A twist on a classic Irish dish

Move over corned beef and cabbage, there’s a new addition to the March 17 menu. And this one hails from South of the Border.

PPKpiePhoto courtesy of Post-Punk Kitchen

Because by now you should know that my photos do not look anywhere near as mouth-watering as those. It is on my list to take a photography class, and now I see one of our local kitchen supply stores (Whisk) is offering a food photography class. This might need to be on my to-do list.

Back to the meal: this particular recipe falls under the Sunday Supper section in Isa Does It as it is a little more labor intensive than the weeknight stir-fry/salad/sandwich/broiled tofu concoction. With that said, it was worth every minute. And, it made 8 servings, so I was finishing this up five days later. And: it was still as good.

Tamale InnardsFiesta!

I have always had a soft spot for Shepherd’s Pie. My roots do trace back to an Irish clan (the O’Connells), and the women in our family seem to resemble Irish potatoes as we age, so it seems appropriate to prepare one of my homeland’s classics. Although, as I learned doing three minutes of research on Wikipedia, this dish was initially called Cottage Pie (1791) when the potato was first introduced as the crop to eat…if you were poor. Essentially, the “recipe” called for whatever meat you had left over, and then throwing potatoes on it. It evolve into Shepherd’s Pie in 1877 when the main meat used was lamb – not beef.

The “meat” used in this dish requires no shepherd – except your arm holding a fork and bringing this food to your mouth. The combination of beans, poblano chili, onion, tomato, mushrooms, corn, and tortilla chips (plus all those amazing spices) has such a complex and rich flavor. And thne, it’s topped with LIME-infused red potatoes. The lime flavor is subtle but noticeable and draws this entire dish together. Oh! I can’t wait to make this again. Add it to your Sunday meal planning! St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner. Time for Katie’s terrible photography skills:

sp1Always know – it tastes better than I could ever capture on my cell phone

From my ancestors to you, Éirinn go Brách! [Ireland forever]

Tamale Shepherd’s Pie
Post-Punk Kitchen (Isa)

Serves 8
Time: 1 hour || Active time: 30 minutes

For the mashed potato layer:
2 1/2 lbs unpeeled red potatoes, cut into big chunks (1 1/2 inches or so)
1/2 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk, at room temperature
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 scant teaspoon grated lime zest
3/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

For the stew:
2 tablespoons olive oil (plus extra)
1 onion, diced medium
1 poblano pepper, seeded, diced medium
4 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz mushrooms, cut in half and sliced 1/4 inch thick or so
1 cup lightly packed cilantro, chopped
1 1/4 lbs plum tomatoes (about 6), chopped
1/2 cup corn (fresh or frozen)
1/4 cup dry red wine
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 ounces tortilla chips (about 4 good-sized handfuls)
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons Frank’s red hot hot sauce (plus extra for serving)
3 cups cooked black beans (2 15 oz cans rinsed and drained)

Place potatoes in a pot and submerge in salted water. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower heat to simmer and cook for about 15 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.

Drain potatoes and immediately transfer them back into the pot. It’s important to do this while everything is still hot. Give them a quick preliminary mash, then add the milk, olive oil, lime zest and salt. Mash until creamy, taste for salt, then cover and set aside. (Note: I usually add black pepper, but decided not to here so that the lime really shines through. If you feel naked without it, though, go ahead and add some.)

To prepare the stew:
Preheat a large, heavy bottomed pan over medium-high heat. Saute onion and pepper in olive oil and a pinch of salt, until peppers are softened, about 10 minutes. In the meantime prep all your other ingredients.

Add garlic and saute until fragrant, 30 seconds or so. Add mushrooms and cilantro and cook until the mushrooms have released a lot of moisture, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, corn, wine, salt, cumin and red pepper flakes. Turn heat up and cover the pan, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes. The tomatoes should break down and become saucy (if corn was frozen it may take a bit longer.)

Now take the tortilla chips and crush them into fine crumbs with your hands. It’s ok if there are a few bigger pieces, but aim for crumbs. Add them to the stew and mix well. Since tortillas can be salty, wait until they’re added to taste for salt. Mix in the lime juice and hot sauce, then fold in the black beans and heat through. Now taste for salt and seasonings.

To assemble:
Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a deep 11×13 casserole (cooking spray works just fine). Transfer the stew to the casserole and even it out with a spatula. Add the potatoes in dollops, and spread it into an even layer.

Place in oven and bake for about 25 minutes, until potatoes are lightly browned. Stick under the broiler for a minute or two just in case the browning isn’t happening. Serve hot garnished with cilantro, chili peppers and lime.

Photo from Post-Punk Kitchen

Day 29 of vegan recipe challege: 3 things to try

Who doesn’t like a round up blog post? It’s the cheat for promoting great ideas/content without actually creating much of said ideas/content. Call it the Upworthy or Buzzfeed creed. Without further ado:

1) Last Sunday, I held my inaugural “Cooking with Friends” adventure centered around a vegan staple: tofu. One of the most highly acclaimed dishes came from none other than everyone’s favorite crafter-gone-money-launderer Martha Stewart.

broiled tofuAfter broiling this tofu, make a wreath!

The recipe (found here) is ridiculously easy. The soy lemon pepper dipping sauce was a nice, punchy touch, and would make a great marinade or dipping sauce in other dishes, for sure.

2) This past Monday was Chipotle’s much publicized sofritas special. If you purchased a bowl/burrito/taco with sofritas on that day, you would be able to score a free bowl/burrito/tacos using your receipt on another visit. Alas, we were not able to partake due to time and finances (and the fact that we have a silly amount of food in our house). BUT – we did taste the sofritas a couple of Saturdays ago: I did a bowl with black beans, pico, and lettuce while Aaron took his in taco form topped with black beans and the corn salsa. The verdict: quite tasty with some nice heat. What a gesture to have another protein option outside of the bean staple in the takeout realm.

sofritasThanks Chipootle for bringing tofu to the hipsters

3) I still have yet to post about my (now TWO) sushi roll making adventures. If you’re in the market to get your nori on, the BambooMN brand is the set my friend Chelsea recommended to me, and I shall pass it on as well.:

sushikitKeep it rollin’

Even better, the price for the set is under $8.

Speaking of sushi, a new restaurant opened in downtown Durham this week. Basan brings more new life into the American Tobacco section of the Dirty D with a menu that boasts some pretty fabulous looking veggie sushi. For example:


Avocado, broccoli, carrot, asparagus, tempura green beans, wrapped with soy paper and cucumber, soy salsa on top


Frisee, tomato, avocado, cucumber inside, roasted pepper, chive on top, whole grain mustard dressing

This has been added to our restaurant must-hit list.


Alright vegans and non-vegans alike, are you a fan of sushi? If so, what are the ingredients you like to find in your roll?

Day nine of vegan recipe challenge: a good kind of crunch

Not that post-beach, swish out your mouth ten times crunch.


Not that post-dental “polish” that you still find repulsive after 20+ years of enduring.


This is the kind of crunch you want – and may need – in your life. Did I mention that it involves cashews?

cashewThank you for being Ambitious, Monique!

Today’s vegan recipe comes from the kitchen that pushes itself to new limits. Perhaps you would call it the Ambitious Kitchen..or wait, that’s its name. Blogger Monique has dozens of delicious, quality vegan recipes (plus many are gluten-free, etc., etc.) for you to add to your cooking repertoire. This is one of my favorites because: 1) I’m a sucker for cashews; and 2) I’m a big fan of eating from bowls (sorry plates).

So, I share with you a nutrient-packed salad with the nice amount of roasted crunch to satisfy your salt and sweet tooth(s?) Teeth? Whatever.  From The Ambitious Kitchen:

Crunchy Cashew Thai Quinoa Salad with Ginger Peanut Dressing
Serves 6
Prep Time: 10 minutes; Cook Time: 15 minutes

  • ¾ cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1-2 cups shredded red cabbage, depending on how much crunch you like
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • ½ red onion, diced
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro
  • ¼ cup diced green onions
  • ½ cup cashew halves or peanuts
  • Optional: 1 cup edamame or chickpeas
  • Fresh lime, for a bit of tang

For the dressing:

  • ¼ cup all natural peanut butter [Krema is one of my favorite peanut butters if you prefer to purchase]
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
  • 3 tablespoon soy sauce, gluten-free if desired
  • 1 tablespoon honey (use agave if vegan)
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • Water to thin, if necessary
  1. To cook quinoa: Rinse quinoa with cold water in mesh strainer. In a medium saucepan, bring 1 ½ cups of water to a boil. Add in quinoa and bring mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and let simmer for 15 minutes or until quinoa has absorbed all of the water. Remove from heat and fluff quinoa with fork; place in large bowl and set aside to cool for about 10 minutes. You should have a little over 2 cups of quinoa.
  2. To make dressing: Add peanut butter and honey/agave to a medium microwave safe bowl; heat in microwave for 20 seconds. Add in ginger, soy sauce, vinegar, and both sesame and olive oil and stir until mixture is smooth and creamy. If you want a thinner dressing, simply stir in a teaspoon or two of water or olive oil.
  3. Add as much or as little dressing as you’d like to the quinoa. I always start out with a little bit of dressing and usually add more to suit my taste preferences. Alternatively you can save the dressing for later and add when you are ready to eat; however the flavors of the dressing usually soak into the salad so I love adding it to the quinoa first.
  4. Next fold in red pepper, onion, cabbage, carrots, and cilantro into the quinoa. Garnish with cashews and green onions. Serve chilled or at room temperature with lime wedges if desired.

How do you get your crunch satisfaction?

Day four of recipe challenge: cooking vegan does not need to be labor intensive

Let me say that again: Cooking vegan does not need to labor intensive.

It can be, sure. So can preparing countless other meals with animal product. But, there seems to be this mental barrier the general public associates with vegan cooking. “It must take you hours to finally eat!” Or course, that’s not when I’m eating another salad. Because that’s all vegans eat too, salads.

(Note: I am not knocking salads in the least. I quite like salads. But, I loathe the association that somehow that one particular dish sustains me for 365 days a year).

This recipe is going to have two-options (hooray! we love options, Katie). I’m giving you the “I need to make this in 15 minutes” option or the “Okay, I can take a little longer because I don’t believe in store-bought hummus.”

Option 1: Hummus & Tofu Wraps
Recipe notes that it makes 4 total wraps; depending on type of bread & how much tofu you put in each, I argue you could get more like 6 to 8 servings

For the tofu:
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
14 ounces extra-firm tofu, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
1/4 teaspoon salt

Remaining items:
Your favorite hummus (since the tofu is cooked in sesame oil, I would opt for a wasabi or edamame hummus, but even plain will be tasty!)
2 cups hearty sprouts, like broccoli or sunflower sprouts (we used pea shoots from Trader Joe’s)
Whole-wheat wraps or pita pockets

Prepare the tofu:
You’ll need a cast-iron pan or something nonstick that can take very high heat. Preheat the pan over high heat. Once the pan is good and hot, add the sesame oil. Add the cubed tofu and sprinkle with salt. The tofu should immediately sizzle when it hits the hot oil; otherwise, turn the heat up. Cook for about 10 minutes, tossing often, until it’s nicely browned.

To assemble:
Spread hummus in pita/on wrap nice and thick. Add a handful of tofu cubes and a good bunch of sprouts. DIVE IN and enjoy!

Option 2: Edamame Hummus & Tofu Wraps
This is when YOU make the hummus, not someone else. You can find wasabi powder at your local Asian market or even a Whole Foods or Earth Fare. I would assume it would be less expensive at the Asian market.

For the tofu:
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
14 ounces extra-firm tofu, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
1/4 teaspoon salt
For the hummus:
2 cloves garlic
1 1/2 cups shelled frozen edamame, thawed completely
1/3 cup water, plus more as needed
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons wasabi powder (see note)
1/2 teaspoon salt

For serving:
Whole-wheat wraps or pitas
2 cups hearty sprouts, like broccoli or sunflower sprouts (or peas shoots!)

Prepare the tofu:
You’ll need a cast-iron pan or something nonstick that can take very high heat. Preheat the pan over high heat. Once the pan is good and hot, add the sesame oil. Add the cubed tofu and sprinkle with salt. The tofu should immediately sizzle when it hits the hot oil; otherwise, turn the heat up. Cook for about 10 minutes, tossing often, until it’s nicely browned.

Prepare the hummus:
While the tofu is browning, start the hummus. pulse the garlic in a blender or food processor to chop it up a bit. Add the remaining hummus ingredients and puree until smooth, adding a little extra water as needed to thin. Taste for seasonings. Refrigerate in a tightly sealed container if not using immediately.

To assemble:
Spread hummus in pita/on wrap nice and thick. Add a handful of tofu cubes and a good bunch of sprouts. DIVE IN and enjoy!

The secret is: get that tofu nice and crisp:

TofuCubed for your pleasure.

Then, voila! Dinner/lunch/snack served:

pitasOh hai pea shoots, where have you been all my life?

Day three of vegan recipe challenge: I hear you parents!

Kudos to you, parent!

I am not one, although someday (SOMEDAY, Aaron), I hope to be. Until then, I admire those who have been able and willing (I hope on both fronts) to take on such an undeniably powerful and overwhelming task. Discipline. Diapers. Teething. Talking-back. Destruction. Chaos.

Wait, am I talking about my cats?

No no, kids. At least, these sentient beings spend far fewer moments in those states of terror (or, at least I will continue to tell myself this) and far more loving, learning, shining, taking on adventures, laughing, and reminding you why pro-creation is a good thing.

One area that could still be challenging – the kitchen. Now, I was a semi-picky eater growing up. Most of my meals consisted of buttered noodles, peanut butter, and a pickle (with ice cream + chocolate sauce for dessert!). Despite that not being the most nutritionally-sound meal, it failed to spark my non-bread/salt tastebuds. Yet, it was an easy meal. And one thing I have gathered from parents: the easier to make/prepare the meal, the better.

So, parents, I bring you a gift courtesy of Deana Gunn and Wona Miniati who put together “The Cooking with Trader Joe’s Cookbook.” There are several out in the market that serve as an homage to this boutique grocery-chain. Most of the recipes aren’t vegan, but – aha! We can be adaptable.


Without further ado, I present one of the tastiest, easiest vegan recipes I have stumbled up:

White Lightning Chili

Makes 8 (1-cup servings)
Prep time: 5 minutes; Hands-off cooking time: 20-25 minutes

2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 (15-ounce) can white kidney beans (cannelloni beans), rinsed and drained
1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 (13.75-ounce) jar Corn and Chile Tomato-less Salsa

The original recipe also calls for 1 (1-lb) package of Just Chicken or 4 cups cooked chicken, shredded into bite-sized chunks. If you want to include this, I would recommend one of the Beyond Meat Chicken products, which you can find at Whole Foods or even – yes – Walmart. Trader Joe’s also has chickenless strips. Or, you could throw in Morningstar chicken stripes. Additionally, the recipe calls for 1 cup of shredded three cheese blend. If your kids are wild about cheese, in my opinion, the Daiya brand is the best (less so Follow Your Heart).

1) Pour broth into a medium or large pot. Add quinoa and bring to a boil.
2) Add remaining ingredients and return to a boil. Lower heat, cover, and simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until most of the liquid is absorbed.
3) Serve in bowls, topping with shredded cheese (optional).

white lightningImage via CookTJ.com

Hope this goes over in your family better than that time someone had the idea of playing indoor football with grandma’s priceless vase.

Day two of vegan recipe challenge: for the love of curry (and okra)

I first met okra back in 2007 after moving to North Carolina. I was unaware of this shotgun-shell shaped vegetable with its delectable crunch and earthiness as a girl in the west. I was not an aficionado of gumbo or other Creole-standards that used this food like it was going out of style. In fact, when we first met, I didn’t even recognize this Southern staple.

Because it looked like this:

(Thank you Food Network!)

Fried okra. Insert face-melted image of me shoveling this into my mouth during that steamy month of August. If this was Southern living, I was all about it.

From that moment on, I became a champion for okra. Fresh. Frozen. However I could acquire it and use it, I was game. So, when I stumbled upon another Isa Chandra Moskowitz recipe in her “Isa Does It!” cookbook, I had to make it. And, it does not disappoint. Plus, it incorporate another Southern delicacy: black-eyed peas:


No, no, not those. Less pop, more depth:


Bhindi Masala with Black-Eyed Peas
(serves 6)
total time: 1 hour 10 minutes; active time: 20 minutes

3 tablespoons refined coconut oil (I used 2 tablespoons and thought it was great)
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1/3 cup chickpea flour (you can substitute other flour if needed – this makes the recipe gluten free)
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 teaspoon salt
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes
2 tablespoons mild curry powder
1 cup vegetable broth, plus extra for thinning
2 cups sliced okra (about 10 ounces)
2 (15-ounce) cans black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained (3 cups)

For serving:
Cooked basmati rice
Plain unsweetened coconut milk yogurt (I used vegan sour cream – delish!)
Fresh cilantro

Preheat a 4-quart pot over medium-low heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the coconut oil and toast the cumin seeds in the oil for a minute or so, until fragrant. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil (or 1 depending on your preference) and sprinkle in the chickpea flour. Use a wood spatula to toss the flour in the oil, and stir pretty consistently for 4 to 4 minutes, until the flour is clumpy and toasty.

Add the onion and salt, and toss to coast the onion completely in the flour mixture. Cook this way for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the garlic and ginger and stir for 1 more minute.

Drain the tomatoes, reserving the liquid. Crush up the tomatoes with your hands and add them to the pot, along with the curry powder, mixing for a few minutes until the tomatoes break down a bit and the mixture appears thick and saucy.

Stream in the broth, stirring constantly to prevent clumping. Now do the same with the remaining tomato juices. Add the okra and black-eyed peas, then turn the heat up and cover to bring to a boil. Stir occasionally.

Once boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and let cook uncovered for 30 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the stew is nicely thickened and the okra is tender. If it’s too thick, thin with a bit of vegetable broth. If it’s not as thick as you like, just cook it a bit longer. Serve with basmati rice and topped with yogurt (or sour cream) and cilantro.


Mmmmmmm. Cheers!