Cilantro-Lime Brown Rice

After listening to Dr. Hans Diehl (creator of the CHIP program) speak this weekend, I am once again tweaking our vegan diet.  We already have been consuming vasts quantities of fruits and veggies, including for juicing.  Now we’re ncreasing whole grains (I’m not talking about the flour, but the actual grains) while keeping out the sneaky processed flours that show up when your guard is down and you buy packaged things; cutting back – to the point of eliminating – processed sweeteners (this is my biggest difficulty); and decreasing oils (it’s recommended to not use any added oils, but I’m not sure about that one for me with my mega-dry skin and hair.)  Not only is this a way to maximize health long-term, but in the short term (less than 1 week), I’ve lost pounds!  And I’m eating way more than I was.  Win, win!

BUT!  If my family is going to tolerate me messing with their food – again – it had better be tasty stuff that I fix them, or there will be a revolt against lots of grain, especially plain old rice, showing up on their plates.  While I love the stuff, most of them have never been fans.  Surprisingly, I have a lot of recipes for main dishes using whole grains that we’ve tried.  It’s time to dust off some of the tried-and-true recipes, as well as invent some new ones.

Cilantro-Lime RiceLast night, my son-in-law showed up with a brown bag from Chipotle.  It smelled so good!  Short of putting on my coat and driving to Chipotle, I decided right then that the next day I would make up a really big batch of cilantro-lime rice to split up into smaller amounts for the freezer so that on short notice, I could make something wonderful when tantalizing food teases me.

I’ve tried to make this before, but it fell short.  This time, I thought some onion, garlic, and lime zest would help things along.  And how!!  What a difference.  I had a healthy scoop with some black beans and tomatoes for lunch – yum.

Freeze the extra amounts in meal-sized packages for later use unless you have a large family.

Cilantro-Lime Brown Rice 

  • 3 c. long brown rice (basmati or jasmine is nice, but not imperative)
  • 8 1/2-9 c. water (or whatever your container of rice indicates is needed)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • zest of 1 lime, microplaned (this really makes it shine)
  • juice from 1 lime
  • 1 c. loosely packed cilantro leaves, minced

Bring the first 6 ingredients to a boil in a heavy-duty 3-qt. pan, and then cook over medium-low heat until the water is absorbed (or a little tiny bit is left in the bottom of the pan.)  Taste test it to make sure the rice is soft.  If needed, add a little water and continue cooking.  When it is finished, stir it well and replace the lid, leaving it to rest for at least 15 minutes to steam and get fluffier.  Meanwhile, juice the lime and toss it with the cilantro leaves.

Once the rice is finished steaming, toss it with the lime juice and cilantro.  Serve with any Mexican-style meal, or just with some beans for a quick meal.

Creamy Sweet Rice Salad (formerly known as Rosa Marina Salad)

I promised a short series on breakfasts several months ago…and then I dropped off the face of the planet again.  Sorry.  Life has changed once again and I should be posting more often now.

Preparing fun breakfasts has kinda dropped off around here, too.  I loved eating them, perhaps too much, because I gained weight!  Eating great breakfasts was supposed to help balance the rest of the day and help me eat less, but, apparently, I just love food so much that it didn’t work that way for me.  So, I’ve gone back to a nutrient-packed green smoothie most mornings and save the special breakfasts for special treats.

Rosa MarinaThis salad certainly works for a breakfast treat, or for a healthy dessert!  My preparation of it has changed over the years.  When I first made it, we were vegetarian, but not necessarily healthy ones ~ and it contained eggs, Cool Whip, white sugar, maraschino cherries….obviously, things were going to have to change in the salad when we became vegan and also gave up so many chemicals in our foods!  I finally nailed a tasty version of the salad without maraschino cherries (one of my childhood favorites.)  It still did contain the very small pasta called rosa marina or orzo, which helped the dressing to firm up into a nice, thick creamy dream.

Then…dun, dun, dun…enter gluten issues for me.  This salad was just one of the many casualties of my new way of eating.  It broke my heart (all of the situation, not just losing this salad.)  I tried and tried to come up with suitable replacements, but everything I replaced just failed.  Quinoa was too chewy; long-grained rice’s texture was off; the creamy dressing never set up.  It was very disappointing.  And my family was starting to make disparaging comments about the versions I created, because nothing was as good to them as the orzo!  (Never mind that white flour pasta isn’t good for you and nobody seems to make whole grain orzo.)

This time, I succeeded.  I adjusted the dressing to have less liquid.  I used short grain brown rice to give a better texture and since it is somewhat sticky, it allowed the creamy dressing to thicken properly.  Granted, my family still is a little on the fence about it, because they remember the pasta version and textures are a big deal to them.  Personally, I love it and am so happy to have it back in my life that I fix it despite their opinions.

I’ve been known to add sliced strawberries, fresh or frozen cherries, or blueberries to change things up a bit ~ although they can really change the color of the cream.  (I can guarantee the whole salad to myself this way, because of my fussy eaters, so adding it to individual bowls may work better.)  I have also been toying with the idea of using fresh pineapple, but I’m wondering if that would curdle the cream.  Let me know what adaptations you come up with to try!

Creamy Sweet Rice Salad

  • 1 c. short brown rice
  • 3/8 tsp. salt
  • 1 3/4 c. water (or according to rice package)
  • 2 20-oz cans unsweetened pineapple tidbits, drained (reserve 1 c. of the juice!)
  • 3 11-oz. cans of mandarin orange segments, drained (do NOT reserve the liquid)
  • 1 12-oz pkg. Morinu extra-firm tofu
  • 3/4 c. raw cashews (soak these for 4 hours or so if you don’t have a strong blender)
  • 1 c. reserved pineapple juice
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/3 c. evaporated cane juice crystals OR 1/4 tsp.+ pure stevia OR other equivalent dry sweetener

Cook rice according to package directions, but make sure it is quite well done so that it isn’t too chewy.  Meanwhile, place fruit into a large mixing bowl.  Blend the last 6 ingredients until very smooth and pour over the fruit.  When the rice is ready, mix it into the fruit and cream.  Refrigerate until cold and the cream sets up nicely.

Spicy Vegan Frittata

Spicy Vegan Frittata 005I wish this page was aromatic so that you could get a sense of what this dish is like.  (Because the picture doesn’t do it justice!  I shall have to make another one and take the pictures during the daytime.)  The taste is explosive and the texture creamy, making an unforgettable pairing.  I ate 2 pieces the night I fixed it ~ and truth be told, really wanted more, but didn’t want to look like a total pig.  The next morning, we finished off the leftovers with breakfast.

Overall, my hubby prefers potatoes to any cooked grains and complains that I “never” fix them for him.  Since I’m usually trying to fill the hollow legs of teenaged boys, I tend to opt for the easier/quicker fix of tossing some rice, quinoa, or such into a pan with water and being able to walk away from it for many minutes to fix the rest of the meal.  In comparison, peeling/dicing/mashing enough potatoes to suffice takes a long time.  Since the boys were going to be away at a Super Bowl party on Sunday night, I grabbed a couple of large potatoes to see what I could come up with for just the two of us.  I’ve always wanted to try making a frittata and figured it might be a good time to experiment.  I thought the finished product was a perfect blend of potatoes vs. custardy tofu-ness, however, darling Mr. Potato still thought it needed more potatoes.  🙂  I didn’t try to explain that the ratio needed to be close to the way it was, or it wouldn’t hold together in a “pie” form, because it wouldn’t have changed his mind.  Maybe I should have just made him fried potatoes!  lol  As an added thought, I wouldn’t be afraid to substitute some of the potatoes for other items, such as mushrooms, eggplant, peppers, zucchini, asparagus, or whatever veggies you think sound good.  Let me know what you come up with or if you think I should have added more potatoes.  😀

Spicy Vegan Frittata 001If you are not a fan of spicy food, you should cut the amount of soy chorizo in half, but I wouldn’t totally eliminate it, or you will lose the marvelous blend of spices that it brings to the dish.  You could use some other kinds of faux meat, such as burger crumbles, but you would need to add some extra seasonings to the tofu mix to make up for the missing pizzazz.

Spicy Vegan Frittata

  • 2 large potatoes (don’t use russets here for the best texture), peeled and diced into 3/4″ pieces
  • 2 medium onions, diced/chopped
  • 1-3 T. oil (I used half extra virgin olive oil for flavor and half virgin coconut oil for crispiness and firmness of the outside)
  • 1/2 a package of soy chorizo (1/4 pkg. for less spicy heat)
  • salt
  • 14-16 oz. extra-firm tofu (water packed)
  • 2 T. Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
  • 3 T. chicken-style seasoning
  • 1 garlic clove, sliced
  • plain non-dairy milk – enough to blend into a sour cream consistency
  • 1 c. chopped frozen spinach
  • 1 c. mozzarella-style Daiya cheese (cheddar would work, too)

Preheat oven to 400° F.  In an oven-safe frying pan, saute potatoes and onions in oil(s), salting them moderately.  (If you don’t have a frying pan that can go in the oven, transfer the sauteed veggies into a very large pie pan or round casserole dish before you add the blended mixture, stirring them around in it to distribute the oil thoroughly to the sides of the pan.)  Add chorizo after about 10-15 minutes.  Blend the tofu, Bragg’s, chicken-style seasoning, garlic, and enough non-dairy milk until smooth and the texture of thick and creamy sour cream.  When the potatoes are slightly tender, but not completely cooked through, taste them to see if more salt is needed for your tastes – add it at this time if needed.  Turn off the heat and stir the tofu mixture into the potatoes.  Toss in the spinach and cheese and stir to evenly distribute.  Smooth the top of the mixture.

Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until the middle is set.  Cut and serve.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Huh…Brussels sprouts.  Now there is something not everybody gets excited about!  🙂  There are some of us whose only experience with Brussels sprouts comes from the Swedish Chef.  (You know, from the Muppets?  I can’t help but think of his little routine to make Brussels Sprouts every time I fix them!  What?  You’ve never seen it?  Well, by all means, click here!  It’s worth the snicker!)

I used to run the other way when someone mentioned Brussels sprouts.  Granted, I’d only had very sad, nasty boiled, versions of these little power houses.  When I learned that you could roast them for an entirely different flavor, as well as texture ~ well, I was willing to try them one more time.  (Especially since they wouldn’t go to waste, as J loves them ~ even boiled ~ and would eat them all even if nobody else liked them!)  Think of the difference between boiled potatoes vs. roasted potatoes, or boiled vs. roasted carrots or beets.  Roasting just brings out an incredible flavor in most veggies.

Have you ever seen Brussels sprouts in their natural state?  By the way, that isn’t in a little mesh baggie at the supermarket!  😀  They come on a great big stalk!  They are a challenge for the people at the check-out to bag for you (because I certainly don’t have any ecologically-friendly bags big enough for them, either.)  I wish, wish, wish I’d thought to take a picture of them before I plucked them off and prepared them.  I went back and bought yet another stalk this week just so I could take a picture…and to make J happy ~ and, apparently, the cat, who went nuts and ‘mugged’ me when I brought the pan out of the oven.  ;D  I purchased mine at Trader Joe’s.  They were/are the freshest Brussels sprouts I’d ever seen.  Of course, you have to keep an eye on them, because one week they might not appear quite as hearty ~ last week they didn’t.  Look for tight, healthy, mini-cabbage-like sprouts.

I encourage you to try this method of preparing a much-maligned veggie.  🙂

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

  • a stalk or a bag of Brussels sprouts
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt ~ coarse sea salt is the best here (the amount in the picture was a little much…oooo, salty!)

 

Preheat your oven to 425°.  Pick sprouts off of the stalk, or out of the bag, and rinse.  Remove any beat-up leaves.  From ones on the stalk, trim any stem ends off that seem long; trim all ends from the bagged ones to leave fresh stems ends.  If your sprouts are not tiny ones, cut them carefully in half so that you don’t lose a lot of little leaves.  Toss all of them together in a mixing bowl, with generously drizzled olive oil, and salt.  Place them on a cookie sheet or, if absolutely necessary, a cake pan (remember ~ if you were generous with the oil, they won’t stick very much later!)  You can use parchment paper, but that tends to hold the moisture and doesn’t allow for the browning you want.  Here is the secret to doing this the right way so that you don’t end up with steamed sprouts (bleh, bleh, nasty!) ~ make certain that the sprouts do not touch each other as much as possible.  (See the picture above.)  They need room to put off moisture.  Bake them until they are beginning to blacken (I know, I know…that doesn’t sound tasty, but trust me on this one.) ~ about 20-30 minutes.  Remove from oven and serve immediately with extra salt and lemon juice, if desired, to taste.

 

Baked Sweet Potato

  • (My promised post about the Vegetarian Tasting Extravaganza will have to wait.  Alas, my son’s memory card with all of the pictures he took is at his friend’s house.  They do a professional-quality video of the event, and his video clips are being uploaded for integration.)

Okay, so this is hardly a recipe.  But sometimes isn’t it nice to be reminded of a simple thing to make?  I love sweet potatoes anyway they are prepared, but this is a great hands-off way to make them while you are busy with something else.  Plus, it makes your house smell amazing!

Because a sweet potato has so many nutrients in it (I’ve read you could subsist on it alone on a desert island and remain healthy), it can be your whole meal if you aren’t very hungry, or it can be the main dish, especially if you sprinkle it with chopped pecans, or just a simple side dish.  If you drizzle it with maple syrup, it’s a lot like dessert, too!  😀  What a versatile little thing the baked sweet potato is.

Baked Sweet Potatoes

  • 1 large sweet potato for each person
  • Vegan “butter”
  • maple syrup
  • salt, if desired
  • chopped pecans, optional

Preheat oven to 350-425° depending on how fast you want them to get done, or how large/fat your potatoes are.  Scrub the sweet potatoes and place them on a foil-covered cookie sheet so that they don’t touch each other.  Stab them a few times with a fork or sharp knife.  Bake for 1-2 hours (again, it depends on how hot your oven is and how big your potatoes are.) What you want is juices bubbling out of those stabs you gave them and crystalizing, or even blackening, as it drizzles down the potatoes and onto the foil.  They will be intensely sweet if the juices have blackened and you might not even need any maple syrup.  (Nah, you’re right…put the maple syrup on it anyway!  Yum!)  Poke them with a knife to make sure they are soft in the middle.

To serve, place on individual plates and split open.  Add vegan butter and drizzle maple syrup over them to taste, mashing it all together with your fork.  Sprinkle with salt and/or chopped pecans, if desired.

Another option is to remove the skins altogether and toss them onto the foil-covered pan, which allows you to wrap them all up in that foil and dispose of it in one big heap.  There.  Pan cleaned.  😀

Smashed Potatoes

A really upscale restaurant here in town serves “smashed” potatoes.  Not mashed.  Hmmm.  Come to find out, they’ve figured out a way that they don’t have to pay their staff to peel potatoes!  lol  Basically, they just cook red potatoes and mash them with the peels still on them.  Actually, it’s healthier for you to eat the peels, so, I suppose that could be their goal.

Since I love labor-saving things and healthy food, I decided to try it at home.  I scrubbed red potatoes and chunked them up, boiled them, and mashed them with non-dairy milk.  They aren’t “pretty” potatoes, but they taste good.

Smashed Potatoes

  • Scrubbed red potatoes, cut into chunks
  • non-dairy milk
  • salt to taste
  • non-dairy “butter,” if desired

Boil potatoes until very soft ~ you want them to break apart when you pierce them with a knife or fork.  Drain and mash with non-dairy milk (please make sure it’s not vanilla or coconut flavors!), adding “butter” if desired.

If you add enough non-dairy milk to them so that they are plenty moist, you may put them in a covered casserole dish to be reheated the next day for 30-45 minutes at 375°.  (Just don’t have car trouble so they are left in the oven extra long…or they come out not quite as moist as you had hoped…like the picture above.)

 

Roasted Potatoes

BBQ SoycurlsPotatoes can get ~ mmm ~ boring if you have them the same way over and over again.  There is a simple way to mix things up a bit, though.  When you roast potatoes, you gain quick control of 2 interest points.  First, their texture – will you bake them until they are crispy, or just until they are cooked through, or somewhere in between?  Second, their seasonings – and the sky’s the limit here – plain, lemony, Cajun, Italian, Indian, spicy….use your imagination!  I’m going to give you my go-to version here.

Hubby teased me when I said I was beginning this blog.  He said, “How are you going to share recipes?  Do you even USE recipes?”  I just looked at him with my mouth hanging open….because he’s there SO often (cough, cough) when I cook.  But then I laughed, because he’s partially right.  I used to watch my mother cook with a little of this and a little of that, going strictly “by feel.”  I thought I’d never learn to do that.  Well, evidently it is in the genes, because I go “by feel” when I create a recipe – and sometimes coming up with correct measures later can be a challenge!  Roasted Potatoes are one of my “by feel” recipes every time I make them.  I’m going to challenge you to step outside of your comfort zone this time and try your hand at adding seasonings “by feel.”  Hey, the worst that can happen is that you need to put salt and seasoning shakers on the table to add more, because unless you have a really heavy hand can you really over-season chunks of potatoes?

Though this recipe is written to make a cookie sheet full, it can easily be cut in half or less, but it would still be a good idea to use a cookie sheet.

  • 5 lbs. potatoes, cut into pieces – smaller pieces bake faster and can have more crispy-on-the-outside (or use baby potatoes and cut into wedges)
  • olive oil – 2-4 T. is plenty
  • Italian seasoning – just enough to have nice flecks on all of the potatoes
  • salt
  • onion powder
  • garlic powder

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Place potatoes in a large bowl.  Pour olive oil over them and toss until everything is even coated.  You want just enough olive oil to coat things well – not only to help the spices cling, but to keep the potatoes from sticking forever to your cookie sheet!  Sprinkle seasonings over the mixture and toss again until well coated.  Spread out onto a large cookie sheet that has edges.  Bake for 30-60 minutes, depending on how crispy you like your potatoes.  Serve with ketchup or barbeque sauce.

 Variation: Choose from a selection of large chunks of onion, turnips, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, whole baby carrots, etc., – or dice/chunk up some gluten pieces, seitan, or other meat substitute – and toss with the potatoes.