Saturday, March 19, 2011

Vegetarian Bog

A vegetarian and non-vegetarian living together can have its challenges. Todd is a pretty open-minded eater so he'll typically try and/ or eat nearly everything I make, but he just doesn't get too excited about much of it. Left to my own desires, I'd probably cook and eat a bit differently, but I often try to make things that I think Todd will enjoy, even if only a little bit. If he shows interest in something particular I will usually try my best to make it. The recent post of tofu quiche was an example of this. Todd had mentioned he had tofu quiche a while back and actually preferred it to egg quiche.
Last year my friend Catherine had some friends over for dinner, but I was unable to make it due to work travel. Todd went, representing the male race and I heard he did a good job of participating in "girl talk". He came home pretty excited about a rice dish Catherine had made called Chicken Bog. She is from the South so will often make dishes representative of her homeland. On New Year's Day, she brought Hoppin' John, a recipe which I had tried to vegetarianize many years ago. Catherine sent us her Bogrecipe and I did a little poking around on line. This dish is a culmination of what I found and my best attempt to make a vegetarian version. It's a good comfort food type rice dish for a chilly evening. You can keep the spices pretty mellow or give it some heat to suit your tastes.

Cajun Spice Mix

This will make a lot. I scaled it down in proportion. You can scale it according to your own tastes.
2 tspns salt
2 tspns garlic powder
2 1/2 tspns parika
1 tspn ground black pepper
1 tspn onion powder (I left this out)
1 tspn cayenne pepper
1 1/4 tspns dried oregano
1/4 tspns dried thyme
1/2 tspn red chili flakes
(This mixture is quite spicy. Tone it down if you don't like so much heat.)


1 tblspn canola oil
8 oz mushrooms, chopped
1 small red pepper. diced
2 veggie sausages, chopped (I used Field Roast brand, apple and sage flavor)
cajun spice to taste (the 2nd time I made it, it was a little too kicky. I will just use a little bit next time)

1 small onion, diced
1 large stalk celery, sliced thin
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tblspns butter
2 cups veg broth or 2 cups water and a bouillon cube
1 cup basmati rice

1. In medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion, celery and garlic. Sautee for 5 minutes, then add rice and mix. Add broth or water and bouillion. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
2. In a skillet, heat canola oil. Sautee mushrooms, peppers and sausages in as little or much of the spice as you like.
3. When rice is cooked, add to sausage mixture.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Tofu Quiche

Currently there are many UFIs that seem to have invaded my pantry. You may want to check because you could have some yourself - Unidentified Food Items. If you shop the bulk food section of your grocery store, you probably know what I mean. There are the staple items I use regularly, and those don't cause problems. It's the foods that look similar or are some obscure dried thing that seemed interesting in that moment that cause the problems. Is this chickpea flour, nutritional yeast or some other wheat colored finely ground powder? Barley or farro? TVP or bulghur wheat? And what are these puny dark red pellets? Sometimes I remember to label things, but, more often, I think I'll remember what it is. I just went through my drawer and found several bags of UFIs. Now, I have to decide what to do with them. Do I make my best guess and use them in a recipe only to potentially end up with an inedible meal? In some cases, it won't matter that much - barley or farro are fairly interchangeable. And, if I start tasting things I might be able to narrow down the possibilities. In the past, I know I've thrown some things away, yet I'd prefer to not take the wasteful route. The bottom line is, all of this annoyance could have been avoided with a pen and a few strokes of the hand. Lesson learned.
Tonight's dinner did not involve the pantry. I made an eggless quiche. I considered making it vegan, but once I had the mixture prepared and tasted it prior to baking, I knew it would be too bland, so out came the cheese grater. The tofu really does provide a good replacement for the eggs. The texture and consistency works. Maybe next time I could experiment some nutritional yeast (or chickpea flour or whatever that is) in place of the cheese and find out how that would work. This is a reliable recipe and at least cuts down on some of the dairy.

Tofu Quiche
1 prepared pie crust
8 0z frozen spinach, thawed or 1 lb fresh steamed and water pressed out
1 tblspn oil for sauteeing
1 medium onion, diced small
4 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz mushrooms sliced (I used baby bella)
1 16 oz container firm tofu
1 tspn dijon mustard
splash of some kind of milk (rice, soy, almond)
1 tspn dried parsley
a few pinches of red pepper flakes
1/4 tspn nutmeg
salt and pepper
cheese to taste (I used sharp cheddar and Parmesan)

1. Preheat the oven to 400. Bake the pie crust for about 5 minutes and remove.
2. Either steam or defrost the spinach.
3. Heat the oil in a sautee pan and cook the onions, garlic, and mushroom over medium high heat until much of the water is cooked off and they are starting to brown. You can add some salt to draw out the water. Add the spinach and blend.
4. Meanwhile, in a blender, mix the tofu, mustard, milk and spices.
5. In a large bowl, blend the tofu and veggie mixtures. Grate in some cheese to taste. Then pour into the pie crusts. I ended up having enough to make almost two quiches, but I added extra veggies.
6. Cook for about 35-40 minutes. Let set for 5 minutes before cutting.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Spicy Kidney Bean and Lentil Loaf

Recently when I was out to dinner with a couple of friends, they asked if it was difficult for me to find vegetarian options when eating out. In general, the answer is "no", but I also gravitate towards places I know will have something interesting for me to eat. And, by "interesting", I do not mean pasta primavera. In more than 20 years of not eating meat, I can't count how many times the vegetarian option at a restaurant or event has been pasta. I have nothing against pasta and love me a good red sauce, but will usually opt for something else if it's available. It's one thing if I'm in the North End and I know it will be exceptional, but in your average run of the mill restaurant, I don't want to waste a meal on it.
When I find myself in Restaurant Americana, I do have a fallback meal. I will often get the most acceptable salad I can find on the menu, hopefully with something other than iceberg lettuce, and a side of potato (mashed potato, baked potato or French fries). And while we're at it, let's discuss Caesar Salad. I just don't get it. It's lettuce, cheese, croutons usually slathered in an extremely high fat creamy dressing. This is not a salad in my book and I am perplexed as to why people seem to get so excited about it.
Restaurants have come a long way over the years, and I find myself with many more options as I did back in my vegetarian blooming years. And, again, I've also learned where to eat and my palette has become much more ethnically broad. My favorites include Thai, Indian and Vietnamese. Last week I finally visited Red Lentil, a vegetarian restaurant that recently opened in the area. In those situations, I find myself completely overwhelmed since I can eat every single thing on the menu. Typically, I scan the menu for the items I can eat as is, then look to see if any of the others are appealing and could be modified, then narrow my selections from there.
An option I think would be easy for restaurants to offer, yet I never see on a menu is some sort of
veggie grain loaf. This particular one is good because besides the bread crumbs, it doesn't have any starch in it, so you can have potato or rice on the side. I've posted another one in the past that's also tasty, but does include rice. Tonight we are having this with sides of mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli. The leftovers are great served over salad.

Spicy Bean and Lentil Loaf
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
1 14 oz can red kidney beans
1 14 oz can lentils (I usually just cook some from dried)
1 egg
1 carrot, coarsely grated
1/2 cup aged cheddar, finely grated
1 cup fresh whole wheat bread crumbs
1 tspn tomato paste
1 tblspn ketchup
1 tspn each: ground cumin; ground coriander; chili powder
salt and fresh black pepper

1 Preheat the oven to 350. Lightly grease a 9x5x3 in loaf pan.
2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. When the oil heats, add the onion, garlic and celery and cook gently for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the pan from the heat and cool slightly.
3. Rinse and drain the beans and lentils. Place in a blender or food processor with the onion mixture and egg and process til smooth.
4. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, add all the remaining ingredients and mix well. Season the mixture with salt and pepper.
5. Spoon the mixture in the prepared pan and level the surface. Bake for about 1 hour, then cool and remove from pan.