Friday, October 28, 2011

Trader Joe's Potsicker Soup

If you go to the Trader Joe's website they have a ton of recipes using only ingredients from their store!  I love Trader Joes and I frequently make all T.J's recipes.

Since it is officially fall, I can start making soups a lot more now (in case you haven't noticed already.)  This was a soup that looked really good, and it included some things we already conveniently had in our freezer and pantry!

Click here for the recipe on the Trader Joe's website or follow along below. 

" Potsticker Soup's On!"

    * TJ's Grape Seed or TJ's Olive Oil
    * 1 package TJ's Gyoza (I used the vegetable ones)
    * 1 container TJ's Mirepoix  (This is just finely chopped onions, celery and carrot, which is what I used from the ingredients I already had)
    * 2 packages TJ's Low Sodium Chicken Broth  (To make it vegan, use veggie broth of course!)
    * 1 bag TJ's Baby Spinach
    * 1 tablespoon TJ's Soy Sauce
    * 1 tablespoon TJ's Joe’s Sesame Oil
    * TJ's Cilantro, for garnish (optional)  (Instead of this, I added 1 teaspoon of Chili Garlic sauce!)
    * TJ's Salt, to taste

Coat the bottom of a large frying pan with oil (about 2-3 tablespoons) and lightly fry the gyoza over medium-high heat until they get some nice browning on both sides (about 10 minutes). In a large soup pot (about 6 qt.), pour a couple tablespoons of oil and add the mirepoix. Saute the vegetables in the pot until the onions start to appear translucent. Add the broth to the pot and bring to a slow simmer. When the soup gets some energy, toss in the spinach and add the soy sauce and sesame oil. When the soup is officially simmering, add the potstickers. Serve it up in bowls and garnish with cilantro. (Make sure you have extra spoons on hand… never underestimate the charisma of Trader Joe's Potsticker Soup's On!)

Serves: 6 - 8
Cooking Time: 30 - 40 Minutes

To complete the meal, I made some rice topped with fresh avocado and Sriracha.  (The artistic swirl of the Sriracha is compliments of my husband.)  It was quite delicious and spicy!  And, by the way, there were no leftovers.  We loved it so much we just ate it all in one sitting.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Weekend of the Pumpkin

This was definitely a pumpkin-themed weekend in our house.  We took pictures in two different pumpkin patches, carved pumpkins, roasted pumpkin seeds, made pumpkin shaped cookies, and had pumpkin pasta.  Not to mentiont there were two different candles burning and one was called "Pumpkin Patch" while the other one was called "Autumn."

If you remember that story about our German-themed weekend, you will know that we really like to celebrate any kind of holiday or theme.  It's only going to get better from here on out.  We have Thanksgiving and Christmas coming up!  Talk about getting crazy with the themes.

Anyway, here are some pumpkin pictures from the weekend:

Can you guess which one is mine?

A festive fall lunch!

I used this recipe from "Your Daily Vegan" for the sugar cookies and they turned out wonderfully!  I even got The Husband to frost and decorate them using vegan frosting I made from the Better Homes and Garden Cookbook.  (I just replaced non-vegan ingredients with vegan ones like Tofutti cream cheese instead of cream cheese.)

I made some apple shaped cookies too.

For the Pumpkin Pasta, I referred to a recipe from last October's Whole Living magazine.  You can click here for the recipe, but here are a few things I did differently:

--Instead of anchovies, I used capers.
--I forgot to get fresh parsely at the store today, so I used a few sprinkles of dried Italian seasoning instead and it seemed to work well.
--I left out the Parmesan cheese.

Other than that, I pretty much followed the recipe and it was really good.  A perfect dish for our pumpkin filled weekend!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Black-eyed Peas and Greens Soup

Even if it doesn't look or feel like fall outside in Southern California, we can make it feel like it inside!  This is my favorite time of the year, but it also makes me really homesick for the East Coast; the crisp air, the changing leaves, pumpkins and apples and cozy nights inside with apple cider and donuts.  Okay, so maybe I don't eat donuts anymore, but I really do miss an East Coast fall.  At least we can still have cozy nights inside with yummy soup like the one I made tonight!

It was supposed to be "Great Northern Beans and Greens Soup," but I forgot to prepare the dry beans ahead of time and had to use a can of whatever beans I had in the pantry -- black-eyed peas!  It actually turned out really well.  Black-eyed peas have a really hearty taste that adds well to soups like this.  I referred to a recipe in the Follow Your Heart cookbook by Janice Cook Knight, but I'll just go ahead and tell you how I made it.  (It's slightly different than the actual recipe.)

1 can black-eyed peas
4 cups vegetable stock
1/2 pound Swiss chard (from my garden still! yay!)
Sea salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 red onion, finely chopped
6 medium cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
4 ounces tiny shell pasta
1/2 tablespoon Bragg's Liquid Aminos

Wash and trim chard and place in large pot with about half a cup of water.  Sprinkle some salt in the pot.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until tender, about 4-5 minutes.  Drain chard over a bowl in order to save the liquid for the soup stock.  Let chard cool in strainer.

Start the broth to simmer.

Saute the onion, garlic and rosemary in oil over medium heat until they are softened.

Drain can of beans, rinse, and add to simmering broth on stove.

Add onion and garlic mixture to broth.

Add the reserve liquid from the chard.

Bring soup to boil, add pasta and cook until it is al dente.

Add Swiss chard and Bragg's.

Serve immediately and enjoy!  We also had a fresh spinach salad with tomatoes and cucumbers.  Very nutritious and delicious.  The soup is flavorful without any salt needed.  The black-eyed peas and Swiss chard both have very strong flavors which would make any soup extremely flavorful, I imagine.  Our first homemade soup of the fall is wonderful!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Stir-Fried Broccoli with Mushrooms, Red Onion, and Seasoned Tofu

Another successful night back in my kitchen!  Hooray!  This time I followed a recipe from the Follow Your Heart cookbook by Janice Cook Knight.  Follow Your Heart is a brand that makes such wonderful vegan staples as vegenaise and cheese substitutes.  The Follow Your Heart headquarters and restaurant is in Canoga Park, CA, which is conveniently located right along one of my work-travel routes.  I've eaten there only once, but it was delicious! 

Here is the recipe straight from the book because I followed it (mostly) exactly.

"1 large bunch broccoli (about 1 1/2 pounds)
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 small red onion, sliced in thin half circles (about 1 cup)
8 ounces mushrooms, thinly sliced (I used cremini)
2 tablespoons tamari soy sauce (I just used regular soy sauce)
1 tablespoon water
8 ounces seasoned firm tofu or 1/2 recipe Marinated Tofu on page 139  (included below), cut into [rectangular pieces]
2 to 3 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
A few splashes of ume plum vinegar (optional) (I didn't have this)

"Wash broccoli and remove touch stems.  Cut off broccoli florets, dividing them into bite-sized pieces, and cut remaining stem pieces into thin slices about 1/4 by 3 inches.  Set aside, keeping stems and florets separate. 

In a 12-inch saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Oil should be quite hot, but not smoking.  Add onion and saute, stirring oten, until onion is a little tender, about 5 minutes.  Add mushrooms release their liquid and begin to brown, about 8 minutes.  Push onions and mushrooms to the edges of pan. 

Add remaining tablespoon olive oil to the middle of the pan, and let it get hot.  Add broccoli stems and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes.  Add broccoli florets and stir-fry another two minutes, browning florets slightly.  Add [soy sauce] and 1 tablespoon water.  Cover and steam, lifting the lid to stir all together occasionally, for 5-8 minutes over medium heat, or until broccoli florets are just tender (al dente).  Add tofu.  Remove from heat.  Add sesame oil and toss gentlyl adjust seasonings.  If a more piquant flavor is desired, sprinkly on a little ume plum vinegar, to taste.  Serve immediately" (136-137).  [Serves 4]

As I was typing this, I realized that I forgot to add the sesame oil!  That would have been good too... but I did add the rest of the marinade that the tofu had been sitting in, so I guess that counts for something.

Here it is!  We ate it with Cal Rose rice and a few drops of Sriracha (these two things are practically daily staples in our house.)  Also we had some edamame on the side.  Yum.  The husband gobbled his generous serving down before I could barely even start, so I guess that's a good sign! 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Chickpea-Spinach Curry

It feels like it has been a very long time since I followed a recipe and cooked in my own kitchen.  Oh, how I've missed it!

Last night I happily made a recipe from this month's Real Simple magazine.  The cover of the magazine boasted something about a month of easy dinner's so of course I had to check it out.

They had a recipe for Chickpea-Spinach Curry with Cucumber-Yogurt sauce, but of course I made it my way.  For starters, I skipped the yogurt part and made a chopped salad and served it all with naan.  This is how I did it:

2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, chopped
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 teaspoon cumin
2 cups chickpeas, cooked (I used dry beans and soaked and cooked them the day before)
1 1/2 cups frozen spinach, thawed
Sea Salt and Black pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, garlic, and ginger and cook until softened.  Add the curry powder and cumin and stir until well blended.

Add the chickpeas and stir to blend all ingredients.  Transfer to a large cooking pot.  Add spinach, two cups of water, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper.  Stir everything together.  Bring to a simmer and cook for about 12 minutes.  Stir every so often.

For the salad, I chopped a half of a green pepper, a hothouse cucumber, and a large tomato.  Add a handful of fresh spinach, finely chopped.

I also made this dressing for the salad:
1/2 lime, freshly squeezed
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon Braggs liquid aminos
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

Drizzle the dressing over the chopped fresh veggies and blend well.

W was excited about the naan since we didn't have any a couple weeks ago with out Trader Joe's Indian food.  I used Kontos Tandoori Naan which is vegan and tastes delicious!

I served it all up with jasmine rice and we feasted!  It tasted very authentic, if I don't mind saying so.  In addition, it was all made from scratch (except the naan) which makes everything just so much better.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Anniversary Weekend!

We celebrated our first wedding anniversary this past weekend and I was surprisingly lucky with some pretty amazing vegan dishes!

First stop:  Catalina Island
We wanted a quick snack when we first got off the fairy and happened to find grilled artichokes at one of the restaurants.  It was so amazing and covered with fresh garlic – yes!

For lunch later, we at a Avalon Grill which had two vegan options:  carrot soup and grilled veggies with quinoa.  I almost ordered both of them because they both looked so good.  In the end I just went with the grilled veggies.  This was pretty much my dream meal.  Veggies and quinoa?  How can you go wrong?  It had some kind of sauce on it, which was amazing.

For dinner we ate at the restaurant in our hotel back on the mainland and there were tons of veggie options.  After much deliberation of the menu, I finally decided on the noodle stir-fry with veggies and tofu.  The menu clarified that this was a vegetarian option, but when it arrived, there was chicken in it!  I took the picture before I noticed the poultry, so unfortunately, this is not a vegan picture.  However, I did send the dish back and they brought out another one that was chicken-free.  It was a good dish, but I think the whole experience was tainted by the whole chicken debacle.  I did enjoy the vegetarian kim chee that I ordered as a side dish.

The next day we had a few snacks at the Getty Museum before eating a huge lunch at Native Foods in Westwood.  This restaurant is completely vegan, so I was free to choose absolutely anything I wanted to from the menu!  YES!  I chose the nachos and W got the Scorpion tempeh burger.

Native foods uses a mixture of cashews, seeds and grains to make their “cheese,” and it was amazing.  I loved it. I really can’t express how good it was, because I am pretty much in heaven with any kind of meal that includes, chips, rice, beans, guacamole, and tons of fresh veggies. 

W said his “burger” was amazing and he’d it something like this every day.  I don’t make this stuff up, people.  The meat eater has spoken:  he loves the tempeh burger.

There were several other meals of course on our trip, but none were as exciting as these that I have mentioned.  Let’s just say I was pretty much a happy vegan on our anniversary.

Trader Joe's Serves us Dinner

In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been traveling for work a lot lately.  When I’m at home, I’m either too busy doing laundry, packing and unpacking; or just too tired and lazy to whip up a big dinner.

I checked out three vegan cookbooks from the library and am dying to try out some of the recipes, but when?  When will I have time and energy to do this?  I don’t know.

In the meantime, I’ve been relying a lot on pre-packaged meals from Trader Joe’s.  (And of course, rice, beans, and salad.)

Here are two examples of tasty, vegan dinners we had last week. 

First of all, I have truly become a huge fan of these Tom Yum Soups.  I LOVE THEM!  They come with little packets of spices and fresh ginger slices to add for flavor, AND they come with five little spinach and mushroom dumplings.  All together in the big bowl of soup, everything about this soup is delicious and satisfying.  I also made some Cal Rose rice and served it with wasabi flavored seaweed strips, which are also from Trader Joe’s. 

Tom “YUM” soup indeed!


The Trader Joe’s Indian Fare dinners are always an easy, delicious dinner when paired with Jasmine rice and a fresh cucumber/tomato salad.  We used to get the garlic naan from Trader Joe’s as well, but it’s not vegan, so no more of that!
It was still a pretty good dinner for a quick meal during the week.

Das ist köstlich

With accordian music and yodeling in the background we sat down to dine on a scrumptuous German feast.

If there's one thing we do good in our household, it's celebrating different cultures, countries, and basically any kind of holiday with food.  We've had sushi nights, Mexican fiesta nights, Paella nights, Czech nights, Italian nights, and we even made Irish food one time.  Sometimes these revolved around a holiday or theme (the Irish food was for St. Patrick's Day) but a lot of times we just feel like having a theme night.

Last week it was Germany Day.

First we went to Tip Top Meats in Carlsbad, which I know does not sound like a place where a vegan should be going to shop.  However!  This is a German supermarket and besides their selection of bratwurst they also had shelves and shelves of food imported straight from Germany!  I love these kind of places!  Things I purchased for Germany Day:

Four bags of German candy
Three jars of German mustard
One jar of German Kosher dill pickles
One jar of German jam (in a mystery flavor since the label was only in German)
One package of German potato dumpling mix
One carton of red cabbage from the deli

Earlier in the day I had bought Tofuky bratwurst, a jar of sauerkraut red potatoes from Whole Foods.

Thus our feast was ready to be prepared.

W made the warm German potato salad, so I don't have the recipe for that.  It was AMAZING!  Good job husband!

We had a nice pretzel and mustard spread to snack on while we prepared the rest of the food.  Delicious.  We love mustard.

I followed this recipe from German Recipes Online to make the sauerkraut and it was so good it tasted just like how my grandmother makes it.  (She's Czech, but the countries are very similar in their foods.)

18 Ounces of sauerkraut
1 Tbsp olive oil
½ Tsp crushed black pepper
2.5 Cups water
1 Tsp corn flour

Sauté the onions, until light brown. Add pepper, sauerkraut and 2 cups of water. Reduce the flame and stir frequently for 45-60 minutes. Make a corn flour paste and add to the dish. Allow it to simmer for couple of minutes. However, remember never to boil the sauerkraut dish.

I then followed the instructions on the box for the potato dumplings which were incredibly easy to make.

We grilled the bratwurst, opened the jar of pickles, warmed up the red cabbage, added it all to the sauerkraut, potato salad, and dumplings and Köstliche Speisen!  (I think that means something like bon appetit.)

Of course we may be biased because we slaved over this feast ourselves, but we seriously felt like we could have been in the middle of Germany with this meal!  Everything tasted so good and authentic, we loved it!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Chipotle Style Burrito Bowls

Isn't there just something about the burritos (or in my case the burrito bowls) at Chipotle?  They are so good!  My love of the Chipotle burrito bowl goes way back to when I lived in Philly and could only eat at this place when I visited my friend KL in Washington DC (Philly didn't have any Chipotle's at that time.)  One time the two of us met another friend, JB, at our favorite Chipotle spot in Silver Spring.  We all got our foil-covered tubes of wonderfulness and sat down at a table to enjoy.  Twenty minutes later, JB exclaimed "How are you still eating that?!"  Indeed, while the other two had long since finished their burrito's, I was still sawing away with a plastic knife and fork at my tortilla filled with all the veggie-goodness.  "It's too messy!  I have to eat it like this, and besides we're laughing and talking so much, I'm getting too distracted; now let me finish."  Ever since then, I automatically just ask for the burrito bowl and skip the whole mess of trying to eat a tortilla wrapped burrito with a knife and fork.  It's much easier this way.  

Last week, I had a Chipotle burrito bowl for lunch on one of my trips, but by the end of the week I was already craving it again!  Time to make it at home.

I gathered and prepared all the ingredients to replicate what I get in Chipotle's Vegetarian burrito bowl:
cilantro rice
black beans
fajita-style peppers and onions
corn relish
fire-roasted salsa
pico de gallo
shredded romaine lettuce
And chips on the side, of course.

"This is how they do it Chipotle, but you can do it however you want, I'm just saying..."  I instructed my husband.  "First you put the rice in a bowl.  Next, add the beans.  Then, the fajita veggies.  Then everything else followed by a whopping dollup of guac."  Voila!  A Chipotle Style Burrito Bowl in the comfort of your own home!