Veg*n Cooking and Other Random Musings: April 2008

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Spicy Lentil Burritos with Chipotle Tomatillo-Serrano Sauce

These burritos were really good, and easy to make too. Brett, who wasn't sure he liked lentils, has now warmed up to at least the green variety. No longer does he cringe when he hears I want to try something with lentils.....

I don't have any pictures of the burrito itself. I didn't end up with a good picture of the filling, they all came out blurry. And then I forgot to take a picture of it once I had wrapped it up and slathered it with (big surprise) guacamole. But if you've seen one burrito, you've seen 'em all right? I'll make sure to get a decent picture of the filling next time I make this, but suffice to say, picture or not, this meal was filling, spicy, tasty, all sorts of good things.

I also think this might be my favorite sauce I've made so far. It's smoky, spicy but not overly so, and flavorful. And I did get a picture of the sauce!


Chipotle Tomatillo-Serrano Sauce
Makes 3 cups.

1 lb tomatillos, husked and diced
6 serrano peppers, seeded and minced
1/4 red onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 chipotle chilies en adobo, chopped
juice of one lime
1 cup fresh cilantro, shredded
dash dried basil
2 tbsp seasoned brown rice vinegar
1/2 cup water

Heat a few tablespoons of water in a small skillet. Add the peppers and onion and cook for 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 5 more minutes.

Transfer everything to a food processor and blend until very smooth, this is a thin sauce. Add the liquid in batches.

This sauce will last about a week in the fridge and it freezes well.

Spicy Lentil Burritos
1 cup green lentils, cooked
1 seasoned roasted yam
1 cup shiitake mushrooms, chopped fine
4 serrano peppers, seeded and minced
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
1 poblano pepper, seeded and minced
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and minced
2 small yellow crookneck squash, cubed
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 red onion, minced
Mexican oregano
ground coriander

Chipotle Tomatillo-Serrano Sauce

Heat a few tablespoons of water in a medium sauce pan. Add the peppers, onion, garlic and squash and cook for about 10 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for an additional 10 minutes or until veggies are soft, adding more water if necessary along the way. Once cooked, drain any additional water and transfer to a large bowl.

Combine lentils, veggies and spices in the bowl.

Layer lentil mixture, seasoned roasted yams and chipotle tomatillo-serrano sauce in a warmed tortillas. Roll up and fry if desired.

Top with guacamole.

Lentils are really good in Mexican, it's a nice change up from beans.

'Til next time.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Whole Wheat Black Bean, Mushroom and Olive Empanadas

These were really good, but they do take a fair amount of time. I spaced it all throughout the day, so it didn't seem like much, but the meal does take a couple hours in total. The time is well worth it.

The dough is a work in progress, but it was very tasty for my first attempt.

These are the basic ingredients in Empanada Sauce.

A picture of the New Mexican chilies toasted.

Empanada Sauce simmering.

The finished product. This sauce is really good.

Empanada Sauce
Makes about 1 1/2 cup.

Note: This is not a spicy sauce. It would also go well with tacos, tostadas and taco salads.

4 dried red New Mexican chilies
5 dried Chiles Japones
4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
6 tomatillos, husks removed and quartered
1/4 red onion, minced
1 cup water
juice of half a lime

Heat a griddle on medium heat for about 2 minutes.

Place chilies and unpeeled garlic on the griddle and toast until slightly black on each side, about 3 minutes on each side. Let the garlic cool just a bit and peel, remove stems from chilies and halve.

Simmer all the ingredients in a sauce pan until tomatillos are tender, about 15-20 minutes.

Remove the chilies from the sauce.

Transfer the rest of the ingredients to a food processor and pulse until very smooth.

If the sauce needs to be spicier, add bits of the chile at a time. (I left one of the chiles in.)

This sauce lasts about a week in the fridge and freezes well.

Black bean, mushroom, olive and veggie filling.

Empanada ready to be folded up.

Baked and ready to eat.

Mini empanadas.

Whole Wheat Black Bean, Mushroom and Olive Empanadas

I made two large empanadas for our dinner and then used a cookie cutter to make mini empanadas for snacks as there wasn't really enough worth freezing.

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup corn meal
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp Earth Balance (I use the non-hydrogenated organic kind)
1 tbsp white vinegar
1 cup warm water
chipotle chili powder
cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 375.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and spices.

Using a knife, cut the Earth Balance into the flour.

Using a fork to combine ingredients, start adding the vinegar and water in batches. The mixture should be just combined and still lumpy.

Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and knead a time or two.

Put back into bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Chill for at least an hour.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface. Cut the dough in circles, the size is dependent on how large you want the empanadas.

1 cup black beans, cooked
1/2 cup sweet corn, cooked
4 serrano peppers, seeded and minced
1 poblano pepper, seeded and minced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and minced
1/4 red onion, minced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 small can chopped black olives, drained
1/2 cup long grain brown rice, cooked

1 cup white mushrooms, finely minced
chipotle chili powder
1 tbsp dried cilantro

Heat a few tablespoons of water in a small skillet. Add the peppers and onion and cook for 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Drain any excess water.

Combine cooked veggies with beans and corn.

In the same skillet, heat a few more tablespoons of water. Add the mushrooms, season and cook until soft about 10 minutes.

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl.

Putting it all together:
Layer filling in empanada dough circle. Crimp edges with a fork to close. Mositen edges with a bit of water while crimping.

Bake for 15-20 (for large ones, about 10 for mini empanadas) minutes or until golden brown.

Serve with empanada sauce. Yum!

'Til next time.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Garden Update #4

I got to wondering awhile back where my interest in gardening came from. You see, I grew up in St. Louis, I don't think I've ever been on a farm in my life, and my mom had more of an interest in fake plants than real. I still don't know, but for whatever reason a couple of years ago, I decided to grow a tomato plant and with each year the interest has grown.

There has been a lot of growth this week! The weather in Missouri is being, well, the weather in Missouri. It had been well above freezing for a few weeks now, so I decided to put the more established starts we got from the Farmer's Market outside and transplant the broccoli. Well, then of course this weekend a cold front came in and lows are going to be in the mid 30s. A little too close for comfort for me, so I brought them back inside, but not before the cold did some damage to the leaves on the tomato plants. We'll see how they do. We should be ready to put the starts in the ground in the next two weeks, once the community garden has been tilled. The peppers will be transplanted into pots as they get large enough.

Yellow Straightneck Squash.

Mini bell pepper starts.

Sweet banana pepper starts. (!!!!) Seeds started to sprout last Monday!

Zucchini. These are really taking off.

Acorn Squash.

We transplanted the three healthiest broccoli starts and will put a mini bell pepper plant in here with them. I think they will work well as companion crops especially with their skewed growing seasons. Broccoli is spring and fall and peppers are mid to late summer.

Serrano pepper starts.

Jalapeno pepper starts.

This is our serrano pepper plant from last year. We decided to try to keep it alive inside over the winter to see if it produced again and if the flavor of the pepper is any different. I talked to a co-worker who is experienced with gardening and he said it will likely fruit again this year. Wahoo!

Better Boy Tomato.

Brandy Wine Tomato.

Buttercup squash. These are HUGE!

Butternut Squash.

This is a new addition to the garden. I found a habanero start and I couldn't resist, I love habaneros. Brett agreed to it so long as I didn't go crazy with them. Many of them will be dried and crushed into pepper flakes.

Cayenne pepper starts.


Chard. It's really taking off.

And now, I will end with our pictures of our recent grocery trip as well as a brief run-down of our dinners this past week.

As always, I'll start with produce. We've got: lots of tomatillos, 2 organic crookneck squash, organic garlic, an organic jewel yam, 2 organic California avocados jalapenos, serranos, organic cilantro, 2 red bell peppers, 2 poblano peppers, organic pink lady apples, large snow white mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, a bag of organic limes, an organic yellow onion, and a red onion. We should receive our first box from our CSA in two weeks, I'm getting pretty stoked!

The rest of the stuff: Mexican oregano, flour tortillas, organic frozen sweet corn, organic frozen 'stir-fry' mixed veggies, organic frozen blueberries, a spice jar, freezer ziplock bags, Newman's Pretzels, organic picante sauce, chocolate hemp milk, organic fair trade Earl Grey tea, chipotle chilies en adobo, sliced black olives, white corn tortillas and toothpicks.

Our breakfasts, lunches and snacks this week were fairly similar to last weeks. For dinner we had: Chile, Potato and Wild Rice Burros, a falafel and hummus from a restaurant downtown (on Earth Day), Sweet Potato and Quinoa Tacos, General's Veggie Stir-Fry with Slivered Almonds (we are out of adzuki beans at the moment), Lentil and Potato Tacos (those were so good we had to have them again), and pizza.

Whew! This is a long post! Well, I'm off to make some tester muffins for Lindsay's cookbook.

'Til next time.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Sweet Potato and Quinoa Tacos

I'm starting to think that sweet potatoes and Mexican food belong together. I haven't made one thing we didn't like that was Mexican (at least inspired) and also had sweet potatoes in it. This meal is no exception, and what's best about this meal is that it is quick. It took about as long as it takes for sweet potatoes to roast, about 35 minutes. Both Brett and I really liked these.

What can beat spicy, healthy, tasty Mexican food that is quick?

Without further fanfare, here is the pictures and the recipe!

Sweet Potato and Quinoa Tacos
2 yams or sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
ground coriander
chipotle chili powder
dash cinnamon
cayenne pepper
1 tsp coconut oil

Preheat oven to 425.

Melt coconut oil in a baking dish in the oven.

Combine all ingredients and roast potatoes, uncovered for 30-35 minutes, stirring a few times.

1/2 cup raw quinoa, rinsed well
1 cup water
ground coriander
chili powder

Bring water to boil. Stir in quinoa and seasonings. Reduce heat and simmer until all water absorbed, about 15-20 minutes.

1/4 red onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 poblano pepper, minced
2 serrano peppers, minced

Heat a few tablespoons of water in a small sauce pan. Add the peppers and onions and cook about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Drain any excess water.

Combine with the spiced quinoa.

When potatoes are done, reduce the heat to 350 and pop the taco shells in for 5 minutes.

hard taco shells
1 avocado, diced
baby spinach
salsa (we used Jalapeno Salsa and Jalapeno-Tomatillo Sauce)

Layer some spinach, sweet potatoes and quinoa in warmed taco shells. Serve with diced avocado and salsa.

These will be on our menu very often. We both really seem to love tacos.

'Til next time!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Potato, Veggie and Wild Rice Burros with Jalapeno-Tomatillo Green Sauce and Tomatillo Guacamole

This might, at first, seem like a very strange combination of ingredients to use in Mexican food. But I've learned that so long as you get the seasoning right, you can pair all sorts of interesting things together and get a fairly 'authentic' taste.

Note: This sauce is quite spicy. I would suggest using it sparingly, and if you aren't into spice, perhaps skip this sauce. Also, we are going to try this using a mix of long grain brown and wild rice next time, I think it would be even better that way.

Jalapeno-Tomatillo Sauce

Makes 3 cups

3 tomatillos, husked and chopped
15 jalapenos, seeded and minced
1 habanero, seeded and minced
1/2 yellow onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup of cilantro, washed and shredded
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup water
white pepper

Heat a few tablespoons of water in a small sauce pan. Add the peppers and onion and cook for about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 5 more minutes. Add the tomatillos and cook an additional 5 minutes. Transfer veggies to a food processor.

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until very smooth and fairly thin, adding the liquid in batches.

This will last about a week in the fridge and freezes well. I kept one cup out to use this week and froze two, one cup portions for later use.

FOR: Tacos, Tostadas, Taco Salads, Burritos and Burros, Quesadillas, Fajitas, Flautas, Nachos

Spicy Tomatillo Guacamole
1 avocado, peeled and mashed
1 clove garlic, minced
4 Chiles Japones, minced (or crushed red pepper)
chipotle chili powder
dash of cayenne (optional)
juice of half a lime

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and chill for about a half hour to let the flavors blend.

Potato, Veggie and Wild Rice Burros

1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
2 red potatoes, scrubbed and cubed
chili powder
ground coriander
Mexican oregano
dash cinnamon
pinch unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp coconut oil

Preheat oven to 425.

Melt coconut oil in a baking dish in the oven.

Combine the potatoes and spices and bake,covered with foil, for 30-35 minutes, or until potatoes are soft.

1/2 cup frozen green beans, cooked
1 zucchini, roasted and sliced
4 serrano peppers, minced
1 habanero, minced
1 poblano pepper, minced
1/4 yellow onion, minced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup cooked wild rice

spicy tomatillo guacamole
jalapeno-tomatillo green sauce

Heat a few tablespoons of water in a small skillet.

Add the peppers and onion and cook for 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 3-5 minutes. Drain any excess water and combine veggies in a small bowl and season with salt.

Layer rice, potatoes, veggies and some Jalapeno-Tomatillo sauce if you desire. Fry if you like andserve with spicy tomatillo guacamole.

Now, I don't know about anyone else, but I used to be averse to the idea of buying fresh spices as I didn't know what to do with an entire bunch. Well, I am still fairly averse with most fresh spices, though I'm going to be getting some through our CSA, so I better get over that. However, I will buy cilantro. After I've used what I need, we wash the rest of the bunch and hang it upside to dry. Then we use it as a dried spice. It's really easy and works great on most herbs.

If you notice, there are two jalapenos back there too. I've slit them and am hanging them in a first attempt to dry peppers (in anticipation of having to preserve some of my hopefully abundant pepper yield). I've looked into it fairly extensively, and from what I've read, all you have to do is slit them, hang them in a non-humid area and wait. We'll see.

'Til next time.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Garden Update #3

I usually do my garden updates on Sunday, but tomorrow is Columbia’s celebration of Earth Day, so alas, I will be gone all day.

All I can say is what a difference a week makes! I knew that plants grew fast, but I didn’t realize they grew THIS fast. We’ve been putting the starts in the window during the day to get sun, I think we’ll take them out to the porch pretty soon.

Not pictured here is a start to a mini bell pepper plant, it’s barely going, I just noticed it this morning, so I didn’t figure it was really picture worthy. We are still waiting on the Serrano peppers and sweet banana peppers to start, but other than those, we have a start of everything else.

Check out the progress:

Long red cayenne pepper start. (!!!!)

Butternut squash.

Cucumbers. These were the first little starts I posted pictures of last week.

Buttercup squash.

Jalapeno pepper starts! (!!!!)


Acorn squash.

Yellow straightneck squash.

Brandy Wine tomato. It's looked a lot better since we brought it outside. There is still discoloration on the lower leaves, but it's growing, so we'll see.

Better Boy tomato, looking good and getting big.

Me being silly early in the morning.


Broccoli. Look at how much better it looks since we brought it outside! I can't believe it, the day we took it outside, it was actually pretty windy and we weren't too sure it was a good idea, but this little guy took it really well, stood back up, got stronger and started growing. We're going to transplant the starts into a container sometime this weekend.

It was a very eventful week with the plants. I remember when I was talking to Brett at lunch earlier this week, he told me one of the squash plants started, and I got so excited, but by the end of the week something was starting or growing every day!

Anyways, I thought I'd end this post with a grocery store wrap up and a brief review of what Brett and I have eaten this week.

The produce might seem a bit redundant, in a lot of ways it is, this time of year is not the best for fruit (if you want it to come from a half ass close place at least) and the veggies aren't super abundant either, but during the summer, my produce selection is a little more varied. Honestly, Brett and I pretty much like Mexican, Asian (particularly Thai and Japanese), and a little bit of Middle Eastern during the summer. That's really about it.

Moving on. Here is the produce.

I'm never quite sure where to start. I'll start from the right, I suppose. There are: 3 tomatillos, 4 bulbs of organic garlic, 4 organic red potatoes, a couple of organic California avocados (I'm so happy they aren't from Mexico anymore, California is a least a little bit closer), 2 organic oranges, a lemon, a lime, lots of jalapenos, lots of serranos, a poblano pepper, a red onion, a yellow onion, bean sprouts, organic spinach, organic cilantro, organic Pink Lady apples, 3 organic Jewel yams.

And the rest of the stuff:

Organic frozen cut green beans, wild rice, slivered almonds, regular Newman O's, organic veggie broth, a big 'ol bottle of organic shoyu, Newman's organic pretzels (both Brett and I were craving something salty, we rarely buy chips aside from tortilla, which still, isn't very often at all), organic blue corn taco shells, soft silken tofu, chocolate hemp milk, Black Bean Chili chips (I am very skeptical about these chips, but we'll see, you have to be experimental from time to time).

Meals this week:

So, I will not do a run-down of my breakfasts, lunches or snacks as they are fairly boring and don't change very often. For breakfast I have either Early Grey tea or Sumatra or Ethiopian Sidamo coffee, fruit - as of late it's been mostly apples, but that's what there is right now, or a Nature's Path Hemp Plus Raisin granola bar. Weekend brunches can be a bit more creative and I will note them where appropriate. Lunch is leftovers or one of Amy's frozen vegan things. During the summer, my lunches will consist largely of giant salads, hummus and veggie plates, etc. My snacks are usually one of the following: nuts and dried fruit, more fresh fruit, dairy-free, wheat-free Newman O's. This week there was an exception, I stopped by Main Squeeze on my way home from work and got Brett and I's favorite cookie - the vegan chocolate espresso mint cookie. They are GIANT and delicious. I wish I had gotten a picture.

Onto dinners:

Monday: Tofu and Potato Burritos (it had been awhile)
Wednesday: Amy's vegan pizza
Thursday: Ordered in from a local Thai place. I got a stir-fry with bell peppers, onions, carrots, sprouts, bamboo shoots, rice and a sriracha based spicy sauce. It was really good. Brett got Phat Thai.

Well, I'm off to the farmer's market. Happy Saturday!

'Til next time.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Sweet Potato and Corn Enchiladas with Sweet and Spicy Enchilada Sauce and Toasted Pepitas

The inspiration for this meal came from Main Squeeze, the vegetarian restaurant here in Columbia. I get their daily specials in my email, as I work near there, and will have lunch there if the special is good (they even deliver - by bike, to the university). This special was vegetarian, so I decided to try making something inspired by it at home, I loved the idea of a sweet potato and corn enchilada.

I didn't think a regular 'ol enchilada sauce would do either. So I got creative, and with a few special ingredients, ended up with a smoky, sweet and spicy enchilada sauce that accented the sweetness of the potatoes and corn quite well.

Without further ado!

Sweet and Spicy Enchilada Sauce

1 can no-salt added tomato sauce
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp white vinegar
1/4 red onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
4 Chiles Japones, minced (or crushed red pepper flakes)
juice of half a lime
1 tbsp agave
1 tbsp brown sugar (optional)
2 tsp organic cocoa powder
1-2 tbsp dried cilantro
dash cinnamon
chili powder
cayenne pepper (optional but recommended)
Mexican oregano

Heat the water in a small sauce pan. Add the onions and cook for about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and Chiles Japones and cook for an additional 3-5 minutes.

Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer on low while you prepare the rest of the meal.

Sweet Potato and Corn Enchiladas with Toasted Pepitas

1 seasoned roasted yam
1/2 cup corn, cooked
1/2 red bell pepper, roasted and sliced
2 serrano peppers, roasted and sliced
1/4 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced

cooked brown rice, warmed
chili powder
ground coriander
Mexican oregano

spicy red enchilada sauce
6 corn tortillas
toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds, optional)
tofu sour cream

NOTE: I roasted the peppers while the sweet potato was cooking and the rice was made ahead of time.

Heat a few tablespoons of water in a small skillet. Add the onions and cook for about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 3-5 minutes. Drain any excess water and add veggies to the cooked corn.

Once peppers have finished roasted, add the sliced peppers to the cooked corn mixture.

Season the warmed rice.

Make the guacamole and refrigerate until needed.

If using toasted pepitas, heat an unoiled skillet for about two minutes. Add the pepitas and stir frequently, until pepitas slightly browned.

Once potatoes finished, turn oven heat down to 350.

Layer enchilada sauce in the botton of a large baking dish.

Layer a small amount of rice, sweet potatoes, and the corn/veggie mixture inside a warmed corn tortilla. Roll up and transfer to the baking dish.

Top with a bit more enchilada sauce.

Bake uncovered for about 30 minutes.

Top the enchiladas with the toasted pepitas and bake for another 5 minutes.

Serve with guacamole and tofu sour cream.

Yummy, yummy, yummy! I might be getting this Mexican thing down.

I know I'm going to have to tackle empanadas soon, I have so many ideas for fillings, oooooh and I can wait until dried corn husks are available, we're talking tamales! And soon I'll need to try the flautas recipes I've created, and well, there is all sorts of stuff that needs to be tried.

'Til next time!