Tag Archives: vegetarian

Tofu Veggie Tikka Masala

I’m one of those people who can be convinced to try a new grocery item with a coupon for it.  Recently, I had a coupon for one item from a certain brand.  The shelf-safe Tikka Masala sauce caught my eye.  It sounded exotic and flavory.  A perfect compliment to my veggies and tofu.  So I bought it without checking the label–I was shopping my local health food store, what could be a problem?  Dairy.  Turns out this particular sauce has dairy.  In reading recipes for Tikka Masala sauce, yogurt seems to be key.  Sigh.  Oh well, I had it, why not go ahead and cook with it?  This yummy recipe is therefore vegetarian rather than my preferred vegan.  Have a look–you can make this in no time.

garnish with cilantro

I cruised the Google and found quite a few vegetarian and vegan versions of Tikka Masala, which is traditionally made with chicken chunks (tikka).  I combined ideas from these two: Tofu Masala and Vegetarian Tikka Masala, made all the easier for the premade sauce.  Here are the ingredients:


  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced  (the pic shows little garlic ends leftover from roasting whole garlic heads)
  • 1 (14 oz) extra firm, organic tofu
  • 1 (14oz) can chickpeas, drained
  • premade Tikka Masala sauce
  • cilantro for garnish
  • prepared rice
  • naan or pita bread for serving

Drain and then press the tofu.  Wrap it in a clean kitchen towel and set something a bit weighty on top of it.

press tofu

Saute onion and pepper in a bit of veggie broth until onions are translucent–about 2-3 minutes.

saute onions and peppers

Add garlic and saute until fragrant–30 seconds to a minute.

add garlic

Remove the saute to a bowl.  Set aside.

remove saute

Cube the tofu by cutting through the center of the flat side, then cut into sticks and then cubes.

cube tofu

Spray your pan with a bit of spray oil and saute the tofu cubes until mostly browned.  I do this by stirring occasionally–I’m too lazy to turn each cube for perfect even brownness.

brown tofu

When tofu is sufficiently browned, add saute back to the pan, along with drained chickpeas. Stir to combine.

add saute and chickpeas

Add the sauce and stir to coat.

add sauce

stir to coat

Scoop rice into a bowl, add the tofu tikka masala, garnish with cilantro, and serve with naan or pita.

serve with rice

serve with naan or pita

So yummy!  I’m currently looking around for a truly vegan masala sauce recipe.  I’ve found a few so far, some using coconut yogurt–a flavor that sounds yummy with the rest of the ingredients here.  I’m also thinking about marinating the tofu ahead of time and grilling it to more closely recreate a traditional Tikka Masala.  Do your recipes evolve like this?




Filed under comfort food, dinner, lunch, recipe, Vegetarian

(Nearly) Fat-Free Hummus

Wait.  Before you think fat-free means flavor-free, have a look at this quick, easy-peasy, and yes, uber-yummy hummus.  Based on the “Healthy Homemade Hummus” recipe in The Engine 2 Diet, you’ll be wanting to make a big batch for snackin’ right now, and again any time you need to bring an appetizer to a party.


It’s nearly fat-free, because the garbanzo beans have 2g of fat per serving just being their beany selves.  Garbanzo beans are also known as chick peas, but I like saying garbanzo.  Garbanzo, garbanzo, garbanzo.  Ha!

I went pretty much with the basic recipe in the book, adjusted just a bit for our tastes.  Which is one of the groovy things about hummus–flavor it however you like: different herbs, roasted red peppers, nuts if you’re cool with a bit of added fat, maybe Thai chili pastes….wherever your imagination and palate take you.


  • 2 15-oz cans garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 TBSP hot sauce
  • 1 TBSP Tamari (soy sauce) NOTE: you may want to start with less, depending on how salty your soy sauce is.
  • 3 TBSP lemon juice
  • 4 TBSP veggie broth (can be adjusted according to the hummus texture you prefer)

Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender.

all in the processor

Puree/blend until desired smoothness.  Add more veggie broth if you want it smoother.

blend til smooth

Spoon into a bowl (mind the blades!), surround with your favorite cut veggies or chips and enjoy!

serve with veggies

So amazingly yummy!  It took all of about three minutes to make the hummus, and about double that to cut up a few veggies.  Thanks to my friend Janell in Dillon Beach for serving radishes with a bit of their leaves on to use as a dipping handle; never occurred to me to do this and works perfectly!

If your schedule allows you to make the hummus ahead of time, it’s even better after it’s been in the fridge for an hour or two.  I can’t wait to try different beans and different flavorings.  Yummy AND fat-free(ish).  Who-da thunk?!

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Filed under appetizer, Books, Garden produce, Gluten-free, Holiday foods, Potluck, Vegetarian

Green Chile and Cheese Strata

The grocery store I shop most often has a couple of clearance areas.  One has dented cannned goods and seasonal leftovers, the other has baked goods nearing their expiration date.  I just can’t resist half-price artisan breads; so wonderful to have them on hand for soups and such.  Sometimes this results in leftover partial loaves, which are perfect for yummy breakfast stratas!

Stratas are super easy to make and are super flexible ingredient-wise, but must be put together the night before you plan to serve them.

For an 8×8 strata:

  • approximately 1/2 loaf leftover bread 
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 can chopped green chiles (I’d use two cans if you don’t use pepper jack cheese.) 
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups half and half
  • 2 cups shredded cheese (I used pepper jack–yum!)

Start by thinly slicing the bread.

Layer half of the bread, tearing it to fill in holes, in a buttered 8×8 pan.

Saute the onions in a bit of oil until translucent.

Stir in green chiles.

Spread half of the green chile mixture over the bread.

Next, spread half of the shredded cheese.

Follow with another bread layer, then chiles, then cheese.

Whisk together eggs and half and half.  Pour over the layers as evenly as possible.

Cover with plastic wrap.  The wrap needs to touch the surface of the strata.

Place another 8×8 pan on the plastic wrapped surface of the strata and weight with a couple cans of veggies or dried beans.  This allows the bread to become thoroughly saturated with the custard.  Refrigerate over night.

Preheat oven to 350F.  Bake strata 50-60 minutes, or until puffed, pulling away from the edges and golden.

Cut into squares and enjoy the melty, yummy wonderfulness.

Oh yeah.  The perfect breakfast bite. 

Stratas are great for overnight guests, great to take for a potluck brunch, and awesome left over.  Microwave cold pieces of baked strata for a quick breakfast the next day!

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Lentil Soup and Corn Bread (Vegetarian, Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free!)

Vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free….but most of all, a warm, hearty and seriously yummy winter comfort food dinner.  I have good friends, who between them, have these food requirements.  I love to have friends over for dinner, and these two really challenged my usual repertoire.  Advice from a  few gluten-free cookbooks and a search of recipes I usually make, resulted in this really wonderful combination!

The soup couldn’t be easier, and the corn bread is adapted from my cooking bible, The Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook.

For the Lentil Soup:

  • 2 quarts vegetable broth
  • 2 cups water (to start–you will probably add more water later to adjust the thickness of the soup)
  • 2 cups lentils, rinsed
  • 1-16oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup rice (I used a wild rice mix.  My original recipe calls for 1 cup barley–a product with gluten.  If you can have gluten and prefer barley, by all means use that instead! I was also thinking quinoa might be yummy…)
  • 2 cups chopped onion (1 large or 1 1/2 medium onions)
  • 2 cups chopped celery (1 celery “heart”)
  • 2 cups chopped carrots (4-5 carrots)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used canola.)
  • 2 TBSP chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 TBSP salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 envelope dry onion soup mix
  • 2 packages frozen chopped spinach, partially thawed.

NOTE: Check all packaged ingredients to be sure they are gluten-free.

Place everything EXCEPT the spinach in a large stock pot over medium heat.  Bring to a boil and then cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 50 minutes to an hour.  Leave the spinach packages sit on the counter to start thawing.

After the 50-60 minutes, add the spinach.

Stir to combine, cover and continue to simmer until lentils are tender and rice (or barley) is cooked through; an additional 10-20 minutes.  At this point, you can let the soup sit at a low simmer or in a crock pot until you’re ready to eat it.  How easy-peasy is that?!

For the Corn bread:

  • 1 cup rice flour blend (recipe below, after the slideshow)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup yellow corn meal
  • 1 tsp powdered xanthan gum
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup unflavored almond or soy milk (I used almond milk)
  • 1/4 cup grapeseed oil

Preheat oven to 425F.  Grease a 9x9x2″ pan with a vegetable shortening.

Stir rice flour blend, sugar, baking powder, salt, and xanthan gum together in a medium bowl.

Add corn meal, stir to combine.

Add eggs, almond milk and grapeseed oil; stir until just smooth–do not over-beat, or your corn bread will be tough.

Pour batter into the pan. 

 Bake 20-25 minutes–until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean.

Cut into slices and serve with the Lentil Soup!  Yummy!

I ended up adding an additional 4 cups of water to my soup, and it was still thick and hearty.  The corn bread–my first attempt at making it gluten-free–turned out crispy on the top, with a light, tender texture inside.  It was way yummy, and tasted just like corn bread with regular wheat flour! 

This meal would be delicious with just the fam, but was extra yummy spiced with conversation, laughter and good friends.  ❤

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Rice Flour Blend:

  • 2 cups white rice flour
  • 2/3 cup potato starch
  • 1/3 cup tapioca flour

Mix all the ingredients thouroughly and store in an air-tight container.

All of these ingredients, and the xanthan gum, can be found at health food stores and larger supermarkets.

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Filed under comfort food, crock pot, dairy-free, dinner, Gluten-free, lunch, Potluck, recipe, Vegetarian

An Ode to Butternut Squash

Autumn.  A bit of chill in the air.  Sky that seems even more blue.   Leaves vibrant in yellows, oranges, reds and purples. Quiet afternoons strolling through fallen leaves; kicking them in the air, breathing in their aroma as they crush.  Apple cider, sweaters, the smell of the burned place on the lid of a jack-o-lantern.  Fall is the reward for surviving summer’s heat; a time to make memories to keep you warm in the cold of winter.

Butternut squash grow and become fat during the summer, turning a lovely tawny gold by first frost.  Being so-called winter squash, they ripen in the fall and will keep in a cool dark place for up to six months.  Their orange flesh is sweet and the perfect foil for savory fall soups and pastas. I grow butternut plants in my perennial bed; their vines traveling through and around the flax, chocolate flowers and iris.  When the garden frosts off, I’m left with a sort of treasure hunt to find the squash.  This year, I found nearly twenty!

Aren’t they pretty? 

These will keep me in squash for the winter, even after sharing with friends!  The first recipe that comes to mind after squash harvest, and deserving of a reposting, is Pasta with Butternut Squash, Brown Butter and Rosemary.  I love the sweetness of the roasted squash combined with nutty brown butter, the piney tang of rosemary and pine nuts, and topped with salty parmesan.  Oh.  Fall flavor in a bowl.  Yummy!  I made it last week, using rotini instead of the torn lasagne.  I think I like the rotini better–the butternut gets caught in the little twisty turns of the pasta for more yum per bite.

Celebrate fall by going leaf-scrunching wearing your favorite sweater and come home to a yummy butternut squash pasta…..and maybe a lovely chardonnay!


Filed under comfort food, dinner, food musings, Garden produce, recipe, Vegetarian

Traditional Tabbouleh

Traditional in the Middle East, but not my tradition until recently, after the gift of a package of Bob’s Red Mill Bulgur Wheat from a friend.  I’ve been enjoying this healthy and hearty salad so much, this definitely won’t be the last time I make it.  It’s light and yet surprisingly satisfying–a perfect lunch.  I’ve expanded on the traditional recipe as I’ve gotten to know the flavors better, serving it with red and yellow pepper spears and as of today, crumbled feta!  Yummy!  But I digress….let’s get the basic tabbouleh going so you can get to know it and embellish it with flavors YOU like!

Just look at the good, healthy stuff in this salad.  I started feeling healthier just gathering the ingredients:

  • 2 cups bulgur, presoaked for an hour
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh parsley, finely minced  (FYI, the original recipe calls for 3 cups.)
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint, finely chopped
  • 3 green onions, finely sliced
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper, ground
  • 1/4 tsp cumin seed, ground
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 3 TBSP lemon juice
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled and sliced
  • 1 head romaine lettuce
  • 3 TBSP olive oil

To presoak bulgur, place 2 cups bulgur in a bowl.  Pour 2 cups water over bulgur and let stand for one hour.

While bulgur soaks, prepare and measure parsley, mint, tomatoes, onions, and spices.

Using a wooden spoon, gently mix the soaked bulgur, tomatoes, onion, parsley, mint and spices.

Add the lemon juice and chill for and hour to blend the flavors.

Before serving, toss with olive oil.  Serve on romaine and top with cucumbers, salt and pepper.

I tried it like this, and decided peppers–yeah, peppers would be good.  And they were.  And then I thought, feta and cukes are yummy–let’s try feta.  Yummy!  The longer (within reason!) the tabbouleh hangs out in the fridge, the more the flavors blend and the yummier it is.  The bulgur has a chewy texture, giving the salad it’s heartiness.   Give tabbouleh a try, see what you would add to it, if anything!

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Filed under recipe, salad, Vegetarian

Veggie Lasagne Pasta

I love vegetables and cook with them a lot, especially as the garden starts producing.  This pasta is a family favorite, adapted from a Rachel Ray recipe.  It’s lasagne, but not–all the flavors of lasagne without the layering and long cooking time.    

The ingredients are what I use to make a regular vegetarian lasagne with tomato sauce, with the exception of the type of pasta:

Use any combination of veggies you like.  Here’s what I have:

For the veggie sauce topping:

  • 2 small yellow squash, cut into half-moon slices
  • 2 small zucchini, cut into half-moon slices
  • 2 bell peppers, cut into a large dice  (These peppers looked better at the store than the green ones this time.  They also add pretty and healthy color!)
  • a quarter of a large red onion, chopped
  • a package of pre-sliced mushrooms  (Already cleaned and sliced is a real time-saver!)  
  • 1 TBSP of olive oil for saute
  • 1 jar of your favorite pasta sauce

For the pasta with cheese sauce:

  • 1 package of pasta, cooked according to package directions.  (I chose rotini because it reminds me of the curly edges of lasagne noodles!)
  • 6 oz package ricotta
  • about 1/4 cup plain yogurt or sour cream
  • 1 cup grated mixed Italian cheeses
  • 3 or 4 green onions, chopped
  • 1/2-1 cup pasta water–collect it from the pot just before draining the pasta.

Cook pasta according to package directions, retain 1 cup of cooking water and drain.

Place a large skillet over medium heat and add oil.  Prepare all the veggies.

(Aren’t these pretty?!  Lots of healthy colors!)

Add all the veggies except mushrooms to the skillet; season with salt and pepper.  Saute until they start getting soft, but are still crisp and vibrant.

Add mushrooms.  Continue sauteing until mushrooms start cooking–you’ll be able to smell them.

Stir in tomato sauce.  Simmer 10 minutes.

This will be smelling super good right about now….

Leave the pasta in the strainer for a sec while you assemble the cheese sauce in the same pot you used to cook the pasta.

Reduce heat to medium low.  Add yogurt, ricotta, grated Italian cheese, chopped green onions and 1/2 cup pasta water.  Stir to combine, season with salt and pepper.  Add more pasta water if needed for desired consistancy.

Stir the pasta into the sauce and heat through.

Spoon pasta into a bowl, top with veggie sauce and more grated cheese.  Close your eyes and take a bite…..tastes just like lasagne!

Oh yeah…it’s lasagne all right, for those times when you don’t have time to layer and bake.  Imagine all the different lasagnes you’ve had……now imagine them made using this method!  This pasta travels well–I’ve put it together in a large covered aluminum pan, making it perfect for potlucks.  Yummy!

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Filed under dinner, Potluck, recipe, Vegetarian

Music Fest Pitas

Years ago, I was part of a group fundraising by selling beer at a music festival.  Next to our booth was a food vendor, selling yummy, earthy, healthy vegetarian pita sandwiches.  We swapped beer for pitas, fell in love with them, and I’ve been making these pitas ever since.

Today was the start of the Colorado West Music Festival, an annual event that features school bands, choirs, and orchestras from all over the Western Slope.  Mr16 will be performing with three concert bands and two jazz bands over the next few days.  Making  Music Fest Pitas for dinner today seemed fitting, even though they contain refried beans–Mr16 doesn’t do beans.  🙂

Pick, choose, and substitute ingredients to match your taste.

 I like to get in as many colors in as possible!

  • Whole wheat pita pockets
  • green onions
  • tomato
  • yellow pepper
  • cucumber
  • broccoli sprouts
  • refried beans
  • grated cheese
  • avocado (not pictured, but so yummy)

Prepare the veggies, heat the refried beans and pitas.

Spread beans inside a pita, layer in cheese, avocado, yellow pepper, cucumber, tomato, green onions and sprouts.  Grasp firmly in two hands, take a bite.  Mmmmmm…yummy!

Healthy yumminess.  In anticipation of these pitas, I dug out my sprouting lids (yup, proof of the hippie in me!) and grew my own broccoli sprouts.  Broccoli sprouts are uber-healthy, super yummy and hard to find in a grocery store.  I also made refries from my mom’s recipe–I’ll post that soon.  Any sprouts will do of course, and hummus would be a yummy substitute for the refries.  Add veggies you like, subtract any you don’t.  Serve them assembly-line style and let each family member customize their own pita.    

On a random note, I got my new copy of Everyday Food today!  I’m looking forward to finding some more new recipes to share with my family and YOU!

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Filed under dinner, Food memories, lunch, recipe, salad, Vegetarian

Celine’s Potato Salad

My mom is famous for her potato salad–the magic lies in the dressing.  When I was a kid, Mom made the dressing in a yellow Currier and Ives mug.  It was an old mug with crackled glaze that coffee had permeated, darkening the cracks.  Mom knew exactly how much of each ingredient to put in by how it looked in the mug, and knew she had the correct proportions when the color of the dressing matched the color of the mug. 

Then one day…..the mug broke.  Would the potato salad ever be the same?  Turns out, yes!  We had a flavor memory of it and knew when the dressing tasted right and called to mind that old mug by its color. 

This potato salad tastes like a Memorial Day or Labor Day picnic and is fairly simple to make:

  • 6 potatoes, peeled, boiled and sliced
  • 2 eggs, boiled, peeled and sliced
  • 1/4-1/2 cup red onion, diced  (adjust to how well you like onions)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise  (or Miracle Whip)
  • 1/4 cup yellow mustard 
  • 2 TBSP white vinegar
  • 2 TBSP sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Peel and quarter potatoes.  Boil until fork tender, drain.

Hard boil eggs, cool.   (I boil them for 5 minutes and then let them stand in the hot water for another 5 minutes.)

While potatoes and eggs are cooking, make the dressing.  Add mayo, mustard, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper to a 1 cup measuring cup.

Mix with a fork until blended.  Taste it.  If it tastes too “sharp,” add a bit of sugar.  If it tastes too sweet, add a bit of vinegar.  Adjust salt and pepper to your liking.  Here is the color for it to be truly “Celine’s Potato Salad.”  The color can be adjusted with mayo (to make it lighter) or mustard (to make it more yellow).

Cool potatoes just enough to handle them.  You want them to be a bit warm when you coat them in the dressing–they’ll soak up the flavors better.  Slice potatoes into a bowl.

Dice onion and add to the bowl.

Season with salt and pepper.

Pour the dressing over the potatoes and onions, stir gently to coat.

Peel and slice the eggs.  Arrange them over the top of the potato salad.  Sprinkle with paprika, cover and cool completely in the refrigerator.

Serve along side your favorite picnic fare.  It’s the perfect cool and creamy accompaniment to grilled meats.  To obtain the classic flavor, don’t change anything in the recipe.  

This yummy potato salad takes me right back to my childhood and picnics at the house for summer holidays.  I can smell the charcoal and the burgers cooking.  The perfect drink pairing–lemonade.  The perfect end to the evening–catching fireflies.  Ahhhhhhh……

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Filed under Food memories, recipe, salad, side dish, Vegetarian

Grown Up Mac and Cheese

Put that blue box down.  I know mac and cheese is a comfort food.  Heck, I confess to sneaking a taste of the mac and cheese I used to make for Mr16 and reveling in the orange cheesy wonderfulness.  But you’re a grown up now and you deserve a grown up mac and cheese! 

Over the years, through low carb diets and weight that accumulated too easily, mac and cheese disappeared from the menu here at our house.  Then, I came across THIS recipe in the April 2011 Food and Wine magazine!  A recipe that takes mac and cheese to a level Velveeta and the blue box never dreamed possible.  OMGosh the savory cheesy fabulosity of this completely stove-top mac and cheese–topped with an uber-flavor-y cheese crisp! 

The ingredients are mostly as you would expect:

  • 8 oz coarsely shredded cheddar cheese (about 2 cups)
  • 4 TBSP unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika (Look for it in the spice aisle–the smoky flavor it gives to this mac and cheese is amazing!)
  • 2 cups milk
  • 4 ounces fontina, coursely shredded  (I didn’t have fontina, so used gruyere instead–yummy!)
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone  (Can substitute cream cheese.)
  • salt to taste
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg  (Optional–nutmeg is not in the original recipe, but I really like a bit of nutmeg in a cheese sauce.)
  • 1 package small macaroni  (The original recipe asked for 8 oz elbow mac.  I used a 13 oz package of rotini and had plenty of sauce.)

Start water for your pasta and cook according to package directions.

Sprinkle half of the cheddar onto an extra large non-stick skillet in four 4-inch mounds.  Cook over moderate heat until cheese is lacy and golden, about 4 minutes.  (Cook in batches, if needed.)

Using a flexible spatula, carefully flip each crisp and cook until golden, about 1 minute.  Drain on a paper towel-lined plate and break into large pieces.  (Have a knife ready to help scrape the crisp off the spatula when you flip them.)

In a very large sauce pan, melt butter. 

Whisk in the flour and paprika, cook over moderate heat until bubbly, about 2 minutes.

Add milk and whisk until smooth.  Cook over moderate heat, whisking constantly until thick and creamy, about 5 minutes.

 Stir in remaining cheddar and fontina (gruyere).  Cook over low heat until melted and smooth.

 Remove from heat and stir in mascarpone.  Season with salt and nutmeg.

Add sauce to the drained pasta and cook over low heat until hot and bubbling, about 2 minutes. 

Spoon into bowls, top with a cheese crisp and prepared to be comforted!

Wow was this fabulously yummy!  Creamy, smoky, rich, and cheesy–a depth of flavor perfectly complimented by the cheese crisp.  A bit more effort than the blue box, but sooo worth it!  I think the sauce by itself would be a delicious fondue-esque dip for veggies or could be used as a veggie sauce for a side dish–I think cauliflower would be killer-yummy with this cheese sauce!

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Filed under dinner, recipe, side dish, Vegetarian