Archive forSeptember, 2009

Miscellaneous Fast Meals

No real post tonight, but I did take pictures of some of the quick meals I put together this week. I got a shipment of Cheezly today, and since I had some soy chorizo in the fridge, I was thinking of going the Mexican route with dinner. Not having any tortillas on hand, and having just had rice last night, I was perusing my stash of grains, trying to figure out which would work best with a Mexican theme. I settled on millet. I quickly learned after googling “Mexican millet recipe” that “Mexican millet” is actually a recipe in Veganomicon, and deciding for once that there’s no need to reinvent the Mexican millet, I grabbed my copy of that and followed it almost exactly.

I ended up not using the soy chorizo at all and instead making a super-fast no-added-fat refried bean dish. I put a can each of pinto and black beans into a small, heavy pot, added half a cup of water, 1/2 tsp Mexican oregano, 1 Tbsp ancho chili powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp granulated onion (I’d already chopped an onion for the millet and was feeling really lazy), and 1 Tbsp vegan bacon bits and cooked until the pinto beans were creamy and everything was warmed through. When serving, I topped the beans with nacho Cheezly and chopped onion and tomato.

This was a good, quick dinner. I’d make it again.

The other night I made some sort of quinoa dish that consisted of red quinoa cooked in broth, to which I added sauteed sliced onions, chickpeas, leftover artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, and salt and pepper.

Yesterday I worked from home in order to accompany Miss Brachtune to the vet for a follow-up visit to see if her urinary tract infection is gone (it’s not, unfortunately, but she did get her shots and some more antibiotics). This meant I was able to make a hot lunch, but I was caught up in what I was doing so I didn’t want to take too long cooking it. I made ramen in about 5 minutes. It’s just vegan broth, a spoonful of chili garlic paste, a spoonful of fermented soybean paste, a tablespoon of dried soup vegetables, and half a package of chuka soba. (Wow, they’re really expensive online; they cost half that at Super H.)

I’m afraid that’s all I have for you today. I’m hoping to do a lot of cooking this weekend because after that I have one completely crazy-busy October lined up, including a trip to San Francisco.

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Roti (Indian flatbread)

As I’ve mentioned, since I got the great cookbook Cooking at Home with Pedatha, I’ve been determined to make more Indian food at home and convince Mark to like it. To that end, I decided to learn how to make roti, which I figured would entice the carb-loving Smark. Breads aren’t covered in Pedatha, but a quick google turned up this excellent video by Manjula, who made it seem so easy. If you are fortunate enough to have a gas stove, search for some of the other roti videos as well because it looks like it’s even more fun to make them on a gas stove (you puff them directly over the flame), but being stuck with an electric stove, I feel particularly attached to Manjula’s procedure.

I was worried that having years of experience, Manjula was making it look a lot easier than it really is, but I’m happy to report it really is (almost) that easy. The hard part is not getting it to puff (though they didn’t puff as nicely as those in the videos by people with gas stoves), but finding the perfect balance of using enough flour to prevent sticking when rolling but not adding so much the extra flour burns when frying. It probably took me a bit longer than Manjula to pull the roti together, but considering it was my first time making roti AND I was photographing every step (which requiring washing my hands every 30 seconds in order to be able to touch the camera), I’d say the time it takes to make these is really negligible and it’s easily doable for a weekday meal.

This recipe is direct from Manjula’s site, and I urge you to watch her video a couple of times because she demonstrates the process far better than I can.

1 cup whole wheat flour (I used white whole wheat and ended up using 1 cup + 1 Tbsp)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup lukewarm water

Mix all ingredients. You can do this with your hands (or a wooden spoon) or cheat like I did and use a food processor (actually, I used a Sumeet grinder, but it’s an Indian machine so I decided it was okay…in fact, I think the instruction manual came with a recipe for roti, come to think of it).

Knead until it forms a very soft, cohesive dough. The consistency you are looking for might be a little more difficult to determine for people less accustomed to working with wet bread doughs, but if you watch Manjula’s video I think you’ll get the idea.

Drizzle just a couple of drops of oil on the dough to keep it from sticking and place it into a bowl. Cover and let sit for at least 10 minutes. (I went on a 45-minute walk at this point so mine sat for a while.)

When you are ready to make the roti, heat a very heavy – preferably cast iron – skillet over medium heat. I set my burner just a tiny smidge past “medium” and it seemed perfect. Do not add oil. Divide the dough into 8 equal parts.

Prepare a workspace by sprinkling it with flour. You want to use as little flour as possible to prevent sticking when rolling, but the dough is going to stick, so don’t be too stingy either. Take one of the balls and flatten it, turning it in the flour to coat.

Roll the dough into a circle; don’t worry how rough your circle is. (Mine were awful!) Constantly turn the dough over and sprinkle with and roll in additional flour to prevent sticking. You’re striving for a 5-6″ wide circle.

Place the flattened dough into the hot skillet.

It will cook very quickly and you will see bubbles forming on the top as the edges lift up.

When the top surface changes appearance, flip the roti over with a spatula. Use the spatula to press down on the roti as it cooks; this helps it puff up.

Flip it back over and cook another few seconds.

The roti is done when it’s puffed up and has brown (but not burnt) spots on both sides. As you finish with each roti, move it to a stack with the others, keeping them covered with a tea towel. Ideally put the tea towel in a covered container to completely trap the steam, although just a towel worked fine for me.

The finished roti:

From the cookbook, I made vegetable sambhar.

it may have made more sense to serve the roti with something other than sambhar (which the cookbook suggested I serve with idli or steamed rice) but I’m not known for always making sense. And the sambhar was thick enough to scoop up with the roti anyway.

This was a SUCCESS! When I announced dinner was ready to Mark, I added, “I hope you eat it,” to which he asked, suspiciously, “why, is it Indian?” and I answered, “what it is is yummy!” “It’s basically lentil soup and bread,” I added in my most convincing manner. He poked the sambhar with a spoon and sniffed it, again, with an air of suspicion. Then he ladled a small amount into a bowl and scooped it up with a roti. “It’s good!” he said, somewhat surprised, returning to the pot to fill his bowl. His final verdict: “it may be Indian, but it’s good anyway!” There’s hope for him yet!

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A little about Szechuan eggplant, a lot about nothing

I’m popping in to say hi because although I don’t have much to share with you, I may not have a chance to post for a few days. So I took photos of the Szechuan Eggplant that Jes posted yesterday and I made for dinner tonight:

I liked it, but Mark emphatically did not. Actually, when I told him I was making eggplant for dinner, he promptly started preparing himself some soy nuggets, exclaiming he hated eggplant and wasn’t going to touch it. He did get very brave and snatched a piece off my plate to try…and immediately spit it out into the sink. So it MAY not be the dish for eggplant haters. Since I was cooking for just myself, I was glad how quick it was. I halved everything but the garlic and the Szechuan peppers, and since I didn’t have scallions, put about 1/4 white onion, chopped, in the wok about a minute before the eggplant.

In the same post, Jes mentioned that she was finding Roanoke a little too suburban for her tastes and that she often needs to get away to nature. Which reminded me of a “hike” I’d taken just the day before here in Northern Virginia. (I put hike in quotation marks because I realized I wasn’t having to put much effort into it when I came across a couple pushing their baby along the trail in a stoller.) Here’s Northern Virginia’s idea of nature, my friends:

That’s SO typical. Tree decimation is rampant in these parts.

In the middle of the woods, I came across this:

I feel like I should know what it is?

It’s also sort of discouraging when I’m tempted to listen to my iPod on the “hike” with the sole intent of drowning out the sounds of that delightful NoVA traffic I love so much.

On the upside, here are a few shots of nature not looking quite so infringed upon:

In cat news, Brachtune ran away Saturday night. Now, don’t be alarmed. She’s back home, safe and sound. But it was pretty rocky for about 20 minutes there after I finished making my last post here and realized afterwards that it was strange Brachtune hadn’t been on my lap while I was typing it, her chin on my hand as I type, drooling all over me and the keyboard. I searched the house and became a bit frantic when we realized she must be outside. (I later determined she must have snuck out about an hour earlier when I’d stepped outside for a moment.) It was dark, so Mark took the flashlight and started off looking for her (he later told me he thought about way Tigger would have run and went in the opposite direction), while I stayed near the house looking in the side yard, where she likes to sit and eat grass when she’s on her leash and we’re on the patio supervising her.

Not having any luck, I went back inside and searched even more thoroughly, getting a bit upset because if she was in the house and hadn’t heard me calling her, something was very wrong. Just as I was about to burst into tears with worry, I heard the back door open and a familiar meow: Mark had found her across the street, looking scared. Now, I don’t know what in the world could possibly have possessed a 17-year old cat, who probably has cancer, who’s wasting away (she’d down to 5 pounds), who’s currently battling a urinary tract infection, who is the sweetest little bundle of love and affection, and who prior to this year was too scared to try to go outside and if she ever worked up the nerve, would go about a foot and run back in terrified, to suddenly decide – in the middle of the night – that she wants to run away from home. She’s been wanting to go out a lot lately, but the vet said she’s not allowed, even on her leash, until she’s recovered from this latest infection and can get her shots. So we have to keep an eye on her when we’re going in and out, but I never thought she’d do this, and certainly never thought she’d take off across the street! Fortunately we don’t get much traffic in our neighborhood and none of our wild friends like the neighborhood raccoon were around. And fortunately Mark was able to find her when he did. But I think she must be crazy! And the next day? She was on her hind legs, pawing at the back door, reaching for the handle, howling piteously, demanding to go back out. Despite the fact she must have been terrified. Who is this cat???

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Pink Beans and Rice

This is another sort-of “use up all that stuff that’s been lying around” recipe. I had seitan in the freezer that needed to be used, dried pink beans that had been sitting around forever, a bell pepper on its last legs, and the ends of tomatoes that didn’t fit nicely on a sandwich. So…pink beans and rice.

Pink Beans and Rice

(I didn’t take a picture of all the ingredients beforehand, but here are many of them lined up after being prepped.)

2 cups cooked pink beans
2 dried chipotle peppers
1 onion, chopped
1 green or red bell pepper (I’d have preferred green but only had red)
6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
3/4 pound seitan, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
1 6 oz can tomato sauce
1 cup water or vegan broth (you’ll probably need to add some salt if you use water)
2 packets Goya ham flavoring (it’s vegan!)
1/2 tsp liquid smoke
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped, or if you are like me and never have cilantro when you need it, 3-4 cubes frozen cilantro (Trader Joe’s sells this)
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp (or to taste) chipolte powder
4 cups cooked rice

Cook the beans with the dried chipotles; a pressure cooker makes this easy. Drain.

Bring some olive oil up to temperature over medium heat in a large, heavy pot. Add the onions and cook until very soft.

Add the bell pepper and garlic and cook another minute or two.

Add the seitan and cook about 5 minutes.

Add the rest of the ingredients and stir.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for half an hour or until thickened.

Stir in the rice and warm through.


This was quite good but Mark picked out all the seitan and ate around it because he said it was “mushy”. What I should have done was fry it separately before mixing it in because by the time I added it to the pot and sauted it, it was too liquidy in there for the seitain to brown. This may not be a problem if you are using a less-tender seitan, but Kittee’s Gluten Log is very tender and meant to be well-cooked after steaming. You could also simply eliminate the seitan: the dish is hearty enough as just beans and rice.

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My Mother’s Cobbler

I mentioned to my mom the other week that I had made French vanilla ice cream using the recipe from the ice cream e-book from Hannah of BitterSweet, and she wondered if I wouldn’t like to make the cobbler recipe she’s been playing with this summer to accompany the ice cream. I don’t make many desserts, as you may have noticed, but cobbler sounded right up my alley: easy, fast, fool-proof, fruit-filled (and therefore healthy, right?), and in this case, served in cute little individual portions. I’ve made the peach cobbler version here, but suggestions for other flavors, per my mom, follow.

Renae’s Mom’s Peach Cobbler

4 cups peaches, sliced
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2/3 cup flour
2 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
6 Tbsp non-dairy milk
4 Tbsp vegan margarine, melted

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Slice the peaches and place in a bowl. I assumed 4 peaches would equal 4 cups and was right on the money.

Stir together the cinnamon with 1/4 cup sugar in a small bowl.

Toss the cinnamon sugar with the peaches.

Divide the peaches amongst four 10-ounce oven-safe custard cups.

Whisk or stir together the flour, baking powder, and remaining sugar.

Add the margarine and non-dairy milk and stir until just mixed.

Spoon the batter evenly over the peaches.

Bake for 20 minutes or until tops are golden brown (I baked for 25 minutes).

Enjoy with vanilla ice cream or vegan whipped cream. Or just eat it plain like we did since I haven’t had a chance to make ice cream this week.

Other flavors, per Mum:

Blackberry: As above, but eliminate the cinnamon. Mom used a pint of blackberries and found that it made 6 10-ounce cobblers, so if you make it with blackberries, either eat 1/3 of the pint first, or make 1 1/2 times the batter to cover 6 custard cups.

Apple: As above, but add 2 teaspoons lemon juice and replace the 1/4 cup sugar with 6 tablespoons brown sugar.

This was quite tasty and so easy. I whipped them up as a late evening treat and was so fast and stealthy about it that when I presented Mark with his cobbler, he was shocked: he had no idea I’d been baking anything. (Actually, he’s always shocked when I make a dessert. I’m just more a dinner person.) I think I need to make ice cream to go with the remaining two cobblers though!

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Spaghetti Bolognese

Ever since Kylie mentioned her spaghetti bolognese in passing the other day, I’ve been thinking about making a vegan version, and when I wanted something pretty hearty for dinner tonight, I decided to try it. I’ve never actually had real spaghetti bolognese, which is a pretty meat-tastic meal, and this in no way approaches tasting like real meat, however, it was made in the spirit of a thick, rich spaghetti sauce, and was easy, tasty, and just what I wanted for dinner.

Spaghetti Bolognese

[I didn’t take an ingredients photo because I wasn’t sure I was going to post it.]

1 cup TVP crumbles (textured vegetable protein)
1/2 cup bulgur
2 cups water
2-4 vegan “beef” bouillon cubes (enough to make 2 cups worth of double-strength broth)
1/2 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes
1 14-oz can tomato sauce
2 tsp Marmite
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp rubbed sage
red pepper flakes, to taste
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup non-dairy milk

I didn’t take a picture of this step, but bring the water to a boil in a saucepan, then whisk in the bouillon cubes, making a double-strength broth. Add the TVP and bulgur, cover, reduce heat, and cook for 10 minutes or until broth is absorbed. Remove from pan and set aside.

Heat some olive oil in the saucepan and add the onions and celery, cooking until soft. Add the garlic and cook another minute.

Add the Marmite and tomatoes and cook for a few minutes.

Add the TVP/bulgur mixture and the rest of the ingredients. If it seems too dry, add a bit of water, broth, or wine.

Simmer, partially covered, for at least half an hour or until thickened.

Serve over spaghetti …

… to your very silly husband.

I also made soup but it was kind of boring and Mark advised it was not blog-worthy. But you can look at it anyway:

Fortinbras was here last night, with his friend from “back home” in Louisiana, Nikki. He made a curry for us (in a mere four hours!) and I took a gazillion photos, so now he’s got to write up a post for you. Y’all might have to help me nag him considering it took him 4 months to make his Christmas cookie post. Here’s a preview:

(Nikki brought me that apron as a gift, isn’t she sweet?!)

Brachtune: not as into being picked up and flung around as Tigger used to be…
Me and Nikki: drinking way too much champers…

What happens to me when I set Fortinbras loose in my kitchen:

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Red Gram with Spinach

Sorry, but this post is just a teaser. I think I first read about Cooking at Home with Pedatha on Tigers & Strawberries, or maybe it was Mahanandi, but in either case I’ve had it on my wish list forever. I recently decided I was going to start making more Indian food – whether Mark likes it or not! – and immediately ordered this very nice cookbook with so many rave reviews. I received it yesterday and as Mark is out of town again, tonight was the perfect opportunity to try it out.

I made Red Gram with Spinach, or Palakooora Pappu. It was REALLY good!

The book is really nice – almost too nice. As in, it’s so nice I’m afraid to get it dirty and all my favorite cookbooks are filthy. It’s very pretty to look at, has full-colour photos of every dish, contains a pictorial glossary of just about every ingredient so you can find it in your Indian grocery store, and makes the dishes seem a lot simpler to pull together than it sometimes seems Indian recipes are. In fact, this meal took me less than half an hour to make and 15 minutes of that was pressure cooking the dhal (gram), which required no supervision.

Want to see it closer up?

I can’t wait to make more recipes from this book, and maybe I’ll adapt a few to put up here. All I need to do is convince Mark he’s going to like these recipes as much as I do…

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