Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Chorizo Taco Wrap

This week has been pretty rough so far. I had a nice week in Puerto Rico for vacation last week, which was great, but ended in the flight from Hell. Saturday was doomed from the start, our last day in PR. It started with long lines to check out from the Intercontinental, with irate ladies disputing bills, and impatient guests trying to make their flights. We had the whole day to kill, and started with another bus ride to Old San Juan. Long story short - long and crowded bus ride, worst ceviche ever, slightly hung over, and then RAIN. The bus, the hangover, and the rain, I can handle. But I can't STAND bad food. Warm ceviche on a hot tostone? To quote Amy Pohler and Seth Meyers, "REALLY?" Only to be replaced (with quite bad service) with slightly less warm, but not cold, still flavorless ceviche. REALLY!. 

Continue the day of misadventures, non-existent buses back to Isla Verde, and long (and very unfriendly) airport lines at the incredibly mismanaged Jet Blue Terminal in San Juan. Top it off with a flight leaving late, surprise turbulence, stressed captain yelling for flight attendants to sit and almost no food or beverage service. Add to that a passenger with an asthma attack requiring an oxygen tank and some sort of commotion causing attendants to run with medical bags to the back of the plane, only to assure us that "NO they're not really OK" later explained by 10 NYPD boarding the plane, two people arrested and one crazy-eyed girl who was bleeding. INTENSE. The whole plane was afraid to breathe.

For some reason, I continued with bad food luck Sunday, ordered some Dominoes as a last resort resolution to disaster at 9pm, only to have them F it up. That's how Dominoes rolls, down in BKLYN. Guaranteed in over 30 minutes, not what you ordered, and overcharged.

Monday was deceivingly calm at work, even with meeting a buyer and presenting my first ever line of boardshorts for the first time. Tuesday I was ambushed by owners and senior sales staff at what I thought was a simple line review. Went to the gym, fixed that with happy endorphins. Came back today only to be surprised by ambush continued. Stressed. Went to the gym, but more to come tomorrow, without a doubt. 

With all this stress and de-stressing, I've not had much time to properly dine. Although the food curse ended yesterday with a fake bbq chicken sandwich, today was back to normal creative yumminess. We craved tacos, but only had 8" tortillas and no sour cream. With chunky sausages and Ranch dressing they were more like a wrap but turned out awesome. I know what I'm having for lunch tomorrow!

Chorizo Taco Wrap
Chorizo sausage or Field Roast Mexican Chipotle (Vegetarian) Sausages - heated and sliced
Avocado, sliced
Tomato, sliced
Ranch Dressing
Shredded Cheddar
Flour tortillas

Lay wrap flat and drizzle with ranch dressing and a small amount of cheese. Top with hot sliced sausage down the center. Layer on avocado, tomato, cilantro and lettuce. Roll up and secure with a toothpick.

Incredible Stackable Polenta

A couple of years ago my husband and I attended my friend's wedding at the Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers. Wedding receptions can be a bit stressful for my vegetarian husband - open bar, lots of wine, no vegetarian ors d'oeuvres and (in the worst scenario yet) a fruit plate for dinner... recipe for disaster. But, our friend Brian's wedding was different. Apparently, many guests were Kosher and they had planned for that. I'm no fan of typical Kosher food, but they did an excellent job at the Lighthouse. When the waiter posed the dreaded question, which of the meats or fish would we like, my husband very quietly asked in return, "Do you have anything vegetarian?". The server promptly replied "Yes, we have polenta and vegetables". I don't even remember what I had - I remember it was great - but I remember more clearly that my husband's polenta was excellent.

Since this meal discovering a new food category for my (then) vegetarian boyfriend, I vowed to learn to cook polenta. I've had some failures and some successes. Even using the quick-cook variety that I favor, it still takes a while to cook it into a more solid format. I still can't figure out how to grill it and actually get it to the plate in one piece. I hate to admit, that this week I got a little lazy and used a pre-made tube of basil-garlic flavored polenta. The filling wasn't perfectly flavored (I had a little food-curse going on from Saturday to Monday when NOTHING worked out, even take-out) but with some work I think it will become a nice quick-meal stand-by for summer. 

Less of a recipe, more of an idea:

Polenta-Bean Stacks
Pre-cooked Polenta log, with seasonings (ex. Basil Garlic)- sliced into 1/2" rounds
Shredded Cheese (such as Parmesan or Cheddar)
Bacon (or Fake Bacon - such as Morningstar Farms brand from the freezer)
Onions, diced
Navy Beans, drained
Tomato, diced
Zucchini, diced
Salt / Pepper / Seasonings (depending on flavor of Polenta - go Italian theme or Latin)

1. In a 400F oven, bake polenta slices topped with a small amount of cheese for 15 minutes or until golden.
2. In a skillet, cook bacon slices. Remove and crumble.
3. Add onions to pan with a dash of oil and saute. Add zucchini and cook a few minutes. Add beans, a little tomato and seasonings. Cook for another few minutes or reserve over low heat.
4. Layer polenta slice, beans, polenta slice and chopped tomatoes. 

*Garnish ideas: Julienned zucchini stripes, raw onions, chopped olives, cilantro or basil, pesto or fried onions.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

French Onion Cheese Toasts with Tomatoes

It has become apparent that I have been on a subconscious quest to make all food taste like an everything bagel. Sea Salt, Pepper, a hint of garlic or onion + anything creamy or cheesy does the trick. I realized this today, as I concocted some sliced whole wheat sourdough bread into cheesy toasts for breakfast. What else can I turn into a meal that pays homage to the everything bagel?

French Onion Cheese Toasts with Tomatoes
Thinly sliced bread, such as sourdough or leftover baguette
Laughing Cow Light French Onion Cheese Spread
Freshly ground Black Pepper
Grape or Cherry Tomatoes, sliced
Sea Salt

Top toasted bread with a schear of cheese and sprinkle with pepper. Lightly sprinkle sliced tomatoes with sea salt and arrange on top of the toasts. 

*These could also make a great party appetizer, on toasted baguette slices, or even some crispy crackers.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Gardein BBQ Skewers

 Gardein Skewers with a little home-made bbq sauce on top

I've recently discovered an amazing new brand of imitation meat that tops everything I've used before. All of a sudden, I'm finding Gardein products everywhere - Fresh Direct, ShopRite and Fairway to name a few. In the past year, we've been making special trips to Trader Joe's to stock up on basket-fulls of Chicken-less BBQ Pulled Chicken, and Beef-less and Chicken-less strips. Little did I know that this company, Gardein, was behind all of this innovation.

Gardein was founded by Yves Potvin, previously of Yves Veggie Cuisine. According to his interview in Tal Ronnen's The Concsious Cook, he created the original veggie hot dog out of a desire to enjoy the convenience and taste of hotdogs, without the cholesterol. In his new venture, Gardein (Garden + Protein = Gardein), he focuses not only on convenience and deliciousness, but more-so on the health benefits of plant-only proteins.

In two weeks since finding this new protein, researching it, and even purchasing Tal's cookbook featuring it, I've learned more about plant-proteins than I have in my whole life. My reason for eating these fake meats has been mainly because they make it easier for me to use my existing cooking knowledge (from a life of preparing meat-centered meals) to make interesting meals for my vegetarian husband. He seems to really like them, and I've gotten quite used to them. But with the emergence of this brand, and the birth of new cooking styles centered around it's products, there is a wealth of well-marketed information poised to revolutionize the way the world eats protein. Gardein products are high in protein, low fat, and cholesterol free. Increased acceptance of this type of protein could also significantly reduce our reliance on the mass-reproduction of animals solely for human consumption, as the world population continues to grow and increase demand.

Even if you don't care about the animals, the earth, or your health - these new products are a happy addition to our food pyramid. As a meat-loving health-obsessed semi-ecoconscious wife of a vegetarian - I find myself actually choosing Gardein beef skewers over the real ones. Even my fellow barbecue goers who tried them will agree - they're not half bad!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Simple Mushroom Soup

This week has been super cold for this time of year. All I want to do is eat soup. I saw some nice wild mushrooms on the way home tonight, so I brought them home to make a really simple soup. Just an easy throw-stuff-in-a-pot with water and watch it boil kind of soup. Simple but tasty, especially with a little garlic bread.

Here's what I used, but you could use any mix of wild mushrooms and any kind of onions and white-fleshed potatoes.  Just stay away from  Portobello, Cremini or Button mushrooms - they tend to taste plastic and make the broth a little bitter. As always, the better the ingredients, the better the end product. Proportions don't really matter either, as long as the water covers everything in the pot.

Simple Mushroom Soup
1T Unsalted Butter (*use Earth Balance or Olive Oil for vegan*)
Yellow Onion, chopped
Oyster Mushrooms
Shitake Mushrooms
Chantarelle Mushrooms
Fingerling Potatoes, cut into rounds

1. Heat butter in a soup pot over low heat and add onions. Sweat the onions over the low heat while preparing mushrooms.

2. Clean Shitake and Oyster mushrooms under running water (not the normally recommended method, but who cares, we're boiling them here).  Clean the chanterelles by submerging them a few at a time in a bowl of water and swishing them around - lots of dirt and even bugs may float out. If they're especially dirty, rinse them a second time. 

3. Slice shitakes into strips, and tear oyster and chantarelle mushrooms into smaller pieces. Chop potatoes into uniform sized pieces, as well.

4. Add mushrooms and potatoes the pot. Add enough water to cover all the ingredients, 4 Cups is a good starting point. 
5. Increase heat to medium-high and loosely cover the pot. Simmer about 45 minutes and add salt 1/2 tsp at a time, stirring and tasting. If the stock lacks flavor, boil another 15 minutes to concentrate the flavors, and check salt level again. Add pepper to taste.

Friday, May 7, 2010

10 minute meal: Chipotle Roasted Sweet Potato, Vegetable and Sausage Wrap

I bought this interesting new mix of sweet potatoes, black beans, corn and onions a few weeks, or maybe even months ago. I always pick these things up thinking "oh, what fun vegetables", forgetting that they're a side dish to meat. But clearly we don't eat a lot of meat in this house, and if I make it for myself you can bet I'll be having it with some vegetable my husband hates - like broccoli, zucchini or brussels sprouts. So this bag took up space in the freezer, moved from side to side around ice cream, veggie masala burgers and bagels for quite some time. Tonight we came home exhausted from Bikram yoga (finally got my husband to go again!) and needed a fast meal.  I searched the freezer for something quick and wondered what I could do with this tasty looking bag of Alexia Chipotle Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Vegetables. I scoured the fake meat shelf in the fridge looking for ideas, and pulled out a package of Field Roast Grain Meat Chipotle Sausages I got from Wholefoods a while back (these vegetarian sausages are pretty awesome - the Smoked Apple flavor are good too - although I've had better versions of the Italian). I thought Chipotle plus Chipotle would be a good bet - and it was. We used some multi-grain tortillas as wraps for the vegetables and sausage, layered with some sour cream to cut the spice. Oh yeah, and a beer too... just don't tell Bikram. Wink.

Chipotle Roasted Sweet Potato, Vegetable and Sausage Wrap
1 Bag of Alexia Chipotle Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Vegetables
2 Field Roast Chipotle Sausages, cut in to 1/2" rounds
Whole Grain Tortillas
Sour Cream

1. Follow package directions for cooking the vegetables (thaw sauce, add to skillet, heat, add vegetables).
2. When vegetables lose the ice and start to thaw, add the sausage chunks.
3. Saute and stir for about 8 minutes.
4. In a dry skillet over medium heat, lay one tortilla flat and heat through. Flip with tongs and heat the other side. Repeat with each tortilla. 
5. Serve vegetables with tortillas and sour cream. Spread sour cream on half the wrap, and spoon vegetables in a line down the center. Fold in the sides and end to eat.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Easy Sweet & Sour Seitan

It's been a long time since I've cooked Asian food at home. I don't keep the proper ingredients on hand, and it's faster and easier to find good delivery options. It's really not so hard to make at home, however, and probably a bit healthier. Making it vegetarian, without trying to cook tofu perfectly, is even easier now than ever, thanks to all the fake meat and flavored seitan that is now readily available to consumers. This easy sweet and sour dish came out great. I kept the crispy seitan aside to serve over the vegetables so that they stay crunchy until the last minute - a definite improvement over soggy takeout!

Sweet and Sour Vegetables with Crunchy Seitan
1 C Broccoli, cut into florets
1 C Carrots, sliced or use baby carrots
1 T canola oil
1/2 C Onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/2 C Cremini (Baby Bello) Mushrooms, sliced
1 Medium Tomato, diced
1 C Pineapple chunks, canned

3/4 C pineapple juice
1/3 C Rice Vinegar (plain, not flavored)
1/4 C Ketchup
1 T Low Sodium Soy Sauce
2 T Dark Brown Sugar
1 T Cornstarch

Crunchy Seitan: 
1/4 C Canola oil
1 package Traditional Flavor Seitan
1 Egg white, slightly beaten (or use egg replacer or milk)
1/4 C Cornstarch 
Salt, Pepper, Red Pepper flakes

sesame seeds
raw cashews
Brown rice, cooked

1. Prepare rice following package directions.

2. Boil water and add broccoli and carrots to pre-cook. Boil for about 10 minutes or until desired tenderness. 

3. Heat 1/4C oil in a pan over medium heat. 

4. Break or separate Seitan into chunks and place in egg whites. In a separate bowl or ziploc bag, mix cornstarch with a sprinkle of salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Remove seitan from egg and place in cornstarch, tossing to coat.

5. Fry the seitan chunks on each side until brown on all sides, and remove from pan and rest on paper towels. 

6. Wipe excess oil from the pan, or use a clean deep skillet to heat 1 T oil. Over medium heat, saute onion for 3 minutes and add garlic. Cook garlic 2 minutes and add mushrooms, stirring frequently.

7. When mushrooms are cooked through, add tomatoes and cooked broccoli and carrots. 

8. Add pineapple juice, vinegar, ketchup, soy sauce and brown sugar to the pan, and sprinkle with cornstarch. Stir together to coat the vegetables and season with salt if needed. Cook another 5 minutes or until sauce thickens and bubbles.

9. Serve vegetables topped with seitan, and spoon the sauce over the top. Sprinkle sesame seeds and cashews over the top. Eat together with rice.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Breakfast Bruschetta

Hot breakfast? Not on a hot day. Cereal? Nah. Fruit? Nah, I want something salty. Breakfast potatoes would be good. But what goes with that? Eggs? Not really in the mood. Toast? No, too much white food. Tomato, cucumber and some random herbs might be refreshing....
So here's an unconventional idea for a springtime breakfast:

Parmesan Dill Tomato Bruschetta Toast
Cayenne Spiced Roast Fingerling Fries
Cucumber Salad with Chopped Parsley

Parmesan Dill Tomato Bruschetta Toast
Sliced bread
Grated Parmesan cheese
Ground Pepper
Chopped Tomatoes
Chopped fresh Dill

Toast the bread half-way. Sprinkle with parmesan and pepper. Finish toasting.
Meanwhile, toss chopped tomatoes and dill with a little salt. Top toast with tomato mixture.

Cayenne Spiced Roast Fingerling Fries
Fingerling Potatoes, cut in halves
Olive Oil
Cayenne pepper

Heat oven to 450F. Drizzle oil on a sheet pan and arrange potatoes in a single layer. Drizzle with more oil, season with salt, pepper and a little cayenne (as much as desired). Cumin would be a nice addition too, if you like. Roast potatoes, flipping them at least once, until browned - about 15 minutes.

Cucumber Salad with Chopped Cilantro
1 Cucumber, sliced
1 tsp Cider Vinegar
1 tsp Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper
1 T chopped fresh Cilantro (or Parsley)

Toss together in a bowl or serve on lettuce leaves.

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