Tag Archives: Vegan

Crispy and colorful salad with sesame dressing

We pulled out the charcoal and fired up the grill for the first time of the year last week, and I wanted something fresh and salad-y to go with my veggie burgers.  I kept affectionately calling this “rainbow salad” as I was pulling it together because it was so colorful!  It is based on those classic potluck dishes with the ramen noodles tossed in for fun.

Crispy sesame salad
Adapted from the Asian Vegan Kitchen by Hema Parekh

Note:  I am publishing measurements in this recipe here, but will tell you, I didn’t really measure out the veggies while I was preparing it myself.  A salad is really not that serious :).  I thought I ended up with a little more than what was listed in the original recipe, so I increased the dressing amounts by 50% from what you see here.

2 cups shredded lettuce
1 cup shredded red cabbage
1 baby bok choy, chopped
1 handful sliced cherry tomatoes, or 1 medium tomato, diced
1/2 medium cucumber, julienned
1 carrot, grated or julienned
1 jalapeno pepper, finely minced
1 handful cilantro leaves
1 package crushed ramen noodles, flavor packet discarded

For the dressing:
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons canola, peanut or safflower oil
2 tablespoons white sesame seeds
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic, grated
1/2 inch piece of ginger, grated.

Toast the sesame seeds in a dry skillet.  Reserve 1 tablespoon whole toasted seeds and grind the rest in a mortar and pestle.

Toss all the veggies and noodles together for the salad.

Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing and toss everything to combine.

Voilà.  Yum!  Summer is on its way.


Steamed veggie dumplings with sweet and sour dipping sauce

Since daylight savings time began, I feel like I eat dinner much later.  Do you?  It was already past 6pm on Sunday when I decided I should start to think about dinner and headed out to the grocery store, which is luckily but one block away.

That meant it was nearly 9pm by the time we ate dinner, but  HOLY CRAP these dumplings were awesome and so worth the wait.  Better than any dumplings I’ve ever tasted in a restaurant!  Mr. R and I texted each other the next afternoon that we were so excited to have some leftover for lunch, and then confided to each other that we were STILL craving more.  So what did we do?  After arriving home after 7pm, taking care of some chores and the dog, we made another batch of dumplings, of course.

This would normally be a little bit too labor-intensive for a Monday night for me, but with two highly- dumpling motivated people working together, and leftover filling and sauce already prepared, it wasn’t so bad.

Of course, you could use prepackaged wanton wrappers, but I’ve tried that before and I think you will find that the results of preparing your own wrapper dough are WELL worth the effort.  It’s got just two ingredients and is easy — just takes time.

I used the same tofu filling I used to make steamed buns back in January, which to me tastes amazingly restaurant-quality.  For the omnivores out there, I am sure a quick google search would reveal a variety of nonveg filling recipes.  My Asian Dumpling cookbook has a bunch too!

Dumpling wrapper dough
Makes 16 small/medium dumplings
2 cups AP flour
3/4 cup boiled water

Bring the water to a boil and remove from heat for about 30 seconds before using.  Whisk into the flour with a fork.  Dough will be very crumbly at first; begin to knead with your hands until it comes together in a single ball.  The water should be cool enough to handle by this point but do be careful!

Turn ball of dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 2 minutes, until the ball of dough is smooth and elastic.

Place into a tightly sealed ziplock bag with the air removed and allow to rest for at least 15 minutes and up to 2 hours.  The dough will steam up while in the bag and become even more pliable.

To make the dumplings…

Divide in half, then in half again, until you have as many pieces as you would like (16 for regular sized dumplings).  Roll each piece into a ball and roll out thinly, particularly around the edges, into a circle with a rolling pin.

Fill each dumpling generously; the skin will stretch to accommodate.  Check out these videos for some demonstrations on various folding methods.  I like the satchel shape, though my technique could use a lot of improvement!

I actually have a nifty little bamboo steamer which is great for steaming all kinds of things as well as storage on your countertop.  However, since moving I do not seem to have or am able to find a large enough stock pot!  Oops! So I used a colander instead.

Line with parchment paper or cabbage leaves and steam for 8 minutes, or until the dumplings are starting to look a little transparent.

Sweet and sour sauce

No need to buy this!  Super easy to make with ingredients you probably have on hand already.  We amped up the heat a little with sriracha, but if you like it more mild just leave it out.

1/4 cup granulated or light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 tablespoon sriracha
1 tablespoon soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons water

Combine everything but the cornstarch mixture in a saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring to help dissolve the sugar.  Add the cornstarch and again continue to stir until dissolved.  Remove from heat and allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

These would be the perfect meal for those lazy weekends where you stay in watching movies and ordering carryout, except you make the carryout yourself exactly how you like them.  But be careful — you’ll want them again the next day.  And the next!


(Purple) Green Monster Smoothie

In honor of the holiday:  more green!

I’m admittedly a little late to this trend.  I’ve just never been one to drink my calories.  But I was inspired recently to give it a try, and the perfect opportunity arose this week when I had one of those mornings where I just couldn’t stomach real food so early.

You don’t need a recipe for this kind of thing.  It’s open to interpretation.  I like to pack mine with superfoods…

Dash of ground flax/chia/hemp seeds
~cup almond milk (or milk of choice)
Large handful of frozen kale (either buy it pre-frozen or lightly steam it and freeze.  Raw kale will taste leafy and the steaming will make the nutrients more readily digestible).
One banana, frozen and cut into chunks
Handful of frozen wild blueberries
Squirt of honey/maple syrup/agave/etc

Combine ingredients in a blender, or in my case, the little cup that comes with the immersion blender.  A handy tool for smoothies!


Getting greener…

Mmmmm.  Green monster.

To the un-inaugurated who may be turned off by the thought of a kale smoothie — I promise you the only thing you can really taste in this concoction is the banana.  So if you don’t like bananas, that might be a problem.  Kale?  Not at all.

Some other thoughts —

Bananas have a lot of sugar and empty calories.  They take up half the calories of this smoothie, but they’re essential to the texture.  I might experiment with swapping out yogurt, or using a little less banana.  I sliced them up and froze it so I can just take a few slices at a time.

All kinds of berries are a great addition, high in antioxidants, as are melons, papayas and kiwi.  Kiwis are high in nutrients, but most of those are found in the skin.  Why is that always the case?  But toss the whole thing in a smoothie and you probably won’t know they’re there.

Be selective in choosing a non-dairy milk.  They’re a processed food and likewise there is a lot of variation in their quality and healthfulness.  Non-organic soy milk, for example, uses hexane as a solvent.  Always check the ingredient list and choose the brand that has the fewest.  Or, make your own.

So start your morning off with a powerful punch of superfoods.  You can do it with your eyes half open.  No excuses for not eating breakfast!


Sichuan-inspired baozi: steamed filled dumplings

Happy Lunar New Year!  If you are already disappointed in 2012, here is your chance for a second false sense of renewal :).

In 2008, I had the opportunity to herald in the Year of the Rat — which happens to be my sign — in Sichuan province and Beijing in China.  Ever since then, I try to commemorate the lunar new year in some way — usually just by eating :).

A trip to Sichuan means that you better ready your palate for spicy food — and not just the heat of capsacin we are used to here.  Sichuan peppercorns, the key ingredient in so many dishes, impart an almost numbing sensation.  Sichuan province is also known for its traditional “hot pot” style of meals where a pot of bubbling, spicy oil is placed in the center of a communal table for you to cook your food right there. It was all pretty awesome, as an avid lover of spicy food, and I actually found southwestern China to be fairly vegetarian-friendly, what with the Buddhist influences nearby.

But one thing I missed out on was the dumplings. At the little shop we went to, they were all filled with pork.  I gazed longingly at the others enjoying their little dumplings sprinkled with crushed red pepper.  But I had noodles instead.

Good veggie dumplings can be hard enough to find here in the U.S.  But I’ve since discovered you can make them easily yourself, especially with the help of this little book I was SO EXCITED to find!

That’s right.  A WHOLE BOOK devoted just to dumplings!  Who could ask for anything more?  I drove all the way to Virginia to find it.

So what better way to welcome in the new year than with dumplings?

Steamed filled buns (baozi)
Adapted from Asian Dumplings by Andrea Nguyen

Keep in mind that I do not profess any sort of special knoweldge or expertise of Sichuan cooking.  I am just going off of the flavors that stand out in my memory.  The spicyness, of course, but also the combination of garlic and ginger together — the smell of which will forever remind me of China. I am also sure my bun sealing technique is all kinds of wrong — they are clearly not as pretty as you see in photos!

Basic yeast dough

1.5 tsp instant dry yeast
3/4 cup lukewarm water
2 T canola oil
2 T sugar
2 t baking powder
12.5 ounces AP flour

Dissolve the yeast in the water for one minute.  Add the oil.

In a food processor, combine the dry ingredients and pulse a few times to sift.  Gradually add the liquid ingredients through the holes.  Continue to spin the food processor for another minute or so, until the dough comes together in a ball  that pulls away from the sides.  If still too dry, add more water by the teaspoon.  The dough should be soft, pliable but not overly sticky.

Drop ball of dough into a bowl lightly brushed with oil and cover with plastic wrap.  Allow to sit for about 45 minutes, until the dough has doubled.

While the dough is rising, make the filling…

Tofu Dumpling Filling

2-3 cloves garlic
about 1/2 inch piece ginger, finely minced or grated
2-3 scallions
1 cup finely sliced napa cabbage
3 ounces tofu, pressed to remove water, and finely diced
1 large carrot, finely diced
1/2 cup shitake mushrooms (use a few reconstituted dried mushrooms too, reserving the water)
2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in a tablespoon of water

For the simmer sauce —
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper (use Sichuan peppercorns if possible)
2 T water from reconstituted mushrooms
2 T plus 1 t soy sauce
1.5 t sesame oil
Crushed red pepper flakes, to your desired heat

Heat canola oil with a bit of sesame oil in a large skillet.  Add the garlic, ginger and pepper and hot pepper flakes, heating for about a minute.  Toss in the mushrooms, carrots and tofu and cook for another few minutes.  Add the cabbage and cook until wilted.

Whisk together the ingredients for the simmer sauce and add to the skillet, ensuring that all the veggies are coated.  Mix in the cornstarch mixture to thicken and allow to cool to room temperature before using.

To assemble the dumplings:

The dough should make 8 large, 16 medium, or 32 small dumplings.  Keep in mind the dumplings expand greatly when heated.

Divide dough in half.  Wrap half you’re not using yet to prevent drying.  Cut in half again, and again, until you have the desired number of pieces.  Roll each piece into a ball.  I used a tortilla press to help flatten the ball initially, but you can roll the whole thing out by hand.  With a wooden rolling pin, roll into a thin disc, about 2.5 inches in diameter for small or 3.5 inches for medium sized dumplings.  The edges should be significantly thinner than the centers.  You may need to roll around the edges or in toward the center.

Plop a small amount of filling into the center of the dough and gather the edges in pleats to seal.  Here is a video demonstrating the technique:  it’s trickier than it looks! http://www.asiandumplingtips.com/2010/04/how-to-fold-a-closed-satchel-video.html

Sprinkle with crushed red pepper and steam medium-sized dumplings for about 15 minutes, small for 12. Place on cabbage leaves or a piece of parchment paper to prevent sticking inside the steamer.

Serve with your favorite dipping sauce — here and here are some basic recipes.

Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera with me when I made these, so here is one crappy photograph of my leftover, microwaved dumplings.  To be honest, they still taste just as good and are an easy, portable meal!  They’ve got your starch, protein and veggies all in a neat little package.

It may seem time-consuming but it’s well worth the effort, especially if you’ve got friends to help you out.  It’s a great excuse for a lunar new year dumpling party!


Chickpea salad

I rarely feel limited on a vegetarian diet, but I’ll admit, sometimes it just seems so easy to throw together a meal when meat is the central focus.  My husband will often make big batch of chicken salad on Sunday, and I am admittedly always a little jealous at how easily his leftovers can be transformed into a week’s worth of lunches.

I try to make my lunches as easy as possible by packing up last night’s dinner leftovers, but it doesn’t always work out — I mean, what if there’s not enough left? And then I’m scrambling for something else, or buying lunch the next day, which I HATE to do.

But the beginning of the school year always ushers in myriad articles, blog posts, and features on innovative and/or trendy lunch ideas (see:  bento boxes).  And thus I stumbled across this life-altering post:  chickpea “tuna” salad.  GENIUS!  How had I never thought of such a thing?!

But to be honest, tuna salad is not exactly something I wistfully long for.  I never was exactly a fan to begin with, so why would I want to recreate it?  So I tried the original recipe, and while it was good, and recommended if you like mayonnaise and what not, I thought I’d tweak this a little more to my taste with some curry seasoning instead.

Of course, this recipe is amazing in that you can change it and season it however you’d like.  Today, I thought I’d switch things up and use some Penzey’s Turkish seasoning instead.  I also was recently served this recipe for a Greek/Middle Eastern chickpea salad with cucumber and feta, and it was amazing and would totally work in this format too.

Curry-spiced chickpea salad


2 cups chickpeas, cooked in salted water with turmeric (or, one can of chickpeas)
1 large or 2 medium red bell peppers, diced
1 jalapeno, minced
1 medium or 1/2 large red onion, diced
1 tomato, diced
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
Olive oil
1-2 tablespoons Greek yogurt (can be omitted for a vegan version)
Curry powder
Salt, pepper to taste

If you are starting with dried chickpeas, cook them with salt and a dash of turmeric in the water, until they can easily be mashed in your hand.

Place directly into a storage container and mash with a potato masher or fork until chickpeas are a little more textured, no longer round, but not quite pureed yet.

Add the veggies, oil and yogurt, and stir to combine.

Season to taste.  Be sure to salt it adequately.  I like to make my own fresh curry powder with about 1t cumin seed, 1t coriander seed, about 5 cardamon pods, and a bit of whole black pepper, toasted in a skillet and then crushed in a mortar and pestle with some fenugreek, garlic powder and ginger powder.  If it’s not hot enough for you, add a bit of cayenne powder.  Adjust seasoning accordingly.

Serve on a sandwich or wrap with some lettuce — how easy was that?


Black bean burgers and sweet potato fries

It’s officially summer!  And we haven’t hesitated to take advantage of warm evenings and fresh produce to grill and dine outdoors.  Sitting out on the patio, with a good meal, good friends and family, and perfect weather, I can’t help but wonder — what did we do all year before this?  The winter seems like such a blur of waiting for the world to come alive again.

The frozen, pre-packaged veggie burgers are always a quick option to throw on the grill when joining your fellow diners and omnivores for a meal in the summer.  But if you have time, making a black bean burger from scratch is super easy and delicious way to enjoy an evening of quintessential summer foods.

This recipe is adapted from various sources, including Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero.

Black Bean Burgers


2 cups black beans, cooked
2 eggs (for a vegan version, use 1/2 cup vital wheat gluten)
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1 teaspoon chile powder
1 teaspoon freshly ground cumin
3-4 scallions, white and green parts, finely chopped
1/4 cup cilantro
1 tablespoon ketchup or tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt

Puree half of the black beans in a mini food processor and transfer to a bowl.

Add the remaining ingredients and mix until well combined.

Form into patties, place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and freeze for an hour or two until it holds together well.  This will keep the patties from falling apart on the grill.  Cook on the grill as you normally would.

Serve with whatever fixings you like — grilled veggies, potato salad, etc.  We made sweet potato fries!

To make the fries —

Peel potatoes and cut into thin slices.  Place them in the freezer for about an hour.

Heat oil in a large pot (or use an electric fryer) to 325 degrees.  Drop fries in and cook until potatoes are cooked through.  Remove with a spider into a paper bag and let the fries rest for at least 10 minutes.  Raise temperature of oil to 350 and return fries to pot until crispy.

Served with a strawberry margarita, perfect summer evening 🙂


Fiesta potato salad

Whewwww.  What a crazy busy spring it has been for me.  And the fun isn’t over yet!  I think I’ll have time to breathe again in June, but in the meantime I’m stockpiling all the recipes we’ve made to post here when I find a moment or two.

The peak of spring is my favorite time of year — and moving the food and entertaining outdoors is one of the things I love most about it!  Potato salad is such a classic cookout dish — and one that I normally hate.  I think I have mentioned my dislike of mayonnaise here before.

Until I read the “Create Your Own Potato Salad” feature in Fine Cooking last year, I had no idea that you could just leave out the mayonnaise!  This has truly revolutionized the potato salad for me.

Here is the creation we came up with.  It is vaguely Mexican in flavor, so I am calling it Fiesta Potato Salad.  I thought it was pretty awesome.


For the dressing
1/4 cup lime juice or white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons pureed chipotles in adobo
2 teaspoons cumin seeds, freshly toasted and ground
2 teaspoons fresh or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 teaspoons lime zest
1-2 cloves crushed garlic

For the salad
1 teaspoon plain rice vinegar or white vinegar
Kosher salt
3.5 pounds potatoes
1 cup diced bell pepper
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup diced red onion
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1-2 jalapenos
3/4 cup cheese, such as cheddar, monterrey jack, queso fresco or queso blanco

To make the dressing

Whisk together the mustard, lime juice/vinegar, salt and pepper.  Drop by drop, whisk in the oil vigorously until combined.  This can also be done in a food processor.  Mix in the remaining ingredients and set aside.

To make the salad

In a large  bowl, combine the 1 t of vinegar with 2 T of kosher salt.  Allow the salt to dissolve into the vinegar.

In the meantime, boil the potatoes in well-salted water until they can be pieced easily with a fork.  The time will depend on the size of the potatoes you are using.  Drain, let cool enough to handle, and remove the peel if desired.  Cut into small, bite-sized chunks.

Toss the potatoes in with the vinegar-salt mixture in the bowl to coat.  Fold in the peppers, onion, tomatoes, and cilantro.  Whisk the dressing to re-suspend as necessary, and mix into the salad.  Garnish with cheese, and adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Variations:  Add corn, or other aromatics such as scallions or chives.  Color is an important aspect of this dish so mix it up with the peppers and tomatoes.  Kick up the heat by adding a pinch of cayenne, or crushed red pepper.  Experiment with the Fine Cooking feature and make it your own!

This potato salad will please all your mayonnaise lovers and haters alike.  Take it to your next potluck and I promise the others will be impressed!