What We’ve Been Eating

Sincerest apologizes for the delayed absence, but we tied the knot last week and have been busy with wedding bliss (and reality–newlyweds still have to do laundry, much to my dismay!) Our wedding featured a completely vegetarian menu that we were quite proud of, and which had many friends and attendees exclaiming that “I could be vegetarian if it means eating like this!” This is what it’s all about–spreading awareness and sharing the tasty delights of vegetarian cooking, and reminding people that it’s about savoring what you CAN eat and why it is delicious and better for you, instead of harping on what you cannot have. A full write-up of our vegetarian menu is in the works, but until then, here’s what has been keeping us full in the VegetarianForTwo kitchen the past few weeks:

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

We added roasted squash and pumpkin seeds to the top for some texture and as a fun garnish– wash seeds well after removing from your squash of choice. Let sit on a towel for at least an hour, or in a colander for 3-4 hours, to remove the water. Spray a baking sheet with oil, spread seeds evenly, then top with salt and curry powder. Top with a light coat of oil, then bake at 200-250 degrees for about an hour until light brown and crisp. Makes a great snack!

butternut squash soup

Palak Tofu (also called Saag Tofu)

There are a million recipes out there for Palak Tofu (a seasoned Indian dish of slow cooked spinach with either tofu or paneer cheese), but regardless of your favorite, we just HAVE to share this new favorite technique for cooking tofu in dishes where you want it to hold its texture but don’t want to deep fry it!

Cut a piece of PRESSED tofu into the desired shape and size for the recipe at hand. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a cookie sheet with oil or PAM. While its preheating, add a few tablespoons of cornstarch to a medium bowl. Add seasonings that reflect the recipe you’re making (for Palak Tofu, we used curry powder and garam masala) and stir throughout–you should have about a 4:1 ratio of cornstarch to spices. Dredge the tofu pieces in the cornstarch and shake off the excess before laying on the baking sheet. Spray with a final mist of oil to ensure browning. Cook for about 25-35 minutes (depending on the size of the tofu) or until the edges of the tofu are crispy and brown– the tofu should LOOK deep fried. When tasting, it should range from mushy in the middle to crunchy like a crouton, depending on your preference. Voila– “Deep Fried” tofu without any of the oil, calories, or mess! We served our Palak Tofu atop a bed of quinoa and with some naan on the side to sop up the extra sauce!

palak tofu

Zucchini Peanut Noodles with Tofu and Mushrooms

We wanted a pre-wedding dinner that was light on the carbohydrates, so we made ‘noodles’ out of a zucchini (we used a mandolin, but by hand is fine as long as they’re thinly sliced) and let them sit for about 30 minutes over a towel to release some of their natural water. We then marinated tofu and mushrooms in a mixture of soy/hoisin/rice wine vinegar and a little bit of vegan Worcestershire (seasonings to taste). We mixed up a sauce of peanut butter, soy sauce, and other favorite Asian flavors, then tossed the ‘noodles’ in the sauce to let sit while quickly stirfrying the tofu and mushrooms. Mixed all together, it was a great hot meal and we definitely didn’t miss the pasta!

peanut zucchini noodles

Tri-Pesto Pizza

We got a pizza stone and wooden pizza peel for the wedding and were very excited to try out pizza at home with the proper equipment! With summer weather coming to an end, we wanted to savor one of our favorite summer flavors–basil! This tri-pesto pizza has a pesto base, pesto marinated tofu, and a deconstructed pesto topping–pine nuts and parmesean cheese! Topped with some goat cheese and fresh basil, this was perfect for an indulgent carb-fest after the wedding! Next time, we would recommend cooking the tofu separately from the pizza, then adding the pre-cooked tofu atop the pizza to ensure sufficient crunch. Yummmmmmmm basil!

Pesto Pizza

Vegetarian Chili over Spaghetti Squash

One of the best go-to meals in the cooler months is a hearty vegetarian chili– you can make it with your favorite combinations of beans, protein sources (we like crumbled tempeh and soy crumbles to act as ground beef), and whatever veggies you fancy. Stick it in a CrockPot or in a large soup pot for a few hours and freeze for easy weeknight dining when you don’t have time to cook! To cut the carbs, wash a spaghetti squash, cut lengthwise and scoop out the seeds, then bake (cut side down) for about 30-40 minutes. Pull apart the flesh with a fork-it will look like long strands of spaghetti (thus the name!) and top with chili and your favorite toppings. A quick weeknight dinner that’s hearty, healthy, and carb-conscious without missing any of the meat!

spaghetti squash with chili

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Tis the Season…for Jalapenos

Admittedly, I’ve been a bit of a slacker in recording all of the yummy food that I’ve been lucky enough to create over the past few weeks. But last week’s recipe lit a fire under me, and it wasn’t just my attitude towards writing! Our little backyard garden has been suffering this year–the tomatoes never quite ripened (a problem that occurred across the Lowcountry due to too much rain and not enough sun), my basil grew faster than I could use it and got tough, and there’s a mysterious flowered vine trailing across the ENTIRE yard. However, my bare trees have been taken over by said vine, and it makes them look pretty and lush!

But neither heat, nor rain, nor clouds nor bugs could stop my jalapeno plant…the same jalapeno plant we kind of ignored after tasting the first few back in June and deeming them no hotter than a standard bell pepper. Well, those babies came back with a vengeance and when the plant started falling over with peppers, I did what anyone would do– I started handing them out to random strangers (and friends). Below is about 1/3 of what was ripe on the plant when I did a trimming session last week:

Jalapenos for everyone!

Jalapenos for everyone!

When my friends, coworkers, mailman, and office security officer had all of the jalapenos THEY could eat, I jumped online to find a way to use up all of these HOT peppers in one fell swoop. Seems I’m not the only one to have these problems!

I wanted to make jalapeno poppers, but didn’t want to stuff them entirely with cheese-I DO have a wedding dress to fit into in just 6 days! Tofu seemed like a perfect filling, and by adapting Awesome.Vegan.Rad’s recipe to my own needs, we were in business!

I followed her recipe pretty closely, but I DID press my tofu. I used a softer tofu than I do for stirfry and baking, which worked perfectly for us. I omitted the nutritional yeast because I wasn’t worried about staying vegan, but I did ADD some chive cream cheese that I had in the house; I was worried about the heat of the peppers and wanted some dairy to balance out the kick and spice. The cumin, lime, and paprika give this filling GREAT flavor, and I challenge you to use these with non-vegetarian friends and see if they even notice the tofu! The best part about this is that they cook for so long (35 minutes) that the peppers start to blister and soften and they loose a lot of the heat. I am the least spice-loving person I know, so I was a little wary of making a jalapeno-centric dish, but this is one we’ll save for seasons to come. The filling is easy to assemble, and while it takes a little while to seed and remove the membrane of the peppers, the prep work is worth it for a healthy, simple, and taste-filled jalapeno popper!

Creamy, nutty, a punch of lime juice, and the gentle heat of the peppers--YUMM

Creamy, nutty, a punch of lime juice, and the gentle heat of the peppers–YUMM

One of the best things about this dish was that there was so much filling left over that we started eating it as a spread. We dipped our hearts out– bell peppers, carrots, pita wedges– you name it! The tofu and cashews make it creamy, but it’s overall VERY healthy. Try it at your next party– either cold or warm. Your secret is safe with me 😉

We’ll be taking a little break over the next 2 weeks for our upcoming wedding, but promise a full blog post afterwards about making a vegetarian wedding satisfying, filling, and tasty for everyone–even your non-veggie friends!

Fried Rice? Think again!

It’s been a crazy month in our house– between redoing the floors in our entire home to final wedding details, it seems like every hour at home is occupied with decisions, organizing, or just trying to enjoy time together. As such, we’re relying more than ever before on things we can prepare in advance and then refresh when it’s time for dinner.

I saw this on Zoes Kitchen’s Facebook page this week and it reminded me how versatile quinoa can be. In fact, seeing it compared against rice gave me an idea….who doesn’t love fried rice? Given the information below….what would happen with fried QUINOA??

Check out Zoes Kitchen, coming soon to Mt Pleasant!

Check out Zoes Kitchen, coming soon to Mt Pleasant!

Stirfried Quinoa with Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Cooked quinoa

tempeh, grated finely

diced onion

bell pepper, diced

egg, scrambled

carrot, diced

green onion, cut into rounds

About 1/3 of a cup of Asian sauce, to taste using following ingredients:

-soy sauce

-grated ginger

-grated garlic

-sesame oil

-rice wine vinegar

-Mirin

-hoisin

-chili paste (like Sambal)

Heat a teaspoon of vegetable in a big skillet or wok and scramble egg until cooked throughout. Remove from pan, then heat additional oil  – saute onion and hard veggies (bell pepper, carrots) until the onion turns translucent and the veggies soften. Add in the tempeh and if needed, a little more oil to prevent the tempeh from sticking and facilitate it crisping up. Add the egg and green onion into the pan, then add in cooked quinoa, mixing thoroughly to incorporate the veggies/egg throughout and to heat the quinoa. Drizzle the sauce over the quinoa and stir until things start to clump up. Serve drizzled with extra sauce or hoisin.

Close your eyes and tell me this isn't fried rice!

Close your eyes and tell me this isn’t fried rice! (this version didn’t have the veggies or egg, so it’s a little less colorful!)

Most people hear Brussels sprouts and are immediately thrown back to smelly, poorly-cooked round balls in elementary school cafeterias. I promise, try these my way (the SIMPLE way) and you’ll be begging for more. It’s a great pairing with the fried quinoa, because the caramelization of the Brussels sprouts brings out the sweetness of the quinoa and compliments it with a faint smokiness. I could eat these allllllll day!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

1/2 pound of Brussels sprouts per person (typically a prepackaged bag is 1 lb–look for smaller pieces that are compact–not large pieces)

salt

pepper

olive oil

Cut the flat bottoms (about 1/4 inch) off of the Brussels sprouts– almost like cutting off the bottom of a head of lettuce. This makes peeling off the outer layers of the Brussels sprouts easier–no need to wash them! Peel off at least one layer, if not two–it depends on how they look. Be sure to peel away any bruised leaves or ones with dirt on it. Cut each piece in half (from the top of the Brussels sprout to the flat bottom) and toss in a bowl with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Lay on a cookie sheet, cut side down, at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes or until the cut side is lightly browned and crispy. Add to your favorite protein– if they last long enough once they’re out of the oven!

 

This dinner was so satisfying and full of flavors and textures–it will definitely be a new staple for us. With quinoa already cooked, you can prep and cook this in under half an hour–who wouldn’t want that after a busy day?!