Tag Archives: vegan

Vegetarian Friday: Kettle corn

One of the foods I always associate with fall — along with hot cider and caramel apples — is kettle corn, which shows up at a lot of county fairs and harvest festivals.

I’m sharing the recipe now because I’m thinking of it, but you can make kettle corn at any time of year, and it’s way easier than you’d think. Cheap, too; I used to make it for our scholar-bowl team at Webster, and a batch big enough to feed two teams and all their alternates took about 50 cents’ worth of popcorn and sugar. The kids loved it and were disappointed if I let a game slip by without making it.

The big trick with kettle corn is having all your equipment ready so you can move fast once the oil heats up.

Big saucepan or small stockpot with a lid
Big spoon
Oven mitts
Big bowl
Measuring cups

About 1/3 c. popcorn (use Orville Redenbacher, not the cheap stuff)
About 1/4 c. sugar
Enough canola or peanut oil to coat the bottom of the pan about 1/8″ deep

Step 1: Pre-measure the popcorn and sugar and set them next to the stove, along with the spoon and the big bowl.

Step 2: Pull the battery out of your smoke alarm and turn on the exhaust fan above your stove, because you’ll probably screw up and burn this the first couple of times you do it. It gets easier with practice.

Step 3: Put on the oven mitts. No matter how well your lid fits, oil and steam can escape around the edges and scald you.

Step 4: Cover the bottom of the pan with oil, throw in three kernels of popcorn, and heat on high until they all pop.

Step 5: Dump in popcorn and sugar — in that order — stir quickly, and cover. Remove from heat and shake vigorously every three seconds, holding the lid onto the pan as tightly as possible.

Step 6: Once corn pops (about five minutes or less), dump it into a large bowl, sprinkle lightly with salt, and enjoy.

If you let it cool down completely and then store it in a sealed container, it will stay fresh and crispy for several days.


P.S.: The little strings on the popcorn in the picture aren’t hair. They’re strands of melted sugar. The sugar melts into the oil, coats the popcorn, and basically turns into candy as it cools.

Vegetarian Friday: Vegetable stock

Remember a few weeks ago, when I told you to start saving vegetable scraps in a freezer container? It’s time to get out that container and reap the rewards.

This won’t be the prettiest thing we ever make, but vegetable stock is the basis for so many winter recipes, it only makes sense to prepare a batch now and keep it on hand as we head toward soup season.

You can buy vegetable broth at the store, but it’s usually outrageously expensive, comes in packaging that’s difficult to recycle, and often includes a lot of excess salt and preservatives. Vegetable bouillon is cheaper and involves less packaging, but the sodium content is through the roof, and many brands are made with monosodium glutamate or other chemicals that trigger problems for people with certain food sensitivities.

Our DIY version is free, tastes better, uses little to no packaging, and takes less than 10 minutes of actual work to prepare.


At least 2 c. vegetable scraps

That’s all you need. The scraps can be mushroom stems, celery trimmings, onion peels, herb stems, baby carrots left over from a veggie tray, bell-pepper cores, or just about anything else you have on hand. Every time you cook, instead of tossing these leftovers into the compost bin, throw them in an old ice-cream tub or similar container and keep it in the freezer.

The Crock-Pot turns vegetable scraps into broth with minimal effort.
The Crock-Pot turns vegetable scraps into broth with minimal effort.

When the container is full, take two minutes to dump it into a Crock-Pot and cover the contents with water. Turn the Crock-Pot on and let it cook at least 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low. The longer it cooks, the more concentrated the flavor will be.

Shut off the Crock-Pot and leave it alone until the broth is cool enough to handle safely.

When the stock cools, freeze it in ice-cube trays, then store the cubes in a ziplock bag.
When the stock cools, freeze it in ice-cube trays, then store the cubes in a ziplock bag.

Strain the finished broth into a large pitcher, pour into ice-cube trays, and freeze. Pop out the finished cubes and store them in a ziplock bag or other freezer-safe container to use in any recipe that calls for broth. Compost the cooked vegetable scraps.


Vegetarian Friday: Frozen fruit pops

Packed with phytonutrients, my anti-inflammatory fruit pops are a great recovery snack after a hard workout.
Packed with phytonutrients, my anti-inflammatory fruit pops are a great recovery snack after a hard workout.

As an erstwhile distance runner, I (usually) (sort of) try to eat sensibly(ish). You can train for a marathon on Krispy Kremes and MaggieMoo’s, but it’s not pretty.

A few months ago, I read an article somewhere about foods with natural anti-inflammatory properties and how they help tired muscles recover after a long run. As summer was just getting started, I decided the best way to incorporate such foods into my postrun snacks would be to freeze them into popsicles, giving me all the inherent benefits of the foods themselves, plus an easy way to bring my core temperature down quickly without having to stop and make a smoothie while doing the dear-calves-please-don’t-cramp dance.

With that in mind, I picked up a popsicle mold similar to these at World Market and hit the grocery store for ingredients I could run through the blender. Here are the two best recipes I came up with.

This isn’t an exact science, so I didn’t get too specific with the amounts. Base your proportions on what you like, what you have on hand, and the capacity of your popsicle mold. My mold has 10 openings that hold about 2 oz. apiece, so I aim for 20 oz. of liquid in the blender when I’m done.

In a pinch, you can use ice-cube trays or small Dixie cups with lollipop sticks in them, but molds are much easier to work with and pay for themselves in a few batches. Also, frozen fruit works fine for this (obviously) and is usually cheaper than fresh.

Anti-Inflammatory Fruit Pops

About a cup of red raspberries
About a cup of strawberries
About a cup of cranberry or grape juice (or a blend)

Puree fruit in blender. Add enough juice to make 20 oz. (or whatever your popsicle molds require) and blend briefly to mix. Pour into molds and freeze. Unmold, wrap individually in waxed paper, and store in a big freezer bag.

The phytochemicals in the fruit make these a good choice after long runs or hill training.

Spicy Electrolyte Pops

2 c. seedless watermelon, diced
About a cup of orange juice
Chile-lime salt (available at Mexican grocery stores)

Puree watermelon in blender. Add juice as indicated above and blend briefly to mix. Pour into molds and freeze. Unmold pops. Lay each pop on waxed paper, sprinkle with chile-lime salt on both sides, wrap in waxed paper, and store in a big freezer bag. (Work quickly, as the salt will melt the surface a little bit.)

With the potassium from the orange juice and the sodium from the chile-lime salt, these are a good source of electrolytes after a hard workout on a hot day.

Easing back toward the veg life

As I mentioned the other day, I’m hoping to make the transition from a meat-heavy diet to a more plant-based diet this year.

My primary reason is athletic: Done right, a vegetarian diet is a near-perfect way to fuel a marathon training program. (When I say “done right,” I mean heavy on whole grains, legumes and minimally processed vegetables, not the classic “Beer and potato chips are vegan, right?” diet of my misspent youth.)

The contents of my freezer are sort of forcing me to ease into this slowly: I’ve got about five pounds of frozen chicken down there, a metric crap-ton of cheese tortellini, God alone knows how many pepperoni pizza rolls, and a pantry full of canned tuna. But Ron likes the pizza rolls better than I do, so I’m leaving those for him to make whenever the day’s menu involves something he doesn’t like, and I’m starting the transition by simply eliminating red meat from my own diet.

We made our quarterly trip up to Costco in St. Louis today in hopes of finding vegetarian convenience foods I could keep in the freezer for quick meals. They didn’t have the veggie burgers and fake corn dogs I wanted, so I wound up with a big bag of quinoa and kale divvied up into microwave-friendly steamer bags, a bag of edamame, and an eight-pack of canned organic black beans — not as much fun as corn dogs, but probably better choices for boosting endurance.

My menu for this week is split pretty neatly among vegan, lacto-ovo-vegetarian, and pesco-pollo-vegetarian meals, which is the easiest way to make the shift. If you’re interested in attempting a similar diet, here’s what I’ve got planned:

Sweet potato tacos

Chicken tikka masala (chicken breasts simmered in prefabbed tikka masala sauce, served over whole-wheat couscous)

Burritos (refried pinto beans, shredded cheddar, salsa in a big flour tortilla)

Lunch: Breakfast burritos (diced potatoes, scrambled eggs, green chile, shredded cheddar, salsa in a big flour tortilla)

Lemon-tahini pasta (this is a recipe I’m making up as I go, but it’s basically capellini tossed with tahini, lemon juice and garlic)

Beans and green chile cornbread

Vegetarian lasagna

To use up the tuna in the pantry, I’ll be making a lot of tuna salad — my version is a can of tuna mixed with 2 tbsp. each of mayo and dill relish and a couple of finely chopped celery stalks. I scored 5 lbs. of Clementines for $5.99 at Costco today, so I’ll be eating a lot of those as recovery snacks after runs. (Oranges are really high in potassium, so an orange sprinkled with chile-lime salt is a great way to replace electrolytes after a run.) I’m also a fan of nooch nachos, and the freezer is still well-stocked with ingredients for smoothies, so I see a lot of that in my future, too.


Vegetarian Friday: Salad in a jar


Whether you’re vegging, counting calories or just trying to get more green stuff in your diet, finding something suitable to eat on the fly can be tricky.

One way around that is to prefab your meals. That works fine with casseroles, soups and pasta dishes, but salads tend to get yucky in a hurry.

Enter this awesome idea I cribbed from The Kitchenista, who posted it on her Twitter account one day several weeks (months?) ago after hearing about it somewhere and giving it a whirl. This isn’t so much a recipe as a technique, but it proved so handy that I decided it was worth sharing.

By layering ingredients strategically, filling the jar completely and closing it tightly, you can keep salads fresh for much longer than you could if you just tossed a salad and packed it into plastic containers. Normally, a salad wilts or starts getting slimy after a couple of days in my fridge, but I made the salad you see above after work Saturday night and shot the picture Thursday night. I was particularly impressed with how well the cilantro fared; fresh cilantro tends to spoil quickly, but it held its own just fine in the jar.

I didn’t have any salad dressing on hand, and I knew I’d be eating these at home, so I just layered vegetables in the jars and topped them with a handful of pecans I had leftover from a candymaking project a few weeks ago. When it was time to eat, I just tossed a handful of prepackaged lettuce in a bowl, dumped the contents of the jar on top and drizzled the salad with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar. If I were making these to take to work, I’d use bigger jars and spring for some ranch dressing.

The big trick here is to put a barrier between the dressing and the more delicate ingredients, which will turn to sludge if they spend too long in the dressing. Basically, you put the dressing in first, then add a layer of sturdy vegetables that won’t get nasty if they swim in dressing (cucumbers and peppers work well for this), followed by proteins, delicate vegetables such as sprouts or lettuce, and garnishes such as nuts or seeds. You could make a pretty respectable vegan lunch out of tahini dressing (whisk together equal parts tahini, lemon and water), your favorite vegetables, and a handful of soynuts, cashews or almonds.

If you need full-blown salad recipes, Tammy over at Organize Yourself Skinny has several here.


Vegan Friday: Hard cider

Yes, I drink my cider out of a Champagne flute. The shape of the glass helps preserve the carbonation.
Yes, I drink my cider out of a Champagne flute. It’s that good. Plus the shape of the glass helps preserve the carbonation.

That’s right, kids: This week’s Vegan Friday project is booze.

This is not a quick recipe. It’s not terribly labor-intensive (you’re looking at maybe 30 minutes of actual work), but it’s done in three steps, and you have to wait two weeks between each step, so if you’re looking for instant gratification, this isn’t the project for you. Details below the fold.

Continue reading Vegan Friday: Hard cider

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.

1 1/2 c. frozen celery, onion and pepper mix
1 c. tricolor pepper mix
Olive oil
1 can diced tomatoes
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.