Sunday, January 12, 2014

Experiment #8: Adovada sin Carne y Papitas

I've waited far too long to try this one! I've had this idea since since the very first New Mexi-Vegan experiment. Remember the chorizo-spiced tofu burritos? This is another take on a classic New Mexican breakfast.

Traditional carne adovada is pork slow-cooked in a thick, smoky, extra-spicy red chile sauce. It can be eaten at any meal, but for breakfast it is often served with papitas (fried diced potatoes) and eggs. I chose a tofu scramble for this version to replace both the pork and the eggs, but a dry-fry technique would also produce a delicious dish. I also baked the potatoes instead of frying them for a lighter breakfast. A spicy breakfast perks me up. A greasy, spicy breakfast sends me right back to bed.

Did I mention this was spicy? Be prepared. This is no Pace picante sauce.

For breakfast on the go, throw your tofu and potatoes in a large tortilla for a tasty breakfast burrito.

Adovada sin Carne y Papitas  (serves 4)
  • 1 12 oz package extra-firm tofu
For the sauce:
  • 2 1/2 tbsp New Mexican red chile powder
  • 1 tsp onion power
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp agave nectar
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
For the papitas:
  • 1 1/4 lbs russet potatoes
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 tsp each: salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and cumin

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Drain the tofu but do not press it. Place the tofu in a shallow dish with a flat bottom (I used a small glass baking dish). In a small bowl, mix together all the sauce ingredients. Pour the sauce over the tofu and spread to cover all surfaces. Marinate in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes, flipping the tofu over after 15 minutes.

While the tofu marinates, peel the potatoes and dice them into 1/2-inch pieces. Spread the potatoes on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with the nutritional yeast and spices. Use a spatula to mix the potatoes and distribute the oil and seasonings. Bake for 25 minutes, stirring the potatoes after 15 minutes.

Heat a dry, medium-sized nonstick skillet over medium heat. Remove the block of tofu from the sauce, and set the sauce aside. Brown the top and bottom of the tofu, cooking each side 3-5 minutes. Crumble the tofu and add half of the remaining sauce. Stir to incorporate the sauce. Cook until the liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes.

For a breakfast plate, serve equal parts tofu and potatoes and drizzle with remaining sauce.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Experiment #7: Tamale Pie

Tamale pie isn't a new concept; there are recipes and variations all over the place. But any time I cook something without referring to a recipe, it's safer if I call it an experiment. The result of this week's experiment was fast and easy comfort food that doesn't leave you feeling weighed down.

My original plan was to make an actual pie, but I couldn't find my pie dish so I made a casserole instead and put a polenta crust on the top and bottom.

You can modify the filling to include whatever sounds good to you. Calabacitas, a mix of summer squashes, onion, and garlic, is a traditional New Mexican filling. B doesn't like zucchini, so I used beans, jalapenos, onions, garlic, and tomatoes. I used Texas-style chili seasonings, but red or green chile sauces would also be delicious (and authentic). Daiya cheddar shreds would also be good on top, but I didn't have any.

Speaking of green chile sauce, I decided at the last minute to spread a think layer of Sadie's Green Chile Sauce on top. I didn't salt the polenta enough, and it didn't have much flavor. The filling had plenty of spice on its own but not enough to stand up to the polenta. The sauce also gave the top of the casserole an attractive finish. Notice that I said a thin layer. Sadie's doesn't mess around--that sauce is HOT! Sadie's salsa, which is also delicious, comes in a "not as hot" variety. It's still crazy hot. Be warned.

Tamale Pie - Serves 4
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped (with seeds)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 14.5 oz can of pinto beans, drained (or substitute homemade beans)
  • 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
  • 1 1/2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • salt to taste
  • 1/4 fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 3 cups water (I might use veggie stock next time!)
  • 1 cup uncooked polenta (corn grits)
  • 1/3 c Sadie's Green Chile Sauce
Preheat the oven to 

In a medium-sized skillet, heat the olive oil on medium heat. Saute the onion and jalapeno for about 5 minutes or until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and saute for another minute. Add the pinto beans, tomato sauce, and spices to the skillet. Cook for five minutes, stirring frequently. Remove the filling mixture from heat and stir in the cilantro.

Spicy filling! 

In a medium-sized stock pot, bring the water to a boil. Add the polenta and reduce heat to low. Cook for five minutes, stirring frequently. In a small casserole dish (I think mine was a 7"x9") or pie dish, spread half of the polenta in an even layer along the bottom. Then spread the filling evenly over the polenta. Top the filling with another polenta layer. Spread the green chile sauce over the top of the casserole. 

Making the polenta crust

Bake the casserole at 400 degrees for 10 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Serve immediately.

Easy New Mexican comfort food!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

An experiment meets an old favorite: Spicy Sausage and Bean Stuffed Acorn Squash

I have a new love: Field Roast Mexican chipotle sausage.

Remember in my breakfast burrito post when I talked about my love for Mexican chorizo? This stuff tastes just like chorizo! Only, it's made from far more appetizing ingredients than pork lymph nodes (Seriously. I can't believe I used to eat that.). I'm also impressed that something made outside of the Southwest that says "chipotle" on it is seriously spicy! My extra links are going to make a fantastic breakfast scramble with tofu.

Tonight the sausage went into a Nelson Family favorite weeknight meal: bean and sausage stuffed acorn squash. We love the balance between the sweet squash and the spicy filling. This meal is not only super healthy, but it takes only about 15 minutes total to make. Win-win!

Spicy Sausage and Bean Stuffed Acorn Squash - feeds 2

  • 1 large acorn squash
  • 2 links of Mexican-spiced vegan sausage, crumbled (I used Field Roast)
  • 1 cup pinto beans
  • olive oil for cooking
  • 1/4 cup red chile sauce, plus extra for garnish (I use Santa Fe Ole, which is available online)

Start with a large acorn squash. Slice it in half and scoop out the seeds. Place the squash face down in a microwave safe dish and cook for 7-8 minutes or until tender.
Such a beautiful veggie!
Next, heat your sausage and beans in a skillet with a little olive oil. When hot, stir in the 1/4 cup of red chile sauce.
Canned beans are fine, but leftover homemade beans from the last post are better!
My current favorite vegan red chile sauce
Place each squash half in a sufficiently large bowl. Split the filling between the two halves (it will overflow!). Drizzle with extra red chile sauce, and enjoy!


Friday, August 16, 2013

An Old Favorite: Pinto Beans with Green Chile

I'm still here! The last month has been pretty hectic and on a very tight budget, so I haven't been doing much experimenting. Hopefully I will get back on track soon. In the mean time, I want to share a favorite recipe we make about once a month: pinto beans with green chile. This year's chile harvest is coming up soon (thought not soon enough, as this batch of beans used our last bag of chile!), and that means a fresh crop of the spicy, smoky deliciousness that is New Mexican green chile.

Now that I've made my own beans, I rarely buy canned. They are so simple to make in bulk, they freeze well, and dried beans are so much less expensive than canned. You can also taste the love that goes into homemade beans. They will always be more delicious!

Every New Mexican has their own technique and recipe for making beans. The crock pot is my favorite way to prepare beans because I can throw everything together in the morning before work, and when I come home my house smells delicious! I make beans in bulk and freeze them so that we can have burritos any time we want. Traditional New Mexican beans (and sometimes even green chile sauce) are prepared with a smoked ham hock. However, a little liquid smoke and a strong stock are all you really need to give these beans a rich flavor.

Pinto Beans with Green Chile - makes a LOT!
- 2 lbs dried pinto beans (do not use canned!)
- 1 1/2 cups chopped green chile
- vegetable stock, enough to cover the beans (4-6 cups). I prefer the organic "Better than Boullion" vegetable stock.
- 1 tbsp liquid smoke
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- salt to taste

The night before, place the beans in a large bowl and cover with water. Soak the beans overnight.

In the morning, drain the beans and place them in the crock pot. Add the green chile, liquid smoke, and spices. Add just enough stock to barely cover the beans. Cook on low for 5 hours. Stir the beans and add more stock until the liquid just covers the beans. Cook for another 5 hours. Check the seasoning before serving.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Experiment #6: Tofu and Veggie Potstickers

First, a quick health update: I'm allergic to eggs! I don't know why my doctors didn't think to do an allergy panel years ago, but finally I found one who actually rules out the simple things first. I've probably been mildly allergic my whole life, but stress has triggered a stronger reaction. I've been egg-free (and up to about 75% vegan, though I've had some weird chicken cravings) now for about two weeks, and I feel better than I have in quite a while. I ate French toast the other day as a test to see if my symptoms returned, and they did within an hour of eating. My mom-in-law was worried about making me sick, but for me it was the happiest sickness I've ever felt! To finally know the cause of my illness and the simple solution to it is AMAZING!

I had planned to do an avgolemono (Greek Easter Soup - it's name means "egg and lemon") experiment last week, but I found a pre-existing recipe that was everything I wanted! The only substitution I made was swapping in 1/2 cup of chopped fresh parsley for dill since a) the non-vegan version I used to make had parsley, and b) B apparently hates dill (but loves ranch dressing?). We were both surprised by how much this recipe tasted like the real thing!

This week's experiment comes with two big thumbs up from B! They also come from a craving for Chinese food mixed with frustration over not being able to find egg-free wonton or spring roll wrappers. I tried Whole Foods, Sprouts, and Talin with no success. I was too tired to try La Montanita Co-Op or any of the smaller Asian markets this afternoon, but I'll keep my eyes open.

Until I find them, I'll have to make my own. I considered making Chinese pancakes and using them to make spring rolls, but decided against it because they're labor intensive. You can, however, freeze them easily for later use, so I probably will still make some soon. Browsing the web for easier options, I came across a recipe for pierogi from Post Punk Kitchen. Mmmm....pierogi! B and I are both of Polish descent, and I squealed when I saw this recipe. I'll definitely make these for Christmas Eve dinner with B's family this year. Polish Catholic Christmas Eve meals are always vegetarian, but I'll be skipping the quiche this year. These savory dumplings will be an excellent accompaniment to my mom-in-law's sweet and sour borscht.

This pierogi dough looked perfect for potstickers. If you think about it, pierogi and potstickers are pretty similar to begin with. They're both dumplings that are first boiled or steamed and then pan-fried for a crispy exterior. It always amazes me which foods seem to be universally delicious regardless of which culture or region they come from. FRIED DOUGH --> DELICIOUS. I'm pretty sure science can support this as fact.

Note about the filling: For B, I replaced half the tofu with an equal amount of ground pork to make a more traditional ma po-style dish since he's still learning to like tofu. Replacing some of the tofu with mushrooms would also be a delicious (and meat-free) alternative to a tofu-only dumpling.

Another note about the filling: You'll notice that the recipe as-is makes entirely too much filling. I'm saving the unused filling to make fried rice later in the week. If you don't want extra, then cut the filling recipe in half.

A partial mise-en-place for the filling - the tofu was still pressing!

Tofu and Veggie Potstickers - Makes 18-20 dumplings
For the filling:
  • canola oil
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 16-oz block firm tofu, pressed and crumbled
  • 1 carrot, minced or shredded
  • 1 stalk celery, minced
  • 3 scallions, sliced thinly (reserve 1 tbsp for sauce)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp ginger, minced
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sriracha (or to taste)
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
For the dough:
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 3 tbsp canola oil
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, separated, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 3/4 tsp salt
For the dipping sauce
  • 1/2 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sriracha (or to taste)
  • 1 tbsp scallion, sliced thinly

Heat 2 tbsp canola oil plus 1 tsp sesame oil in a wok or frying pan over medium heat. Saute the carrot and celery for five minutes, stirring frequently. Add the scallions, garlic, and ginger, and saute for another minute. Place the veggie mix in a bowl and set aside. Add another 2 tbsp of canola oil to the pan and fry the tofu. Season with salt and pepper. Add the tofu to the veggie mix, and then add the rest of the filling ingredients. Set filling aside to cool while you make the dough.

Add the water and oil to a mixing bowl. Stir in two cups of flour and the salt. This should create a sticky wet dough. Dust your work surface with flour and place the dough on it. Add an additional flour 1/4 cup at a time, kneading the portion into the dough. Continue adding 1/4 cup portions of flour and kneading until you have a smooth, elastic, not too sticky dough. You may find your dough at the right consistency with slightly more or slightly less than 3 cups of flour total.

Flour + water + oil + love = dough

Roll the dough to a 1/4 inch thickness. Use a large glass or cookie cutter (I used the lid to a large drink shaker) to cut dough circles. Then roll each circle to 1/8 in thickness to create a large dumpling. Spoon a heaping tablespoon of filling into each circle and pinch closed. You may need to use a little warm water on your fingers while you pinch them to get them to stick. 

Dumplings! I need to work on my folding technique...

Add water to a large skillet (with a lid) until it is about 1/2 inch deep. Heat the water on medium-low and add the dumplings. Cover and steam for about 10 minutes, or until the dough is cooked. As an optional step, you can briefly fry the steamed dumplings in a little canola oil to crisp them up. I shouldn't call this optional makes them extra delicious! Remember what I said earlier about fried dough?

While the dumplings steam, mix all the dipping sauce ingredients together. Serve the dumplings immediately with the sauce on the side. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Experiment #5: Chocolate Amaretto Pie with Cherry Sauce...and some personal stuff

It's been a rough couple of weeks health-wise, but I'm feeling much better. Right after my last post, my digestive problems flared up badly. Two weeks of cramping, throwing up, aching in every joint, and barely wanting to eat. I missed some work, visited the doctor, and I'm still waiting on some test results. I've also been battling dizzy spells the last week while I wean off citalopram, which I took for anxiety but can proudly say I no longer need. The decision about whether or not to take antidepressants is an intensely personal one, and I don't think there's an absolute right or wrong answer. While I'm thrilled to be back in control of my emotions, I understand that I couldn't get there on my own. The feeling-like-crap part of me wishes I hadn't taken it because the physical addictiveness is so strong. The logical side of me is glad that I did because it gave me the boost I needed to help me  recognize the confidence and bravery already inside me. I don't stress over little things or feel unreasonably afraid of anything anymore.  Bring on the experiments!

My appetite came back for the Fourth of July, and I made these delicious raw lemon/coconut/banana bars from This Rawsome Vegan Life. My family enjoyed them (except B who isn't a big coconut fan) and they took a whopping 10 minutes to make (not including refrigerator time), so I'll definitely make them again. This week's experiment is a different summer-friendly dessert. It requires minimal baking (setting the crust for 10 minutes) and uses seasonal fruit (I found beautiful dark sweet cherries on sale at Sprouts today!). The experiment is my take on this chocolate pie with almond crust and strawberry compote from Oh She Glows.  I changed the flavors because chocolate + almond + cherry is one of my all-time favorite flavor trios (second only to green chile + cheese + potato...oh, cheese *sigh*).

This pie is a celebration of feeling better. It's also a celebration of cooking with booze since I was on Tylenol and not able to drink while I was sick. 

Chocolate Amaretto Pie with Cherry Sauce - serves 8-10 depending on how you slice it
  • 3/4 cup raw almonds
  • 1 1/2 cup oats, separated
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup (or the liquid sweetener of your choice)
  • 7.5 oz coconut cream (or 1 15 oz can coconut milk chilled overnight to separate out the cream)
  • 2 oz amaretto liqueur (I like D'Saronno)
  • 1 12 oz bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 lb sweet cherries
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the almonds and 1/2 cup of oats in a food processor and grind into a coarse flour. Add the rest of the oats and process briefly to chop the oats. Then add the coconut oil and maple syrup and process until the dough forms. 
Dough that smells as good as it looks!
Lightly grease a pie pan with coconut oil. Add the dough to the middle of the pan and use your fingers to press it into a crust. Bake the crust at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Let the crust cool while you make the filling and sauce.

Smells like a freshly-baked granola bar! YUM!
I made the sauce next because, like an idiot, I didn't read the directions for the filling very well. I bought coconut milk because I read the ingredients list quickly. The filling actually uses coconut cream, which you can buy pre-separated. The original recipe asks you to make your own by chilling coconut milk overnight to separate its parts. So I threw my can in the freezer while I baked the crust, made the sauce, made spaghetti for dinner, and watched the first half of The Hobbit. That's approximately how much time it takes to separate coconut milk in the freezer. Overnight in the refrigerator works better because it separates the liquids without freezing, so they're easier to work with.

Pitting the cherries is the worst part of the recipe. It's tedious, and I don't have any good tools or strategies for it. I just make a slice or two around the pit with a paring knife and pull the pit out with my fingers. It's messy, but it gets the job done.
Cherry pitting or bloody murder?
Place the cherries in a small saucepan over medium heat. Use a potato masher to mash the cherries and extract their juice. Slowly add the cornstarch, whisking quickly to avoid lumps. Then add the maple syrup and vanilla. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low. Cook for 15-20 minutes or until desired thickness. Let the sauce sit while you make the filling (or in my case, store it in the fridge until ready to reheat since it's going to be a while...)

If you start with chilled coconut milk, carefully separate the cream from the watery part. If you start with coconut cream, congratulations: you win at reading directions. Just pour it into a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the amaretto and the chocolate chips, stirring constantly until the chocolate is melted. Remove from heat and stir in the maple syrup, vanilla, and salt.  

I wish I didn't have to wait two hours to eat it!
Pour the filling into the pie crust. Cover the pie with foil or plastic wrap and chill it in the freezer for at least two hours. After that, if everyone you're serving it to likes cherries, feel free to layer the sauce on top. Otherwise, reheat the sauce and serve it over individual slices. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Experiment #4: Sloppy Joes!

First, an apology for my absence last week. B and I had celebrated our first wedding anniversary in Durango, Colorado and Mesa Verde National Park. We had an amazing time hiking, rafting, and drinking tasty beers (Well, I did. B's not a beer fan). But we're both happy to be back in NM eating home-cooked food (I can only eat so many quinoa burgers before I get bored).

Since we were getting back into our normal routine, I didn't create a new recipe last week. To make up for it, this latest experiment is new and improved with mediocre Instagram photos!

When I'm menu planning for the week, I always ask B what he wants for dinner. His reply is usually, "Eh, whatever you want to make is fine." Recently, however, I got a request. "Sloppy Joes!" he said, "We haven't had them in a long time." Tonight, I finally granted that request.

Here's the mise en place for the sloppy joes. Missing are ketchup (because the recipe I modified didn't call for it, but it definitely needed some) and vegetable stock (because I was going to cook the lentils in water until I remembered that veggie stock is ALWAYS better!).

Sloppy Joes - Serves...a lot. Probably 6-8 depending on the size of buns you use.

  • Olive oil, for sauteeing
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1/2 cup red lentils, rinsed
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 15 oz can pinto beans
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 tbsp vegan worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 chipotle pepper, minced, plus 1 tsp adobo sauce
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste

Finely dice your onion and carrots. This is important for two reasons: 1) we want them to cook quickly and thoroughly for a soft texture, and 2) we want nice little pieces for a proper sloppy joe consistency. My dainty little fingernail is a reference for how small I made my pieces.

In a large pot, heat a couple tbsp of olive oil. Saute the onion and carrot for five minutes. Add the stock, lentils, and tomatoes to the pot. Bring to a simmer, and then cover and reduce heat. Simmer the lentil mixture for 20 minutes or until lentils and carrots are tender.

Add the rest of the ingredients and stir. Use a potato masher to mash the tomatoes and beans into smaller pieces (again, we're looking for that classic sloppy joe texture). Cook uncovered on medium-low for a few more minutes until the sauce is your desired thickness.

I served these on giant whole wheat kaiser rolls. I mean GIANT! This sandwich was a good 6" in diameter. I originally planned to bake some sweet potato tots on the side, but when B saw these, he said the sandwiches would be enough!

The verdict: They were tasty, but not quite what B expected for sloppy joes. He's used to a more barbeque-like sauce. Of course, that didn't stop him from licking his plate clean while I was only halfway through mine. I have promised him a Sloppy Joe Experiment, Part 2 with a different sauce recipe.