Posted tagged ‘recipes’

Chana Masala (Yowza!)

January 26, 2012

Indian food feels comforting.  The aromatic spices seem warm, alluring.  And, Indian food offers quite a few vegan options.  So, as I shuffled through some recipe options online, this recipe for Chana Masala popped out at me.  I had most of the ingredients on hand, and the recipe seemed easy enough for a week night.  Yeah, my algorithm for dinner selection isn’t too complicated…

I breezed through the recipe.  After mincing onions and garlic and grating the ginger (which is by far the hardest part), the recipe comes together in about 15 minutes.  Rad.

But… YOWZA!  This Chana Masala really packs some heat!  I like spicy.  Really, I do.  But dang this was hot!  What’s more, I felt like it was hot without the heat really enriching the flavors.  Maybe my cayenne is too hot (I put 1/4 teaspoon instead of 1/2, and it was still way too hot).  AND, I left out the green chili because I couldn’t figure out exactly which pepper I needed at Publix.  Yeah, I also have no qualms about dropping seemingly superfluous ingredients out of recipes… don’t ask me how that usually works out for me.  But still… so hot.

Amy didn’t eat it at all.  Jane (our almost one year old) ate quite a few bites before she opted for the palate cooling pear & mango baby food instead.  I ate a whole bowl, but I had to have two pieces of buttered bread to help me along.  I was bummed this was so hot; I really liked the flavors.  Unfortunately, Amy didn’t like the flavors either, so this is the last time Chana Masala will make an appearance in this house.  (Sad trombone)

I say totally give this recipe a try… but start out with a pinch of cayenne.   Otherwise… FIRE! FIRE!



January 3, 2012

I made Harvest-Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms for dinner.  The mushrooms are billed on at least one site as a Thanksgiving entree.  I can totally see that.  They tasted earthy (in a good way) and would ground an entire meal well.  My only change to the recipe might be adding a cream base to the stuffing.  It would take a little trial and error, but I think the end result could be worth the effort.

This post, though, is less about this lovely little recipe and more about some dinner time struggles going on at my house.  Here is the long and short of the situation:  about 3 months ago, I suggested to Amy that we do the 21-day Vegan Kickstart.  Honestly, I had no intention of becoming a full-time vegan.  I just thought I could take 21 days to rethink my diet and emerge a healthier eater.  Then I watched Forks Over Knives.  And I was sold on the idea that I could be healthier, more energetic if I cut out animal products.  And for me, there was no looking back.

Amy, on the other hand, still walks around a little stunned that I decided on veganism.  I truly think she rues the day she ever mentioned Forks Over Knives to me.

Please don’t misunderstand; Amy is really supportive.  But this decision impacts her, too.  I cook all the food in the house.  And I don’t cook meals I can’t eat.  Of course, we still have cheese in the house.  I even make her pizza with cheese every Friday night.  But most of our dinners are completely different than they used to be.  I relish this because I enjoy cooking, and I like to try new things.  Amy doesn’t like change.  The vegan dinners that were warmly embraced at the beginning are now finding a much colder reception.  And who could blame her, really?  The poor thing just wants to eat something she recognizes.

So, tonight’s meal went the way of most recent meals:  I liked it; Amy wanted to know when we were going to eat something normal.  I know she wants to just eat something familiar (preferably with cheese).  And she knows it hurts my feelings when I put a lot of effort into a dinner that she can’t stand.  But neither of us can help how we feel.

Tomorrow night, I will be making pasta (per Amy’s request).  I am going to try to keep it as normal as possible.  Cross your fingers.


Thank Goodness for the Ham…

December 20, 2011

Until Sunday, I was a dinner party virgin.  I had never cooked for more than 3-4 people without assistance from someone with more culinary skills than I possess.  But, on Sunday, we invited some of our dearest friends (plus their 3 kids) and Amy’s parents over for dinner.  Was I nervous?  No.  Well, okay… a little.  But mainly because 1) kids can be finicky eaters, 2) I have never cooked for Amy’s mom, who happens to cook for friends and extended family all the time, and 3) I am the only vegan in the group, but I was determined to only cook vegan food–I wanted to be able to eat everything on the table for a change.

Saturday night, I scrolled through endless recipes online.  I had decided to go with a vegan meatloaf as the main dish (which, in retrospect, seems really crazy to serve to omnivores).  I was going to do mac & cheeze, but decided against it; mac & cheese is like a religious experience to a kid.  There is no faster way to get them to turn on you than to tell them that they are having one of their favorite foods, then serve them something they barely recognize because  OOPS! YOU DON’T EAT CHEESE.  So, I opted for mashed potatoes, instead.  I make a mean mashed potato.  The potatoes were also the only thing on the menu (besides the salad) that I had made before.  And, finally, I decided on Polenta with Balsamic Kale & White Beans as my green side.  Whew!

How did it go?  You are so kind to ask.

In total, I spent 3 hours in the kitchen.  When I look back on the experience, I really have no idea why it took so long.  But I got everything on the table at the same time, all of it was still warm, and most of it had all the ingredients… most.

The meatloaf should have been called something else.  Maybe a harvest loaf?  There was nothing meaty about it.  There were pieces of carrots in it, for Pete’s sake.  The main ingredients were tempeh, brown rice and bread crumbs.  Mmmm…. grainy.  Look, I know where I went wrong:  meatloaf was my favorite food as a kid.  I just wanted to try to replicate that.  And the recipe came from a reputable chef.  Apparently, a chef that has a mad love affair with carrots.  And grains.  I should have bought Boca crumbles (vegan!) and used an approximation of my mom’s recipe for meatloaf.  It has ketchup, a piece of bread… and a conspicuous lack of carrots.  Plenty of vegetarians & vegans would have loved the meatloaf that I made on Sunday.  But it wasn’t for me.  What did the omnivores think?  They ate it.  But they are nice like that.  I think some  of them may have pushed it under their mashed potatoes.  I wouldn’t blame them.  And they ate the ham that my mother-in-law mercifully brought over.  I have never been so delighted to see a ham in my life.  For real.

The biggest hit was the polenta and kale dish.  None of my guests had ever even tried kale.  In fact, they looked at it as if it were highly exotic and kept repeating “kale” (yes, like aliens).  And every person at the table asked me at least once what polenta was.  But they loved it.  Loved.  They even asked for the recipe.  Win!  The polenta makes it a really kid friendly dish.  And, since the balsamic is drizzled on at the end, you can control how much goes on each serving.  I did leave out the white beans, completely on accident.  The recipe works fine without them, but I will add them in next time.  In fact, next time I make this, it will serve as the main dish.  It really is that good.

What nuggets of wisdom did I take away from this experience?  1) Try out recipes before serving them to unsuspecting people.  2) Mashed potatoes are a crowd pleaser.  3) Kale is apparently very fun to say.  4) Sometimes it is okay to let your mother-in-law go ahead and bring that ham over.  Just saying.


Don’t Talk to Me about Cheeze.

November 16, 2011

When I decided to go vegan, I knew I would be giving up some foods that I would miss.  Cheese topped that list.  My exuberance about cheese actually drove me to choose veganism; I had to force myself to stop using cheese as a spice.  Cheese had become a centerpiece in most of my meals.  In fact, I went out to eat lunch one day because there was no cheese left in the house, and I couldn’t understand how I could be expected to make a lunch sans cheese.  I am totally serious.  

Now, I believe a lot of foods can be remade into a vegan version of themselves and can come out tasting pretty dang good.  In my humble opinion, the exception is vegan cheese.  I shudder at the mere mention…

This afternoon, Amy sent me a recipe for an eggplant casserole topped with vegan cheddar cheeze.  I wasn’t super keen on the recipe, but Ames rarely participates in meal planning, so I wanted to be open to her choices.  I did some research about vegan cheeze and bought what was supposed to be the best brand.  I was still skeptical.  I recently had a vegan pizza at Pizza Fusion and thought it was delicious, except for the soy cheese.  I would rather simply have a pizza with no cheese.  Soy cheese isn’t like real cheese.  You know what tastes exactly like real cheese?  REAL CHEESE.  If I choose not to eat cheese, then I don’t want some lame imitation mocking me and making me miss a real cheese experience.  I would rather just forget about cheese altogether. 

By the way, this rant about soy cheese doesn’t extend to cheezy sauces like alfredo or vegan mac & cheeze.  Vegan Yum Yum has a great recipe for alfredo that I can vouch for and one for Mac & Cheese that I am itching to try.  You know what neither recipe has in it?  SOY CHEESE.  Buh.

Oh, and you know what was inedible?  That eggplant casserole.

Pumpkin Thyme Rigatoni (and a delicious bonus: Asparagus Stir-Fry)

November 3, 2011

Last night, with much enthusiasm, I set out to make Pumpkin Thyme Rigatoni.  My taste buds clearly read the 60-something degree weather in Tampa as “Fall” and immediately equated that with pumpkin.  And I was craving a rich, hearty pumpkin dish.

How could I resist a dish this simple, yet this beautiful?

Except, I can tell you for certain that this isn’t what Pumpkin Thyme Rigatoni  looked like at my house.  I wish I had a picture of what I made to compare with this shot… but I can tell you that the effect was similar to taking someone’s profile picture on an online dating site at face value, only to encounter a hyena sitting at the bar when you walk in.  And not a metaphorical hyena.  An actual hyena.  

I will readily admit that I didn’t use a sugar pumpkin.  I, in fact, wouldn’t know a sugar pumpkin if I saw one.  But I do know that I might start calling Amy sugar pumpkin just to throw her off guard.  Anyway, I substituted a butternut squash.  Seemed like a safe bet.  Except that I had never cooked a butternut squash before.  I followed the directions on the sticker on the outside of the squash (which told me to microwave the squash in 3/4 inch of water for 8-10 minutes)–and what I ended up with was not the tender, deliciousness I had been craving.  Even after continuing to cook the squash in the “sauce” like the recipe dictated, I still didn’t have anything that could pass as a pumpkin substitute.

At this point, you are probably wondering why I am writing about this recipe at all. But it is because the flavors were so enticing, because the sauce was so fragrant… I just have to believe this recipe can be saved.  And because I have a hard time admitting defeat, but whatever.

Okay, so here is what I would do differently:  I would buy frozen butternut squash or canned pumpkin to use in the recipe.  I just don’t think, for this dish, it is work the effort to work with the real thing.  But, if you insist on being a purist, then puree the squash or pumpkin before using it in the sauce.  Because, if you don’t, you will end up with cubes of squash or pumpkin sitting in a soup like “sauce.”  Something that really clings to the noodles will work best.  

Trust me on this one.  Please.

Now, since you have so patiently listened to my Pumpkin Chronicles, I give you the amazing Asparagus Stir-Fry.  Completely and utterly delectable in every way.  The only change I made was leaving out the red pepper flakes (but only because I forgot them in the stir-frying fury).  And I served it over brown rice.  One of my new favorite dinners, for sure.