Fiesta Quinoa

Fiesta QuinoaAh, the plans I make and the menus I create….only to be dashed to pieces the first night!  Grocery day can be crazy in our household, with stops at several stores, since no single one of them carries everything with which I cook.  Today (actually, several months ago, since I found this post hiding in my draft folder) was no different ~ except a couple of extra errands were tossed in for good measure.  This meant I didn’t have the needed time to make the do-ahead items on my menu for the week.  Which also meant that when I got home late, there was no instant supper to put on the table. Continue reading

Substitution Soup (aka: Eggplant-Cabbage Soup)

This is a bit earlier in the year than I usually make soup ~ but with cooler evenings arriving earlier than normal, I couldn’t resist.  Last week I found a very large organic eggplant at Kroger.  I’d never seen one there before, so I quickly pounced on it!  Since I needed to use it before it went the way of other science experiments in the back of my frig, this influenced my decision to make this particular soup.

My dear high school friend who taught me about this soup has a different name for it than I use.  She calls it garbage pail soup, because you can throw in just about anything you want and it’s likely to taste good.  Use up the veggies that just can’t wait much longer.  Throw in whatever meat-like substitutes you like.  Just start with the base of the soup and have fun.

I do wish the greens would stay brighter for visuals with this soup, but my family doesn’t like the texture of them wilted at the last minute of cooking time, so I have to put up with duller-looking greens.  The good thing?  It still tastes amazing!  (I ate 2 large bowls of it.)

There is one thing you should know.  This makes a HUGE pot of soup that will last you for more than one meal.  You can freeze some of it.  You can add something new each night to it to make it slightly different.  Or you can invite a crowd over for supper.  🙂

Substitution Soup

Absolutely necessary:

  • 12-16+ c. filtered or well water (depending on the size of your cabbage and other veggie amounts)  Good water is important to the taste of your soup
  • 1 small-to-medium cabbage, diced or sliced
  • 1 eggplant, peeled and diced
  • 2 large onions (more if you like)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 T. basil (more if using fresh)
  • 1 1/2 – 3 tsp. Marmite or Vegex (add the smaller amount and taste test later)
  • 6-8 T. chicken-style seasoning     (ditto)
  • salt to taste
  • 1 T. +/- sweetener (depending on how acidic your canned tomatoes are), optional

Variables:

  • herbs and seasonings of choice (including Spike*, or Mrs. Dash)
  • 3-6 c. diced or shredded potatoes* (or use small cauliflower florets or corn)
  • 1-2 lbs. green vegetables ~ may be frozen (chopped leafy greens such as spinach*, kale, turnip greens*, etc., zucchini – diced or shredded, green beans, chopped broccoli, etc.
  • 1/2-1 c. dried lentils* (or add canned beans at the end of cooking time)
  • 1/2-1 1/2 c. brown rice*, millet, barley (increase cooking time), or other whole grain
  • veggie meat of your choice ~ use more than one kind for added interest ~ chorizo* (for a spicy version), TVP, seitan, homemade or canned gluten pieces, broken soy curls*, soy hot dogs or links, Gimme Lean, chopped up soy burgers, Tofurkey “sausages,” etc.

Throw everything from the “absolutely necessary” list into a large stock pot.  Bring this to a boil while you chop everything else, adding as you go.  The cabbage will decrease in size as it cooks, so you may not need as much water as you think you might.  You may always add more later, as well as more seasonings to balance the extra water.  When the lentils, rice, and potatoes are cooked, taste the soup and see if it needs something, like more salt, or some other kind of seasoning.  Adjust it as needed.  Let the soup cool to serving temperature as a large stockpot of soup can be seriously hot.  Pair it with some marvelous bread and enjoy!

*my choices for the soup pictured

Quick Quinoa

You come home from ________ which took longer than you anticipated and are exhausted ~ only you remember that you still need to make supper.  No problem…you have a plan…until you open the cupboard/frig/freezer and discover a) somebody’s eaten a crucial ingredient to your plan, b) formerly mentioned crucial ingredient has spoiled, or c) you are actually missing said ingredient that you thought you picked up at the grocery store last week.  Now what?

This recipe is what ~ at least for me two nights ago!  Quinoa (pronounced keenwa) is a super fast “grain” to cook up.  (It’s actually a seed, but it’s texture and behavior is more grain-like.  It has no gluten and loads of protein.)  It adds plenty of substance to a dish for the hungry hordes who can’t subsist on haute cuisine’s small portions.

Even as I made this as a substitute for what I was supposed to make, I found out I still had an ingredient problem.  When I opened the new salsa/picante sauce jar and poured it into the measuring cup, lo and behold, it wasn’t enough!!  (I was doubling this recipe.)  I already had some of the ingredients cooking.  What was I going to do?  Then I remembered I had some cans of Rotel diced tomatoes and green chilis.  Perfect.  I was so excited that I opened the can and tossed the whole thing into the frying pan…without measuring it.  Rats.  Did I mention that I was exhausted out of my mind?  Mmm.

Well, now I figured I would have a slightly soupy mix.  I could either take the lid off and cook it all down, taking more time than I was willing to give, OR I could get some soycurls out of the freezer, snap them into small pieces, and throw them into the mix to soak up the excess.  (What are soycurls?  Read this.)  I went with the soycurls ~ just 1 c. for the doubled recipe.  Perfect!  Hubby announced that the dish needed more soycurls…go figure.  I could have left them out if I hadn’t dumped so much liquid in!

This dish can be as mild or spicy as you like, depending on the salsa, picante sauce, or canned diced tomato/green chilis you have on hand.  Serve it with soy sour cream, diced avocado, and/or shredded vegan cheese.  Add a veggie and your are set to go ~ all in about 20-30 minutes.

Quick Quinoa

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1-2 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 c. quinoa, rinsed well and drained
  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • 1-1 1/2 c. salsa or picante sauce, your choice of mild to hot **
  • 1 1/2 c. water
  • 1/2 c. soycurls, optional (use full measure of salsa/picante sauce if adding these.)

Saute the chopped onion in olive oil until a few pieces are beginning to brown on the edges and the rest are softened.  Add remaining ingredients.  Stir and cover, simmering for 15-20 minutes.  Stir occasionally.  Taste quinoa to test if it is fully cooked (tiny “tails” or curls will loosen from the kernels as they reach preparedness.)  Add extra salsa or water as needed to keep from sticking if extra cooking time is required.  If it seems too soupy, take the lid off and continue simmering.

** Use 1 c. if you want a drier end result.  You can always add more salsa as the dish simmers if it seems like the quinoa isn’t soft yet, but things are getting dry.  If you want to add 1/2 c. of soycurls, use the full 1 1/2 c.

Southwestern Skillet

If you are a new vegan, you may not have heard the question very often, “Where do you get your protein?”  (Well, just wait…you will.  For some reason, folks think if you don’t chew on an animal part or drink cow’s milk that there is no protein available to you.  Unfortunately, they forget that cows, pigs, and, yes, even gigantic elephants get their protein from…wait for it…plant food.)

As I was throwing this and that into this dish, I realized that it was going to be stacked with protein.  I was tempted to call it “Southwestern So-Where-Do-You-Get-Your-Protein Skillet,” but that seemed a bit cumbersome.  ;D  While I have pictured this served over rice, if you instead served it over quinoa, you would ramp up the protein even more (and it would be more authentic to the Southwest, for that matter.)  But seriously, it isn’t necessary to do that.  There’s plenty here without it.

This is a great dish to make when you get home from the grocery store and realize that either you missed just how ripe those tomatoes were that you bought, or the bag-boy/girl packed them in the bag next to the canned goods and they are smooshed and must be used right now, or be thrown away.  (Not that I’m bitter…)

I also noticed as I was putting this together that it appeared I was writing a commercial for Trader Joe’s!  It wasn’t meant that way, it just happened.  Since not everyone has access to one of those marvelous stores, I wrote the recipe non-brand-specific, but mentioned some of the products that I used.

This is also very tasty without the beans, but they really add a nice note to the dish.  If you are not a spicy-food fan, I would suggest cutting the chorizo in half.  If you like burn-your-mouth-off spicy, then cut down on the tofu.  If you don’t have some of the veggies on hand, throw in a jar of salsa instead – it won’t be quite as tasty, but in a pinch, sometimes you have to make due.  Also, if at all possible, use organic products for the best flavor.

Southwestern Skillet

  • 1 lg. onion, chopped
  • 8 oz. of frozen tri-colored bell pepper pieces/strips (half of the Trader Joe’s bag)
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • 12 oz. soy chorizo (Trader Joe’s has a brand of this, and Tofurkey just brought one out, though I haven’t tried it yet)
  • 1 pkg. 14-16 oz. extra-firm water-packed tofu, rinsed, drained, and gently squeezed out
  • Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
  • 1/4-1/3 of a pound-bag of frozen sweet corn (Trader Joe’s white sweet corn is unparalleled for flavor)
  • 2 small or medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 can black beans, drained

Place the onion and peppers in a large skillet with some olive oil to saute.  Open the chorizo (there is no good way to do this, except maybe slit the casing up the entire side and scoop it out) and add it to the skillet.  When the onions are softening a little, crumble the tofu into the pan and squirt it in a few zig-zags of Bragg’s over it.  Stir.  When everything is bubbling, stir in the corn, tomatoes, and beans.  Cook just long enough to warm the last few ingredients.

Serve over brown rice or quinoa, with optional vegan cheese, soy sour cream, and/or avocado.

Mazidra

When it’s too warm to want soup ~ or you are just tired of a winter of it ~ but too chilly to serve cold pasta or potato salad for supper, what do you prepare?  Mazidra to the rescue!  It’s half “soup” and half salad!  Picky eaters can leave out the toppings they don’t like (or mom can insist they eat them.)  Triple the recipe for a crowd ~ or for hungry teenagers!

The base of this recipe came from 100% Vegetarian, by Julianne Pickle.

 

Mazidra

Lentils:

  • 1 c. lentils (rinsed and “de-stoned”)
  • 2-3 c. water
  • 1/2 c. (or more) chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (or 3/4 tsp. garlic powder if you’re in a hurry)
  • 1/2 tsp. sweet basil
  • 3/4-1 tsp. salt (esp. use less if you only put in 2 c. of water)
  • 1/2 tsp. oregano
  • 1 tsp. Spike
  • 1 T. nutritional yeast flakes
  • 4 drops Liquid Smoke (don’t add too much, or it overwhelms the dish)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • a touch of honey

Rice:

  • 1 c. brown rice
  • 2 c. water
  • 3/4-1 tsp. salt

Toppings (choose your favorites):

  • Diced tomatoes
  • Diced cucumbers
  • chopped onion (green or Spanish)
  • Sliced olives
  • avocado
  • non-dairy sour cream
  • non-dairy cheese or cashew cheese

Combine all lentil ingredients and bring to a boil.  (If you like soupy lentils, then use the full amount of water.  If you use the lesser amount, watch the level of broth toward the end of the cooking time.  When it gets just the way you like it, cover the pot to finish cooking.)  Simmer uncovered 45-60 minutes.

Bring the rice ingredients to a boil in a covered heavy-bottom pot.  Cook at medium heat for 30-45 minutes, until water is absorbed.  When there is just a tiny bit of water – or none – in the bottom of the pan if you push the rice aside with a spoon to look, take it off the heat, stir, cover, and set aside until the lentils are finished.

Let each person build their own layered plateful of rice, lentils, and toppings.

Serves 2-4

Macaroni Salad

Some dishes become staples in the family and are prepared for years without a true “recipe” being written.  Then something throws a monkey wrench into the situation, and your standard fare has to be rearranged ~ or something substituted.

That happened with this recipe last year.  A friend came to visit and we went to the very large local health food store together.  She was nearly vegan, but my family is totally vegan.  I reached for a roll of Worthington’s Chickette Roll that I had used for years in this salad and other things.  She informed me that the recipe had been changed a year or two before and it was no longer vegan!!  *GASP!*  Say it isn’t so!!  *groan*  Back to the drawing board to find a “chicken” replacement.  (When will I remember to frequently re-read nutritional labels?  And why do companies “fix” something that wasn’t broken?)

The newest challenge for my family is to find a pasta that is gluten-free that we like.  I used a corn-quinoa type the time before last and it was good.  I couldn’t leave well enough alone, so we had a brown rice one the last time…not so good.  It was a little slimey feeling.  I didn’t mind it, but the family gave it a thumbs-down.  So, I went back to the corn-quinoa, this time in elbows.  I read the package again and noticed it said not to overcook the pasta ~ in big bold letters.  So I was scrupulously careful.  I didn’t want mush.  Oh…we didn’t get mush.  No, no.  We got just short of crispy!!  Somehow, between testing it while it was cooking in the pot and rinsing it in cold water, the pasta went from al dente to ewwwww.

My husband, who loves this dish and would eat it several times a week, decided it was worth it to eat it.  Some of the others decided to forego the “pleasure.”  I ate some, but I had a terrible stomach ache several hours later.  Moral of the story?  Don’t believe everything you read…even on food packages.  Cook your pasta well enough.

Macaroni Salad

  • 1 lb. pasta (elbows, shells, or rotini twists work well), may be gluten-free
  • 3-4 medium tomatoes, diced*
  • 1 large cucumber, quartered and sliced*
  • 1 can black olives, sliced or quartered
  • 1/4-1/2 c. minced onion
  • “chicken” style veggie meat substitute (I use this.)
  • Veganaise, to taste
  • salt to taste

Please note – pasta doesn’t seem to come in 1 lb. boxes any more.  If you buy 2 boxes and fill the 13+ oz. one to near the top, it approximates 1 lb.

Cook pasta according to package directions, or until softer than al dente.  Rinse under cold water and drain.

Place the vegetables in a very large bowl.  Salt them and toss together.  Add the drained pasta and veggie meat.  Mix in Veganaise to taste.

Chill and serve.

*Feel free to use more ~ I often do.