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Quicky Thai-Style Noodles in Yummy Peanut Sauce

Every time John and I eat Thai food, we say the same thing: “Oh man, I could eat this every day!” The sauces are simply divine! One of the most versatile is peanut sauce. Thai peanut sauces are so good that they can be used for just about everything: as a dip for summer rolls, drizzled on steamed veggies, as the sauce for a thai-style pizza. It’s also a great projectile when you want to fling a spoonful of something at your spouse when he really deserves it, like when he polishes off the bottle of wine while you’re in the hot tub staring forlornly at your empty glass.

This is a very tasty Thai-inspired noodle dish that’s super quick to make. I’ve included a really delicious peanut sauce recipe at the end of this post, but if you are pressed for time or you’re just feelin’ lazy (no shame in that!), you can also use peanut satay sauce from a jar. For dinner, I serve this hot and for lunch I serve it cold – try it both ways and see what you prefer!

Quicky Thai-Style Noodles in Yummy Peanut Sauce

From fridge to table: 15 minutes
Serves: 4

3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup asparagus tips
1/2 cup sugar snap peas, sliced
8 mushrooms, stemmed and sliced (shitake or baby portabella work great since they’re so flavorful)
1/2 cube extra firm tofu, sliced into 1/2 inch cubes (if you want extra flavor, marinate the tofu in teriyaki sauce overnight)
1/4 cup green onions, sliced thin
1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1/4 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts
1/4-1/2 cup peanut satay sauce from a jar, or homemade peanut sauce (recipe below) *
6 oz dry udon noodles, such as Japanese yokogiri

Cook noodles by following the directions on the package. Rinse with cold water and set aside. If using yokogiri udon noodles, bring a pot of water to boil, stir in noodles. When the pot begins to boil again, add 1 cup cold water. When it comes back to a boil, drain the noodles and rinse with cold water. Set aside.

Over high heat, warm a couple tablespoons of oil in a wok or large fry pan with high sides. To avoid oil splatter, I recommend sliding the ingredients down the sides of the pan. When the oil is good and hot, slide in the tofu and let it brown before stirring. Allow to brown on a couple of sides (I like mine nearly blackened – it adds character!), and then slide in the red bell pepper. Once it starts to turn orange, kind of like the color of a tragic spray-tan victim, slide in the sugar snap peas, mushrooms, asparagus and garlic. Saute until the asparagus is crisp-tender. Turn down heat to medium and add the peanut sauce, green onions, cilantro, peanuts and noodles – toss very well to fully coat the noodles. Add more peanut sauce to taste. (But be sure to save some just in case you need to fling it at your spouse if he drinks all the wine!)

* If you want to make homemade peanut sauce, here’s my recipe, which tastes way better than the store-bought stuff in a jar (if I do say so myself…):

Homemade peanut sauce

1/4 cup organic chunky peanut butter
3 tsp chili garlic sauce (you can find this in the Asian section of the market)
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp hoisin sauce (also found in the Asian section of the market)
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1/2 cup water

Whirl all ingredients together in a food processor and voila, you’ve got peanut sauce!

Dancing Taste Buds: Indian-Inspired Tofu Curry

Mmm, street food! Wherever you go in Asia, you’re sure to find some of the best food from the hawkers on the street…if you’re bold enough to try it. You’ll find these vendors on busy street corners, on boats in crowded canals, and in bustling night markets with their steamy carts lit by luminaries. The crowds around the most popular vendors might just convince you to overlook the guy at the next cart selling deep fried crickets – blehk!

This fragrant coconut milk-based Indian-style tofu curry makes me think of warm Bombay nights and a exuberant Bollywood movies bursting with vibrant tropical colors, smiles and dancing. It’s a delicious, thick, filling curry that’s oh so satisfying! And the tofu packs this dish with protein. It’s so rich that meat-eaters love it, as do vegans! And the chef in your family will like it too since it’s so easy and quick to make. I like to make this on my Bollywood dancing night – yes, I take a Bollywood dance class and I flipping love it! (You don’t believe me, do you? Well this is a photo of our last performance – that’s me on the bottom left.) The music is so happy and the choreography is so fun that I can’t help but laugh through the whole class. I have yet to get John to do a little Bollywood dance with me, but I’m persistent. One day, I swear I’ll get him to gyrate to a tabla beat!

I’ve adapted this from a recipe by the wonderful cookbook author, Andrea Nguyen. You can use regular curry powder, but if you have Madras curry, this dish really comes alive and adds a spicy kick that’s sure to make your taste buds dance!

Indian-Inspired Tofu Curry

Serves: 4
From fridge to table: about 15-20 minutes

2-3 tbsp canola or grapeseed oil
1 can (14 oz) coconut milk
14-16 oz. firm tofu cut into thin domino-sized/shaped pieces
1/2 tsp salt (I like using smoked sea salt – it adds so much depth, it’s delicious)
1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup sliced bamboo shoots (drained and rinsed)
1.5 tsp curry powder, preferably Madras curry
2 tsp light brown sugar
2-3 small heads baby bok choy, cut into 1″ pieces
1/2 cup asparagus tips, sliced
1/2 cup chopped fresh Asian-style herbs. Any of the following works great with this dish: mint, cilantro or basil. (Confession: I used all three and it was fabulous!)

Cooked rice, or cooked noodles (soba or udon are great with this)

If you have time, do this step with the tofu since it creates an interesting texture, but if you don’t have time, you can skip it: put tofu in a wide, shallow bowl. Mix in 1 tsp salt with 2 cups very hot water and pour over tofu. Let sit for 15 minutes, then drain and let sit on paper towels for 15 minutes.

Heat oil in large non-stick saucepan over medium heat. Fry shallots until lightly golden, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and saute 2-3 minutes until light and crisp. Add curry powder. Remove solid ingredients from pan and set aside, but don’t clean the pan. Add a little more oil and then saute the tofu, turning once, until golden – about 4-5 minutes. It won’t get crispy, but it’ll get golden around the edges.

Add the shallot mixture to the pan again, and add coconut milk, salt, bamboo shoots and brown sugar. Bring to simmer and cook 2-3 minutes. Add bok choy and asparagus and cook until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl and top with chopped herbs.  Serve with either rice or atop noodles. Then rejoice as your taste buds dance!

Warming the Soul: African Curried Coconut Soup with Chickpeas

This divine, filling, utterly delicious creamy curried soup takes me back to Kenya when we arrived fresh off the plane at the stately ivy-covered English-style Giraffe Manor, which sits on the grounds of a preserve they created for endangered Rothschild giraffes. Expecting Africa to be hot, John and I were stunned to be shivering in our shorts and t-shirts. No matter how cold I was, I was not going inside until I fulfilled my dream of having a giraffe wrap his two-foot-long tongue around my head. But the kind chef noticed my goosebumps, urged me to come inside and made me a soul-warming, exotically spiced vegan coconut soup with chickpeas to thaw me from the inside out.  That soup was a miracle – it was like being wrapped in a velvet-lined fluffy jacket and was just what both John and I needed. While hungrily devouring it, an elegant mama giraffe stuck her head through a large open window, put her face next to my cheek and while locking my gaze with her medallion-sized eye,  she gracefully stretched her enormously long black tongue past my face to slyly scoop up some sliced fruit on a plate beside me. (When I saw her snake-sized tongue up close, I was rather glad that my tongue-wrapped-head dream didn’t come true.)  As awed as I was by her presence and her comfort with me, I found myself instinctively protecting my bowl of soup – yep, that’s how good it was!

I was so happy to find a very similar tasting soup in this recipe from the The Tropical Vegan Kitchen cookbook. I’ve modified it just a tiny bit to more closely approximate that divine soup that I had at the Giraffe Manor. It’s thick and filling enough to be a main dish, but can also be a great starter for seriously hungry people.

I am IN LOVE with this soup – its mellow curry flavor, the perfect way that the rice and tomatoes compliment the coconut milk, and the interesting flavors that warm my memories and my soul with each bite. Every time I have this soup, I half expect to feel giraffe breath on my neck, and I can’t help but protect my bowl…but this time it’s from John who likes this soup as much as I do. I hope you like it as well!

African Curried Coconut Soup with Chickpeas

From fridge to table: about 25 minutes
Serves: 4

2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 jalepeno pepper, seeded and chopped
4 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 15oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1.5 cups chopped tomatoes (fresh or canned)
3 tsp curry powder
1 tsp smoked sea salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
1 14oz can coconut milk
3/4 cup cooked basmati rice
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

In a stockpot, heat the oil over medium to medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper and japeleno; cook, stirring, until softened – about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir constantly for 1 minute. Add the broth, chickpeas, tomatoes, curry powder, salt and black pepper. Bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer gently, uncovered, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and cook until heated through, about 4 minutes. Serve hot. Close eyes and imagine eating your soup with a giraffe standing next to you, possibly about to lick you and/or your bowl. 🙂

Delicious Meatless Tamale Pie Fools Meat-Addicts


Ha ha, a seriously delicious tamale pie (which happens to be meatless) just fooled 5 hardcore meat-addicts! If any meat-impostor entree could dupe our Supper Club buddies, I knew it would be this incredibly flavorful, goey blend of ground meatless ground ‘meat’, salsa, refried black beans, onion, garlic and melted vegan cheddar cheese sandwiched between hearty polenta discs. People used to freak out about this dish when I made it with ground turkey and real cheddar, and now I’ve figured out some easy fixes to make it vegan – and it passed the meat-lover test by fooling our friends.

Our friends thought their incessant jokes about Operation Carnivore Conversion and my creative efforts to get my husband to go meatless had broken me. One of them even launched a counter assault called “Operation Enduring Meat” to thwart my efforts, and they thought I finally surrendered. Not sure why they’re so terrified of meatless meals – one of them was so worried that I’d serve her a vegan dinner that she called *three* times the day of our Supper Club dinner to ask if she could bring over steak. Seriously! Instead of destroying my resolve, I declared a secret all-out war and went all devious on their pork-worshiping butts. For the record, no, I did not feel bad lying to them and telling them that I had made them my famous tamale pie with ground meat when in fact I had used “beefless ground beef.” And yes, I relished every single moan of joy that came out of their mouths while they were devouring my vegan tamale pie and every single one of their comments that “fake meat is nasty.” Ha ha!

“So you guys like it?” I asked innocently. “It’s awesome! One of your best dinners ever!” they said. I waited until they had licked their plates clean before I slapped down a packet of beefless ground beef on the dinner table. “SUCKAS!” I exclaimed while doing a victory lap around the table of stunned vanquished carnivores. Serves my friends right for messing with me! One of them refused to believe it was true. Knowing that I don’t eat meat, she forced me to take a bite of the tamale pie to prove to her that it was made with faux meat.

So there you have it, Operation Carnivore Conversion wins the war! Damn, that victory lap felt great, and this tamale pie never tasted so good. 🙂

Meatless Tamale Pie

1 pound beefless ground beef (I used Trader Joe’s version, which worked great)
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, diced
1.5 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 15-16 oz can of refried black beans
1 15-16 oz jar of your favorite salsa
1/2 can of white corn (optional)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
3 cups fake cheddar cheese (Daiya works great since it melts and stretches), or if you eat cheese, use sharp cheddar
2 rolls of prepared polenta, sliced into 1/3″ thick rounds. This is what packaged, prepared polenta looks like:

Preheat oven to 350.

In a large saute pan, saute the onion and garlic until the onion is beginning to turn golden and slightly brown around the edges. Add the fake beef and stir until it’s well integrated and warmed through. Add the chili powder and cumin, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Add the beans, salsa and corn and simmer (stirring frequently) until mixture thickens, about 5-10 minutes. Turn of heat and mix in cilantro.

Oil a large, high-sided baking dish (13x9x2 works well) and place half of the polenta rounds on the bottom. Heap on heavy spoonfulls of the tamale filling onto each round – it might end up running together to totally cover the polenta, which is fine. Sprinkle with half the cheese. Then put the remaining polenta rounds on top to cover it all, then sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. This is what it looks like once you assemble it:

Bake for about 35 minutes until the dish is heated through and the sauce is bubbly, about 35 minutes. (Or bake refrigerated tamale pie, covered, for 20 minutes, then uncover and bake for another 35 minutes or so until it’s bubbly).

Enjoy!

Costa Rican Gallo Pinto for Meatless Monday

This recipe is dedicated to my friend Caryn who is looking for a crave-worthy, healthy dish that integrates grains and beans that even her kids will eat (without gagging or complaining).

Whenever I go to Costa Rica, I pretty much live on Gallo Pinto. I’m not joking. I eat it for breakfast and lunch and as a side dish with dinner. And now that I know how to make it, well now I pretty much live on it at home, too.  It’s a super tasty, very healthy traditional dish of Costa Rica and Nicaragua which is basically their version of rice and beans, but with plenty of flavorful twists. Translated, Gallo Pinto means something like “multi-colored rooster,” and that’s exactly what it looks like! Little bits of vibrant red peppers and tomatoes flash colorfully between black beans, white rice, flecks of green cilantro, caramel-colored onion and garlic. And it’s topped with the most delicious flavor found in Central America: Lizano Sauce! While this delectable mild pepper sauce can be found in the Hispanic section of many supermarkets around the world, don’t worry if you can’t find it – worcestershire sauce is a great substitute.  All the protein and deliciousness in this dish makes it the perfect food!

I’m not the only one who is in love with Gallo Pinto – my Carnivorous Crusader also adores it so much that he gladly forgoes meat to eat this zesty, filling dish. That automatically qualifies Gallo Pinto as a “magic dish” in my book! Especially for its versatility and universal likability. John likes it so much that it got him to stop sulking when I told him we were doing Meatless Monday – yes, that is the power of Gallo Pinto. Impressive, indeed.
A few years ago while we were kiteboarding in Costa Rica, the cook at the restaurant where ate every day – a lovely elderly lady with very few teeth named Maria – took me under her wing in her kitchen and taught me how to make her special version of this beloved Costa Rican dish. She spoke no English, and mi espanol no es buena, but luckily we spoke a common language: food.  Now whenever I make Gallo Pinto, I think of Maria and her joyful toothless smile, rainforests, volcanic waterfalls, cute Costa Rican three-toed sloths, and the big smile that I’m sure to get from my converting carnivore when he sees that I’m making Gallo Pinto for dinner (or breakfast, or lunch, or as a side dish). Hope you enjoy it as much as we do!
Gallo Pinto
Serves: 4 as a meal, or 8 as as side-dish
From cutting board to table: about 15 minutes if you’re a fast chopper! Personally I like to cook the rice a little longer in the pan to get some crispy bits, but that’s optional.
2 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 onion, peeled and finely diced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
2 roma tomatoes, finely diced
1.5 cups black beans (drained and rinsed)
2 cups cooked white rice
3/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 tsp salt (smoked sea salt if you have it)
freshly ground pepper, to taste
2-3 tbsp Lizano sauce* or worcestershire sauce
*Lizano Sauce can be found in the Hispanic aisle in many supermarkets. But if you can’t find it, worcestershire sauce is a good substitute
In a non-stick saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute the onion and garlic for 2 minutes. Add the red pepper and saute everything until the onion is translucent and a bit golden (3-4 minutes). Add rice and stir well until rice is heated through. (* optional – you can cook the rice a little longer to get some crispy bits at the bottom – yum – or you can just forge ahead. Your choice!) Add tomatoes and saute for 4 minutes, stirring frequently and scraping the bottom of the pan so the rice doesn’t permanently weld itself to your pan. Add the beans and stir for 2 minutes. Add the cilantro, salt, pepper and Lizano (or worcestershire sauce) to taste.  Serve hot and enjoy pura vida, Costa Rican style!

Divine Persian Pomegranate/Walnut Dish: Fesenjun

Ah, pomegranates, the fruit of my people! This is my favorite dish on earth. The slightly sharp spike of pomegranates adds a surprising hint of tartness and plush, dark fruit flavor to perfectly offset the richness of the walnuts and onion in this divine sauce, which is ladled over basmati rice (of course cooked the Persian style so that every single grain is a universe unto itself!) When cooled, you can also use it as a dipping sauce for pita bread, which makes a delicious appetizer. You don’t have to have fresh pomegranates to make this dish – all you need is pomegranate juice. In most Persian households, this dish is typically served with chicken or lamb, which according to my meat-loving husband is perfectly complimented by the deep pomegranate flavor and savory walnuts scented with saffron, but now that he’s making an effort to eat vegan meals, he actually loves it with fake chicken! (Personally, I like it without anything in it, but hey, if Captain Carnivore will eat it with fake chicken, I’m all for adding it).

Okay, so confession time: a few weeks ago I made Fesenjun for John with faux chicken and didn’t tell him it was fake meat. He didn’t notice. When I told him later, he didn’t flip out at all (bonus!) Instead, he said: “Makes sense that I didn’t realize it. The sauce is the star of this dish and it can really hide the fake meat well, so no wonder I didn’t miss the real meat with this.” That’s HUGE news for my Operation Carnivore Conversion efforts! If faux chicken in Fesenjun works for the Master of Meats, my bet is that it will work for you (or your meat-loving friends/significant others) as well.

While this dish doesn’t require fresh pomegranates, it’s a really nice touch to add a few fresh seeds as garnish. In many locations, they’re available well into February, but they usually disappear by March, so if you can, get a pomegranate and try this recipe soon!

I want to take a moment to remember and thank my sweet little Persian mother for introducing me to Fesenjun. She didn’t know how to cook when she came to America, which made for some funny and memorable meals when I was young. But after I had my first taste of Fesenjun in a restaurant and literally jumped up and down beside the table, she was determined to try to make it for me at home. And boy was that comical, but I loved helping her in the kitchen! Watching her try (unsuccessfully) to wing it and giggle while removing onion skins from the sauce, I started writing down various attempts including the ingredients and proportions, and then finding and trying various recipes with her. I credit my mother and Fesenjun for sparking the passion for cooking in me, and this recipe is the very first recipe I ever created. Whenever I make this dish, I feel like my mother is in the kitchen with me again and I can hear her bubbly laughter like she were still here, cooking right beside me and feeding me pomegranate seeds while I stir the sauce. As my mother would say, noosh-ee jan!

Fesenjun – Persian Pomegranate Walnut Sauce Over Rice

Prep and cooking time: about 1 hour and 45 minutes (but trust me, it’s worth it! And the vast majority of that time is just simmering time, and all you have to do is stir it every 20 minutes or so. So don’t be scared off by the time – it’s super simple to make.)

Serves: 6-8

Ingredients:
3 tbsp olive oil
2 large yellow onions, finely chopped
1 tsp salt
4 cups of pomegranate juice (get freshly squeezed juice if possible)
2 cups shelled walnuts (Trader Joe’s always seems to have the best price)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp saffron dissolved in 2 tbsp hot water (again, Trader Joe’s has the most affordable saffron that I’ve been able to find)
sugar (or raw agave sweetener), to taste
a handful of fresh pomegranate seeds
Fake chicken – optional
Freshly cooked basmati rice

In a food processor, finely grind the walnuts. (If you don’t have a processor, just put the nuts in a blender and add 2 cups of the pomegranate juice and use the “puree” setting to grind up the nuts – the juice will help prevent the nuts from creating walnut paste at the blades.) Add all the pomegranate juice, cinnamon and saffron, and mix until it’s the consistency of a thin, watery smoothy. Set aside.

In a large soup pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Saute the onions until they’re translucent and just starting to brown. Add the salt and stir well. Add the pomegranate/walnut mixture and stir well. Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce heat to simmer (on my gas range, that’s around #2 on the dial) – it should have a bit of a gentle boil going on. Cover the pot and cook for 1.5 hours. Be sure to stir it every now and then to prevent scorching (which can happen since the nuts settle to the bottom). The sauce will thicken considerably as it cooks.

After 1.5 hours, taste-test the sauce. Personally, I love the tartness of the pomegranate, but if it’s too sharp for you, add 1 tablespoon of sugar (or a few drops of the agave sweetener) and stir well. Keep adding sugar/sweetener to taste (but be careful not to overdo it). You’ll be surprised how much the sugar rounds out the flavors! Now take a stick blender and blend it until it’s smooth but still a tiny bit chunky. (If you don’t have a stick blender, you can do this in a regular blender or with a food processor). If using fake chicken, add it now and continue cooking the sauce until the faux chicken is heated through, which should take 1-2 minutes. Serve atop hot rice and sprinkle with fresh pomegranate seeds, which will make your dish beautiful!  Noosh-ee-jan!

p.s. When you refrigerate the leftovers, Fesenjun makes a delicious dip with pita bread the next day! So you can serve it as dinner one night, and an appetizer the next. Nummy!

Teriyaki Pineapple Quinoa: a tropical vacation for the taste buds

Hi everyone! Sorry for the lapse in posting – the carnivore and I took a last-minute mini-vacation to Maui to kitesurf the huge waves and stand-up paddleboard with the humpback whales, which was amazing! With so much exercise, we worked up huge appetites every day and it was challenging to keep John away from animal-based foods. But luckily the tropics provided some great inspiration for a delicious new vegan dish that is incredibly flavorful, packed with protein, filling and utterly satisfying to Mr. Meatlover: Teriyaki Pineapple Quinoa. I tell ya, it’s like biting into a Hawaiian sunset! This recipe is simply bursting with flavor. Mmm, the vibrant, slightly sweet, sunshiny flavor of pineapple, tangy teriyaki, savory red peppers and green onions blend together with supergrain quinoa to produce a fantastic and unique dish that’s great for lunch or as a side-dish.

The secret ingredient is grilled pineapple. I like to marinate mine in teriyaki sauce overnight since it infuses into the flesh of the fruit so well, but when I leave my brain on the beach and forget to marinate, well, it still works great if you just drizzle it on the pineapple slices right there on the grill.

For some reason, anything involving a grill seems to make most carnivores grunt with delight (you’re picturing a caveman right now, aren’t you?)  And lucky for us, the grill makes the pineapple even more delicious by caramelizing the sugars in the fruit to produce a most luscious flavor. And with 20 grams of protein in just one cup of quinoa, this dish will provide you with plenty of fuel to recharge your muscles. I just made this dish again last night to see if my carnivore likes it as much at home as he did in Maui, and he did! “Anything with pineapple is awesome,” he said. Wow, the lure of pineapple even got him to eat quinoa, which I was scared he’d label a “hippie food,” but it looks like this recipe is truly a keeper with Captain Carnivore…and also with me!

Teriyaki Pineapple Quinoa

Serves: two as a meal, or 6 as a side-dish

From fridge to table: about 25 minutes

Ingredients:

1 cup quinoa
6 oz (3/4 cup) pineapple juice (canned is fine)
1 1/4 cup water
2 tbsp soy
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped finely
2 clove garlic, chopped
1 jalepeno pepper, seeded and chopped
2 green onion (aka scallions), chopped, including white part
1/2 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
1/4 cup pine nuts or chopped cashews
1/4-1/2 cup of a thin teriyaki sauce for drizzling on the pineapple or for marinating

1 pineapple, skinned and cored, and sliced into 1/2″ thick slabs, drizzled with or marinated in teriyaki, then grilled. Then chop it up up to make 1 cup of diced grilled pineapple. (If fresh pineapples aren’t available where you are, you can grill up canned pineapple and it’s quite good).

Cook the quinoa first (and while doing that, you can also grill pineapple to save time – see below). In a medium saucepan, mix together quinoa, pineapple juice, water and soy sauce and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to simmer (on my range, that’s about a 2 on the dial) cover and cook until all the liquid is absorbed, which takes about 15-17 minutes. Remove from heat and keep covered for 5 minutes. Then fluff with a fork and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat up the grill to medium-high. Place the marinated pineapple on the grill, or if you haven’t marinated it, just drizzle some teriyaki sauce on both sides of each slab. Grill for a few minutes until nice grill lines appear on the fruit and it’s getting slightly charred around the edges, then flip it and grill for a few minutes on the other side. It should look like this:

(Oh man, can’t you just taste the tangy, sweet grilled pineapple? I want some right now!)

Once you grill it, steal a slice while no one is looking – it is divine. It’s got a deep, lush, powerfully wonderful flavor. Chop up enough to make 1 cup and save the rest to have as a side dish for another meal – it’s so insanely good! Or just hide it in the back of the fridge so you can have it all to yourself when no one is looking. 🙂

In a fry pan, heat a little bit of olive oil – about 1 tbsp does the trick – over medium heat. Toss in the red pepper, jalepeno and garlic and saute for a few minutes until the red pepper turns orange. Add the nuts and scallion and cook for 2 minutes. Then add the cooked quinoa, basil and chopped grilled pineapple. Stir well and cook for 2 minutes more to blend flavors, then serve while hot. Take a bite and close your eyes as you are transported to a tropical beach where you’re listening to the waves lap the white sand beach, feel a warm, ginger-scented breeze on your face and watch whales frolic as the sun sets on another perfect day in paradise.

Zesty, Tomatoey, Gooey Hot Dip Makes Even a Bacon Fanatic Smile

Mmmmm, The Goodness! Just look at this luscious, piping hot pan of joy! Can’t you just taste the zesty, sock-it-to-you rich blend of baked tomatoes perfumed with bay leaves and accented with sauteed onion, garlic and gooey mozzarella fresca (or vegan Daiya mozzarella) melting in your mouth? And can’t you just feel that satisfying crunch of crusty sourdough bread that’s been dipped in this divine sauce?  Once you try this dish, you’ll see why I’ve named it “The Goodness.” My meat-loving husband often requests The Goodness for dinner and it makes for a nice intimate meal, sitting shoulder to shoulder and hovering over the pan together like hyenas devouring a carcass. It’s also a fantastic and fun appetizer when you have friends over.

I get a lot of flack from our smart-ass carnivore friends who enjoy tormenting me over my efforts to convert my husband into a vegetarian (shhh, I’m actually hoping to turn him into a vegan eventually!) But I’ve noticed that whenever they come over and I tell them that I’m making them The Goodness, they shut the heck up. The Goodness has special powers over meat-lovers! It even recently inspired a die-hard bacon fanatic to declare: “Wow, this is actually reeeeeally good!” That’s high praise from a man who would sooner eat a bacon-wrapped piece of plywood than a cucumber.

So suck it, smart-ass carnivore friends! And please enjoy your foray into vegetarianism with The Goodness. 🙂

The Goodness

Serves: 2-3 as a main dish, or 6 as an appetizer

From fridge to table: about 30 minutes (but don’t worry – it’s super simple to make)

Ingredients:

1 14 oz can Muir Glen organic fire roasted diced tomatoes (if you want a kick, use the one with green chilies. Yowza!)

1 14 oz can Muir Glen organic tomato sauce

1 yellow onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

2 bay leaves

1-2 tbsp olive oil

1 tub of tiny mozzarella fresca balls, OR to make it vegan, use Daiya* vegan mozzarella and sprinkle into little rounds on top

1 sourdough baguette, sliced

* Personally, almost all fake cheeses make me gag – literally, I gag, run for the bathroom and scrape my tongue.  But for this recipe, Daiya works incredibly well and is actually (dare I admit it) tasty! Unlike other fake cheeses, Daiya melts and stretches, which is necessary for this recipe. Given that mozzarella is a naturally mild-flavored cheese, this works well in Daiya’s vegan format. You can get Daiya at Whole Foods, natural food stores, and now it’s showing up in mainstream grocery stores, too.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees
In a high-sided, large oven-safe saute pan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Saute the onion, garlic and bay leaves until onions are translucent. Turn heat down to medium. Add tomatoes. Simmer and stir for a few minutes to blend flavors. Turn off heat. Drop mozzarella or Daiya on top and then put the whole thing in the oven, uncovered. (After about 20 minutes, put the bread in the oven to heat it up and make the top crunchy.) Bake The Goodness for a total of 25 minutes or until golden on top and slightly bubbly. Serve with the hot bread. Enjoy!

 

Veggie Shock and Awe Stuns the Carnisaur

Full disclosure: in desperate times when John’s been on anti-vegetable benders and scurvy was imminent, I’ve resorted to subversive tactics such as hiding greens in his meals and snacks. Like a veggie mercenary, I’ve slipped spinach in a smoothy and told him that it was a shamrock shake. That’s great for a handful or two of veggies but I needed to get him to eat lots more vegetables, lest he start to look like a pirate. I knew I needed a bold new strategy, but what? Then it hit me like a scud missile: make the greens hide in plain sight!

This brave (and some might say suicidal) strategy is what I like to call The Veggie Shock and Awe. The premise is simple: confuse the carnivore’s senses with a riot of colors, textures and scents to utterly overwhelm him. If the whole damned thing is composed of vegetables, maybe he won’t notice them! And just in case he examines it more closely, I’ll toss in a ton of fresh yakisoba noodles and some fake chicken chunks to distract him.

This concoction is so simple and quick-to-make and it’s mouth-wateringly delicious! The spicy teriyaki sauce makes it irresistibly flavorful and zesty, the noodles make it filling, and the veggies make it incredibly healthy and filled with interesting flavors in every bite – from the subtle sweetness of sugar snap peas to the earthy richness of shitake mushrooms.

When the moment came to pull the trigger and serve the Veggie Shock and Awe to John, I held my breath, took cover in the kitchen and prayed that I wouldn’t hear him cry out in protest. But guess what I heard? “Mmm, good noodles! I like this one.” It worked! Mission accomplished.

Veggie Shock and Awe

From fridge to table: 15-25 minutes (depending on how fast you can chop)

Serves: 3-4 (depending on your appetites)

Ingredients:

1 tbsp oil for stir-frying (such as grapeseed oil)

1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into 2-3″ strips

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped (optional – only if you like some heat!)

2 small zucchinis, sliced lengthwise then chopped into 1/2″ thick half-moons

2 baby bok choy, chopped into 2″ strips

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 cup asparagus, woody stems removed, cut into 2″ pieces

7 shitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced

1 cup sugar snap peas, sliced

1 cup fake chicken chunks (a really great tasting one with a realistic texture is Vegetarian Plus’ Ginger Chicken – my carnivore gives this one a big thumbs up. It’s available at Whole Foods in the frozen food section)

1/2 cup fresh basil, sliced

2 packages of fresh yakisoba noodles (fresh ramen and udon noodles work well, too)

1/3 cup thick teriyaki sauce, such as Kikoman Spicy Miso Teriyaki

(If you’re feeling ambitious and want to make your own teriyaki, just blend these together for a quick and tasty sauce: 1/8 cup veggie broth; 1/8 cup dry sherry; 2 tbsp hoisen sauce; 1 tbsp sesame oil; 1 tbsp brown sugar; 3 tsp cornstarch; 2 tsp Thai chili sauce)

Boil water in a medium pot and keep it boiling on the side. Meanwhile, heat a large wok over high heat and drizzle in the oil. (Resist the urge to throw in all the veggies at once since that will make them soft and icky – instead follow the sequential additions listed here to insure that each veggie will be cooked to perfection.) When the wok is hot, carefully slide the red pepper down the side (sliding it in helps ease splattering) and stir. When it starts to turn orange, slide in the zucchini and jalapeno (if using). Stir for 1 minute, then slide in bok choy and garlic. Stir for 1 minute. Slide in the asparagus, mushrooms and sugar snap peas. Stir for 1 minute. Then add the faux chicken and basil. Cook for 1 minute.

Meanwhile, toss the noodles in the boiling water and turn off the heat. Stir for 30 seconds then drain well. Toss the noodles in with the veggies. Add the teriyaki sauce and toss thoroughly. Serve hot and enjoy!

Fiesta Bowl: Veg Football Food for Meat-Lovers

The playoffs are today, which means that my meatitarian is looking forward to watching the games while eating “football food.” In the 16 years that we’ve been together, I’ve been unable to definitively specify what exactly qualifies as “football food,” but at least I’ve successfully discovered some key attributes. According to John’s taste buds, appropriate game-time snacks and meals are:

–       Hot
–       Saucy and/or gooey
–       Chip-friendly, preferably using chips as edible spoons
–       Super flavorful
–       Filling enough to be labeled a “gut brick”
–       Perfectly accompanied by beer
–       Accented by meat

When brainstorming a perfect vegan football food that would meet all of John’s game-time food requirements and for which he wouldn’t miss the meat (and which would only take me 15 minutes or less to make), a key gridiron strategy came to mind: run it up the middle. Translated, that means that if a particular play is working, like sending a running back through the middle of the line, keep doing it. It dawned on me that the same holds true for Operation Carnivore Conversion. And thus the “Fiesta Bowl” was born: a Mexican-style sauté of all of John’s favorite ingredients, which he can eat with tortilla chips used like spoons. And bonus: it only takes 10-15 minutes to make, it’s packed with fiber and protein and I love it as much as John does. It’s so good that it’s going to make it in my line-up of go-to meals, even after football season.

With the Fiesta Bowl’s fragrant scent of cumin, coriander and salsa filling up the house, now John is really looking forward to watching the games, as am I since I get to eat this flavorful food while enjoying “football foot.” (Whenever I watch a game with him, I get a foot massage. Life and marriage is all about compromise!)

Fiesta Bowl

Serves: 4

From fridge to table: 10-15 minutes

Ingredients:

2 tbsp olive oil

1 very large yellow onion, finely chopped

5 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 tbsp ground cumin

½ tbsp ground coriander

2 cans black beans, drained (Trader Joe’s Cuban black beans are awesome in this dish)

Handful of freshly chopped tomatoes (optional)

½ cup white corn kernels (optional)

1 16 oz jar of a fruit-based salsa (like pineapple-peach, mango-lime or raspberry-chipotle)

½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Cooked rice

In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, sauté the onion and garlic until the onion is translucent and turning golden. Add the cumin and coriander and stir for 1 minute to release the fragrance of the spices. Add the tomato and corn (if using) and sauté for 1 minute. Add the black beans and salsa. Bring to a boil and stir well for 3 minutes to blend flavors. Remove from heat and stir in the cilantro. Serve in a bowl adopt hot rice and serve with tortilla chips. Enjoy!