Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Leftover HodgePodge

What do you do with leftover red rice and beans, collard greens, butter tofu, jalapenos, and sweet potatoes? 

Try to make enchiladas!

At least that was what I did.  I am trying to be better about using up leftovers and remnants of food in my fridge (especially veggies).  This week, I had a TON of leftovers.  The sweet potatoes weren't quite ripe when I needed them to make fries so the super hard-middles got put into a tupperware with some water and into the fridge.  The collard greens only came in a 2 1/2 pound bag (of which the remaining uncooked 1 pound is still currently languishing in my bottom drawer).  And the butter chicken was too acidic for my tummy the night we had it (growing, annoying problem since I love tomatoes). 

Hopefully this post inspires you to make over your leftovers, highlighting keynote ingredients, and making a completely different dish out of them.  It is possible!  And saves money!  (this was made with leftovers and we got 3 meals out of this!) 

What do cajun style red rice and beans and butter tofu have in common?  Lots.  Cajun and indian cooking have many similar ingredients to mexican cooking: jalapenos, cumin, cilantro, onion to name a few.  So I got the weird idea to blend the tofu chicken mixture and adding what was needed by taste.  This ended up being a can of tomatoes with habaneros, jalapenos (ok- so this ended up too spicy for me, could have done without them), chili powder, smoked paprika, cumin, and cilantro.  I probably added things 3-4 times and tasted after every addition.  Key lesson learned from Top Chef: Taste your food.  Every time. 

Sauce accomplished.

On tastespotting I found a few black bean sweet potato enchilada recipes, so I boiled the sweet potatoes, mashed them, and added cumin, paprika, and black beans. 

Filling #1 accomplished. 

I also had leftover sauted leeks and collard greens (recipe here).  So again here, I added cumin and paprika.

Filling #2 accomplished. 

Last, but not least (and oddly my favorite), I added similar spices to my leftover red beans. 

Filling #3 accomplished. 

The night before (I spend a lot of time planning food, thus the night before making), I made homemade tortillas off Pioneer Woman (recipe here).  I stuffed the tortillas with a bit of cheese and the fillings (each seperate), topped with the sauce, and baked at 350 for 40 minutes (the fillings were cold and needed time to heat through). 

Voila!  It does not look pretty, but it tasted mighty nice with a cilantro sour cream. 

"Meat"ball Subs

Occasionally the hubs and I crave comfort foods from before we went veg.  Comfort foods that tend to contain very few vegetables.  Macaroni and cheese.  Cheese steak.  Hot wings.  Meatball subs.  And we try not to eat them often, eating fake meat as a vegetarian seems counterproductive.  And goes against eating more "whole foods" because the imitations are so processed.  But hey, we all need to give in sometimes right?  And 22 years of meat eating leaves some remnants in a person, no matter how strong your convictions.

I had intended to try a new recipe I found on the Tasty Kitchen for lentil ricotta "meatballs" but forgot to buy ricotta, so plan B came in the works.  Using what was on hand, I made my own "meatballs".  And boy, I think they were better than the kind we buy at Trader Joe's or Giant.  They didn't mush together on the bun like the veggie kind do, and they had a pretty distinct texture if I do say so myself. 

The trick to a meatball sub staying together I learned from my friend Todd while he was preparing a sub for his kiddos.  He removed the inner breading of the roll, thus creating the perfect pocket in which the meatballs could rest. 

To make meatballs, start by mixing 1 pkg. lightlife breakfast sausage, 1 pkg boca burger meatless crumbles in ground beef style, 1 egg, 1/4 c bread crumbs.  Mix until thoroughly incorporated.  Form into 1-2 inch balls, depending on your preference and patience (mine tend to get bigger as they go because i get bored of rolling).  Pan fry until browned on all sides or bake at 350 for at least 20 minutes, topping with sauce 10 minutes in.  

"Meat"ball Subs Printable Recipe

To assemble, hollow out the roll, top with provolone cheese and toast bread in oven (works well alongside meatballs while they are cooking).  

I am a sauce person, so I like mine extra-saucy.  The sauce works best on the side though, dipped into so the roll doesn't get too soggy.  The first night I served it up with some Brussels sprouts, yum, and they helped to balance out the sort-of unhealthiness of the dish. 

We had a friend over to watch the Flyers the next night, and I think he just might have forgotten while eating it that we were vegetarians.  Maybe.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Mark Bittman and How We Got Here

taken from, photo by mike licht

If you have 20 minutes to at least play and listen, go ahead and spend some time with this one:

How We Got Here

Mark Bittman, The Minimalist, speaks about the over production of meat and junkfood in our country.  How we must go further than simply buying organic, or going vegetarian.  We eat at least twice as much protein as the USDA recommends, which is 1/2 pound of meat a week. 

Summary: Eat more vegetables, grow them locally, sustainably.  Stop making animals industrially and stop eating them thoughtlessly.  Prevent killer diseases that plague our nation by simply cutting down on animals and their products.  And do it not only for our own health, but also those of our neighbors and our children.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Spotlight on Pantry Staples: Tempeh

New Series

(This is not quite storable in the pantry, but something I buy almost every time I go to Trader Joe's.) 

Tempeh is fermented soy bean cakes.  Sounds appetizing, doesn’t it?  I may have to say though that I enjoy tempeh better than I enjoy tofu.   There are different kinds of tempeh, varying in ingredient additions such as whole grains.  Tempeh originated in Indonesia and the fermentation process enables you to digest the soybean more fully.  Tempeh has more protein than tofu as well as more fiber, and the processing leaves different nutritional value than tofu.  
Tempeh has a consistency that lends itself well to substituting for ground beef in recipes.  And at under $2 at Trader Joe’s, it is a steal!  By crumbling it up, it is wonderful in tacos or sloppy joes.  I have heard that steaming it before cooking gives it an even better texture, but I very seldom have the patience to cook before I cook (or never).   It is also often used as a bacon substitute when smoked. 
Here are some of my favorite recipes using tempeh:

Well then, thoughts on pantry staples series?  Any ingredients you would love more information on? 
Sources: Wikipedia, NY Times