Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Mushroom-Coconut Curry

We almost always have mushrooms here, and lately I have been cooking up recipes for which mushrooms are the primary focus. I'm not quite sure where I originally found this one - it was at least 10 or 12 years ago 'and in another country' etc. - possibly it originated with Charmaine Solomon. Because I try, as much as possible, to cook without added fat/oil and without a lot of high-calorie ingredients, I've adapted this recipe so that it won't quite be as Mrs Solomon (or whoever it was) would wish. For example, the soymilk plus cornstarch plus coconut extract replaces the same quantity of coconut milk. In making it for only two persons, the proportions have also changed a bit - and of course seasoning adjusted to my taste. Method is my own. Nevertheless . . . .


* for TWO persons *

1/2 lb (250 g) mushrooms, quartered
3 green onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed and roughly chopped
1 tsp grated ginger (I used some from a jar - not as nice, but it was quick)
6 curry leaves (I used dried. If you don't have these, don't worry. It's a subtle flavour.)
1 tsp (or to taste) of curry powder (your own mix, preferably, or a good commercial blend)
1/4 tsp salt, if you use it, or of course to taste
1/2 tsp garam masala (again, your own mix or a good commercial blend)
1/2 cup low-fat soymilk
1-1/2 tsp cornstarch
few drops coconut extract
2 tsp lemon juice

'Saute' the mushrooms, green onions, garlic, ginger and curry leaves in a little water until softened. Add the curry powder, salt (if used) and mushrooms and continue to cook over low heat, adding a little water as needed, until the mushrooms are softened and the flavours are nicely blended.

Meanwhile, mix together the soymilk, cornstarch and coconut extract.

Sprinkle with the softened mushroom mix with garam masala. Add the soymilk 'coconut' mix and stir until heated through. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice.

Garnish, if you wish, with a few sprigs of something green or another green onion chopped and another dash of garam masala.

Serve with brown rice.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Mushroom & Tofu Pasta Bake

I'm always searching for new ways to take a lazy way out of cooking - which by the way I profess to love most of the time - without compromising my promise to myself to cook from scratch (well, I don't make my own pasta anymore and never make my own tofu or soymilk, so . . . .LOL ). Somehow - it must be because the oven makes the place so warm and cosy - I've taken to popping pasta dishes and other kinds of things in the oven and then sitting back and waiting for them to be ready!

Here's what I did the day before yesterday - and I'm including a lot of photos cuz someone asked me to do step-by-step and so here it is LOL

But first a word about the pasta itself. I found the most delectable kamut spirelli in one of my favourite shops and thought I'd try it out:

I'm sure it comes in many other brands, but this one is organic and is actually available in Ontario! Anyway, here we go:


(for 2 hungry people or 3-4 lighter eaters)

125 g (4 or 5 ounces in weight?) spirelli (you could use penne or whatever) pasta, set aside until ready to cook.
250 g (1/2 lb.) Mushrooms, sliced (measurements can vary - use what you have)
1 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
150 g (around 5 or 6 ounces in weight?) Zucchini, chopped (ditto)
1/2 pkg low-fat tofu (you might want to use more so that you have extra sauce to pass at the table)
soymilk and/or stock - enough to thin out the tofu to a cream consistency
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp vegan worcestershire sauce
3 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1 - 2 Tbsp lemon juice
black pepper
1 Tbsp white miso
crumbs or vegan parmezan cheez for topping (I used my own mix that I keep on hand)
herbs according to taste

Method of sorts:

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Saute your mushrooms - I do it in a little water with a Tbsp low-sodium soy, since I avoid using oil if at all possible.

While you are doing the mushrooms (only a short while - you'll want them to shrink to half size and look 'cooked'), boil some water and drop your zucchini into it for a couple of minutes only - or you could lightly steam them. You don't want them to go at all mushy. When these are done, drain and set aside.

Cook that pasta before you forget!

This kamut pasta is so pretty, isn't it, and it only takes a few minutes. Here it's still in its raw, dried state, but I thought the colours were nicer than I'd ever seen! Pop it into boiling water and keep an eye on the time - I only did mine for about half the time it called for, but you be the judge. You'll want your pasta, regardless of which kind you use, to be a little underdone because it will cook more in the oven.

When the mushrooms are ready, add the zucchini (I cut mine into small pieces so that they didn't take long to blanch and so that they'd mix in with the size of everything else. You might want to decide to do it differently)

and season to taste - but remember that you're going to have a seasoned tofu sauce over the lot, so go easy on salt etc.

Here we are again, all ready for the sauce.

For The Sauce:
Crumble the tofu, add enough soy milk or other liquid (do this a bit at a time) to make it possible to blend into a creamy sauce with a blender or a wand blender. Blend in the garlic and all other ingredients. Taste for seasoning and adjust. Sometimes it's the addition of a little vegan worcestershire sauce that helps a whole bunch, sometimes it isn't needed. Your choice.

Er, no pic of the sauce being made. We're going to just have to live with that. Imagine white. Got it? Okay, onwards!

Stir the sauce, pasta and vegetables together and turn into a baking dish which has been sprayed or lightly wiped with a faint film of olive oil. Here it is:

Top it, if you like, with crumbs, vegan parmezan cheez, or other appropriate crumby topping - or leave it plain. Your choice.

Yeah, well, you're right - it's the same image you got at the top of this post. Life's full of surprises, eh?

Bake for around 20 minutes. I cover mine with a layer of foil, very loosely, and take it off in the last few minutes.

And here it is baked. Now a warning for those like me who like to leave it in the oven until they've finished the first course:
If you leave it too long, it will dry out - but hey that's what that extra sauce I mentioned in the ingredients list is for. This recipe is so forgiving of absent-minded cooks!

Serve with whatever you like - we had ours plain the first day. But we did have a salad beforehand! :)

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Spicy Hot Pot


Today I felt as if we needed some serious veggies for our midday meal! I had been looking at a recipe in Barnard & Kramer's The Garaden of Vegan a while back, and thought that might be a good idea. Unfortunataely, as luck would have it, I didn't have any home made veg stock in the freezer, I had no green beans, no chickpeas, no cashews, and precious little cilantro, etc. etc. What I did have was an appetite. This is my adaptation of their Spicy Vegetable Hot Pot, simplified in method (don't need to fuss around much if you're not sauteeing in oil, after all). The mushrooms were added for nutrition and for added flavour, considering the kind of stock I was reduced to using.

2 cups vegetable stock (I used a low-sodium cube *sigh*)
5 or 6 ounces onion (half a large one), chopped
2 carrots (about 7 or 8 ounces), chopped
2 potatoes (around the same as the carrots in weight), chopped
1 tsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp curry powder (I actually still have some left over from summer!)
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp allspice
1 small red thai chili, minced (seeds and all for me - you might want to remove them)
1 Tbsp grated ginger (I used the kind from a jar)
1 cup cauliflower, chopped (from my freezer)
2 cups cooked soybeans (from my freezer)
2-1/2 cups mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 apple, chopped
1 cup frozen green peas
2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, finely chopped

I scrubbed but didn't peel the potatoes, carrots or apple.

Pan went on a medium-high heat with the vegetable stock. Onions went in next, quickly followed by the carrots, potatoes and garlic. Then the spices, chili and ginger and the heat was lowered to a simmer. After around 10 minutes the root vegetables were no longer hard. I added the cauliflower and soybeans (still feeling the chill) and the mushrooms and raised the heat. Another 5 to 8 minutes and they all seemed ready to have the apple, peas and cilantro join them. These took only a couple of minutes or so, because they really only needed to be heated through.

I served a salad to start, as usual (I'll spare you the photo this time!), and accompanied the hot pot with some wholewheat couscous. There's enough left for one enormous meal for two persons (and probably even three meals for two, depending on how much grain is consumed with it).

NOTE: It was very good. I'll do it again, probably tweaking the spices to make it a little 'hotter' and adding a little more of this and that. But bland it was not; it lives up to its name. Also I liked it with the peas - probably better than I would have liked the green beans, and the mushrooms must stay in, for me, regardless of what kind of stock I use. I love soybeans, but I also like chickpeas. I'm not sure what I'd use next time :)

Monday, December 3, 2007

Eggplant Spiced North Indian Style, Baked Macaroni Bolognese

Those who know me know that I am essentially a lazy cook. I cook from scratch, but I take short cuts and I prefer things that can be left to cook themselves while we relax a bit before the meal. It helps if they can be kept warm on stovetop or in the oven (crockpot too) while we have our salad course.

These two meals were easy for me - and for that reason I'm likely to have them on the menu again and again.


I thought a bit about what to call this dish - it originated as one of Madhur Jaffrey's in her Eastern Vegetarian Cooking. However, I adjusted the seasoning quite a bit so that it probably violates the whole idea of naming it after any region. In additiion, I made it for two persons, which always messes with a recipe (you can rarely just cut a recipe by two-thirds anyway, and I didn't), and of course I omitted any added fat/oil, as per usual, and omitted the salt. The proportions of spices were adjusted to suit our taste (and to compensate for the lack of salt). The method and the seasonings changed, that's what :) but the eggplant and onion stayed. The results were very pleasing to us. Here's my renamed version.

1 lb eggplant, cubed (I left mine unpeeled - looks so pretty that way)
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
salt to taste, if used

I put all ingredients except for the lemon juice into a large skillet (I can see what's happening better that way) and stirred over medium-high heat with enough water to keep it all from burning, allowing the spices to get thoroughly mixed through and to coat the vegetables. Then I added around half a cup of water, covered, and lowered the heat for around 20 minutes to half an hour - well, it might have been a little longer - until the eggplant was cooked through but not mushy. Stirring every now and then helps - and it lets you keep any eye out to add more liquid if it looks as if it's going to burn. During one of those stirrings I added the lemon juice.

When done - and you know how you like your eggplant to be - taste for seasonings (you might have wanted salt, so add a little more if necessary).

Serve with brown rice and whatever salad-like things please you. Indian accompaniments would be best, but it's a versatile dish. Lovely way to take your veggies!!!

The next one is a really lazy dish -


Yesterday I was stuck for ideas, so I thought why not just re-run Saturday's lunch - spaghetti bolognese (or is that 'bolognaise'? Never mind!). I had made this from mushrooms and tvp plus all the usual suspects required for a good tomato pasta sauce. It had been very good. You can find the recipe HERE - except this time I had lots of mushrooms and therefore used more.

I cooked some quinoa macaroni (love that stuff!) - or I should say I deliberately undercooked it - while I reheated the bolognese sauce and added a little more tomato paste and stock along with another half dozen or so quartered mushrooms, jazzing it up with more chilies and more nutritional yeast - this dish was not going to be boring! I then mixed together the sauce and macaroni, saving a little sauce for the top, and dumped it into a casserole.

As you see I also added a cheezy crumb topping and paved the surface with some sliced mushrooms. Lightly covering with some aluminum foil, it went into the oven (375 F) for around half an hour then spent a little time with its cover off while we had our salad. Easy. (Okay, so it was just 'leftovers' - but it was still good and still easy! LOL)