10.27.11_Samosa Baked Potatoes

I love samosas. And I love potatoes (they are actually in my top 5 favorite foods). So when I saw a recipe for samosa inspired baked potatoes there was no question whether or not these would be made sometime in the near future. I mean honestly, who would not want these?

As always, this recipe could not have been an easier. It was basically like making twice baked potatoes but with samosa seasoning. Pierce two potatoes with a fork or knife and bake them in a 400 degree oven for about an hour. Towards the end of the hour prep the other ingredients. Saute half an onion (I used one large shallot instead), 1.5 tsp minced ginger,  1/2 tsp mustard seeds, and 1.5 tsp curry powder for about 5 minutes in a little olive oil.

Once the potatoes are fully baked, slice them open and scoop out all of the potato while keeping the skin in tact as much as possible. Combine the potato, onion mixture, 1/8 cup cilantro, 3/4 cup peas, and 3 TBS of butter. I used frozen peas that I quickly defrosted in the microwave. I feel like canned peas would not be very good in this dish, but what do I know? If you don't have fresh cilantro you could substitute the dried stuff, but don't use nearly as much! I looked up online how much dry spice to use instead of fresh and ended up using about 2 TBS of dried cilantro. It worked just fine but I think the fresh would make a big difference.  Next, mash it all the ingredients together with a fork or potato masher and add S&P to taste. Then scoop the potato mixture back into the potato skin and that's it.

I topped mine with a dollop of plain yogurt. I really liked the addition of the tangy yogurt with the flavors of the potato. So simple and incredibly filling and delicious. I originally thought I would make a vegetable or something on the side but we ended up not needing it because the potatoes were so filling on their own.

10.24.11_Paneer Jalfrezi

I'm not sure why I never cooked Indian food prior to our vegetarian adventure. It comes across as super complicated when in reality the Indian dishes I have made have been some of the easiest and least stressful out of the bunch. The Paneer Tikka Masala was straight forward and delicious, the Aloo Gobi Chana literally could not have been easier, and now adding to that list, I made Paneer Jalfrezi which involved nothing but prep work. So simple.

When I came across this recipe I was originally drawn to the bright colors of the food. Phillip and I both really enjoyed the paneer in the Tikka Masala dish so I wanted to try another dish with this. We both enjoy spicy food as well so when I read that this dish packed some heat I was excited about it. The other great part about this recipe was that I already had most of the ingredients from past recipes, all we had do buy was a little bit of produce.

I decided it would be easiest to do all the prep work at once so that when it came time to cook all I would have to do is add the next ingredient to the pan rather than ferociously chopping while something else was already in the pan. I even let Phillip help and for those who have lived or cooked with me, they know this is a big deal. We sliced up an onion (I used half instead of a full one since Phillip isn't a huge fan), two Roma tomatoes, a bell pepper (Phillip chose red), a pretty big Serrano pepper (instead of 2 Thai chilis), and minced 3 cloves of garlic and an inch of ginger root. Phillip cut the paneer into little strips as well.

Once everything was chopped I started the rice I was going to serve the dish with since that always takes the longest. After the rice was simmering for about 5-10 minutes it was time to start cooking the main course. All you had to do was add cumin and coriander seeds to some hot oil, then start adding the ingredients a few at a time. The recipe had a very specific order and amount of time for each ingredient so I did my best to stick to it. In addition to the ingredients we chopped up, the recipe also called for salt to taste, 3/4 tsp of tumeric, and 1.5 TBS of red chili flakes. I did about half the chili flakes this called for because I did not want to die from this meal.  In the end all of the ingredients ended up in the same pan and mixed together. After everything was cooked,  you remove the mixture from the heat and sprinkle it with 1/4 tsp of sugar, 1/2 tsp of garam masala, and 1.5 TBS of white vinegar or lemon juice (I used a combo).

We served the Paneer Jalfrezi over the rice and also had some naan I had put in the freezer from when we had the Aloo Gobi. The dish made more food than I expected and there was enough leftover for Phillip to take for lunch the next day. The next time you think about attempting to make Indian food I say go for it. You'll probably be surprised how easy and delicious it ends up being.

10.23.11_Fall Festivities

On Saturday we took a group of friends down to Charlottesville to go apple picking at Carter Mountain Orchard and then do some wine tasting. I hadn't been apple picking since I was a kid and was excited to go again. The views from the orchard are amazing and we had a perfect day. Phillip and I had looked up a few recipes we wanted to try before we went down so we knew how many apples we would need to pick. We ended up with 15 Fuji apples and one pumpkin, perfect for an apple crisp, homemade applesauce and pumpkin seeds!

I forgot how easy making applesauce is. The part that took the longest was peeling and coring the apples. Phillip and I both used paring knives to peel the apples. I tried to be all Top Chef and act like I was in the mies en place relay that they always do on the first episode. Sadly, if I were a contestant I think I would be eliminated immediately. I did almost peel an entire apple without picking up my knife once, creating one single curly-cue of apple skin. Impressive I know. We peeled 7 medium-sized apples, cored them, and then quartered the apples before adding them to a cup of water, 1/4 cup sugar and 3/4 tsp of cinnamon. Cook the apples of medium heat, covered for 15-20 minutes and then they are ready. I don't like very chunky applesauce so I transferred the apples to the blender and gave them a quick whirl. The applesauce was super delicious and made a good amount!

Next up was the apple crisp. We found lots of different recipes for apple crisps and we finally settled on one that had no eggs and it was super easy. While the oven preheats to 350 degrees, peel, core, and slice 6 apples (we did 7 because they were kind of small), then mix the apples in a baking dish with 2-3 TBS of sugar, 1/4 tsp of cinnamon and a TBS of flour. In a separate bowl, mix 1 cup flower, 5 TBS brown sugar, 2 TBS sugar, and a stick of butter (diced into tiny pieces). We decided to use 1/2 cup of oats in place of nuts, because Phillip and I both love oats! I also was not thrilled about using an entire stick of butter in this, but I figured we rarely eat or make dessert so we decided to splurge. We also subbed Granny Smith apples for the Fujis we had picked. The crisp baked for 1hr and 15mins and then it was ready! We served it with some ice cream we had in the fridge. Yum!

The final task of the day was carving our pumpkin! When I was a kid, my mom would always clean and roast the seeds while we carved our pumpkins so that when we were all done, the pumpkin seeds would be ready for us! They were never anything fancy but I loved them. After scooping out all the seeds and cleaning off the gook from the pumpkin, we put the seeds on a baking sheet, sprinkled with salt, then baked on 300 degrees for about 45 minutes, flipping the seeds every 10 minutes or so. So simple and so good. While the seeds were in the oven I was able to carve our pumpkin. We decided to do Sylvester and Tweety since that is what we are dressing up as for Halloween! Such a fun Fall weekend!

10.18.11_Caulifower Cakes

Now that we are doing fewer vegetarian meals per month I've been wanting to choose recipes for things that I have either never had or never made before. While I like eating vegetarian because it generally makes me feel better, I also like trying to make new things to keep it exciting for me. I found this recipe for cauliflower cakes and I was intrigued for multiple reasons: 1) They reminded me of latkes or potato pancakes, which I love. 2) They had garam masala in it and now that I have a huge amount of this from when we made the Paneer Tikka Masala I was excited at the prospect of using it again.

As always the recipe was super simple. Combine the following ingredients in a big bowl, mix them together, then drop 2 tablespoons or so of the "batter" into a 1/4 cup of oil in a skillet.
  • 2 cups grated cauliflower (1 medium size head of cauliflower)
  • 1/2 large yellow onion (approximately 1 cup chopped)
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup panko crumbs (optional, for texture)
  • 1/2 tbsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tbsp salt
Each cake cooked for a couple of minutes on each side. I felt like Hanukkah came early this year and I was frying up the latkes because it was exactly the same process. I was able to do four cakes at a time and transferred them to a plate with a paper towel after they finished cooking to get rid of some of the oil.

The recipe called for 10 minutes prep and 10 minutes cooking time. Either I'm extremely slow or the girls who wrote this recipe are crazy! The prep didn't take that long but grating the cauliflower took a while. I contemplated roughly chopping it and putting it into the Cuisinart instead but decided not to. I wish I had. I think the result would have been the same but in half the time without bits of cauliflower flying all over my tiny kitchen. The recipe also did not say how much this would make. Being delusional, I thought this would make a couple of cakes. I used 2 tablespoons per cake instead of the tablespoon listed in the recipe and I ended up with 18 cauliflower cakes! I ate 3 and Phillip had 4 to give you an idea of serving size, so needless to say, it took me a while to fry up all of these cakes when they take a couple of minutes per side for each cake.

I decided to serve the cakes on top of a simple salad. I wanted to make a homemade lemon vinaigrette to toss the salad with and also wanted to make an aioli to drizzle on top of the cakes. I realized after making this decision that I did not have dijon mustard, an ingredient that typically both of these would have in them. For the vinaigrette I just left out the mustard and whisked together 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 1/2 tablespoon minced shallot, 1/4 teaspoon grated lemon peel, 1/4 teaspoon sugar, and S&P. I tossed the salad with the vinaigrette before plating it and sprinkled with a little coarse salt before placing the cakes on top of the salad.

For the aioli my original thoughts were to make my own from scratch. However after spending longer than I thought frying cauliflower cakes I decided to cheat. I took about two tablespoons of store bought mayo, added fresh lemon juice, a little squirt of regular mustard, a pinch of garlic powder and some S&P. My fake version of an aioli came out much better than I anticipated and was surprisingly good. I drizzled the sauce over my cauliflower cakes, cracked some fresh black pepper on top and called it a day. I really liked this dish. I could really taste the garam masala in the cakes and I thought the addition of the vinaigrette and the aioli complemented the cakes well.


Apparently October has been busy because this is my first post this month! Luckily I plan on having several vegetarian dishes this week so look for several updates over the next few days. Yesterday while thinking about what I wanted to eat this week I had a strong craving for fajitas. Phillip doesn't really like bell peppers or onions so fajitas are never that exciting for him so then I started thinking about refried beans.  Then I thought of tostadas. I haven't had tostadas in a very long time and I had actually never mad them so I thought this would be a great dish to try. Phillip suggested that instead of ground beef we could use Lightlife's Smart Ground veggie crumbles. We had tried them at Caitlin's a few weeks ago when she made us a Vegan Shepperd's Pie and we really enjoyed them.

After doing a little Googling Phillip told me that it seems that tostadas were almost always made with corn tortillas rather than flour so we decided to get these while shopping. I wasn't exactly how I should crisp up the tortillas. I figured I could either do it in a toast them up in a skillet, shallow fry them, or bake them. I searched online and found recipes that used all three methods. We decided to bake them to make them a little healthier than frying them and I figured it would be super easy, and it was. All I had do do was put a little oil (I used canola) on a baking sheet, rub the tortillas around in the oil coating both sides, then put them in a 400 degree oven. I baked the tortillas for about 15 minutes, flipping halfway through. They ended up super crunchy and nicely toasted. I would probably cut the time back a little next time to make them a little less browned.

While the tortillas were crisping in the oven, I cut up an avocado and some lettuce that I would use for topping my tostada. Then I cooked the Lightlife crumbles. This was fascinating. You cook the crumbles for a few minutes in a skillet after spraying it with nonstick spray. It looked exactly like ground beef, just without the oil pouring out of it. I seasoned the crumbles with cumin, cilantro, a little cayenne, Adobo seasoning, and S&P, the same as I would have if I were using ground beef. They actually sell Mexican flavored crumbles as well which would have been perfect but Whole Foods didn't have them.

Lightlife's Smart Ground Veggie Crumbles

After the tortillas came out of the oven I topped them with refried black beans, then the Lightlife crumbles, and then topped them off with shredded cheese. I put the tostadas back into the oven for another minute or so to let the cheese melt and then they were ready! They were super delicious and really satisfying. I topped mine with some salsa, lettuce, avocado, and sprinkled a little cilantro on top. The thing that's great about the tostadas is you can put whatever you want on them, just like a taco. I would definitely recommend making these if you are looking for a quick and easy meal and want to just use up somethings you have in the fridge. Delish.

10.11.11_Vegan Shepherd's Pie

For those of you that are frequent followers, you know me as “vegan Caitlin”. I was beyond excited when Jonathan and Phillip told me that they would be going vegetarian for a month, and am so happy that they’ve kept up with it pretty well since then. And after various shout-outs over the blog posts, I finally got the opportunity to contribute my own meal and post.

When the three of us went to the pride festival this summer, I picked up a PETA “Starter Kit” magazine. Once I got past the horrible pictures of mistreated animals, I found a few recipes that sounded really good. Jonathan even pointed out ones that he thought looked good (this was before the vegetarian experiment, so I was shocked that pictures of vegan meals got him interested). One of them was for Shepherd’s Pie, which I finally got around to making for all of us a couple weeks ago.

The recipe was really easy and didn’t require a lot of time or effort. I had to cook up some potatoes and then mash them with Earth Balance buttery spread, soy milk, salt and pepper.

Then I had to mix up some Lightlife veggie protein crumbles, vegan mushroom gravy (the recipe suggested Campbell’s, but I shop at Whole Foods, and they don’t sell Campbell’s, so I got something organic), mixed peas and carrots, and then a little garlic powder and cayenne. The recipe called for canned peas and carrots, but I used frozen and even without defrosting them, everything turned out fine. Once all of this was mixed up, I poured it into a casserole dish. Then I just spread the mashed potatoes on top and cooked the dish for about 40 minutes at 350.

Like I said, this was a really easy recipe, and turned out hearty and tasty. Jonathan and Phillip seemed pretty impressed with the consistency of the fake beef, and have used it again since. I served Tofutti Cutie ice cream sandwiches as dessert and even the imitation ice cream was a hit. If I can get them to enjoy nondairy cheese, I just might make vegans out of Jonathan and Phillip yet.