Posts Tagged ‘so easy a boy could do it’
Sweet and Simple
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As you can see, something doesn’t need to be complicated to be delicious. One of my favorite things to do lately is take fresh strawberries from the farmer’s market and slice them on top of organic corn flakes. The cornflakes come from Trader Joe’s, and if you haven’t tried them yet, I highly suggest that you get out there and buy yourself a box or four.

For those of you who don’t usually put fruit in your cereal, my berry: flake ratio might seem a little off-putting. Let me suggest starting with one or two berries (I used 6 for the above picture) and working your way up. I’m almost to the point where I have more fruit than cereal, and that makes for a very healthy breakfast, or in this case, dinner. Sometimes it’s exciting to eat breakfast at a new time.

It’s Shake n’ Bake, and I helped!
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The other day, my always resourceful boyfriend came across a list of ready-made vegan foods. It was a perfect list of vegan items that you can find in any American grocery store, even non-gourmet ones like Kroger, Shop-Rite, and Ralph’s. It’s the perfect list to have on hand if you are going to visit omnivores. I always dread it when I know I’m going to have to answer the question “so what do you eat?”. I often find myself giving a list of the things I won’t eat. There are the usual suspects: meat, eggs, milk, and cheese, but it’s a lot harder when I have to get down into things like casein and whey. Now I have a handy list that I can forward along ahead of me, and it even lists which brands are vegan-friendly.
Amazingly enough, you will notice that Shake n’ Bake is on the list of vegan foods. I was very surprised, but I guess that it makes sense. After all, it is only breadcrumbs. It’s the stuff most people put it on that’s gross. I, on the other hand, made some delicious chik’n flavored seitan last weekend, and proceeded to shake n’ bake it to delicious, golden-brown perfection. I served it alongside red-skinned mashed potatoes with gravy and steamed green beans. I found the easiest vegan gravy recipe ever at Sweet Bean and Green. I did add a dash of celery salt to the gravy to enhance it’s flavor. This was one of those dinners that reminds me of something I would have eaten growing up, but it was still sophisticated enough and kind enough to suit my new lifestyle. Even though it seems pretty self-explanatory, I’ve included my method (and my Seitan recipe)after the jump.

A Little Help from My Friend Amy
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So yes, it is always good to make your own chocolate cake with applesauce and cocoa powder, and the end result is always something deliciously low in fat and almost good for you. On the other hand, sometimes you are willing to take a break from your diet and are looking for something delicious to round out a low-fat dinner. Last night, I had a failed attempt at gnocchi. I’m not sure what really went wrong, but the end result was a lumpy, sticky potato-mush on the counter. The upside was that I was ready with brown rice pasta as a backup, which ended up going very well with my oil-free vegan pesto. Since we started the meal with a tomato bruschetta (which used a very teensy teaspoon of olive oil), I felt more than justified in taking a major shortcut with dessert.
Cue Amy’s. for those of you not in the know, Amy’s is a brand that produces natural, organic packaged foods, which are largely available in the frozen section of grocery stores. Even Ralph’s carries Amy’s products. Yesterday, I was at Whole Foods trying to improvise a dessert. We were in the frozen section, checking out a selection of raw gelato and ice cream. After checking the ingredients on the raw ice cream, I realized that it had just as much oil as any other dessert. and I reasoned that if I was going to break the McDougall plan, I was going to do it for something I knew would be delicious. Cue the improvisation. I debated the idea of baking a lemon-poppy seed cake and wrestled with the notion of baklava. I was considering a lemon tart when, like a shining beacon of hope, Amy’s frozen cakes jumped out at me. I originally went for the lemon poppy seed, but it was not vegan. Our choices were limited to orange or chocolate, and the boyfriend made the right choice with the chocolate. I also snagged a bag of Whole Food’s frozen berry medley, making this quite possibly the easiest dessert ever created. As a bonus, it was also delicious.

Wine pairing: an entire bottle of Almond Creek Champagne :)

So Easy It’s Cheating Chocolate Cake

  • 1 Amy’s frozen chocolate cake
  • 1 c. Whole Foods frozen berry blend
  • 2 TBSP. carob chips

Defrost the cake in the fridge for a few hours.
Just before you are ready to serve, heat the berries and 2 tablespoons of water in a small saucepan.
Cut the cake into slices and spoon the warm berry mixture over each slice.
Sprinkle carob chips on top.
Hide the Amy’s box from your guests, wipe some cocoa powder on your cheek, and pretend you did it all yourself.
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3-Bean Tacos
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I feel a little cheap posting this as a recipe, so please think of it as more of an idea for a cool way to assemble some ingredients and turn it into a reliable meal. To round it out and alleviate some of my Catholic guilt, I will give you a tip that I love using. When you have leftover tortillas, it’s very exciting to make your own tortilla chips. Just cut the tortilla into triangles and spray very lightly with cooking spray. Broil on medium for about 2 minutes and then toss with salt and a squeeze of lime juice. Not only are they delicious, but they’re also lower in fat than those greasy fried ones you’ll get at any Mexican restaurant.

3-Bean Tacos
1/2 cup each kidney, black, and pinto beans
1 TBSP. chili powder
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
cheese, cilantro, and salsa to suit your tastes.
corn tortillas
This is a really easy recipe because all you do is drain and rinse the beans then cook them for about 5 minutes over medium heat with the spices. Spoon them into warmed tortillas and enjoy.

Ginger Tempeh
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 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.

Vegan Cinco de Mayo
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I was never a huge fan of Mexican food, and would eat it every once in a while, despite living at the epicenter of Americanized-Mexican food. Most Mexican restaurants put chicken stock and/or cheese in just about everything, and I had no problem giving them up when I went vegan. However, sometimes absence makes the heart grow fonder. As a result, when Cinco de Mayo started looming closer, I started thinking about a taco night. I was planning on being at work pretty late tonight, so I celebrated Cinco de Mayo eve last night. Please note that in some regions, it is referred to as Quatro de Mayo, and some may just know it by it’s more commonly occurring instance: Taco Tuesday. I enlisted the help of a talented and capable sous chef to help bring my vision into being.
Trader Joe’s has great fat-free vegan refried beans, and we jazzed them up by heating them and then mixing in about a quarter cup of cheddar daiya. They may look a little weird coming out of the can, and fresh beans would always be preferable, but as a quick side dish, they cannot be topped. Unless of course, you are also making Spanish rice. Usually I will cook brown rice in vegetable stock, but last night I also cheated and used pre-cooked brown rice, which I mixed with some sauteed onions, garlic, vegetable broth, and half a can of crushed tomatoes. We just set that on medium heat and let the liquid cook off. We took quite a few shortcuts last night, but I feel like we illustrated a very important point: it is possible to cook a quick and healthy dinner on a week night. Plus, it was delicious.
I rounded out the menu with mushroom tacos, home-made pico de gallo, and guacamole. My guacamole recipe is very simple. Take an avocado and mash it with a tablespoon of lime juice and a touch of garlic salt. That’s all you need. Avocado is delicious on it’s own, and if you think you need to muck it up with a bunch of other things, you are sadly mistaken. If you need to be fancy, you can garnish it with a sprig of cilantro. Otherwise, you can find an outlet for your fancy cooking by referring to the recipe that follows.

Mushroom Tacos

  • 1 container of white button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 TBSP red chili powder
  • 2 cloves minced or crushed garlic
  • 1/4 c. vegetable broth

In a sautee pan or wok, stir together the chili powder, cumin, garlic, and vegetable broth. Bring the pot to medium-high heat.
Add the mushrooms and cook until the liquid is absorbed, stirring frequently.

Home-made Pico de Gallo
here’s a chance to show off your fancy knife skills, or to just make a mess of things

  • 2 diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 of a green pepper, diced
  • 2 TBSP. minced onions
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 4 sprigs of cilantro
  • pinch of sea salt

Prep your vegetables and toss in a bowl with the lime.
Remove the leaves from the cilantro and chop into small pieces. Toss in with the vegetables and season with sea salt to taste.

Simply Salad
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I don’t think that any culinary repertoire is ever complete without one good salad recipe. Salad is very ubiquitous in a vegan diet. A double helping can serve as a light lunch, or you can pair it with some vegan soup. Whenever I cook dinner for someone, I like to start out with a salad. It’s simple to make ahead of time, so if I’m still working in the kitchen when they arrive, they don’t have to just stare at me ravenously. Sometimes I’ll even have a small salad in the middle of the afternoon to tide me over until dinner time. This is a simple recipe with a sweet home-made balsamic vinaigrette. 


Simple Spinach Salad
  • 1/2 a bag baby spinach
  • 1/4 c. dried cranberries (I like the orange-flavored ones)
  • handful of almonds

Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp agave nectar
  • dash of garlic powder
  • fresh ground black pepper

  1. Whisk together the vinegar, agave, garlic, and black pepper.
  2. Throw your spinach in a large bowl. 
  3. Pour the dressing over the spinach and toss a few times to coat. 
  4. Sprinkle cranberries and almonds on top and serve to everyone’s sheer amazement.