Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Tomatillo Corn Salsa

Anybody that knows me can attest to the fact that I loathe store-bought salsa. I'm not sure why... it just has some strange wang to it that I can't get past. Whatever the reason, I suffer long periods of salsa withdrawal, because I'm too picky to eat salsa from a jar, but too impatient to make my own.

Sooner or later, though, the salsa bug always gets me. That usually involves a long round of chopping, simmering, tasting, swearing, and tweaking. Tonight, though, I decided that I'd try and keep it simple.

It worked out very well. I had this salsa ready to go in about 10 minutes, and I don't think there was even any swearing involved.

It's also spicy without being too immolatingly hot, thanks to the sweetness of the green tomatillos. So you can take it to the next office potluck without having to listen to Wilma from the payroll department gripe about it afterwards.

So, here we go:

Tomatillo Corn Salsa

1 can golden corn
4 medium or 2 large green tomatillos, de-husked and finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 serrano peppers, finely diced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 tbsp ground cayenne pepper
1/3 tbsp ground cumin

Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl (glass, not metal). Put in refrigerator and let sit for 20 minutes to allow flavors to blend.

This is very good with tortilla chips, or in burritos.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Arroz con Vegetales - Mexican Rice with Vegetables

I'm leaving for Las Vegas in a couple of days... as much as I love Vegas, being a vegetarian there is a bit of a challenge. People come to Vegas for (among other things) the plethora of fine steakhouses, so there's really not much left for the vegetarians. Alas.

Anyway, I decided to make one of my favorite Mexican dishes while I'm packing, since I figure it will be a while before I get a really satisfying meal.

This recipe is a little tough to squeeze in under the half hour mark, but it's well worth the effort. You can cut some time by using a packaged Mexican seasoning mix, but to be honest, it's just not quite the same.

Arroz con Vegetales - Mexican Rice with Vegetables

Serves 4

1 cup uncooked white rice
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 zucchini squash, quartered lengthwise and sliced
1 yellow squash, quartered lengthwise and sliced
1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 poblano pepper, cut into 1/2 inch x 1 inch pieces
1 can yellow corn
4 cups cut broccoli florets
1 onion, chopped
8 oz white mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4 oz Veggie Shreds cheddar "cheese"
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp Tabasco sauce or other hot sauce
8 flour tortillas, fajita size
1/2 cup water

Cook rice in a rice cooker according to directions (my rice cooker instructions say to add 1 cup of water to the rice, 1 1/2 cups water to reservoir, and cook for 24 minutes).

While rice is cooking:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Remove tortillas from package, wrap completely with foil. Set aside.

Heat oil in large skillet. Add onions and garlic, saute for one minute.

Add red bell pepper, zucchini squash, yellow squash, poblano pepper. Saute for 3 minutes.

Add remainder of vegetables. Saute for an additional 4-5 minutes.

Add cumin, water, Tabasco, and cayenne pepper. Turn down heat and simmer for 3 minutes.

While vegetables simmer, place tortillas in the oven for 3 minutes.

Mix cilantro into cooked rice.

Place 1/4 of cooked rice on each serving plate, cover with 1/4 of shredded cheese. Spoon vegetables over rice and cheese.

Serve with warm tortillas and chips and guacamole or salsa. Upon serving, spoon vegetable, rice, and cheese mixture into tortillas.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Quick Vegan Crock Pot Chili

So here we are, mid-February in Ohio. The snow is flying, the roads are a mess, and no one seems to know how to drive. Bleh. So I'm staying off the freeway today, and starting a batch of vegan crock pot chili instead.

Provided you have a good can opener, you can put this chili together in 10 minutes or less. Start it about noon in your crockpot, and you'll have dinner waiting when everyone gets home.

1 64-oz jug tomato juice
2 cans chili hot beans
1 can black beans
1 can dark red kidney beans
1 can golden corn
1 large onion, chopped
2 jalapenos, diced
1 habanero pepper, finely diced (optional, and wear kitchen gloves if you do this)
1 packet chili seasoning (hot or mild, depending on personal tastes)

Put all ingredients in a crock pot and stir. Turn crock pot on high, let cook for 5 to 6 hours.

This chili is excellent with warm sourdough bread or crusty french bread. I use the par-baked sourdough loaves from Kroger - the kind that you just throw in the oven for about 8 minutes, but your house smells like you've been busting your ass in front of a bread maker all day.

Now, back to watching the snow beat down on Westerville while the local newscasters spazz out on the mid-morning news.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Urad Dal

Dal is one of the staples of Indian cuisine, and comes in many forms. The term "dal" refers to a paste-like dish made from various types of beans. Dal is also sometimes used to refer to the beans themselves, although "gram" is the appropriate term for beans when used in Indian cuisine.

Urad gram is black lentil beans, which are also sometimes sold as "white lentils" when the black husks have been removed. Urad dal is made from the white lentil variety - these can occasionally be found in American supermarkets, but are more commonly found at Indian specialty grocers.

Here is an easy recipe for urad dal. Most of the spices used in this dish are readily available in supermarkets, except for garam masala, which can be ordered online or purchased from an Indian grocer.

1cup basmati rice
1 cup dried white lentils
1 tsp grated ginger
1 medium white onion, finely diced
2 fresh jalapeno or green chili peppers, finely chopped
1 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp garam masala
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp ground hot red chilis (I have used ground cayenne pepper, with good success)
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp lemon juice

Cook basmati rice in a rice cooker or large saucepan according to directions.

Rinse the white lentils and soak in water for 15 minutes. Boil in 5 cups of water until lentils are soft (about 10 minutes). Drain and set aside.

Add oil to a large pan and heat for a few minutes. Add ground cloves and coriander seeds, heat for 30 seconds or until coriander seeds begin to pop. Add onions, garlic, ginger, and jalapenos, heat for another 30 seconds. add ground red chili, turmeric, cloves and stir for 15 seconds.

Add cooked white lentils, lemon juice, and garam masala, heat for 2-3 minutes while stirring frequently.

Serve with basmati rice.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Super Easy Taquitos

Here's one of our household favorites - partially because my wife loves Mexican-ish food, and partially because it's a quick and easy solution for dinner. These taquitos can be assembled in about 10 minutes, and ready to serve in another 15. Yay for me for serving up yet another recipe that beats the 1/2 hour threshold. But you know me... that's just how I roll.

Note: This is one of the few recipes here that is not vegan. You can make it almost vegan by using Veggie Shreds ("almost" because Veggie Shreds contain casein, an animal product). Barring that, I'm not sure what you would do.

Anyway, here's how Super Easy Taquitos happen:

8 corn tortillas, taco size (I dunno - 8 inches in diameter?)
1 can vegetarian refried beans (don't assume all refried beans are vegetarian. Some contain lard and/or bits of Marlon Brando)
1 jar taco sauce
4 oz Veggie Shreds cheddar "cheese"
1 medium white or yellow onion, diced

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Spoon 2 tbsp refried beans into each tortilla, about 1/3 of the way from one edge. Spread chopped onion over refried beans. Pour 1 tsp of taco sauce over beans/onions. Fold edge of each tortilla closest to the beans over the filling, and continue rolling until you reach the opposite edge.

Place the taquitos in a large casserole dish or rectangular glass 13" x 9" baking dish, allowing the taquitos to touch. Pour taco sauce over the top of the taquitos, then sprinkle the remainder of the onions over the taco sauce. Sprinkle cheese over the top.

Bake for 15 minutes or until cheese melts.

Serve with chips and guacamole or salsa.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Fried Rice with Bean Curd

When it comes to cheap and easy vegetarian recipes, you can't do much better than fried rice. It's quick, simple, and versatile - you can add just about anything you want to a batch of fried rice, and it will be quite tasty.

Here's a tip for making fried rice - whenever you are making a rice based dish, cook an extra 1 1/2 cups of rice - this will make an extra 3 cups when cooked. Put the extra cooked rice in a plastic food storage bag and throw it in the freezer. That way, you'll always have a base for a fried rice meal - this can be wonderful for those nights when you just don't have much time to cook.

Here's just one of the endless variations of fried rice that you can throw together in under 15 minutes:

3 cups cooked rice
2 tbsp sesame oil or olive oil
1 carrot, cut into 1/2 inch strips
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tsp hot chili sauce
8 oz tofu (bean curd), cut into 1/4" x 1/2 inch pieces

Heat oil in a large skillet or wok. Add cooked rice, stir fry for 2 minutes. Add tofu and soy sauce, stir fry for another 2 minutes. Add remainder of ingredients, stir fry for 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Serve with spring rolls or vegan hot and sour soup.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Vegetables with Korean Style Noodles (Chap Chae)

I have a Korean acquaintance who was recently telling me that he wanted to eat more vegetarian meals, but that traditional Korean cuisine was tough to make vegetarian.

"Nonsense", I said. "Any cuisine can be made vegetarian." Yerp. If you can make German vegetarian dishes (and I've done it), you can do anything, right?

Ok, ok... I found out it's a little tough. Korean vegetarian cuisine is indeed a bit sparce. But I love a good challenge, and I'll be posting Korean vegetarian recipes over the coming weeks, as I find good Korean dishes that work well with meat substitutes (or just without meat, period).

Here's my first offering in the Korean vegetarian recipes category - Vegetables with Korean Style Noodles:

6 oz bean thread noodles (also called glass noodles or mung bean noo)
1/4 cup rice wine
1/4 cup soy sauce or tamari
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tbsp sugar
1 tsp hot Korean style chili paste
4 cups chopped fresh spinach
1 large onion, sliced
2 large carrots, cut into 2 inch strips
8 oz shiitake or white mushrooms, sliced

Soak noodles in warm water for 10 minutes to soften, then cook in boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain and rinse with cool water.

Combine sesame soy sauce or tamari, rice wine, garlic, sugar, and chili paste.

Cook onion, carrots, mushrooms, and spinach in a medium pan with sesame oil until tender. Pour soy sauce mixture over vegetables, lower temperature and simmer for an additional 2 to 3 minutes.

Serve vegetables over bean thread noodles.


I've found a few recipes for chap chae that call for 1/2 cup or more of tamari or soy sauce. I cut the soy sauce in half and used rice wine to make up the liquid - this takes out quite a bit of sodium. If you wanted to cut out even more sodium, you could use 1/2 cup of rice wine while cooking, and then sprinkle tamari over the vegetables just before serving.

I'm often guilty of placing healthy and quick cooking over authenticity - I try to come up with recipes that are as authentic as possible, while making them healthier and easier to make than the original recipes. That said, I'm told that the authentic Korean version of this recipe would call for dang myun, which is a noodle made with sweet potato starch.

Look, I'm just some hippie from Ohio. Maybe you can find dang myun in your neck of the woods, but I certainly can't come up with it here.

Mediterranean Veggie Wraps

It's been a crazy couple of days. One of my books, How to Sell Your Art, Handmade Crafts, Photographs, and Music Online went to final layout, so it's been a flurry of activity around here... tweaking my bio, trying to get a good headshot for the book, answering emails from the publisher, and so on. Anyway, my eating habits haven't been as..., well, thoughtful as I would have liked. A take out felafel here, a veggie burger there... kind of the vegetarian's version of living on junk food.

Anyway, tonight, I finally had a little bit of time to unwind and be a person again, so I decided to treat my body to something a bit lighter than the questionable fare I've been asking it to live off of lately. I made these delicious Mediterranean veggie wraps with some roasted red pepper hummus. It feels good to be human again.

2 large tortillas
1 medium eggplant, sliced into 1/2 inch thick rounds
sea salt (or table salt)
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 large cucumber, diced
1 Roma tomato, diced
Sun dried tomato pesto
Balsamic vinegar
Olive oil

Salt the eggplant slices on both sides and let sit for 5 minutes. Pat dry on both sides (the salting takes out the excess moisture and bitterness). Brush with olive oil on one side. Place directly on oven rack, oiled side down, and bake at 400 degrees for 8 minutes. Oil tops of eggplant slices, turn over, let bake for an additional 8 minutes.

Between oiling and turning the eggplant slices, start assembling the wraps. Spread 1 tsp of the pesto on each tortilla; add diced tomato, cucumber, and red pepper.

When the eggplant slices are done, place them on a cutting board and cut into 1/2 inch squares. Place eggplant squares on top of the veggies. Sprinkle balsamic vinegar on top and roll the tortillas into wraps.

I imagine there are quite a few variations of this you could make - these just happened to be items I already had on hand.

These wraps are pretty easy to make - I think if I had planned it a little better (and if my five-year-old daughter wasn't trying to help me with the dicing), I could have probably done these in 20 minutes. As it were, I probably put closer to a half hour into them.


Lemon Pepper Rice

Every now and again, I get the temptation to step away from my rice cooker and make a rice dish the old fashioned way. Now, truth be known, this is usually because my rice cooking bowl is in the dishwasher, but it makes for a better story if I sound ambitious about the whole thing.

Anyway, tonight was just such a night. Not wanting to wait for the dishwasher to complete its cycle, I pulled out a pot and, with a really determined look on my face, set out to create a tasty rice dish that I wouldn't try in my rice cooker.

The lemon pepper rice that resulted from my, um... impatience had a few cool things going for it. First, it allowed me to make a dish from scratch ingredients I already had on hand in one pot... so less mess for me to clean up later. Second, it was downright yummy, enough so that even my five-year-old was willing to try it. Third, it was pretty healthy, weighing in with only 0.2 grams of fat and about 120 caleries per serving. Not bad.

So here you go. This rice made a nice side dish for my portabello burgers, and I imagine it would work quite well with aked tofu or steamed vegetables as well.

1 cup long grain rice (I had basmati rice on hand, but white rice would work just as well, and probably better.)
2 1/4 cups water
1/2 cup chopped scallions
Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
Black pepper to taste
Garlic salt to taste or 2 cloves minced garlic (I opted for the garlic salt tonight. Chalk it up to a long day.)

Add all ingredients to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 25 minutes or until rice is tender, stirring occasionally.

That's it. Very little knife action, and the dish does most of the work on its own. I can certainly appreciate a side dish that doesn't require my constant attention, and this lemon pepper rice certainly makes the list.


Lee (The Veggie Guy)

Easy Eggplant Stirfry

I had some of the vegan hot and sour soup frozen from last week, and it was freezing when I came home tonight, so I decided to thaw out the soup for tonight's dinner. But, lazy bastid that I am, I hadn't been to the grocery yet. So what to make with the hot and sour soup?

As I was wandering through the grocery, a fat purple eggplant sang its evil siren song to me from the produce section. "Come to me, young(ish) lad. Marvel at my smooth skin. You know you want me..."

Now, eggplant and I have had a rocky sort of relationship. Occasionally, it is kind; mostly, it is a dastardly substance that defies all laws of cooking. It has defied me on more occasions than I care to recall, and I resisted its sultry call.

Then, I gave in.

Eggplant, thou art a cold master.


Anyway, since the eggplant had already claimed me as its bitch, I figured it was a good time to try out a stir fry with the wily stuff.

I'm happy to say that it turned out wonderfully... probably about as authentically Chinese as Taco Bell is authentically Mexican, but still excellent stuff.

So if you are ready to tango with the eggplant, I invite you to try my eggplant stirfry recipe. May the gods of nightshades smile as kindly upon you as they have smiled upon me this icy evening.

1 large eggplant
1 tsp olive oil or hot chili oil
8 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced (I used the white ones, because shiitakes were just too danged expensive today)
1 6 oz can sliced bamboo shoots
1 bunch scallions
tamari or soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
1 bottle Iron Chef Sesame Garlic Sauce
1 cup white rice

Prepare white rice in a rice cooker or medium pot (if you don't have a rice cooker, my sympathies. I ruined many a rice based dish before I got my hands on one of these).
Slice eggplant in about 1" x 1/2" wedges. I cut the eggplant in half lengthwise, then cut each half crossways in 1 inch sections (so I had about 10 half-moon shaped pieces an inch thick). I then cut each half moon into about four wedge shaped pieces. Heck, cut it however you want.

Place the eggplant pieces in a large skillet with the oil, and sprinkle liberally with tamari or soy sauce (tamari is better, but significantly more expensive). Let fry for about 6 minutes on medium heat.

Chop white parts of scallions, add with ginger and garlic to eggplant. Chop green parts of scallions and set aside. Let cook for about another 2 minutes, and then add sliced mushrooms and bamboo shoots.

After another 5 minutes, turn down the heat to low, and add the Iron Chef Sesame Garlic Sauce and the chopped green scallions. Simmer on low for 2 minutes, then serve over cooked rice.

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
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