Vegan Stuffed Peppers

Late summer / early fall bring the last of the seasons fresh tomatoes and peppers. As the weather starts to turn and the first cool days arrive I start craving soups, stews, and all the warm cozy dishes that seem best served on a cloudy autumn day. Stuffed peppers is a dish that my mother would make maybe once a year or so when I was growing up. It was certainly not in the regular rotation, but it was something I enjoyed once in awhile and found myself craving as the seasons changed this year. Mom’s version was stuffed with ground beef and rice and baked in a casserole with Campbell’s tomato soup. I couldn’t decide how I would recreate the dish to meet my current dietary lifestyle; after some research decided to just keep it simple and go with what I knew I loved…beet balls.

I made a batch of beet balls and cooked 1 cup of dry brown rice. To make the peppers a little softer, I decided to roast them in the oven briefly before stuffing. I removed the tops and seeds and roasted them at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, flipping them once after 10 minutes. I’ve seen some recipes blanch the peppers in water instead of roasting but I thought roasting would bring out the flavor more. I did these steps in advance, and put everything in the refrigerator until I was ready to proceed the next day.

To prepare the stuffed peppers, crumble the beet balls by hand and mix with the brown rice. I added 1 teaspoon, granulated garlic, 1 teaspoon onion powder 1/2 teaspoon fennel, and 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper. Instead of tomato soup, I mixed in one jar of tomato sauce to finish off the stuffing. Finally, stuff the prepared peppers.
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Line a casserole dish with some tomato sauce, add the stuffed peppers and bake for one hour at 350 degrees. To finish, I topped with nut parm

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Pumpkin Spice Steel Cut Oats

Pumpkin Spice Steel Cut Oats

Happy October! Now that pumpkin has creeped into summer much like Christmas has taken over Halloween I imagine you may already be tired of pumpkin spice everything. I do love my pumpkin though and I’d resisted pumpkin oats/pancakes/breads til Autumn’s arrival so was excited to change up my Instant Pot steel cut oats with seasonal add-ins.

I took my basic pressure cooker steel cut oats and amped them up with fall goodness.

1 cup steel cut oats
1 cup almond milk
2 cups water
1/2 cup pumpkin purée
1 cinnamon stick

Use manual settling to set the pressure cooker to 3 minutes. Allow pressure to release naturally. Once done remove the cinnamon stick, add 1/2 tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice, 2 tablespoons of maple syrup and top with chopped pecans. Serves 3.

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A great on the go breakfast!

Fall Grain Salad with Cranberry Apple Orange Vinaigrette

Somehow I’ve lost over a month! August ran away with Weddings, Baby Showers and late summer fun, and September is quickly slipping away into Autumn. I’m back and excited that my favorite season is upon us. I do have a recipe review from Isa Does It to write up but decided to make my return from hiatus with this grain salad all dressed up for fall and save the Isa post for next week.

This salad is very loosely inspired by something I’ve had at the Whole Foods Salad Bar. They have a grain salad I was certain was called Superfood Salad but when I tried to do some research online as to its ingredients the Superfood Salads that came up were cabbage based and most definitely not the salad I have in mind. No bother; I figured I’d create my own reminiscent of the Whole Foods version but amped up for the season.

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1/2 cup farro
1/2 cup quinoa
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup dried whole cranberries
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 bunch kale
Juice of one lemon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1 pint grape tomatoes
1 green apple
1 pomegranate
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the farro and the quinoa according to package directions. I generally cook 1/2 cup of farro with 1 cup of water for about 30 minutes; the 1/2 cup quinoa, also in 1 cup of water, will cook faster (about 20 minutes) so I do cook them in separate small saucepans.

While the grains are cooking toast your pumpkin seeds slightly to enhance their nuttiness. I usually just put them on some foil in the toaster for a couple of minutes until fragrant (keep an eye on them they will toast quickly.

If your grocery has bulk bins check there for your grains and pumpkin seeds (pepitas). I rarely get to Whole Foods but my local Wegmans also has bulk bins and sometimes items are cheaper there; it’s also a good way to give a new food a try without too much commitment.

You can also prepare your kale while your grains are cooking. If you like raw kale go for it. I like to steam mine a bit; for this recipe I put the kale and the red onion in a pot with the juice of one lemon and a dash of cayenne. Turn the burner up to medium high and stir constantly until it’s nice and hot then remove from heat and cover to steam a minute or two. Alternatively, it will steam a bit if you add it directly to the hot grains once their finished (and you’ll save yourself a pot to wash).

Once the grains are cooked, add the pumpkin seeds, kale and red onion, tomatoes, and dried cranberries.

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If you can find Trader Joe’s Whole Dried Cranberries they are amazing, but I warn you that you will never be able to eat a Craisin again and will be making special trips to Trader Joe’s just for cranberries (not that I’ve done that or anything).

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I was considering making a cranberry vinaigrette but while researching I came across what seemed the perfect recipe and decided to just make that. The Cranberry Apple Orange Vinaigrette from Oh She Glows was delicious and a great pairing. I drizzled a few spoonfuls to serve.

I garnished the salad with pomegranate, and thinly sliced apple. The dish is filling on its own but to make it an even heartier meal (or to stretch the leftovers further) you can also top with roasted squash.

1 squash (I used sweet dumpling squash)
2 Tablespoons maple syrup (divided
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (divided)

Cut the squash in half and clean out the seeds. Place the squash cut side up in a roasting pan filled with about an inch of water. Add 1 tablespoon of maple syrup and 1/2 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice to the center of each squash. Cook at 375 for 30-40 minutes. Brush the squash with the maple mixture and slice to serve.

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Whole Food Plant Based Creamy Chipotle Dressing & Sauce

Today’s post has two dressing recipes and three meal ideas, woo-hoo!  I thought of splitting it up but nah.  This post is a good example of how I cook.  I like to cook mainly on the weekend and either reheat my dishes, or at least have the more time consuming components ready for repurposing.

As the 4th of July holiday weekend was coming to a close I didn’t really feel like facing the reality of meal planning for a work week; That said, I also didn’t want to have to deal with underwhelming lunches and crickets at the thought of dinner (chirping, not to eat).  I decided to make a Mexican Chopped Salad that was quite satisfying, and a hit when I’d brought it along to a family function.

IMG_6375The salad is based on a recipe I’d discovered on Pinterest.  I tend to go rogue when it comes to salad components.  This time I used red, yellow, and orange bell peppers, zucchini, tomatoes, red onion, grilled corn, black beans, and cilantro tossed in the dressing.  I’ve played with the original dressing recipe a bit and think I finally got it where I want it.  The modifications I’ve made were to omit the oil, and make it less sweet and more tangy.

For the Chopped Salad:
zest and juice of 2 limes
2 tablespoons of juice from jarred pickled jalapeño slices
1 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon cumin
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon chili powder

 

This is a light, refreshing summer salad.  To turn my salad into a dinner, I made brown rice (adding salt, and the zest and juice of one lime at the start of the cooking process) to accompany the salad.  Add to a tortilla with some fresh avocado, green onion, and pickled jalapeños and this makes a great burrito.

As good as this was, I found myself craving something more indulgent and thought a creamy chipotle dressing would do the trick.  I took some inspiration from the Briny Caesar Dressing recipe in Isa Does It and thought what if I follow the same basic principle of a cashew base but swap the caesar dressing’s lemon, garlic and capers with lime, chipotles in adobo and pickled jalapeño…Just like that awesome was born.

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Creamy Chipotle Dressing

1/2 cup  raw cashews, soaked for at least two hours
2 cloves garlic
zest and juice of one lime
1/4 cup picked jalapeños with some pickling liquid
2 chipotle peppers
2 tablespoons adobo sauce
1 teaspoon cumin
3/4 cup water
dash of salt

Drain the cashews and place all ingredients in a blender or food processor.  Puree until smooth, approximately 3-5 minutes scraping the side of the bowl as needed.

IMG_6380To put together my salad I chopped some romaine lettuce, and tossed it with fresh squeezed lime juice and ground pepper.  I layered on some of the leftover rice from my burritos and topped with the Mexican chopped salad.  Add avocado, green onion, and pickled jalapeños; dress with a few drizzles of the chipotle dressing and finish off with a crushed tortilla chip or two.  The simple salad is amped up to a delicious burrito bowl.

IMG_6384The dressing was better than I could have hoped with the smokiness of the chipotles with some tang from the lime and pickled jalapeños.  It also has a great texture with no added oil.  As soon as I tasted the chipotle dressing I immediately thought chipotle pasta.  Once upon a time I loved the Cheesecake Factory Chipotle Chicken Pasta; a whole food plant based version hadn’t occurred to me until I had this dressing.  It’s a simple reinvention of leftovers.

Chipotle Pasta

Cook 4 oz of whole wheat penne until just under done.  Reserve 1/3 cup of cooking liquid before draining the pasta, and set the pasta aside.  Return the pot to the stove and add 2 cups of the Mexican chopped salad and the reserved cooking liquid.  I cooked on medium-high heat for about 2-3 minutes just to warm through.  Add 1 cup of the creamy chipotle dressing and stir.  Heat another minute or so before adding the pasta back to the pot, and stir to coat the pasta in the sauce and mix all ingredients.  Continue to heat until the pasta is fully done and the sauce thickens a bit, another minute or so.  I topped with fresh basil and sliced green onion.  This makes two generous servings.

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I really enjoyed this dish.  You still get the spice of the chipotle without overpowering the tang of the pickled jalapeño and lime. The vegetables add texture and sweetness, while the fresh basil brightens the dish with freshness.

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There you have it!  With the one big batch of Mexican Chopped Salad I was able to have dinner salads, burritos, and chipotle pasta without too much thought or effort after work.

 

Sunday Dinner: Whole Food Plant Based Stuffed Shells

This recipe started out as a thought and a wonder.  Last weekend was quite busy with family affairs and come Sunday night I hadn’t prepped any food, or done my grocery shopping for that matter.  I had some cauliflower and a few potatoes and frozen peas so decided it would be a homemade Indian Buffet kind of week.  A quick stop for some eggplant and tomatoes and I was all set to add a favorite, Baingan Bharta, to the mix.  Baingan Bharta is a simple yet flavorful Indian dish that uses roasted (or grilled) eggplant layered with flavors from onions, tomato, jalapeño, spices.  By mid-week I was still thoroughly enjoying leftovers and happened upon a stuffed shells recipe on Pinterest.  Hmmm…what if instead of Indian spices I add Italian herbs and use an eggplant mixture to replace the cheeses of stuffed shells.  I couldn’t wait to try it and am glad I did!  This recipe turned out wonderfully.  I would consider it a Sunday Dinner as it is more involved than I would venture after work but there are certainly steps where you could stop and continue another day.

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Ingredients:

2 eggplant
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and small diced
1 lb fresh tomatoes, diced
oz of baby bella mushrooms
1/2 cup kalamata olives, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon fennel
fresh ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup of fresh basil

Tomato Sauce
Faux Parmesan (recipe here)
Jumbo Shells

  1. Grill or Roast the eggplant.  I chose to grill the eggplant.  Pierce the eggplant a few times with a knife and grill over medium/high heat for about 20-30 minutes, turning every 5 minutes or so.  I grilled it on foil.  The skin will char and the eggplant will collapse a bit when it is done.  Set the eggplant aside until it is cool enough to handle.  Peel the skin off and dice it a bit so it’s easier to incorporate into the filling.
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  2. Cook the shells according to the package instructions, drain, and set aside.  This recipe makes about 5 servings, which was not quite a full box of shells.
  3. Preheat a large pot over medium-high heat, add the onion and sauté about 10 minutes; add water a few tablespoons at a time as needed to keep from sticking to the pan.
  4. Add the garlic and jalapeño and cook for another minute or two.
  5. Add the mushrooms
  6. Add the tomatoes, salt, pepper, and herbs.  Cook another 5 minutes until the mushrooms soften.
  7. Add the grilled eggplant and olives.  Mix well and allow to simmer another 2-3 minutes.
  8. I used an immersion blender to make a thick, creamy mixture that would be easy to stuff the shells.
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  9. Layer a 9 x 11 pan (I used an 8 x 8 and it was not big enough so ended up with two; 9 x 11 would be better) with a bit of tomato sauce.  Stuff the shells with the prepared filling.  Top with more tomato sauce and faux parmesan.
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  10. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.
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I should disclose that I have never been a lover of cheese in my life.  So, I cannot compare this dish to a traditional stuffed shells dish as I’ve never had the “real” thing.  I did thoroughly enjoy this version though and imagine the creaminess of the eggplant mixture would be reminiscent in texture to a cheese stuffing.  The spice of the jalapeño is very subtle but you do get the warmth at the end of each bite.  The olives, fennel and garlic are all prominent but balanced.  Of course, I had to serve with roasted broccoli as it’s become an addiction at this point.

Vegan BBQ – Jackfruit Edition

IMG_6135I became intrigued by jackfruit after seeing a post from Susan Voison at Fat Free Vegan awhile back.  I couldn’t believe how much jackfruit looked like shredded meat and made mental note to give it a try.  It was difficult to find but I finally made my way to the local Asian market and was able to get canned young green jackfruit in brine, and was ready to experiment.

 

Before transitioning to a whole foods plant based diet I would make BBQ pulled pork (the only way I ever liked pork) or chicken about once or twice a year.  It was one of those meals that signified the changing of seasons – around Memorial Day and Labor Day there had to be a pulled meat sandwich with coleslaw and fries to welcome and bid adieu to summer.  Since becoming plant based I’ve found most dishes are remarkably easy to reinvent for a meatless lifestyle, but pulled meat has a very specific texture that I had yet to try to recreate, until now.  With my newly obtained cans of jackfruit I decided the best way to give it a try would be to simply use my old favorite recipe and see how it worked.

 

My go-to recipe is an Emeril Pulled Pork recipe that can be found here.  The reinvented version starts with…well, opening the can and seeing what this stuff looks like (I feel like I’m on chopped).

IMG_6138Some time ago I had modified this recipe to make the dish in the crockpot by using the Wet Mop Basting Sauce as the liquid in the crockpot.  The basting sauce consists of vinegar with black and crushed red pepper, it adds a nice tang and some heat to the dish.  I added the jackfruit to the basting liquid and set the crockpot on low for about six hours.

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Simply remove the jackfruit with tongs or a slotted spoon and discard the liquid from the crockpot.  It seemed to keep its texture for the most part though some was already shredding a bit.

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I found that putting pressure on the jackfruit with a fork made it shred easier than trying to shred it with two forks.

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After rinsing the crockpot, I added the shredded jackfruit back to the crockpot and poured on homemade BBQ sauce (also part of the Emeril recipe) to taste.

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I left the crockpot on low for another hour or so until I was ready to eat.

IMG_6151To accompany my pulled jackfruit sandwich I went with my latest obsession, roasted broccoli.  I toss the broccoli in a bit of cooking spray, salt and pepper and roast for 20 minutes at 425.  I also made baked cajun french fries prepared by tossing yukon gold potatoes with homemade seasoning (see the Emeril Essence recipe; I leave the salt out and salt to taste when serving) and baking 10-12 minutes on each side at 450 on a parchment lined cookie tray.  I typically make the broccoli first then turn up the oven temp and throw the potatoes in; most days the broccoli is gone before the meal starts, but there are worse things to snack on before dinner 😉 some actually made it to the plate tonight.

IMG_6148I also made coleslaw to top my sandwich; I did not follow the recipe that accompanies the Emeril Pulled Pork recipe as I prefer a tangy coleslaw to a creamy coleslaw and Emeril’s recipe did not have nearly enough vinegar.  I searched around and wasn’t seeing any recipes that really struck me so I decided to wing it and made a dressing of apple cider vinegar, yellow mustard, celery seed and a little sugar.  I ended up adding some Veganaise mayo to make it a tad bit creamy – just enough to help the dressing coat the slaw.

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I think I’ve conquered BBQ with great success!  The sandwich had all of the flavors and textures reminiscent of my old recipes.  The jackfruit soaked up the tangy, spicy goodness wonderfully and maintained a nice texture.  I think I’ll be making more trips to the Asian Market.

 

Curry Roasted Chickpeas and Cauliflower with Parsley-Cilantro Chutney

I absolutely love roasted cauliflower; particularly Indian spiced roasted cauliflower.  It is the only preparation of cauliflower I like enough to crave other than cauliflower crust pizza.  Since the cauliflower crust pizza uses such a small amount of cauliflower for a single serve crust, I usually end up roasting the remaining head of cauliflower after I’ve made a pizza or two.  At least until I master batch prep of the pizza crust (in testing, stay tuned).  The only problem with my roasted cauliflower over couscous lunches is that it is not very filling and I find myself hungry too soon after eating.  This week’s recipes were an attempt to remedy this by making a more substantial dish inspired by my old stand by.

I took inspiration from the Happy Herbivore Chickpea Tacos, which is a commonly made to-to dish for me.  The recipe is basically roasted chickpeas in a homemade taco seasoning.  I took this concept and tried to come up with a flavorful way to roast the chickpeas that would marry nicely with the cauliflower and create a more complete, substantial dish.

My basic roasted curry cauliflower recipe is inspired by a pinterest find, Roasted Curry and Lemon Cauliflower.  I’ve made some variations over time to omit the oil and spice it up a bit.

Roasted Curry Cauliflower

1 small head cauliflower (or in my case, 1 head less the 1 cup needed for pizza crust)
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon tumeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more to taste)

Roast at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.

For the chickpeas, I took the same basic concept but added 1 tablespoon of tahini so the mixture would coat the chickpeas better.  The spice mixture is almost a paste with the addition of the tahini.

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This coats the chickpeas very well.

IMG_6086Roasted Curry Chickpeas

Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon tahini
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon tumeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1, 15 oz can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

Roast at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.  The chickpeas take slightly less time than the cauliflower but you could probably separate the florets smaller and just roast them together.  I did the chickpeas first and by the time I finished breaking down the cauliflower and getting the spices mixed in the chickpeas were done.

I served over a grain mix I’d discovered at Trader Joe’s.

IMG_6087I made 5 servings of the grain per package instructions and added 1/2 cup of peas towards the end of cooking time.  I had parsley to use up so I decided to make a chutney to add interest to the grain.  I added the majority of the chutney directly to the cooked grains, reserving a small bit for plating.  Of course, I forgot to take a post chutney addition picture but here are the cooked grains prior to adding the chutney.

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Parsley-Cilantro Chutney

1 small bunch fresh parsley
1 small bunch cilantro
1 fresh jalapeño pepper, seeds removed and coarsely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup of water

Pulse all ingredients in a food processor, reserve about 1/4 cup of the chutney for serving and mix the remainder into the cooked grain.

To plate, I placed the grain in a dish, topped with the cauliflower then the chickpeas so the chickpeas would keep their texture.  I topped with some additional fresh cilantro and served with a spoonful of the reserved chutney.

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The dish was everything I hoped. The chickpeas have a nice firm texture from roasting with the curry spices.

IMG_6095The chutney adds a lot of dimension and freshness to the dish.  The dish makes 5 servings and provides an excellent lunch.

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