Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Crab Rolls!

It's leftover night. We had snow crab legs a night or two ago. When there is leftover crab, I like to make crab rolls. They remind me of lobster rolls on the Maine coast. Pick the crab out of the shells and mix with a little mayo. We also had some potato salad leftover, so it made a perfect summertime treat.

Guest Chef: Chicken Marsala

Served with a Fresh Garden Salad and Potato Cakes

Chicken Marsala is a relatively simple dish to make. Not a lot of ingredients required and no complicated cooking techniques involved.

Chicken Marsala
serves 2

1 boneless chicken breast, sliced thinly
olive oil
8 oz white mushrooms, sliced
1 medium onion, sliced thinly lengthwise
1/2 t. dried thyme (or more)
2 cups of sweet Marsala
salt and pepper to taste
fresh chopped parsley

Saute the sliced chicken in olive oil over medium heat until just about done.  Remove from pan and reserve. Saute the onions and mushrooms in the same pan with a little more olive oil. Add the thyme and some pepper. When everything starts to brown, add the Marsala. Turn up the heat to high and let the Marsala reduce by at least half. Add the chicken back into the pan and heat through. Season to taste and top with parsley.

This is one of my favorite chicken dishes. Now the guest chef makes it more often than I do.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Tomato Season

This has not been a great year for tomatoes. We always try to grow enough tomatoes to make some red sauce and if possible to can some sauce to eat during the winter. This is the first batch I have been able to make this year, and I hope it won't be the last.

How to Make a Big Pot of Spaghetti Sauce from Fresh Tomatoes

Green pepper
Jalapeno pepper (optional)
Italian seasoning, dried
Red wine

I begin by going out to the garden and picking any ripe tomatoes I can find. Returning to the kitchen, I first wash, then peel, seed and chop them.

Tomatoes are easy to peel if you first drop them into boiling water for 10-15 seconds. If you see the skins split quicker than this, pull them out of the water.

Remove the seeds and then chop the tomatoes. I am not fussy about the chop. I do some small, some medium and some large for a little variety in texture. You can chop everything finely if you want a smoother sauce, or even use a hand blender after they have cooked down a bit.

Load the chopped tomatoes into a large pot. I usually use a 6 quart pot and cook the tomatoes on low heat until they have reduced by almost half. This can take a few hours, because you must use low heat or the tomatoes will burn. You can start cooking them before you have all of them chopped, just keep adding more as you go. I ended up filling half the pot. On a good day, we can fill a whole pot to the brim.

Now that the tomatoes are cooking it is time to start working on the rest of the ingredients. Chop some onions. I use lots. The amount depends on how much tomato you have. For this batch, I probably chopped three cups of onion. Chop 4-5 large cloves of garlic. Use more or less if you like.

Saute the onion in olive oil in a large separate pan. Cook the onions until they have started to color and caramelize, throw in the garlic and the Italian seasoning and continue to gently cook for a few more minutes, then add the onions and garlic to the pot of tomatoes.

Chop some green peppers. This batch used about 2 cups. I also added 3-4 finely minced jalapenos, seeded and deveined. Why? Because they were there and they give the sauce a little kick. Totally optional. Saute the peppers lightly and throw them into the pot.

Add about a cup of red wine, a teaspoon of sugar and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Let everything simmer and start tasting. Does it need more garlic? More Italian seasoning? A bit of salt? A pinch of sugar? Taste and season as you like. I am very careful with the salt and sugar. They are easy to add, impossible to take out.

Often the sauce will need a bit of sugar because the tomatoes are acidic and if they are at all under ripe, they can taste sour. Add the sugar carefully, just a teaspoon or less at a time, stirring and tasting. Same procedure with the salt, although I only go 1/2 teaspoon at a time.

This is a procedure for the committed red sauce lover. Not undertaken lightly. It takes time and patience. We think it is well worth it for that first pot of fresh spaghetti sauce.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Tangy Cherry Chicken with Walnuts

Guest Chef Night

This chicken dish is a specialty of the guest chef and a favorite with the diners, all two of them.

The chicken is encrusted with dried thyme and sauteed. The sauce is a white wine (Pinot Grigio) based sauce with sauteed onions and celery, dried cherries, rehydrated in the sauce, and with toasted walnuts added tableside to maintain their crisp texture. The "tangy" taste was from some minced jalapeno peppers. If the fresh jalapenos are not available, use pepper flakes.

Sides included fresh garden green beans and mashed potatoes.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Spaghetti Fra Diavolo

What began as a "simple dinner" of spaghetti to use up some partial containers of tomato products turned into a major production. The result was well worth it, a delicious dinner of Spaghetti Fra Diavolo. Why Fra Diavolo? A number of circumstances came together to produce prodigious quantities of jalapeno peppers, so they will probably be turning up everywhere from now to October.

When I was gathering my ingredients I noticed some garden tomatoes in the fridge. They were not beautiful big ripe slicing tomatoes. Some of them were small, some of them were down right ugly, but they did come from our garden, had survived the month of rain (about 15 inches) and they are as organic as you can get. So I decided that instead of opening more tomato anything, I would use those tomatoes in my sauce.

We also had some fresh yellow cherry tomatoes from the garden and fresh basil on the deck.

I began by making some rolls. Once they were rising I started work on the rest. This is more of a rough guide than a recipe.

Fra Diavolo Sauce

  • olive oil
  • one large onion, finely chopped
  • 3 jalapeno peppers, seeded, deveined and very finely chopped
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 8-10 fresh tomatoes, skinned and seeded, roughly chopped
  • 1/2-3/4 cup red wine (I happened to have a Merlot)
  • 2-3 t. dried Italian seasoning
  • 1-1/2 cups strained or crushed tomatoes (from a jar)
  • about 3 T tomato paste
  • 2-3 T fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • Fresh basil leaves, whole or chiffonade, lots
  • Fresh cherry tomato halves
  • Spaghetti
  • (optional) sliced and browned Tofurky Italian Sausage
  • salt and pepper as desired

I started with my onion, garlic and jalapeno prepped and worked on skinning, seeding and chopping the tomatoes as the onions and then the sauce cooked. I liked the way some of the tomatoes were cooked more than others. 
Heat a large skillet and add olive oil. Swirl enough oil into the pan to lightly coat the bottom. Cook the onion over medium low heat until translucent. Add the jalapeno and continue to cook. Add the garlic. Start adding the chopped tomatoes as you get them chopped. Add the Italian seasoning and the strained tomatoes from the jar. Continue to cook everything as you prepare and add more tomatoes. It is OK if the ingredients get a little brown. When they begin to stick to the pan significantly, add the red wine. Continue to cook everything down. Add the tomato paste and 1/2 cup water (or more wine).

Cook the spaghetti and the Tofurky Sausage (if using). Serve the cherry tomatoes and basil at the table, and the sausage to the side, so everyone can dress their own plate as they like. But don't skip the raw cherry tomatoes or the basil. They're great!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Potato Salad

Potato Salad is quintessentially summery. It goes with sandwiches, hot dogs, barbeque, picnics....

I made some recently and it was so good I had to make some more. We had it with sandwiches on fresh baked rolls. Mine is a no-mayonnaise vegan version.

Potato Salad

About 4 cups of diced potatoes. They don't need to be peeled if they are clean and organic. The dice should be a medium-large bite size.
1/4-1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/4-1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4-1/2 t coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 t. sugar
1/2 t. salt
1 T yellow mustard
4-5 finely chopped sweet pickles and 2-3 T pickle juice

Place the diced potatoes into a saucepan with water to cover. Bring the potatoes to a boil and boil for about 4-5 minutes. Mix the rest of the ingredients together in a large bowl.

Check a large piece of potato for doneness. It should be al dente to tender but not mushy.

When the potatoes are cooked, drain them and add to the bowl with the dressing. Toss everything together and taste for seasoning.

If you want a creamier dressing, all you have to do is cook a handful of the potatoes for a few minutes longer. The longer the potato cooks the more it dissolves into the dressing.

This is a slightly tangy salad. If you want a milder or sweeter flavor, use less vinegar and a little more sugar.

Plain Food: Tater Cakes

Mashed potatoes seem to go with so many dishes. They are a great side dish to have with many different sauces or any gravy. As a result, we often have mashed potatoes, and just as often have leftover mashed potatoes. In fact, we make it a point to have extra just so we can make potato cakes.

Are you thinking of a plain patty of cold potato thrown into a pan? Around here there wouldn't be too many complaints about that but I am actually talking about something a little more interesting.

I almost always have onions and mushrooms on hand and that's where my basic potato cake begins.

Place the leftover mashed potatoes in to a large bowl. Usually these are cold and come straight from the fridge. You want plenty of room in the bowl to stir in additional ingredients.

Chop the onions and mushrooms and saute them in olive oil a large skillet. How much onion and mushroom? That depends on the potatoes. I like to add no less than 1/2 and onion and 4 large mushrooms for every cup and a half of potato. Don't skimp, you're adding flavor.

Let the onions and mushrooms get a little brown. Add a generous amount of coarsely ground black pepper.

Put the sauteed veg into the bowl with the potatoes while still warm. Keep the skillet handy to cook the potato cakes. Add a handful of panko. Panko is Japanese breadcrumbs and it is nice and crunchy.  If I have a bit of vegan sour cream, I will often add about 2 tablespoons at a time for moisture and richness.

Now you can form the cakes. Make them about 1/3 cup each, form into patties. If they seem loose, mix in more panko. Heat more olive oil in the skillet. Dip each side of the cake into panko, then transfer to the skillet. The pan should be medium hot and there should be a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in the skillet.
Let the cakes brown on each side and serve.

You can add almost anything to these cakes: Fresh herbs, chopped broccoli or other vegetables, leftover flaked fish. A little more exotic, add leftover sauces to the potato before forming into a cake. I made some really good ones with leftover Provencal sauce. Be creative and put something different into a potato cake tonight.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Crab Tostadas

This more about chopping than cooking. Comfort food pure and simple. Select your favorite tostada toppings, chop them up and put each in a little bowl or dish. Some of them are best cooked and others are better raw.

Preheat oven to 400F.  Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Start with a tostada shell, basically a flat corn tortilla. Place the tortillas onto the parchment paper. You might want to pre-crisp them in the oven for 5 minutes before adding toppings.

The main ingredient on these is crab, or to be more precise, imitation crab. If you have actual crab as we do now and then from crab legs, then that would be a definite upgrade. No crab? I really like these with refried beans as the base, too. Distribute the crab over the tortilla or spread the tortilla with a layer of beans.

Next ingredient is grated cheese. I like organic cheddar, but use whatever cheese you like including vegan, like Daiya. Cover the tortilla with cheese.

Now for the toppings that will be cooked. These include chopped onion, black olives bell peppers and jalapeno peppers. Add them to the tortillas.

Put the tostadas into the preheated oven and cook until bubbly, about  10 minutes.

When they come out, plate them and let everyone top them with the rest of the condiments. These include cherry tomatoes or chopped fresh tomatoes, cilantro, and (vegan) sour cream.

We had these with a side of Spanish Rice and refried beans. Another Tex-Mex night.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Kung Pao Noodles

This is a dish I have made many times. It is a nice spicy way to use a mixture of fresh vegetables. It all began after I had a pretty good meal in a restaurant in Northern VA. I had never had a kung pao with noodles before. So when I came home, I wanted to try to replicate the dish.

Kung Pao Noodles with Vegetables and Tempeh
1/4 c. minced onion
1/2 T. finely chopped fresh ginger
2-3 cloves of finely minced garlic
6-10 small dried red peppers
3-4 sliced scallions
1/2 cup peanuts
peanut oil for stir frying
Tempeh, cut into slices, approxiamtely 1/4" x 2" 
up to 2t. Szechuan Peppercorns, ground in a motar and pestle (or spice grinder)
1T cornstarch mixed with 2T water (set aside)

Vegetables of your choice:
green beans, cut into 2" sections
green or red bell pepper sliced or cubed
sliced carrot
water chestnuts

Mix together for the sauce:
1/3 c. light soy sauce
2 T vinegar
4 T dry sherry
3t. sugar
3/4 t black pepper

In hot oil stir fry the tempeh until golden brown. Remove from pan and reserve. Add additional oil if needed. Roast the dried red peppers in the oil over medium heat. When they begin to turn black, begin to stir-fry the vegetables, except for the green onions, in the same pan for 2-3 minutes. The vegetables should be crisp. Add the ginger and garlic, being careful not to brown the garlic. Add the sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and add cornstrach mixture and as the sauce begins to thicken, return the tempeh to the pan. Finish by adding the peanuts, green onions and Szechuan pepper. Stir these in and serve with brown rice.
You can adjust the heat on this dish in a few ways. If you like it milder, use only 3-4 dried peppers and reduce the amount of black and Szechuan Pepper. If you like it hot, increase these ingredients. I use about 8 dried peppers and 3/4-1 teaspoon of black pepper which makes it quite spicy but not painful.

Meat eaters can certainly add chicken or other meat to this.

Saturday, July 20, 2013


Whenever one is dealing with leftovers, its a little like playing "Chopped".  Look in the fridge and see what needs to be used most urgently. That's your "Mystery basket". Now make something delicious!

So last night the Mystery Basket ingredients were:
  • Leftover chicken
  • Leftover cooked rice
  • Fresh garden tomatoes, various kinds
  • Fresh jalapeno peppers

From our leftover "pantry" we also found: 
  • Some sprouted wheat tortillas
  • A partial jar of crushed tomatoes 
  • Bits and pieces of several onions
  • Some black olives
  • Some refried beans
frozen bell peppers from last years garden

New additions (so that one never runs out of leftovers):
  • Cilantro
  • garlic
  • spices: ancho chili  powder, cumin, smoked paprika and whatever else seems to fit
  • White vinegar
  • olive oil
  • Enchilada sauce from a can for those who prefer it that way

I made two kinds of enchiladas, one to suit each diner and some "Spanish Rice". I put the rice in quotes because I feel fairly certain that this dish is probably an American concoction. That doesn't mean it's bad, just probably not authentic.

Hey! Somebody get that cabbage out of there!
 Actually, was going to try to fit the cabbage into dinner,
but ended up putting it away for another night.

Step one: Prep all the ingredients. Preheat the oven to 400.
Chop tomatoes, finely mince all the jalapenos, chop the onion, clean and chop the cilantro, chop the chicken if needed.

Make enchilada sauce: Mix together about 1 cup of crushed tomatoes, 2t vinegar, 1/2t chili powder, 1/4t. garlic powder, 1/2t. cumin, and 1/2t smoked paprika to make an enchilada sauce for those who don't like canned sauce.

Step two: Start the rice
Heat a Tablespoon  of olive oil in a large saute pan. Cook about 1 cup of onions in the pan until they begin to caramelize or color a little bit. Throw in about 2 T of minced jalapeno pepper and the garlic. Watch the temp so the garlic does not burn. If you have fresh bell peppers, add them now.  I had frozen peppers so I waited to add them later.

Once the vegetables are softened, add the rice and some spice. I used chili powder, cumin, and smoked paprika, about 1 teaspoon of each. Toss around and stir fry over low flame so rice doesn't stick.

Step two-and-a half: Assemble the enchiladas
Do this as the onions/veg/rice cooks.
Lay a tortilla on an oven-proof plate.
Smear some sauce on the tortilla.
For the chicken enchilada, I used canned sauce because my diner prefers it that way. Top the sauce with chicken and cover with move sauce. Add chopped onion, raw tomato, diced jalapeno, and cheese. Roll up the enchilada and top with more sauce, more cheese and some black olives. Add bell peppers if you have them. Put some refried beans on the side of the plate and slide the whole plate into the oven.

For my vegetarian version I used the sauce I made in step one. I smeared the tortilla with refried beans and covered them with sauce. I topped that with onions, jalapeno, and chopped cherry tomatoes, (no cheese inside). The I wrapped it up and topped with more sauce, cheese and black olives and slid it into the oven. Cook for 15-20 minutes until everything is hot and bubbly.

This is the vegetarian version, with the rice to the side.

Step 3: Complete the rice
Add about 1/2 cup of the jarred crushed tomatoes. Add salt or soy sauce* to taste. Gently heat everything and watch so it doesn't burn. If using frozen or canned bell peppers, add them now.

Step 4: Final assembly
Bring the plates to the table with some chopped tomatoes and cilantro. Let everyone top their own enchilada. Believe me the fresh raw tomatoes on top are really nice!

* I often use soy sauce instead of salt because the flavor is a little more complex and it mixes in easily.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Blackened Salmon

Salmon is a real staple in my house, because we don't eat meat and only rarely eat chicken. For variety's sake I like to make Blackened Salmon. Just be sure that if you want to blacken something, you are prepeared to turn on the fans and open all the windows.

Blackened salmon requires a spice mixthat is sprinkled onto the fish. Then the fish is seared in a very hot pan until blackened.

Actually, I used to cook this outside on a hot plate, because it fills the house with very intense hot pepper aroma, enough to make one cough and eyes water. I would heat the pan up for about 10 minutes on the indoor stove, then carry it outside to the hot plate (or gas burner) to add the fish and finish cooking. I once managed to warp a cast iron frying pan making this dish. Outside is a really good option. Just be sure you can get the pan nice and hot before you start. But wherever you cook this, be careful! The pan is very hot!!!

Blackened Salmon

Salmon steaks or filets (you may use other firm fish steaks)
1 T paprika
1t. salt*
1t onion powder
1t garlic powder
1/4t cayenne
3/4t black pepper
1/2t dried thyme
1/2t. oregano
 1-2 T. olive oil (or melted butter)

Mix the dry spices all together. This is enough for about 8 servings. I keep what I don't use right away in a container for later.

Preheat a cast iron frying pan on medium heat for up to 10 minutes. The pan should be hot enough that a drop of water forms a ball then evaporates instantly when it hits the pan.

Pour the oil onto a plate. Dip the pink side of the salmon into the oil then turn the skin side down onto the plate. Sprinkle the spice mix onto the pink side of the salmon to cover. Do this for each piece. If you are using fish steaks with no skin, treat each side with the spice mix.

Place the fish in the hot pan skin side down. Cook 2-3 minutes and turn. You can usually judge the doneness of the fish from looking at the sides. The light "cooked" color spreads up the side.
Cook on the spiced side for another 2-3 minutes or until it reached the degree of doneness you like.

If you add some fennel to the spice mix, it can be used on steak. It was really tasty, but I don't eat steak anymore.

* You can add up to 1T of salt, but I really do not like food that salty. If you add the extra salt, the spice mix is milder.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

This and that


Blueberry to be precise.

I used a recipe from the Joy of Vegan Baking for lemon blueberry muffins.

Almost every day we have espresso or lattes  at home.

I grind dark roasted beans and usually make soy lattes. More recently I am drinking black espresso and using coconut milk for my other latte customer at his request.

Muffins are a nice change from the usual rolls.

Garden on the the Deck

I was going to tell you a tale of trying to obtain fresh produce in the modern world, but think it best to keep things positive and just show some pictures of our herbs-and veg-on-the-deck.We had a few minutes of sun today so I took some photos.

Parsley and basil

Cilantro, one of my favorites

Beautiful Celery

A bell pepper
and some cherry tomatoes

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Guest Chef

How I love guest chef night. Great food and for me, no cooking.
The menu included Crispy Cod Loins in a Basil-Lemon Sauce, Organic Kale, and Cornmeal-Panko Crusted Potato Cakes.

 The dish with sides

The sauce

Monday, July 15, 2013

Chow Mein

Chow Mein is one of those pseudo Asian stir-fried dishes that is hearty, comforting and relatively easy to make with whatever is on hand. I usually make Chicken Chow Mein the night after a roasted chicken dinner, because it is one of our favorite ways to use leftover chicken.

Chicken Chow Mein

The veg
  • Onion, about 1/2 of a large onion, sliced thin 
  • Celery, 3 ribs sliced diagonally
  • Carrots, sliced diagonally, 2-3 large ones because everyone likes carrots, don't they?
  • 5-6 large mushrooms, sliced  
  • one clove of garlic, minced  
  • 1-2 T of oil, you can use safflower oil, canola or even olive oil. 

The meat
1 to 1-1/2 cups of diced cooked chicken
You can substitute tempeh or tofu instead of chicken for a vegetarian version, or you can just go with vegetable show mein, no "meat" or soy. Throw in some extra mushrooms instead.

The sauce
  • 1-1/4 cup of chicken or vegetable broth---if you are working with a leftover cooked chicken, do include some of the gelled broth in the bottom of the pan. Place this in your measuring cup then fill  will broth until you hit the 1-1/4 mark
  • 2 T.  reduced sodium soy sauce
    1 T. sherry
  • 1 T. of cornstarch dissolved in 2 T. water
  • A good grinding of black pepper
  • Salt or more soy sauce to taste

The extras
  • Cooked brown rice
  • Crispy Chow Mein Noodles

The options
  • A tiny splash of Sesame oil, because I like it
  • A tiny sprinkle of Szechuan pepper, also because I like it

In a very large saute pan or wok sautee/stir-fry the onions and mushrooms over medium heat until they begin to color. Add the celery and carrots and continue to stir fry. Add the garlic and black pepper. Be careful not to burn the garlic. When the celery and carrots just begin to soften, pour in the broth, soy sauce and sherry. If you want the carrots and celery just a bit tenderer, put a top on the pan and simmer over low heat for about 3 minutes. Be careful not to let them get too soft. You want them to be a little al dente.

Take the top off the pan and stir in the cornstarch mixture and the chicken. Turn up the heat to medium  and stir well to mix in the cornstarch and let the sauce thicken. Right before serving you can swirl in s teaspoon of sesame oil if you like.

Serve over brown rice and top with crispy Chinese noodles and a sprinkling of Szechuan pepper if you roll that way. It is also fine to leave off the crispy noodles, because really, they aren't all that healthy are they? But the crunch is nice.

Sunday, July 14, 2013


Nada Burger prep always results in enough of everything for at least two meals, so we had a Nada re-run. In case anyone hasn't picked up on the name "Nada" Burger for a falafel wrap, it's not a (nada) burger.

I realized that I had forgotten to include a recipe for Tahini Sauce in my last post so here it is:

Tahini Sauce

1/2 cup of tahini (sesame paste)
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup water
1/4 t. salt (or salt to taste)
1/4 t. garlic powder

Mix everything together. It should be the consistency of thin mayonnaise. If it is too thick, add more lemon juice and water.

There was fresh non-GMO corn at the Farmers market, and kale, so those were our sides.

As things go around, this was an easy dinner, just clean up and cook some kale, assemble the wraps and quickly cook some corn. So I made dessert, but more on that later. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Nada Burger

Some years ago while in Norfolk, VA visiting family, my husband and I found a little Mediterranean restaurant on Colley Ave, called Azar's. They served what they called the Nada Burger. It was a falafel wrap with tahini sauce, tomatoes and pickle which was lightly heated on the flat top. I don't like most pickles, but I do like fresh cucumber, so that's what I put in my home version.

When we came home I decided it was something I could make. Here is my version:

Nada burger with a side of potato salad and steamed asparagus

I use a falafel mix, but if you want to make your own, I am certain there are many recipes online or in cookbooks. There is a good one in  Vegan with a Vengence. These wraps are not something that requires a lot of measuring. I start with a cup or so of each of the chopped ingredients.  If there is some left over, it becomes a little garnish or side salad. 

Nada Burger

1 cup Falafel mix mixed with 3/4 cup water (or your favorite version of felafel).
Olive oil
Tahini Sauce (see next post)
Chopped parsley (lots)
Chopped tomatoes
Chopped cucumber

Mix up the falafel according to package directions. I use boiling water because it is faster than cold water.  Form the falafel into 6 small patties. Fry the patties over medium-low heat in enough olive oil to keep them from sticking. Cook until golden brown on each side and set aside.

Mix up the Tahini Sauce. Have all ingredients ready.

Lay out a wrap. Spread a spoonful of tahini sauce across the center of the wrap. 

Add a generous amount of parsley along the center, on top of the tahini.

Crumble one of the falafel patties over the parsley.

Add some tomatoes and cucumber

Today we had fresh basil, so I added some of that, too. 

Wrap up the ingredients. I use a burrito sized organic sprouted wheat wrap and secure it with toothpicks.  Heat a little bit of olive oil in a large pan and heat up the wrap, turning it so that it is golden brown on each side.


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

This is a favorite dinner around here:
Roast Chicken and Mashed potatoes

and a side veg, in this case, organic Kale. 

Plain cooking, but always delicious: 

To finish it off, more blueberry cobbler

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


This is a pseudo Thai dish that is nice to have when you have lots of vegetables that need to get eaten. It uses small amounts of many vegetables and almost anything fits in: broccoli, green beans, zucchini, mushrooms, carrots, all of them work in any combination, It is totally un-authentic Pad Thai, but it does use some Pad Thai Sauce from a jar.

Pad Gnome
severs up to 4
  • 1/2 cup of Pad Thai Sauce*
  • 3-4 T. Chili Sauce**
  • 1 T soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Thai Seasoning***
  • Mix these first four ingredients together and set aside
  • 1-1/2 T basil flavored olive oil
  • 2/3 cup sliced Tofu or Tempeh
  • 1/2 cup peanuts or cashews
  • juice of one lime
  • Herbs: 1/2 cup or more of one or more fresh herbs which may include Basil, Thai Basil, Mint, and/or Cilantro
  • Vegetables: 3-4 cups of any combination of fresh vegetables which may include onions, mushrooms, green beans, peppers, squash, snow peas, cabbage, bok choy, broccoli, cauliflower, green onions...I usually include onions, mushrooms and pepper and whatever else is on hand. Fresh green beans are great in this dish in season.

  • Noodles: Regular spaghetti works great. Cook it for only 6 minutes, then drain and toss with basil oil. I cook about 3 servings worth as measured by one of those spaghetti measuring thingies with different sized holes for various serving sizes.
Be sure all ingredients are chopped and ready before starting to cook!
Have all your vegetables cut into bite sized pieces. Broccoli or cualiflower should be broken into florets. Green beans, if used, should be blanched (4-6 minutes depending on size). They should still be crisp. Broccoli and cauliflower should also be blanched for about 3-4 minutes. 

Boil water for spaghetti. If you need to blanch any vegetables, do this before cooking the spaghetti, in the same pot of hot water, or you may try the easy blanching method for all veg if you like. Blanch for the recommended time, then scoop them out with a slotted spoon to drain and set aside. Cook spaghetti only until al dente, then drain it, return it to the pan in which it cooked and toss with basil oil. Toss in the sauce mixture and the peanuts.

Set a large frying pan on medium high heat and add 1-2 T of oil to the pan, and begin to stir fry the veggies. Begin with the onion and mushrooms, stir fry briefly and add to the noodles. It is OK if the vegetables carmelize (brown) a little. Cook  each vegetable and stir it into the noodles until all are done.

Stir fry the tempeh or tofu in a little oil and add it to the noodle mixture. The tempeh should be golden brown.

Return all ingredients to the hot frying pan and allow them to heat up. It is OK if the noodles brown a little. When everything seems nice and hot, add the lime juice and stir in thoroughly. Add the herbs. Toss and serve immediately.

Serve garnished with extra lime slices and a little chopped cilantro 

* Pad Thai sauce is a prepared sauce that comes in a small jar, and my favorite kind is by Thai Kitchen. If you cannot find it or do not want to use a canned sauce, try this: Mix together 1/2c veg stock, 2 T lime juice, 1 T Asian bean sauce, 1 T sugar, 2 t soy sauce, 1 T soy sauce, and 1/4 t chili flakes.
**This is just chili sauce in  jar. You can find it near the ketchup on the grocer's shelf. I am currently using an organic brand; in the past I have used Heinz or generic. You could use Asian chili sauce.
***Thai Seasoning is a spice mixture. If you cannot find it use this mixture: 1 T sesame seeds, 1/2 t crushed red pepper flakes, 1/2 t. garlic powder, 1/2 t. ground coriander and a dash of nutmeg.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Fish Provençal and Pan Roasted Brussels Sprouts

I made an impulse buy of some Brussels sprouts. When trying to answer the age old question, "Hey! What's for dinner?" I needed something that would go well with Brussels Sprouts. My husband and I both said at the same time, "Fish Provençal".

Pan Roasted Brussels Sprouts can take center stage as far as I'm concerned. Practially a meal on their own. But they are nice with a tomato-y something to the side.

I make fish Provençal using cod, but you can use whatever fish you like. Basically, I show up for the herbaceous tomato sauce over mashed potatoes, so if you want to leave out the fish all-together, that would be OK, too.

Pan Roasted Brussels Sprouts

  • Brussels Sprouts, about 12-14 oz. washed, trimmed and cut in half.
  • Olive oil
  • 1 cup medium dry white wine
  • veg broth (optional)
  • black pepper
  • toasted sliced almonds

Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat and add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan lightly. Add the Brussels sprouts to the pan, cut side down.  Try not to crowd them, but fill the pan. Let them brown in the pan.  This will take 4-6 minutes. Try not to panic. Check the sprouts and turn them when they become a nice golden brown. Let them brown on the round side for about 3-4 minutes. Sprinkle with fresh black pepper. Add the white wine. It will sizzle! Then it will settle down.  Put a top on the pan and let the sprouts simmer, covered for about 4 minutes. Remove the top from the pan and check the fluid level. If it looks very juicy turn up the heat and reduce the wine until you have about 1/4 cup left. If the liquid has evaporated, add a splash of vegetable broth or additional wine. Test for doneness. They should still be al dente. Top with toasted almonds before serving. 

Fish Provençal

  • Filet of firm white fish. I used to use Grouper, but it has become rather endangered, so now we use cod. 
  • olive oil
  • one large clove of garlic, minced and one clove of garlic, sliced
  • 1 large chopped (or sliced) onion
  • 1 cup of white wine
  • one can of organic diced tomatoes
  • 1 T of tomato paste
  • a bay leaf
  • 8 oz of sliced mushrooms
  • 2 t. Herbs of Provence
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • fresh thyme and rosemary: I go out to the deck and pick a spring of rosemary and a few stems of thyme. These are optional but good.
  • juice of one lemon*
  • grated rind of one lemon
  • chopped parsley to garnish
Cook onion in olive oil  over medium heat until it begins to color. Add mushrooms and saute for 3-5 minutes, add the garlic.  Give it another minute or two, but be very careful not to burn the garlic. 

Add the white wine. Simmer and reduce the wine by 2/3. Add tomato paste and diced tomatoes, bay leaf, both fresh and dried herbs and seasonings. Let sauce simmer very gently for about 5 minutes. If you need to, it can simmer longer. Stir in the lemon juice, then add the fish filets. Cover the pan and let the fish simmer in the sauce for 5-7 minutes until cooked through. The time will vary depending on the thickness of the fish.

Mix the parsley and the lemon zest and sprinkle over the dish before serving or sprinkle on the dish once plated. Serve over mashed potatoes.

I am sure there are lots of versions of Fish Provençal. For instance, you can add olives if you like. Both the fish dish and the Brussels Sprouts are my own recipes arrived at through experimentation in the kitchen, putting together things I like.

* This makes it nice and lemony, if you prefer less lemon flavor, use juice from half a lemon.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The General's Tempeh

I created this recipe as I tried to find a recipe I liked for a General Tso Sauce. It morphed into more of a General Tang because of the orange. It is a slightly sweet, tangy sauce with a touch of heat and  nice orange flavor. You can adjust the seasonings to suit your palette. 

This sauce can be used with Tofu, Tempeh or even chicken if you roll that way.  I know it is probably not exactly the General Tso you are used to, which is why I am calling it just the General's Tempeh or maybe it should just be called a pseudo Asian dish I made up. Whatever it is, it is tasty.

Serves 2 generously

Use your favorites. Broccoli is traditional and can stand alone, but I often use onion, broccoli and carrots. I like mixed veg, but use whatever is on hand to equal about 3-4 cups of prepared vegetables. 

  • one julienned carrot (cut into 2"-3" x <1/4" sticks)
  • 1/2 of a red onion, sliced lengthwise
  • 1/2 of a zucchini, sliced in half lengthwise, then into 1/4" slices
  • 1/4 cup diced red pepper
  • one head of broccoli, cut into small florets
  • 1 cup or more of green beans, cut into 2" pieces (or whole if small)

Sauce and Tempeh

  • orange peel: carve off the peel in large strips or chunks, cut into 1" lengths
  • fresh orange juice, from one orange (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 T chopped ginger root
  • 2 cloves finely chopped garlic (or 1/2-1 teaspoon of roasted garlic)
  • 6-10 small dried red chili peppers*, the number will depend on how hot you like things and the kind of chili you are using, 4-5 is a mild version, 8-10 gets hotter
  • 1/3 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 T sesame oil
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 1 T mirin
  • 4 T rice (or white)vinegar
  • 4 T sugar
  • 2 T honey
  • 1 T sriracha*
  • 1/4 t. red pepper flakes*
  • 2-3 T. cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 6 oz thinly sliced tempeh
  • 2-3+ T of (organic) canola or sunflower oil
  • 1T cornstarch mixed with 2T of water
  • 1/2 cup cashews or peanuts, optional, but adds some nice crunch and protein
* vary the amount of these ingredients to control the heat. The amounts I have listed make a medium HOT sauce. If you want a milder sauce, leave out the siracha, and use less red pepper flake.

Mix the sauce ingredients (from Vegetable stock to honey)together in a small bowl and set aside.

Heat 1-2 T of sunflower or canola oil in a large pan or wok over medium heat. You may need to add a bit more oil as you cook. Brown the tempeh on all sides until is a deep golden brown. If using Tofu, you can pre-fry it now or stir-fry it before you add it with the vegetables.

Next, in the leftover oil cook the dried chilies until they are quite dark in color. Remove them from the pan and reserve.

Cook the orange peel until it begins to brown around the edges. Remove it from the pan and reserve with the chilies.

Cook the vegetables using your choice of three methods:
1. Easy Blanching method: I cut my broccoli into small florets and put them in a metal bowl. I heat water in my electric kettle and pour the boiling water over the veg. I leave them in the hot water while continuing to sautee some of the other items. This methods parboils the broccoli, but it really cannot get over cooked. This method also works well for green beans. You will drain the veg before adding to the pan at the end of cooking time.

2. If you are inexperienced with stir-frying, sautee/stir fry each ingredient separately until almost done. Reserve each, to be added back into the sauce at the end of cooking.

3. With more experience you can stir-fry the vegetables to the correct doneness by adding each to the pan in succession. Begin with the vegetables that take longer to cook. Finish with those that do not take as long. This last method takes a bit more experience to master.

Just before the vegetables are done, add the reserved sauce, heat until it bubbles, then return the chilies, orange peel, cashews and tempeh to the pan. Stir the cornstarch and water mixture to combine and add to the sauce. When everything is heated through and thickened slightly, sprinkle the cilantro and nuts on top.

Serve over brown rice. Enjoy!