Monday, March 28, 2011

Minstrone with Kale

"Soup puts the heart at ease, calms down the violence of hunger, eliminates the tension of the day, and awakens and refines the appetite."   Auguste Escoffier

Minestrone with Kale, Vegan Parmesan on top

From Color Me Vegan, by Colleen Patrick Goudreau:

"The Italian word minestrone, refers to a large, hearty soup. The soup itself is part of what is known in Italy as cucina povera - literally 'poor kitchen,' referring to the necessity of creating dishes based on what was available and in season. As it has been passed down through the ages, there is no fixed recipe and lends itself to many variations".

There are many things I love about this recipe:  First of all, it is simple, hearty, and tastes wonderful.  And second, it contains one of my all-time favorite leafy greens: KALE! 

Here are four fun (little known) nutritional facts about kale:
  1. Kale eases lung congestion and is beneficial to the stomach, liver and immune system
  2. It contains lutein and zeaxanthin, which protect the eyes from macular degeneration
  3. It also contains indole-3-carbinol, which may protect against colon cancer
  4. Kale is an excellent source of calcium, iron, vitamins A and C, and chlorophyll

Another component to this recipe that I really like, is the step of boiling the small pasta separate from the soup itself. That way the pasta doesn't get overcooked, or soak up all the broth by the time it's finished cooking. The addition of bay leaves REALLY adds a wonderful depth of flavor; a flavor that my 'chicken soup loving, dark leafy green hating' family gobbled up eagerly.  There was barely one bowl's worth left, which always makes me happy ^_^

If you do not already have this gorgeous book, there are some sample recipes listed here, and the Minestrone with Kale is one of them!

I did make two small changes from Colleen's original recipe: First, I added 3 stalks of chopped celery along with the carrots, because you can't have soup without celery! It just gives it that special home made soup "taste".  And second, I used chickpeas instead of cannellini beans.  The first time I made this delicious soup, I didn't have white beans on hand, so of course, I subbed my old-standby: CHICKPEAS.   Well, I enjoyed them so much that I now use them every time I make the soup.  As they simmer in the both, they get so wonderfully soft and tender and compliment the hearty kale very well.  This soup is nice sprinkles with a bit of Vegan Parmesan.

"Soup of the evening, beautiful..." Lewis Carroll

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Asian Fusion Night

ASIAN FUSION Night! LEFT: Spicy Coconut Red Thai Curry w/Jasmine Rice (not pictured) RIGHT: Vegetable Tofu Lettuce Wraps with spicy hoisin or peanut sauce

Kathy and I have done it again! LEFT: Spicy Coconut Red Thai Curry served over Jasmine Rice (not pictured) RIGHT: Vegetable Tofu Lettuce Wraps with spicy hoisin OR sweet peanut sauce.


This dish comes together so quickly and tasted amazing.  I originally got the idea from my Aunt Jean, who makes this curry for her fabulous parties, mainly because it's so quick and easy, and tastes like you've slaved over it for hours.  The key ingredient is authentic Thai curry paste, which can be found at most Asian markets.

When I was in Baltimore a couple weeks ago, I took a walk, and found the most wonderful Asian grocery.  I came home with this:

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quite a haul, indeed

The thai curry paste I used in this dish is the very top can, next to the panko, called Panang Curry by the brand Maesri.  Close up of the can here:

When buying Thai curry pastes, be sure to check ingredient list on the back, as some types do contain fish sauce.  I've found that the Panang (above), Red and Yellow curry pastes are vegan, whereas the Green usually have fish sauce in them.  I will keep on the lookout for a vegan "Green" curry, as those are SUPER spicy which I like!


What makes my Aunt Jean's recipe so wonderfully versatile is that you can use just about anything you like!  The vegetables I used in this particular one were: 1/2 a yellow pepper, 1/2 a red pepper. 1/2 red onion, 2 carrots, 1 can bamboo shoots, chopped, and the white parts of 2 scallions, all sliced.

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Now, for the protein, I used 2 loaves of homemade, Steamed White Seitan from VIVA VEGAN that I had in the freezer.  If you don't have this amazing book, the recipe for the home made seitan can be found here.   Ideally, I probably would have omitted the cumin in the seitan recipe, as this seitan is meant for Latin-style dishes.  But, it's what I had on hand, the cumin wasn't too strong, and the Panang red curry sauce is a strong enough flavor to cover it.  (And, by using it  I've discovered that the steamed white seitan freezes EXTREMELY well)! Now if seitan isn't your thing, this dish works wonderfully with a package of extra firm tofu, cubed and browned with a bit of the curry paste added in for flavor.

For this recipe, I sliced the defrosted seitan into bite size pieces, and sauteed them in some canola oil and shallot until brown.  Then, I stirred in about 1 TBSP of the panang curry paste, and sauteed a few minutes more.  I then removed the seitan from the pan and set aside while I cooked the vegetables.

In the same pan, I sauted the veggies in a bit of canola oil for about 5 minutes. At this point, my Aunt would add fish sauce to hers, but I used about a tbsp of Braggs liquid aminos instead.  I find that really works well to replace the fish sauce called for in many Thai dishes. Then I added the curry paste, mixed it through the vegetables, and sauteed for another minute or two. I used about 1/2 a can (I had used about 1/4 can to sautee the seitan)  Cut back on the paste if you don't like too much heat, but I like it spicy. Finally, I added about half a can of light coconut milk (Trader Joe's 14 1/2 oz can). Simmer for 5- 10 minutes, then top with chopped scallions and basil. Serve it over Jasmine rice ^_^

Spicy Coconut Red Thai Curry

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patrick's Day Birthday Cupcakes

St. Patrick's Day Cupcakes

Chocolate Cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.  Buttercream Frosting from Joy of Vegan Baking, (mainly because I only had 2 cups of powdered sugar on hand, and that is exactly what Colleen's recipe called for).

A note on why these came to be:  My parents' birthdays are both in March.  My dad, Patrick, was born the day before St. Patrick's Day, and my mom, 100% Italian, was born on the day itself.  True irony...
I was lucky enough to find my green sanding sugar from Williams Sonoma burried in a box, so I didn't have to buy the pathetic-looking-excuse for green that Whole Foods had!  It looked more like transparent moss, than green. 

Here is what the Williams Sonoma sugar looks like, beautiful and sparkley!
And then, there are THESE:
I'm not sure how I feel about the green sillicone baking cups: the cupcakes took a good six minutes longer than usual, which does not make me happy...  But, they sure look cute! ^_^

Monday, March 14, 2011

Greek Salad With Avocado

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Although far from traditional, creamy avocado adds a really nice touch to all the tanginess found in most Greek salads. I make this using my marinated tofu recipe in place of the feta cheese. Adding avocado the salad was inspired from a recipe I saw on Chuck's Day Off, MINUS the deep fried Kefalotyri cheese  cubes he put on his...


2 large tomatoes, cubed
2 lebanese cucumbers, cubed
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup kalamata olive, pitted and halved
1 avocado, halved, pitted, peeled and cubed
4 cups romaine lettuce
1/2 cup fresh dill, finely chopped (oregano is nice too)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 lemon, juiced
1 cup tofu feta


1 Mix the tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, olives, avocado and lettuce in a large bowl with the dill, olive oil, red wine vinegar, and lemon juice.
2 Add salt and pepper to taste, toss.
3 Top with marinated tofu feta

Greek-style Salad

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Marinated Tofu - (In the Style of Feta Cheese)

Greek-style Salad

Perfect for topping a Greek-style salad, or a spinach and olive pizza! Leftover marinade makes a great base for a Greek-style salad dressing.  This recipe for tofu feta, crumbled over a gigantic salad, is Greek-girl approved**  We ate two bowls.  Thank you, L, for letting me serve you tofu on your salad ^_^

1 lb firm tofu, drained and pressed
4 tablespoons lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons white miso
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 garlic cloves, smashed but left whole
dried oregano, to taste
crushed red pepper, to taste

1. Press the tofu between two plates, weighted down with some heavy cans or a cast iron pan, to drain the excess liquid out.
2. Slice into 1/2 inch slices.
3. Whisk together the ingredients for the marinade in a large container with a lid.
4. Add the tofu to the marinade and refrigerate for at least 24 hours, preferably 2-3 days.
5. Flip the container every few hours to ensure even coverage.
6. Tofu pieces can be patted dry, and crumbled over your favorite Greek-style salad or pizza.

**L is half Greek, so making her a Greek salad with TOFU as the feta was one of my BALLsy-est moves yet. I made up the salads in advance on our plates, and her first reaction was: "OH, you bought cheese!!"  "No... this is marinated tofu, BUT it's gonna be really yummy!!" 

And, it was, yay! We both ate two bowls. Plus, adding avocado makes everything better...

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Monday, March 7, 2011

Big Fat Taco Salad!

I'm jumping back to Appetite for Reduction, because I seriously LOVE this book!!

Big Fat Taco Salad (from Appetite for Reduction)

(Please note, I used a tiny sprinkling of Daiya vegan cheddar cheese, which is NOT in Isa's original recipe, but it was still really good)!!

Now, most folks who like to cook, or have a basic knowledge of cooking, don't actually need a recipe to make a taco salad.  The beauty of cooking with the recipes from Appetite for Reduction is that it you to take a closer look at the amounts and types of ingredients one might use on say, a simple dish like a taco salad.

For example, instead of blobs of Tofutti vegan sour cream, this recipe is topped with GUACAMAME, traditional guacamole's lighter cousin ^_^

Guacamame - half avocado, half edamame! (Appetite for Reduction)

What an innovative recipe!  Instead of the full fat and calories from two large avocados, Isa uses ONE avocado and replaces the rest with a cup of edamame (soybeans).  You season and spice the mixture the same as any other guacamole recipe: lime juice, salt, cilantro, jalapeno or cayenne, and then puree everything until smooth in a food processor.  I must say, as a DIE HARD guacamole fan, the end results of this lighter, lower fat version are quite fantastic!

Now onto the dressing...

Many taco salads in restaurants contain ground meat, and the ones that don't, are usually smothered in some cream-tastical, salty, taco-spice dressing, or loaded with cheese.  The dressing we have for this salad is more like a pourable version of a spicy salsa, mixing tomato, lime and fresh jalapeno.  When I made up our taco salads, I decided to mix the dressing right in with the black beans, then top the lettuce with that.

It made for a pretty picture, and was then easily mixed with the rest of the salad to get lots of delicious flavor in each bite.

Big Fat Taco Salad (from Appetite for Reduction)

Crumble a small handful of (baked) tortilla chips of the top from some crunch, and you are good to go.  Two bowls later... we were happy and well fed ^_^