Tag Archives: Thai

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

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Thai-Spiced Peanuts and Smoky Spanish Cashews

Welcome to part two of the spiced-nut recipe series! Today we’re visiting Thailand and Spain with our taste buds. And special bonus: scroll down to the bottom to learn how to make these cute mini chalkboard clips, which are really great for labeling party food. It’s also great for freaking out your friends who will be convinced that a deranged person is running loose in your house and labeling things with chalk. (Please do not tell me that you write beautifully with chalk because this will thwart my efforts to convince my husband that everyone looks like they have maniac  handwriting when they write on chalkboards.)

Thai-Spiced Peanuts

Thai-Spiced Peanuts
From pantry to table: about 35 minutes
If you’re a fan of Thai red curry, you are going to love these nuts, which feature the rich, slightly spicy, aromatic flavors of Thailand. Plus, these spiced nuts are super unique. Nummy!

1 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts
3 tbsp lime juice
2 1/2 tsp Thai red chili paste (available in the Asian food section of most grocery stores) (add more paste if you want angry nuts and/or you want to be a fire-breathing dragon)
½ tsp smoked sea salt
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp dried basil

Heat oven to 250. In a small bowl, blend together all but the peanuts, then add peanuts to coat. Pour into a parchment-line baking pan and roast for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minuets. Cool completely, then watch them disappear.

Smoky Spanish Spiced Cashews Smoky Spanish Spiced Cashews
From pantry to table: 11 minutes
These nuts are pretty much my new addiction. The combination of smoky paprika with rosemary, brown sugar and salt is just flipping ridiculous. People go nuts (sorry for the pun) when I serve these. This recipe is adapted from Martha Stewart’s The New Classics.

2 cups raw, unsalted cashews
2 tsbp finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp smoked sea salt
1 tbsp Earth Balance spread

Heat oven to 350 and toast the cashews for 10 minutes until golden. Meanwhile place all the other ingredients in a metal bowl. When the cashews are ready, mix them vigorously with the spice mixture until the Earth Balance melts and the cashews are fully coated. Cool and don’t even bother serving – just spoon them directly into your gullet.

How to make mini chalkboard clips
You don’t need to be Martha Stewart to make these cute little chalkboard clips. They’re super quick and easy to make. Just head down to (or go online to) Michael’s Craft Store and pick up any shape of wood cut-out you like. Here are a few that I picked out:

wood cut-outs for chalkboards

Next, buy some wooden clothespins, chalkboard paint (it comes in a variety of colors) and chalk – all available at the craft store. I also bought a $2 glue gun and some glue sticks to make this project go even quicker. Clip the clothespins onto something so they’re suspended off your work surface, then glue the wooden cut-outs onto the ends of the clips. chalkboard clips in the makingOnce dry, apply three coats of chalkboard paint, waiting until the paint is totally dry between applications. Then try like hell not to write like a serial killer on your new mini chalkboards.

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!

Tasty Thai Tacos in Ten Minutes

Yummy - Thai Soft Tacos!

Have you ever had one of those days (or months) when you’re so flipping busy that you wonder when the heck you’re going to have time to eat, and you can’t even think about cooking? That’s what life has been like ever since we got back from a long trip to Maui and Oahu (and speaking of that, sorry for my delay in posting!) Rather than eating a bowl of popcorn for dinner (as one of my cooking-impaired friends suggested, and for whom I’m now watching for signs of scurvy), or ordering take-out (as my converting carnivore has offered – he usually manages to slip in an order of something meat-based which he always thinks will go undetected, but never does), I developed a super tasty vegan dish that takes only 10 minutes to make: Thai Soft Tacos.

IMG_9171

The rich flavor of peanut satay sauce, the crunch of the fake chicken tenders and the lovely tang of Thai sweet chili sauce pair beautifully together. And the secret ingredient – finely chopped fresh lime, including little bits of the peel – adds just the right amount of sharpness, acidity and a hint of bitterness to make the flavors burst to life on your tongue. Every bite offers an intriguingly complex mix of textures and tastes. When I have time, I prefer to make meals from scratch, but when that can’t happen, this is my go-to dish.

John likes these Thai Tacos so much that now he asks for them a couple times per week, and he gives it his highest veg praise ever: “Oh my God, this is so good that it doesn’t even need meat!” (And cue Cimeron’s eyes lighting up with glee.) That testimonial, coupled with the incredibly low “f*$&ck with it factor” has earned this dish a permanent place on our rotation. Give it a try! After your first crunchy, flavor-packed bite, you’ll probably want to make these tacos every night this week, even if you have time to cook something more elaborate. Enjoy!

And while we’re taking the trip to VeganVille, you’ve got to check out this hysterical Saturday Night Live skit with Justin Timberlake extolling the virtues of the vegan diet to a sausage-waving carnivore – priceless! www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YDA9OI56y4

Cimeron’s 10-Minute Thai Soft Tacos

Serves: 4
From fridge to table: 10 minutes
“f*$&ck with it factor” (on a scale of 1-10): 2

8 soft taco tortillas
1 package Gardein Crisp Tenders (found in the veggie frozen food section of most grocery stores)
2 cups thinly sliced lettuce (I prefer butter lettuce in this dish since it has such a velvety texture with a bit of crunch)
4-6 tbsp peanut satay sauce
4-6 tbsp Thai sweet chili sauce
1/2 chopped cilantro
1/2 lime, (butt-end discarded) and super finely chopped (including the peel)
1/2 cup fresh tomatoes, chopped

Heat oven to 450. Microwave the Gardein Crisp Tenders for 45 seconds. Then place them on a baking dish, spray with olive oil and bake for 10 minutes. (Or if you’re super tight on time, nuke them for 1.5 minutes, spray them with oil and broil them for a couple minutes per side until crispy.) When ready, slice them lengthwise into 3 pieces.

Meanwhile, chop up all the fixins and prepare the assembly line. Spread a spoonful of the peanut satay sauce down the middle of the tortilla. Lay down 2-3 of the sliced pieces of Crisp Tenders, then top with some lettuce, tomato and cilantro. Evenly sprinkle with bits of the lime. Then drizzle on some Thai sweet chili sauce to taste. Then prepare your taste buds to be very happy!

Thai Soft Tacos