BBQ seitan with beer battered onion fries

Every now and then when I want to try a crazy vegetarian experiment and I’m not sure how Bob will feel about it, I search for something to pair it with that I know he will love. He knows I do it, so I’m not in too much trouble when he reads this. Although in all honesty, he generally doesn’t mind my experiments, and he is always willing to keep an open mind – and give me an honest opinion.

I kind of wanted sloppy joes, but I had BBQ sauce in the fridge that I needed to use up because homemade BBQ sauce does not last forever. It lasts a darn long time, but not forever. I have also been looking for meat substitutes for a while and while quinoa and faro work great in a lot of instances, they aren’t always the right texture, or they don’t hold up to the sauce as well as I might like. Tofu is great, but in any crumbly texture recipe it doesn’t work as well and I don’t want something mushy. When I came across a recipe for sloppy joe seitan, I was all in, but then changed it to mock pulled pork (knowing full well it will taste NOTHING like pork). To pair, I decided to make beer battered onion fries and I have to admit, as good as the seitan was, the onion fries were the star of the show. I may have to make these on a fairly regular basis as they were such a hit.

The recipes here are really simple and putting it all together took no time at all. Ok, the fries did take a while since I fried them in a pan and had to do small batches, but otherwise, this was a great weeknight meal. I loved the flavor and texture and Bob actually said it was good – not pulled pork, but still really good.

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  • BBQ sauce:
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1-2 tablespoons adobe sauce
  • 2 teaspoons mild vinegar (apple, sherry, rice)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 clove garlic minced or pureed

Mix all ingredients together. Use a food processor or blender if you are including a chipotle pepper in the sauce, otherwise just mixing well will work fine. Flavors blend overnight, so if you can make this ahead of time it is better. For vegans, delete the honey and add maple syrup or agave instead.

  • Beer Battered Onions
  • 1/2 cup beer
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 onion, sliced thin
  • peanut oil for frying

Combine beer, flour and salt into a shallow pan. Batter should be think enough to coat the onions, but not so think that you can’t work with it. Think paste from kindergarten, maybe slightly thinner.

Slice the onions as thin or thick as you want them. Coat the onions in the batter. You may need to work in batches depending on how large your pan is.

Heat the oil in a frying pan and when a drop of batter can be dropped in a sizzles, add onions, but do not over crowd them. Cook for a few minutes until the bottoms like like they are browning, then flip and cook for a few more minutes. (I’m being vague because every batch I did had a different timing – anywhere from 2-6 minutes a side)

Remove onions from oil and allow to drain on a paper towel. If you want, salt them while hot more of a french fry/onion ring taste.

  • BBQ Seitan:
  • 1 package seitan
  • bbq sauce from above
  • onion fries from above
  • bun of your choice (I used onion bread buns)

Crumble seitan in a small bowl and spoon over 4 tablespoons bbq sauce. Mix well and allow to marinate for about 10 minutes. Heat pan and when hot, add seitan plus 1/4 cup more bbq sauce. Cook until heated through on medium heat, about 7 minutes.

Top seitan onto 1/2 bun and top with a few onion fries. Use more fries as a side.

 

Carrot Sofrito Enchiladas

I was looking for something different to try and came across this recipe for enchiladas. I was intrigued and thought about trying them, but then got busy with a bunch of things and forgot about them. Fast forward a few week later and I came across it again on another blog and was intrigued. Apparently this recipe was so popular a number of people tried it and posted it. So … I thought I might as well give it a go.

The “no bake” part of this is a little misleading. You don’t bake the enchiladas themselves, but you do have to bake the sofrito for an hour and a half, so I consider that baking the dish. Yes, you could make that ahead of time, but a lot of things can be baked ahead.

I wasn’t sure how I felt about these while making them. They smelled pretty good, but not the really lingering smells of caramelized onions or tons of garlic that I like (yes, if you don’t like onions and garlic, you may want to skip being near my hours most nights when I make dinner). I was also a tiny bit skeptical about combining carrots and tomatoes (not sure why, but I was) so I thought this would be a dish I tried and then forgot about.

IMG_20170603_124821Not so much. These were incredible. The roasting of the carrots and tomato mixture deepened the flavors, heating the corn tortilla made softened the flavor just a little and allowed the other flavors to come through. The filling – oh my the filling. Bright, creamy and fresh. Top it all with a little tomatillo salsa (and, yes, I cheated and bought a jar – I was going to easy – even though I usually make my own) and you have a really delicious meal.

Bob thought these were pretty good too. We both agreed that to be even better, we needed to make them like tacos, so the next two times we ate them (yes, we had enough for three sets of meals for both of us) we put the carrot sofrito and the filling inside the corn tortilla and just topped them with a little tomatillo salsa. Super good, cheap to make and definitely different. I’ll add a “make again” to the plethora of other comments and review out there for these.

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Cinnamon Rolls

I actually had two days off in a row and after being particularly lazy the first day, I decided I wanted cinnamon rolls. I misread a recipe (or two or three) and so I had a choice of winging it or starting over. Being lazy, I decided to try to make this work and somehow, I managed to do it.

Cinnamon rolls are a particular favorite of mine. They remind me of childhood and cinnamon sugar toast. It turns out, that while cinnamon rolls are time consuming, they are not really that hard to make. I also managed to get Arthas for his morning walk while the yeast was working, and finished some school work while the dough rose. I’ll consider that multi-tasking.

*Recipe:

  • Dough
    • 1 stick of butter
    • 3/4 cup of milk, plus 1/2 cup
    • 2 tsp. yeast
    • pinch of salt
    • 2 tsp. sugar
    • 3-3 1/2 cup flour
  • Filling
    • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
    • 1/3 cup sugar
    • 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

In a small sauce pan, heat butter and 3/4 cup milk until butter is almost totally melted. Remove from heat and pour into a large mixing bowl. Add 1/2 cup cold milk to cool mixture to about 110 – 115 degrees F. (It may take a minute or two of mixing, but adding the cold milk in speeds this up quite a bit.) Add the yeast and sugar and mix. Let sit for at least ten minutes for the yeast to activate. (This is where I took Arthas for a walk, so it was closer to twenty five minutes before I went back to the mixture and it was perfectly fine.)

Stir mixture then begin adding in flour, about 1 cup at a time. Stir in salt after first four addition. Stop adding flour when you have a soft dough, but one that you can knead. Knead for about two minutes on a lightly floured surface. Return dough to bowl, cover, and place in draft free place to rise. It should double in size and take about 45 minutes to an hour.

Butter a baking dish (I used 8×11) then roll dough out to a large rectangle. Dough should be thin, but not translucent. Mix remaining sugar and cinnamon. Melt butter and brush butter onto surface of dough. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar mixture over dough. Starting from one side (long side) roll dough tightly to form long tube. Cut into apx. 12 pieces of even size. Place pieces in baking dish and brush any leftover melted butter on top. Set aside to rise for about ten minutes.

Heat oven to 350 degrees F

Bake rolls for 25-30 minutes.

  • Glaze:
    • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
    • juice of 1./2 orange, plus zest

Mix sugar and juice together until it forms a pourable glaze. Mix in zest for more flavor.

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*Adapted from Minimalist Baker’s vegan cinnamon roll recipe. No, I didn’t even try to make them vegan, although I did use soy milk since that is what we have on hand.

Asparagus Risotto with sun-dried tomatoes and kale pesto

When I use to watch Top Chef (when we had cable) risotto was the downfall of many a chef. It is considered complicated and exacting and labor intensive. A perfect risotto may be all of those things, but I find risotto one of my “go to” dishes. It is pretty straight forward, has endless options for flavors and can generally be made with things I have on hand. Case in point, asparagus risotto with sun-dried tomatoes and kale pesto.

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I was feeling a bit lazy today and didn’t want to go out to grab something to eat. I wanted something filling and tasty, but I really didn’t know what. Part of me wanted quinoa tacos, but I don’t have the makings for the salsa or any taco shells, so that would have required a trip to the grocery. Instead I looked at my fridge and pantry and came up with risotto. I didn’t have any white wine opened, and I didn’t feel like opening another bottle of wine just for the risotto, so I skipped it. I used what I had and it came out pretty darn great. Bob said it was my best risotto version yet.

Here is the thing about risotto. It really isn’t hard. Yes, it takes time and you have to pay attention to it, but it isn’t the impossible dish chefs can make it out to be. It doesn’t require constant stirring, but you do need to stir some. It doesn’t have to be weighed and measured and timed exactly right, but you have to be careful not to over or under-cook the rice. It takes care, but no more than some meat dishes that can easily be over done and dried out. If you are not going for pure perfection, you can get a very tasty dish.

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Recipe:

  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup aboro rice
  • 1 small, sweet onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 6 oz. asparagus
  • 2 oz sun-dried tomatoes (about)
  • 1/4 cup kale pesto (or whatever pesto you have on hand)
  • 3 oz. grated pecorino cheese
  • squeeze of lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • olive oil for the pan (about 1 tablespoon)

Heat the broth in a small, covered pot.

Wash and chop the asparagus – pieces should be about 3/4 of an inch or so. Small dice the onion and mince the garlic. Thinly slice the sun-dried tomatoes (or just buy the pre-cut ones – I like the vacuum packed varieties). Grate the cheese.

Heat a pan of olive oil. When hot, add garlic and onion and cook, stirring frequently, until soft, about three to five minutes. Add rice and coat. Cook about two to three minutes, stirring frequently. Season with a little salt and pepper. Add about 3/4 cup of warm vegetable broth and stir. When liquid has absorbed, add a tiny bit more salt and pepper, then another 3/4 cup of broth. Allow to cook over medium or slightly lower heat. When liquid has been mostly absorbed, stir then add 1/2-3/4 cup more broth and stir again. After third addition of the broth, add asparagus and mix well.  After the fourth addition of broth, add sun-dried tomatoes. I added more salt and pepper here, but I generally go light on the salt and wanted to make sure it had enough. Keep adding broth, 1/2-3/4 cup at a time until the rice is fully cooked and you have used most, if not all of your liquid. One caution – make sure the liquid is warm and you wait until the previous liquid is absorbed before adding more.

Remove from heat and stir in pecorino cheese until it is fully combined. Add pesto and mix well. Squeeze a little lemon over the whole pan and mix again. Taste and add salt or pepper if needed.

I had kale pesto on hand since I made batches and batches of it last month, but if you want to make it yourself ….

  • 1 bunch kale leaves, stems removed
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup almonds
  • 1/4 cup grated pecorino cheese
  • squeeze of lemon
  • honey – 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon depending on taste
  • salt
  • olive oil – about 1/3 cup (I think – I never measure, so it could be more or it could be less)

Place kale, garlic, almonds, salt, and lemon in food processor. Chop, scraping the sides between rounds. When everything is chopped finely, add honey and olive oil and mix again. Add cheese at the end (I usually add the cheese in a bowl and mix that in by hand). Adjust seasoning as needed.

 

Spicy Sweet Potato Filling

I had every intention of following a recipe and making sweet potato empanadas. Every intention. But, after work and being pretty tired, I got a little lazy and decided to wing it. I did try making the empanada dough, and it came out ok, but it needed some definite chilling time to help make it flaky. The filling, however, I decided to just see what I had, and go with instinct. I sort of wanted pizza for dinner, and mildly hoped this would not work so we would have to get pizza for dinner, but I ended up really liking this. The filling also became quesadillas later in the week.

I stared with one sweet potato and did a small dice on it. I also chopped one shallot and a little garlic. I added all of these to a pan and cooked for a few minutes before adding about 1/2 cup vegetable broth. I cooked this, covered, for about twenty minutes while I tried to figure out the dough and tried to figure out exactly what I wanted to do.

To the potato filling I added some spinach, pinto beans and cooked just until the spinach wilted. I did end up making empanadas with this – a little cheese, a little dough – but I had too much dough for each one. But the filling.  Oh the filling was good.

Recipe:

  • 1 medium sweet potato
  • 1 shallot
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp. adobe sauce (from chipolte pepper)
  • 1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 bunch fresh spinach
  • Mozzarella cheese (as topping)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • olive oil

Dice sweet potato into small pieces. Slice shallots and mince garlic. Rough chop spinach after cleaning well.

Heat a teaspoon olive oil in pan and when hot add garlic and shallot. Cook, stirring frequently, for a few minutes until shallot begins to soften. Salt and pepper lightly then add sweet potato. Cook, stirring for a few minutes, then add broth and adobe. Mix together and cover. Lower heat to low and cook for twenty minutes or until potatoes are done.

Uncover pan and return heat to medium. add pinto beans and cook 1 minutes, then add spinach and cook, stirring until spinach is wilted. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Combine with cheese and some dough like substance (tortillas, wonton skins, empanada dough, a pie shell, etc) and bake.

 

Leftover fried rice

Every now and then I miss Chinese takeout. I miss the pork fried rice and that great salty taste of it. I miss the sesame chicken and the sauce that coats the rice perfectly. While Sarasota has a lot of good places to eat, good Chinese take out isn’t here. Or at least I haven’t found it.

To combat this issue, I decided to make my own fried rice the other day. I call this “leftover fried rice” since it was made entirely of things I had in the pantry (rice and sauce ingredients) and leftovers in the fridge that I needed to do something with (tofu, scallions, carrots, peas).

I did consult my usual internet sources – NY Times Cooking, Minimalist Baker, Two Peas and Their Pod, Oh My Veggies, etc., but I just didn’t see anything that was exactly what I wanted, or that didn’t require me to go to the grocery yet again.

So … leftover fried rice.

Recipe:

  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 1/2 contains firm tofu, pressed
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup peas
  • 1/3 cup diced carrot
  • 3 scallions, white and light green parts, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 1 tablespoon peanut or almond butter
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • cornstarch
  • olive and sesame oils

Cut the tofu into pieces, about 1/3 inch or so. Press to remove water, then coat in cornstarch.

Heat 1 teaspoon sesame and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a pan over medium high heat. When pan and oil is hot, add tofu and fry until crisp on all sides. Remove from pan with slotted spoon and return pan to heat.

Beat eggs and add to pan with remaining oil. Cook, stirring constantly until you have soft fried eggs (under cook these a little since you will be returning them to heat at the end). Remove eggs and put aside with the tofu.

Heat another 1 teaspoon sesame and 1 tablespoon olive oils in pan over medium heat. Add carrots, scallions and garlic to pan, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for three to five minutes, then add peas and cook 1-2 minutes more.

While vegetables (or tofu) are cooking, make sauce. Combine, peanut butter, honey, chili garlic sauce and soy sauce. mix well. Adjust seasoning as needed – I added a little more soy for salty.

Add 1 tablespoon of sauce to pan with vegetables and mix. Add rice and stir together so vegetables are distributed through. Add 1/2 of the sauce and mix to coat the rice. Let sit over medium heat for a few minutes to get the rice crisp on the bottom. Add tofu and egg, mix again, and the add remaining sauce and mix one more time. Allow to heat through 1-2 minutes.  Taste and add salt or pepper as needed.

Cheese Lasagna

I was in the mood for pasta, but I didn’t want spaghetti or ravioli. When I first thought about making lasagna I contemplated a regular spinach one, but that didn’t appeal either. I finally settled on a cheese lasagna. Yes, this is mostly cheese and noodles, not a particularly inspired concoction, but it worked.

I started with the sauce. Instead of buying a jar of sauce (which, I admit is easier) I pulled the crushed tomatoes from the freezer and decided to make my own sauce. I wanted some vegetables in it, so I finely chopped some carrots and grated a zucchini. I wanted to grate the carrots too, but I only had baby carrots on hand and those are a pain to grate.

IMG_20170423_185732After cooking the aromatics and vegetables, I added the tomatoes, a touch a sugar and some red wine and let that cook fora few minutes. The final touch to the sauce was a little grated pecorino.

The layers – I kept this simple. Lasagna noodles, sauce, ricotta cheese and repeat. On the top I sprIMG_20170423_190303inkled shredded mozzarella and some more grated pecorino. It looked pretty.

Lasagna is a pretty simple dish and done right, it is everything a good comfort food should be – filling, satisfying and something you want seconds of.

Recipe (Sauce):

  • 1 can or box crushed tomatoes (~15 oz)
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano (I used fresh, but dried is ok too)
  • 1/4 -1/3 cup grated carrot
  • 1/2-2/3 cup grated zucchini
  • dash of wine (optional – whatever you have on hand will do)
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • small handful grated pecorino cheese (<1/4 cup)
  • oil, salt and pepper

Heat oil in pan over medium heat. Once hot, add onion, garlic and oregano and cook, stirring, until soft – about 3 minutes. Add carrots and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add zucchini, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir and cook about two minutes.

If using, stir in wine to deglaze the pan and scrape any browned bits. Add tomatoes, sugar and a pinch more salt. Stir and raise heat to medium high. Cook until bubbly, then reduce heat and cook through another 2 minutes. Take off the heat and stir in cheese. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Lasagna:

  • 9 lasagna noodles (I like the no bake kind)
  • sauce (see above)
  • 1 15 oz container ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/3-1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cop grated pecorino

In a small bowl, combine ricotta, egg, salt and pepper and a small amount of mozzarella. Stir to combine.

In a 8 in square pan, spoon a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of the pan. Place three noodles on the bottom of the pan. (two will fit – I place a third in the middle over the seam because I like noodles, you can leave this one out if you want.) Layer on about 1/3 of the sauce. Layer 1/2 of ricotta over sauce and spread into thin layer. Top, in the opposite direction of the first noodles, three more noodles. Repeat sauce and cheese layer and top with another three noodles. Pour rest of sauce over the top and sprinkle mozzarella and pecorino over the top. Cover with foil and bake at 350 for about 45 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes before cutting and service. (If you want browned cheese, uncover for the last ten minutes).