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:

Bonsai

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

Garden

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

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

QUESTION TIME:

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 22 of vegan recipe challenge: snack time

I recall a time when I was flirting with adopting the Paleo diet, and I borrowed some literature from a friend who was already on that path. I stopped dead in my tracks when I read that peanuts – PEANUTS – were a carcinogen and were to be completed shunned.

But? But?

As quickly as I picked up the book, I cast it aside, vowing to never abandon my friend the peanut, who had been with me as longer as I can remember (unless, of course, there is evidenced-based research out there that notes the dangers of eating said nut, which then I will give it stronger consideration).

Dinners growing up often had a blob of peanut butter on the side. It didn’t matter what else was served on the plate. I was going to have the daily dose of orangish-brown goodness. This trend continued through college where I would eat peanut butter straight from the jar (hello freshman 35!).

I may not have peanut butter every day still, but it’s pretty close. At least I’ve matured into integrating peanut butter more as an ingredient than the star attraction (fact: there is nothing wrong with peanut butter taking the main stage). I’ve tried to allow other butters to join the fold – almond, cashew, sunflower seed – but I’ll be honest: peanut butter is still my number uno, my home skillet, my butter from another nutter.

If you love peanut butter as much as me, then you will enjoy these incredibly simple yet satisfying Thai Peanut Cucumber Cups. My friend Samara made them as a pre-dinner appetizer last month, and we crushed them, happily.

cucumbers1

Thai Peanut Butter Cups (from Vanilla & Spice blog)
Makes about 20 – 22 cups

Ingredients:
1/2 cup peanut butter
4 tsp sweet chile sauce
1.5 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
Dash of ground ginger (or fresh ginger)
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 tbsp water
1 English cucumber
1/3 cup shredded carrot
Sesame seeds
Chopped peanuts

To prepare:
To make the peanut sauce, stir together the peanut butter, chile sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce, garlic, and ginger until smooth. Add the water to thin out a bit. Set aside or store in the fridge until needed.

Slice the cucumber into pieces about 1 inch thick. Use a melon baller or a ½ tsp measure to scoop out the middle seedy portion of each slice – don’t go all the way through, you still want a bit of cucumber at the bottom of each cup!

To assemble:
Lay out cucumber cups on a plate or serving dish. Spoon the peanut sauce into each cup (I just estimated how much to put in – you want a round mound in the middle of each cup but not too much that it overflows).

Sprinkle a bit of sesame seeds on top of the peanut sauce in each cup, followed by a bit of shredded carrot and crushed peanuts – it might help to do the peanuts first so they stick to the peanut butter, then finish with the carrots, but the order doesn’t really matter!

Refrigerated finished cucumber cups until serving time.

cucumbers2It’s peanut butter cucumber time!

It’s fun for the whole family! And, it definitely elevates the cucumber to a new level. Sometimes that little vegetable could use a spark, and this recipe does just that.

In non-vegan related topic, I have to share that one of my favorite podcasts is NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour (you’re welcome). If you are not an avid listener yet, you’ll discover that at the end of each show, they offer what is making them happy this week. So this is mine:

Driving home from the store over the weekend, I found myself responding to Aaron by saying: “Yep yep yep yep yep” in this strange, alien-like (and somewhat Australian??) voice. Neither of us could immediately pinpoint the pop culture reference. But, through the power of Google and a little sleuthing, we re-discovered part of our childhoods that was tucked in a brain fold far, far away:

Day sixteen of vegan recipe challenge: a Sunday cooking investment pays off

Confession: I had never – even in my pre-vegan days – made enchiladas. And, growing up in the Southwest, making enchiladas were practically a rite of passage. Regardless, I still ate them like they were hot cakes – covered in cheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeze (I really wanted to emphasize the layers of cheese typically covering this dish. Can you feel the gooey weight?)

SO, this past Sunday, while the Detroit Lions battled the Dallas Cowboys upstairs (to no avail in the land of football playoffs), I took on another Veganomicon recipe: Potato and Kale Enchiladas.

onions
Sweat baby sweat

Fair warning: it took me about 30 – 45 minutes longer than the hour time projection from the cookbook. I can certainly take the fall for being a little slower than the average bear in the kitchen, but it was one of those meals where I wished that I had a cooking partner or a few additional limbs to help out. Still, it was worth every minute. We enjoyed the leftovers for the next two days. AND THE ENCHILADA SAUCE is just divine – rich and spicy and I will make this and pour it on other dishes (I ate it directly out of the pot multiple times).

INGREDIENTS:
Enchilada Chile Sauce:
2 Tbs grapeseed oil or olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 large green chilies (such as Anaheim or Italian-style long green peppers), roasted, seeded, peeled and coarsely chopped (I did roast my own chilies – oh my! So much fresh flavor. If you have to use canned chilies, go for it. If you can roast them the day before, do it! I chose not to peel mine either)
2-3 tsp Ancho chili pepper power (I used chipotle because I bought the wrong spice – it was still good)
1-1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp marjoram or Mexican oregano (epazote)
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes, roasted preferred
1 tsp sugar (I used agave)
1-1/2 tsp salt

Potato and Kale Filling:
1 lb waxy potatoes (Yukon gold or red) – I used Yukon
1/2 lb kale, washed, trimmed and chopped finely
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 C vegetable broth or water
3 Tbs lime juice
1/4 C toasted pumpkin seeds
1 1/2 tsp salt (I used just one teaspoon – I still found this dish salty so I would reduce further in future making sessions or remove it altogether)
12 – 14 corn tortillas

Directions: [Note: I am pulling these instructions from Epicurian Vegan because they are FABULOUS. Check out this site for so many more amazing recipes!]

Preheat oven to 375. Use a 11.5″x7.5″ casserole dish. To save yourself a headache: first, get the kale washed, trimmed and chopped, and peel and dice the potatoes.

To prepare the sauce, saute the onion and oil in a large skillet over medium heat, about 4-7 minutes. Add remaining sauce ingredients, bring to a simmer.

Remove from the heat, let cool, then taste it to adjust seasoning, if necessary. Puree in an immersion or regular blender until smooth. (I used the food processor). – I used my blender!

To prepare the filling, boil the potatoes until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and set aside. (This next step, I recommend doing while the potatoes are cooking) Cook the grapeseed oil and minced garlic in a sauce pot (I used the same skillet from the sauce–just washed it out) over medium heat until garlic just begins to brown. Add the kale, sprinkle with some salt and stir often. Partially cover the pot and steam the kale about 4-6 minutes. Then add the potatoes, broth (or water), lime juice, pumpkin seeds, and salt. Mash the potatoes a little bit with a spoon. Cook another 3-4 minutes.

To create these fabulous enchiladas . . . finally. . . the recipe says to ladle some sauce in a shallow dish and a heated griddle. Seriously?! My kitchen already looked like the Swedish Chef had made a 10-course meal in it and adding another pan to my already-crowded workspace just wasn’t going to happen. Plus, the tortillas I used are perfect for rolling—they’re soft enough already that they won’t crack. So if you wish to torture yourself, this is what the original recipe says: Ladle a bit of sauce onto the bottom of the casserole dish (ok, I did do that). Take a corn tortilla, place it on the heated griddle for 30 seconds, flip over and heat until soft and pliable. Drop the tortilla into the sauce and cover it completely with sauce. Place it in the casserole dish and layer it with another heat, sauce-covered tortilla (or use one. Or don’t do it that way at all). Seriously, too messy and labor-intensive. Fill with potato filling and roll up. Ok, I took the easy epicurean vegan way. After adding a layer of sauce on the bottom, I scooped some filling into my already soft and wonderfully pliable tortilla, rolled it up and placedit in the pan. That easy. Continue until the pan is filled.

Katie interjection: Here’s my “enchilada making station.” And I definitely did not heat up my tortillas because at this point, I was also wiped and just wanted to eat:

stationAlmost looks like cinnamon applesauce. I need to learn how to take better food photos.

After reserving about 1-1/2 cups of the sauce, pour the rest over the enchiladas. Now, I can’t imagine enchiladas without cheese, so I sprinkled some Daiya cheese shreds on top. – I left mine cheese-less and I still thought they were great. Will definitely try with cheese next time!

Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 10-15 minutes. Top individual servings with the extra sauce (that you’ve warmed up). You may not recognize your kitchen once these are in the oven, but at least while they bake, you’ll have time to reclaim your space

So, here’s what mine looked like –

enchilNo wonder they grow so much cheese on it. I may not have let them “cool” long enough before I attacked with my spatula. The end result = messchiladas.

I even threw some avocados on top during my lunch reheats. Yum. Yum. Yum.

A semi-(cook)book review: Glowing from the Inside Out via Oh She Glows

When I first stumbled upon Angela Liddon’s blog last summer, I was initially stunned by her photographs of food, nature, and even common kitchen utensils, all elevated to items of worship. Then, I reached the next stage of the OSG nirvana: actually COOKING the multitude of recipes she had tested, tried and true. I consider the Oh She Glows blog my gateway into vegan cooking, and, the opened the door into a entirely new perspective on good.

Clearly, it would have seemed ludicrous NOT to order her cookbook: “The Oh She Glows Cookbook: Over 100 Vegan Recipes to Glow from the Inside Out.” Wait, can you still see this? Or am I glowing too much? Because I have inhaled the recipes tried thus far from this must-have guide to cooking vegan like a pro.

IMG_20140406_094154

The Green Monster, while not a new recipe of hers, has become my new morning go-to breakfast. I love the dash of cinnamon (mine becomes more of a good teaspoon). Check out the new glassware obtained over the weekend in celebration of Deep River Brewing’s one-year anniversary shindig (after drinking lots of North Carolina beer this weekend, this smoothie tasted extra good on Monday morning).

As part of my lunch series for this week, I tried her Protein Power Goddess Bowl: chocked full of lentils, quinoa (recipe calls for wheatberries but surprise, surprise, Kroger doesn’t sell them), red onion, bell pepper, tomato, and this UH-MAZING lemon tahini goodness dressing:

IMAG1643Hello giant spoon – shovel away!

Feeling like some spice in your life? Then her Quick & Easy Chana Masala will satisfy you beyond measure.

IMAG1620 Serrano, take me home.

Between the toasted cumin seeds, fresh ginger, garlic, garam masala and additional spices fusing with the chickpeas and diced tomatoes over hot basmati rice (which I had not had in WAY too long), this is a must add to your weekly rotation. While we normally try to avoid eating any “white” rice, it would be a disservice to this dish (in my humble opinion, of course!) to have it over anything BUT basmati – authenticity is key!

Thanks to a friend’s push via social media, I was inspired to take another stab at homemade hummus, and Angela’s cookbook offered her classic hummus. She touts using homecooked chickpeas as the ultimate base. While my bag was a bit too low to make for this batch, I opted for canned but DID pop each chickpea out of its skin (while watching “The Simpsons” on Sunday – definitely made the task a bit more pleasurable).

IMAG1640Take that, chickpea skins!

IMAG1642The result!

Now, it is VERY creamy, as she noted, and it does have a different texture than other homemade hummus recipes I’ve tried sans removing the skins.  It has thickened up greatly in the fridge over the last 48 hours, so I’m learning how to thin it out a bit (although it spreads sooooo nicely on our wraps).

Finally, for now, I was in need of more detox last week (what does that say about our weekend adventures as of late??), so I made her Eat Your Greens Detox Soup.

IMAG1622Let’s call this a little spring cleaning.

To put it eloquently: I freaking loved this soup. Tons of veggies (onion, carrots, kale, mushrooms, broccoli) and some seriously enticing spice combinations of fresh ginger, tumeric, cumin, cinnamon and some black pepper. Honestly, I DID feel better both while and after eating it.

So, more to come from this fantastic resource. If you are still on the fence because you don’t want to add another cookbook to your shelf, don’t listen to yourself: get it. You won’t regret it.

 

Traveling the Back Roads of Carolina

In this final month of my Donate Life career, I will be spending much of my time behind the wheel, traversing North Carolina from one Driver’s License office to the next as part of our annual DMV awards program. This is my third year taking on this cross-state adventure, and it has taught me a great deal, including:

1) Driving is exhausting.

2) Books on CDs = one of the best inventions ever. During this week, I started “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.” Fascinating thus far (on disc 6 of 36).

3) There are dozens of hidden gems around this state that I would never have heard of until traveling through country roads.

4) Not a hidden gem = getting stuck behind farm equipment.

During the first week, I traveled to Clinton, Wilmington, Elizabeth City, Morehead City, Yanceyville, Carrboro, and Manteo. As much as I despise the time (sitting) in the car, I do so enjoy the 20 – 30 minutes I have with each office, meeting the DMV examiners, celebrating in their offices’ successes, and impressing on them how much they are appreciated. (I DARE you to tell the examiner at the driver’s license office next time how much you appreciate them. Despite what misgivings 99% of people have about DMV offices and staff, they put up with your bad attitude, have to ride in strangers’ cars [some of who crash said cars during road tests] and deal with a slew of logistical challenges that most of us in the general public never know about. They are dedicated public servants who are parents, grandparents, animal lovers, travelers, and more. In simple terms: be kind and stay positive next time you are renewing your license!)

IMAG1423Cheesy veggie bowl of goodness

Before I left, I wanted to ensure there was some good food to eat for both Aaron (and selfishly for me upon returning late). The above bowl was a combination of vegan cheese sauce over some steamed kale, broccoli, cauliflower, all atop some bulgur and black beans with a plop of salsa. Easy. Simple. Delicious. I will say, though, that I’m not sure if I am still yet on the bulgur train. I tried preparing it with boiling water poured over the bulgur instead of stove top, and it definitely did not cook completely (followed prep instructions in Veganomicon).

One of my standbys – Rice and bean casserole – turned into a soup (because someone didn’t bother to measure out how much brown rice she had left…oops.) Guess what?

IMAG1425It was still freaking awesome!

Chalk up that mistake to a positive outcome. Finally, I prepped Red Lentil Dal (Forks Over Knives cookbook) and – sadly – I did overcook my lentils. Blast! I even allowed them to cook for less time than in the recipe, but I know I should have been paying a little closer attention.

1393806231144Lemon zestiness!

Not sure if I’ll make this particular recipe again. Maybe at least once more and avoiding the mush.

Seems to be a good life goal.

Frugal Food Preparation: What’s in the Freezer?

Last week, Aaron and I tried to engage in some food frugality post-Richmond vacation and played the: “What can we make from the pantry, fridge and freezer?” game. I still did require SOME fresh food but minimal: bananas, snow peas, apples discounted veggies, and Amy’s lunches for Aaron’s work. Outside of those few items, it was time to engage culinary creativity.

One meal I threw together was a simple marinated tempeh (fridge) stir-fry with snow peas (purchased), peas (freezer), okra (freezer) tossed over pasta (pantry). This was (I’m almost embarrassed to admit this) the first time I had marinated the tempeh, and boy, did that shake it up! A simple marinade of tamari, sesame oil, black pepper, and white wine vinegar.

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For dinner another night, we went spicy – ole! This dish was infused with red pepper flakes, cumin, and black pepper. This was an almost glorified freezer meal: broccoli, peas, okra thrown together with diced tomatoes and chickpeas, all plopped on some wonderful brown rice. It brought the sweat…and coughing fits.

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Not photographed, but better believe there was a taco night or two mixed in there. Our Costco-supply of black beans, chickpeas, and corn tortillas always prove to be a lifeline for quick, delicious meals on those nights when cooking/dicing/prepping is just not likely to happen. My friend Michelle wrote a great blog post on how to create tasty weekly meals by stocking up on key staples to have in your pantry, freezer, and fridge, especially for vegan cooks.

Some of my go-tos to help in all dishes, but especially on the cheap, are:

1) Nutritional yeast (I could eat this on everything)

2) Dried beans (black, chickpeas, navy)

3) Nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts – Costco, baby!)

4) Dried herbs and spices (in particular: cumin, basil, thyme, parsley, chili powder)

5) Grains, such as quinoa, bulgur, whole-wheat pasta and brown rice

6) Other proteins: tempeh, tofu

7) Frozen veggies, especially Edamame and stiry-fry blends

8) Toasted sesame oil

9) Hummus (i know, I know. We should make this at home. But Sabra…Sabra just knows what’s up!)

10) A good balsamic vinegar (we are fortunate to have Blue Sky Oil & Vinegar not too far from our house, which has an incredibly array of vinegars and oils – you can even taste them!)

What sort of ingredients are your must haves?