Real Food. Real Stories. Oh Yeah.

Mutter Chik’n Masala

Yes, you too can make a delicious vegan curry right in your own home!

Mutter Chik'n Masala

I found this recipe for chana masala several years ago and have been using and modifying it ever since to whip up a quick and easy Indian-style dinner. While the recipe calls for chickpeas, I’ve often made it with mock chicken when sharing the dish with meat-eaters. Tonight I jazzed it up by adding peas, and I liked the result so much that they may become a permanent ingredient! This won’t taste exactly like what you’re used to getting from Indian restaurants, but it is a delicious curry that warms you up.

I usually start by mixing up the gravy so that it’s ready to pour right when I need it. To do this, I mix tomato paste, 1/3 of the called-for curry powder (I usually use Madras curry powder), coconut milk (I add about 1/2 cup to the recipe in place of the 3 TB of chickpea liquid), lemon juice (you can also use apple cider vinegar in a pinch), salt, black pepper, and crushed red chili flakes. I then whisk these ingredients with a fork until smooth. This way the flavors can meld while you prep everything else!

It's also a good idea to prep your spices, chik'n, and peas (or whatever you're using) before you start cooking.

Next, I took a medium-sized pot and heated up some coconut oil on medium. You can use olive or canola oil if you prefer; I used coconut to go with the coconut milk in the gravy. Once heated through, you usually add onion and garlic and saute. However, I was out of both; so I instead added the vegan chik’n strips (I used Trader Joe’s Chicken-less Strips in this particular recipe) and green peas directly to the pan and sauteed them for a few minutes. I then added the remaining curry powder, along with some onion powder and garlic powder (to make up for the absence of their fresh counterparts), and stirred them in to incorporate over the chik’n and peas. It’s good to do this for up to five minutes before adding your gravy. If the powder starts sticking to the pan, add a little water (but not too much) to loosen it up a bit.

If you don't want to use mock meat, you can make this with tofu or seitan, or with the original recipe's chickpeas.

Once five minutes passed, I added the gravy and brought to a boil. Then, I simmered the curry for about five minutes more, stirring frequently so it wouldn’t stick (let’s not talk about the time I made this and some of it burned and stuck to the bottom of the pan). You can let it simmer longer if you like; it’s versatile that way. Once you’re ready to eat, you just serve it over rice. It’s very filling on its own, but also goes well with naan. Enjoy!

It may be Spring but it’s still a good night for a warm, hearty meal.

Mango BBQ Beans with Jalapeño Lager Cornbread

Awhile back I spotted this recipe for Jalapeño Pale Ale Cornbread, and it became my culinary obsession. I must make this amazing bread bursting with cornmeal and beer. But when and where? Such a dish needed a proper crown, and not just any old chili or stew. No, this cornbread needed something even better. It needed Mango BBQ Beans (originally from Appetite for Reduction).

This meal was time-consuming to make, but worth it in the end. The cornbread is nice and moist, and the BBQ beans are sweet and spicy – perfect for a somewhat cool Spring evening, but also festive enough for a hot summer day. It’s also non-vegetarian approved, as my boyfriend gave it two thumbs up!

I recommend starting with the cornbread first, since you need to let a polenta mixture rest for 20 minutes before baking and cooling it for about 45 minutes more. Polenta, you say? Here’s how to get it started! First, I chopped up one small-medium jalapeño pepper, which gave me the TB called for in the recipe. I then sauteed the pepper pieces in 3 TB of Earth Balance margarine for about three minutes, until the pieces were softened. Once softened, I added 3/4 cup of cornmeal and 3/4 cup of rice milk (though any non-dairy milk will do), stirring until the milk started bubbling. You then remove the pan from the heat and let the mixture rest for 20 minutes – resulting the polenta mixture below!

A good time to get started on the BBQ beans is while the polenta mixture is resting.

Once the polenta is ready, you can do one of two things – you can prepare a bread pan like the recipe calls for, or you can do what I did, and prepare a cast-iron skillet. Skillet cornbread is amazing and I highly recommend making your cornbread like this! To get the pan ready, preheat the oven to 375 F, place the skillet on a baking sheet, then place in the oven to get the skillet hot. Mix your dry ingredients in one bowl, then set aside. The next step in the recipe calls for eggs and honey. I used agave in place of honey, and flax eggs (1 TB ground flax + 3 TB water for each egg) in place of regular eggs. I then combined the egg/agave mixture, the polenta, and the dry ingredients in one large bowl.

Now, the recipe calls for a pale ale, which I did not have. So, I used Yuengling amber lager instead. For my money the cornbread still tasted great. Once I mixed in the beer, I reduced the oven temperature to 350 F, took out the skillet, and greased the pan with some Earth Balance. Because the pan is hot, the EB will melt quickly; so use a brush to get the butter up on the sides of the pan. Pour the batter into the pan, then top with 2 TB of melted butter if you wish. You then bake the cornbread for 25-30 minutes, then let the bread cool in the skillet for 10 minutes before serving. It will then be ready to serve with the Mango BBQ Beans!

Mmm, cornbread.

Now, the Mango BBQ Beans take awhile to prepare, but the steps are considerably easier than the cornbread. To start the beans, saute some onion and garlic for five minutes in the bottom of a large pot, until the onions are translucent. While the onions and garlic cook, prepare the rest of the ingredients, as all except for the liquid smoke will be going right into the pot. Peel and cube one medium mango, and drain and rinse two cans of kidney beans. Place these in a large bowl, then add vegetable broth, coriander, red pepper flakes, salt, tomato sauce, and allspice, mixing them a bit. Now, I normally follow a recipe exactly the first time I make it, but I couldn’t resist adding a bit of Southern charm to this BBQ. I replaced 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce with ketchup, which also eliminated the need for agave nectar with its sweetness. I also added a generous shot (2-3 TB) of Jack Daniels, which also added to the sweetness and made the beans very tasty. Give it a try! I then added all of these ingredients to the pot and simmered them for 45 minutes.

Once the beans were done simmering, I added a teaspoon of liquid smoke. Then, I placed some of the cornbread in a bowl, and topped it with a heaping ladle-full of beans. Presto! An amazing dinner packed with flavor and guaranteed to fill you up. This also makes plenty of leftovers, so stock up on tupperware!

Have you had it up to here with boring stir-fry? Give this one a whirl!

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Chinese 5-Spice Tofu and Broccoli

I’ve been vegetarian for six years, and my favorite dishes have changed and expanded ever since. But like a loyal friend, tofu and broccoli has always been there for me. It’s reliable, it’s easy to make, and it makes it seem like I put way more effort into lunch or dinner than I actually did. What’s not to love?

Well, one thing that could lessen the love is a lack of variety. I like making tofu and broccoli because it’s fast and dependable, but even fast and dependable can be made better with a little sprucing up. Enter Chinese 5-Spice. Chinese 5-Spice is a blend of black pepper, star anise, cinnamon, fennel, and cloves – it’s warm, it smells great, and best of all, it’s pretty cheap!

What follows is not only my secret for the easiest vegan meal you’ll ever make that doesn’t come from a can, but also a method to jazz it up with a very flavorful seasoning.

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Tofu: "Please, make me pretty!"

To start, take about a quarter of a block of tofu and cut into bite-size pieces. Sometimes I cut the tofu into cubes for faster cooking and easier stirring; but in this dish, you’ll want relatively-larger pieces for easy frying. You can pat your tofu somewhat dry if you like, but don’t drain it or make it bone-dry – you’ll want some moisture to help the spice mixture stick! No eggs or oil required.

Heat a blend of olive and sesame oils in a skillet on medium. Meanwhile, put about 1-2 tsp of Chinese 5-Spice into a small bowl with a flat bottom (you can also use a small plate, just be careful to not send the spices flying everywhere as you dredge). When the skillet is hot enough, dredge each piece of tofu in the spice blend to coat evenly. The moisture from the tofu will make the spice blend cling to it and form a nice coat.

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Once each piece is coated, add it to the skillet and start frying!

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Allow the tofu to cook on one side for up to 5 minutes, then flip. Scoot all of the pieces to one side of the pan, then add your broccoli. Adding the broccoli at this step as opposed to earlier allows it to cook through without getting soggy or burnt – it’ll be just perfect!

You may also have some extra spice left in your bowl (as I often do). Instead of cursing at your wasted spice, take what’s left and sprinkle it over the broccoli! Stir the broccoli so it gets coated in both oil and spice; if the broccoli seems dry, spray with some cooking oil. Do not add water or excess oil, as this will make the spices fall off off your food and into the skillet; we’re not eating the skillet for lunch so it shouldn’t get all of the seasoning! Once the remaining 5-Spice has been added, sprinkle both the tofu and broccoli with some sea salt to bring out the flavor further (avoid soy sauce as this will also wash off your spices).

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Yummy

Allow the tofu and broccoli to cook for about 5 minutes more, then turn off your heat and serve! I like eating this over a bed of quinoa for extra protein, but you can substitute your grain of choice – or use no grain at all! Happy eating!

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Stuffed Acorn Squash

Autumn’s just around the corner, and what better way to celebrate than with a medley of apples and acorn squash?

Stuffed Acorn Squash

I’ve always been partial to winter squashes. They last longer than their summer counterparts, and overall taste better! The texture, the dishes, the scent, the warmth … winter squashes just have it all. So I was very excited to see winter squashes return to the farmers market, especially my beloved acorn squash.

God help us if the squirrels in "Mutts" ever catch wind of these

One of my favorite meals is to cut an acorn squash in half, bake it, and either eat it on its own or stuffed with a grain mixture. With a slight chill in the air and a lot of rain this week, I decided to whip up a stuffed acorn squash packed with one of my favorite grain dishes, Israeli Couscous with Tart Apple and Sage. Israeli couscous (also called Pearled Couscous) is a thicker couscous that’s more like a pasta, and it’s very delicious. Definitely add it to your grocery cart in the future, not just for this dish, but for other kitchen experiments!

See, not like standard couscous (also featuring a cameo from your author!)

The acorn squash takes the longest to bake, so I recommend starting with this first. Fortunately it’s also the lowest maintenance portion of the meal (and the whole meal is pretty easy). First, I started by melting about a tablespoon of Earth Balance margarine in a saucepan and pouring it into a small bowl. I then cut the acorn squash into two equal halves, using a spoon to scrape out the seeds and excess strands of pulp from the center. I also recommend cutting off a small portion of the top of the squash, as flattening the squash this way will make it easier to eat out of once it’s done. The pointy end gave me many a headache in Autumns past as it would make the squash wobble in my bowl while I tried to eat it, so giving the squash a flat base before baking will make life much easier!

Carving out the seeds and pulp is also good practice for pumpkin carving next month!

Once the squash “bowl” was ready, I prepped it for baking by brushing it with the melted butter, than sprinkling on some cinnamon, cardamom (optional), salt, and pepper. All of these spices are optional, really; but I highly recommend at least the cinnamon, salt, and pepper since they really enhance the flavor of this semi-sweet squash. I then placed the squash face down on a baking sheet, and baked at 375 F for about 30 minutes. The cooking time may vary depending on your squash, but I usually have a soft, tender squash after half an hour.

Mmmm

This gives you ample time to prepare your Israeli couscous stuffing. To start, I first simmered some Israeli couscous in vegetable broth for about 10 minutes. While the couscous simmered, I prepped my other ingredients and started to cook them. I heated a little extra virgin olive oil in a skillet, then added some heavily minced onion (I actually chopped the onion in a blender because I wanted it to cook away into nothing;  this is just a personal preference, since I don’t like onion pieces). After cooking for a couple minutes, I added my minced apple and cooked for a few minutes more, until the apple pieces softened slightly, the peel changed color, and the apple became fragrant. The recipe calls for a tart apple, but I used a Gala apple and still had success. I also left out the red pepper called for in the recipe, simply because I don’t like peppers.

Once the apples were cooked through a bit, I added some ground sage and chopped walnuts. You don’t have to cook these long; just until the walnuts become fragrant. I then turned off the heat, drained my couscous, and added it to the apple mixture, stirring so that the apple and walnuts appeared well-dispersed throughout the couscous. I then added the finishing touch: more olive oil, lemon juice (2 TB of prepared lemon juice is the equivalent to the 1 lemon called for in the recipe), and salt. Once stirred, I set it aside and let it sit while I removed my squash from the oven.

This is also an amazing side dish

The rest is cake from here. I took my acorn squash from the oven and placed it face-up in a bowl, so that the core of the squash was visible. I then spooned the Israeli couscous mixture into the core until full. Voila! An easy, seasonal meal that looks a lot more time-consuming than it really is. Dig in!

Mushroom Gravy

It’s all peaches and gravy at Once More with Veggies!

Mushroom Gravy

Like barbecue sauce, gravy is a condiment I never really warmed up to until after I went vegetarian. I always just preferred a little salt and pepper on my potatoes; and mashed potatoes were always flavored enough with butter and milk that I found gravy unnecessary. Even now it’s rare that I employ gravy. But last week I was making baked portobello caps with mashed potatoes, and figured the meal needed a little gravy to go along with it. And like barbecue sauce, I figured it’d be best to make it myself!

Fortunately I found this recipe for Easy Vegetarian Mushroom Gravy, and the title doesn’t lie – it is very easy, and makes plenty! To start, I chopped up a few white button mushrooms, measuring them in a 3/4 cup before chopping. It may be fun to experiment with other mushrooms, but buttons are great for a simple, earthy flavor that works very well in a gravy.

I then sauteed the mushrooms and chopped onion in a skillet on medium high heat with a whole lot of Earth Balance butter. The recipe calls for a quarter cup of margarine, and this results in a rich and tasty gravy. You could probably cut back if you like, but remember, this recipe makes a lot and unless you like drowning your food in gravy, you’re not going to be swimming in fat with this. Anyhoo, the mushrooms and onion needed to cook for a couple minutes, rendering them nice and soft (and the mushrooms shrink considerably during this step).

According to the recipe, you then reduce the heat to medium and add vegetable broth and soy sauce, and afterward, slowly add some all-purpose flour. Looking back, this is a part of the recipe I may change in the future. The flour tended to clump up when I added it, and while most of it dissolved, a lot of it remained in tiny dumpling form. In the future I may add the flour before I add my liquids, so that it can form somewhat of a roux which will then dissolve and make the gravy thicker. But you can try either way and see for yourself!

Once the flour was incorporated, I added sage, thyme, marjoram (all dry), salt, and pepper; and cooked it for about 10 minutes to thicken it. It never got super duper thick, so I may add some arrowroot powder or corn starch in the future. But the texture was thick enough to make a nice gravy that was good for potatoes. Once I finished cooking, I strained the gravy so as to remove the mushrooms, onions, and especially the little flour clumps that didn’t fully dissolve. I then had about a cup of mushroom gravy, ready to use!

Despite the few changes/concerns I cited above, I really liked this recipe because it allowed me to whip up some gravy quickly and not rely on canned or prepared gravy from the store. It’s also a perfect way to use up those older mushrooms you have sitting in the fridge!

Peach Bourbon BBQ Sauce

Fire up the grill and slather on the barbecue sauce!

Peach Bourbon BBQ Sauce, in an appropriate container

Earlier I discussed how barbecue sauce is a condiment I didn’t really grow to appreciate until I went vegetarian. I think another reason I’ve grown to appreciate it in later years is because I’ve started making it myself. Barbecue sauce is ridiculously easy to prepare at home, and most recipes make a lot! Fortunately barbecue sauce also keeps really well, so you can make yourself a batch that’ll last you for weeks and weeks in the fridge. Everyone wins!

With peaches in season, I decided to give peach barbecue sauce a try. I was watching Paula’s Best Dishes the other week, and lo and behold, Ms. Deen had a recipe for homemade peach bbq sauce on her show. I know, you thought you’d never see a Paula Deen recipe on here, right? Well, she does occasionally put out some nice light recipes that aren’t drowning in butter; and while this sauce was an accompaniment to grilled tilapia, the sauce itself was veg-friendly and looked delicious!

You are about to witness how easy it is to make your own barbecue sauce; and you’ll wonder why you were wasting your time and money buying bottles from the store (specialty sauces are one thing, but just plain ol’ BBQ sauce? Make it – it’s fun!). In a large pot, I combined ketchup, mustard, canola oil, apple cider vinegar, dried minced garlic, salt (I didn’t have the garlic salt the recipe called for, so I used a pinch or two of both garlic and salt), vegan Worcestershire sauce (regular Worcestershire sauce usually has anchovies; I use  The Wizard’s Vegan Worcestershire and it’s a great sub), paprika, lemon juice, black pepper, brown sugar (I reduced the amount to 1 TB because I don’t like incredibly sweet sauces, and was also using sweet bourbon), water, and my own addition, Jack Daniels. I replaced 1/2 a cup of the recipe’s water with Jack Daniels; you can sub more or less depending on how much of a bourbon-y taste you want.

While I heated up the mixture above, I chopped my onion; and added it once the mixture came to a boil. I then simmered the sauce for twenty minutes. In the meantime, I prepared my peaches. The recipe calls for fresh or canned peaches. If you’re not going to use fresh peaches (and I didn’t – I’d already bought a lot of fresh peaches for a crisp and for snacking, so I got frozen peaches for this sauce), I’d recommend using frozen peaches instead of canned, since they’re not covered in gooey sweet syrup and additives. For this recipe, I used a defrosted 16-oz bag of peaches, and blended them in my blender until they were very smooth. You can puree less if you’d like chunkier sauce!

Pureed peach goodness

Once twenty minutes had passed, I stirred in my peaches. I also raised the heat back up to high so the sauce could cook a bit with the peach puree inside of it. Once it got to a boil, I reduced back to a simmer and simmered for just a couple of minutes. After that, it’s done! A quick, simple, summer-y BBQ sauce that’s perfect for a slab of tofu, a seitan cutlet, or even just dipping in crackers (which is what I did to taste-test).

This sauce has a light peach taste and the bourbon isn’t too heavy, so it’s a tasty combo that doesn’t overpower the sauce – or whatever the sauce is on, for that matter. Plus, it makes a lot, so you’ll have plenty to keep around and even give to friends!

Lots of sauce for lots of grills. Can't complain

It’s never too hot for a good curry!

Panang Curry with Tofu and Vegetables

I really enjoy Thai food, especially a good Panang curry. My boyfriend also absolutely loves Thai; and we’ve gotten many a dinner together at the plethora of Thai places in the DMV area. While I enjoy these restaurants thoroughly, I wanted to try my hand at making my own curry at home. So, I decided to start with my favorite – a simple panang. I found this recipe for panang curry, and while it calls for chicken and fish oil, it seemed not only simple to prepare, but easy enough to modify into a vegetarian dish.

To start, I did some advance prep by cooking up some rice and making some coconut milk. As I mentioned last week, I’ve started making a lot of my own grocery store staples, such as bread and nondairy milk. In the book How it All Vegan, I found a really easy recipe for homemade coconut milk, and decided to give it a try. I am now a convert to homemade coconut milk! Basically, you take 1/2 a cup of shredded coconut (I used dry shredded, which I usually keep around the apartment for baking), add 1 cup of boiling water, blend them together until smooth, and then strain out the coconut bits. That’s it. Really. Why was I spending money on cans again?

The recipe yields about 1 cup of coconut milk. If you measure it out and have less than one cup, add a little water

I kept both the coconut milk and the rice in the fridge until I made my curry that night (the coconut milk will separate when chilled; just shake it up before using).

To start the curry, I first cut up half a block of tofu into small triangles, then fried them in olive oil for about 10 minutes; or the duration of time that it took to make the curry sauce. I’d recommend doing this in both a deep skillet and one with a lid, since the oil will fly up during frying and might hit you! I mostly left the tofu alone while making my curry sauce, with the exception of flipping the triangles over about halfway through. This allowed them to get really nice and crispy on both sides.

Fried triangles of goodness

Up next was the easy part – the sauce. I brought my coconut milk (though the recipe calls for a 14 oz can, I yielded plenty of sauce with the one cup I prepared) to a gentle boil, then added some garlic and red curry paste (as opposed to Panang curry paste), stirring to make a rich sauce. I then added some chopped onion, which I chopped finely as opposed to slicing into strips like the recipe suggests. While the onions simmered in the sauce, I prepped my other veggies and flipped the tofu triangles. After about three minutes, I added sugar, peanut butter (instead of roasted peanuts), sliced carrots, cubed tomato, and dried red pepper flakes (about 1/4 tsp), stirring to get the peanut butter good and incorporated into the sauce. Rather than add the tofu triangles to the sauce, as instructed, I drained the excess oil from my skillet, returned the tofu, and then added the sauce to the warm skillet, keeping the heat on low and allowing the curry to simmer. I’d recommend simmering for at least 5-10 minutes so that it can get nice and flavorful.


This recipe was relatively simple and cheap to prepare, two things I always like when it comes to homemade! Next time I want to add broccoli to the mix, as well as other vegetables. This curry was very delicious on a bed of brown rice. Definitely try making it at home, and save yourself a little money in the process! The recipe yielded about three servings, so you’ll even have leftovers.