Vegan Stuffed Peppers

Stuffedpepper

I feel like every time I start a new post it begins with something like “so…. I haven’t posted in a while…”. This time it’s been over 7 months… so… I haven’t posted in a while. As usual, it’s not that I haven’t been cooking, but more so that I’m lazy and a) don’t measure anything which makes writing a recipe fairly difficult, b) don’t make things that look nice enough to take a picture, and c) forget to take pictures. This time (a) and (b) are still true and while I did take a picture, it’s a fairly crappy iPhone picture so (c) is pretty much true too (forgot to bring the DSLR). I figured I was due for a post though, so here it is.

The husband and I recently decided to go to Haiti this year with a team from our church. One thing the team decided to do to help fundraise this year was to make a steak dinner for people at church. It was quite the event – over the course of one night we fed ~80 people a three-course meal from salad and bread, to steak (or chicken) and mashed potatoes, to five different dessert options.

I love steak. If you’ve never had steak prepared in a sous vide cooker you really should give it a try. Sadly I, and several others, did not partake in the steak deliciousness due to various forms of fasting for lent. So I was in charge of making an alternative option. After perusing the internet for “vegan main dishes” I settled on stuffed peppers – mostly because they had the highest presentation potential.

Most recipes for stuffed peppers include rice and cheese but some folks were doing more restrictive fasts, so rice and cheese were out. I’d never made stuffed peppers before and was a little nervous that they’d be disastrous, so I decided to do a test run the day before. It turned out ok, but I’m glad I did the test run because I was able to make some adjustments before the actual dinner.

Some things I learned:

  • Pick peppers with the flattest bottoms you can find.Otherwise they might tip over.
  • If the peppers are not able to stand up by themselves, they can be baked in muffin tins. For presentation purposes this isn’t ideal because the muffin tin will leave a ring around the outside of the pepper.
  • Most recipes will say to bake for 45min-1 hour. If all the ingredients inside the pepper are fully cooked it really only takes ~25-30 min to soften the pepper.
  • When using naturally sweet vegetables like red peppers, sweet potatoes, and corn, extra seasoning is needed to offset the sweetness.

I’m not going to post a complete recipe because as I mentioned earlier I didn’t measure anything. Plus, people have different taste preferences, so the ingredients can be combined in whatever ration one prefers. For the dinner we served the peppers with a side of guacamole, which makes everything better. Here’s how I made my peppers.

Ingredients

  • Red bell peppers (2)
  • Sweet potatoes, diced (1 medium cut into ~1 cm cubes)
  • Frozen sweet corn (1-2 cups)
  • Canned black beans, drained and rinsed (1 can)
  • Tofu, diced finely (1/4 block)
  • Yellow onion, diced finely (~1/4 onion)
  • Tomatoes (1-2, not entirely sure what type they were)
  • Salt
  • Garlic powder
  • Pepper
  • Chili powder
  • Paprika
  • Cumin

Wash and dry the peppers. Cut the top off (but save it) and clean out the seeds from the inside of the pepper. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cut tomatoes into 1/2 inch chunks. Cook over medium heat in a pot. Use a potato masher or fork to mash the tomatoes. Add salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste and allow to simmer until thickened (20-25 min).

While the tomatoes are simmering, heat olive oil in a frying pan or wok and cook the onions until tender (3-5 min). Add the sweet potatoes and continue to cook until the potatoes soften (8-12 min). Add the tofu,. corn, and black beans and continue to cook for another 3-5 min. Add salt, pepper, chili powder, paprika, and cumin (I have no measurements for any of those – my method is to add sparingly and taste as I go).

When the tomatoes have reached the desired consistency (make sure they’re not really watery), add them to the pan and mix thoroughly.

Scoop filling into the peppers and place the top of the pepper on top. I cooked five peppers in a dutch over and three in a muffin tin. For the ones in the muffin tin, I wrapped them in aluminum foil. Bake (wrapped in foil or covered in the case of the dutch oven) for 30 min. Uncover/unwrap, take the tops off, and broil (tops as well) for 3-5 min.

Aloo Gobi

AlooGobi

It’s August! Where did the summer go? It seems like summer just started, but it’s already almost over…

Since the wedding, life’s been pretty busy. We went to Boston for a few days to see my parents. We chilled out there, watched fireworks on the fourth, and had a banquet for my parents’ friends. Then we headed to Taipei for a bit to see the husband’s side of the family. Did a lot of eating and had another banquet. I dubbed that the international wedding tour.

We’ve been home for a few weeks now. Life continues to be busy here in Madison. This is pretty much the first Saturday we’ve had to ourselves. So I tried cooking the hubby’s favorite Indian dish.

The first time I heard of aloo gobi was from the movie Bend it Like Beckham. The main character learns from her mother how to make this traditional dish. I watched the movie when I was in high school, but I think it wasn’t until I moved here that I actually tried the dish. It never really sounded appealing to me, but I think I tried it at an Indian buffet place one day and discovered that it was good.

I looked up recipes on the internet and decided on this recipe. I sent the hubby outside to play basketball and made this dish to surprise him. I followed the recipe pretty closely, but used ground cumin, ground ginger, and ground coriander instead of cumin seed, fresh ginger, and fresh coriander. I’m not a fan of chomping down on cumin seeds or chunks of ginger, so I think I made a good choice to use ground instead. Otherwise though I followed the instructions pretty closely. I also got to use our new LeCreuset dutch oven that we got for our wedding.

I didn’t really bother taking a good picture of it. Just snapped a quick picture on my phone. I used a rice cooker to make basmati rice and got some naan at the store which I pan-fried in butter and garlic. It wasn’t the best naan I’ve ever had, but it wasn’t awful. All in all we both enjoyed the meal so I’d recommend this recipe.

Mapo Tofu and Chinese Broccoli

There isn’t a whole lot going on in my life right now. Here are some random snippets:

I traveled Monday/Tuesday for work. Spent 8 hours onsite and around 18 hours traveling.

Cooking really is therapeutic.

My shoulder/back are really sore.

I’m going to Chicago this weekend to visit some friends. Going to a retreat the next weekend for the IV group I volunteer with. Then on another work trip the weekend after. Won’t be in Madison a lot in the near future I guess.

The tofu recipe came from a friend. Usually I would put some ground pork in there, but this was sort of a spur of the moment thing and I didn’t have any defrosted.

Anyway, I don’t really have anything else to say for now.

Ingredients
19 oz package tofu, diced (I used firm, but I’d use a softer one next time)
1/2 cup water
3 tbsp Lao Gan Ma
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced
salt
garlic powder
oil

Chinese broccoli
sesame oil
salt
Lee Kum Kee oyster sauce

In a large pan, heat oil. Add onions and garlic and saute until the onions are soft. Add water and chili sauce and simmer for 5-10 minutes.

Add tofu and simmer for another 15-20 minutes. Add salt and garlic powder to taste.

In a large pot, boil water, sesame oil and salt. Add broccoli and cook until tender, but not too soft. Remove from water and serve with oyster sauce.

Kid’s Meal All Grown Up

I love the movie Despicable Me. It’s not artsy or sophisticated in any way, but it makes me laugh. A lot. So whenever I find out that one of my friends hasn’t seen it, I make them watch it. And somehow I never get tired of it. I mean, it’s just cuteness overload.

I guess the movie brings out the little kid in me. When I found out that a couple friends hadn’t seen it yet, naturally I had to make them watch it. So I was planning a menu for the night and I started thinking about kid food. When I think “kid’s meal” the first thing I think about is chicken nuggets, fries, and corn. It was a reoccurring meal throughout elementary, middle and high school (until I started going off campus for lunch). And then in college one of the dining halls had kid’s night once a week, which consisted of all those foods too.

And then I had an idea. (Or as Gru would say, lightbuuulb!) I decided to recreate this classic kid’s meal, but with a twist of sophistication. Homemade chicken nuggets instead of the typical frozen ones, sweet potato fries instead of boring, normal french fries, and avocado, corn and black bean salad instead of plain old canned corn.

It took a long time, but everything turned out really well! I’m hesitant to post recipes because I didn’t really measure anything. When seasoning things I just freehand everything. So I’m just going to put ingredients and preparation steps. Sorry for those of you who need measurements.

Sweet potato fry recipe adapted from The Food Network
Salad recipe adapted from Center Cut Cook

Ingredients for chicken nuggets
Boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-1.5 inch pieces
Flour
Eggs
Garlic powder
Salt
Pepper
Chili powder
Panko
Oil

Season chicken with oil, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and chili powder.

In a bowl, beat a couple eggs. On a plate, mix flour, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. On a separate plate, pour out the panko.

For each piece of chicken, dredge in the flour mixture, dip in the egg, and then roll in the panko.

At this point you can choose to be “healthy” and bake the chicken at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Note: if you use this method, the nuggets might be a little pale.

Or, you can choose to be carefree and deliciously unhealthy and fry those suckers. That’s always my preference! 🙂

For the sweet potato fries, I used all the same ingredients from Paula Deen’s recipe, but I didn’t measure them. I’m sure if you follow the measurements from the link, they’ll turn out great.

For the salad, I more than doubled the avocado (I LOVE avocado). I used five avocados, two packs of tomatoes, two cans of corn, and one can of beans. I skipped the cilantro (I’m not a huge fan of cilantro), and only used one lime. Instead of red wine vinegar I used apple cider vinegar (that’s all we had), and I didn’t measure how much vinegar, olive oil, salt or pepper I used. But it’s really simple. I just mixed everything together in a big bowl and chilled it in the fridge until everything else was ready.

It was a really great Sunday night, although sadly it caused me to fail to get to bed at a decent hour in order to start my Monday off well. Oops. In other news, I’m super duper excited to go home in five days! Ok, that’s all I have for now.

Spicy Pan-Fried Tofu

If someone had told me a year ago that I’d be posting a recipe for tofu, I’d have laughed in your face. Up until really recently I wasn’t really a fan of tofu. But lately I guess it’s been growing on me and I strangely had a craving for it.

I also just recently acquired sriracha sauce and I was excited to use it, so I decided to experiment. I kind of just threw together some things to see how it’d turn out. I was going to put green peppers in it too, but for the life of me I couldn’t find it. Mysterious, huh? I looked everywhere in the kitchen, but couldn’t find it. Guess where I found it? In my car! It must have rolled out of the bag when I was driving home from the supermarket. Anyway, case of the missing pepper solved.

Sadly when you cover food in a dark sauce, it’s hard to make it look attractive. The picture’s not great, but it tasted pretty good. And it was nice and spicy. Spicy enough for my Hmong friend. Her only complaint was that she wished there was meat in it. Meat probably would have been good [ground pork I’m guessing], but I’m just so non-functional in the morning when I wake up that I can never remember to take meat out of the freezer. Then when I get home, I’m too hungry to want to wait for meat to defrost. So sadly, no meat in this one.

Ingredients
14 oz extra firm tofu
1 large carrot
3 large shiitake mushrooms

3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sriracha sauce
1 teaspoon cornstarch
sugar
salt
garlic powder
oil

Cut the tofu into small cubes. Sprinkle with salt on both sides. Set aside for 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, chop carrots and mushrooms into thin slices.

In a frying pan, heat 1-2 tablespoons of oil. Use a paper towel to blot dry the tofu. Add to the frying pan in single layer and let brown (2-3 minutes). Flip and brown the other sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan and add the carrots. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and garlic powder. Add a few tablespoons of water and the mushrooms, and cook until the carrots are soft.

In a bowl, mix the soy sauce, ~3 tablespoons of water, the sriracha sauce, the cornstarch and a pinch of sugar together. Add to the frying pan with the carrots and mushrooms and heat until the sauce thickens. Add the tofu and mix until the tofu is coated with the sauce.

Samosa Wontons

So I have this theory that anything that tastes good with some form of carbohydrate (pasta, bread, rice, etc) would taste good deep-fried in a wonton skin. So far I’ve tested this theory with pork and chives (classic dumpling filling) and nutella/nutella+banana.

Today I tried a new filling to further test the theory. I made samosa wontons* by filling wonton skins with the filling found in samosas (an Indian appetizer).

Ok I am so tired I can barely keep my eyes open. Gnight everyone!

Edits: It’s now Sunday and I got a little more sleep and I remembered some notes I wanted to add about this recipe. First, instead of using canola oil, I used peanut oil. It’s a bit more expensive, but it has a higher smoke point, so it’s better for deep frying. Second, I used a deep fryer instead of a pot this time. The difference is there’s a temperature setting and it’s a little deeper than most frying pans. It took a weirdly long time for the samosas to turn golden brown though. I think next time I will try peanut oil in a pot/pan.

*These were for the same potluck in the last post. I thought it was pretty hilarious that I ended up making samoas and samosas. Very different but so similar in name.

Recipe adapted from Roti n Rice

Ingredients
6 medium potatoes (~1.5 inch diameter from the thickest cross section, ~3 inches in length)
1 cup frozen peas
2 sweet onions, diced
4 tsp ground cumin
4 tsp ground mustard
4 tsp garam masala
4 tsp coriander powder
1-2 tsp chili powder (depends on how spicy you want it)
Peanut oil
Salt
1 package frozen or refrigerated square wonton skins

Peel and chop potatoes in half. Cover with salted water and boil for approximately 30 minutes, or until tender. Drain and rinse with cold water. When cooled, chop into small pieces (~1/2 cm cubes).

In a frying pan heat some oil. Add onions and fry until soft and translucent. Add cumin, mustard, garam masala, coriander powder and chili powder and mix well.

Add peas and potatoes and stir until the spices are evenly spread out. Season to taste with salt.

Assemble wontons by putting a spoonful of potato/peas/onion mixture in the middle of the wonton skin and fold the skin diagonally. Wet the inner edges of the skins and press together.

In a pot or deep fryer, pour 1-2 inches of oil. Fry the wontons until golden brown.

Beef with Broccoli

I can’t believe it’s mid-September already. I sure doesn’t seem like I’ve been at work/in Madison for 8 weeks already. But it’s definitely beginning to feel like fall. It’s currently 40 degrees out and there’s a chance of frost. Yikes.

At any rate, work has been keeping me busy, despite the fact that I am still in training and therefore not doing any real work. I’m still taking classes and I have 2 more projects and 3 more tests before I’m certified on my application (although that doesn’t mean I’ll be done with tests for good… I still have many more to come). The point is, most days I’m too tired/lazy to try something new, so I’ve been cooking mostly uninteresting dishes… and pretty much eating broccoli every day.

I decided to post this even though it’s not really unique or particularly Asian, but it’s on pretty much every “Chinese” restaurant’s menu. And in my opinion, this version taste better. 😛

I was hungry, so I finished this all tonight, but that probably means it’s enough for one normal person.

Ingredients
1 crown of broccoli, cut into florets
1/2 lb flank steak, sliced thinly against the grain
garlic powder
vegetable oil
soy sauce
salt
cornstarch
Lee Kum Kee Black Bean and Garlic Sauce

Preparation
Marinate beef with garlic powder, soy sauce, oil, salt and cornstarch.

Heat oil in a frying pan. Add broccoli and stir, sprinkling in a dash of salt. Pour in (approx) 1/4 cup of water and cook, stirring occasionally until tender. Add a spoonful of black bean and garlic sauce (size of spoonful dependent on how salty you like your food) and stir until the sauce is evenly distributed over the broccoli. Remove from heat and set aside.

Heat more oil, and add beef in a single layer. Cook until the side facing up starts to turn brown, then flip and cook until browned. Add broccoli back in and mix well.

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