Friday, August 5, 2011

Moroccan Chickpeas & Zucchini

Moroccan Chickpeas & Zucchini (page 249)
served with quinoa and green salad

Another winner from Appetite for Reduction! I enjoyed this a lot. It had a nice flavor, with a comforting blend of spices. I always love chickpeas, so I'm already biased there. As a bonus, this recipe makes a huge pot-ful, and I was able to freeze several portions for El Hombre to have on hand when the girls and I will be traveling for a couple of weeks.

I wasn't sure the girls would like this recipe, since the spices are on the exotic side, and it has cooked zucchini, which is usually not a favorite. So, I tried to bill this as a cultural experience for them: we got out the globe to find Morocco, we played some Moroccan music during dinner, we looked at pictures of traditional Moroccan dress, etc. Did it work? Well, they both said they liked it, but neither ate a whole lot, so I'm not sure.

Instead of the suggested couscous, I served this with quinoa, which I thought made a nice alternative.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Unfried Refried Beans

Beans for breakfast: Unfried Refried Beans (page 136)
served with hash brown potatoes and berries

First, let me state the obvious: it is not easy to take an appetizing picture of refried beans!

Beans and hash brown potatoes are a regular item in our breakfast rotation around here. Sometimes it is baked beans, and other times, we have black beans or refried beans. And sometimes we stuff the beans and potatoes inside a couple of corn tortillas and call them breakfast tacos.

Many people don't realize that refried beans are ridiculously quick easy to make, even without lots of oil. Isa's recipe is a slightly different variation of what I usually make, because of the addition of tomato sauce, and the coriander. Usually, I stick with cumin and a little bit of chili powder for the spices, instead.

I enjoyed the beans, but the girls did not. El Hombre wasn't here to try it, so I can't report on his assessment. SweetPotato said it was "too tangy" - maybe the tomato sauce? SweetPea said there was some "extra taste" that she couldn't identify, but she didn't like - maybe the coriander? So I guess this was too different than what they are used too.

In conclusion, even though I liked these beans, I'll probably stick to my usual way of making refried beans, since that's what the kids'll eat.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Cauliflower Pesto Soup

Cauliflower Pesto Soup (page 210)
served with a simple green salad and creamy Italian dressing, and whole-wheat cheezy garlic dinner rolls.

So this was super duper yummy! It has great flavor and texture, and once again, it was totally easy. It's basically a matter of throwing ingredients in a pot, letting them simmer a bit, and then pureeing the results with the fresh basil.

Fun fact about this soup: there are only 50 calories per serving! I guess that's entirely possible, since it's based on cauliflower, which is a naturally low calorie food. So, theoretically, you could eat the entire pot of soup for only 200 calories. That's a lot of soup.

The final product was not quite as intensely green as I had expected, but it was still a nice, light and appealing green color. The toasted pine nuts were a nice finishing touch. Another fun fact: Bulk pine nuts at my neighborhood H-E-B cost $27 per pound! It's a good thing you only need a couple of tablespoons for this recipe.

The girls were a fan of this soup also. To round out the meal, I made a simple green salad and quick whole-wheat cheezy garlic dinner rolls.

So far, one of the most valuable takeaways for me from Appetite for Reduction has been the amazing nature of cashew-based creamy dressings. For tonight's salad, I whipped up a simple creamy Italian-like dressing, with cashews, water, a little red wine vinegar, onion, garlic, and Italian seasonings. Yum.

Anyone interested in my quick dinner roll recipe? We think they are really quite good, and they are the perfect addition to a soup and salad type meal. Also, they are about 100 calories per roll.

Mix together in a bowl:
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons yeast
1 1/2 cup warm water

It'll be a little sticky. There should be enough dough to fill a lightly greased standard muffin pan (12 pieces). Let rise for 20-30 minutes. If you like, lightly sprinkle the tops with more nutritional yeast or a mixture of vegan parmesan (1 tbsp) and paprika (1/4 tsp). Bake at 375F for 15-20 minutes. Yum!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Ginger Bok Choy & Soba

Ginger Bok Choy & Soba (page 176)
with the addition of shelled edamame

I've made a similar dish several times, except I usually use whole-wheat noodles and call it "lo mein." I enjoy bok choy very much, and it always makes a great addition to Asian-type noodle dishes. This time, I went to the trouble to especially seek out soba noodles, which are generally more expensive than the whole-wheat noodles I usually have hanging out in the cupboard.

I tossed in a few handfuls of shelled edamame for a bit of extra oomph.

This was tasty, and enjoying, and comforting. But not necessarily great or exciting. Maybe it's just because this was really nothing new for me. As I mentioned, I've fed the family something similar many times, and I'll probably make it again many more times. It's a great lazy way to use up veggies and make a one-pot meal with pantry staples.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Orange-Scented Broccoli

Orange-Scented Broccoli (page 100)
with Apple-Miso Tofu (page 151) and sticky brown rice

This broccoli made a lovely accompaniment to the Apple-Miso Tofu. One of the things I really appreciate about Appetite for Reduction is how darn easy almost every single recipe is. This one is no exception. Once I had the rice cooking on the stove and the Apple-Miso Tofu tucked away in the oven, all that was left to complete an easy, healthy rounded meal was to make the broccoli. It was a simple recipe.

As a bonus, SweetPea liked it, too! It's been challenge getting her to appreciate broccoli, and today she declared the Orange-Scented Broccoli is one of her top three favorite ways to eat the little green trees (the other two being either raw dipped in hummus, or in lard na). So, it's a win!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Apple-Miso Tofu

Apple-Miso Tofu (page 151) on a bed of baby spinach
served with Orange-Scented Broccoli (page 100) and sticky brown rice

I wasn't sure about this recipe - it sounded a little strange, but maybe good. It WAS good! Delicious, in fact!

I usually prefer a firm, chewy texture in my tofu, and this turns out more soft instead (even though I started with the extra-firm variety), since it is baked with juicy apples in a covered pan. I really didn't mind the softer texture. The flavor was so satisfying. I left the skins on my apples, 'cause they're prettier that way, and served the tofu over a generous bed of baby spinach.

One note about the recipe: the ingredient list calls for one teaspoon of sesame oil. Normally, I try to leave out any added oils in my cooking, but, well, I'm a sucker for sesame oil. It's tasty. So every once in a while, I splurge. You get five grams of fat per serving with this recipe, which isn't so bad, so I figure if I'm extra good for the rest of the day, it shouldn't be a big deal, right? The problem here is that while the sesame oil is listed in the ingredient list, it is not mentioned any where else in the recipe instructions. It's not included in the marinade ingredient list, but the "everything else" category, instead. I decided to drizzle the one teaspoon of sesame oil over the tofu after marinating and before adding the sliced apples.

This is something I would definitely make again. (I might consider cutting the amount of sesame oil in half, to cut out some of those fat grams.) I was pleasantly surprised at how good it was. How about you - has anyone else tried this?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Tofu Chimichurri

Tofu Chimichurri (page 150)
served with sauteed zucchini and yellow squash and brown rice

I've had my eye on this recipe for a while. I remember the first time I ever heard of chimichurri: in our pre-child and pre-vegan days, El Hombre and I attended a potluck barbecue at the home of some Argentinian friends, and I saw this guy slathering his cooked steak with a thick green sludge like it was salsa. Curious, we gave it a try, too, and it was amazing! Bright, tangy, and flavorful. Perfect on grilled foods.

Isa says that chimichurri is a marinade, but in my experience, it is also a thick condiment, like salsa. This recipe calls for marinating the tofu in a thin chimichurri sauce. I prepared the tofu and marinade early in the day, and left in the refrigerator for El Hombre to cook up later in the evening.

The girls and I arrived home after ballet folklorico class to find El Hombre standing over the stove, flipping the tofu around in a pan. It was a little messy, and some of the tofu broke apart, but the end result was quite delicious. I liked it, and I think it's safe to say El Hombre loved it, as he devoured quite a lot.

This recipe was good, but I would do it differently next time. Cooking the chimichurri sauce results in a loss of the bright green color and taste, which is what makes chimichurri so beautiful and fresh tasting. I think grilled tofu served with a more traditional chimichurri sauce as the condiment would be great. I'm inspired and will probably do it soon!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Tempeh Helper, take 2

Tempeh Helper (page 171) with Easy Breezy Cheezy Sauce (page 173)
substituting zucchini for green peas

My first attempt at the Tempeh Helper was a real disappointment. We all found the natural bitterness of the tempeh too overwhelming for the dish, and it just really wasn't even palatable. Blech. I concluded that pre-steaming the tempeh would probably be a good idea, which is exactly what I did last night. It adds an extra step, but the recipe is simple enough that it's still pretty fast to get on the table. I simply used the microwave to steam it in a dish with a little water while I began the "Easy Breezy Cheezy Sauce."

I also got a great tip from Lazy Smurf in the comments from the last Tempeh Helper post: apparently, Wheatsville carries a locally made tempeh that isn't as bitter tasting. I had the opportunity to swing by Wheatsville the other day (not my usual part of town), so I picked some up. This stuff is great! Made by The Hearty Vegan, it is flavorful, yet mild. (I also picked up a package of their tempeh sausage patties, and those are awesome, too!)

I switched up the pasta this time, using whole-wheat elbow macaroni instead of tiny quinoa shells. And, I diced up a zucchini and tossed that in the pot instead of using frozen green peas.

So, in conclusion - the change in tempeh protocol and brand made a huge difference in this recipe for this family. The kids liked it a lot, and so did El Hombre. Me? I thought it was okay. I've never been a huge fan of dinner-from-a-box style foods, and of course, this recipe is modeled after Hamburger Helper. I'm not sure if I'll ever make it again, but if this kind of food is your thing, it certainly is a fast, easy weeknight meal.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tortilla Soup

Tortilla soup (page 208)
garnished with crumbled blue corn tortilla chips, and chopped cilantro and jalapeno

Alright, so I made a few modifications to this recipe. I know my way around tortilla soup; I've made plenty a pot-ful in my lifetime. Admittedly, I have never before made Isa's recipe exactly as it is written, but I believe my modified version is probably, dare I say it... better than the original.

First of all, instead of using two jalapenos and one poblano or bell pepper, I used two poblanos in the soup, and saved the jalapenos for garnishing at the table. I wanted to keep the soup relatively mild for the kids, and let the adults add spice as desired to individual bowls.

Probably the most important modification I made, in terms of flavor, was to roast the peppers. I just set them on the burner grate over my gas flame, giving them a turn every now and then with tongs, until they got nice and blackened all over. Then, I scraped off the blackened skin (mostly - I left little bits here and there for flavor), chopped them up, and proceeded as usual. I added the peppers to the pot after the onion had cooked, since they were already somewhat cooked by the roasting process.

Finally, I used a few crumbled up stale corn tortillas to thicken up the soup, instead of crumbled tortilla chips.

I left the rest of the recipe pretty much intact with no other changes. The result: delicious and satisfying!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Cool Slaw

Cool Slaw (page 38)

I ate several meals out downtown this weekend with others whom I was attending a conference with. This means I ended up eating several salads. You know-- it just doesn't seem to occur to most restaurants that it is quite possible to prepare a satisfying meal without meat, dairy, or eggs... unless it's a salad. Of course, even then, everything still has cheese in it somewhere, you know-- to make it "satisfying." Now, I had some great salads this weekend. Really, delicious salads. And at home, I eat many, many salads as the main part of my meal... but the salads I make are HUGE. I think I first heard Wendy use the term "Hugh Jass Salad." Hugh Jass, indeed. But these restaurant salads, while quite delicious and bursting with flavor, were no Hugh Jass salads.

I'm getting a bit ramble-y here, but the point I'm trying to make is that it was nice to come home and have some "real" food.

El Hombre planned a little cook-out for our Sunday afternoon, with some veggie burgers, grilled corn-on-the-cob, and fresh guacamole and chips. There was still an unused half-head of cabbage in the refrigerator leftover from the Curried Cabbage & Peas, so it seemed appropriate to also make the Cool Slaw to go with our dinner.

I've made this recipe before, but as a component of the Buffalo Tempeh Wraps, which were so, so good. Have I mentioned how *~*magical*~* cashews can be, when blended into sauces and dressings? Cashews, a little onion, a bit of apple cider vinegar, mustard, agave, some water... that's it, blended into oblivion - the perfect creamy, dreamy dressing for this coleslaw. So. Freakin'. Tasty.

Anyway, this is good stuff. The perfect people-pleasing coleslaw for summer cookouts and potlucks. If you haven't already, give it a try!