Simple and In Season · Uncategorized · Vegan

Out of Reach

Summer Squash Orzo

Labor Day weekend is fast arriving, and with it the end of summer.  While I understand that summer doesn’t officially end until later in September, to me Labor Day will always be the end of summer.  Maybe it’s because of the school buses back on the roads, or the lack of college interns at work, or maybe it’s the closing of the local pools.  Not sure which of those is the real reason but however I look at it I have to accept that soon my garden will be buried under snow.  Luckily I am ending my summer on a high note, because the end of summer means that all the vegetables I love are in their full glory.  Tomatoes of all colors, squash in all sorts of shapes, and sweet vidalia onions…yummy!  This recipe utilizes all of these vegetables and depending on the variety in your market the variety of color combinations is mind boggling!

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp EVOO
  • 1 vidalia onion, diced
  • 5 basil leaves, torn
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 oz extra firm tofu, cubed
  • 1 yellow squash, cut in .5in rings
  • 1 zucchini, cut in .5in rings
  • 2 cups tomatoes, halved and divided(I used a variety of Heirloom Cherry)
  • 8 oz orzo, cooked per box and set aside
Directions:
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic and cook for 5minutes, until the garlic starts to turn golden.  Add the tofu, squash, and zucchini and cook an additional 5 minutes until adding the tomatoes.
  2. Puree 1 cup of the tomatoes with the basil along with some salt and pepper until slightly chunky.  Add the mixture along with the tomatoes halves to the saucepan.  Cover and cook for 10minutes over medium low heat, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
  3. Pour the vegetable mixture over the orzo and toss well.  Serve with Crusty Bread and enjoy!
I don’t think it can get any easier than this, especially if all your ingredients are located in your backyard.  I think my favorite part was picking out which cherry tomatoes to use, and making sure I had a few of each of the varieties in order to really showcase the colors.  I am hoping to get one last gathering of tomatoes before it all ends but even if I don’t this was a very successful summer garden and I’m looking forward to improving upon it next year.
International Incident Party

Take You Over

Mexican Style Quiche

International Incident Party

Greetings from the state that Mother Nature is trying to destroy, first an earthquake and now a Hurricane.  I’m not sure why we have been blessed enough to have two events in one week, but so far my house is standing and my power is on!

I was fortunate to travel to Mexico many years ago with my Girl Scout troop, and have fond memories of many of the dishes.  When coming up with ideas I went thru a number of the more basic ideas, such a huevos rancheros or a breakfast quesadilla.  I had done my first quiche a few months ago, for the Simple and in Season challenge, and for some reason I thought it would be fun to try a Mexican twist.  This is easily one of those dishes that can be changed and adjusted based on personal taste, as written it has a slight kick but nothing too powerful.

Ingredients:

  • 5 corn tortillas, burrito size
  • 1 cup corn off-the-cob
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 2 green chiles, diced & deseeded (optional)
  • 1 cup red onion, diced
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, grated
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 375 and light grease a 9in pie pan.  Lay the tortillas in the pan, going up the sides and slightly overlapping.  Rip as needed.  Bake for 15minutes, until start to brown.
  2. Meanwhile cut up the vegetables.  Mix the eggs with the milk and set-aside.  Take the shell out of the oven and add the vegetables in layers before pour the egg mixture over top.  Bake for 35 minutes.
  3. Remove the quiche from oven, add the cheese, then return to oven and bake for a final 15minutes.  Use a toothpick to make sure the center of the dish is full cooked. Serve with Sour Cream and/or salsa and Enjoy!

One of my favorite things about quiches is that they are great hot or cool, so a great make ahead dish when expecting early company: human or hurricane.

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Uncategorized · Vegan

Record Play

Fiesta Rice & Beans

So there is currently a culinary throw down between the sharp-tongued Anthony Bourdain and the butter-loving Paula Deen, and lines are being drawn in the risotto. While I am Team Bourdain I am also a fan of one of his other targets, Sandra Lee.  While I rarely watch her Semi-Homemade show I love the concept of using some processed ingredients in order to come up with quick and family friendly meal.  In the year following my house purchase I used a number of her tricks in order to stretch ever last dollar as far as possible.  While I no longer need to scrimp as much, some of those shortcuts are still useful especially those that result in a great taste for little effort.  I think the original hint for this dish was for making Spanish Rice but the concept of using a flavor packet to add an extra punch can be utilized in many areas, if you don’t believe me just look at the back of Knorr’s packet next time you are at the grocery!

Ingredients: (serves 4-5)

  • 1 tbsp butter/margarine
  • 2 cans black or pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 vidalia onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 packet fajita mix
  • 1 cup rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup tomatoes, chopped (used Heirloom Cherry)
Directions:
  1. In a medium saucepan mix the fajita mix with the water before adding the rice, place on burner and turn heat to high.  Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 15minutes.
  2. Meanwhile in a saute pan over medium heat add melt the butter and then add the beans, onions, and pepper.  Cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking.  Once the rice has finished cooking, add the bean mixture and mix well.  Serve topped with sour cream and/or cheese.
Nothing like a quick and simple dinner for a crazy weekday night.
Salad

Hey Baby

Herbal Tuna Salad with Hummus

This recipe is a marriage of two of my favorite salads: Rubino‘s Italian Tuna Salad and Gordon Biersch‘s Pita Hummus Salad.  I decided to modify them and come up with a dish that had the best of both flavor profiles while being quick and easy.  I had intended to add some tomatoes to this dish but my garden did not cooperate.  Any type of pasta could be used for this dish, including orzo but there is something about the tri-colored pasta noodles that add the right pop in taste and color.  For the dressing I decided to do a simple oil-based herbal dressing but a balsamic or red wine vinaigrette would work as well.  The trick is to make sure the dressing doesn’t overpower the dish, so NO ranch!

Ingredients (serves 4-6)

  • 1 lb tri-colored rotini pasta, cooked and cooled
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2 tins tuna, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup EVOO
  • 1/2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp fresh cilantro
  • 6 basil leaves
  • pinch of salt/pepper
  • 1/2 cup hummus (here for BEST recipe)
Directions:
  1. Mix the pasta, onion, and tuna.  
  2. Blend together the remaining ingredients and then pour over the pasta, toss well! 
  3. Top with 1-2 tbsp of the hummus and then enjoy 🙂
This is also one of those dishes that tastes even better the next day, just add a little more oil before refrigerating in order to prevent the pasta from drying out.  
Vegetarian on Vacation

In the Middle

Vegetarian on Vacation

The Middle and the Bad of Indianapolis

Midwest.  Farm County.  Steakhouses. Welcome to Indianapolis where there is a steakhouse on every corner.  While a number of these well established restaurants are expanding their menus to include some non-red-meat options, they are few and far between.  The other ones will bring a veggie plate if requested, but then dinner is regulated to a few roasted vegetables with little protein in sight.  The following are places that are either on the right track, and haven’t yet reached the station along with those that aren’t even trying to find the station.

St. Elmos – They offer a vegetable plate, and that’s it.  They are a true blue steak house with everything you would expect a steakhouse to have.   PERIOD

West Coast Tacos – Confession: I love food trucks.  However I think Food Trucks should be like every other restaurant when it comes food offerings and include something veggie friendly.  With Tacos there are plenty of easy veggie options starting with black beans and avocado and just building from there.

Palomino – There are options here, not many, but they are there and they are DELICIOUS!  They have one of the richest tasting mushroom soups I have ever had.  If you get the right waitor they are also willing to work with you to find the perfect dish, which is always a great touch.  While they still need to expand on their veggie friendly options they are heading in the right direction and I can see a vegan entree in their near future.

The Ram – It should be noted that for GenCon they have a special themed menu, one that has NO vegetarian options to include the salads.  They do offer veggie burgers however they are frozen, tasteless, and extremely overpriced.  It didn’t help that the service was horrid, of the 6 people at the table only two got the correct order the first time out.  Hopefully their normal menu has more variety and hopefully their kitchen has a better track record under normal circumstances.

While typing this up I noticed a breaking news release about a stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair, my thoughts and prayers with all the families effected.  I look forward to traveling to Indy again next year for GenCon 2012, and look forward to trying out some new places!

Vegetarian on Vacation

Roam Around

Vegetarian on Vacation

Downtown Indianapolis

Hello!  So I just got back from GenCon in Indianapolis and had a total BLAST! I love being able to go somewhere and let my inner geek fly.  This time I was able to check out some great shows including the amazing Damsels of Dorkington and the hilarious Leah not Leia.  I also saw Ghild and while Michael Rosenbaum is a cutie I’m still not sure if I enjoyed this movie, but that could be because I was expecting a comedy comedy and not a black comedy which this movie is.  Needless to say this was another wonderful year, and I’m looking forward to figuring out L5R which is the new game I brought home.

Now for the important part: the FOOD.  Indianapolis is a meat lovers haven!  Finding a vegetarian entree can be a challenge and finding a true vegan option is near to impossible unless you are okay with eating a salad for every meal.  This year I did my best to branch out and try new places, but I found that for all the growth happening in the city the food options are not expanding.   Today I am going to focus on the places that offer true vegetarian fare, without having to modify anything or get creative.

  • The New York Slice:  Huge New York style slices that are an amazing price, plus the veggie option is delicious.   One slice was more than enough for me for lunch, but for those with large appetites the price per slice can’t be beat.  They also offered a number of sides
  • Noodles & Company:   Essentially everything at this restaurant starts out vegetarian and goes from there.  At first I thought this was a vegan mecca until I saw that they tend to use the same pans with only a quick rinse which means some animal byproduct could be left behind.  This leads me to my second point of this restaurant not being nut allergy friendly, unless you asked the person to get a new pan and even then I would be careful.  This might be a location thing so if you have nut allergies be sure to voice them.  When going here I tend to stick to the Asian section, the Bangkok Curry is delicious as is the Indonesian Peanut Saute.  Being able to add organic tofu is another huge plus, that and being able to adjust the heat level.
  • India Gardens: I’ll admit it, I was nervous to try Indian food in Indy.  The last time I had Indian food here in the DC area I found a not so pleasant surprise in my masala so I wasn’t sure what a city that lacks the diversity of DC would offer.  I was more than pleasantly surprised by this gem, which exceeded all of my expectations and then some.  After much debate I decided on the Paneer Masala and my only regret is that I didn’t order it spicier.  The Masala sauce was some of the richest most flavorful I have ever had while the paneer just melted in my mouth.  The Naan was also out of this world and it was obvious that it was as fresh as possible.
  • Canterbury Hotel: When I saw the sign advertising an $8 lunch special, I was intrigued.  When I saw that a Vegetable Risotto was on the list I walked right on in.  While the portion was a little small, even for a lunch fare, it was enough to satisfy.  Looking back I wish I had asked about the broth used but I’ll have to trust that since they were advertising it as vegetarian, not vegan, it used a vegetable broth along with copious amounts of real butter.
  • Ah Barista: I have truly saved the best for last with this entry because there were more vegetarian options than I had time to try.  A number of them can also be easily modified for a vegan, including the Portabella Mushroom Panini and the Peanut Butter Banana & Honey sandwich.  The later of these was my first meal in Indy, which is starting to be a tradition.  Since Joe is allergic to peanuts I tend to go on peanut benders when I’m traveling and this sandwich always hits the spot.  I’m also a fan of the 4-Cheese Pretzel Panini, the amount of cheese in this sandwich would satisfy even the most devout cheeseheads so if you have any lactose issues avoid this cheesy masterpiece.  If the delicious food isn’t enough to lure you in, the prices are just right since they include a pickle and chips.
So there you have it, my top 5 vegetarian places for eating when in downtown Indianapolis.  While I’m sure there are others, I was limited to the area directly around the convention center on this trip so please let me know what you think is missing from this list.  
Casserole · Slow Cooker

Sun Come Up

Mexican Lasagna

I have a confession: some days I don’t feel like cooking.  These days are rare but they do happen, and lately they have been happening in large numbers.  I’m not sure why I’m hitting a cooking-block but I am in one and I’m hoping soon I’ll be out of this funk.  Since I have been in a slight cooking funk I’m going to start a new blog section, dedicated to going on vacation as a vegetarian.  I just went to the shore this weekend and I’m leaving tomorrow for GENCON, and trying to eat veggie while in the midwest is not exactly easy. I’ve been told that more restaurants have open near the Con Center that offer more diversity so hopefully this year I’ll be able to eat more than salads and grilled cheese.  Whatever the result I will be posting, although I’m not sure there will be photos of all locations since my favorite photographer is staying home with the furry ones.

This recipe is great for those days when motivation is low but budget is small.  Essentially everything is just layered in the slow cooker with very little work, perfect.  This is also a dish that is easy to adapt based on what you have on hand, and how spicy people like it.

Ingredients: (serves 5-6)

  • 2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups favorite enchilada sauce
  • 1 cup cooked brown (or white) rice, divided
  • 1 green pepper, diced and divided
  • 1 mayan onion, diced and divided
  • 2 tomatoes, diced and divided
  • 1 jalepeno, divided and divided
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese, divided
  • 5 tortillas, fajita size
  • sour cream (optional)

Directions:

  1. Line a large slow cooker with a liner (optional) and turn to high (2hrs) or low (6hrs).
  2. Pour 1/2 cup of the enchilada sauce on the bottom of the slow cooker.  Layer tortillas on bottom without overlap.  Top with half of the peppers, onion, beans, rice, tomatoes, and jalepenos.  Place another layer of tortillas on top and repeat layering, adding the cheese.  Top with the last tortillas before adding the remaining cheese and the last cup of enchilada sauce.  Serve hot and top with sour cream!