Sunday, January 23, 2011

Vegetable & Bean Tortilla Soup

Let me preface this post by saying that I hate to say that a dish that I have prepared is "restaurant quality," since there are so many awful restaurants that it isn't necessarily a compliment. However, I do think it can be noted that a meal is something that you would pay money for -- which I think this soup fits the bill.

I have been making variations of this soup for a few years now, combining several recipes and adding & deleting until it was just right.
Here is the resulting product:

The recipe is subject to interpretation - use whatever veggies that you like, and leave out those that you don't like. If you have an extra potato or pepper laying around, chop it up and toss it in the pot!

Vegetable & Bean Tortilla Soup

1 large white onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 poblano pepper, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped

2 tablespoon tomato paste
2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
8 cups canned vegetable broth - I prefer the Better than Boullion No Chicken Base
4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

6 6-inch-diameter corn tortillas, cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips
Emeril's Essence
1 can fire-roasted, diced tomatoes
1 can black beans, rinsed, drained
1 zucchini, diced
½ cup of corn kernals (frozen is OK)
1 large jalapeño chili, seeded & minced

Spray large nonstick saucepan (6-8 quart) with vegetable oil spray. Add onion, garlic, poblano pepper, & carrot. Cook over medium-low heat until almost tender, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, cumin and chili powders. Add broth and 4 tablespoons cilantro; bring to boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer until flavors blend, about 15 minutes.
Add tomatoes, beans, zucchini, corn and jalapeño to soup. Cover; simmer until zucchini is tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Heat the oil in a heavy pot.* Add the tortilla strips in batches and fry until golden and crisp, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Season with Emeril’s Essence (or just use salt & pepper if you prefer).
Ladle soup into bowls. Serve with the tortilla crisps and other toppings of your choice: sliced avocado, green onions, cilantro, lime wedges, cholula, etc.

Serves: 4-6 as a main course.

*NOTE: for a reduced fat option, you can spray the strips with cooking spray and bake the tortilla strips at 425 degrees for 8-10 minutes, turning once.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

New Year's Day

Regretfully, I am a bit behind on my blog. Something to do with going back to work...what can you do?
I wanted to share a recipe that I tried for New Year's Day. I found it on the VeganYumYum blogsite, here is the link to the full recipe:
Here is a photo of my finished product:

If you enjoy brussel sprouts, you will enjoy this dish. If you enjoy mashed potatoes, you may be able to tolerate the brussels...for me, I love brussels and mashers so this combination is perfect! I served with Austin Slow Burn Cranberry Habanero Jelly, which added a nice sweet-spicy kick. Would have also been great with gravy...maybe the Navy Bean Gravy featured on!

Friday, December 31, 2010

Mighty OJ - Product Review

Since Seymore drinks so much OJ, I got him a Mighty OJ juicer for Christmas. I picked it up at a neat local shop here in Austin, TX called Zinger Hardware. Zinger is also where I found the "Nana Saver," more on that on a later product review post.

The lever is a little tricky to get going, but once I got the hang of it, it works pretty well. The trick is to hold the left bottom foot with your left hand and then pull the lever with your right. Plus, the retro design looks pretty cool.

The production was about 3 oranges for a glass of juice similar to what is shown on the product photo to the right.

I made myself a glass of fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice. Yield was 1 Texas Rio Star grapefruit for an impressive glass of juice:

The color was great, and the juice was light and flavorful, without the bitterness that some grapefruit juices have. Too bad I'm working today, this juice was begging for me to make it into a Greyhound, or a Salty Dog.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Spicy Pumpkin Soup

I ate a lot of soup in Shanghai earlier this year. In fact, I may have eaten some form of soup every day I was there. One of the most common soups I encountered, especially on Western multi-course lunch menus, was a pumpkin soup. Creamy, smooth & warming (albeit somewhat bland and most likely not vegan).

Seeing as I have never made a pumpkin soup, I decided to try it out. My recipe of choice is from my Vegan Fire & Spice cookbook, and it is located in the chapter on Thailand. The recipe was definitely different from what I sampled in China, it is rich with coconut milk, lemongrass, peanut butter and limes, and spiked with dried peppers (which sounds like an unlikely combination but actually mingles together nicely).

The concept is to simmer the vegetables in the vegetable stock and then strain out the solids before adding the pumpkin puree, coconut milk & peanut butter.

Here is the stock simmering:

I think it came out pretty good, here's how the finished product looks:

On the note of exercising, I did manage to run a couple of miles prior to embarking on my pumpkin soup mission, so gold star for that.

Who needs a sandwich? I think I'll have a burrito!

Many people ask me why I choose vegetarianism, and the more extreme veganism. The stereotype of vegans are pasty, sickly looking individuals that look like they could use a sandwich (literally). Quite the contrary, this food lifestyle is being adopted by world class atheletes, with improved performance. Plants & whole grains provide nutrient dense, highly digestible fuel -- your body is a machine and it runs much cleaner without the sludge of meat and dairy.

My inspiration came when I first picked up the Engine 2 Diet book in early 2009. I was tired of feeling tired, wanted my body to be more efficient, wanted to lose weight without starving myself, and desired to eat less meat. I have been a yo-yo dieter for many years (no carb, lo carb, weight watchers, etc). This diet does work, with the added benefit of increased mental clarity and improved cholesterol numbers. The premise is simple: eat plant-powered whole foods, including vegetables, whole grains, fruit, legumes, seeds and nuts. I have lapsed from the diet in the past year, but am back in full force! Try it, see if you feel better. I dare ya.

One thing that I love about this diet is that I find myself trying foods that I claimed not to like before (raw tomatoes are a good example, which I now eat regularly).

Last night I was craving Mexican food, so I made Jane's Jammin Burritos, from the E2 Diet book.

Here is the recipe:
Jane's Jammin Burritos
  • 1 large onion (I used a red onion)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 zucchini, chopped
  • 2 yellow squash, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 3 cups shredded napa cabbage
  • 2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cans fat-free vegetarian refried beans
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 6 large Ezekiel sprouted-grain wraps
  • Salsa
  • Guacamole

Preheat oven to 350º.

Sauté the onion and garlic in a large sprayed skillet on high heat for 3 minutes.
Add the zucchini, yellow squash, red pepper, and cabbage to the skillet. Cook 4–5 minutes, until the vegetables are al dente (soft but firm) and the cabbage is wilting.

Add the black beans, refried beans, and rice to the skillet. Stir the ingredients together on low heat until the mixture is thick and mortar-like. Season with the cumin and cayenne.

Slap a large spoonful of veggie mortar onto the center of the Ezekiel wrap and spread it from top to bottom along the center line.
Fold the sides over using a bit of the veggie mortar as adhesive for the top flap.
Rest the burritos next to each other and place them seam side down on a sprayed baking sheet.
Bake for 20 minutes or until the wraps are crisp.
* I topped with a mixture of jarred chipotle salsa, chopped avocado & fresh chopped cilantro.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Veggie Tofu Stir-Fry

When I am craving veggies, the easiest way to get a giant bowl full of them of all colors is to make a stir-fry.
I have several recipes that I enjoy, and I often mix and match recipes to suit what I have on hand in my produce drawer.

Here is one that I made a couple of nights ago:

Recipe as follows:

Vegetable & Tofu Stir-Fry

For sauce:
  • 6T vegetable broth
  • 4T Chinese rice wine
  • 2tsp agave necter (or other sweetener)
  • 4T soy sauce (tamari)
  • 2 tsp arrowroot powder (for thickening)

For stir-fry:

  • 1T canola oil
  • 1tsp sesame oil
  • 1 T grated ginger
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 3-4 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 8 stalks of asparagus, sliced on the diagonal
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 head of Napa cabbage, chopped
  • 2-3 cups of broccoli florets
  • 1 can of baby corn, drained and rinsed
  1. In a small bowl stir together broth, rice wine, agave, & arrowroot until smooth. Set aside.
  2. Steam the broccoli, carrots, and asparagus using a steamer basket for 3 minutes. Remove from pot and run under cold water to stop the cooking process.
  3. Heat a wok or large saute pan over high heat until hot. Add canola and sesame oil and heat until it just begins to smoke. Stir-fry onions, garlic, ginger, bell pepper & crushed red pepper for 3-4 minutes to soften. Add asparagus, broccoli, carrots & cabbage, and stir-fry 2 minutes. Add baby corn and baked tofu and stir-fry 2 minutes. Add broth mixture to vegetables. Stir-fry vegetables an additional minute to coat. Add green onions and stir to combine. Serve immediately, with hot long-grain brown rice on the side.

Recipe adapted from Vegan Fire & Spice cookbook recipe: Szechuan Vegetables & Vegetable Stir-Fry recipe on

The DIY Veggie Burger

My favorite frozen veggie burger is Amy's Quarter Pound Veggie Burger, which packs a whopping 21g of protein, and is vegan:

After the "veggie burger poison" scare earlier this year, I had started buying only organic frozen patties -- which can be quite expensive. I decided to try the Engine 2's New York Times Veggie Burger, which I had sampled on a previous occasion, complements of my friend Steph.

Here is the end product:

Delicioso! Seymore thinks they taste better than the frozen ones. I like that they do not contain mushrooms, which I think are a vile.

Here is the recipe:

New York Times Veggie Burgers

  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can tomatoes with zesty mild chilies, drained
  • 1 garlic clove, minced or pressed, or 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 cup parsley or cilantro
  • 2 cups quick rolled oats
  • 8 whole grain buns
  • Fresh veggie toppings and healthy condiments

Preheat oven to 450º.
Process the first seven ingredients using an immersion or a regular blender or food processor.
Remove contents into a large bowl and stir in the oats.
Form into patties, place on a sprayed baking sheet, and bake for 8 minutes.

Here is a photo I took of the patties prior to baking them:

Turn oven up to broil and cook for 2 more minutes, until the tops are nicely browned.
Toast the buns and pile on your favorite toppings.

The only changes that I made were to add a dash of cumin, and a dash of cayenne pepper. Loaded them up with sliced jalapenos, avocados, thinly sliced red onion, and home-grown tomatoes from Marie's glorious garden. I didn't have any lettuce or sprouts which made me quite sad...I think that would have been a nice addition.
In summary, it is a bit messy & less convenient than store-bought to make your own veggie burgers, but well worth the time and effort. I have frozen the remaining patties for future use, will blog later on how well they do with cooking after being frozen.