Category Archives: Munchies

Vegetarian Friday: Deviled eggs

Everybody has a deviled-egg recipe, but let’s be honest: Most of them suck. That’s unfortunate, because deviled eggs are a good, cheap protein source that can be made ahead of time and paired with salad for a quick, low-carb meal.

If a deviled-egg recipe calls for mayonnaise or Miracle Whip, throw it out. Seriously. That is a horrible thing to do to perfectly good eggs.

Here’s a very basic deviled-egg recipe that lends itself well to experimentation.

Ingredients:
Six boiled eggs
1/2 stick butter, softened
1/2 c. mustard
Paprika
Fresh chives (optional)

Peel the boiled eggs*, slice them in half lengthwise, and dump all the yolks into a bowl. Add the butter and mustard to the bowl and mash everything up together with a fork. At this point, you can add a few snipped, fresh chives, a dash of hot sauce, or whatever else floats your boat. My parents are fond of adding a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce to a batch of deviled-egg filling, but Worcestershire sauce contains anchovies, which obviously aren’t vegetarian. I’ve seen people put weird stuff like capers or olives or pimentos in their deviled eggs, but I can’t vouch for any of those additions.

If an egg doesn’t peel right, or the white breaks apart instead of making a neat little bowl to hold the filling, don’t panic; there is no shame in using the yolk and feeding the white to your dog. You’ll just end up with a higher proportion of filling to white in the finished eggs, which can only improve them.

Spoon the filling into the whites (or pipe it in with a pastry bag and a big star tip if you’re fancy), garnish with a sprinkling of paprika and maybe a few snipped chives or some fresh parsley, and serve.

Emily

*Protip: Fresh eggs are hard to peel, as are overcooked eggs. For boiling, use eggs that have been sitting around in the refrigerator for several days, and don’t overcook them. The trick is to shut off the burner and cover the pan as soon as the water comes to a full boil, then take it off the heat and let it sit for 12 minutes. After 12 minutes, drain off the hot water, run cold water over the eggs to stop the cooking, and let them cool to room temperature before you try to peel them.

Vegetarian Friday: Mushroom stroganoff

As a child, I was an insufferably picky eater, but one of the few things Mom could get me to eat reliably was beef stroganoff.

When I went vegetarian in college, I was delighted to find packets of instant mushroom stroganoff on sale for $1 apiece. It wasn’t quite as cheap as ramen, but it tasted better, especially if I doctored it up with a dollop of sour-cream dip and a squirt or two of mustard.

Prefabbed pasta mixes laced with MSG and God knows what else were fine 20 years ago, but these days, I really appreciate being able to pronounce everything that’s on my plate, and homemade mushroom stroganoff goes together so quickly and easily, there’s really no need to buy the prepackaged kind.

Ingredients:
3 c. egg noodles
Water
3 tbsp. butter
1/2 medium or 1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 lb. sliced mushrooms
Ground thyme
Paprika
1 c. sour cream
1/4 c. mustard
2 tbsp. ketchup

Bring water to boil. While it heats, melt butter in a big skillet and saute onion until clear.

Mmmm ... mushrooms.
Mmmm … mushrooms.

Add noodles to water and simmer 7-10 minutes until al dente (tender but not mushy). While noodles cook, add mushrooms to skillet and saute until they release liquid and start to brown.

Add thyme and paprika.
Add thyme and paprika.

Sprinkle mushroom-onion mixture with thyme and paprika to taste. Add sour cream, mustard and ketchup, stir well, and reduce heat to medium. (Feel free to taste as you go and make adjustments to suit your own preferences. I frequently leave out the ketchup altogether, but my mom always put some in when I was a kid. I like it either way.)

That poor old wooden spatula has stirred too many batches of stroganoff to count in the last 20 years.
That poor old wooden spatula has stirred too many batches of stroganoff to count in the last 20 years.

Drain noodles, add to skillet, and stir to coat with sauce. Serves 4.

This is one of the best vegetarian meals I've had.
This is one of the best vegetarian meals I’ve had.

I’m not sure how well this would veganize; mushrooms sauteed in olive oil would work fine, and you can get vegan sour cream that tastes pretty convincing, but I’ve never used it in a sauce and can’t remember how well it melts. If somebody wants to experiment and report back, I’ll be happy to share your findings.

If you want extra protein, you can nuke a couple of Boca burgers, cut ’em into bite-sized chunks and add ’em to the sauce, which I used to do in college — and omnivores, you won’t go wrong if you cut up a couple of breakfast steaks and brown them in the olive oil while the onions are cooking.

Emily

 

Vegetarian Friday: Easy veggie frittata

This frittata goes together quickly and is a great way to use up leftover vegetables. This is more a method than a recipe, as you can substitute any kind of cheese and any kind of vegetable you want and adjust your spices accordingly. If I were making it again, I’d leave out the squash in favor of mushrooms — which have a more assertive texture after an hour in the oven — and add some green chile. Mozzarella and pizza toppings would give it an Italian flavor.

Ingredients:
About 3 cups of chopped vegetables (I used onions, celery, peppers, squash, tomatoes and cilantro)
Olive oil
Handful of any kind of cheese, shredded or crumbled (I used a Mexican blend I had on hand and added some homemade taco seasoning to give it a Southwestern spin)
Four eggs, beaten
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Coat an 8-inch cast-iron skillet or pie pan with cooking spray and set it aside. (I recently bought one of those sprayer bottles that turns olive oil into an aerosol, and it worked very well and didn’t impart any of the weird flavors you can get with commercial cooking sprays.)

Sauteed vegetables are the centerpiece of this easy, high-protein meal.
Sauteed vegetables are the centerpiece of this easy, high-protein meal.

Saute vegetables in olive oil in a wok or large skillet until onions are clear, adding delicate vegetables last. If you’re using any kind of spices, add them now.

Layer the cheese with the vegetables so it doesn't dry out or scorch on top.
Layer the cheese with the vegetables so it doesn’t dry out or scorch on top.

Put half the vegetables in the 8-inch skillet. Sprinkle cheese over vegetables. Cover cheese with remaining vegetables. Carefully pour eggs over vegetables and cheese and bake at 400 degrees until the top starts to brown and a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean (about an hour).

Pour eggs over vegetables and bake.
Pour eggs over vegetables and bake.

Frittatas and quiches don’t microwave very well, but they reheat well in the oven for a low-effort meal on a weeknight.

Emily

Eco-Saturday: Crock-Pot yogurt

Making your own yogurt is a good way to save money and cut down on packaging at the same time — and this method is so easy, you’ll never bother with store-bought again, especially after you taste the homemade stuff.

Ingredients
Half-gallon of milk
Half-cup of plain yogurt

Equipment
Slow cooker
Candy thermometer
Whisk
Towels
Oven

This is really challenging: You have to pour milk into a Crock-Pot.
This is really challenging: You have to pour milk into a Crock-Pot.

Dump the milk into your slow cooker, turn it on high, and ignore it. About two hours in, start checking it with the candy thermometer every 15 minutes until it reaches 180 degrees. That temperature will kill off any unwanted strains of bacteria that might be floating around in there.

When the milk reaches 180, shut off the slow cooker and ignore it some more. After about two and a half hours, start checking the temperature until it reaches somewhere between 105 and 115 degrees. That temperature is warm enough to incubate yogurt.

Save back a half-cup of this batch of yogurt, and you can use it to inoculate the next batch so you don't have to buy more.
Save back a half-cup of this batch of yogurt, and you can use it to inoculate the next batch so you don’t have to buy more. You can do that for two or three batches before the cultures start to wear out.

When the milk is between 105 and 115 degrees, whisk in half a cup of plain yogurt.

The towel helps hold in heat.
The towel helps hold in heat.

Remove the crock from the cooker, wrap it in towels, and set it in the oven. Turn the oven light on and leave it overnight. (Alternately, you can pour the milk into canning jars, close the jars tightly, and put them in a small cooler. Run hot tap water in the cooler up to the lids of the jars, close the cooler, and leave it on the counter overnight.)

You can make yogurt in a stockpot, but it sticks to the bottom and makes a horrible mess. The Crock-Pot is much easier to clean, as the milk doesn't burn on.
You can make yogurt in a stockpot, but it sticks to the bottom and makes a horrible mess. The Crock-Pot is much easier to clean, as the milk doesn’t burn on.

In the morning, your milk will have turned to yogurt. Whole milk will generally produce thicker yogurt than skim, but you can adjust the thickness by straining the finished yogurt.

Homemade yogurt may look thin at first because it doesn't have gelatin or artificial thickeners in it.
Homemade yogurt may look thin at first because it doesn’t have gelatin or artificial thickeners in it. Straining thickens it up.

If you want Greek yogurt, line a sieve with a clean tea towel and set it on top of a bowl or pan.

About half the yogurt's volume is whey.
About half the yogurt’s volume is whey.

Dump the yogurt into the sieve and let it drain in the refrigerator until its volume has reduced by about half.

After straining. Much thicker.
After straining. Much thicker.

Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator and use in smoothies or serve with granola and fruit. If you’re vegetarian or just trying to lose weight, Greek yogurt also makes a good low-fat way to sneak some extra protein into your diet — just stir in some ranch dressing mix and use as you would sour cream.

You can also make a tangy substitute for cream cheese by straining your Greek yogurt overnight.

Emily

Vegan Friday: Gumbo

Gumbo is one of those recipes with endless variations. But to make a respectable gumbo, you absolutely must use the following:

1. Roux (flour browned in oil or butter)
2. Okra
3. File (powdered sassafras leaves)
4. Holy Trinity (sauteed celery, onions and bell peppers)
5. Cayenne

The best gumbo also contains shrimp and Andouille sausage, but this vegan variant isn’t bad. I used frozen and canned ingredients, but as always, fresh is better if you have time to mess with it. Don’t let the ingredients list scare you off; it looks long, but a lot of it is stuff you have on hand.

Ingredients
1 1/2 c. frozen celery, onion and pepper mix
1 c. tricolor pepper mix
Olive oil
Flour
1 can diced tomatoes
Water
1 cube veggie bouillon
1 tsp. file
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. Jane’s Crazy Mixed-Up Pepper (OK to substitute coarse black pepper)
Cayenne to taste
2 tsp. salt OR 1 tsp. salt + 1 tsp. smoked salt
Pinch of ground chipotle
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bag frozen cut okra
1 1/2 c. frozen zucchini (optional)
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
4 bay leaves

Saute the first two ingredients in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil until onions are clear.

I've seen gumbo recipes that left out the celery. These were created by Communists, obviously.
I’ve seen gumbo recipes that left out the celery. These recipes were created by fascists, obviously.

While vegetables cook, put about two tablespoons of olive oil in a small pan and add enough flour to make a dryish paste. Heat, stirring frequently, until browned. This is your roux. It is absolutely essential to a decent gumbo.

I've also seen recipes that left out the file. These recipes were created by al-Qaeda operatives.
I’ve also seen recipes that left out the file. These recipes were created by al-Qaeda operatives.

Dump tomatoes into Crock-Pot. Whisk in the roux. Add two cans of water, whisking between each addition. Whisk in file, paprika, thyme, pepper, cayenne, salt and chipotle. (Chipotle isn’t traditional, but it adds a smoky note you really need if you aren’t using sausage.)

Gumbo before it cooks. The finished product won't be this colorful, but it will taste magnificent.
Gumbo before it cooks. The finished product won’t be this colorful, but it will taste magnificent.

Sitr in remaining ingredients except bay leaves. Add bay leaves last, turn Crock-Pot to high and ignore for four hours (or turn Crock-Pot on low and cook overnight or while you’re at work). If your finished gumbo seems too thin, add a little more roux.

Remove bay leaves and serve over rice or couscous.

Emily

Vegan Friday: Stuffed peppers

pepper4

This recipe takes a few extra minutes because of the baking time, but it’s easy to assemble in advance and keep in the fridge or freezer for later. I’d initially planned to make these with red beans and Cajun seasoning, but I grabbed the wrong can of beans and didn’t realize it until I’d opened it, so I just switched to Mexican spices and called it good.

Ingredients:
Four bell peppers
Small onion, chopped
2 tbsp. olive oil
Can of tomatoes
Can of pinto beans, drained and rinsed
Taco seasoning (I use homemade)
About 1/2 c. whole-wheat couscous

Preheat oven to 350.

pepper1

Cut tops off peppers and remove cores.

pepper2

Chop up tops and saute with onion in olive oil until onion is clear. Add tomatoes, pinto beans and seasoning and bring to a boil.

Stir in couscous, turn off heat, and let couscous absorb liquid.

pepper3

Fill peppers with couscous-bean-tomato mixture and bake in a covered dish for about 20 minutes until pepper starts to soften.

Serve with hot sauce and salt. (Non-vegans can add a handful of shredded cheese to the top of each pepper halfway through the baking time if desired.)

Makes 4 servings, obviously.

Emily

Vegan Friday: Sushi

Contrary to popular belief, it is entirely possible to make vegetarian sushi. That’s because — also contrary to popular belief — the word sushi refers to the rice preparation technique, not the other ingredients. Pieces of raw tuna or salmon artfully arranged on a plate are delicious, but they are not sushi. They are sashimi. If you don’t have rice flavored with rice vinegar, you don’t have sushi.

With that in mind, here’s how to make a fantastic lunch.

Ingredients
1 1/2 c. sushi rice, cooked
2 tbsp. rice vinegar
2 tsp. sugar
3 nori sheets, toasted (available from the health-food store; do yourself a favor and buy the pre-toasted kind so you don’t have to toast it yourself)
Mild-flavored vegetables such as avocado, cucumber or carrots
Soy sauce
Pickled ginger
Wasabi

You’ll also need a sushi mat, available for about $5 at most health-food stores and Asian groceries. (Aluminum foil will work in a pinch, but I don’t recommend it, especially if you’re not used to working with sushi.)

Stir the sugar and vinegar into the rice and refrigerate it for an hour or so.  If you’re not great at making rice, get yourself an automatic rice cooker; they cost about $20 at most big retailers and will save you a lot of time and effort.

After the rice cools, cut your vegetables into thin strips.

Lay a toasted nori sheet on the sushi mat. Place about a third of the rice on the end of the sheet closest to you and use the back of a spoon to spread it to about 1/2 inch thick.

Avocado is my favorite filling, but cucumbers, carrots and other vegetables also work well.
Avocado is my favorite filling, but cucumbers, carrots and other vegetables also work well.

Make an indentation in the middle of the rice and lay vegetable strips in the indentation.

Use the mat to help you form the sushi into a tight roll.
Use the mat to help you form the sushi into a tight roll.

Starting with the side closest to you, roll the nori sheet up around the filling as tightly as possible, rolling the mat with it as needed to keep everything together.

The roll should look something like this.
The roll should look something like this.

Unroll the mat. Dip your fingers in a bowl of water and use them to moisten the loose edge of the nori, smoothing it down against the roll.

Dip your fingers in a bowl of water and run them along the loose end of the nori to seal it, smoothing it down as you go.
Dip your fingers in a bowl of water and run them along the loose end of the nori to seal it, smoothing it down as you go.

Using a very sharp knife, cut the roll into slices.

Arrange the slices on a plate. Serve with pickled ginger, wasabi and soy sauce. (Pickled ginger and wasabi both should be available from most grocery stores.)

Makes three rolls.

Vegan Friday: Mushroom bisque

Protip: If you’re considering going vegetarian, go buy yourself a copy of Mollie Katzen’s The Moosewood Cookbook. Like now. I’ll wait. If you don’t have a good bookstore in your town, here’s an Amazon link to buy the newest edition.

I’ve been using The Moosewood Cookbook for at least 20 years, and it’s never, ever steered me wrong. I think I have the 2000 edition, which was an update on the original that dropped the fat content of some recipes.

One of those recipes was for mushroom bisque, which I riffed on the other day, adjusting based on the ingredients I had on hand and veganizing as needed. This is one of those recipes that tastes so rich and creamy, no one will know it’s vegan unless you tell. Ron, who generally hates cream soups, liked it enough that he said it should go into the regular dinner rotation. That’s high praise coming from him, although he might have been influenced a wee bit by the fact that it was 19 degrees out the night I made it.

Anyway. The recipe:

Ingredients:
2 potatoes, diced
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 smallish onions, chopped
1-2 celery stalks, chopped
1 lb. mushrooms (or more if you have them on hand)
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
Pinch of ground thyme
3 tbsp. red wine
2 tsp. soy sauce
1 c. soymilk
Scallions and/or parsley for garnish (optional)

Katzen says to peel the potatoes, but I like to leave the skins on when I make potato soup, so I left 'em on here, too, and it worked fine.
Katzen says to peel the potatoes, but I like to leave the skins on when I make potato soup, so I left ’em on here, too, and it worked fine.

Cover potatoes with water and boil until tender (about 15-20 min.)

It's OK if the onions and mushrooms start to brown a little bit as they cook. Desirable, in fact.
It’s OK if the onions and mushrooms start to brown a little bit as they cook. Desirable, in fact.

While potatoes cook, saute onions and celery in olive oil until onions are clear. Add mushrooms and saute until they release their liquid. Remove from heat and add garlic, thyme, wine and soy sauce.

Pour the soymilk into the potatoes, dump in the mushroom mixture, and puree. (If you have a stick blender, it comes in really handy for this.)

Bring to a boil over low heat and serve immediately. Makes about three big bowls.

Emily

Vegan Friday: Avocado quesadilla

These look vaguely like quesadillas, but they're basically fried guacamole sandwiches.
These look vaguely like quesadillas, but they’re basically fried guacamole sandwiches.

By definition, quesadillas contain cheese (the word quesadilla means “little cheesy thing” in Spanish), so when I saw recipes on Pinterest for vegan quesadillas, my immediate reaction was, “Oh, look: Clueless people who don’t understand what words mean are flaunting their ignorance on Pinterest again. Goody.” But one of the pictures involved avocado, so I clicked it anyway and found this recipe, which I didn’t really follow to the letter. Anyway. Avocado quesadilla thingy. Here you go: Ingredients 1 avocado 2 flour tortillas (I used whole wheat because that’s what I had on hand) 1 small tomato Taco seasoning Nutritional yeast (optional) Salt Olive oil

Sprinkle with nooch and taco seasoning. The former seems unnecessary to me, so don't get wound up if you can't find any.
Sprinkle with nooch and taco seasoning. The former seems unnecessary to me, so don’t get wound up if you can’t find any.

Cut an avocado in half and spread it halfway across one of the flour tortillas. Repeat with second tortilla. Slice up the tomato and arrange the slices on top of the avocado. Sprinkle with taco seasoning, nooch and salt to taste. Fold each tortilla in half. Fry lightly in olive oil on both sides until tortilla starts to brown. Cut into wedges if desired. Makes two servings. These don’t really taste like quesadillas, and I think the nooch is kind of extraneous, which is why I listed it as an optional ingredient. But you can’t really go wrong with avocado on a tortilla, and these make a good quick meal. If you’re worried about protein, you could always smear some refried beans on the other half of each tortilla before folding. Emily

Vegan Friday: Texas caviar

The first time I ever had Texas caviar was about 13 years ago at the Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo. It has since become one of my go-to recipes when I want something with a lot of protein that doesn’t require a lot of effort.

The peppers are hidden under all the other stuff.
The peppers are hidden under all the other stuff.

Ingredients:
1 green pepper, diced
1/4 of a small red onion, diced
Handful of grape tomatoes, halved
1 can blackeyed peas, drained and rinsed
1/4 c. Italian dressing
2 tbsp. taco seasoning or 1 tbsp. each cumin and chili powder
1 small hot pepper, chopped finely (optional)

Five-minute project. Maybe 10 if you haven't already chopped the vegetables.
Five-minute project. Maybe 10 if you haven’t already chopped the vegetables.

Toss all ingredients together and chill for a few hours or overnight to blend flavors. Serve with tortilla chips.

Texas caviar is an easy option for potlucks where you’re not sure you’ll find a lot of vegan protein sources.

Emily