Thursday, October 23, 2014

Baked Penne With Vegan Chorizo.

I’m not sure that I’ve mentioned to y’all that I’ve got a race coming up this weekend.  It’s my big one of the year, a half-Ironman, which lends itself to all sorts of emotional highs and lows the week prior.  (Right now, I’m at a high, so don’t worry, this post will be upbeat and civil!)

So with the big race in mind, I've elected to fuel myself nicely with carbs in advance.  That’s where tonight’s meal – baked penne with vegan chorizo – comes in!

This is certainly not the first time I’ve discussed this dish on these pages.  Baked penne (and its cousin, baked rotini) is a wonderful way to enjoy a hearty one-dish meal that has enough leftovers to last for days!  Paired with a glass of wine (or what-have-you), it’s a perfectly complete meal that’s at home at both a candlelit dinner for two and a relaxed game night with friends.  What can I say?  It’s a social butterfly who’s comfortable in any situation.

As I referenced earlier, I’m a little short on patience this week (see: emotional highs and lows).  So I needed to make something tonight that offered me a quick win.  Yet again, baked penne fit the bill!  All I had to do was boil and drain the pasta, pour it into a lasagna pan, and mix the noodles with a jar of spaghetti sauce, sliced vegan chorizo, and mushroom slices.  Top everything with a bit of Daiya mozzarella, bake at 350 for 25 minutes or so, and voila!  It was time to carb-load.

And carb-load we did!  LeeLee joined me, even though he’s not racing this weekend – solidarity means a lot!  And we’ve still got half a pan (or more) left for lunch tomorrow.  A win-win!


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Old Faithful With a Chik’n Patty.

You know, midweek meals can sometimes be a little difficult.  The full weight of the workweek is upon us, complete with all sorts of after-work activities and early-morning workouts, and the Florida State football game – I mean, the weekend! – seems so very far away indeed.  So sometimes, you’ve gotta call on your best dinnertime friends for help.  Sometimes, you’ve gotta call on Old Faithful.

I’ve waxed poetic on Old Faithful – aka black beans and rice – a hundred times in these pages, but let me just add another stanza here today.  For my money, there’s just nothing more comforting, hearty, filling, and tasty than this good old Cuban favorite!  It reminds me of my Florida home (and reminds me I can’t seem to find good Cuban bread this far north in the D.C. area).  And it’s always there for us.

So tonight we settled in to steaming plates of black beans and rice, complete with chik’n patties for extra protein, and topped the plate high with vegan sour cream, Daiya cheddar, Tabasco, and salsa.  I even added some nutritional yeast to my dish (because I’ll eat it on anything); LeeLee abstained.  Either way, it was a perfect meal for a rainy midweek night, when patience was short but appetites were huge!


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Hallo, Germany, Part 1: Vegan Currywurst With Pommes Frites.

Now, I have to admit, nobody played along last week when I polled the audience as to my location.  This hurt me for a minute, there.  But still we press on here within these pages!  (Only teasing about being hurt, by the way.)

We visited Berlin, friends!  And we had a wonderful time.  LeeLee was in Germany on business, and with the hotel and his airfare paid for, we had only my flight to cough up the money for, making the trip almost reasonable (if not entirely Recessionista).  Who could pass up a trip to Germany – a country, I should add, I have never visited?

Let me tell you: I am now a fan.  Berlin was fantastic – the culture, the people, the sights, and, yes, the food were all just wonderful!  I’ll regale you with stories about our adventures in pieces and parts over the upcoming weeks, but I will share now that seeing sights like Checkpoint Charlie in the flesh (so to speak) was something I’ll never forget.  It was just an amazing week, from beginning to end.

Yes, I did pack a beer stein in my carry-on for the flight home.  And on the food front, I brought some ideas home with me as souvenirs!

Tonight we embarked on our Germany Reminiscences series with a hearty helping of vegan currywurst, complete with pommes frites.

I took the easy route with the frites and used a bag of frozen steak fries from Safeway; while they baked, I prepared the currywurst!  Tonight was cool and rainy, so no outside grilling for us.  Instead, I pan-fried four Tofurky beer brats, turning them over every so often to warm up evenly.  Near the end of the cooking process (with about five minutes left) I added a hearty helping of sauerkraut over the top for extra flavor, which I feel helped the dish significantly!

As the brats and frites cooked, I prepared my currywurst sauce!  I poured a generous serving (about a quarter to a half a cup) of spicy ketchup into a shallow serving dish, then added a spoonful of Just Mayo for creaminess, and, finally, the spices: pepper, onion powder, and, of course, curry powder to taste!  I was pretty heavy-handed in my spice additions, but the sauce was all the better for it.  Then I mixed the sauce thoroughly and waited for the rest of dinner to be ready.

In short order, it was, and I began the final preparations!  I sliced the beer brats into coins like I saw the food carts do in Germany, then added a generous spoonful (or two, or three) of curry sauce on top of each brat.  Then I arranged my frites to accompany the meal – dolloping a bit of sauce atop them, as well, for good measure!  And then we feasted.

What an amazing dish!  It warmed our spirits on a cool damp night, and more importantly it made us remember our wonderful trip to Germany, a country we both fell in love with.  The best part?  We’ve got two brats (and plenty of frites) left over!  I can’t wait for lunch tomorrow, when I can go back on vacation right there at my desk.

Hooray for Deutschland!


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

New Recipe: Vegan Shrimp Po’ Boys.

Now, y’all know I’m a Gulf Coast girl, and so I suppose it was only a matter of time until I put together a po’ boy for us to try here at home!  I do love some good old Cajun flavor, and Louisiana-style restaurants are hard to come by up here in the DC area.  So the other day, it hit me: I need a po’ boy.  And I need it ASAP.

Enter tonight’s vegan shrimp po’ boys!  So easy to make, so wonderful to eat.

I served our sandwiches alongside some sweet-potato fries, so I got those cooking first – seven minutes or so at 425 just to get the juices flowing.  Then I placed a package of Sophie’s Kitchen breaded “shrimp” in the oven as well and heated it for another seven minutes to defrost the shrimp a bit so I could separate them.  Then I set everything in for another 10 minutes and prepared the bread!

The key to this dish is to have a fresh, untoasted baguette at your disposal.  I waited until the last minute today to buy mine just so it would be as soft as possible – a necessity if you’re not going to heat it up!  I cut a hunk (that’s the technical term) off of the bread, sliced off the end, and then sliced each hunk lengthwise to make a top and a bottom to the baguette.

Next, I spread some Just Mayo out across each slice.  Like a good Southerner, I tend to be a bit heavy-handed with the mayo, but add as much or as little as you like!

Then it was time for the add-ons (proportions in the recipe below).  A little Tabasco does wonders when it soaks into bread, and atop that I added a layer of shrimp, like so:

And then several slices of tomato, some leaves of lettuce, some diced pimientos, and some Creole mustard.  Put the top on the sandwich, slice it in half, and you’re good to go!  Served with sweet-potato fries, you’ve got a wonderfully flavorful and filling meal that just can’t be beat.

It’s amazing to me that a sandwich as simple to make as a po’ boy can be so addicting.  I’m not sure whether it’s the tang of the mustard, the crunch of the lettuce, the surprise of the pimientos or the chewy shrimp (real in my past life, vegan in my current :)), but the sum of the parts is a wonderful experience indeed.  You ought to try them today!

Serves 2-4

What you’ll need:

1 package vegan shrimp (we used Sophie’s Kitchen)
1 fresh baguette
4 tbsps. vegan mayonnaise (or more or less, depending on the number of sandwiches and your preference)
Tabasco, to taste
1 tomato, sliced thinly
Romaine lettuce, to taste
1 jar diced pimientos
4 tbsps. Cajun mustard

First, bake the shrimp according to package instructions.

While it cooks, cut your baguette crosswise to make as many sandwiches as you like.  Then cut each section lengthwise to create a top and a bottom to each portion of the baguette.

Spread the mayonnaise evenly across each slice, then top one slice of each sandwich with a few drops of Tabasco.  Next, wait for your shrimp to cook.  This allows the Tabasco to soak into the bread – a wonderful experience!

When the shrimp is ready, line them up along the bottom half of each sandwich.  Then top the shrimp with several slices of tomato, and next the lettuce.

On the top half of the sandwich, add a tablespoon or two of Creole mustard.  Then top that with several teaspoons of diced pimiento (or to taste).  Next, place the top half of the sandwich onto the bottom and slice each sandwich in half crosswise.  Serve, and laissez le bon temps rouler!


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Vegetarian “Beef” and Hash Brown Casserole.

Friends, please forgive me for my radio silence last week.  LeeLee and I took a little trip – can you guess where?  (Let me know in the comments!)

Believe it or not, this was actually a Recessionista adventure.  LeeLee was traveling on an all-expenses-paid fellowship, and so everything except for my airfare and personal expenses were taken care of!  It’s not a bad way of sightseeing, if you ask me, and I’ll tell you all the details in upcoming blog posts, when I tackle some veg versions of the local cuisine.  I can’t wait to experiment with some new flavor profiles!

But on to tonight’s dinner: “Beef” and hash brown casserole!

I’ve made this meal quite a few times, and it never gets old.  Not even when you take into account the fact that this can easily feed our family for five or six meals (either lunch or dinner)!  It’s just that good.  And it extends forever.  Even when our appetites are ravenous, we can’t get through even a small percentage of this recipe!  It’s a great way to stretch your ingredients and reduce your daily prep time.

And the final results are just great.  We love the heartiness that the veggie beef and potatoes give the dish, served in tandem with the sweet tang of the spaghetti sauce and the creaminess of the cheese on top.  Next time, I think I’ll add some pinto beans to the mix as well for some extra pizazz!

At any rate, it’s good to be back home and back on the blogging wagon.  Look for some international flavors to pop up on the blog in the next few weeks!