Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Broiled Blackened Tofu and Pineapple Collards

Broiled Blackened Tofu, page 147, and Pineapple Collards, page 93

This tofu was coated in a Cajun spice mixture and then broiled at high heat. The collards were sauteed with a combination of sesame oil, garlic, ginger, and pineapple. Both dishes turned out tasty and complemented each other nicely.

The tofu recipe made only enough spice mixture to coat about half of my tofu; I had to mix up another batch to finish the remaining slices. I also regularly have to cook my tofu longer than Isa's recipes call for to achieve the desired result when using the oven, and tonight was no exception.

El Hombre and I both really enjoyed the greens with pineapple. It was a nice flavor profile, and I can see us making this recipe again. The kids also seemed to approve of these greens.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Polenta Stuffing (which turned into Polenta Stufffed Jalapenos)

Polenta Stuffed Jalepeno Peppers with a Creamy Lime Sauce
(adapted from Polenta Stuffing recipe, page 66)

I kept looking at the recipe for Polenta Stuffing in Appetite for Reduction, but I just wasn't feeling inspired. It's a stuffing recipe, so I felt like it needs to, you know, stuff something. Isa suggests using it to top off something like the Tamarind BBQ Tempeh & Sweet Potatoes. Now, while I'm sure that's quite yummy and delicious, that's not exactly stuffing... that's dressing.

So I mulled it over for a while, thinking about what I might stuff with this stuff. I went with jalepenos for an appetizer sort of dish to go with our Memorial Day cookout. I think it would also work well to stuff poblano peppers, as more of a main dish. Anyway, the end result here turned out very different than Isa's original recipe for Polenta Stuffing, but I think I rocked this dish. It's so good, in fact, that I'm going to share my recipe adaptation with y'all.

A few words on the use of oil: I went ahead and used the same amount of oil called for in the original recipe, because I was worried about the polenta sticking during the sauteing step. Even with a well-seasoned cast iron pan and the oil, I still had sticking issues, and my polenta cubes eventually fell apart. My stuffing turned out softer and less cube-y that what is intended in the original recipe, but for stuffing those jalepenos, that turned out to be the perfect thing, anyway.

Polenta Stuffed Jalepenos with Creamy Lime Sauce
(Adapted from Polenta Stuffing, page 66, from Appetite for Reduction)

12 jalepeno pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil
18 ounces prepared polenta, cut into small-ish cubes (I used a sundried tomato and garlic variety)
1/2 cup thinly sliced celery
1 small onion, diced small
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon crushed cumin seeds
pepper and salt, to taste
1 box of silken tofu, rinsed well
Juice of 3 limes
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon granulated onion
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes

Cut a lengthwise strip from each pepper. Remove and set aside for another use, like salsa or something. Remove the seeds and white parts from the inside of the pepper and discard. Rinse, if necessary, to get all the seeds out. Don't touch your eyes! Wear gloves, if you must.

Preheat a large pan over medium-high heat. Coat the bottom of the pan with 1 teaspoon of the oil, and add the polenta. Saute for 12 to 15 minutes, tossing often. If the polenta starts to stick to the pan, that's okay - just scrape up the sticky parts and toss it around.

Add the celery, onion, garlic, oregano, cumin, and the remainder of the oil. Saute for another 7-10 minutes. By this time, the polenta should be mostly falling apart and getting mushy. Towards the end of your cooking time, dribble in a little water and stir things around until you get a softer consistency that is good for stuffing those peppers. Make sure you scrape up all the browned, sticky bits from the bottom of the pan and mix that in, too. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Using a spoon, stuff the jalepeno peppers with the polenta mixture. Then, you can either grill these or bake for 10-15 minutes in 425F oven.

To make the sauce, place the tofu, lime juice, granulated garlic and onion, salt, and nutritional yeast in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth and creamy.

El Hombre grilled our stuffed jalepenos. Muy delicioso!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sanctuary Chef Salad

Sanctuary Chef Salad, page 28

I have been simultaneously looking forward to and avoiding making this salad. It sounded so good, but the prospect of preparing all the individual components seemed like a lot of hassle. I wondered, would it be worth it?

I'm happy to report: it is SO worth it. By the time we sat down to dinner, I was kind of tired and irritable about all the dirty dishes, and skeptical about the pay out for all the hassle. But with the very first bite, my taste buds said, "Oh, yeah!" and each bite after that got even better.

So let me break it down for you here. First, I whipped up the Sanctuary Dressing (you know, because "ranches are not nice places for cows"):

Sanctuary Dressing, page 29

Very tasty. The kids liked it, too, even though they never really liked regular ranch dressing. El Hombre asked, "How did you do that?" I only had soft silken tofu on hand in the pantry, so I used that instead of the extra-firm. It was fine.

Then we have the Eggplant Bacon:

Eggplant Bacon, page 42

You can see that a few pieces got a little burnt, but it was all good. Man, I love that stuff.

Here we have the Basic Baked Tofu...

Basic Baked Tofu, page 144

... which is perfect for a salad like this. Then there is the Herb-Roasted Cauliflower:

Herb-Roasted Cauliflower, page 108

The cauliflower was really, really tasty. SweetPotato especially enjoyed it. I did notice an error in the recipe, however... the instructions said to "drizzle in the oil" and mix it into the breadcrumb and herb mixture, but there is no oil listed in the ingredients. I went ahead and made it without any oil, which is what I would have done anyway, and it turned out great.

And finally, all the other salad veggies:

Chopped Romaine, tomatoes, red onions, carrots, radishes, and bean sprouts

I couldn't find sunflower sprouts at my grocery store, and alfalfa sprouts didn't strike my fancy this week, so I went with bean sprouts. They were nice and crunchy.

Delicious. And filling. And definitely worth the hassle. Bless El Hombre... he did all the dishes.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Caesar Chavez Wrap

The Caesar Chavez Wrap, page 271
(romaine lettuce, sauteed seitan, black olives, and Caesar Chavez dressing in a whole-grain wrap)

SweetPea has had her eye on the Caesar Chavez Wrap for a while, now. She adores seitan, and she loves the Caesar Chavez Dressing just as much as I do, and who doesn't love good things wrapped up in a neat whole-grain package?

I made the Surefire Seitan (page 262) earlier in the day. The flavor was excellent, but I've had better texture results from other recipes. I want to say it came out a bit "spongy," but not like it does when the broth boils too rapidly... it was different than that. It seemed like the dough was just a bit too wet before simmering in the broth. Next time, I might try reducing the liquid a little and see if that works better.

The Caesar Chavez Dressing is probably my favorite salad dressing from this book, so far. Again, I found myself practically licking the blender clean - it's that good. I made a double batch this time, so I can have some extra on hand for my lunch salads during the remainder of the week. There is just something magical about this combination of shallots, miso, tahini, cashews, lemon, and capers. It's magic, I tell you.

Thumbs-up of approval all around the dinner table tonight. These wraps will show up again, I predict. I'm thinking they would make perfect pack-ahead picnic food.

Have you tried any of the sandwich or wrap suggestions from AFR? How about the Surefire Seitan?

Lettuce, seitan, olives, and dressing - ready to roll

Monday, May 23, 2011

Potato-Spinach Curry

Potato-Spinach Curry, page 232
with brown basmati rice and Masala Baked Tofu, page 146

Tonight's dinner was a lovely affair of saag aloo, masala tofu, and basmati rice, enjoyed outside in the fresh air of the evening.

While I loved the feature AFR recipe, I must say that the most exciting part of making tonight's dinner was digging up my own potatoes from my own garden. They were so beautiful! Look:

Freshly dug and scrubbed potatoes from my backyard garden

And, they were delicious, too!

But anyway, back to the recipe. SweetPea helped me make the potato-spinach curry; she helped chop up those beautiful potatoes, as well as stir and taste along the way. We added more salt because of the low sodium veggie broth that I've been using (more on that below). We also left out the red pepper flakes to make it kid-friendly, and instead had some available on the table to sprinkle on as desired for the adults.

Also, I decided to revisit the Masala Baked Tofu, because I think I've figured out what went wrong last time. Not that it was bad last time. It's just that I've heard so many people rave about it, and yet it didn't get me all excited like it seems to do for others. The missing factor for my first attempt seems to be salt. Yes, salt. So simple, right? I've been using a no-salt-added vegetable broth in an attempt to be more sodium conscious, and I think the masala marinade suffered as a result. So this time, I added a bit more soy sauce, and it made a big difference. I will also confess that I was feeling lazy and used granulated garlic and powdered ginger in the marinade, instead of the fresh versions, and both seemed to work great here. El Hombre confirmed that this attempt was much better than the first, so whether that was due to the extra soy sauce, or the dried spices, or a combination.... who knows?

Again, everyone enjoyed tonight's dinner. Both kids liked the potato-spinach curry, and my Dad went back for second helpings of everything. As El Hombre and I were cleaning up the kitchen, I saw a lime left on the counter and realized I forgot to add the freshly squeezed juice as the final step in the making of the curry. But oh well - it was still delicious! Nothing seemed amiss. Getting the kids to eat their cooked spinach and my Dad to enjoy tofu so much that he goes for another serving... a win!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Spinach Linguine with Edamame Pesto

Spinach Linguine with Edamame Pesto, page 174
(actually a wider pasta, more like fettucine)

My tummy is full and happy. Tonight's dinner was an all-around crowd-pleaser, with an enthusiastic thumbs-up from everyone, including both kids and the grandpapa.

I was a little concerned when I realized, halfway through making dinner, that this recipe is supposed to serve only four, and there are five of us. So I cooked up about 3/4 of a pound of pasta, instead of just a half-pound, keeping my fingers crossed that there would be enough pesto for this to work. As it turns out, there was no need for me to worry: the recipe for the edamame pesto made plenty, and by the time it was all mixed up with the pasta and sauteed mushrooms, there was plenty of pasta for everyone.

I can tell you right now that I'll be making this pesto again, and not just for smothering pasta. I'm dreaming about using it on steamed veggies, stirring spoonfuls into soups, spreading it onto sandwiches...

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Chipotle Lentil Burgers

Chipotle Lentil Burgers, page 123
with oven baked potato wedges

I've been meaning to make these for a while now, and I figured this was a good chance to try them, while my Dad is here visiting. We were out all day, and I was tired and not really in the mood to cook by the time we got home, but the burgers actually came together pretty quickly. Dinner was on the table in less than an hour. That is one of the things I've come to really appreciate about this cookbook: most recipes are simple, straightforward, and ready to eat with loads of flavor but not much fuss.

Isa takes an unusually stern tone with this recipe, warning the cook that you must follow the recipe to the letter - otherwise, the texture might not come out right. I used store-bought bread crumbs and canned lentils as she said to, even though it seemed like it probably wasn't that necessary, but I did deviate slightly with the chipotles. I knew these burgers would be too spicy for my kids with the chipotle peppers, so I mixed all the ingredients together, per the recipe instructions, except for the chipotles. I made two patties chipotle-less, and then I mixed some finely minced chipotles into the rest of the mixture and made four more patties.

The end result was pleasing to everyone except SweetPotato - she is not a fan of bean-based burgers, and this proved to be no exception. Everyone else loved it! El Hombre's reaction upon taking his first bite was, "Ooooooh, mmmmmmmm." My Dad nodded his head in approval and said, "It's good, Julie." Later, he admitted being pleasantly surprised at how good it was, and he went back and ate the sixth burger. SweetPea devoured her burger, and part of her sister's. I thought they were really good, too. The texture was nice - crusty on the outside with a softer interior, and the flavor was just right. They reminded me of one of my favorite recipes from Rick Bayless, his Crusty Lentil Cakes from his cookbook, Mexican Kitchen.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Quinoa Salad with Black Beans & Toasted Cumin Seeds

Quinoa Salad with Black Beans & Toasted Cumin Seeds, page 31

I love quinoa. I love black beans. And I love cumin. So, I thought, what's not to love about this recipe?

I made the salad early in the day and then let the bowl sit in the refrigerator until our late dinner, so the flavors would have a chance to develop. And it was good, and satisfying, and refreshing. But still, it was missing some kind of oomph for me. Maybe a little more lime juice? I think that would be good. Maybe even some more cumin. I don't think the agave was necessary at all, and I'd probably leave that out next time.

There were mixed reviews from the family; El Hombre said it was good. As for the girls, it was the opposite from last night's dinner: SweetPea just kind of pushed things around on her plate, while SweetPotato gobbled her portion right up. I made little baby corncakes to go along with the salad, and everyone seemed to enjoy those.

My dad is coming to visit for a few days - anyone have suggestions on which recipes to try out on him? He's certainly no vegetarian, but he's not necessarily averse to meatless meals, either. I was thinking the Chipotle Lentil Burgers sound good... any other ideas?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Brussels Sprout-Potato Hash

Brussels Sprout-Potato Hash, page 65
with scrambled tofu and toasted pumpernickel

Is it Tuesday already? Yes, yes it is. The month of May is turning out to be quite the crazy time for this family, and I'm really looking forward to things slowing down once June is here. However, we just returned from a great little family vacation last week, and this hash hit the spot as we settled back into home on Monday night.

It was pretty easy: slice up some Brussels sprouts and potatoes, cook until about tender, add some onion, garlic, thyme, and lemon zest for seasoning and cook another fifteen minutes or so, and it's done. Served with scrambled tofu and toasted pumpernickel, and it was like a cozy breakfast for dinner. SweatPea surprised me and went back for a second serving. While SweetPotato enjoyed the potatoes and seasonings, she reported the Brussels sprouts tasted a bit "strong" for her young taste buds. I enjoyed this dinner, as did El Hombre; leftovers were equally enjoyable as part of my lunch today.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Baked Falafel

Baked Falafel, page 121
and green salad with garlicky-lemon sauce

I've been looking for a good but easy, low-fat, baked falafel recipe, and here it is. Again, tonight's dinner was a win for the whole house, which is always a good thing for me. I ate my falafels atop some green salad with cucumbers and tomatoes, while El Hombre and the girls ate theirs pita-style. Topped off with a simple garlicky-lemon sauce (silken tofu blended with lemon juice, garlic and salt), and dinner really couldn't have been more pleasant.

I ended up with more falafel patties than the recipe said I would - I had about 20 falafel per recipe instead of the twelve indicated. I'm not sure why. My falafel balls were about "walnut-size," as directed, before being flattened into patties. I used my mini-ice cream scoop to portion out the mixture, which made the process go pretty fast. I think they were the right size, but maybe they were a bit small.

We'll be heading out tomorrow morning for a little family vacation; I went ahead and made a double recipe so we can pack up some pita fixin's for the road. I'm looking forward to both tomorrow's lunch and having a few days to relax with my family.

See you next week!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Ceci-Roasted Red Pepper Soup

Ceci-Roasted Red Pepper Soup, page 200

It wasn't exactly soup weather today (98F? Really??), but this soup still managed to hit the spot tonight. This recipe received favorable reviews from the entire family; in fact, the girls both went back for second helpings. I love super (souper?) simple recipes that pack a powerful flavor punch, and this one certainly did just that.

I made a few modifications to the recipe, which actually made this recipe even easier and faster to put together. First, I totally cheated and used a jar of roasted red peppers, instead of roasting my own. Also, I didn't have any fresh tomatoes to chop up and toss into the pot, so I used a can of crushed tomatoes instead. I figured this would be fine, since the tomatoes are expected to break down anyway while simmering in the pot. Finally, we have a ginormous rosemary bush, so I used fresh rosemary instead of dried (two tablespoons of chopped fresh in place of the two teaspoons of dried herb). Fresh herbs are always superior in taste to dried, anyway.

The soup turned out quite tasty. I never would have thought to combine coriander and rosemary in the same dish, so that was interesting and I was pleased that it worked so well. I will certainly make this again, especially since the kids enjoyed it so much.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Big Fat Taco Salad

Big Fat Taco Salad, page 22

Feliz Cinco de Mayo! I hope yours was much more exciting than mine; I spent the day on the go around town yet again, getting home just in time to make dinner. Is this week over yet?

I started with making my own oven-baked tortilla chips, like these, because I needed to use up some corn tortillas getting stale in the refrigerator. Easy enough.

Then I made the Fresh Tomato Salsa Dressing. Since I was going to need the food processor for the Guacamame, I went ahead and used it with plenty of pulse action to make the salsa dressing as well. Also easy. As this recipe uses red wine vinegar for the sour and cayenne hot sauce for the spicy, it is a pretty good recipe to keep around for an easy salsa when my kitchen is lacking fresh limes and fresh serranos.

After washing and chopping the romaine lettuce, I started on the Guacamame. This is the part I was particularly curious about; I adore guacamole, especially El Hombre's, so I wasn't sure how we were going to feel about a version made with basically about half avocado and half pureed edamame. We were pleasantly surprised! There was enough avocado to keep the flavor and consistency about right, while the edamame cut down on the fat while boosting the protein. And it was also easy. A win! The only thing I would do differently next time is in the technique: instead of using the pulse mode on the food processor to get the onion and tomatoes chopped up, I think I'd rather chop those ingredients finely by hand and just fold them into the avocado-edamame mixture. Pulsing with the food processor seemed to make the otherwise lovely green color get a bit muddy.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Supergreen Bowl

The Supergreen Bowl, page 266

Sigh. I really don't like being over-busy, but this is One of Those Weeks. With Cinco de Mayo and Mother's Day, the girls have three different ballet folklorico performances this week, in addition to practices. Piled on top of that are a few medical appointments, cleaning and laundry from the last camping trip and preparations for the next one, and all the usual schoolwork, errands, grocery shopping, housework, etc. etc. Again, sigh.

A bowl dinner seemed like a good grab-and-go option for tonight. I went with the Supergreen Bowl since I already had some quinoa in the refrigerator, some edamame in the freezer, and I loves me some o' that goddess dressing. The broccoli and greens were easy enough to chop up and steam in the microwave, and before I knew it, these bowls had practically assembled themselves. I tossed them in a soft-sided cooler and hauled everything along with us for the evening. After the girls were done dancing tonight at a community performance for Cinco de Mayo, we headed to a nearby park and enjoyed our bowls while watching the various ducks, geese, and other waterfowl in the creek.

With the quinoa and edamame, these bowls were not only delicious, but packed with plant-powered protein. I used roasted garlic in this batch of Green Goddess Garlic Dressing, and I think it turned out perfectly. I really liked this bowl combination, and will definitely eat it again.

Has anyone else tried any of the suggested bowls from Appetite for Reduction? Do you have a favorite?

Supergreen Bowls, packed and ready to go in the 'fridge

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Eggplant-Chickpea Curry

Eggplant-Chickpea Curry, page 230

Because I'm in the midst of such a hectic, busy week and pressed for time, I decided to try something crazy and toss this recipe in the crockpot and see what would would happen. This curry seemed like a good candidate for the slow cooker, with the descriptions of "well-cooked" and "broken down" eggplant. Turns out, it was a great idea; I think it worked perfectly.

I first sauteed the onions, garlic, and ginger in a dry pan, and then I put everything but the chickpeas in the crockpot and let the ingredients simmer on low for about eight hours. (I also think it would probably work fine to just toss everything in the slow cooker, without pre-cooking the onion mixture first.) When I got home tonight, I bumped up the heat to high, added the chickpeas, stirred everything around to further break down the eggplant, and then let it bubble away for another ten or fifteen minutes.

I really liked this curry. It was warm and cozy after a busy run-around kind of day. I especially enjoyed how the garam masala spices really shone through in the flavor profile. This recipe is definitely one to keep around.