Tempeh Helper

NoBurger Helper

If you grew up on Hamburger Helper, this bowl of deliciousness is for you.

Behold: Tempeh Helper!

Tempeh Helper

Tempeh Helper

It’s a variation of Isa’s recipe from Appetite for Reduction. If you don’t have the cookbook (umm, why not??!) she’s got a similar version posted on her web site – just minus out the chili powder: Tempeh Helper. The oven mitt hand man is totally creepy.

I can’t promise that this version is as light on calories as hers, but it’s a bit more satisfying. I say this only because vegan cheeze sauces are notoriously thin and less-than-cheezy, and since the advent of Daiya vegan cheese, there’s just no reason not to indulge.

So my version used Isa’s seasoning mix and recipes for the pasta and tempeh, combined with Mama Pea’s use of silken tofu and Daiya for the cheese sauce.

It’s a perfect throwback to Hamburger Helper, and hit a huge vibe in the Comfort Food category. Definitely a winner. This recipe could easily be bulked up with some broccoli or romanesco cauliflower (my new obsession).

In fact, writing this post might induce me to make this recipe again for dinner tonight!

Christmas Trees!

Alien Cauliflower

I am convinced. Aliens walk amongst us.

I mean, have you SEEN this thing?

Romanesco Cauliflower

Romanesco Cauliflower

It’s the Christmas Tree Broccoli!

I first encountered this wonder if the form of a locally grown version while dining at the Local Chop & Grill House. It was delicious, and I’d never seen or eaten it before. I promptly forgot the name of the veggie, until I saw it today at the Friendly City Food Co-Op (and, it’s locally grown!). (BTW, juicing is expensive!! I’m going through produce like crazy, and that’s with only drinking 16 oz of juice per day!).

I just had to pick one up… not to juice, but to eat!

This thing was a blast to chop up. I tried so hard to maintain the cute little Christmas trees! It turns out, this thing isn’t broccoli. (Well, some countries call it broccoli, and there are cauliflower-broccoli hybrids out there that are similar, but this wackadoodle is a species of its own. In the US, we typically call it Romanesco Cauliflower. It chops up similarly to cauliflower, but it tastes more like broccoli.

Chopping the Romanesco Cauliflower

Chopping the Romanesco Cauliflower

Now, personally, I’m not a huge broccoli fan (though I do eat it once a week or so), and I really don’t like cauliflower (even though I keep buying it anyway and then either tossing it because it goes bad before I convince myself to eat it, or I end up not liking whatever recipe I use it in). Is it just me, cauliflower-dislikers, or does it just look like it has so much potential?

But this Romanesco Cauliflower – it tastes more like a mild broccoli, and it’s really, really good! (It’s also gorgeous and funny looking and quite amusing to eat Christmas Trees).

The internet told me that this delicious little weirdo was best prepared either steamed or briefly boiled. One site suggested 2 minutes in boiling water, followed by a brief stir fry in a seasoned oil mix. I went that route, but tossed it in a quickie vegan garlic cream sauce instead (1/4 cup soy milk, 2 Tbsp nooch, a few cloves of garlic, a Tbsp or so of Earth Balance, and 1/2 tsp of basil).

Christmas Trees!

Christmas Trees!

I had a bag of Shirataki tofu noodles in the fridge that needed to be eaten…

Shirataki Noodles

Shirataki Noodles

… so I served the Christmas Trees atop those, with some leftover Pumpkin Chickpea Fritters on the side.

Pumpkin Chickpea Fritters and Romanesco Cauliflower in Vegan Garlic Sauce with Shirataki Noodles

Pumpkin Chickpea Fritters and Romanesco Cauliflower in Vegan Garlic Sauce with Shirataki Noodles

Wonderful dinner! Fantastic vegetable! I hope it sticks around so I can enjoy the Romanesco Cauliflower a few times before it goes out of season.

Dinner is served!

Dinner is served!

Oh yeah.

Pumpkin Chickpea Fritters

It’s like a drug. I’m back on the pumpkin.

I stumbled across this recipe for Pumpkin Chickpea Fritters over on Happy Healthy Life and literally jumped up, ran to the kitchen, and made them. Nevermind that I’d already eaten dinner. (Snacks!!)

Oh yeah.

Oh yeah.

How do you resist such a thing? I’ll tell you how. You don’t.

These came together very quickly, and I’m a big fan of recipes that involve the potato masher. You can find the full recipe here. Basically, mash the chickpeas and pumpkin together, fold in some spices and stuff, coat in bread crumbs, and fry ’em up!

Into the frying pan!

Into the frying pan!

You should definitely leave more space around your fritters than I did. Flipping was a challenge.

Flipped!

Flipped!

But I managed!

I made a couple modifications to the original recipe. First up, I was out of hemp seeds, so I used a combo of ground flaxseeds and chia seeds instead. Next, I used 2 Tbsp of cornmeal instead of flour to help with binding. (It just sounded yummier!). Lastly, I fried them in a couple tablespoons of peanut oil instead of safflower oil. I love how peanut oil smells! Definitely didn’t need a half cup – but mine were more pan-fried than deep-fried.

Pumpkin Chickpea Fritters

Pumpkin Chickpea Fritters

Super delicious! I ended up with 9 fritters – I figure, 2 meals worth. I definitely wish I had doubled the recipe! These could be baked instead of fried, if you’re into that. I usually go the baking route, but I was feeling frisky. Definitely worth it.

Spaghetti Squash Veggie Lasagna

Something Different, Starring: Spaghetti Squash

And now, for something completely different.

Or not.

OK, so it’s pretty hard to do anything non-spaghetti-related with spaghetti squash. Believe me. I scoured the internet for recipes and didn’t really find anything inspiring.

At least I didn’t just make spaghetti with it.

* harps playing in the background as we go back in time *

It all started with this dang spaghetti squash that had been sitting on the counter staring at me for a couple weeks. I wanted to do something different with it. Easier said than done.

Whatever this beast would become, it first needed to be roasted. I like to add a little coconut oil to the cut side of the squash before I roast it. Most people seem to use olive oil, but the coconut oil has such a great depth of flavor. It worked really well here. Into the oven it went for 40 minutes. And out…

Roasted Spaghetti Squash

Roasted Spaghetti Squash

I started assembling stuff in search of inspiration.

Ingredients

Ingredients

Forking spaghetti squash is fun.

Forking the Squash

Forking the Squash

Let’s make a veggie lasagna with it!

I sauteed the onion, pepper, broccoli, and asparagus with the Herbs de Provence. Then I remembered I had 1 link of Field Roast anti-sausage left and threw that in there. In another pot, I made a tomato basil marinara.

Then, I layered the squash and veggies with some red pepper hummus and Daiya vegan mozzarella and baked it all for 35 minutes or so at 350F.

Spaghetti Squash Veggie Lasagna

Spaghetti Squash Veggie Lasagna

Look at all those veggies! The only downside – it probably could have used a double-batch of marinara. That didn’t stop me from licking the plate clean.

Spaghetti Squash Veggie Lasagna

Spaghetti Squash Veggie Lasagna

The peppers were from the garden of a colleague of mine, picked less than 24 hours prior. So good!

This was a much more enjoyable way to eat spaghetti squash – and I can say with a good deal of certainty that this is how I’ll make lasagna from here on out!

Chopped Leeks

Promises, Promises

It’s Vegan MoFo Week 3!

Yes, I know. You missed me yesterday. I’m back this evening for your foodie enjoyment, and a little birdie told me there’s a morning edition on its way, too.

First up: pesto veggie sandwiches! Oh. You mean, you’ve seen those before here? Or here? Hey – I promised I’d try to make 20 posts about food in the month of October. I never promised it’d be different food every day!

What can I say? I eat a lot of pesto veggie sandwiches. To make this instance a tiny bit more palatable, I will show you one of my magic kitchen weapons. This little beast makes chopping veggies super easy:

Pampered Chef Food Chopper

Pampered Chef Food Chopper

It’s the Pampered Chef Food Chopper. I couldn’t really tell you if other choppers work as well. I’ve used this one for years and it still looks and works like the day I bought it. The thing can take a beating (I’m a clutz) – it just keeps chopping away.

Now, I didn’t use it to chop these leeks…

Chopped Leeks

Chopped Leeks

… but I did use it on the baby bellas (got a sweet deal on organics!) and the red peppers:

Leeks, Baby Bellas, and Red Peppers

Leeks, Baby Bellas, and Red Peppers

Sometimes I use onions instead of leeks. It just depends what’s in my fridge. These leeks were on their last legs, for sure. This mix is made of 1 carton of baby bella mushrooms (16 oz), 1 large sweet red pepper, 3 leeks, and 3 cloves of garlic. Saute and salt to taste… voila!

Pesto Veggie Sandwich and Green Bean Fries

Pesto Veggie Sandwich and Green Bean Fries

With my buddies the Green Bean Fries on the side (baked, not fried… 18 mins at 400F… salt and pepper… nom).

Look at this tofu!!

Local Tofu and a New Wheat Meat

Yeah, I know – that title will turn away all but the most devout herbivores!

How about: Spaghetti with Italian Sausage and Garlic Toast. Better?

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Tomato Basil Sauce, Field Roast Italian Sausage (vegan), and Twin Oaks Tofu

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Tomato Basil Sauce, Field Roast Italian Sausage (vegan), and Twin Oaks Tofu

Let’s start Vegan MoFo Week 2, shall we?

Spaghetti is my comfort food. It reminds me of my dad, which is comforting. After last week’s sad news of the passing of Steve Jobs, I needed some comforting. Since my dad is now hanging out with Steve (asking how he ever managed to corrupt his daughter into drinking the Kool Aid), well, spaghetti it is.

I tried out two new products in this meal – both discovered via a couple of my favorite food bloggers. First up, Twin Oaks Tofu (which I discovered via Kath Eats). First of all, Twin Oaks is a cooperative, worker-owned farm. Second, they make local tofu – the farm is about 60 miles from where I live in Virginia. Third, it’s organic, non-GMO tofu, and it gets rave reviews from everybody I know that has tried it.

That makes plenty of reasons for me to take a stab at it! I grabbed a package of their Italian Herb tofu from the Friendly City Food Co-Op:

Twin Oaks Italian Herb Tofu

Twin Oaks Italian Herb Tofu

Now, word on the street was that this tofu didn’t have to be pressed. Now, it took me a LONG time to finally “figure out” tofu – and only now that I have a handy dandy Tofu XPress tofu press do I truly appreciate it as a meal option. So, a tofu that wouldn’t require a day sitting in a medieval torture device? Interesting.

I figured I would put it to the test of all tests, and try baking it, straight up – no pressing whatsoever. Sliced up, straight out of the package. (I did add a bit of garlic powder to get the garlic toast thing going on).

The other new product in this meal was Field Roast Italian Sausage – a “grain meat” that I discovered via Emily over at Daily Garnish. She had discovered Field Roast veggie dogs at her local market in Seattle, and they sounded better than most of the “fake” meats I’ve tried. I’m not much of a fan of fake meats – but I was never much of a meat fan even when I was eating meat, so it’s not surprising.

Grain or “wheat meats” are usually based on some form of a recipe for seitan, or wheat gluten. Seasoned properly, these “meats” – when prepared properly – can be nearly indistinguishable from “the real thing.” Texture is usually the hardest part to replicate, even if the flavors are spot-on.

I sliced up 2 links of the Italian sausage and sauteed it for just a few minutes until browned, then added a jar of organic tomato basil sauce and simmered for a bit.

I served the sauce and sausage over whole wheat noodles topped with a little ‘nooch Parmesan, and a few garlic tofu slabs on the side.

All I have to say is… look at this tofu!!

Look at this tofu!!

Look at this tofu!!

Seriously, people. Best tofu I’ve ever had. It baked up wonderfully chewy with a nice little crunch on the outside. So flavorful. So easy!

And with regard to the sausages, I have to agree with Emily. Field Roast is top notch in the vegan meats department. I even enjoyed a sausage plain on a giant roll the other day, and it had fantastic flavor and texture. I wish I could find more of their products locally here.

From my plate to yours, here’s to delicious food that makes you feel good!

Killer Squash Apple Soup

Killer Pumpkins! Inspired by Killer Pumpkins!

Killer pumpkins? What?

OK… so the reference won’t make sense unless you’ve spent the day chasing killer pumpkins around in Ultima Online (which I’m about to go do more of). But you don’t have to play UO to enjoy some killer (pumpkin) soup!

October is my favorite month. Hoodie weather sets in. Hockey season begins. Halloween is awesome. And of course, there’s that little day called My Birthday. But maybe the most wonderful thing about October is the abundance of squash! That, and Vegan MoFo.

Vegan MoFo (the Vegan Month of Food) is a month-long celebration of vegan eats. I didn’t get my butt signed up in time to make the “offical” Vegan MoFo list, but I’m going to blog along anyway. The ultimate goal is to blog about vegan food 5 days a week throughout October.

Without further ado…

I scored some super-sweet local red delicious apples this week. With chilly weather ushering in the new month, I was in the mood for some SOUP! Isa’s got a great recipe for Butternut Apple Soup in her Appetite for Reduction cookbook, but all I had on hand was an acorn squash and some organic canned pumpkin. What the heck, right? Let’s rock this thing!

So after chasing around killer pumpkins all day, I took a stab at a Killer Squash Apple Soup.

Killer Squash Apple Soup

Killer Squash Apple Soup

This, my friends, is not your typical bowl of soup. It won’t be content to sit alongside a sandwich. No, this soup wants to be The Next Big Thing. The Star of the Show. This soup is not messing around.

It’s seductively sweet, and just when you start to fall head over heels, it gives you a nice little kick to remind you who’s boss.

There’s a good bit of rosemary beating around the bush, playing tag with the apples. The red pepper flakes, though, keep this soup from being a kiddie game. This is Big League soup.

I toasted some crusty bread and slathered it with Earth Balance and went to town dipping into this Killer Soup. It was divine.

And now, back to killing the killer pumpkins.

Tempeh Sloppy Jims

Skillet Sloppy Jims

It’s 7:21pm. Do you know where your dinner is?

Today, I did not know where my dinner was. I did not know what my dinner was. All I knew was that I was hungry to the max, and I didn’t feel like slaving for a meal.

Enter: the cast iron skillet.

This particular piece of cookware is amazing. It’s naturally nonstick. When things do stick, it’s actually good, because you can deglaze the pan and everything tastes even better! Somehow, everything I’ve ever made in my cast iron has turned out awesome – including tonight’s throw-together mess of deliciousness.

I call it: Tempeh Sloppy Jims.

(Sorry, Joe. There’s no red sauce going on here, so I can’t really call it Sloppy Joes, but this sandwich assembled exactly like a Sloppy Joe, and ate just like one… just tasted different! So I gotta give the nod to Jim).

Tempeh Sloppy Jims

Tempeh Sloppy Jims

Take 1 cast iron skillet.

Add a diced white onion. Sautee in oil (I used peanut oil) over medium heat while preparing the rest of the ingredients.

Dice up a red bell pepper. Crumble a stick of tempeh. Throw them into the skillet. Keep on sauteing.

Pour in a little water or veggie stock. (I used a vegan chicken-flavored stock). Deglaze the pan. Keep on sauteing.

Don’t burn the batch of kale chips you’re making on the side like I did.

Throw a couple big handfuls of baby spinach into the skillet. Toss in some fresh basil, for fun. Awww heck, let’s mince a couple garlic cloves in there, too.

Salt and pepper…. stir until the spinach is wilted…. voila.

Tempeh Sloppy Jim mix

Tempeh Sloppy Jim mix

Tempeh Sloppy Jims! Well, I suppose this could be eaten a lot of ways. I was tempted to just eat it with a fork, but it reminded me so much of Sloppy Joes that I had to put it on a bun (with some melted Daiya mozzarella, of course [vegan… best vegan cheese on the planet!]). Served it with a baked potato and a giant bowl of greens, and some un-photogenic burnt kale chips on the side (not pictured).

Speaking of baked potatoes… why do I let myself buy big 5# bags of potatoes? Usually I just buy 1 or 2 potatoes, because I end up letting them sit until they’re growing eyes, but somehow while standing in the grocery store, I sometimes convince myself that the extra $1.50 is so worth it to get so many more potatoes! And then they go bad. This might have been the only potato I’ll out of the entire bag. Grrr! Why!!! I don’t even like to eat regular potatoes that often… I prefer sweet potatoes… I think I meant to make my favorite asparagus potato soup… except that I ate all of my asparagus. Hmm. Dilemma.

Maybe next time it’s 7:21pm and I’m lost without my dinner, I should study my potato options.

Chickpea Cutlet Burger with frizzled leeks, Green Bean Fries, and Corn on the Cob

Make New Friends, But Keep the Old

Make new friends, but keep the old…

My dinners these days often revolve around two central questions: what produce do I have in my fridge, and more importantly – what’s about to go bad? Today’s answer to the latter: green beans. I love me some fresh green beans, but the word “fresh” wasn’t really true any more in describing these particular beans. Still, I bravely picked through the container and separated the questionable beans from the salvageable ones. (If I die of green bean poisoning tomorrow, you read it here first).

Luckily for my green beans, I just picked up the sequel to one of my all time favorite cookbooks. I’m a huge fan of Clean Food by Terry Walters, and the new Clean Start looks to be even more exciting. Since I’ve of course already read the book cover to cover (yes, I read cookbooks for fun), I knew my green beans had a solid future.

They would become Green Fries.

I don’t think I’ve ever really fried anything, aside from the brief stretch of time when I actually owned a little deep frier. I’ve never fried on the stove-top, though. I tend to avoid frying things (pesky calories and all). Tonight, though, I had some green beans, and I had a new cookbook, and doggone it, I felt like frying something.

For the record, a) frying stuff is dangerous. I could’ve used a reminder before I embarked upon this journey. b) Fried green beans are good, but I’m not sure they’re better than roasting them to eat as fries. The texture is a little better, but might not be better enough to be worth the trouble (and calories) of frying. That said, I still ate a ton of them.

So, green bean fries are my new friend (roasted or fried!)

To go with my green bean fries, I made an old favorite standby – chickpea cutlets from Veganomicon. So easy. So good. Such awesome leftovers. And I actually remembered to add the spices this time.

And I grilled a corn-on-the-cob.

Nom.

Chickpea Cutlet Burger with frizzled leeks, Green Bean Fries, and Corn on the Cob

Chickpea Cutlet Burger with frizzled leeks, Green Bean Fries, and Corn on the Cob

Word to your mother. Now go be a good scout and eat some plants.

Cooking! Quinoa Pineapple Stir-Fry from Veganomicon

I Eat in Virginia

Hello from Virginia!

It has taken a few weeks to settle in, but I finally have a functional kitchen and food in my fridge. And, after 4 weeks of eating lacto-veg again (for sake of convenience during the move), I’m also back to my vegan ways.

To prove that you haven’t missed anything too exciting, here’s what I’ve been up to the past couple weeks:

A Meal Amidst Boxes

A Meal Amidst Boxes

A meal amidst boxes – I was still unpacking. I could only find one pot, so I boiled some water, steamed some broccoli, chopped up a red pepper, and made organic shells and cheese from a box.

Cooking! Quinoa Pineapple Stir-Fry from Veganomicon

Cooking! Quinoa Pineapple Stir-Fry from Veganomicon

My first actual post-move-in meal, fully cooked! I had a social gathering to attend, and made this recipe from VeganomiconPineapple Cashew Quinoa Stir Fry. It was a big hit, so I made it again for myself at home. I didn’t use as much pineapple juice as recommended – just whatever juice I could get out of my can of pineapple – and made the quinoa in the rice cooker with the juice and water. I find that quinoa cooks best and burns the least with a 2:1 water:quinoa ratio in the rice cooker.

Roasted green beans = Green Bean Fries!

Roasted green beans = Green Bean Fries!

Lastly, a new bit of awesomeness: roasted green beans = GREEN BEAN FRIES! Oh, how I love anything I can eat with my hands and dip into sauce. Actually, I was just mogging these babies straight off the cookie sheet while prepping the rest of the meal. They never even made it to my dinner plate.

A photo-less bit of joy around here lately: I’ve been chopping up dried figs and putting them in my salads. Nom. SO good.

I do have some big news coming, and that is – I made concord grape freezer jam this weekend! I had to cobble together how-to’s from various web sites, as most emphasized traditional canning methods, and I was determined to pull it off freezer-jam-style. The good news is, I sampled the fruits of my labor today, and it’s a win. Write-up soon to come.

Until then, mog on, my friends.