Posts Tagged ‘main-dish’
Sesame Stir Fry

I’m sitting in bed on a Saturday morning, listening to the Hold Steady because I am that cool, and wondering what I have to say about this stir fry. Usually when I post a recipe, I have some thoughts on society or the universe or some sort of personal ramblings to relate to my readers. I think they make me seem more human, and as I understand it, writers who seem more relate-able tend to sell more books (coming soon to a kindle/i-pad near you).
When I get down to it, this recipe didn’t remind me of anything or anyone. I didn’t have some sort of lightbulb moment. I don’t even have an awful date story to go with it, since it just served as a weeknight dinner. I just had a bunch of tahini and a lot of spare vegetables lying around my apartment.
Stir-fry is always a good dinner option, since its premise is a simple one. Any time three or more vegetables are gathered in its name, the stir fry god is there. I like to sass mine up with tofu.
The real differentiating factor in any stir fry is which kind of sauce you mix it all with. I like peanut/sesame-based sauces a lot, but I have also been known to mix soy sauce and corn-starch and call it a day. There are a number of commercially-packaged stir fry sauces you can try if you are so inclined. For this stir fry, I decided on a sesame theme with tahini and sesame seeds.
wine pairing: Sam Adam’s Summer Ale


  • 6 oz. firm tofu, cubed
  • 2 TBSP. cornstarch
  • 3 TBSP. vegetable oil

Stir Fry

  • 1/4 a white onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, mined or pressed
  • 1/2 a large carrot
  • 6 medium mushrooms, quartered
  • 2 c. broccoli florets cut into bite size pieces
  • 2 heads of baby bok choy


  • 2 tbsp. tahini
  • 2 tsp. soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. unsweetened grain milk
  • 4 tbsp. water
  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, whisk together the grain milk with the tahini until it starts to thicken. Add the soy sauce and water, set to the lowest possible setting, and leave it to stay warm while you work on the stir fry.
  2. Toss the cubed tofu with cornstarch to coat (think Shake n. Bake) and heat the oil in a wok over high heat. Add the tofu and toss to coat, cooking until it turns a light brown.
  3. Reduce heat to medium-high and add the onions, garlic, and carrots and cook until the onions are translucent.
  4. Add the mushrooms and cook a 2 minutes, until they start to sweat.
  5. Add the broccolli and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  6. Stir in the bok choy and cook everything together for an additional 3 minutes.
  7. Stir in the sauce and serve over rice or noodles and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Tex-Mex Night

Let me take a few lines here to sing the many praises of the crockpot. The crock-pot slow cooker was first marketed in 1971 by Naxon. A crock pot is plugged into the wall and heats food by wattage, not temperature. As a result, liquid on the outside of the pot may lightly boil, but the food on the inside will be cooked slowly and deliciously. I love being able to throw a bunch of things into a crockpot in the morning and then come home to a delicious dinner. They are great for stews and sauces and chili.
I have a small crockpot that makes enough for 4 people, which is the perfect size for dinner one night and leftovers the next day. The center of my crockpot even comes out for easy cleaning. I have been known to cook something in my crock-pot, let it cool, refrigerate it over night, let it come to room temperature, and heat it the next day. I’m not sure how this is from a food safety perspective, but as a vegan I don’t exactly need to worry about salmonella from my raw chicken, now do I?
Anyway, I threw together a recipe for vegetarian chili that came out quite good. I also made corn-bread muffins to go with it. My boyfriend doesn’t like dry, crumbly corn-bread. In an effort to impress him, I set about making the moistest, sweetest cornbread I could come up with. Sometimes I have a tendency to overdo things, so the muffins came out tasting more like corn cupcakes. I will not be reprinting that recipe here, but I thought that inquiring minds would want to know about the muffins in the picture.

Vegetarian Chili

  • 1/2 a white onion, diced
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/2 a green chili pepper, diced
  • 1/2 a carrot, diced
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1 can pinto beans
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  1. Saute the onion over medium heat until it starts to turn translucent. Add minced garlic, carrot and chili pepper and cook for an additional few minutes. Transfer this directly to your crock pot.
  2. Add 1 can of tomato paste and an additional can of water. Stir well until the tomato paste is completely dissolved.
  3. Add the tomatoes and beans.
  4. Add enough vegetable broth to cover the entire mixture and set to low for 8 hours or high for 5.

Serves 4 at about 300 calories.

Ginger Tempeh

 For me, being a vegan is a constant journey of discovery. I don’t see it as limiting the foods that I eat, I see it was opening up a whole new world of food I didn’t even know existed. It took me this long to get around to experiencing tempeh, but I had read about how it was an amazing meat substitute, especially when you were looking for a hearty flavor. I picked up a package and I was not disappointed. Scratch that. I was far beyond not disappointed. I was actually extremely pleased and impressed. Tempeh has a nutty flavor and a consistency resembling crunchy grains of rice packed together into a loaf. Mine was about the same size and shape of a cut of London Broil, which got me to thinking about how to best prepare it. I decided to cut it into slices and marinate it in soy sauce, ginger, sesame seeds, and a little lemon juice. Let me tell you, there is nothing like the salty/citrusy combination of soy sauce and lemon juice. I would also reccomend trying this recipe with orange juice if you have it on hand. I tend to have some issues with soy sauce,  just because I am perplexed by how salty it really is. If a recipe calls for any real amount of the liquid, your sodium levels are going to shoot through the roof. A solution that I learned a few years ago is to use a solution of 1/2 soy sauce 1/2 water when you need a good amount of moisture in your recipe. It keeps the sodium in check, but you really won’t notice a difference in flavor.
Now, I know that it is not generally safe food practice to use your marinade for cooking. This is because most marinades have been chilling out with raw meet for hours, which equals one nasty e-coli situation. Tempeh is a naturally fermented soybean cake. See how the two are different?

Lemon Ginger Tempeh

  • 1/2 a package of tempeh cut into 1″ thick strips
  • 1 inch piece of ginger
  • 1 tsp. sesame seeds
  • 4 tbsp. soy sauce
  • the juice of half a lemon
  • salt and pepper

1. Cut the tempeh into slices and peel and grate the garlic.
2. Mix garlic, soy sauce, sesame seeds, lemon juice, and 4 tbsp. water in a shallow bowl or Tupperware container.
3. Add the tempeh and let it marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
4. When you are ready to cook, spray a nonstick pan and bring it to medium heat. Add the tempeh in a circle, cook for 3-5 minutes or until the tempeh is golden brown. Turn and cook for 2 minutes before pouring the remaining marinade over the tempeh and continue cooking until golden brown on both sides.

Serve over steamed vegetables and/or brown rice.

Tofu n’ Broccoli

I, Nicole Williams, love tofu. These are 5 words that I could never have imagined typing a year ago. I was the girl who wanted nothing to do with that white, mushy, weird health food. I had no idea what it was even made out of, but I was pretty sure that I didn’t want to know. Then, I took the time to actually learn how to cook tofu, and I realized just how delicious it can be when done correctly. I also did some research on its many health benefits including being low fat and high in protein. Studies have shown that this magical bean curd can lower bad cholesterol and triglycerides. Soy isoflavones in tofu have even been shown to reduce breast, uterine, and prostate cancer. Did I mention that it’s a good source of iron?
Tofu is one of the cornerstones of any good vegan diet. Whenever I get “the protein lecture”, I am quick to inform the lecturer that I eat tofu once or twice a week and get all the protein that I need. Tofu is great in all different kinds of recipes, because its nuetral flavor will easily take on whatever spices or marinade you use. So, gentle readers, please stick with me over the next few days as I present my own personal salute to tofu.

The Basics
When cooking with tofu, it’s important to know exactly what kind of prep work you’re looking at. Tofu comes packaged in water, so the first thing that you want to do is rinse it under cool running water. Then, I give it a gentle squeeze and lay it on a cutting board between two paper towels, pressing gently but firmly until most of the moisture comes out. It should feel like you are making love to the tofu, I promise. I’m not sure why you are supossed to do all of these things, I think that it’s either to prep it to absorb flavors or maybe just so that it doesn’t get mushy. The next thing I do is roll the tofu in a little cornstarch before cooking. It helps it get a nice crispy coating.

Tofu n’ Broccoli

  • 6 ounces of non-silken tofu, drained, pressed, cut into squares, and rolled in cornstarch
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 2 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp. corn starch
  • 2 c. fresh broccoli

Mix 2 tbsp. water, soy sauce, and cornstarch in a bowl.
Coat a pan with nonstick cooking spray and drop the tofu into it. Let it cook a few minutes until it is golden brown and then flip and brown the other side.
Add 1 1/2 tsp. of the soy sauce mixture to the pan along with the broccoli and the rest of the water.
Stir-fry for 2 minutes, then reduce the heat and simmer for 1 minute.
Add the remaining soy sauce mixture back into the pan, stir well to coat, and serve over rice, noodles, or by itself.

Quinoa Stuffed peppers

 Stuffed peppers are one of those Italian dishes that I always remember having around when I was a kid. Unfortunately, I refused to eat anything green, so I really missed out. Now that I’m older, I feel bad for my mom, because I was probably such a pain in the ass to feed. I’ll try to do better with my kids, which I am not having for awhile, despite my sister passing on my mom’s message to get to work on some grandkids. 
So, I grew up in New Jersey, and while my personal affiliations lean more towards Irish, sometimes I feel like I should get some sort of honorary “guidette” award. This is probably a good time to make some comments on MTV’s Jersey Shore. I watched a few episodes, mostly because everyone I know kept asking me if New Jersey was really that bad. I will say this: I grew up at the Jersey Shore and 90% of the wintertime population was completely normal. However, in the summer a lot of tourists from Northern Jersey and New York come down to live in the summer rentals. They turn our quiet, classy town into Ed Hardy central and their bars start pumping house music at 180dB. It would be easy for me to rag on them, but I am grateful to the Italians for bringing such good food over to America. So, I salute you and your forefathers with my recipe for quinoa-stuffed peppers. This dish is a great way to use up vegetables that you might have on hand near the end of your grocery cycle, or to use some things that have been hanging out in the freezer. It’s also a nifty use of quinoa, which is probably one of my favorite superfoods.

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

4 medium sized green peppers
2 tsp. olive oil
1/2 a yellow onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 cup egg plant, cubed
1/2 a cup of mushrooms
1 can diced tomatoes (or dice them fresh)
1/2 c. frozen corn
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. cumin
1 1/2 c. cooked quinoa
3/4 c. water
fresh ground black pepper
daiya cheese (cheddar or italian based on your preference)

1. Prep your vegetables by slicing the mushrooms, dicing the onion, mincing the garlic, and cutting the eggplant into 1/2″ cubes.
2. Saute the onions and garlic in 1 tbsp. olive oil for 3-5 minutes, or until the onions start to turn golden brown.
3. Add the eggplant and cook for an extra minute until it starts to soften. Add mushrooms and cook for another minute.
4. Add tomatoes and simmer for 3 minutes before adding frozen corn. Stir well.
5. Add the quinoa, oregano, and cumin and mix very very well. Allow this mixture to simmer on low while you prep the peppers.
6. Cut the stems off of the peppers and remove all the seeds. Fill a pot with water and place the peppers on a screen above the water. Steam for 4 minutes. I usually use a handled strainer in a big pot with a cover, but you might be working with some fancy equipment.
7. Carefully transfer the peppers into a baking dish and stuff with your filling.
8. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove the foil, sprinkle with daiya (or your favorite shredded cheeze) and cook for 10 minutes until the cheese melts and the tops of the peppers brown.
 Serves 4. Each pepper has about 250 calories before you add the vegetables. I rarely count the calories in my vegetables.

Doctor, Doctor

I am currently on my third day of the McDougall program. It’s a 12-day program focusing on starches, with fruits and vegetables playing important supporting roles. There are no meat or dairy products on the McDougall plan, so it’s very similar to veganism. However, the McDougall plan challenges us to make one major change in our lives: eliminating all oil.

Why do we hate on oil? Well for starters oil is fat. Pure fat. Your body loves to store fat. Personally, my body prefers my abdominal region, but maybe your body favors the derrier or thighs. Maybe you just have a fat face. We are all different in this regard. According to Dr. McDougall, fat deprives cells of oxygen and produces free radicals. Basically fat is causing damage to your body.

You may not buy into this, so let me spell it out very rationally. There are 120 calories in a tablespoon of oil. For 120 calories you could instead be eating:  17 cups of spinach, a small baked potato, over a cup of cornflakes, or 21 extra large strawberries. Out of these things, what is going to keep you full longer? What is going to be nutritionally dense enough to get your body the nutrition it needs? What is going to keep you from over-eating?

I’m 3 days into the plan, and I have been amazed at how full I have felt. I feel like I’ve been gorging myself on whole wheat pasta, vegetables, beans, whole grains, and fruit. The amazing thing is that I am losing weight again, and I have been on a pretty solid plateau for over a month. I’m still 9 pounds away from my ultimate goal, and I’m planning on McDougalling my way there.

The McDougall website has a lot of recipes on it, which I appreciate. My only gripe is that most of the recipes in the meal plan are pretty awful. It’s not that you can’t have delicious oil-free food, because you can. The cooking techniques, spices, and ingredient measures have been pretty off. Luckily, I’ve been able to catch most of them before or during cooking. Others I have had to suffer through. Check back often to see some of the things I’ve managed to come up with.

Oil-Free Risotto

  • 4 c. vegetable broth
  • 1 c. (dry) Arborio rice
  • ½ an onion, finely diced
  • 2 c. broccoli and cauliflower florets
  • 1 green onion, diced
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • ½ a cup mushrooms
  • 2/3 c. frozen corn
  • 1 c. frozen spinach
  • 1 TBSP. Tamari
  • Ground Pepper
  • Garlic Salt
  1. Pour rice into a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat and toast the rice. Usually you would use oil here, so it’s not 100% the same, but it’s close.
  2. Add 1 cup of vegetable broth and stir until all of it is absorbed. Continue to add the broth about a cup at a time, stirring constantly and letting it absorb each time.
  3. In a large skillet, cook onion and ¼ c. vegetable broth over high heat until the onions turn translucent. Add the mushrooms, zucchini, and frozen spinach. Stir and cook a few more minutes. Add the frozen corn and broccoli/cauliflower mix and cook for about 5 minutes.
  4.  When the rice is done absorbing, stir in the tamari and add the vegetables. Season with ground pepper and garlic salt to your liking.
  5. This makes a delicious risotto that is even good heated up the next day.
Good Date, Good Risotto

 I was really hoping to put together a bitter, man-hating cookbook full of vegan recipes and bad date stories. To further that goal, I had a friend over to cook risotto, play scrabble, and drink a bunch of red wine. Secretly, I think I was hoping for some fantastic story about burning down my apartment or him spilling red wine all over my carpet. It would have been great if he got belligerently drunk and had to be forcibly removed from my apartment. Unfortunately, all that happened was that we made a killer risotto and I got my ass kicked in Scrabble. I suppose I could always do a chapter on good dates and good recipes, but I’m not sure how many of the 23 dates I went on between January and May would make it into that category.
So, it looks like it’s back to the drawing board on the whole cook-book concept, but there’s more than one reason behind that. I can save all that for another post, in the meantime, let’s get down to the risotto.
A risotto is created by gently pan-frying grains of aborrio rice and then slowly adding liquid to the rice as it cooks. The secret to risotto is that you have to stand there and stir the rice almost constantly for about 20 minutes. That’s what makes risotto the perfect date meal, because you can do all of the exciting work and then make your date stand at the stove and stir it for you. I actually busied myself about the task of making vegan brownies, but it is entirely possible to make up a task on the far side of the kitchen, and as long as it is more interesting than stirring, you would be coming out ahead. Now, this can probably blow up in your face if your date doesn’t know what they are doing. It’s amazing sometimes how people manage to screw up the simplest things. I was lucky enough to leave my risotto in competent hands and we were rewarded with a risotto so rich and creamy that it’s hard to believe it’s actually vegan. The mushrooms and peas in this recipe pack in a solid serving of vegetables and the spices that we ended up using were delicious, if a little unconventional. I paired the risotto with a salad, although I suppose you could use it as a side dish. However, it’s so delicious that you won’t want to touch anything else on your plate and so filling that you don’t need anything else for a perfect meal, except maybe some witty banter and a nice glass of pinot noir?

It’s About Time Risotto

  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 package of mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 c. frozen peas
  • 1 1/2 c. aborrio rice
  • 1/2 c. dry white wine
  • 3 c. vegan vegetable stock
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • salt and pepper
  • pinch of chili powder
  1. Begin by defrosting your peas by running them under hot water in a strainer.
  2. Spray a pan with cooking spray and add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt, sauteeing for 2-3 minutes. Add the peas and stir until well heated. Remove from heat.
  3. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, sautee the garlic for 2-3 minutes in a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the rice and stir until the rice grains start to get every so faintly toasted. 
  4. Add 1/2 a cup of white wine and stir, cooking until the wine in absorbed. 
  5. Reduce the pan to medium heat and add about 1/2 a cup of vegetable broth. Stir until it is fully absorbed and then add another 1/2 a cup of broth. Add the needles from 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary.
  6. Continue this for 20 minutes or until the rice is soft and tender. If you run out of vegetable broth, just use water. 
  7. Season with salt, pepper, and chili powder and serve immediately.
Bad Date, Good Stir Fry

So once guys find out that you know how to cook, you have basically committed to making them dinner at least once. My favorite kinds of guys are the ones who know a thing or two about cooking themselves. Sure, it adds to the pressure to create something delicious, but it also means that I’ll have a skilled extra hand in the kitchen. A few weeks ago, I attempted a cooking date with a certain someone, and it did not end well. Sometimes there are just nights where things don’t line up, and it was one of those nights. I was already stressed out when the date started. Let’s just say that the night didn’t end well and leave it at that. On the bright side, I did get to try out a great recipe for Peanut Tofu Stir Fry. However, it will always be associated with a bad date, so I will probably not be making it again any time soon.

Bad Date Stir Fry
the tofu
6 oz. firm tofu, rinsed, drained, and cut into triangles
1/4 c. cornstarch
vegetable oil

the Vegetables
1 clove garlic
1/2 inch piece of ginger
1 yellow onion, diced
1 chopped carrot
2 c. green beans

the sauce
2 tbsp. peanut butter
2 tsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. soy milk
5 tbsp. water
Prep Work: chop the carrot, clean and snip the ends off of the string beans, mince the garlic and ginger, dice the onion.
Coat your tofu triangles in corn starch and fry in about 1/3″ HOT oil. I cannot stress how important it is that the oil be very hot, that’s what keeps the oil absorption to a minimum. Cook about a minute on each side, or until brown. If it takes much longer than a minute, your oil isn’t hot enough. Drain these on a paper towel and then transfer them to a baking sheet. Keep them in a 250 degree oven while you cook the vegetables.
In 1 tsp. oil, stir fry the onion, garlic, and ginger for 2-3 minutes. Add the carrot and cook an additional few minutes before adding the green beans. At this point you can feel free to add a little water to the pan to prevent sticking. Cover the pan and cook on medium heat for 5-10 minutes, or until the beans are bright green but tender.
In a small saucepan, heat the peanut butter until it starts to thin out. Add the lemon juice, soy sauce, and soymilk and stir well. Add in the water 1 tbsp. at a time until the sauce reaches your desired consistency.
To assemble, fill a bowl with noodles, brown rice, or quinoa. Layer in about 1/2 a cup of vegetables, 3-4 tofu triangles, and 2 tbsp. of the peanut sauce. Serve and impress your guests.

Getting Saucy

I have a very interesting, unique personality. Sometimes, I’m in a great mood and nice to everyone around me. I can light up the world with my smile, and I really am a nice girl. Sometimes, I’m down right sardonic. The point here is that sometimes I’m a little sweet and sometimes I’m a little sour. It makes sense that one of my favorite dishes before “the change” was sweet and sour shrimp. There’s this great Chinese food restaurant on Santa Monica Blvd called Jin Jiang. It looks like something straight out of Temple of Doom. At least I think it was Temple of Doom that started out in some 80′s-tastic chinese night club. Am I right here?
Oh yea, so this is a food blog. Point is, sweet and sour sauce is easily made vegan. However, you need to decide what to pour it over. I’ve been meaning to try it with vegetables, but I really love it over tofu. I’ve been eating a bit of tofu lately (and balancing it out by using rice-milk instead of soy). This dish is best served over steamed rice with a side of lightly steamed vegetables. I like to go with snap peas, mushrooms, and broccoli, but really you should do what you feel.

Sweet and Sour Tofu
1/3 c. rice vinegar
1 tbsp. agave
1 tbsp. ketchup
2 tsp. molasses
1 tsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. corn starch dissolved in 4 tsp. water
1/2 package tofu
2 tbsp. cornstarch by itself

In a small saucepan, bring vinegar, ketchup, agave, and soy sauce to a boil.
Add cornstarch and stir until thickened.
While the sweet and sour is thickening, rinse and pat dry about half a package of tofu. Cut it into some artful pieces. I’ve seen triangles, but I usually go for the more classic cube. You could use star-shaped cookie cutters if you need to get magical.
Coat a pan with nonstick spray and dredge the tofu through the cornstarch. Cook over medium heat until golden brown, flip and repeat.
Serve by plating your tofu and drizzling the sweet and sour over it.

Luck O’ The Irish

Well kids it’s St. Patrick’s Day, and I am auto-publishing this post because chances are I am out somewhere expressing my Irishness. Please note that Irishness is expressed through the following: wearing kelly green, shouting fuckass in a Boondock Saints-esque accent, drinking Killians Irish red, and eating corned beef and ……. wait a second. As I celebrate more holidays as a vegan, I get more and more excited about turning out healthier versions of my favorites. Last year, I celebrated St. Patty’s by baking Irish soda bread and making a Guiness beef stew. Now I know that Guiness uses fishscales in its clarifying process and I have decided that beef is no good. However, I was still looking for a way to celebrate my ill-considered Shamrock tattoo.
The good news is that Killian’s is listed on Barnivore as vegan-friendly. Barnivore is a great site to check out if you want to know more about what animal products might be lurking in your favorite liquid treats. I also decided that instead of trying to make some sort of elaborate corned tempeh, I would go with a Shepherds pie. The funny thing is that I remember my mom making this once and I turned my nose up at it. Now, however, my palate has refined, and I absolutely devoured this recipe. It made ALOT of food, so I was glad that my sister and her boyfriend were in town to help out.

Shepherd’s Pie
1 package soy crumbles
1 onion, chopped
2 c. baby carrots, chopped into slices
1 c. frozen corn
1 c. frozen peas
1 lb. potatoes
1 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. nutritional yeast
1 tbsp. earth balance, divided
1 c. vegetable broth
1 tsp. soy sauce
1 c. water
3-4 sprigs of fresh rosemary

1. Boil a large pot of water while you prep your vegetables. Peel and quarter your potatoes and cook them until they are tender. Drain most of the water off (leave a little at the bottom of the pan) and mash with  garlic powder and nutritional yeast. 
2. In a saute pan, cook your onions and half a tablespoon of earth balance for about 10 minutes, then add carrots. Stir well and cook until the carrots are starting to get tender. Add corn and peas and cook until everything is warm. Take your rosemary and pull the needles off of the sprig and mix in to your filling.
3. Add soy crumbles and a dash of salt and pepper.
4. Stir in soy sauce and vegetable broth and cook on low for 10 minutes.
5. Pour the vegetables into a large casserole dish, pour about a cup of water in and mix well.
6. Cover with a layer of mashed potatoes.
7. Cut the remaining earth balance into cubes and dot your crust. Add a few more rosemary needles as a garnish.