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Thursday, October 26, 2006

"Chicken" and Dumplings

Time to fix another meal and this time, it's one of those comfort meals; Chicken and Dumplings. We originally got this recipe from Bisquik, but after reading the ingredients in Bisquik, we decided to make some changes.

Change #1: No more Bisquik biscuits! Now we make them from scratch. We use Sarah Kramer's recipe for Baking Powder Biscuits and have baggies of the dry mix stashed and ready to go.

Change #2: More veggies! Especially because we have a lot of frozen veggies in the freezer that we need to use up.

Change #3: No more chicken! Instead we used Quorn chicken cutlets. Cooked them up on the stovetop, cut into pieces and added to the mixture.

I have to say that I love the changes we have made. The final dish doesn't taste much different than the original and we feel so much better about eating this. Doesn't it look yummy?

Here's the recipe. If you want the biscuit recipe, you'll have to buy Sarah Kramer's book, La Dolce Vegan (or e-mail me).

”Chicken” and Dumplings
(4 servings)

1 ½ cups skim milk
2 cups frozen peas and carrots or mixed vegetables
1 cup cooked Quorn chicken cutlets, diced
1 can condensed 98% fat-free cream of chicken soup
1 recipe Baking Powder Biscuits

Preheat oven to 450°. Mix together biscuit ingredients. Separate into eight pieces and place in a lightly greased muffin tin to bake. Bake for approximately 12 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

Meanwhile, heat milk, peas and carrots, "chicken" and soup to boiling in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Cook uncovered over low heat for 10 minutes. Place cooked biscuits on top of mixture. Cover and cook 10 minutes longer.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Roasted Butternut Squash & Greens Pasta

Inspiried by Megan the Vegan, I stopped by Groceries of the Orient on Sunday. I was originally searching for yuba, which I think I found and didn’t buy, but ended up buying a bunch of other things.

I bought some fried tofu pockets, chayote (to stuff), lychee candy (a must have!), Panko breadcrumbs, spring roll sheets, Fanta and Mangosteen Juice drink (for fun), wonton wrappers (for potstickers), bok choy (to sauté), red bean jelly ice cream treats, taro buns (worth a try), a tofu cutlet, asian pears, and an agar agar Jello-type mix (to test jello shots with agar).

We tried the red bean jelly ice cream treats and they are so different. I'm not used to eating whole beans in my ice cream, that's for sure! Stay tuned how the rest of the purchases turn out.

For dinner Sunday night, we finally used our butternut squash for Sweet Roasted Butternut Squash and Greens Pasta. I think it has been about a year since we last made this. It was so good last time and was great again this time.

Although it has many ingredients and looks intimidating, this recipe is quite easy to make. Instead of half-and-half, I used soymilk; instead of a granny smith apple, I used one of our recently picked apples; and instead of escarole, I used green swiss chard.

Here’s the recipe for it, which is adapted from the Star Tribune newspaper:

Sweet Roasted Butternut and Greens Pasta
(6 servings)

3 ½ to 4-lb. butternut squash peeled, seeded, and cut into bite-size chunks
1 medium to large onion, cut into ½-inch chunks
1 large granny smith apple, sliced
2 big handfuls of washed and dried escarole, torn
1/3 c. tightly packed torn fresh basil leaves
16 large torn fresh sage leaves
5 large cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/3 c. extra-virgin olive oil
¼ tsp hot red pepper flakes
1 tbsp tightly packed brown sugar
Salt and pepper, to taste
½ c. half and half
1 lb. Italian bow tie pasta, freshly cooked in salted water to tender, but still a little firm, and drained
1 to 1 ½ c. freshly shredded Asiago cheese

Slip a big shallow sheet pan (or 2 smaller ones) into the oven. Preheat oven to 450°.

In a big bowl, toss together squash, onion, greens, basil, sage, garlic, olive oil, red pepper, brown sugar and salt and pepper. Pull out the oven rack with the sheet pan on it. Carefully turn the squash blend onto the sheet. Spread it out and bake 25 minutes, turning twice, or until squash is tender.

Once the squash is tender, turn on the broiler to caramelize it. Watch closely, turning pieces often. Cook about 5 minutes; you want crusty brown edges onto the squash and wilted almost crisp greens.

Scrape everything into a serving bowl. Add the half and half, hot pasta and 1 cup of the cheese. Toss to blend, tasting for salt and pepper and enough cheese. Add apple and adjust seasonings; serve hot.

Peeling winter squash: Tough skin and hard flesh make winter squash annoying to peel. A relatively easy way to sidestep most of the work and the dangerous knife slips is to do the following: With an 8-inch chef’s knife, halve the squash lengthwise. Flip it cut-side down onto your cutting board and cut crosswise into 1-inch slices. Now it’s easy to strip away the peel and seeds. Cut the crescents of squash into small pieces.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Pumpkin Seed Crusted Tofu & Apple Pie

This recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance has been on my mind for awhile now as it seems like the perfect fall/holiday meal to make.

We had never cooked a pumpkin before and didn't know what to expect. With Ryan's help, we mastered this recipe in less than 1 1/2 hours and made an apple pie too.

The tofu is pressed as usual and then coated in toasted pumpkin seeds, cornstarch, herbs, and flour before being lightly fried in a pan. The pumpkin was simply coated in oil and roasted for 45 minutes in the oven. We debated over making the cranberry sauce and since we had all the ingredients, I threw it together at the last minute. It really helped make the dish complete.

To round out the meal, we added some broccoli. This was blanched for 4 minutes, drained, and then thrown into a hot pan with olive oil, garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes. Finally, add a squirt of fresh lemon juice and shave some asiago or parmesan cheese on top.

Yum, yum, yum! The tofu reminded me of breaded chicken nuggets (without the chicken flavor, of course!) and was good on it's own or with a bite of everything else. We just loved this recipe and we better because we have a few leftovers.

Also, we finally made an apple pie with all those apples I picked. I'm not a crust maker, so I cheated and bought a store crust. It's just so much easier to deal with! The apple pie was fantastic and we served it with vanilla ice cream from Blue Sky Creamery. Mmmmm.....
Sorry, no pictures yet - each time we've eaten a slice, we've been pretty anxious to eat it, so no time for pics. Maybe later.

On a side note, I did host the first tofu workshop with Ryan's mom, Diane. We made the Stewed Tofu with Miso Gravy that I posted about a couple weeks ago. Although we cooked until my bedtime, it was still a success. Ryan's dad even tried some and liked it (minus the mushrooms, of course).

Monday, October 16, 2006

Green Tea Tofu Salad & Final Crop Share

Good morning! I’m here to finally provide some food updates and we’ve made some good things over the last couple weeks from the last crop share that we received. I’ll span this out over a couple days for your reading enjoyment.

Last week we finally made the Pan-Fried Tofu with Green Tea and Honey Dressing that we had mentioned awhile back and it was really tasty.

Here’s the recipe:

Pan-Fried Tofu with Green Tea & Honey Dressing
(4 servings)

1 tsp loose green tea leaves
¼ cup water
3 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp rice vinegar
½ tsp fish sauce
1 tbsp fresh mint, minced

1 16-oz. block extra-firm tofu
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp loose green tea leaves
3 tbsp white sesame seeds
¼ tsp salt
4 c. baby green salad mix
2 Asian pears or Bosc pears, halved, cored, and cut lengthwise into thin slices
1 c. halved cherry tomatoes

To make dressing: Place tea leaves in a cup and pour boiling spring water over them. Cover and let steep for 1 to 2 minutes. Discard tea leaves. Combine tea and remaining dressing ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before using. Makes ½ cup.
Press tofu for at least 1 hour. Cut tofu into 16 equal cubes.

Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and swirl to coat. Add tea leaves, sesame seeds and salt, and sauté until fragrant. Place tofu cubes on top and pan-fry until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Turn tofu, press into sesame seeds and pan-fry the other side until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Drain tofu on paper towels.

Toss together salad greens, pears and tomatoes in a salad bowl. Arrange the tofu cubes over the salad and spoon the dressing on top.

This turned out great! Be sure to use a large enough pan and when turning the tofu, place and press right on top of sesame seeds so they adhere and form a crust as you can see in this picture:

We substituted sundried tomatoes for fresh tomatoes and substituted an apple for the pear as we have plenty of apples to use up! We ended up doctoring the dressing a little bit as the sesame oil is a bit heavy and the mint isn't to my taste. Next time I'd add more vinegar, less sesame oil, and I'd use rosemary instead of mint. Or, you can scrap the salad part all together and use the tofu part in a different dish.

On a sad note, our joys of crop sharing are over. I picked up our last crop share and will now be on our own with produce selections. I guess it's time to venture back into the world of regular grocery shopping. Here's a great article on our farmers that was in the local paper:

In this share, we received:

Italian Parsley
Green and Red Peppers
Salad Mix
Butternut Squash
Delicata Squash
Red Onions
Baby Beets
Radishes (gone instantly!)

I also stopped at the Gardens of Eagan stand and bought a sugar pumpkin (for a future recipe), and some corn.

The butternut squash excites me. First of all, it is HUGE! Second, I have an awesome pasta, greens and squash recipe to make soon. Stay tuned!

Thursday, October 5, 2006

Stuffed Peppers and Ooey Gooey Dessert

One of my favorite meals that my mom used to make was Stuffed Peppers. It was one of the recipes that I first asked her for while I was in college. They weren’t necessarily unhealthy at the time, but I wanted to make them healthier. So, I started substituting ground turkey for the ground beef and brown rice for the white rice and adding other veggies. Now, I’ve decided to alter them once again. I substituted Morningstar Farms crumbles for the ground turkey and it turned out great!

Here are the ingredients cooking:

Stuffed Peppers

2 cups cooked brown rice
1/2 pkg. Morningstar Farms crumbles (beef substitute)
¼ cup sweet onion, chopped
1 small garlic clove, chopped
Salt and pepper
¼ tsp garlic salt
¼ cup corn
Mozzarella cheese (if desired)
¾ cup water
1/3 cup ketchup
2 bell peppers (any color)
Fresh parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 350°. In a medium saucepan, cook brown rice per package directions. Wash peppers; chop tops of peppers and reserve. Make sure the peppers can stand up. If not, carefully slice little pieces off the bottoms until they can stand upright. Parboil peppers in boiling water for 4 minutes.

Meanwhile, sauté onion and garlic in large skillet in a small amount of olive oil. When onions turn translucent, add crumbles and cook until defrosted. Stir in salt, pepper, and garlic salt to taste. Add corn, chopped pepper tops, cheese and 1 cup of the rice. Mix water and ketchup in a small bowl; pour 1 cup over crumble mixture. Stuff mixture into pepper bottoms and place in a baking dish. Add remaining mixture and rice to dish surrounding peppers. Pour tomato sauce over top.

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until browned on top. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

I also made Dreena’s Ooey Gooey bars (I can’t remember the real name of them right now), but they were great! Ryan and I couldn’t keep our hands off of them and they were gone within a few days. I would love to bring this to a gathering.

Last night was my second writing class where we rediscovered our relationship and history with writing. It was very neat to revisit some old memories of note-notebooks, penpals, and forms of journaling. Each class helps me brainstorm and think of writing ideas – it gets me “unstuck”.

Today the sun is shining, but it is deceiving as there is quite a chill out there. No winter jackets yet, so I’m still happy!

Monday, October 2, 2006

Oh Miso Gravy

Hope everyone had a great weekend! My Saturday was filled with volunteer activities; I walked with Ryan’s family in the ALS Walk in the morning. This is a yearly event we do in honor of his uncle, Paul, who died of ALS about 4 years ago. Then, I volunteered at the Light the Night Walk for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in the evening. It was a ton of fun to interact with such giving people and neat to see all the balloons lit up around Lake Phalen (yeah, one of our 10,000+ lakes).

After coming home late from the walk, Ryan had some tofu pressed, so we made the most fantastic meal…Stewed Tofu and Potatoes in Miso Gravy from Vegan With a Vengeance. This meal…is…to…die for! When I read the title, I thought, “Who wants stewed tofu?” Well, apparently, I do!

For those of you without this cookbook, it is gravy made out of mostly white wine and miso. Then you add onions, cremini mushrooms, garlic, herbs, potatoes and tofu. It tastes like Thanksgiving and should be made more often. Diane, I think this will be a recipe for our tofu workshop.

Sidebar from the food – I started my new job today and it rocks. I think I am going to be very happy. I am a Senior Recruiter for a large, international, corporate organization and it has a large campus with amenities like Caribou Coffee and a shuttle to and from the YMCA during lunch hour. My team is great, my boss is great and I hope everything continues to go well.

We were released early today so I jumped on the opportunity to drive down to Afton Apple Orchard and pick apples and raspberries. I usually go with Ryan or my sister, but neither could go with me and I was crunched on time, so I went by my lonesome.

I picked 3 pecks of apples (1 peck for my sister, Jill) and 2 pints of raspberries – white and pink. I only had 1 hour and 15 minutes to get it all done, so I got a good workout in too. The apples are a mix of Red Barron, Honey Gold and Sweet 16. I’m planning on making a pie (or two) and some applesauce. I’m very excited I made it down there as I thought we might not have a chance to this year.
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