Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Punjabi Chana, and Spicy Onion and Carrot Pickle


I don't remember how I came across this recipe for Punjabi Chana on the VeganMania! website, but I'm sure glad that I did! I have a bit of a love affair going on with chickpeas these days, so this recipe immediately jumped out at me. The ingredients, aside from spices, are minimal, so it was a very inexpensive meal. I already had all of the spices, onion and garlic on hand, so all I had to buy were chickpeas. Seriously, does it get any better than that? Actually, it does! Not only is it inexpensive, it's also really simple to make!

I know I say this a lot, because we love spicy food, but I should probably warn you that this dish IS very spicy. If you're not into food so hot it makes your tongue burn and your eyes water, you'll probably want to cut back on the cayenne pepper, or even omit it. We, however, loved it!

I also mixed up a quick batch of Spicy Onion and Carrot Pickle to go along with the Punjabi Chana (scroll down for the recipe). The pickled veggies are spicy, sweet and tangy all at the same time, and are a great, fresh contrast to the strong flavor of the Chana. I found the recipe here, and modified it a little by adding Sriracha hot sauce to make it spicy, some carrots to add some crunch, and a little fresh cilantro for some extra zip. Yum!

And it's all vegan! Woohoo!


Punjabi Chana
(simple and spicy Indian chickpea dish)

2 tbsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, grated
1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 cups cooked chickpeas (two cans, drained and rinsed)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 cups water (or more)
salt to taste

Heat the oil over medium heat, and add the mustard seeds. When they have finished popping, add the garlic, ginger and onion and sauté until tender.

Add the remaining ingredients except for the salt and allow to simmer over medium low heat until most of the water has been absorbed and the chickpeas are uncommonly soft and rich in texture. Salt this dish liberally.

Serve over rice.



Spicy Onion and Carrot Pickle

1 red onion, sliced
1 large carrot, cut into matchsticks
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
6 Tbsp white vinegar
6 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp Sriracha hot sauce
1 tsp salt

Rinse the onion slices in cold water, then pat dry.

In a microwave safe small mixing bowl, combine vinegar, sugar, hot sauce and salt. Whisk together, and microwave 1 minute to help sugar dissolve. Combine onions, carrots, cilantro and vinegar mixture in a mixing bowl (I put mine in a gallon size Ziploc bag). Toss to combine. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Weekly Menu - week of Sept 28

Here's my plan for this week! There are a bunch of Indian recipes I've been dying to try. Can't wait!

Sunday - dinner out with Brad's mom

Monday - we have class until 9:30pm, so we will just grab something on the way

Tuesday - Punjabi Chana, rice, salad

Wednesday - Aloo Palak, naan

Thursday - Musurir Dal, rice, salad

Friday - potatoes in spicy peanut and sesame paste, peanut rice, salad

Saturday - date night!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Weekly Menu - week of Sept 21

This is a little late, but here it is, nonetheless.

Sunday - leftovers

Monday - dinner out (we have class until 9:30pm)

Tuesday - baked ziti

Wednesday - leftover baked ziti

Thursday - ziti with marinara sauce

Friday - veggie burgers and fries

Saturday - at the football game!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Lentil Orzo Salad

Another new recipe!

You know, sometimes I wonder if maybe there's something wrong with me, that I have such a strong aversion to repeating recipes. Yeah, there are a few go-to recipes that I come back to, but they're few and far between, and outside of those, I really prefer to try something new than go with something tried and true. What's up with that? My friend Susan (hey, lady!) told me several years ago about a friend of hers who had been in a competition with her sister and mother, to see who could go the longest without repeating a recipe (dinner only, I think, but I'm not sure). I believe that she said the sister won, by going something like two years without any repeats. A woman after my own heart! I have a ridiculously long list of new recipes I want to try, and more are added every day. I find them on blogs, Tastespotting, in cookbooks and from friends. Given that, it almost seems silly to repeat recipes very often, because how else will I work my way through that list?

So here's one from the list! It's a salad made of lentils and orzo, with some fresh veggies and a delightfully perky curry-spiked vinaigrette. This was good enough that we ate it two nights in a row, even! It was delicious with a little french bread on the side.


Lentil Orzo Salad

4 cups cooked lentils, drained (do not overcook; you want them to hold their shape)
4 cups cooked orzo, drained and rinsed with cold water
1 medium red onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno, finely diced
1 handful cilantro, chopped
2 lemons, juiced
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp agave nectar (can substitute 2 Tbsp sugar)
1 Tbsp curry powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper

In a large bowl, combine lentils, orzo, onion, bell pepper, jalapeno and cilantro. Mix gently. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients. Pour over lentil mixture and toss gently to combine. Chill before serving, if desired, or serve at room temperature.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Baked Ziti with Basil Bread Crumbs

This recipe is a spin-off of the Pumpkin Baked Ziti I made when my mom was here in August. Brad's not a pumpkin fan, as I've mentioned before, so I wanted to tweak that recipe into something he would enjoy. It was creamy, delicious, and thoroughly satisfying. Yum!

For the ricotta cheese, I used the almond-tofu ricotta recipe from Veganomicon (I've said it before, and I'll say it again: go get yourself a copy of that cookbook! It's the best!), and I made fresh bread crumbs from a loaf of Italian bread. Brad stirred some crumbled feta cheese into his serving, but I ate it as-is.


I don't think I've blogged about this yet, but I'm extremely happy to announce that, since switching to a primarily vegan diet in mid-June, I've lost 26 pounds! And Brad has lost 10 pounds since he got back from Japan last month, and became a full-time vegetarian! That's without altering our lifestyle at all, aside from no longer eating meat. I'm thrilled about that! I still have a long way to go to meet my long-term weight, health and lifestyle goals, but I'll get there. I'm off to a good start! I feel fantastic, and so much lighter (no wonder!). I've been hauling a heavy tote bag to class with all my books and notebooks in it, and on a whim the other evening, I weighed it to see how much it weighed compared to how much I've lost. It came in at 15 pounds -- a little over half of what I've lost -- and was an excellent tangible way to see how much I'm no longer hauling around every day. No wonder I feel better!

Baked Ziti with Basil Bread Crumbs

1 pound ziti
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 bunch fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
2 cups vegan ricotta cheese
1 15-oz can tomato sauce
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp dry basil
1 tsp dry oregano
2 cups fresh bread crumbs
1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 375. Prepare a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray.

Cook ziti per package instructions.

While pasta is cooking, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and basil; cook and stir until onions are deeply browned and caramelized. Set aside.

Drain pasta. In a large mixing bowl, combine pasta, onion mixture, ricotta, tomato sauce and tomatoes, mixing thoroughly. Pour into prepared baking dish; set aside.

With a paper towel, wipe out the skillet used for the onions. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil over medium-high heat, then add basil and oregano. When the herbs begin to sizzle, add the bread crumbs and walnuts, tossing to coat with oil. Cook and stir several minutes, until the mixture begins to brown. Spread evenly over the pasta mixture.

Bake at 375 for 25 to 30 minutes.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Tomato-Feta Chicken Tofu with Couscous

This has been one of my go-to recipes for over ten years. I found this recipe in a magazine when I was pregnant with Lydia, and it's been a menu staple ever since! There are only 5 ingredients, and it cooks up in minutes. You can't beat that!

It's one of Brad's favorite things that I cook, so I wanted to try to vegetarianize it for him. Instead of browning chicken breasts in a skillet, I grilled tofu on the Foreman Grill. I also used plain couscous instead of the parmesan variety, and I left the feta cheese off of my serving, but Brad happily smothered his with it. I can't blame him. I love (and miss) feta cheese!

The verdict? It was good. I do prefer chicken to tofu when it's cooked this way, but the tofu was still a fine substitution, and one I was glad to make. And I missed the feta, but there was still plenty of flavor in the tomatoes, so it was still good without it. I'll count this one a success!


Tomato-Feta Chicken with Couscous

4 chicken breasts
1 can diced tomatoes (do not drain)
1 box parmesan couscous
1 bag fresh spinach
1 pack tomato-basil feta cheese

Pan-fry the chicken breasts in a little olive oil till nicely browned on both sides, then add the can of diced tomatoes (juice and all). Cover and simmer till the chicken is done.

Meanwhile, prepare the couscous and steam the spinach.

To serve, make a bed of spinach on each plate, then top with a piece of chicken and spoon some tomatoes and sauce over top; serve the couscous on the side. Sprinkle a little tomato-basil feta cheese over all.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Pineapple Habanero Salsa


This is the fabulous salsa I made for yesterday's football game. It's super spicy, so consider yourself warned! The only habanero peppers they had at the store yesterday were itsy, bitsy, tiny ones, each about the size of a dime, so I used three. Yowza! Those three tiny peppers packed a wallop! I really love the salty-sweet-tangy-spicy nature of this salsa.

I mentioned in yesterday's blog that I would like to try roasting the pineapple next time. I bet it would taste great!

Pineapple Habanero Salsa

1/2 medium pineapple, peeled, cored and coarsely chopped
Reserved pineapple juice
1 small red or green bell pepper, diced
3 medium green onions, thinly sliced
1 habanero pepper, seeded and minced
1 Tbsp fresh grated ginger
1 lime, juiced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tbsp agave nectar (can substitute honey, molasses or sugar), to taste

Mix all ingredients, including reserved pineapple juices, in medium bowl. Cover and let stand at least one hour at room temperature. Serve with tortilla chips for dipping.

Weekly Menu - week of September 14

Sunday - leftover football food ; )

Monday - dinner out, since I added a night class to my schedule and will be gone from 7am to 10pm Mondays. I must be out of my mind!

Tuesday - Grilled tofu, spinach, tomato, and couscous

Wednesday - Baked ziti, salad, french bread

Thursday - leftovers

Friday - Lentil-orzo salad, flat bread

Saturday - Peanutty Noodles

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Football Food!

Because the weather is crummy, and we don't have a babysitter, and it's not supposed to be the most exciting game, we decided to stay home and watch today's LSU game vs. North Texas at home today. We're having some friends over to watch the game here, and are making yummy football food to munch on. Should be fun!

I made a few tried and true recipes: Pineapple Habanero Salsa, Monterey Nacho Snack Mix, and a BBQ Chicken Pizza (minus the chicken).

The salsa was inspired by a salsa of the same name that we had in Hawaii the last time we were there. It was almost painfully spicy (just the way I like it), and sweet and tangy. This recipe calls for fresh pineapple, but some time I'd like to try roasting the pineapple first, which I think would add a nice smoky depth to the salsa. We loaned our propane tank to the in-laws after our power came back on last Sunday, so maybe next time!

The Monterey Nacho Snack Mix is something I've made at least a half dozen times over the past several years. I found the recipe on Allrecipes.com awhile back, and have tweaked it somewhat to make it much spicier. I use about 10 times as much Tabasco Sauce as the original recipe calls for, as well as several tablespoons of crushed red pepper.

I've blogged about BBQ Chicken Pizza before. It's one of my favorite ways to eat pizza, and is good with chicken, seitan, or grilled tofu, or just minus all of those, as I made it today. Red onion, cilantro and BBQ sauce are the key ingredients that make this recipe awesome, so adding a meat or meat alternative is just extra. I love this pizza!

I also made a plain cheese pizza for the kids, because come on...who doesn't love a cheese pizza?

Hooray for football food!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Black beans and rice

Tonight's dinner is so easy, it's almost embarrassing. I'm glad for it, too, because I was gone 12 hours today for class, and was hungry when I got home! This dinner utilized leftover pico de gallo from last night, which was an awesome, easy way to flavor the beans. Brad roasted a couple sweet potatoes for me before I got home, so I diced one up and added it to my beans and rice. Awesome, instant nutritional boost, and it tasted great!


Give this recipe a try if you find yourself with leftover pico de gallo, and are pressed for time. It's delicious!

Black Beans & Rice

1 tsp olive oil
1 to 2 cups pico de gallo
2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
cooked rice, hot
1 cooked sweet potato, diced (optional)
Tabasco sauce (optional)

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add pico de gallo, beans, chili powder and cumin. Cook and stir until heated through. Serve over rice. Top with sweet potato and season with Tabasco sauce, if desired. Dig in!

Monday, September 8, 2008

A first

If you ask me which foods I don't like, my answer is always squash and sweet potatoes. I've always been a very open-minded eater, even since childhood, but a love of squash and sweet potatoes has eluded me. I've made some progress over the years, and in adulthood I learned to love zucchini, summer squash, pumpkin, and tempura slices of kabocha, but that's about it. Every year at Thanksgiving, I give sweet potatoes another try, but I have never enjoyed them. It's frustrating, because sweet potatoes are packed with good-for-you stuff, and are super cheap, and easy to prepare.

Now, though, I am really determined to learn to love sweet potatoes. My parents love them just roasted in the oven, eaten piping hot with either butter and salt, or butter and brown sugar. I figure either of those ways is too "in your face" for hater like me, so I figured I would try to factor them in supporting roles in dishes. Today I bought one and roasted it in the oven, planning to cube it and add it to my burrito. I got sidetracked with the other dinner prep, however, and forgot about it until we had already finished eating. Woops. I turned to some friends online, one of whom gave me a list of ideas for cooked sweet potatoes. I opted for a slight variation on one of her ideas, and pureed the sweet potato with my immersion blender, stirred in some maple syrup and pumpkin pie spice, then quickly toasted some chopped pecans, and stirred them in.


And you know what? It was actually really good! This is a huge first for me: enjoying a sweet potato! It wasn't exactly healthy, what with the maple syrup, but hey...it's a start!

Pinto bean burritos


What a satisfying dinner tonight! I have really been missing fresh foods, so tonight's dinner was particularly enjoyable. I'm so glad to have power again! Earlier today I mixed up a quick batch of pico de gallo, and for lunch I had a flour tortilla wrapped around a big ol' scoop of pico de gallo.

The burritos this evening were simple...just some canned pinto beans, drained, rinsed, and heated with a little chili powder and cumin; corn browned with chili powder; as well as sauteed onions, pico de gallo, and avocado, all wrapped up in a big flour tortilla.


On the side, I had one of my favorite treats: an avocado half, lightly sprinkled with salt, and filled with a bunch of fresh pico de gallo. Just dig in with a spoon, and eat it up. Delicious!


Weekly Menu - week of September 7th

This menu will use up a lot of the canned beans we stored up prior to the hurricane. I don't know if I mentioned it before, but it's surprisingly difficult to find shelf stable vegan food. I hadn't realized how much we factor fresh and refrigerated foods into our menu, but living without power for a week really made that clear. I am so sick of processed foods right now, and can't wait to start drinking my fresh fruit and veggie smoothies for breakfast again, and have fresh veggies with dinner!

We have a bad habit of not using foods we buy ahead of time in bulk, and then we end up tossing them because they've gone bad, which is essentially the same as just throwing our money in the trash can. When we moved here, we were determined to not stockpile food in our pantry, fridge or freezer. Over time, though, our fridge and freezer gradually began to accumulate more and more stuff, and while it wasn't that much food on an absolute level, it was still more than we wanted to amass. Thankfully we were able to eat 90% of it before our power went out, including some stuffed bell peppers that I made and froze several months ago, but it really sucked to have to throw food away when the power went out. We're that much more determined now to not let it happen again. Our plan now is to only buy groceries for a couple days at a time. Yes, we'll have to go to the store more often, but it's on our way home from work and class, so we won't have to make additional trips out of the house, and small shopping trips are so much faster than big ones, plus there will be less likelihood of things spoiling in the fridge before we get around to cooking them. We'll see how it goes!

Here's our planned menu for the week. As I said, it heavily features beans. ; )

Sunday - veggie kebabs, mashed potatoes, cole slaw, chips (bbq with the in-laws)

Monday - pinto bean burritos, pico de gallo

Tuesday - black beans and rice, pico de gallo

Wednesday - baked beans, bread, salad

Thursday - black-eyed peas, sweet potato, kale and rice casserole

Friday - leftovers, most likely

Saturday - tailgating before the football game!

I'm back!

I'm back! This past week has been challenging, to put it mildly, as we were without power for 6 days. In the brutal heat and humidity of Louisiana, it's not easy to live without air conditioning, not to mention we couldn't run our garbage disposal, do laundry, vacuum the carpets (our dogs shed like crazy), get online, watch the news, or a million other things we take for granted. It was an awful, awful week, and I'm so thankful that we finally have power back! I know there are other hurricanes looming out there, and they may hit us, but I'm not going to worry about that until I have more solid information. It's not worth stressing over. Let it be said, though, that if this does happen again, we're seriously considering transferring to UW, putting about 70% of our stuff in storage, throwing the other 30% in a U-Haul, and moving to Seattle. So we'll see.

We obviously didn't do a lot of cooking this past week, and with many stores still being out of power, I'm not sure how much we'll do this week. About half the area is still without power, so while ours is back on, it's going to be awhile yet before things get back to normal. Please don't give up on me in the meantime! I know posting has been sparse this past month, but that won't always be the case!

We stocked up on beans, beans and more beans before the storm, so we're going to work our way through those for awhile. Tonight the plan is black bean burritos with fresh pico de gallo. Thank goodness our local produce stand is open! Once I get a better handle on the grocery store situation, I'm going to put together a weekly menu. Stay tuned!

Monday, September 1, 2008


We are in the path of Gustav, so in the event power goes out and I can't blog, you'll understand why. Hopefully it will blow by and things will be back to normal before too long, but we are well prepared in case it's worse than that. We have plenty of water, nonperishables, flashlights and lanterns, so we aren't too concerned about how we'll fare. If things are too bad in the aftermath, at that point we'll pack up and head to some friends' house, but our hope is that we can just stay here at home.

And can I mention how difficult it is to find vegan nonperishable food??? Yikes! Our pantry is stocked with bread, canned beans, cereal, rice milk, peanut butter, apples and oranges. Not the most exciting stockpile of food, but it'll do what it needs to do, and it's stuff we will use in the long run anyway.

I'll be back when everything is back to normal!