Stuffed Rainbow

Stuffed Rainbow Peppers
This is one of those recipes that you throw together, based more on what you have, instead of specific measurements. Since all colors of bell peppers were on sale, I decided to stuff them. I cut the tops off of each pepper and scooped out the ribs and seeds. Then I layered (starting at the bottom):
Cooked spaghetti squash
Pasta sauce
A sauteed mixture of tofu sausage, farro, onions, and smoked jalaepños
more Pasta sauce.

I grated a little mozzarella cheese on each one, replaced the top, added a little more cheese and baked them in a glass dish with a little pasta sauce in the bottom.

They were almost to pretty to eat, but they didn’t last long. The farro and tofu sausage made them very filling and super flavorful! So when bell peppers go on sale, don’t be afraid to stuff ’em with whatever you have in the refrigerator!

Release YOUR Bon Vivant and Savor Your Life!

Snappy Quinoa

This week I was in the mood for the crisp, refreshing texture of sugar snap peas. My grocer only had a very large bag available so I had to come up with a few ways to enjoy them. Before I switched to a plant based diet, I used to enjoy fresh green beans with a sprinkle of bacon. Here’s a vegetarian version of something similar,  but served over quinoa it becomes a complete meal.

Snappy Quinoa
For the Quinoa
1 cup quinoa, cooked according to the package instructions
1/4 cup chopped New Mexico green chilies
5-6 roasted garlic cloves, chopped
After the quinoa is cooked, add freshly ground black pepper, garlic and the chilies, stir well.

For the sugar snap peas
4 cups of sugar snap peas
1/2 cup onion, chopped
4-5 Tbsp salad dressing (blue cheese, vinaigrette, ranch, etc)
2 slices smokey tempeh, cut into small pieces

Rinse the snap peas and remove the stems. Cut them in halves or thirds, depending on their size. Drop them into a pot of boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain and rinse under cool water to stop the cooking process. Let them dry in a strainer or on a towel. I like them with a very short blanch, they remain crispy but they don’t quite taste raw. If you prefer them raw then skip this stop. Toss the sugar snap peas with everything else and serve them over the quinoa.

You can serve this as a complete meal at lunch, or serve a smaller portion as a side dish. Both the sugar snap peas and the Quinoa are great on their own, so if you run out of one before the other you won’t be at a loss.

Release YOUR Bonus Vivant and Savor Your Life!

Fresh Sauerkraut – Hit or Miss?

It’s another Hit!

The Coatimundi in Costa Rica may not like it but I do! There are several brands and several flavors available. This is a spicy flavor with carrots and jalapeños. We have enjoyed it on rubens with Swiss cheese, smokey tempeh, and homemade 1,000 Island dressing, but it also makes a great addition to packed lunches!

Lacto fermented foods are thought to be a great addition for our diets. They contain probiotics and several vitamins, with a high fiber, low calorie delivery.

Read your labels carefully. Foods fermented this way can be very high in sodium. Also, watch for flavorings, there’s just no reason to add ‘flavor’, natural, or unnatural, to a food that is so perfect in its raw state. Look for theme in the refrigerator section of delis and produce departments. Most food markets have one or two varieties available. We enjoy the Saverne brand, their website contains some information about the farmers and recipes.

Be daring, try some Saverne raw kaut and Release YOUR Bonus Vivant and Savor Your Life!

 

*no coatimundi were actually exposed to sauerkraut for this posting.

Kale Sesame!

One of my favorite lunch spots serves a great kale salad. But sometimes I don’t want to wait for the next time I go out to lunch to get my kale fix. Here’s my version of this light and delicious kale salad.

Kale Sesame!
One bunch of kale rinsed and roughly chopped. My favorite is the dino kale or lacianto, but any variety of kale will work. I often mix in other greens like collards or rainbow chard.
Several garlic cloves, minced
Toasted sesame oil
Extra virgin olive oil
Sesame seeds
Red pepper flake

Bring a large pot of water to boil, toss the kale and garlic in when it boils and blanch for 1-2 minutes. Drain the kale and rinse it with cold water to stop the cooking process. Continue to drain it until it’s is dry – you can speed this process by draining it on paper towels or squeezing it. Put it in a large bowl, and drizzle the kale with a combination of toasted sesame oil and olive oil. You can use all sesame oil if the flavor isn’t to strong for you. Serve the salad with a sprinkle of sesame seeds and red pepper flake.

Because of kale’s nutritional content, this super light salad will fill you up! Serve it as a side dish to just about anything, or make a meal of it!

Release YOUR Bon Vivant and Savor Your Life!

Garden Chive Hummus

Here’s a great springtime hummus recipe, especially if you have chives in your garden. Spinach could be substituted for the chives if you’d like a milder version.

Garden Chive Hummus
2 cans garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed (or the equivalent quantity of home cooked)
1 cup fresh chives, snipped into 1″ pieces
3-4 Tbs lemon juice
4-8 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp tahini
1/2 tsp cumin, ground
freshly ground black pepper
salt

Put everything but the olive oil and salt in a food processor. With the processor running drizzle the olive oil into the mixture. Stop the processor, scrape down the sides and check the seasoning, add salt and adjust seasoning as desired. Continue processing the hummus until it reaches the desired consistency. Tahini is not a must, if you don’t like it leave it out. You can also reduce the olive oil and increase the lemon or use a little water in its place. If you find raw garlic to pungent, try granulated (dry) garlic or oven roasted garlic cloves for a more mellow flavor.

Serve the hummus room temperate or cold, with a variety of crackers and vegetables. I like to drizzle a little Tenisian olive oil on it and top it with a little freshly ground black pepper and pumpkin seeds. This recipe also makes an excellent sandwich spread! Slather it on bread and try topping it with sliced tomatoes and avocados.

Release YOUR Bon Vivant and Savor Your Life!

Pass the Ketchup, hold the Sugar

 

Rye bread, krout, Emmentaler Swiss cheese, pastrami, and 1,000 Island dressing. Is there a better sandwich on the planet? Today there was not, but a few changes needed to be made to this classic. First pastrami doesn’t fit into my plant-based diet, substitution: smoky tempeh slices. Second 1,000 Island dressing is just too sweet for me these days. Solution: make a batch of Spicy 1,000 Island Dressing.

Spicy 1,000 Island Dressing
1 part mayonnaise (I prefer a vegan canola mayo)
1/2 part homemade ketchup (recipe follows)
1/4 part dill relish or finely chopped dill pickle
1/4 part finely chopped onion
2 Tbs sugar (if needed)
1 tsp smoked paprika

Combine, taste, adjust, refrigerate, enjoy. You can also adjust the flavor by adding lemon juice, cayenne, or sweet relish.

When I committed to reading food labels I was disgusted to see just how much sugar is in ketchup, no wonder it just tasted like ‘sweetness’ without any distinction. Originally ketchup was made from fish sauce and didn’t even contain tomatoes! But I didn’t want to give it up completely. There are somethings that just ‘need’ ketchup. So, I starting making my own. And yes, it does have some sugar, but it’s not just a sugar sauce in disguise. I make this in a large batch and freeze it in small jars. Sometimes I add finely chopped rosemary and freshly ground black pepper.

Classic Ketchup
26.5 oz tomatoes – strained/crushed/chopped
6 oz tomato paste
1/4 cup minced onion
3-6 minced garlic cloves
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp hot chili powder
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp freshly ground white pepper
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup cider vinegar – divided
Sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil until softened. Add the tomato products and spices, cook while stirring for a few minutes. Add the brown sugar and half of the cider vinegar. Stir well, cover and let the mixture simmer for a few minutes. Transfer to a blender after it cools slightly and blend to your desired consistency, adding the remaining vinegar if needed. Store it in airtight containers in the refrigerator or freeze it.

Release YOU Bon Vivant and Savor Your Life!

Chimichurri

 

 

 

 

Chimichurri is wonderful pungent salsa/sauce that is really nothing like salsa. There are no tomatoes in chimichurri and the green is not from tomatillos, like green salsa. Instead Chimichurri get’s it green color from fresh herbs, like cilantro and oregano. It’s said to have originated in Argentina. Like most foods, I’m sure that every household has their own way of making this condiment. Mine never turns out exactly the same, but it IS always delicious and versatile. I don’t spend time measuring for this, I simply adjust contents as needed to get the consistency I want. Chimichurri can be stored in the refrigerator. If my pantry is low on red wine vinegar then I add a touch of red wine and a touch of apple cider vinegar. We like our chimichurri hot so I add a few slice of pickled habaneros.

Chimichurri

1 bunch cilantro, stems removed
1 small clump fresh oregano
several sprigs of curly leave parsley
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar (or a splash of red wine and apple cider vinegar)
1 tsp ground cumin
hot chilies (optional: hapanero, red pepper flake, etc.)

Put every thing in a blender and puree until it’s smooth. You’ll need to scrape down the sides of the blender a few times to make sure it’s mixed well. Taste and adjust as needed. I prefer a little more vinegar than oil. Some recipes call for mostly parsley with just a touch of cilantro but since I eat a lot of Southwestern foods I enjoy a cilantro base. Use it as  a condiment for eggs, burritos, tacos, steak, chicken, tofu, grilled vegetables, or purple rice as pictured above.

Release YOUR Bon Vivant and Savor Your Life!

Rooted Mac & Cheese

Macaroni and cheese, or mac and cheese has been around for quite some time. According Wikipedia it’s been around since the fourteenth century. And of course there are numerous versions. I’ve never been a fan of the boxed version that is often served to children, but I’ve had some pretty good ‘from scratch’ versions. Mac and cheese seems to be comfort food for many in this country, some people are just crazy for the stuff. Refined wheat pasta and cheese sauce are not high on my list of healthy foods, so I’ve been experimenting with a more plant-based version. Since I’m crazy about root vegetables (beets, turnips, carrots, etc.), I decided to incorporate them into the recipe without changing the overall structure of the mac and cheese. Rather than traditional pastas, made from refined wheat, I stock my pantry with pasta made from beans, and/or whole grains.

Rooted Mac & Cheese

1 package short pasta noodles made from beans or whole grains – I used penne made from red lentils
Cook the pasta almost according to package directions, leave it al dente, so it doesn’t overcook in the oven. Drain the pasta and toss it under cool water to keep it from sticking to itself, set it aside to continue draining.

For the cheese sauce, begin with a béchamel sauce.
4 Tbs butter or oil based spread
4 Tbs flour
2-4 cups milk
dash white pepper

4-6 cups grated cheese

Melt the butter and then cook the flour in the butter for a few minutes, but don’t let it brown. You can preheat your milk (microwave/stove), or go with a more nontraditional approach and add it a bit at a time to the flour mixture, whisking to fully incorporate the addition each time. Let the sauce return to a simmer before adding more milk each time. You won’t see how thick your sauce is until it’s fully heated, so don’t just dump all of the milk in at once. Add your freshly ground white pepper, and a pinch of finely ground nutmeg if you like. I don’t add salt to this when it’s going to be a cheese sauce.

Add several cups of grated cheese, like sharp cheddar, a cup at a time. Continue whisking and let the cheese melt completely after each addition. Taste and add more cheese or seasoning if needed. Combinations of cheese varieties are fine!

Prepare your root vegetables
1 large beet, peeled, thinly sliced, slices cut into half circles
1 large turnip, peeled, thinly sliced, slices cut into half circles
1 sweet potato, peeled, thinly sliced, slices cut into half circles
Substitute any other vegetables you like – quartered mushrooms, kohlrabi, fennel, hot peppers, etc.

Now it’s time to assemble!
Put the pasta in an large casserole dish, or several small ones. Put the root vegetable slices up on end, in a decorative fashion, around the edges, or along one side. Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and vegetables. Grate a little Parmesan cheese on top and sprinkle the top with freshly ground black pepper and smoked paprika. Bake the dish in a preheated 350 F oven until it is bubbly and beginning to brown. Remove it from the oven, let it cool and consume! No one needs to know it’s got a little more nutrition that the traditional mac and cheese!

Release YOUR Bon Vivant and Savor Your Life!

Muse Style Madras Curry

How do you feel about eggplant? I love it, but I’m starting to think that it’s a a love it or hate type of food. For me, it doesn’t matter if it’s baked, grilled, mashed, cubed, sliced, or pureed, I’ll eat and love it. Long ago a vegetarian friend of mine described it as ‘comfort food’. Even if you aren’t as crazy about it as we are, you may still find it enjoyable. This is a simple method for making a spicy dinner of miniature eggplants and tofu. You can easily adjust the recipe to accommodate full size eggplants. If your Madras is hot add a side salad, or sliced cucumbers, to help balance the heat.

Curried Eggplants with Tofu

Slit the ends of mini eggplants, going both directions, up to the stem but leaving the stem in tact, and place them in a large bowl. Drizzle them with olive oil and sprinkle them with Hot Madras Curry Powder (recipe follows). Toss to evenly distribute the spices. As you place them on a baking sheet, or tray to take them to the grill, stuff each one of them with a dried red chili, a cherry tomato, or anything else to help keep them slightly open. If any of them look dry on the inside then drizzle a little more olive oil into the opening. Save the bowl you tossed them in, you’ll use the drippings for the tofu. Smoke, roast, or grill them, at a medium low temperature until they soften to your preference.

For the curried tofu, start with a brick of extra firm tofu. Drain and dry it, and then slice it into 1/2″ slices. Rub each slice around in the bottom of the eggplant tossing bowl until it’s covered on all sides with the olive oil and madras curry powder mixture. Add more of both to the bowl if you need more. At this point you can heat the tofu and serve it, or let it set for a while to incorporate more flavor. Heat the tofu on a grill or bake in in the oven to heat it. If you heat it on the stove in a hot skillet, you would probably end up with a lovely golden crust. I was afraid that the hot chilies would release too much capsicum into the air.

For a smokey version of this dinner, both the eggplant and tofu can be cooked in a smoker. Slice the leftovers for a great addition to garden salads.

 

Tasteful Muse Madras Curry is a hot curry, cut back on the chilies if you want a milder batch. Make sure you have good ventilation while making this recipe. The spices will become very fragrant as they toast, and the chilies can be very strong. The recipe can be easily doubled, or tripled and it can be stored for a long time.Visit an ethnic market for the best availability and prices on whole spices.

Tasteful Muse Hot Madras Curry Powder

4 tbsp Coriander Seeds
2 tsp Cardamom Seeds
1 tbsp Cumin Seeds
1 tbsp Fenugreek Seeds
1 tsp Whole Black Peppercorns
4 inch Cinnamon Stick
6 Dried Red Chilies
10 Fresh or Dried Curry Leaves
1 tsp Ground Ginger
2 tbsp Ground Turmeric

Heat a heavy cast iron pan over medium low heat. Toast everything but the turmeric, ginger and curry leaves, for a few minutes, just until it begins to brown. Add the curry leaves and stir, letting it brown for just a little longer. Remove the spices from the pan to let them cool. After it cools, grind small batches in a a clean coffee grinder to grind everything into a fine mix.  Place the finished batches in a larger mixing bowl. Once everything is finely ground and add the ground turmeric and ginger and stir until it’s well blended. Store the curry in an airtight container in your spice cupboard.

 

 

Smokin’ on a Sunday – Salsa Picante

I admit it, I love spicy food. But I’ve grown bored with pico de gallo. Last year I added a smoker to my outdoor kitchen and so I’ve started making smoked salsa. Since my main dish rarely fills the smoker, I started filling the racks with different vegetables just to see how they would turn out. Smoked jalapeños were an immediate hit. They add a superb flavor to so many dishes, but take it a step further and go for smoked salsa. If you don’t have a smoker you can probably accomplish the same thing on a grill. Just keep the temperature low and use whatever method your grill manufacturer suggests for smoking.

Smoked Salsa
15-20 tomatoes, halved
10-15 jalapeños, sit cut in the end but stem left intact
1 large onion, thickly sliced
1 bunch cilantro
2-4 Tbs jalapeño vinegar
3-4 garlic cloves minced
black pepper, freshly ground

Line your smoker racks with foil. Place the halved tomatoes cut side up on the racks and hit each one with some freshly ground black pepper. Put a slit in each jalapeño without disturbing the stem. Place them on a rack with the thickly sliced onion.

Smoke them over mesquite or hickory chips, or a combination of the two, until the vegetables are soft. It took just over an hour for mine to get perfectly done, but it can vary. Removem the from the smoker and let them cool. Once everything is cool enough to handle you’ll have to decide between chopping by hand or a food processor. I used the food processor for this batch. First I pulsed the tomatoes until I had a chunky consistency. I poured the chopped tomatoes into a bowl. Then I added the remaining ingredients to the food processor and again, pulsed until I liked the consistency. Then I added the jalapeño mixture to the bowl and stirred.

Salsa does not have to be an exact science. In other words, adjust the recipe to fit your taste, if you don’t like cilantro cut back or omit it. Oh, you probably noticed my recipe doesn’t call for salt. I rarely use salt when I cook. If you do, add some to the tomatoes when you process or chop them. If you’re not confident heading into the this then hold back some of each ingredient. That way if your salsa turns out too hot to enjoy you’ll have a few tomatoes left to tone it down a bit. If it turns out too mild, you’ll have more jalapeños to add.

The salsa will keep in the refrigerator for a while, and it freezes well. Use it like you would any other salsa: chips, nachos, burritos, quesadilla, marinades, eggs, etc. etc.

Release YOUR Bon Vivant and Savor Your Life!