Sunday, December 27, 2015

Favorites of 2015 and Welcome to 2016!

Bonne Annee! And welcome to 2016! Last year had lots of ups and downs for me but the blog was one of my most favorite parts of the year and these were my favorite recipes to make.

Mei fun noodles made several appearances on our dinner table because they are muy fun! Here they are with ahi tuna, but I've made them as a side dish or with seared tofu. I think they'd be fantastic with seared scallops or pan fried prawns as well.

When I first began cooking Indian food for my beau he was appreciative but he finally said, "there's this dish that is muslim in origin...." And that sent me on a google search and sure enough I found gold! Massaman Curry is one of my favorite Indian dishes and really very simple to make.

Herb Crusted Tofu Cutlets are my answer to healthy junk food that happens quick. And it's breaded, I mean, really, what's not to love! You can go gourmet with a mustard sauce as I do here or just use BBQ sauce or Ranch dressing.

Sauteed Swiss Chard sounds so boring compared to Palakoora Vepadu, which is Indian spiced sauteed greens that are guaranteed to wow.

Faux meat bought at the store is usually full of gluten or soy and other stuff you can't pronounce, so I cobbled together this recipe for Vegetarian Breakfast Sausage which turned out really delicious and is gluten free to boot!

When I'm trying to get more vegetables into our brunch meals these Japaneses Vegetable Pancakes are my go to dish.

When I wanted to make a special brunch for father's day my beau told me his secret recipe for Gr'eggs' Orsini and I made this fun dish.

Larb may be something you're familiar with as a fun Thai dish so I vegetarianized and Hoisin Tofu Lettuce Cups became a hit with adults and kids alike.

Fish cakes were never high on my radar to make but once I searched out the best and found these Spectacular Fish Cakes, we were hooked. Potatoes mashed a little and added to fish blanched in cream with an out of this world tartar sauce.

Garam Masala Salmon with Mango Salsa is as delightful as it sounds. Make it and wow folks with this quick and easy gourmet meal.


Sunday, December 20, 2015

Prawn Fried Rice

Fried rice was my guilty pleasure of choice in college; greasy, soy sauced deliciousness delivered to my door! It took me years to realize that this was a really simple dish to make at home, as long as you always used at least day old rice - it is a soggy mess if you use freshly cooked!

There are endless variations on this in terms of what veggies to add, but I always keep some frozen peas and corn on hand because they are often my favorite part of the dish, next to the prawns.  But it is also a great dish to clean out your vegetable drawers when things are starting to wane past their prime time. Just make sure to follow the firmness rule; if steaming a vegetable takes 15  plus minutes (broccoli, cauliflower, fennel) than it gets cooked first, and softer ones come later. Toss in the peas and corn with the softest ones (except greens, those always go in at the last second to keep their vibrant color!)

As with all wok meals, cook your proteins first and then make the veggies. This is pure comfort food for me and always brings back pleasant memories of guilty pleasures!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Beet and Herbed Chevre Napoleons

There is a wonderful French style bakery/cafe in Arcata call Cafe Brio and not only do the make the best French pastries and breads this side of the Atlantic, they also create fun salads like the one that inspired me to make these Napoleons. After having this delicious salad there a crisp Fall afternoon, I knew I needed to recreate it at home. Simply heaven!

Be careful with the garlic, it can overpower the other flavors, so err on the side of less. The fun thing about these stacks is that you can prepare both portions well in advance and then it all comes together quickly if you are trying to throw together a quick weeknight meal (no one ever has to do that!)

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Sweet and Spicy Asian Tempeh Balls with Rice Cakes

Ever wonder what to do with leftover sushi rice? It's something that has gnawed at me. Sure, you can make another sushi roll with cobbled together items from the frig, but next day rice is just kind of hard and crunchy and not in a good way.

Knowing intuitively that I was not the only cook who had faced this conundrum, I googled my query and found the answer. Rice cakes! So simple to add a little flour and form into cakes and boom, repurposed, day-old sushi rice! Adding these tempeh balls with a sauce rounded out my meal. Easy Peasy!

Don't be scared off by the long list of ingredients, you can easily use a store bought Asian-style marinade; I'm just lazy and make sauces based on what's in my pantry. Use what you've got, make it easy on yourself!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Best Marinated Tofu Steak

Search "best veggie burger" and prepare for the avalanche, and the disappointment! It seems that anyone who has ever come across a can of beans and cooked rice, tossed in some seasonings and called it "the best." Meh, not my cup of tea at all! But this one intrigued me - few ingredients and a Dr. Weil recipe (his food is both healthy but tasty), so we gave it a try.

Home Run!!

Next to Melissa Clark's Ultimate Veggie Burger (which takes hours to make and has an ingredient list that can make strong cooks shudder) this one is our favorite. Really tasty, little prep, and cooks up quickly.

Of course there is the catch that the tofu has to be frozen, defrosted and then marinated. It's definitely a do-ahead dinner, but so easy and delicious that you will begin to freeze blocks of tofu just so you make it (or this amazing recipe or these tasty morsels that work best with frozen/defrosted tofu).

Oh, and kid approved. Yup, gotta love that!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Thanksgiving Appetizers and Desserts

Although my blog is flexitarian, these suggestions are vegetarian and vegan in focus. So here, in no particular order, are my humble suggestions!

Hors d'oeuvres

Easy snacks for arriving guests are the name of the game here. These are do ahead treats that go great with wine and require little from you on turkey day. 

Fermented Cashew "Boursin" cheese. Yup, vegan, dairy free, delicious. If you want to shock your eaters, make this amazing "cheese." It's amazingly mind-blowing!

Olives are always easy and fun and when you marinate them yourself, you can taylor the flavors. Here's my version of them Moroccan Style.

Nuts are always a great snack to serve and these Maple Rosemary Glazed Walnuts will be a huge hit. But truly heed my warning and triple the batch, they are seriously addictive!


I have to admit that desserts are very much an afterthought for me, except at Thanksgiving! While my sweet tooth is general MIA, pumpkin pie is one of my favorite foods, probably because the sweetness factor isn't too high! That being said, if you are cooking for a crowd, it is good to have some variety. So beyond the traditional pumpkin and pecan, here are some suggestions.

Limoncello Macaroons with Lemon Icing are definitely not traditional turkey day fare, but they are easy to make and improve with age and will keep well in the refrigerator! Oh, and deliciously addictive to boot!

Chocolate is usually de rigor in some sort of dessert, and last year I had a sinfully rich chocolate pecan pie, but it really was a recipe for a bellyache! Try this Chocolate Ricotta Tart instead. Rich dark chocolate taste with the creaminess of ricotta!

Lastly, a fruit pie of sorts, inspired by the French: Goat Cheese, Walnut and Pear Galette. Rustic in look but elegant in taste.

Happy meal planning!


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Thanksgiving Entrees and Sides - Veggie Friendly

Vegetarians (and vegans!) get so much flak at Thanksgiving, and quite often their entree options are boring or nil. Be kind to the plant eaters and make them an entree to remember, and lots of sides that everyone will love!


Wild Mushroom Nutloaf with Porcini Gravy sounds like a scary throwback from the early hippie food of the 1970s, but this is decadence and deliciousness that everyone will love. Make enough so the carnivores can try it, they will be pleasantly surprised!

If your diners are primarily omnivores, these Chick Pea Parmesan Cutlets are easy to make ahead of time and then heat with some tomato sauce and presto! Delicious vegetarian or vegan entree without much fuss.

My personal old standby favorite whenever I was eating with my omnivore family was the Seitan Sautee with gravy. Here's a version with Fieldroast Marsala with Mushrooms.


Whether I eat turkey or not, my favorite part of the meal are the vegetable side dishes. Some people are crazy for stuffing but what I can't wait for is...Brussels Sprouts! Truly, and without bacon! Just sauteed with some olive oil and salt and sometimes a little balsamic vinegar. And then there's cauliflower gratin and beet salad and green beans...Ok, I'm drooling all over the computer. Suffice to say the veggies win the day for me!

Basque Beet Salad with Parsley and Garlic

(Use butter and cream instead of non-dairy ingredients if you like).

Happy Eating!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Spectacular Fish Cakes

Fish cakes have never been high on my list of recipes to make. They were never something my mother served our family. In fact the first image that comes to mind is greasy, smoke filled cottages in England or Ireland where I'm guessing fish cakes were a staple simply due to the abundance of the sea. But when I was gifted with two pounds of fresh, local, ling cod from a friend for showing how to cook Sticky Sesame Tofu and Mei Fun Noodles, fish cakes was what sprang to my mind as the best way to showcase the cod.

And then the internet led me to this recipe and a love that I never knew possible was born. Ultimate may sound like hyperbole, and because my repertoire on fish cakes is limited to this one version, I am just going to take their word for it. But believe me, these are freaking amazing! Out of this world, smack your mama good! (that would be Southern for why didn't my mama make this for me when I was a child?!)

The tartar sauce alone blows your mind but mashed in with some potatoes and then combined with fish? Holy cannolis! Two-three servings is really only two (or one!) if you are willing to share! These will be making a regular appearance at our table for sure!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Homemade Cheese Ravioli - Spelt Flour Version

Homemade pasta was the first complicated meal I made for someone other than myself. It was a traditional Lasagna Bolognese and since a rolling pin was not yet a part of my kitchen tool kit, I used a wine bottle with the label removed. A rousing success!

Maybe it was a result of that first success that homemade pasta has never intimidated me. Once you've made it well, it is such a pleasure and joy to make and offer to your loved ones. Since store bought ravioli is always made with wheat flour, I now make my own. Out of all the spelt products I have attempted, this was the easiest and least problematic, score!

Make sure your eggs are large since spelt will soak up lots of liquid; if your eggs are on the smaller side, feel free to add a third egg but you will probably end up adding some more flour.
Obviously the fillings for ravioli can vary as wide as your imagination. My raviolis in the past have ranged from beet and chevre, spinach ricotta, wild mushroom and chevre, and pumpkin (which is superb with a balsamic cream sauce!)

Below are instructing for making ravioli with and without a ravioli mold. I've had one like the picture to the right for 25 years and it has traveled far and wide with me through many moves and homes; it was one of my first kitchen tool investments and it has served me well!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Pad Kee Mao with Prawns

How this spicy prawn and noodle dish with its enticing flavors of basil, soy sauce and onions made it way into my consciousness is completely lost to me, but what I do recall is how utterly delicious it is!

I had forgotten how delicious is the taste of fresh basil in soy sauce! if you haven't had that before, try it now! There was a dish that I always got at the only Chinese restaurant in the dismal Indiana town where I went to graduate school - three flavor prawns - and it was sliced ginger, garlic and basil stir fried with prawns. That's it! It was pure ecstasy in your mouth and it was always what was on my plate at The Great Wall. If you're ever in that area, make sure you ask for the Chinese menu! That's where all the good stuff is!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Creamed Chanterelle Mushrooms with Polenta

When it comes to wild mushrooms you cannot get them except in season, end of story. So when chanterelles show their gorgeous orange yellow trumpets on the mushroom aisle, they get scooped up fast! You can also find them at farmers' markets if you have a mushroom forager stall. Grab some and make this dish - you'll be smitten too!

Of course chanterelles are great over pasta as well, but if you're looking for a break from wheat or gluten, polenta is almost as quick and easy to make. Try not to over cook the polenta because then it becomes kind of rubbery, which is not bad if you want to then slice it and place it under the broiler with more butter and cheese. However a more creamy, pour-able version is what you are looking for in this recipe.

This post jumped ahead of lots of others because chanterelle season doesn't last long! Thankfully it is not as short as Morels (3-5 weeks at best!) but they will be gone faster than you think, so go get some now!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Classic Scalloped Potatoes

Scalloped potatoes are so 1950s, so white, colorless side dish...yet so freaking delicious! Yes! it is potatoes done right, simple, slightly cheesy but lots of tender potato goodness. And so much easier than you would think!

I have wonderful small (5"x7") glass baking pans (that are the perfect size to make two meals' worth of paneer from a gallon of milk) but they are also the perfect for making two servings of scalloped potatoes.

This recipe is the basic starting point, you can add whatever you'd like to dress it up: diced ham, proscuitto, cooked greens, roasted veggies, whatever you think would go well with potatoes and cheese. It also all comes together faster than you would think, especially if you have a mandoline (which you need, order one now online, I'll're welcome!)

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Buckwheat Crepes with Artichokes, Tomato Jam and Chevre

Before moving to Arcata crepes were not high on my must eat or make list. A trip to Renata's Creperie changed all that! While it's lovely to eat out and be served, it is equally fun to try and replicate the goodness as home. This recipe worked beautifully!

Crispy edges, moist and spongy crepes, and any fillings my heart desired! It's a new meal for the weekend brunch menu and so many new ideas to try out! In this version, the tomato jam, chevre and artichoke hearts was the favorite. But the swiss chard, mushroom and chevre was a close second. Serve them with a dollop of sour cream, creme fraiche or yogurt if you like.

What I really loved about this batter was how easily it fried up; there was no broken, messy first one. They were beautiful from the get go! Make sure you're using large eggs; smaller ones may require an extra egg or half. Also, I did use spelt flour here, so if you are using regular wheat flour, you may need a tablespoon or two more of the milk.

Also, if possible, make the batter the night before and allow it to sit in the refrigerator covered with plastic wrap overnight. This step allows it to thicken and makes for a smooth batter that cooks up beautifully.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Falafel with Spelt Flatbread

Sadly, wheat flour and I have had to part ways. My nose and sinuses thank me, but there was some grief. Happily, gluten is not my enemy, so enter spelt, wheat flour's cousin. It comes in white and whole "wheat" but does not seem to afflict me the way wheat does, yowza!

Spelt does take some getting used to, not in taste but in the amount of liquid it needs, specifically less. It creates a much stickier dough and doesn't rise as much as wheat since it has less gluten than wheat flour. So experimenting has been happening and happily these spelt flatbreads turned out swimmingly!

The trick to making great falafel is to only soak the chick peas, Do Not Cook Them! And then make the mixture and allow it to sit in the refrigerator for at least a couple of hours; this helps it stick together. Of course this requires a little planning ahead, but then all you have to do is bake them and you can make the flatbread while the falafels are in the oven! Easy peasy!

Don't be daunted by what appears to be a long recipe to follow, it includes the falafel and tahini dressing as well. As for the veggies on the falafel, it's simply chopped tomatoes, cucumber and shallots. Vary that as you like.

I am linking this post to My Legume Love Affair, a fun blog event that Susan of The Well Seasoned Kitchen created and Lisa of Lisa's Kitchen now continues. Legumes have always been a favorite of mine but with my increased cooking of Indian cuisine, they are a weekly staple. This of course is Eastern Mediterranean in origin but the chick peas/ceci/garbanzo is still one of my all time favorites!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Thai Ginger Carrot Soup with Tofu Crisps

Do you live in a place where Fall is in the air? Crisp nights and chilly mornings are forewarning of leaves falling soon (making huge piles to be jumped into first before being raked to the curb?!) Then your mind and belly are probably lurching towards soups, stews, and warming cups of tea, mulled wine and hot cider! This is a new soup to add to your meal planning that will tickle your tummy and make your inner health nut happy!

Lots of carrots and garnet jams pureed with coconut milk, ginger and lime creates a unique, bowl licking, delicious soup. The cilantro and lime seem exotic but they make the soup; don't get scared and leave them out!

Years ago when I was the deli manager at Just Food Co-op in Northfield, Minnesota, I found this recipe on line and have no idea the origins. But it was a winner! Next to our Chicken and Wild Rice (the other religion in Minnesota, only second to the Lutherans!), this soup was our best seller. It's one of those dishes that people don't even realize is vegan! Love that!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Baked Zucchini Fries with Basil Aioli

This post was supposed to be devoted to my latest love (and shockers of shockers, my beau's favorite as well!), the zucchini crust pizza. Unfortunately, my latest attempts to make it photo-worthy have not been successful, but it will be making the rounds again when the zucchini are like baseball bats!

Suffice to say, the crust is basically a giant zucchini fritter, but getting the bottom to crisp well without burning took buying a silipat type baking mat. Yes, I caved, but it was worth it (just don't make your crust too thick!) Utter deliciousness (carb and gluten free!) awaits you.

In the meantime, enjoy these parmesan crumbed baked zucchini fries as a consolation prize. With this as the consolation prize, imagine what the winning prize was!

The basil aioli is genius (and actually is just basil mayonnaise, not aioli. But Closet Cooking called it aioli and it sounds so much fancier so I kept it as well!)

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Buffalo Style Chickenless Wings

Sometimes you totally want junk food, but knowing how bad it is just outweighs the craving. Such a bummer!

But then you could pick yourself off the floor where you were wailing (ok, hopefully, not all of us are that emotional about food, right?) and make these tofu buffalo wings!

My beau kept saying, "what are they made of??" And, "how did you get them to taste like this??!!" I took all of those exclamations as a good sign.

The trick is to freeze the tofu, defrost and gently wring out the excess moisture. Then bread it, bake it, and toss it with classic Buffalo hot sauce. Oh, and don't forget the bleu cheese dressing and celery, it's truly the antidote to the fire in your mouth!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Bengali Fish Stew - Maacher Jhol

It turns out that the first Indian recipe that made it into my regular cooking rotation was from Bengal, specifically a dal that still holds a special place in my heart. I posted about it here when it was transformed into a soup, but it wasn't until this fish stew - Maacher Jhol - crossed my path that I realized that Panch Phoron was distinctively Bengali. It was what made the dal delicious and definitely is a defining part of this stew.

The interesting part about first learning to cook Indian cuisine is getting used to what feels like little finicky steps which turn out to be essential. For this dish, it is tossing the fish with some turmeric prior frying it. Seems like a throwaway step, why bother? But it is essential. Follow what mistresses of the kitchen have done for centuries, they know of what they do!

Also, while you can substitute cayenne pepper for kashmiri chile powder and use another oil (ghee, olive oil) for the traditional mustard oil, if you can procure either or both ingredients (usually at an Indian grocery store; I stock up when I'm near them), it is so worth it since it enhances the flavor dramatically. You won't regret it!

Incidentally, the photo above pictures a version made with fish that was gifted to us from my beau's daughter's friend who had caught some fresh ling cod and we were the happy beneficiaries! Thanks Rico!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Hoisin Tofu Lettuce Cups

A fun local restaurant had "Larb" on the menu - never heard of it? Me neither! It turned out to be another Asian cuisine's version of tasty protein in a lettuce leaf (Thai version). The vegetarian option offered was made with crumbled tempeh but I got to thinking that tofu would have had been a good option too, better texture and ability to soak up the sauce. So of course it made an appearance at our dinner table soon thereafter.

A quick search through the blogsphere turned up several versions of the theme and there's no particular reason that this recipe caught my eye, maybe for it's simplicity. Adapting it just a little, this is the dish it produced. Such a hit! My beau's daughters are not huge fans of Asian cuisines, but there was lots of enthusiasm all around the table for this one!

If you are a regular reader you will notice the Mei Fun noodles on our pretty silver tray (free curbside score!) which do make a regular appearance at the table, 'cause they are just so fun!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Fig Chutney - DIY Pantry

Exploring Indian cuisine is so much fun because there are sooooo many condiments! Not only are there different types of condiments - chutneys, pickles, raitas - but such variety in each of those types of condiments!

When some free figs came into my kitchen (whoo hoo!!) I knew that they were going into a chutney tout suite. David Lebovitz's recipe looked great but it was boosted with a little more ginger and my favorite chile powder, Kashmiri, for its gorgeous taste and color. (Yes, hard to find except in Indian stores. Stock up on it, you'll love it too!)

My family had already fallen in love with Pear Chutney from this recipe which I made a few days later and canned them all at once to save water (we are in a severe drought!) And we are flying through both of them. So there will definitely be more fig chutney making in my future.

And as you can see from the picture, smearing fig (or pear) chutney on soft cheeses like chevre or brie is highly addictive as well. Double that recipe, you won't regret it!

Like so many delicious things, figs are in season for only a short while, so grab them while you can. Ignore the price and remind yourself they are like christmas or your birthday - a once a year event!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Grilled Vegetable Terrine with Chevre

What you can't see under all of those crispy browned breadcrumbs is lusciously grilled vegetables layered with goat cheese and pureed tomatoes....ahh, summer heaven!

For me, firing up the grill should not be just for a single meal. So lots of veggies get grilled and this terrine usually makes an appearance in a day or two. You can easily use mozzarella in place of the chevre, but I find it too heavy; the chevre just melts into the tomato puree and basil and lets the veggies shine through as the highlight.

Summer grilling season doesn't last long, so don't wait to make this. And if you have that summer affliction, I mean abundance, of summer squash, here's the perfect antidote!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Ultimate Veggie Burger - BEST EVER!

Mark Bittman is my god.

No qualifiers there. He simply is. And his articles about food, recipes and videos make my day. He makes me smile, laugh, hungry, and happy that he is in the world.

Other New York Times food writers don't do as much for me. Of course the cards are stacked against them, but they seem to really fall really short when compared to my god. But this recipe is the one that proves the exception.

Usually I'm pretty skeptical about Melissa Clark. Not to be a hater, but since making the mistake of listening/watching her in video form, her voice runs through my head when I read her recipes...and it's not a pleasant one. So my emotional reaction has often prevented me from making her recipe suggestions.

But I knew this one was worth overriding my emotional quirks. It was complex and sounded like she'd realllly worked out the kinks to make what she called "The Ultimate Veggie Burger." So I gave in.

Yeah! Cooking Stubbornness Conquered Again!

Make a double batch, totally worth the extra efforts, and they freeze well!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Eggs Orsini aka "GrEggs Orsini"

 The first official sort of holiday I spent with my beau and his family - kids, ex-wife - was father's day. Inquiring what his favorite brunch meal was, his ex told me he loved Eggs Orsini.

Eggs Orsini? I had never heard of it, but thank God for Google, something popped up when I went searching for this elegant sounding dish.

The story goes that Monet was quite the gourmet and had a guest at his house by the name of Count Orsini and he prepared eggs for him in this manner: Whip egg whites, slide the yolks into little holes of the whites and bake into a souffle like dish with gruyere cheese grated on top. Voila! Fancy and simple, all rolled in one.

So I diligently made Eggs Orsini, but they lacked the excitement of "GrEggs Orsini" which include the phyllo cups in which the dainty souffle-bearing yolks are cradled. Now that's fun!

In the original GrEggs Orsini recipe, it calls for placing the phyllo in a "taco shell mold." Not to be daunted since I lacked this culinary tool, I made foil "collars" and all turned out swimmingly!