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Guest Post! Fortinbras’ Quick and Easy Spinach Sauté

Ole Fortinbras surprised me by sending me a guest post! First I’ll let you hear from him in his own words, then I’ll tell you how to veganize it (which is very easy, he just added some parmesan cheese at the end that I’ll be swapping out). So without further ado, heeeere’s Fort:

Hello all you fantastic I Eat Food folks. Since I’ve moved to California and returned to school, I have zero time to cook and zero money, so fast, cheap and filling is the name of the game. This recipe is something I eat a few times a week because it fits the bill, and it is just so delicious. Also, the aromatics are gonna make your home smell great.

When putting this together I throttle way back on the salt because the Parmesan cheese has a pretty high salt content.

Quick and Easy Spinach Sauté

Ingredients:

Baby Spinach uncooked – 3 big hand fulls (about 6 cups)
1/4 of large onion chopped
Garlic – 6 cloves chopped
10 Cherry Tomatoes – chopped
1/4 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese

Seasoning:
2 tsp of dried basil
1 tsp of dried oregano
1 tsp of dried rosemary
salt
pepper
olive oil

Chop up your garlic, onions and cherry tomatoes. (Keep these separate because you will be adding them individually).

Heat a sauté pan with 4 tablespoons of olive oil to medium heat (you want your cooking surface to be hot enough to cook the onions and the garlic down but not so hot that it might fry the garlic).

When pan is hot toss in the onions and the garlic with a little bit of salt and pepper. As soon as the onions begin to become translucent reduce the heat to medium low (you want your onions to still have a bit of firmness).

Add in the basil, oregano, rosemary toss that around a few times and then add in the tomatoes.

After adding in the tomatoes and after mixing it all up real good, toss in your spinach and continue to incorporate the ingredients and reduce the spinach.

Toss it all about until the spinach wilts a bit (not overly reduced in volume) and then turn off the heat. Let the heat of the pan continue to reduce the spinach.

Now toss in the Parmesan cheese and stir it all about.

Now put it all into a bowl and eat it up because it tastes and smells so dang good and you are hungry.

Greetings and happy eatings from Sunny California!

Okay, Renae back at the helm. I made this tonight and it was really good. I followed Fort’s instructions exactly, other than the cheese, and using less oil (‘Bras – did you REALLY use 1/4 cup?!).

Here are my ingredients:

Sauteing the onions and garlic:

Adding the herbs and tomatoes:

And the spinach:

Okay, about that parmesan cheese. There are a number of ways you can handle this:

  1. You can just omit it – really, this is good enough that the cheese is superfluous.
  2. You can buy commercial vegan parmesan (although I never do this).
  3. You can just add a sprinkling of nutritional yeast.
  4. You can add some Dragonfly’s Bulk, Dry Uncheese Mix
  5. You can omit Fort’s seasonings and sprinkle some dukkah on it – I intend to try this next time.
  6. You can make a vegan parmesan. The simplest version is just equal parts nutritional yeast and sesame seeds or nuts, plus a little salt. But what I did this time was:

Vegan Parm
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1 Tbsp white miso
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder

Place all ingredients in a blender or spice grinder and blend for several seconds.

I just used a tablespoon or so. This will keep in the fridge for a while.

I served this with some sprouted quinoa that I made using sun-dried tomato soaking water that I saved a few days ago, with a touch of bouillon. Wow, that was inspired – the quinoa was fantastic and went very well with the spinach.

So, thanks to Fortinbras for taking time from his very, very, very, very busy life to share this recipe! Here is Fort’s current favorite picture of us.

If I try to make a post without kittens, I get comments demanding kitten action. Fort was in fact here the weekend we got the kittens but he isn’t in any of the pictures I took, and then he went and abandoned me for L.A., so you will have to settle for the only picture I can find of Fort and Tigger. It’s about a gazillion years old, but I remember taking it. Tigger was being unruly and Fortinbras was trying to tell him a thing or two. Tigger wasn’t listening. There were a bunch of people in my apartment at the time, which just goes to show you that Tigger always had to be right in the middle of things. Boy, do I miss him. And I miss Fort, too.

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Mark Makes a Stir Fry

I was in for a special treat last night when Mark agreed to make me dinner. And now YOU are in for a special treat because I photographed it for you. I really need to get a video camera, though, because believe me, still photos don’t do justice to an evening in the kitchen with Mark.

Markery (Mark’s Stir Fry)

sushi rice, prepared
2 carrots, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 red chili peppers, sliced
1 scallion, chopped
3 small heads broccoli, chopped (Mark really likes broccoli)
1/2 pound smoked tofu, sliced
1 cup cashews (Mark also really likes cashews)
vegetarian stir fry sauce, to taste
garlic black bean sauce, to taste
soy sauce, to taste
1 Tbsp garlic chili paste
1 Tbsp cornstarch + 2 Tbsp water

First, get the rice cooking. Mark selected sushi rice, so he first rinsed it in the pot of the rice cooker. He said he needed to rinse it extremely well in order to reduce his carbon footprint. When I pointed out that rinsing uses up a lot of water and wasn’t really reducing his carbon footprint, he informed me that Han Solo had a very large carbonite footprint.

Next, start prepping your vegetables. Peel the carrots.

I said PEEL the carrots …

… then chop them. Pick your next vegetable to prep.

The onion was the last one in the air, so he donned my onion goggles …

… and got to work.

And then this happened, after which he said the onion pieces were too small and he’d meant to have large pieces, but I refused to give him another onion.

Next Mark elected to chop his chili peppers. His first rule of working with chili peppers is to not put them up your nose.

Next, slice them with a knife.

Then he rinsed them under running water to remove the seeds.

Mark was pleased to discover a four-leaf clover when chopping the bell pepper …

… and enjoyed ripping the heart out of it.

Intermediary glass of orange juice.

Little man made of scallion and chili pepper ends, carrot peel eyes. Mark gives new meaning to playing with your food. Also, he must have chopped the scallion by this time.

Next he chopped the broccoli, probably a bit more of it than really necessary for two people.

I don’t like stir frying raw broccoli, so he asked if he should steam it first and I said he could just microwave it for a couple of minutes. So here is Mark explaining microwaves – they are from the “future”. (Again, I really need to get a video camera.)

Meanwhile, Mark discovered the package of smoked tofu …

… and sliced up about half of it.

Next he wanted to put together a sauce for the stir fry. He wanted to just use soy sauce but I said soy sauce alone would be too salty, so he rummaged through various ingredients and found Vegetarian Stir Fry Sauce …

… which he poured into a small bowl.

Next some garlic black bean sauce …

… and soy sauce.

To his immense surprise, this tasted pretty good.

So he whisked it up very well.

And then added this much chili paste – he wanted me to show you exactly how much.

The finished sauce:

In a separate small bowl, he whisked together a heaping tablespoon of cornstarch and 2 tablespoons cold water.

At this time the rice finished cooking, so he tasted it, then added salt and rice vinegar (because the sushi vinegar I bought last time is nasty).

Then it was time to get cooking. He poured some oil into the hot wok.

The onions went in first.

Then the carrots.

And the peppers … and I think he had mixed the scallions in with the peppers.

Then the broccoli and tofu.

Followed by four pounds of cashews.

Stir fry it all up until veggies are all crisp-tender.

Then pour in the sauce.

When the sauce comes to boil, pour in the cornstarch mixture and mix well.

Then remove from heat.

And celebrate with more orange juice.

Behold your beautiful meal.

Finally, it’s time to taste the fruits of your labor.

Not too bad!

And here is my plate:

My verdict? It was actually pretty good! A bit salty and rather heavy on the cashews, but tasty and cooked to perfection. A job well done, Smark! I’d definitely be willing to let him cook for me again.

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Guest Post! Kylie’s Chicken with Thai Basil and Chilli (with vegan options)

Note from Renae: All the way from New South Wales, Australia, Smucky’s sister has written a guest post! This is a vegan blog and her recipe contains chicken, but as she points out, it is very easy to substitute vegan “chicken” strips. I made this recipe for dinner tonight and at the end of the post, I’ve posted my photos. It was delicious!

I should point out for the vegans that Quorn, which Kylie suggests, contains egg whites (though it is readily available here in the US). However, I totally back her suggestion that you go to England because it is great there! (And very vegan-friendly.) LightLife Chick’n Smart Strips are vegan and available in most grocery stores in my area, and Trader Joe’s Chicken-less Strips are also vegan (and are what I used). You could also make your own chicken-style seitan, or even just use tofu. So don’t be alarmed that Kylie used chicken. This is exactly the type of recipe I’d see somewhere and be excited about; I don’t even read “chicken”, I just read “chicken substitute”. And Kylie’s just the type of person I’m glad this blog attracts: people who may not necessarily be vegan themselves but who are open to eating vegan meals. So with no further ado, here’s Kylie:

Hello! My name is Kylie. I know it seems like we don’t know each other, but in fact we do. Well, sort of. You know my brother – sometimes called Mark, sometimes called Smucky, but more often than not, called ****head.


(I am the one in the glasses).

Chicken with thai basil and chilli

Technically this is not a vegetarian meal, let alone a vegan meal. I mean, it has meat in it. And also some meat products. But don’t be put off by that. I would recommend quorn strips in place of the chicken, but if you’d have to go to England to get it (like I would), it’s probably asking a bit much. Unless you are very ambitious, in which case, go for it! It’s great there! You’ll love it!

You will need:

2 tb peanut oil
600g chicken breast fillet, stir-fry-strip-style * Renae’s note: this would be about 2 or 3 packages of most brands of vegan “chicken” strips
2 cloves garlic, minced
1cm/5g fresh ginger, minced/grated
4 small red chillies, thinly sliced
4 or 5 lime leaves, ‘shredded’ (I just cut it with scissors)
1 medium brown onion, sliced thinly
About 4 mushrooms, quartered
1 carrot, sliced thinly

This is the sauce according to the original recipe. I do 1.5 times the sauce though:
1/4 cup (60ml – so I would do 90ml) oyster sauce (or vegan oyster sauce, which almost definitely exists, but I haven’t checked) * Renae’s note: it does exist and should be available in just about any Asian grocery store
1 tb soy sauce
1 tb fish sauce (or vegan fish sauce) * Renae’s note: or just double the soy sauce
1/3 cup (80ml) chicken stock (or vegetable stock)

About a cup thai basil
A cup bean sprouts (optional: I don’t usually get it because you can only buy huge amounts of bean sprouts here, and I kept ending up throwing 3/4 out. So I just don’t get it anymore).

The first thing you want to do is chop the shit out of everything.
In one bowl, put: the minced garlic, grated ginger, sliced chillies, shredded lime leaves and sliced onion.

In another bowl: the quartered mushrooms and thinly sliced carrot.

In a third bowl: the sauces (oyster, soy, fish, stock). The sauce issue is contentious. On the one hand, some people like it to coat the food, and no more. I think it would taste more caramel-ly if you took this approach and used the recommended quantities. I, however, do not like to eat boiled rice by itself, so I make enough sauce that it will also flavour all the rice, and if there is too much, you can always boil it off at the end. So I up the quantities by half.

You’ve pretty much done all the work now! Well done! Time to chillax a bit! Have yourself a beer. But not this one..

..unless you are not a vegetarian.

Right! Back to work!

Ok, I have actually omitted a step here. If you eat chicken, at this point you heat half the peanut oil in a pan and cook the chicken in batches until cooked through. Set it aside. If you are using some chicken substitute, I imagine you don’t need to ‘cook’ the chicken as such, just heat it, so you can leave that til later.

Moving along. Heat the remaining peanut oil in the pan (about a medium heat) . Throw in the garlic, ginger, chilli, lime leaves and onion. Cook until onion is soft and mixture is ‘fragrant’.

Ooh that looks nice, doesn’t it. You can’t beat frying onion.

At this point, add the mushrooms and carrots, and stir fry til carrot is as soft as you like it. Actually, til it is almost as soft as you like it. It is good if it still has a little crunch to it.

Throw the chicken back in with the sauces. If I was using a substitute, I would probably put it in first, stir it through til it was warm, then put in the sauces. Turn the heat up a bit and cook til the sauce thickens to the consistency you like. Now for me, I have a fair bit of sauce at this point, and it generally takes the same amount of time to cook (actually, to boil) the sauce off, as it takes to cook the rice. If you have less sauce, you should start the rice before now. Sorry.

Also, I don’t really think there’s a perfect consistency. You just want to cook it enough that it tastes NOTHING LIKE FISH SAUCE.

While that’s cooking off, cook some rice perfectly:

When the sauce is at the consistency you like, take it off the heat and stir through the thai basil, and bean sprouts if you’re using them.

And that’s it! Very easy, but restaurant-quality. It looks nice to serve it like this:

..but this is how I have it:

In other news, I made Renae’s lentil loaf today. It smelled awesome, and this is how it looked before it went in the oven. Mmmmm. It smells better than it looks.

It’s me, Renae, again. Here’s the line-up of the ingredients I used:

If you’ve been reading for a while, you know that I hate mushrooms, so I left those out. I did use the bean sprouts, though, but forgot to remove them from the refrigerator to have their picture taken.

I won’t give you a commentary of the steps because Kylie already did, but here are some intermediary pics:

There is definitely no need to go running around looking for vegan fish sauce for this dish. I had some on hand so I used it, but it can be hard to find (vegan oyster sauce, however, is not). You hardly use any and as Kylie says, you don’t want the dish to taste like fish sauce anyway. Just use extra soy sauce.

I’d never bought vegan oyster sauce before today, mostly because many times it’s mushroom flavoured. I was going to be brave and get it anyway today but managed to find a non-mushroomy vegan oyster sauce! If you can’t find vegan oyster sauce for some reason, try a smaller amount of dark soy sauce: it was sort of thick and slightly sweet like dark soy sauce (it’s not as sweet though, so dilute it with extra stock). Or try vegetarian “stir-fry sauce”, which is usually about the same consistency.

Kylie suggests using my idea of a bit of aniseed and European basil if you can’t find Thai basil, or just the basil if it’s strong-flavoured. I can almost always find Thai basil in my Asian grocery stores.

Here it is plated …

… and mixed up:

The beer Kylie was drinking, Tooheys, is vegan, so if you can get your hands on it, drink up! No stags were harmed in the making of their beer, nor was isinglass used to refine it. In fact, I believe I drank a few Tooheys at Kylie’s house when I was there earlier this year! I’m not sure it’s available outside Australia, so here’s what I had tonight instead:

Verdict? Well, Mark’s been requesting French onion soup for the last day and a half, but he got this instead. I was slightly worried he’d deduct points from it for not being French onion soup, but when I asked him what he thought he responded, “It was chicken-tastic! I really enjoyed it: it was very tasty; full of flavour and magic!” I agree on all counts: it was extremely flavourful and tasted like a restaurant dish. It was also quick and easy: I think this is another case where the vegan dish is probably easier than the non-vegan dish because the “chicken” doesn’t need to be cooked; just heated through. I’ll definitely be making this again, most likely on a weeknight when I don’t want to spend much time on dinner but want a big return on taste. Thanks, Kylie!

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