Saturday, October 31, 2009

Easy Weeknight dinners Presents: Quick asian stir fry!

Who doesn't like a quick stir fry? This was such a fast and easy dinner. The use of somen noodles sped up the process considerably, feel free to use rice if you prefer though.

Quick Asian Stir Fry
Number of tools: 8 (cutting board, knife, jar, measuring cup, garlic press, wok, sauce pot and spoons)
Time: Approximately 20 minutes

Step one: Make sauce.

In a jar combine these ingredients and set aside:

2 small hot peppers, minced
1 inch of garlic root, minced
3 cloves garlic, put through a press
1/8 cup minced scallions
pinch fresh cilantro (I love it, my husband hates it... use you best judgement)
1/2 cup sake or other dry white wine
juice of 1/2 lime

Step two: Prepare somen or rice noodles, according to package directions

Step three: Quickly stir-fry veggies in a hot frying pan or wok using the tiniest posible amount of sesame or peanut oil. Add the sauce combination at the end and cook until the liquid is slightly reduced.

This is a good combination: 1 carrot, 1 cup cabbage (from a bag of pre-shredded cole slaw mix), 1/2 red or orange bell pepper, 1 cup snow peas, 1 cup mushrooms, 1/2 cup edamame

Step four: Serve stir fry over noodles or rice. Dig out your best chop sticks and dig in!

Stir fry's are really easy once you figure them out. Technique is everything. Here are a few hints:
  1. The pan needs to be REALLY hot.
  2. The order of the vegetables is crucial. The veggies that will take the longest to cook go in first and the fasted veggies go in last. That way everything will be cooked perfectly.
  3. Cut everything as close in size as possible to ensure even cooking.
  4. If you do not have time to make your own sauces, don't be discouraged. Buy those bottled ones, they taste fine. Just keep an eye on the sodium level and look out for fish sauce as an ingredient.
So now that you know what to do, have fun and go to town making the fastest dinner ever.... stir fry!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Russian Salad

I recently picked up two books on raw veganism at a thrift store. I should point out that I am NOT a raw vegan and I am not even sure that a purely raw diet is the best choice. However, I do think that it is good to include a lot of raw foods into your regular (vegan) diet.

These two books provided lots of information about raw techniques and nutrition. They also proved to me that I do not have the will power to be a raw vegan. However I can include raw food as much as possible, and since I love salads, this salad was a good jumping off point. Please note though: that it is not 100% raw.

The dressing/marinade was inspired by a few of the lemony vinaigrettes in the raw books. The vegetables were inspired by what happened to be in my fridge. The final product reminded me of salad I remembered from Red Square, a local Russian bar.

Insalata Russa
Lemon-Garlic Marinade:

6 tbs fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 tbs olive oil
2 cloves garlic, put through a press
1 tsp dry mustard
2 tsp paprika
4 squirts liquid aminos or soy sauce
Salt and Pepper to taste


  1. Mix all ingredients in a jar and shake well.


1 cup diced potato
1 large carrot
5 radishes
1/2 red bell pepper
1 cup peas
Lemon-Garlic Marinade
vegan mayonnaise (optional*)
mixed greens


  1. Boil potato until slightly tender, rinse and set aside to cool.
  2. Dice all vegetables into equal size cubes (nearly the size of peas)
  3. Place all vegetables (including potatoes) in a bowl and stir in the marinade. Allow to marinade for at least one hour.
  4. If desired, strain veggies and combine with vegan mayonnaise to taste.
  5. Serve over mixed greens.
* The mayonnaise was what I remembered from the Russian restaurant. It makes a creamier salad and is quite tasty BUT it ups the fat content considerably.

I packed this salad for our lunches the next day. Both my husband and I both enjoyed the salad immensely. The starchy potatoes, carrots and peas provided a filling lunch while the crunch of the radishes was a satisfying contrast to the creaminess of the potatoes, and yes the fatty mayonnaise dressing.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Another recipe from vegan brunch

First two observations:

  1. I don't believe I have used this cookbook for a meal served prior to noon yet.

  2. I am quickly falling into the cult of Isa Chandra worshippers!

Tonight for dinner we had the "Chesapeake Tempeh Cakes". Since I am not a huge fan of tempeh though, I made them with extra firm tofu. They were awesome! I did add a little garlic to the recipe but otherwise I followed it exactly as written (well and then there was the tofu substitution...). Oh wait I also broiled them instead of frying... but I otherwise I was true to the recipe. I guess I cannot leave things alone.

About those crackers on the plate:

When I was a graduate student, I worked in the Baltimore restaurant circuit and everyone used to request saltines with their crab cakes, so the crackers on the plate a nod to that tradition. You are supposed to smoosh the cake on the cracker. It didn't make sense to me then and after trying it, it still doesn't but at least I can say that I finally tried it. I'll probably skip the saltines in the future, but man were these delicious.

In addition to the saltines for a true "Baltimore" experience you could try adding a little old bay.... but I can't stand the stuff myself. I guess I am not a very good hon*.

Here is what it all looked like. Served with a bunch of veggies, it was a delicious dinner!

* A Baltimore "Hon" is an often parodied caricature of a Baltimore woman. She is typically in a beehive and brightly colored house dress with outdated cat-eyed glasses. There is an entire festival in honour of the Baltimore Hon every year!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Fall confetti soup

As teachers it is inevitable that a virus gets one of us every year.....this time my husband has come down with the swine flu. This has got to be the worst type of sick I have ever seen! His fever is very high and all he has the energy to do is sleep and cough. I am hoping that a nice soup will warm him up and give him some energy to help in his recovery. A little battle of veggies versus viruses if you will....

Soup is also economical. It is a great way to make a decent meal out of few resources. I am always amazed at how a "little of this and a little of that" can come together to make such a tasty meal. This one used mostly pantry items and required no special trip to the grocery store, which is great since I am also in self isolation until I see if I am sick...

By the way, in order to make it low-fat, omit the oil and sautee in broth or additional wine.

Fall Confetti Soup

2 TBS olive oil

1 stalk of celery chopped (approx 1/2 cup)

1 large carrot chopped

1/2 large onion chopped (about 1 cup)

2 cloves garlic, minced

6 TBS oregano

6 TBS basil

1 cup chopped potato

1 cup white wine

6 cups vegetable broth

1 can cannelini beans

2 cups frozen spinach (any green would do)

Salt and Pepper to taste


  1. In oil saute celery, carrots and onion.

  2. Add sun-dried tomato and hot pepper. Continue to saute until onion is nearly transluscent and onion is soft.

  3. Add garlic and spices being careful not to burn.

  4. Stir in potato, saute for a few more seconds then add wine.

  5. Bring wine to a boil and let boil for about 3 minutes.

  6. Add broth and bring to a boil.

  7. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes.

  8. Add beans and greens, heat through and adjust seasoning if necessary.

The flavoring on this was divine! The sundried tomatoes gave the soup a hint of tomato without creating a tomato broth and the beans and potatoes made it filling! All in all I am so pleased with this soup... now if I can just be sure that I don't have the swine flu.....

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Everyone's favorite....Curry Squash Soup

I LOVE pumpkin and its cousins, the other winter squashes. In fact, I make all of my young students sing this silly little song about "Mr. Pumpkin" every year:

"Mr. Pumpkin, Mr. Pumpkin
Round and Fat, Round and Fat,
Harvest time is coming, Harvest time is coming
Yum, yum, yum! Yum, yum, yum!"

Amid the giggles, we discuss our favorite pumpkin (and by extension... squash) based foods. While they all say pie and perhaps bread, I amaze them all with things like soup, purees, smoothies, pancakes, french toast etc... Somehow my students seem to think of pumpkin only as a sweet food. Not me, I love how versatile this vegetable is!

So it is with great joy that I made my first squash soup of the year! This one is not for the faint hearted. To help my congestion due to fall allergies, I made it heavily spiced. So... feel free to go easy on the spices. Its still absolutely delicious!
Curry Squash Soup
1/2 cup sake or white wine
1/2 onion, chopped
small piece of ginger, chopped
1 large carrot chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 TBS curry powder
3 cups water
1 vegetable bouillon cube
4 cups cooked squash
1 cup almond milk

  1. In the wine, saute the vegetables.
  2. Stir in the curry powder, then add water and bouillon.
  3. Bring to a boil.
  4. As soon as bouillon is dissolved, add squash.
  5. Turn down heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until vegetables are soft.
  6. Puree soup with an immersion blender.
  7. Stir in almond milk and gently reheat.
This soup is good topped with toasted squash seeds, tiny crackers or croutons.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Cabbage Rolls

Have you ever bought something and then been unsure what to do with it? I try to buy at least two different types of greens (besides lettuces) every week; this was how I ended up with a nice head of green cabbage:

Exhibit A: A nice normal head of cabbage

Traditionally we eat cabbage in very traditional, boring ways: cole slaw, boiled with baby potatos, sauteed with some onions...

I have to be honest, I wasn't feeling particularly inspired by the traditional BORING cabbage dishes, so the cabbage sat waiting for some inspiration. Luckily it came.

When we go to visit my in-laws they like to buy this Eastern European dish called Galumpkis which is totally not vegan. It consists of cabbage leaves which are steamed and then rolled around some meaty filling. This got me thinking about what other Vegan things could be stuffed inside a cabbage leaf and thus my recipe was born.

Exhibit B: Cabbage, in disguise!

Vegan Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
2 cups rice
1 large head green cabbage

tiny amount of olive oil
1/2 onion (about 1 cup chopped)
1/2 cup chopped peppers (I used a mix of bell peppers and hot peppers)
4 cloves of garlic
2 tsp cumin
4 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 cup red wine
2 cups water (plus more if necessary)
1 vegan not-beef bouillion cube
2 cups TVP

2 cans stewed tomatos
2 TBS white vinegar (Optional, my understanding is that Galumkis traditionally has a sweet and sour tomato sauce)

  1. Cook rice according to package directions.
  2. Separate leaves of cabbage and blanch. Set aside.
  3. In a small amount of olive oil saute the onion, pepper and garlic.
  4. When vegetables are soft, add cumin and paprika stirring constantly.
  5. After a few seconds add the wine and reduce heat.
  6. Bring wine to a boil, boil for 2 minutes.
  7. Add water and bouillion cube.
  8. Once water is boiling and cube is dissolved add TVP and stir until all water is absorbed. (You may need to add more.)
  9. In a separate bowl combine rice with TVP mixture, taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
  10. Lay out one cabbage leaf at a time and roll it up tightly around 2-3 spoonfuls of the rice mixture.
  11. Pack tightly in a baking pan, seam side down.
  12. In a food processor or blender, puree the two cans of stewed tomatoes and vinegar.
  13. Pour over cabbage rolls, spreading evenly.
  14. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until dish is heated through.
Note: To save time you can replace step 11 with pre-made marinara sauce.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Tonight my husband said: "this is better than the non-vegan version"!!!

We didn't have anything extremely special tonight. I was feeling very "vegetable-y" so I simply steamed a lot of veggies and opened some canned fire roasted tomatoes in order to get my fix. In order to make it a little fancier, I added a splash of vegan hollandaise sauce from Vegan Brunch. DH actually tried it and then proclaimed it tastier than the regular stuff!! He thought the flavor was good and that it wasn't overly lemony. I liked that it had so many layers of flavor. I can't wait to make a vegan benedict!

I am in love with this cookbook. I recently made "breakfast for lunch" by packing tofu scrambles (my recipe) and pancakes (her recipe). It was a great idea! There is something about eating pancakes with maple syrup at lunch that can just turn my whole day around! With my southwestern tofu scramble I had the best guacamole ever, made by my own dear husband. I am not sure of the exact proportions because he just dumped the stuff in the bowl, but here is the basic outline.

My husband's awesome guacamole
(P.S. He's very protective of this recipe, so I can only give the roughest outline...)
*really... the best ever!
lime juice

  1. Dump it all in a bowl
  2. Mash with a potato masher
  3. Store with the pits to prevent browning.
  4. Try not to eat it all at once!
I wish it photographed well... it doesn't. I ate most of it anyway

Friday, October 2, 2009

A review of the Helmand

Tonight I had the privilege of being taken out to dinner and a concert by my boss. Every year we do this annual fundraiser for our students that includes singing music that has been strung together cabaret style. Tonight's concert was a chance for a group of the music teachers and musical staff to see someone else in action and it was wonderful. Since this is a food blog though, I will focus on my dinner.

Prior to the concert, we ate dinner at the Helmand, an Afghani restaurant on Charles street in Baltimore. The name comes from a prominant river in Afghanistan and the owner is Mahmood Karzai, brother of Afghani leader Hamid Karzai. This is one of Baltimore's favorite restaurants, if you can judge by the crowd at the door on the weekends.

It's easy to see why. Everything I had was wonderful and the people around me seemed equally pleased. The vegetarian section of the menu was very vegan friendly. I ended up eating a veggie korma that came with rice and spinach as sides. The server was very helpful in helping me veganize everything and the service was great. A member of our party was considerably late and yet they still got us out in time to make it to our concert.

If you live in the Baltimore area, I would highly recomend the Helmand!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Tonights quick and easy dinner......

Bean Quesadillas!

Traffic was horrible today and I got home too late for a big formal dinner. I also wanted to finish up some things, so I used the last brown rice tortillas, some black beans and a little of my new favorite vegan cheese and fixed a vegan quesadilla which was out of this world! This has to be the fastest dinner I have ever made for myself! When I served it with a little salsa and some green beans it rounded out the meal and enabled me to finish preparing dinner quickly.

Since there is no recipe to share, I thought I share something else that has been on my mind lately. On my ride into work the news on NPR has been all about the G7 summit and the economy. It has caused me to consider economizing more and more myself. People tell me it must be expensive to be a vegan, to eat so many vegetables, to be so healthy etc... all the time. Here are some tips/reminders I have come up with for how to be a frugal vegan in the kitchen:

Tips for being an economical vegan in the kitchen

  1. Remember to use ethnic markets when possible. Often vegan recipes call for specialty spices and ingredients. You can get these things very inexpensively at ethnic markets. Asian markets are great places for tofu, tempeh, seaweed, edamame, sesame oil, soy sauce and all sorts of vegetables. Indian markets will carry tons of dried rices, beans and spices all at lower prices than your local supermarket. Italian markets often have good wines and canned tomatoes.

  2. Shop at farmer's markets. This may not always be the cheapest but it is good for the economy and the enviroment as your food is traveling less and you are putting your hard earned dollars back into the local economy. Additionally, there are often farmers who use organic practices but who are unable to afford organic certification... it pays to ask.

  3. Use a CSA. This is one I need to get on board with. Community Supported Agriculture provides you with a portion of the harvest in exchange for paying for a share. It can be a great deal and helps the local economy. Check out to look for one near you.

  4. Bake your own bread. Finding vegan bread can be a real pain... and often it is VERY expensive. So the frugal solution is BAKE YOUR OWN! This isn't that hard. I can't make a pie crust to save my life but even I can work out bread. Start with muffins and quick breads and then work your way up to yeast bread. Before you know it you will be turning out bagels, scones and english muffins too. This is a good beginners yeast bread.

  5. Beans and plain tofu are your friends. All of those preseasoned vegan products are very convenient. They are also very expensive. Dried beans are extremely cheap! A block of plain tofu can be marinated and cooked into a delicious meal with a little pre-planning. If you went to an Asian grocery store then dinner just became even cheaper! Also you can tailor your recipes to your own needs, cutting back sodium or fat and adjust the spices to suit your tastebuds.

  6. Learn to make your own seitan. Use the internet and cookbooks to find recipes for whatever you like to eat alot of. There are recipes for vegan ice creams, seitan sausages, almond milks even vegan yogurts. Invest in some decent cookware and you should be able to whip up plenty of delicious foods.

  7. Plan ahead. I mean to say, don't waste food! If you make a big casserole or stew freeze some for later. Freeze some of the peas you get in your CSA pick up. If you have a bumper crop of tomatoes, make sauce. You can even use your old vegetable peelings to make homemade vegetable broth. Try to creatively reuse your leftovers in order to avoid waste.

  8. Pack your own lunch. Brown bag it instead of spending $10 a day on lunch. The savings really add up. Fifty bucks a week becomes two hundred bucks a month becomes... well I think you get the point!

  9. Avoid the soy latte trap. This is a hard one for me! Every soy latte I buy averages three dollars. A coffee from home is maybe 10-50 cents depending on how much soy milk I use. Not to mention the savings in wasted paper cups (no matter how often I bring my own cup, they still put it in a paper one first...)

  10. Eat in season. Another no brainer... food that is in season is cheaper, tastier and often has a smaller carbon footprint because it is not being shipped from around the world. Wait until the summer for corn and the fall for pumpkin. You tastbuds and your wallet will thank you!

  11. Remember that you do not NEED vegan cupcakes to survive. You do however need a reasonable balance in the bank. You can always learn to bake them yourself... this is much cheaper than paying $6.50 a piece for one.

  12. When reasonable, buy in bulk. This can save you money if you can actually finish the amount of food you have purchased before it spoils. Just don't buy bulk without doing your math first. Bulk buying doesn't always save money.

Well there it is... some frugal vegan tips. If anyone else has some please share. I am by no means perfect. I certainly buy vegan cupcakes and soy lattes, but even if we manage to reduce our purchases of these things we can save alot of money over the year.