Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Vegetarian “Sausage”-Corn Chowder.

Friends!  The magical season we've all been waiting for is here once more: Crock-Pot Season!

I know, I know, I use the Crock-Pot year-round, as evidenced by the recipes that grace these pages month after month.  But I put the crockery to work with more gusto than ever during the autumn and winter, when temperatures drop and piping-hot meals are the order of the day.

Last night’s meal?  Vegetarian “sausage”-corn chowder!

As you may recall, this dinner is a favorite here at Chez Recessionista in the cooler months, and I was only too pleased to bring it back out from a summer’s layover last night.  We were on a bit of a tight schedule – I was attending a tai chi class in the early evening and LeeLee was coming home a little late, so we were ships passing in the night – and as a result the Crock-Pot was called into service and was more than up to the task!

I just can’t get over the happiness (and occasional smugness) I feel when I come home from work and smell dinner cooking away.  After nine-or-so hours at the office, the memory of preparing the meal in the early morning has nearly faded, so it’s almost like having an in-house chef preparing our meals for us!

The final result was, as usual, a wonderful treat.  We both adore this dish (one of my favorite recipes from my mother), and we each went back for multiple servings.  The chowder was heavy enough to satisfy us, but light enough so that it didn’t weigh me down in the tai chi class, either – and believe me, I need all the help I can get!  Further, we were able to use half a dozen potatoes from our recent haul out at Great Country Farms; there's just nothing like fresh potatoes!

So with that triumphant re-entry, we’re squarely back in Crock-Pot season once more.  I couldn’t be happier!


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sunday Cookout: Smoky Tofu With Grilled Green Beans, Corn, and Apple-Pear Salad.

All right, y’all.  This meal had so many great components that I’m not even sure where to begin!  So I’ll pick a spot – let’s go with the smoky tofu – and unpack it from there.

Early this afternoon, I sliced a block of tofu into half-inch rectangles (about 8 in all) and placed them in a sturdy zip-top bag.  I doused the rectangles with olive oil and then added a new spice rub I found at our local Safeway – a smoky-barbecue blend.  I massaged the tofu, flipping the bag around to ensure that each rectangle was covered and nicely seasoned, and put it in the fridge until cookout time (some 6 hours away).

As we approached dinnertime, I snapped the ends off of some beautiful, thin green beans from Great Country Farms, placed them on a sheet of aluminum foil, added some vegan bacon bits, chipotle powder, and olive oil, and sealed the packet up.  Next I hulled several ears of corn, put them each in their own foil packet with a pat of butter and some garlic powder, and wrapped them up tightly.

Soon it was time to fire up the grill!  Once the coals were hot, I placed the green beans on the grid and, about 10 minutes later, added the corn as well.  While the veggies cooked, I prepared an apple and pear salad – more on that later this week, since I think it deserves its own post! – and when I had about 15 minutes left in the cooking time, I added the tofu strips as well.

One thing about the tofu: The strips tend to stick to the grill grate no matter how soaked in olive oil they are.  I think the remedy to this going forward is to flip them more frequently, sacrificing a bit of the sear in order to keep the strips intact, but no matter – we didn’t mind eating little tofu bites instead of full-length pieces!  The seasoning turned out beautifully, the outsides of the tofu perfectly firm and golden, the insides still maintaining a little bit of chewiness.  The smoky rub was a wonderful way to bring out some of the tofu’s best features!

The green beans, corn, and fruit salad also held up very nicely.  As I mentioned a week or so ago, I’ve taken to adding vegan bacon to the green beans, and this decision has been met with rave reviews!  The corn was as sweet as ever, as well; a wonderful way to round out the plate.

Fall is decidedly on its way in now – soon we’ll start playing with the smoker again as the temperatures drop!  I’m looking forward to that, to be sure, but for now I’m enjoying squeezing all the goody I can get out of the charcoal grill until it gets too cold for our al-fresco dining.  We’ve got a few weeks at our disposal still, and I intend to make the most of them!


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Red Beans and Rice With Vegetarian Chorizo.

We haven’t had this Cajun classic in awhile, and it was well past time we brought one of our favorites, red beans and rice, back out of the pantry!  It’s one of those meals that tastes so good, it’s hard to believe it only takes 30 minutes and two pots!

Tonight’s rendition was especially good because of the toned-down “dirty rice” I put together.  Along with the regular helping of white rice I always place into the cooker, I added four Lightlife vegetarian chorizo sausages, cut into coins, and stirred everything together thoroughly.  I know that traditionally, dirty rice has all sorts of other ingredients – celery, onion, spices, etc. – but this was a post-work dirty rice, and thus was a bit more minimalist, shall we say. 

But in the end, it got the job done!  LeeLee raved and raved about how good the chorizo tasted embedded in the rice as it was, and the red beans I heated on the stovetop were a perfect complement.  Paired with a slice of garlic bread and topped with sour cream, a little Daiya pepperjack, and my beloved nutritional yeast (as well as a hearty dose of Tony Chachere seasoning!), it was a completely filling meal that satisfied us both.  I do love Cajun cooking!


Monday, September 8, 2014

New Recipe: Vegan “Shrimp” Tacos With Avocado Fries.

One of my favorite coastal meals is shrimp tacos, and since LeeLee and I have been vegetarian (almost 15 years running now), I haven’t had any proxy for them, not even once.  Tonight changed all that – and we’re hooked!

We called on good old Sophie’s Kitchen again tonight for all our vegan shrimp needs, and once again, we weren’t disappointed.  I baked a batch of “shrimp” for about 15 minutes and tucked a little foil pan of black beans into the oven too – why use a stovetop eye when the oven would do the trick all the way around?  (Near the end of the cooking process, I also tucked four flour tortillas wrapped in foil on the second oven rack to warm up.)

As everything baked, I prepared my side items!  I used shredded lettuce tonight – we normally use the leafy kind instead, but tonight I wanted a coastal, light taste, and shredded lettuce did the trick.  We also had quite a few cherry tomatoes on hand from this weekend’s veggie plate while watching the football game, and I washed a helping of those for garnish.

Finally, I prepared the avocado by slicing it into French-fry-style wedges, putting all the wedges in a bowl, and tossing them with a hearty dose of nutritional yeast and a pinch (or several) of chipotle seasoning.

Within just a few minutes, everything in the oven was ready, and we set to work assembling our tacos.  First we spooned a small serving of black beans in the middle each tortilla, then topped it with three or four (or five) pieces of shrimp.  Then we added a handful of lettuce, several tomatoes, and a generous dose of black olives, and topped everything off with some Daiya pepperjack cheese!  LeeLee added original Tabasco for some flair, while I went the more sedate chipotle Tabasco route.  Diff’rent strokes and all that.

The final product was so incredibly tasty.  We loved the blend of flavors, from the smoky black beans to the crispy shrimp, from the crunch of the lettuce to the juicy cherry tomatoes.  The olives added a salty kick, and the pepperjack gave the dish some spice (to say nothing of the Tabasco!).  And the avocado fries!  They were just great – the creamy avocado really soaked up the nutritional yeast and chipotle powder.

I can already tell you that this recipe will soon be a mainstay at our place!

Serves 2-4

What you’ll need:

1 package vegan shrimp (we used Sophie’s Kitchen)
1 can black beans
1 package taco-sized flour tortillas
1 bag shredded lettuce
1 container cherry tomatoes
1 can sliced black olives
1 package vegan cheese (we used Daiya pepperjack shreds)
Hot sauce, to taste

Cook the shrimp according to the package directions.  Heat up the black beans however you see fit (on the stovetop, in the microwave, or in the oven in a foil pan).  Several minutes prior to the end of the cooking time, wrap the flour tortillas in foil and add them to the oven with the shrimp – just two to three minutes will heat them through.

Just like that, it’s time to put everything together!  Once the shrimp and black beans are hot and fully cooked, spoon the beans onto a tortilla, then add three to four pieces of shrimp.  Next add the lettuce, tomatoes, olives, cheese, and hot sauce, as well as any other side items you like (sour cream and avocado are other favorites of ours). 

Dig in – you’re ready to eat!


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Vietnamese-Inspired Veggie Dogs With Peas and Potatoes.

Sunday Cookout Day cometh yet again!  Over the past few weeks, we’ve gotten onto a bit of a veggie-dog kick on Sunday nights, and that’s A-OK with both LeeLee and me.  Tonight, we pulled another recipe from Tablespoon.com – their Vietnamese-inspired hot dogs – and vegetarianized it for a great feast!

First, though, I prepared the side dishes.  To start, I peeled and diced several potatoes and placed them in a foil packet with several pats of butter, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and a generous helping of vegetarian bacon bits.  This packet went on the grill first and cooked for about 40 minutes in all. 

Next, I prepared a grill pan and placed a can of English peas in it, seasoning them with pepper for some extra kick.  After about 10 minutes of cooking for the potatoes, I added the grill pan to the grate and let it cook for about half an hour in all!

Finally, with about 10 minutes left in the process, I put a package of veggie dogs on to cook, and within minutes they were ready to go.  Then I heated up two buns, and we got ready to eat!

But before we eat, a lamentation.  Tonight was gorgeous -- the weather was cool and crisp, our first hint of autumn.  But the mosquitos haven’t quite abated yet, and with Alexandria’s first case of West Nile virus on the scene just two weeks ago, LeeLee and I decided to dine inside.  It’s a shame – we would’ve loved to have soaked in some cool air for a change!  But soon, I know, the coast will be clear.

Anyway, on with dinner!  I transferred the potatoes to a serving bowl, took the foil off of the peas, and served the veggie dogs with all the fixins – some fresh spicy pepper rings, the Sriracha ketchup and honey mustard dressings that the Tablespoon recipe recommended, and, for extra flair, a hearty helping of Clean sauerkraut from No. 1 Sons.  It was all such a hit!  We both wolfed down everything on the table and went back for seconds on the potatoes, peas, and sauerkraut.  (LeeLee even went back for thirds on the sauerkraut!)

As usual, the cookout was a great way to wind down our weekend and kick off a new workweek.  Here’s to happy, productive Mondays everywhere!