Archive | Main dish RSS feed for this archive

Tasty 10-Min, 5-Spice Pumpkin Soup

5-Spice pumpkin soup

While standing in line at Starbucks, a guy behind me said: “Let me guess, you’re going to order a pumpkin latte, because all white girls are obsessed with pumpkin.” What the heck?! How dare he stereotype me!  With the most indignant look I could muster, I responded: “No, I’m getting an orange juice!” I might have mumbled “pumpkin hater!” under my breath a little bit. “So you ARE obsessed with pumpkin, aren’t you?” he persisted. I shifted from foot to foot, averting my gaze while fiddling with my pockets. “Ah ha, I knew it!” he exclaimed. Damn it – cold busted!

Okay, yes, I am a total pumpkin head. (Wait, that came out wrong.) I have pumpkin on the brain throughout the fall and winter, and why shouldn’t I?  It’s such a cozy, delicious, healthy food! It’s utterly packed with fiber, which not only keeps your intestines clean, it also helps people lose weight since it makes you feel fuller longer. It’s also got loads of beta-carotene, which fights off cancer and wrinkles, and it has oodles of Vitamin A, which helps your eyesight. So bring on the pumpkin cookies, curries, risotto, muffins, pancakes – I’m in!

If you want to satisfy your pumpkin fix with a crazy-simple, incredibly delicious 10-minute vegan pumpkin soup, give this one a try. It is the easiest thing in the world to make and it’s so rich, delicious, hearty and unique (thanks to the secret ingredient: Chinese 5-spice powder) that you, your family and friends will be begging for more. So go ahead, embrace your pumpkin obsession with pride – this soup is so good that it has the power to convert even hardened pumpkin haters, and carnivores will be happy too since it will give them that satisfying full-belly feeling they love.  With Thanksgiving fast approaching, add this to your menu and everyone will be glad you did, especially you since it takes so little time and effort to make this lovely, impressive soup. Enjoy!

Cimeron’s Tasty Ten-Minute 5-Spice Pumpkin Soup
From fridge to table: 10 minutes
Serves: 8

1 – 28 oz can organic pumpkin puree (plain pumpkin, not the pie mix)
1 cup plain almond milk
4 cloves garlic, pressed or very finely minced
4 cups vegetable broth
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/2 tsp Chinese 5-spice powder
A dash of cinnamon
Salt and pepper, to taste

Dump all the ingredients into a large soup pot and whisk over medium-high heat. Cook for 10 minutes, season with salt and pepper, then serve. Seriously, it’s that simple. And it’s crazy-delicious, too!

 

Advertisements

Time for a Yummy Vegan Picnic!

It's summer and vegan picnic timeAttention all other seasons: summer kicks your booties!

With the weather warm, the flowers blooming, the sun sparkling and such an abundance of ripe fruits and tasty veggies available, it’s such a great time for a picnic. But when I add the word “vegan” to “picnic,” it creates terror in some of my carnivore friends. It’s pretty funny to watch. “But, but, but, what do you serve at a vegan picnic? Carrot sticks and raw broccoli?”  They look so horrified, so I usually respond with something like: “Of course not! We prefer cow patties sandwiched between pieces of tree bark. Duh!” Seriously, why are some people so flipped out about vegan food? It can be unbelievably delicious and a breeze to make, and bonus – it’s good for you, great for the environment, and even better for all the animals you’re saving.

To make things easier (and yummier) for your next picnic, here are my top 5 original creations of perfectly picnickable (that’s a word, right?) vegan dishes, and one spectacular summer beverage that will make your next outing out-of-this-world.

Pomegranate-Mango Guacamole

Mango-Pomegranate Guacamole and Chips

Hot damn, this guacamole will make your mouth so happy…even if you hate avocados (as my converting-carnivore husband and I do). Mmm, the lightly sweet mango and the unexpected tiny bright bits of pomegranate really make this guac amazing. Just pop it in a tupperware container and toss it in your picnic basket.

Thai Sweet Chili and Lime Edamame 

This has to be one of the easiest and yummiest thing you can whip up in 5 minutes. Can’t you just taste the lime, garlic and slightly piquant Thai sweet chili sauce? It’s lick-your-fingers good! This edamame dish is great at room-temp, so it’s perfect for summer outings.

Thai Spiced Peanuts and Smoky Spanish Cashews Smoky Spanish Spiced Cashews

No description needed, right? The title alone says it all – awesomeness awaits your taste buds! Throw these in a baggie and try your best not to eat them on the way to your picnic. (Note: do not try to eat just one. It is impossible).

Peanut-Sauce Glazed Noodles and Veggies

Let’s keep with the Thai theme, shall we? These Thai-style noodles with a truly delicious peanut sauce and sautéed veggies is an awesome cold dish, and it takes no time at all to make.

Grilled veggie sandwich with romesco sauce

Grilled Veggie Sandwiches with Romesco Sauce

If you haven’t had romesco sauce before, please, do yourself a favor and drop whatever you’re doing and make it right this very second! Your taste buds will thank you! It’s a super easy-to-make thick sauce that’s unreal as a sandwich spread, especially with roasted veggies. You won’t believe that it’s made from blanched almonds, roasted red peppers, sourdough bread, balsamic vinegar and couple spices – they blend together to make a sauce that’s even better than the sum of its parts. It is truly spectacular and will probably make you moan with joy a little bit.

And lastly, Summer Sangria

This is my most favorite and dangerous drink! Throw your favorite ripe, juicy summer fruits in there – peaches, strawberries, blueberries, melons – and savor the refreshing flavors of the season in this happy little sangria. But watch out – the light, fruity flavors are so good that you probably won’t taste the alcohol at all, so if you’re like me, you’ll likely drink one (or four) more glasses than you can actually handle. So you may be stumbling home from your picnic, but trust me, it’ll be worth it.

Happy picnicking!

Seriously spectacular sangria

Grilled Corn, Sweet Potato, Black-Bean Salad with Cilantro Dressing

 

IMG_1337

Man, Mondays blow. Especially after epic summer weekends! If you could use something yummy to pick you up, this dish will do the trick.

So you guys know that I usually only publish my original concoctions, but this recipe that my friend gave me (thank you, Bonnie!) is so delicious and awesome that I have to share it. This gorgeous, healthy, nutrient-packed, summery vegan “potato salad” is oil-free, refreshing yet filling, yummy-beyond-words and totally unique.  The sweet potato provides a silky, flavorful foundation, while the grilled corn and chipotle give it a slightly smoky and caramelized flavor, which is perfectly balanced with the black beans and the sunny, herbaceous cilantro dressing. Not only is it tasty, but it’s also really good for you – the sweet potatoes are the best source of beta-carotene around (which strengths your immune system, gives you healthy skin and keeps your eyes happy), the beans are loaded with protein, and the corn has oodles of antioxidants. This makes a great meal or side dish.  And it’s super convenient since it can be made ahead and served cold, at room temp, or packed up for a picnic or potluck. Oh yeah, and it’s also gluten-free. I am IN LOVE with this salad. I bet you’ll like it as much as I do!

Grilled Corn, Sweet Potato, Black-Bean Salad with Cilantro Dressing

From fridge to table: about 20 minutes
Serves: about 10-12 as a side dish

roasted corn

1 clove garlic
2 tsp blended chipotle sauce*
1 small shallot, minced
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup seasoned rice vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks (if you want a colorful salad, use garnet yams)
4 ears corn, husked
1 can whole black beans, rinsed and drained
4 scallions (white and green parts) thinly sliced

* The original recipe (by Associated Press) called for a lot more chipotle – like enough for my tongue to spontaneously combust, detach from my mouth and dive into a pool for relief – so I adjusted it down. Oh, and to make the chipotle “sauce,” get a can of “chipotle in adobo sauce,” which you can find in the Hispanic food aisle at the grocery store, and whirl the contents in a blender. I like to freeze the blended sauce in ice cube trays for easy future use.

First, make the dressing. Use a blender to whirl together the garlic, chipotle sauce, shallot, cilantro and rice vinegar and blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

In a medium pot with steamer basket, boil a little bit of water, add the sweet potatoes, cover and steam until tender, which takes about 8 minutes. Transfer them to a bowl and immediately toss them with half of the salad dressing (to soak up the goodness of all that lovely herbal flavor), then set aside to cool.

Heat your grill to medium and lightly mist the corn with a cooking oil spray. Grill the corn evenly until the kernels are golden and tender. Remove from grill and cool until you can handle the corn without lighting your fingers on fire. Placing the fat end of the corn on your cutting board, slice the kernels from the cob. Then add the corn to the potatoes, along with the black beans and scallions. Pour the remaining dressing on top (to taste) and blend well. Then stuff your face with this yummy dish, and don’t feel guilty for a second since it’s so incredibly healthy for you!

 

Healthy sweet potato salad

Israeli Couscous and Quinoa Salad with Orange Cumin Vinaigrette

Israeli couscous salad with cumin orange vinaigrette

Do you ever feel a bit like a mad scientist when you cook? Man, I do, especially when concocting a new recipe. I had the tastiest salad yesterday at The Assembly, a new restaurant in Santa Cruz. So me being me, I had to deconstruct it and create my own version that will strike awe in the heart (and mouth) of my carnivore…and also at a baby shower I’m co-hosting. I don’t have a picture of myself creating things in my kitchen, but I’m pretty sure I look and sound like a cross between Gene Wilder in Young Frankenstein and Monty Burns. “Mmm, yessss. Blend cumin and orange – no one will expect such a bewitching combination! Make the miniature Saturns of quinoa orbit the pearls of Israeli couscous. Yeessss. Mix in some golden beets, sweet currants, kale. And kumquats, yes kumquats, to make it come ALIVE!! Mooohahahahah!”

Although when my friends who do not cook see me in full-on chef-it-up kitchen-concoction mode, they stare at me as if I look like this:

preparing for alien onslaught

But I digress. Don’t worry, no lab coat is needed to make this healthy, delicious, elegant salad. It’s actually quite simple to make, and it’s versatile too – it’s perfect as a meal or a side-dish. Trust me – you’ll love this delicious salad. It’s got everything: it’s both savory and sweet, it’s got a bit of crunch, there are earthy flavors and bright citrus highlights, it’s packed with protein, complex carbs, fruits, veggies, everything!

When you make this salad, be sure to serve it by holding the bowl high above your head and shouting “IT’S ALIVE!!”  🙂

Israeli Couscous and Quinoa Salad with Orange Cumin Vinaigrette

From fridge to table: 15-20 minutes*
Serves: 6-8

Salad:

1 cup Israeli couscous (aka Pearl Couscous)
1 cup quinoa
1/2 cup dried currants or chopped dates
10 kumquats, rolled and finely diced*
2 cups finely sliced kale
1 large cooked golden beet, peeled and chopped **

* Cool tip about kumquats: roll them between your fingers to release oil held in the kumquat’s skin. You’ll see that it takes on a shiny sheen. This immediately takes the bitterness out of the skin so you can eat the kumquat whole. Pretty cool, huh?

how to prep a kumquot

Orange-Cumin Vinaigrette:

1/3 cup canola oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp orange juice
2 tsp orange zest
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste

** There are tons of ways to cook beets, so if you’ve got your favorite method, go for it! If not, here’s an easy way: scrub the beets, rinse them off and put them in a casserole dish. Coat with a little oil, cover with foil and bake at 400 for about 30 minutes.

Prepare the Israeli couscous according to package (I boil 1 ¼ cup water with a pinch of salt, add the 1 cup of couscous, cover and simmer for 10 minutes). Meanwhile, cook the quinoa according to package (I combine 2 cups water with 1 cup quinoa, cover, bring to a boil, then simmer until water is absorbed, about 12 minutes). Once the couscous and quinoa are done, fluff them to cool, then combine them in the bowl with the other salad ingredients.

Combine all the vinaigrette ingredients in a lidded jar, shake well, then stir into the salad, to taste. Serve and enjoy!

Israeli couscous salad with orange cumin vinaigrette

Flower-Power Salad with Golden Beets, Grapes, Toasted Hazelnuts and Lemon Vinaigrette

Flower power golden beet salad

It’s spring, which means it’s time to find new ways to dupe my husband into eating all the veggies I’m harvesting from our garden. Luckily I found a secret weapon: edible flowers!  When you see something as pretty as a purple viola or bright red nasturtium on your plate, it draws your attention…and totally distracts John from the beets I’m tricking him into eating. Ha ha!

Now you and I know that freshly roasted golden beets – which are rapidly rolling into farmer’s markets and grocery stores – are simply delicious and have a slightly sweet, mellow flavor. And they’re one of the only sources for an awesome phytonutrient called betalains, which have anti-inflammatory and detoxification properties, not to mention vital free-radical-fighting antioxidants. And since there’s evidence that betalains help prevent cancer, eating beets is a tasty way to stay healthy, especially with this beautiful and delicious salad! But to John, beets are classified as “Weird Vegetables” in his “Never Eat That” food file. So naturally, I made it my mission to trick him into eating beets…and he LOVED this salad!

Being the devious cook that I am, I also decided to slip in some grapes and toasted hazelnuts to give this lovely spring salad some additional nutrients and protein, and a nice little crunch. Tossed with a light and zesty lemon vinaigrette, this salad will not only wow your friends and family with its beauty, but also with its refreshing and unique flavors and heath benefits. And yes, you will totally get to trick ‘weird vegetable’ haters into eating beets, which is both fun and yummy!

Cimeron’s Flower-Power Salad with Golden Beets, Grapes, Hazelnuts and Lemon Vinaigrette

Serves: 8
1 head red butter lettuce, or 7 cups baby mixed greens
10 small golden beets (or 4 big ones), scrubbed and ends trimmed off
1 cup seedless grapes, halved (or if you want to get really fancy, use tiny champagne grapes)
¾ cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped
a small handful of edible flowers (such as pansies, violas, calendula, or nasturtium)
For the vinaigrette:
¼ cup white lemon balsamic vinegar (I adore the one made by 11Olives.com. But if you don’t have some handy, you can substitute plain white balsamic vinegar mixed with 1 heaping teaspoon of lemon zest)
1 tsp minced shallot
¼ tsp freshly ground pepper
1 tsp Dijon mustard
A pinch of salt
1 tbsp maple syrup
1/3 cup canola oil
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Line a small baking sheet with aluminum foil, spray lightly with oil, then seal up the beets in the foil. Bake until the beets a bit soft to the touch – about an hour. Cool until handleable then rub off the skins with a dish cloth or paper towel. Slice beets and refrigerate until cool.
To  make the vinaigrette, whisk together all the ingredients except the oil. Then slowly drizzle in the oil while whisking vigorously.
Toss all the salad ingredients together – except the flowers – with your desired amount of dressing. Garnish with flowers…the brighter the better to distract any beet-averse husbands, wives, kids or friends. 🙂
Serve immediately and enjoy!
Flower power golden beet salad

 

 

 

 

 

Nobu-Style Saikyo Miso-Glazed Tofu Sandwich

Miso glazed tofu sandwich

Today we’re taking a trip to Japan (via New York’s Nobu restaurant, and my kitchen here in California) for a mouth-watering savory-sweet Miso-Marinated Tofu Sandwich. This dish is so good that it presents a dilemma. You’ll eat one and feel satisfied and full, but it’s so tasty that you’ll want to immediately throw 8 more down your gullet and will make you wish you had the expandable throat of a pelican. Sorta defeats the whole healthy eating thing, but I digress…

I got a hold of Nobu’s recipe for their world-famous Saikyo Miso-Glazed Black Cod and adapted it into a to-die-for vegan dish that I think you’re going to love as much as I do. The exterior of the tofu turns slightly firm and crisp around the edges when the sugary sake/mirin miso glaze caramelizes under the broiler, while the interior stays silky smooth. Mmm, can’t you practically taste the sweet, rich, miso-infused flavor? This is just irresistible on a sugar-glazed bun with some sauteed baby bok choy and drizzled with a vegan lemon-garlic aioli.  It’s incredibly simple to make. (But please note that you’ve got to let it sit in the fridge for a few days so the marinade thoroughly infuses the tofu. Trust me, it’s worth the wait.)

The marinade makes enough for two full bricks of tofu, which when sliced, makes 6-8 sandwiches. It’s so sophisticated and unique on the palate that it makes a really wonderful meal to serve to special friends. It’s also a great dish to make on a Sunday if you want to have yummy sammies all week long. Or, you know, you could throw all of them down your mouth in one sitting, lie to your friends and say that you’re practicing for an eating contest. (You’re welcome).

Nobu style saikyo miso tofu sandwich

Nobu-Style Saikyo Miso-Glazed Tofu Sandwich

Active cooking time: 20 minutes
Marinating time: 2-3 days
Serves: 6-8

Marinade:
1/2 cup mirin (it’s a Japanese sweet rice wine – in the grocery store, it’s usually next to the sake)
1/2 sake
2 cups white miso paste (note: it’s super cheap in Asian food stores. Regular grocery stores charge three times as much for it)
3/4 cup granulated sugar

Sandwich:
2 bricks of medium-soft tofu
4 baby bok choy, coarsely chopped
Buns
1 tbsp sugar, dissolved into 3 tbsp of water

Vegan Lemon-Garlic Aioli:
3 tbsp vegan mayonnaise
2 cloves garlic, pressed
2 tsp fresh lemon juice

Prepare the marinade and tofu: 

Saikyo miso marinade

In a medium sized saucepan, combine the mirin and sake and bring to a boil for about 30 seconds to boil off some of the alcohol. Reduce heat to low and add the miso paste, stirring constantly. Once the miso has completely dissolved, turn heat up to medium high and add the sugar, stirring until dissolved. Turn off heat and cool to lukewarm before marinating the tofu.

Cut your tofu width-wise to make two big tofu squares per brick. I like to use the hard plastic tofu trays to marinate it, or you could use a pyrex dish. Place some marinade on the bottom, then alternate layers of tofu and marinade. Be sure to slather the top piece of tofu with lots of marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 2-3 days.

Broil the tofu:

After 2-3 days of marinating the tofu, wipe a little bit of the marinade off the top and place on tin foil-lined baking sheet beneath a preheated broiler. Broil about 5 minutes per side until it looks like this:

broiled miso glazed tofu

Prepare the sandwich:

Personally, I like my buns toasted (and no, I’m not talking about tanned cheeks!) (Well actually, now that I think of it, that’s not so bad either). Brush the sugar-water atop each bun and place in the oven at 350 and bake until golden.

Saute or steam the bok choy. Then whisk together the aioli ingredients. Assemble the sandwich and serve with a side salad. After a couple of polite little bites, wait until no one is looking and proceed to shove the whole thing in your mouth as fast as you can. Enjoy!

10-Minute Singapore-Style Curried Noodles with Veggies

Singapore style curried noodles with veggies

When I think about my past business trips to Singapore, three things are always in my memory’s highlight reel:

1. Walking through a stunning sun-dappled tunnel of hanging orchids that were so beautiful that they inspired people to burst out in song. (Okay, maybe I was the only one who had a Julie Andrews moment, and maybe people stared at me like I was a serious weirdo nut job, but I like to think that they were singing along with me in their heads).
2. Gleefully wrapping myself in a pile of silk dresses in Chinatown (I am a degenerate silkaholic).
3. The spectacularly delicious array of international foods!

Like the diverse population of the city-nation, Singapore’s food is a glorious pan-Asian blend of exotic flavors and textures. One of my favorite dishes is the meal I’ve recreated for you here: Singapore-Style Curried Noodles with Veggies. The Indian turmeric in the luscious Thai yellow curry paste (which you can find in most Asian food stores or on Amazon) gives this mild curry its distinct golden glow and alluring taste. The creamy coconut milk and fragrant lemongrass remind me of the flavorful Malay influence on Singaporean cuisine. The soba noodles hail from Japan and do a great job soaking up the savory curry sauce. And the vibrant veggies bring it all together to create a multi-cultural harmony of flavor.

And did you see the part about this being a 10-minute meal? Seriously, could it get any better?! Why yes, it can! This simple, delicious and healthy noodle dish is as filling as it is tasty, so carnivores and veg-heads alike will join together to sing the praises of this lovely dish…and not just in their heads!

Look at that orchid! Gum almost fell out of my mouth when I saw it.

Cimeron’s 10-Minute Singapore-Style Curried Noodles with Veggies
Serves: 4
From fridge to table: 10 minutes

3 shallots, chopped
1 jalepeno pepper, sliced in half
1 lemongrass stalk, peeled and finely minced (use only the white part)
1 tbsp yellow curry paste*
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cups fresh asparagus, sliced into 1″ sections
5 shitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 package (12 oz) fresh soba noodles, or 8 oz dried noodles
2 tbsp tamari sauce (find it beside the soy sauce in your grocery store)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

yellow curry paste is available in tins at most Asian food stores. You can also purchase jars of it on Amazon.com. 

Prepare a pot of boiling water for the soba noodles, but don’t cook them until the last second.

In a wok, heat 1 tbsp of a high temperature oil (like grape seed oil) over medium-high. Saute the shallots, lemongrass and jalepeno until the shallots are just starting to turn translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the red pepper and saute for 2 minutes. Add the asparagus, and shitake mushrooms, and stir for 2 minutes. Push the veggies aside to make room in the middle/bottom of the wok, then add the curry paste and heat until it softens, about 30 seconds. Add the coconut milk and tamari sauce to the curry paste and stir together until blended, then mix well with the veggies until they fully coated. Turn off heat and discard the two halves of the jalepeno pepper.

Cook the soba noodles according to the package (for fresh noodles, boil for 1 minute). Drain, then immediately rinse the noodles under cold water, then drain again. Add to the curry/veggie mixture, sprinkle with cilantro and toss well. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Curried Singapore noodles and veggies

Roasted Red Pepper Footuccine

Behold this toetally toeriffic new chopping technique:

Toeriffic new chopping techniqueI don’t recommend trying this method unless you too have broken your hand mountain biking and can’t grip a damn thing in your left hand/club. It also helps if you do a whole lot of yoga and have freakishly good grip with your toes. (Can you hear the gasps from friends who have eaten at my house recently? “You chopped my veggies with your feet?! Oh my God – EW!”) (Heh heh heh heh)

Which brings us to the yummy vegan recipe of the day: Roasted Red Pepper Footuccine. (Well, I used penne pasta, but footuccine sounds much more spectoecular!) Pan-roasting the onion, red peppers and tomatoes brings out a deep, smoky, caramelized flavor that is so satisfying on a cold winter night. The cannellini beans add a kick of protein, and they soak up the rich, savory goodness of the white wine sauce as it reduces. Be sure to finish with toasted herbed breadcrumbs and pine nuts to add a nice crunch to the dish.  This meal so easy to prepare that you can make it with one hand tied behind your back (or encased in a cast).

roasted red pepper penne

Roasted Red Pepper Footuccine
From fridge to table: 30 minutes
Serves: 4-6

3 red bell peppers, seeded and chopped into thin strips
1/2 of a yellow onion, chopped into thin strips
large handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup dry white wine
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt (preferably a flavored salt, like porcini salt)
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
red pepper flakes, to taste
10 oz fresh penne pasta, or about 3/4 pound dry penne
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
a handful of toasted pine nuts
1/2 cup toasted herbed bread crumbs (I like using panko since it’s so crunchy)

Preheat oven to 425. Toss the red peppers, onion, tomatoes and rosemary in 1-2 tbsp olive oil and arrange in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Roast – stirring a couple times while cooking – until veggies are very tender and red peppers start to blacken, about 25-30 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large chef’s pan, heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Saute the garlic until fragrant and tender, about 2 minutes. Add wine, oregano, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper and beans; cook for a few minutes until the wine reduces to about 1/2 cup. Cook and drain the pasta. Toss pasta with roasted veggies, wine sauce and fresh basil. Spoon into pasta bowls and top with toasted pine nuts and toasted bread crumbs. Then high five yourself with your foot and enjoy!

Roasted red pepper pasta

Answering the Protein Question with Curried Mango Quinoa Salad

Curried Mango Quinoa Salad Deliciousness

When cow-gobblers hear about Operation Carnivore Conversion, they always ask me (and always in shock): “Oh, but where do you get your protein?!” Apparently they assume that twigs and rocks aren’t very protein-rich. 😉  Below, I’m going to give you a super tasty, protein-packed 15-minute vegan meal – Curried Mango Quinoa Salad – that I often feed to meat-eaters to help turn their doubt into interest. In fact, I served this just last weekend to 25 carnivores at a friend’s baby shower and it was the surprise hit dish of the whole luncheon!

Most times, carnivores tell me: “I just couldn’t get enough protein without meat!”

“Really?” I ask, innocently as I narrow my eyes and go in for the kill. “Is that because you require so much more protein to maintain your epic typing-related muscles than the vegan NBA and NFL players, body builders, triathletes and Olympians like Carl Lewis?” (This usually earns me a punch in the arm). “Plus,” I tell them, “when you turn vegan, you won’t have cadaver-breath anymore, which is a bonus!” (That usually earns me a second punch).

Here’s the answer to the protein question, which is challenging for the T-Rexs to digest: It’s easy to get all the protein you need on a vegan diet. Maybe it’s difficult for people to accept because they have no idea how much protein they actually need. According to the CDC, most women need about 46 grams of protein per day, men about 56. It varies person to person, so to find your exact needs, try this handy protein calculator: http://www.globalrph.com/protein-calculator.cgi

Most carnivores (especially American ones) don’t realize they’re likely consuming exponentially more protein than needed. For example, here’s how much meat- and dairy-based protein my husband used to eat on a typical day before Operation Carnivore Conversion:

Large latte = 15 grams
Grilled chicken sandwich = 45 grams
Turkey tacos = 46 grams
Total = 106 grams of protein

That’s nearly twice what he needs!  Now let’s look at some easy vegan alternatives:

Large latte with soy milk = 14 grams
Tofurkey sandwich (which, much to his surprise, he loves) = 15 grams
Handful of almonds = 21 grams
1 big helping of curried mango quinoa salad = 20 grams
Total = 70  grams of protein

See how easy it is to get all the protein you need with a vegan diet? If you’re new to the vegetarian or vegan thing and you’re worried about getting enough, here are a few protein-rich foods to add to your meals and snacks:

Tempeh, 1 cup = 31 grams
Edamame, 1 cup = 22 grams
Almonds (a big handful) = 21 grams
Lentils, 1 cup = 18 grams
Baked beans, 1 cup = 18 grams
Pumpkin seeds, ½ cup = 16 grams
Quinoa, 1 cup = 8 grams
Peanut butter, 2 tbsp = 8 grams
Hummus, 1 serving = 7 grams
Oatmeal, 1 serving = 7 grams
2 tbsp chia seeds= 4 grams

Okay, now onto our protein star: quinoa. This recipe is great for converting carnivores since it’s got lots of protein, it’s bursting with big, yummy flavors and it gives you that satisfying full-belly feeling. Mango chutney gives it a zesty kick, cucumbers add a lovely crunch, fresh mangos provide a hint of earthy sweetness, while the quinoa and spinach round out the dish to make it a delicious meal. I think you’ll enjoy it!

Curried Mango Quinoa Salad

Curried Mango Quinoa Salad

Serves: 2 as a main course, 4 as a side dish
From fridge to table: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

1 cup quinoa
1 cup peeled fresh mango, finely chopped
1 cup Persian, Japanese, English or pickling cucumber, finely chopped (skin on)
5 tbsp green onion, chopped
3 cups fresh baby spinach

Dressing:
½ cup olive oil
½ cup white balsamic vinegar
¼ cup mango chutney, minced
2 tbsp curry powder
1 tsp dry mustard
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp smoked sea salt
½ tsp freshly ground pepper

In a medium pot, add 2 cups water, the quinoa and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer until all the water is absorbed – about 12-15 minutes. Once the quinoa is done, fluff it to cool off the grains.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix together all the dressing ingredients and set aside. Then chop the cucumber, green onion and mango. By the way, the easiest way to chop a mango is to slice the flat-sides lengthwise as close to the seed as possible. Then into each half of fruit, carve a grid pattern into the flesh. Use your fingers to invert the pad of fruit, like this, then slice off the squares of mango flesh:

How to chop mango

(All this talk of mango “flesh” is getting the carnivores excited, isn’t it?)

Once the quinoa is ready, add the cucumber, mango, green onion and about ¼ of the dressing, then stir well. Add more dressing to taste. Arrange a bed of spinach on plates, and if you want to add an extra pop of color, then maybe a few red lettuce leaves as well. Heap big scoops of the mango quinoa concoction on top. Drizzle dressing on the spinach and a little more on the quinoa, then serve and enjoy!

* Giving credit where credit is due, the inspiration for this recipe came from one I found on Epicurious.com and modified.

Go MSG-free: Tasty Thai Yellow Curry with Sweet Potato and Chickpeas

Thai yellow curry with chickpeas and sweet potato over millet - YUM!

“Stop goldfishing*,” I tell my husband as he plows through a bag of Doritos that’s roughly the size of a bathtub. “I can’t. They’re addictive!” he pleads as I pry them from his bright orange hands.

(*Goldfishing – [gohld-fish-ing]. Noun. 1. The act of a person who eats non-stop with blatant disregard for the physical limitations of his/her stomach. 2. Stuffing oneself to the point of spontaneous gastric explosion, like a goldfish.)

Really, he can’t stop? C’mon, like an invisible hand is shoving Doritos in his face. Well, after some research, I’ve found that actually, that’s pretty much what’s happening. The makers of the florescent nacho-flavored triangles of doom use a secret ingredient to turn consumers into goldfish: MSG.

MSG-fed lab rat

No, this rat has not swallowed a beach ball. Poor little guy has been fed MSG to make him obese.

Did you know that scientists actually use MSG to induce obesity in lab rats and mice (ironically, so they can test products to ‘cure’ obesity in humans)? In fact, scientists found that when they give MSG to mice, it increases their appetite as much as 40%. When people eat it, it turns us into mindless eating machines. But that’s not its only harmful side effect. There are all kinds of other nasty ailments associated with MSG, including asthma attacks, mood swings, fuzzy thinking, diarrhea, chest pains and headaches. Some scientists are even speculating that it may cause – and exacerbate – autism.

MSG is used as a flavor enhancer and it’s in lots of packaged foods, from chips to salad dressings, sauces to microwave meals. If you spotted MSG on a label, you probably wouldn’t buy the product, right? So those sneaky manufacturers hide MSG behind different names like “autolyzed yeast,” “soy protein isolate,” and “hydrolyzed protein.” For example, Annie Chun’s Soup Bowls contain maltodextrin and yeast extract – both of which are forms of manufactured glutamic acid, the ingredient in MSG (and yet they have the balls to advertise that they’re MSG-free. Campbells does the same. Bastards!) As for Doritos? They don’t even bother hiding it on the label, and the chips are basking in MSG – no wonder John can’t put down the bag! It’s not just in packaged foods, either. Tests found that most chicken, sausage and even parmesan served in restaurants is flavored with MSG. (Yet another great reason for carnivores to convert into vegetarians or vegans!)

The good news is that the antidote is simple: cook healthy foods from scratch to eliminate MSG from your diet (and from that of those you love, especially those who sometimes have goldfish-like tendencies). There are lots of other ways to add flavor than with MSG. One of my favorites is by making meals in the pressure cooker. Cooking under pressure retains the nutrition of food while also amplifying the flavor naturally. And bonus –  you can cook an entire meal from scratch in 15 minutes using the ultra fast pressure cookers, even soups and stews that normally take hours!

Today’s recipe is my take on an incredibly flavor-packed and super healthy Thai-style yellow curry with chickpeas and sweet potatoes. (Special thanks to Lorna Sass and her fabulous “Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure” cookbook – I’ve altered one of her recipes to give it my own twist). If using a pressure cooker, the gorgeous sweet potato flavor enhanced with yellow curry will be utterly infused into every molecule of coconut milk. It is divine! This has become one of our favorite meals, and it’s quite nutritious. So I don’t really mind if John goldfishes on it. 🙂

I’ve also created a non-pressure cooker version of this recipe for those who don’t have one (but I highly recommend you get a pressure cooker – they are phenomenal and it will become your go-to kitchen tool). Here’s the one I use, which I adore (click on the text and it will take you to Amazon where you can buy it): Fagor Splendid 4-quart Pressure Cooker.

Yummy Thai yellow curry with sweet potato and chickpeas over rice

Yummy Thai yellow curry with sweet potato and chickpeas

Serves: 6
From fridge to table: 20 minutes (if using pressure cooker)

1.5 cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight (if using pressure cooker. For non-pressure cooker method, see notes below)
2 cans coconut milk
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1” cubes (if using pressure cooker. For non-pressure cooker method, see notes below)
1.5 cup tomatoes, chopped
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1 tbsp yellow curry paste* (it’s hard to find in stores, so click here to buy a really yummy one)
½ cup cilantro, minced
½ cup fresh basil, minced
2 tbsp MSG-free tamari soy sauce
a handful of roasted unsalted peanuts, chopped
Cooked rice or millet

For the pressure cooker method:

Drain and rinse chickpeas. In your pressure cooker pan, combine all the ingredients except the basil, tamari, peanuts and rice/millet. Lock lid, then bring to high pressure over high heat. Lower the heat just enough to maintain high pressure and cook for 18 minutes. Use the quick-release method (by running cold water over the locked pressure cooker until the pressure comes down all the way). Remove lid, tilting it away from your face to let steam escape. Add the basil and tamari and mix well. Serve atop rice or millet and sprinkle with chopped peanuts.

For the non-pressure cooker method:

Take the unpeeled sweet potato, prick with a fork and microwave until it’s slightly soft, about 5 minutes. Cool a bit, then peel and chop into 1” cubes.

Also, you’ll need to used cooked chickpeas – 3 cups (or roughly 2 cans) will work perfectly well.

In a large, deep sauté pan, sauté garlic and ginger in 1 tbsp of oil over medium heat. Cook until the garlic starts to turn golden, about 3 minutes. Add curry paste, tomatoes, cilantro, coconut milk and chickpeas. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add potatoes, then return to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover and cook at a low-boil for 12 minutes. To thicken the sauce and infuse more of the sweet potato flavor, break up some of the sweet potato chunks with the back of a fork. Then blend in the basil and tamari, serve over rice or millet and sprinkle with chopped peanuts. Enjoy!