, it’s done. Take out and let cool for several minutes before handling.

2. As it’s cooling, saute chopped peppers, onions, tomato and any other veggies you might like in a little olive oil. I also added salt, pepper, and some Italian seasoning (or whatever seasoning you may prefer). When these were cooked to my liking, I grabbed the squash and scraped the inside with a fork — the spaghetti like flesh easily comes up and  I put it directly into the pan. After that was heated through, I added fresh baby spinach and torn basil leaves and cooked until both were wilted.

That’s it! You can also top with parmesan cheese or your favorite parm substitute.

• tomatoes (depends on how many will be eating it. In this case, I did 3 roma tomatoes and it was plenty), diced into small pieces.
• fresh basil, chopped or torn into small pieces
• onion, diced
• minced garlic (maybe 1 clove or 1 tsp. prepared minced garlic)
•  balsamic vinegar, a couple of tablespoons
• olive oil, a couple of teaspoons — plus more for bread
• salt and pepper to taste
• one baguette, in roughly 1-inch slices

1. Mix all of the above, until you have a ratio that looks good. I just kind of wing it — if you like onion, add lots. If not, scale it back. I sometimes add cucumber to the mix, diced about the same size as the tomato, if I want to change it up.

2. Mix together some olive oil and whatever spices you think would taste good. I did salt, pepper, garlic powder and Italian seasoning. I then brushed it on both sides of sliced baguette and baked on a cookie sheet (I removed the foil from the squash and used that one) for about 10-15 minutes. Flip about half way through if you remember (which I never do).

Spoon tomato mixture on each slice of bread and you’re done. I think the possibilities are endless when it comes to what each of these dishes would go well with. I especially look forward to coming up with some of my own dipping sauces for the artichokes next time. We both left feeling plenty full, but it is such a light and delicious meal. I’m sure I’ll do this combo again.

Vegan Lime and Coconut Shortbread Cookies

I picked up a pretty little cookie cookbook by Christabel Martin a few weeks ago from the bargain section of local bookstore recently. Everything in it is perfectly photographed, displaying little cookies, biscuits and treats that you imagine eating at an outdoor, fancified affair.

I don’t have any affairs to attend, but decided I have done enough baking lately — in fact, as a person who primarily made baked goods until a few years ago, this blog is severely lacking in cookies, cakes, pies, tarts, muffins, scones… you get the idea. So, tonight was the night!

My squeeze likes coconut, and I had about 10 minutes to throw together a shopping list and get back home to make dinner. I had everything but the lime and the coconut (yes, I’ve been thinking of Reservoir Dogs all day…), so I decided it was a go on this recipe. It turned out, I couldn’t find the right coconut (unsweetened and dried) but went ahead anyway.

I also was happy that I could easily veganize this recipe — I just swapped out the butter for my new favorite vegan butter, and voila! I seem to hear from all kinds of people what a drag it must be to not have any dairy or eggs, but this is a prime example of a delicious sweet treat that can easily be made vegan.

Here is the original recipe (I’ll note my changes). The recipe says it makes 25, but mine were only slight smaller than directed and I had almost 70! So, guess it’s up to you how bite-sized you want these…

Cookie Ingredients
• 2 c. all-purpose flour
• 1/3 c. confectioner’s/powdered sugar
• 3/4 c. unsweetened dried coconut
(I used regular bagged sweetened coconut flakes, because it was all I could find!)
• 2 tsp. finely grated lime zest (the zest of 2 good-sized limes did it for me)
• 3/4 c. plus 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed and chilled (leave in refrigerator until ready to add to bowl!)
• 1 Tbsp. lime juice

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper (or don’t… if you don’t have any… and it will still be fine)

2. Sift flour and powdered sugar (if you have a sifter…) into a bowl, then stir in coconut and lime zest.

3. If butter has been sitting out, stick it in the refrigerator for a few minutes — it should definitely be cold for this. When it’s ready to go, add it to the bowl and squeeze it into the mixture with your finger tips until the mixture is crumbly.

4. Add lime juice to bowl and cut through dough with a flat-bladed knife. You kind of think “How in the world will this possibly mix the juice in?” Oh, it does. Just do it.

5. Gather dough in a ball (I have only a small silpat to roll dough out on, so I did half at a time). Roll out on a lightly floured surface to about 1/4 inch thick. Using a 2-inch cookie cutter*, cut into rounds and place on cookie sheet.

*If you don’t have a 2-inch round cookie cutter, you can find something else to use, like, oh, perhaps a shot glass that measures about 1.75-inches, making them perfectly bite-sized.

6. Give the cookies a little room on the cookie sheet (at this size, I was able to fit about 25 on a sheet) and make for 15-20 minutes or until very lightly golden brown (I was on the shorter end at this size, of course).   Let cool on cookie sheet for a few minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack, etc. to cool completely.

Frosting Ingredients:
• 1 c. powdered sugar
• 2 Tbsp. lime juice, strained

1. Add powdered sugar and lime juice to a heat-proof bowl (I went with a metal mixing bowl) and place over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir until smooth.

2. Spread a little frosting onto each cookie, stirring the frosting in the bowl occasionally so it doesn’t harden. Let cookies with frosting cool completely  — they will be stackable and delicious!

Cookies will stay fresh in an airtight container for about 5 days.

11 September, 2010 19:13

Dinner for mom!