Posts Tagged ‘recipes’

Learn from the master. I will be making this soon and I will be posting pics and a review. My mouth is already watering.

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I’ve been trying to find some healthy and vegetarian ways to re-create some of my favorite foods and tonight I achieved my greatest healthy, vegetarian version of a classic yet. I made jambalaya. Yes, the classic Cajun food that brings together all three food groups, pork, chicken and shrimp and blends them with veggies and rice into a meal that is so good that you remember the experience of having it for years to come. It really is one of the best foods around and I attacked it with gusto and have made a new version that is loyal to the spirit of the dish but is significantly healthier. Behold! My creation!

This delicious dish was the result of a few days of thinking about how to pull off this feat and reading a bunch of different recipes. Eventually, I put everything together and came up with this. Keep in mind this is Jambalaya so it’s a bit of an intense recipe and will take some time to do. However, it is totally worth it.

Vegetarian Jambalaya
1 package Trader Joe’s 3 grain Tempeh – prepared per my post on Tempeh bacon
1 pound extra firm tofu
1 tbsp. olive oil plus more for tempeh
1 large onion, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
2 celery stalks, diced
2 medium cloves garlic, peeled
1 large bay leaf
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp Paul Prudhomme’s Cajun Magic seasoning
1 can (28 oz.) diced tomatoes. I use a Hunts brand called Fire Roasted tomatoes. They are really good in this
1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce
Liquid smoke
1 3/4 cup Trader Joe’s low sodium vegetable broth
3/4 cup brown basmati rice, uncooked

  1. Drain the tofu and wrap it in paper towels. Press it between two plates to squeeze out more liquid.
  2. While tofu presses, prepare the tempeh. Slice it thinly and give it a bit of cover in liquid smoke. Saute in olive oil until crispy on both sides.
  3. While the tempeh is cooking, slice the block of tofu in half lengthwise and then cut into long, thin strips. Cover these strips in Cajun Magic seasoning and broil them for 5-8 minutes to continue to get liquid out of the tofu.
  4. Set prepared tempeh and tofu aside.
  5. Saute the onion, bell peppers and celery in the olive oil for at least 5 minutes until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and saute for a minute more.
  6. Add bay leaf, cayenne pepper, Cajun Magic, tempeh and tofu to the pan. Break the tofu and tempeh into smaller, bite-sized pieces while stirring everything together.
  7. Add tomatoes (with juice), tomato sauce and vegetable broth. Gently simmer for about 5 minutes.
  8. Pour rice into the pan and stir well.
  9. Bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, covered for about 45 minutes or until the rice is cooked and absorbs most of the liquid.
  10. Remove the bay leaf, add any more seasonings you like and serve. Preferably with Tabasco sauce.

I decided to make the recipe this way because it allowed me to capture at least two of the essential elements of jambalaya. The tempeh will serve as a replacement for the pork and the tofu is a good substitute for the chicken. The liquid smoke adds the flavor that is missed by removing pork from the recipe. I left out the seafood but personally wouldn’t be against having some fresh shrimp in there. I also added red bell pepper to the recipe in order to have a bit more flavor. I would have put okra into it had I been able to find any (for some reason, okra isn’t readably available in Maine). Once I sat down to eat this jambalaya, I was surprised at how well it came out. I expected it to be good but I didn’t think it would be as good as it was. I thought I’d be messing with the recipe for a while trying to figure out a good combination of ingredients and methods to capture the essence of this classic food but I pretty much got what I wanted on the first try. That never happens to me, but I’m not complaining. If you choose to try this recipe, give yourself some time and then savor it when you’re done. It’ll be worth it.

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Cajun Quinoa

As I mentioned before, I had a brief moment of falling off the wagon over the past few weeks but I’m not letting that stop me. With that in mind, I’ve been trying to find some new things to keep me moving forward. One thing I decided to do was find some new things to cook. That decision plus a small discussion here on the blog about good Southern food (is there any other kind?) led me to tonight’s new recipe. I found myself staring at the shelves of the pantry when inspiration struck.

Cajun Quinoa
1 yellow onion
1 stalk of cellary
1 green pepper
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 cup red quinoa
2/3 cup red lentils
Cayenne pepper
Garlic powder
Paul Prudhome’s Cajun Magic seasoning
Liquid Smoke (this is the “secret” ingredient)
1 1/2 cup vegetable stock (I used Trader Joe’s brand since its got a good tomato flavor)

Cut up onion cellary and pepper into small pieces. This is called the trinity in Cajun cooking. Classic French cooking uses carrots instead of pepper.

Heat olive oil in a pot and add the trinity. Saute until softened.

Add quinoa and red lentils. Stir until mixed. Add garlic powder, cayenne and seasoning and stir. Toss in a dash of the secret ingredient.

Add the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Cook for 15-18 minutes until liquid is absorbed.

Put finished cajun quinoa into a bowl and bogart it like it’s a dime bag of primo stuff.

This came out so well I’m sad I didn’t make more. It would be great as lunch tomorrow. I definately need to see if I can go through some of my old recipes and re-write them to be healthier and vegetarian. Jambalaya and étouffée and other southern foods may be a fun challenge to recreate. I’m thinking that instead of deep frying some things I may be able to put the convection oven to good use to make some crispy and delicious foods.

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I heard a story on NPR the other night about a recipe called “Pumpkins Stuffed with Everything Good”. It caught my interest for a few minutes but I didn’t think much about it since it really did have a bit of that smarmy NPR edge to it that makes food and recipes out to be something they’re not. I’m not slamming NPR at all considering that it’s pretty much the only thing I listen to in the car if I’m not listening to music, it’s just that their food reporting always leaves a bad taste in my mouth. This morning, someone on Facebook linked to the story and I saw the picture that went along with it and was amazed at how beautiful the food looked. That’s when I decided I was going to give it a try. Tonight. On short notice. Yeah, I’m that kind of crazy. Besides, we were having a friend over for dinner and I wanted to make something unique and special: this certainly fit the bill.

I just happened to have some beautiful pumpkins that we had gotten last month as a local farm that we support. They were the perfect size for individual servings. On my way home from work I stopped by Trader Joe’s and picked up what I needed to make this a great dish. I also picked up a few different cheeses and other foods to snack on while our guest was with us. There’s nothing like a fresh cheese plate to say “welcome to my home”. I had a delicious Stilton, a unique goat’s milk Gouda and a triple cream Brie that was rich and creamy to the extreme. But, enough about cheese! Let’s get on to the main course.

My goal was to make something vegetarian, healthy and gluten free. This meant I was going to have to go off book for this recipe and fly blind. I was totally comfortable with that since it just makes the experience that much more fun for me. Yeah, I’m that kind of crazy.

With those goals in mind, I cooked up some brown basmatti rice and some French green lentils for the main body of the stuffing. While they cooked, I enlisted my son to help me remove the seeds and the guts from inside each pumpkin. I saved the seeds for later and then prepared the rest of the filling. I cut up some Gruyère cheese into half-inch cubes and cut up some fresh eggplant into bite sized pieces (this is the third time I’ve had eggplant this week; that’s three times more than I have ever had it before: who knew?). These were followed by some chopped chives, fresh thyme and some roughly minced garlic. Last, I gave an onion a quick cut and sauted it until it began to carmalize. Once everything was prepared, I mixed it together well and then stuffed my pumpkins to the point of bursting. Once they were as full as I could get them, I took some almond milk and added freshly grated nutmeg to it. The milk/nutmeg mixture got poured into the pumpkin and filled up what little space there was with more yummy goodness. The pumpkins went onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet and into a 350 degree oven for 90 minutes. After the 90 minutes, I pulled the tops off to allow some of the liquid to cook off and let the top get crusty and delicious. The pumpkins stayed in the oven for another 30 minutes while they finished turning into something even more magnificent than a coach that will take you to the ball.

While the pumpkins were cooking, I prepared a second meal for my wife and kids and got the cheese plate ready and prepped some IQF shrimp and got a small buffet going on a table in the kitchen so that our guest would be able to sit and eat some appetizers with my wife and kids while I was able to participate in the discussion from behind the stove. It worked out great. Everything came out at the same time and the pumpkins were perfect. The finished product is below.

Stuffed Pumpkins - fresh from the oven

This is what it looks like when the top comes off

Isn't that cheesy and good? Yes, yes it is.

I can’t begin to describe how wonderful these tasted. The pumpkin was tender and the flavor of it had soaked into the filling. The brown rice and green lentils held up wonderfully and made for a great way to get complete protein from the meal. The cheese had melted throughout the filling and every bite you took was gooey and yummy and warm. The eggplant was tender and had a great flavor to it and the texture was different enough from the other items that it added a great counterpoint to the other ingredients. This was one of the most unique things I’ve ever made and I think it’s a dish that we’ll remember for a long time to come. The great thing about it is that you can stuff it with pretty much anything you want and it will come out well.

I was only able to eat about half of my pumpkin so I have a really good lunch to look forward to tomorrow. Right now, even though it’s been a few hours since I ate, I’m still stuffed. This dish was quite filling and really did make quite an impression sitting on the table. If you’re looking for something to make this Thanksgiving that will be different but still capture the feeling of the season well, you can’t go wrong with something like this. I wish that I still had more pumpkins left as I’d be making this again in a few weeks.

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My trip to Trader Joe’s the other night scored me another item for my pantry that comes highly recommended: Trader Joe’s Three Grain Tempeh. Instead of just making fake bacon, I did my research and found a recipe I just happened to have all the ingredients for. Of course I couldn’t leave well enough alone and made some minor adjustments to make it more to my liking and I was quite pleased with the results. In order to attempt this recipe you must like tempeh, chili peppers and onions. If you do, this is totally worth it. The sweetness of the onions really plays off the heat of the jalapeños and the soy sauce brings out the flavors. Then, the crunchy tempeh rounds out the dish very well. Unfortunately the pictures of this didn’t come out as well as I’d like them to but I was trying out the new camera on the phone instead of using my normal camera to get pics of the food.

Oniony Tempeh


2 tbsp. olive oil
1 package tempeh
1 yellow onion
1 red onion
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 red jalapeño
1 green jalapeño
1/2 tsp. low sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar


1. Dice the tempeh into small rectangular pieces.
2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet and add the tempeh. Cook the tempeh until it is crispy and brown on all sides.
3. Remove the tempeh from the oil and put aside
4. Cut the yellow and red onions in half from top to bottom and then cut each half lengthwise so that you end up with long strands of onion (think half circle onion rings) – incidentally,  this type of cut is referred to as Lyonnaise.
5. Sauté the onions until they are translucent and aromatic. While the onions are cooking, mince the garlic and slice the jalapeños into thin pieces.
6. Sauté the mixture briefly the add in the tempeh and stir around.
7. When everything is mixed well, add the soy sauce and the brown sugar. Stir continuously until the brown sugar has dissolved and the tempeh and onion mixture has been completely coated.




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Well not really but sort of. I guess I need to preface this with the news that we finally have a Trader Joe’s here in Maine. Now that the crowds have died down (a bit), I ventured over there last night. It was great to see all the old familiar Trader Joe brands along with low prices on all kinds of great things. One of the things picked up was the Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pie spice mix. It came highly recommended from another blog that I read a while back and don’t remember the address of right now. That blog included a few recipes for what to do with this spice mix. One of the recommendations was to put it into oatmeal. I tried this today and am pleased with the results. It’s a little odd at first but pumpkin pie flavored oatmeal works. Now, if I only had any coffee left at home I could try making my own pumpkin-spiced flavored beverage. I guess that will have to wait for another day.

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Sometimes, there are foods that I am aware of but I have never had the opportunity to try or have not made myself. Last night, those two forces combined into one fantastic dinner. For a long time now, I have known about tempeh: a soy product that is related to tofu but contains grains in addition to the soy protein. I had never had it and didn’t know what to do with it. Then, I saw a recipe for tempeh bacon. Needless to say, this intrigued me. I bought a block of tempeh, got out my cutting board and my sharpest knife and sliced the tempeh as thinly as I could. I then covered the tempeh with liquid smoke and seasoning for flavor. I proceeded to fry the tempeh slices in some hot olive oil and they came out crispy, brown and DELICIOUS.

I really liked the flavor of the tempeh. It is a bit earthier than tofu and it’s a lot easier to work with. You don’t need to press it or worry about getting the liquid out of it. Plus, it’s really versatile for cooking. You can bake it, saute it, fry it or steam it just to name a few preparation methods. I took my tempeh “bacon” and I put it on top of a salad. It took an otherwise standard salad to a whole new level. My daughter came out as I was making it, saw the tempeh sitting on my plate and asked me, “Is that BACON?” I explained to her that it wasn’t and offered to let her try some but she politely declined. I think her words were something along the lines of rather having her teeth pulled out than have to try something that gross but she’s only 10 so I can’t blame her for not being as adventurous as I am when it comes to trying new foods. If you are looking for new ways to expand your vegetarian arsenal, I would really suggest checking out this great ingredient. It looks a little weird but it works great in just about anything I’ve seen it in.

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