Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Vegan Tortas

Don't let this unassuming Mexican sandwich fool you. Rustic in appearance, a closer look reveals a splash of color reminiscent of those found in a lovely authentic cantina. Take a bite, and the flavor is hearty and complex. The crispy bread embraces the burrito ingredients of your choosing. Our selection? Soyrizo-studded refried beans, citrusy avocado spread, nopalitos, purple cabbage, and sliced Roma tomatoes.

It's easy to make your own Mexican torta. You want bread that has a crispy exterior. I used ciabatta, so maybe I should call this fusion torta? Anyway, slice the bread and remove a little of the soft interior, to create room to nestle all your awesome ingredients. If you have a favorite brand of canned refried beans, feel free to use the ready-made variety. But you really want to use delicious stuffings to raise your torta from "eh" to "exceptional".

Vegan Tortas
4 servings

Refried Beans:
1 Tablespoon oil
4 ounces soyrizo
1 small onion, chopped
1 teaspoon cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons Maggi seasoning sauce, divided
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup vegetable broth
salt to taste
hot sauce to taste

Avocado Spread:
1 avocado
lime juice to taste, from approximately 1/2 lime
cilantro, chopped
hot sauce

Other fixin's:
purple cabbage, sliced
Roma tomato, sliced
nopalitos, rinsed and drained

Crusty bread rolls or subs

To make the refried beans, heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Saute the onion and soyrizo about 5 minutes, until soyrizo begins to brown and onion softens. Add cumin and 1 teaspoon Maggi sauce. Stir for a minute or so. Then add about 1/3 of the beans, 1/3 of the broth, and salt to taste. Mash the beans with a potato masher or back of a spoon and cook until broth is absorbed, about 7 minutes. Add 1/2 of the remaining beans and 1/2 of the remaining broth. Repeat mashing and cooking until broth is absorbed. Add remaining beans and broth, but don't mash beans so you have a chunkier texture. Simmer until broth is absorbed. Add remaining 1/2 teaspoon Maggi sauce and hot sauce to taste. Check for seasoning.

Prepare the avocado spread by placing avocado, chopped cilantro, hot sauce, salt, and lime juice in a bowl. Coarsely mash with a fork. Proportions are up to your tastebuds!

Slice your bread and remove some of the soft interior to make room for the stuffings. For each sandwich, spread some refried beans on a slice of bread, then top with purple cabbage, nopalitos, Roma slices, and avocado spread. Top with another slice of bread and enjoy.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sesame Tofu Bowl with Peanut Dressing

As a vegetarian, I used to skip the tofu chapters of cookbooks entirely, ignoring the various recipes and never preparing it at home. Who knew that during my first year of being vegan, I'd end up finding tofu absolutely addictive? This dish is inspired by the Thai Noodle Bowl I sometimes carry out from Whole Foods. I baked tofu cubes after marinating them in a sesame oil-based sauce, and could hardly stop eating them right from the baking dish. Served over jasmine rice with raw vegetables and a peanutty dressing, this makes a refreshing and flavorful meal. The only problem with this recipe is that I ran out of leftovers way to soon.

Sesame Tofu Bowl with Peanut Dressing
Serves 2

Marinated Tofu:
1 container extra firm tofu, pressed for 30-45 minutes then cubed
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons sesame oil
2 Tablespoons Bragg liquid aminos or soy sauce
1 heaping teaspoon Thai garlic chili pepper sauce

Peanut Dressing:
5 Tablespoons crunchy organic peanut butter (or non-crunchy)
1/4 cup water
2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
1 Tablespoon maple syrup
1 Tablespoon Bragg liquid aminos or soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon Sriracha or hot sauce
salt to taste

Other Bowl ingredients:
raw vegetables such as purple cabbage, scallions, and orange bell pepper, thinly sliced, and baby spinach
jasmine rice
fresh cilantro, chopped
lime zest

Prepare the marinated tofu by whisking the marinade ingredients (ginger through Thai garlic chili pepper sauce). Place the tofu cubes in a shallow baking dish and pour marinade over them. Gently stir and place in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. Stir occasionally if you get the chance. Then preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Bake the tofu for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Prepare the peanut dressing by whisking the peanut butter through salt. Set aside.

Prepare the rice, chop the vegetables, and zest some lime peel. Combine everything in a couple of bowls and drizzle with preferred amount of dressing.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Beer-Glazed Black Beans with Grape Tomatoes

These beans make the house smell amazing! It's the beer. And the garlic and molasses. But mostly the beer. They taste like sweet barbecued beans that baked for an hour, but they are prepared in a skillet in much less time. They are good on their own, as a topping for nachos, or as the protein in a grain and veggie bowl. The recipe is from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, and also can be found here. I substituted molasses for honey, used an entire can of beer, and added chopped grape tomatoes at the same time as the beans. See the pretty red color the sauteed tomatoes add? I'll definitely make this dish again when I want quick-to-cook beans in a sweet sauce.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Chipotle Roasted Vegetables with Avocado and Mixed Greens

This is my idea of a transition salad. I've neglected eating raw vegetables during these cold winter days, but I recently noticed some appetizing photos of green salads on other vegan blogs. To ease my way back to fresh salads, I created this one that includes roasted vegetables as well. Well, not any roasted vegetables, primarily roasted potatoes. And potatoes make everything appealing, in my opinion. We enjoyed this salad very much. The chipotle roasted potatoes and red onions contribute a little heat, smoky flavor, and crispy texture. Then there's the fresh mixed greens and creamy avocado, with the surprising crunch of pumpkin seeds. A light, tangy vinaigrette brings it all together.

If you're like me, you might be tempted to pile on the vegetables when roasting. They make great leftovers and it seems like an efficient strategy to roast a lot at once. But resist the urge. You want plenty of space on the baking sheet so that the vegetables crisp up, rather than steam. I found that this amount of vegetables worked fine for roasting in one batch.

And by the way, the HSMO Adopt-a-thon was very successful! I think around 25 adoptions occurred from the Macklind location. It was heart warming to see so many pets and their new people go home together, not to mention the hard work and dedication of the staff and volunteers. If you ever doubt that there are people in the world who are compassionate and devoted to making a difference, consider volunteering somewhere such as the Humane Society, where I'm inspired by compassionate people every time I'm there.

Chipotle Roasted Vegetables with Avocado and Mixed Greens
3-4 servings

1 pound organic yellow potatoes, chopped into small pieces
1/2 large red onion, chopped
1 1/2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle chile
2 Tablespoons walnut oil (or use another oil of your preference)
1 1/2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
1 avocado, chopped
mixed salad greens
pumpkin seeds

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place potatoes and red onion on a baking sheet with the 1 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil and ground chipotle. Stir to coat the vegetables. Bake for about 25 minutes, stirring once after about 10 minutes.

Prepare the vinaigrette by combining walnut oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, garlic, and salt and pepper in a jar. Top with a lid and shake.

After the vegetables are roasted, let them cool slightly. Prepare only as much salad as you want to eat now, storing leftover ingredients separately. Place your preferred amount of salad greens and roasted vegetables in a bowl with some avocado and pumpkin seeds. Add just enough vinaigrette for this serving. Stir gently. Check for seasoning.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Spicy Thai Stew and HSMO Valentine's Adopt-a-thon

I wanted to make a soup full of diverse vegetables, and found this wonderful recipe in The Everyday Vegan for Spicy Thai Stew. It has been posted here. I substituted yellow potatoes for yams, crushed red pepper for red chili pepper, and peanut butter for almond butter, based on ingredients in my pantry. The complex flavors of ginger, citrusy coriander, fragrant toasted sesame oil, cilantro, and creamy peanut butter were a delicious combination. I could hardly stop eating. Besides chopping the vegetables, the cooking time was relatively quick too. We thought this was sooo excellent.

Now for the dog segment of the blog! The Humane Society of Missouri is hosting another Adopt-a-thon this Saturday. Spread the word to your St. Louis area friends. Every day in February, save $30 on adoption fees. And for Saturday, February 14th, save $50 on adoption fees. These discounted fees apply to dogs 6 months and older and greater than 35 pounds, and to cats 6 months and older. You may know that the HSMO Disaster Response Team recently aided pets and their owners in Southeast Missouri after a severe ice storm. St. Louis also took in animals from a Southeast Missouri shelter that had no power and heat. So there are many great animals ready, and soon to be ready, for adoption!

We Pet Pals (HSMO dog walkers) love all the dogs, but it's interesting how we do seem to have our favorites. I confess, Rosetta, pictured above, has me charmed. She is an athletic, playful, affectionate pit bull terrier mix with a pretty brindle coat and the most expressive face! We just started a new training program that allows some Pet Pals to work with the shelter dogs on typical commands as well as learning new activities for enrichment. Rosetta proved how smart and eager to please she is in our class this week. You can get your fix of cute doggie pictures by checking out adoptable dogs here.

The link to Rosetta's specific info didn't work as planned. You can search on the adoptable dogs link, select dogs, then sort by name to find Rosetta. Or ask for her at the HSMO St. Louis City location on Macklind.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Pasta Puttanesca

With Valentine's Day on Saturday, many of us are planning a romantic meal. MD and I have come to prefer a quiet meal at home after finding that many area restaurants offer a restricted menu on Valentine's that is not veg-friendly. Not to worry, we relish the thought of staying home to enjoy an amazing bottle of red wine (at half the price as restaurant rates), delicious vegan food to order, and perhaps a romantic comedy dvd to boot.

For some reason, when I think romantic food, I think pasta. Could it have something to do with childhood memories of that spaghetti scene from Lady and the Tramp? Do y'all remember how cute that was?

Or maybe it's just because pasta is so cozy and can be quite simple. On a special occasion such as Valentine's, no one wants to slave in the kitchen for hours, you know.

Which brings us to this amazing Pasta Puttanesca. There are various opinions on why this sauce is associated with prostitutes. One proposes that the ingredients rely on pantry items for a quick sauce. While the origin of the name might be debated, the flavor is salty, spunky, and bold. A quick sauce with a lot of attitude. Perfect, in my opinion, for a romantic dinner when you want to spend more time with your honey than you do with the stove.

Pasta Puttanesca
about 4 servings

3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 large red onion, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 Tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
1/3 cup green olives, sliced
14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 cup crushed tomatoes
salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
fresh chopped parsley, to garnish
vegan Parm, to garnish, optional
8 ounces pasta, such as whole wheat red pepper spaghetti

In a large skillet or pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Saute onion until translucent. Add garlic and red pepper and saute about 1 minute. Add capers, black olives, green olives, diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes. Prepare your pasta while simmering. Garnish each serving with fresh parsley and vegan parm.

Monday, February 9, 2009

BBQ Black Beans with Kale

Today we have a twist on the typical beans and greens combo. This version combines the sweet and spicy taste of BBQ black beans with yellow bell pepper and garlicky kale. It makes a delicious meal that goes great on a bed of rice or baked potato. While homemade barbecue sauce is superb, sometimes you want your beans and veggies on the table without much fuss. This recipe calls for store bought sauce. I used my favorite, the Tangy Barbecue Sauce from Whole Foods. The most time consuming part here is trimming the kale leaves from the stems. And you won't mind going to that little bit of trouble because greens are so healthy and tasty too.

Barbecue Black Beans with Kale
4 servings

2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 pound kale, stems discarded, leaves rinsed and coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
1 large yellow bell pepper, chopped
2 teaspoons ancho chile powder
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup barbecue sauce
1 shot (1 1/2 ounces) rum

In a large skillet, heat 1 Tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add kale (in batches if necessary), salt, pepper, and garlic. Cook until wilted, a few minutes. Pour into a bowl and set aside.

Heat remaining Tablespoon olive oil in the skillet over medium heat. Saute bell pepper with ancho chile powder for about 4 minutes, until the pepper softens. Add beans, barbecue sauce, and rum. Turn to low heat and cook gently for 15 minutes. Stir in kale. Serve over baked potato or rice.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Broccoli, Seitan, and Penne in Peanut Sauce

This recipe might have you thinking, why go out to dinner? Instead, I can eat broccoli and whole wheat pasta with seitan smothered in a spicy peanut sauce at home. In my pajamas. Not that anyone around here would already be in pajamas at dinner time. Ahem.

Ah well, winter won't last forever. I'll be taking long walks in the evenings and puttering around the yard, rather than holing up indoors in lounge wear, until well after dinner time once the summer evenings arrive.

This dish met MD's approval as well. He said if he were served this at a restaurant, he'd be so satisfied that he'd order it next time too. I guess we have a keeper! Enjoy the weekend everyone. The St. Louis temperature is supposed to warm up a little. I hope the same for you, should you so desire.

Broccoli, Seitan, and Penne in Peanut Sauce
About 3-4 servings? My memory fails me!

1/2 Tablespoon peanut oil (or more as needed)
8 ounces seitan, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
6 Tablespoons peanut butter
6 Tablespoons hot water
3 Tablespoons tamari
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 Tablespoon Thai red chile sauce
salt to taste
1 medium carrot, sliced into bite-sized matchsticks
8 ounces whole wheat penne
1/2 pound broccoli, florets chopped and stems peeled and thinly sliced
toasted sesame oil
2 scallions, chopped

In a medium skillet, heat peanut oil over medium heat. Saute seitan and ground ginger a few minutes until seitan begins to brown. Add more oil if needed. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk the peanut butter, water, tamari, garlic, sugar, chile sauce, and salt until combined. Set aside.

In a large pot, cook the penne until almost al dente, about 8 minutes. Add the broccoli and cook 2-3 more minutes. Drain. Place penne and broccoli back in the large pot and drizzle with a little toasted sesame oil. Add seitan, carrot, and the amount of peanut sauce you desire. Top each serving with scallions.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Curry Chickpea Dip

What particular pita pleases your palate, peeps? After years of buying the whole wheat pita pocket bread, which frankly can be dry at times and tear when stuffed, I finally noticed the flatbread style of pita at the grocery store. Moist, soft, and chewy, this is some delicious bread. I'll admit I haven't read the fat content on the label. I'll live in ignorance for a little while longer.

With the purchase of my preferred pita product, I needed a bean dip to go along. This colorful, creamy Curry Chickpea Dip came to the rescue. Okay, I'm now on alliteration probation. Shutting up now and on to the recipe!

Curry Chickpea Dip
1 15 ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup pintos (because I had some leftover. Sub chickpeas if you like.)
1 garlic clove
1 Tablespoon tahini
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons curry powder
3/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 cup water
salt to taste
1 scallion, chopped, optional

Combine everything in a food processor except scallion. Pulse until creamy. Stir in scallion if you like. Enjoy at room temperature with pita bread or vegetable dippers. (You can brush the pita with a little olive oil and heat in a skillet. Mmm!)

Monday, February 2, 2009

Jamaican Jerk Chili and Vegan Lunch at SweetArt

If you've been looking for a way to enjoy that jerk seasoning in the pantry, this Jamaican Jerk Chili recipe from Vegetarian Times might be the answer. I have a little batch of Penzey's jerk chicken and fish seasoning, which consists of ginger, sweet chili, allspice, thyme, nutmeg, and about eight other spices. It lent a decided aroma of ginger to this chili, which is a chunky dish full of tomatoes, seitan, beans, and potatoes. I followed the stove top cooking directions rather than the ones for the slow cooker, which basically involves putting everything into a pot and cooking on low heat for about one and a half hours. So easy! It's a great recipe for an afternoon when you are puttering around the house, because you just want to stir it every once in a while to make sure it doesn't stick. I added a few cloves of minced garlic and substituted black beans and pintos for kidney beans. This makes a big batch, enough to enjoy now with some to freeze for later, for one of those nights when you just want to defrost a cozy meal and put some reggae on the iPod.

And a note for St. Louis area readers, SweetArt now offers several vegan lunch items! (They are open Wednesday through Saturday.) Last week I tried the Sweet Burger, which was juicy and a little spicy. The menu also included a vegan tofu salad, baked tofu sandwich, veggie sandwich (vegan if you hold the feta), and pb&j. I'll be back next week to try something new! If I can resist the Sweet Burger, that is. Check it below.


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