Creamy Mango & Chickpea Curry Tofu

Creamy Mango & Chickpeas Curry Tofu
Creamy Mango & Chickpeas Curry Tofu, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Slow cooker (crock pot) is one of my favorite small kitchen appliances and definitely the best way to make dishes that come together only after long, long simmering. Putting everything into a slow cooker is so much easier than baby sitting a simmering stew bubbling away on the stove top! But: slow cooker is slow and if you’d like to have food ready for the dinner (supper) time, you need to remember to fill it up and turn it on 3 to 6 hours in advance. Once all is set and you press the start button, you are free to do whatever and enjoy the day knowing that your delicious dinner is simmering away.

I use my slow cooker often and I find that it works really well for things like stews, or dishes like Vegan Chicken Tikka Masala. Here is another example of a delicious curry that combines tofu, chickpeas and mango with some crushed tomatoes and coconut cream into a fragrant and very creamy curry.

Serve it with Saffron Brown Basmati Rice and you are done!

Creamy Mango & Chickpea Curry Tofu

What you’ll need: 

2 16 oz (454 g) tofu blocks, extra firm

28 oz (800g) can crushed tomatoes

2 15.5 oz (439g) cans chickpeas

1 cup mango chunks, frozen

15 oz (425g) can coconut cream

1 yellow onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

2 teaspoons curry powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

Fresh cilantro

Cooking spray

 

What you’ll do:

  1. Drain or press tofu for 30 minutes. I usually just leave the block of tofu in a strainer and flip the block over once. That’s usually enough for dishes that don’t need the tofu to be super dense and chewy.
  2. Cut the tofu into single bite chunks. From a 16 oz block I usually get 16 pieces so you can use that as a rough guideline.
  3. Line the inside of your slow cooker crock pot with a liner. You can skip this step of course – I just recommend it as it makes clean up an absolute breeze. Add the tofu, chickpeas that have been drained, and frozen mango chunks. You can use fresh as well but frozen mango chunks are just something I have on hand for my smoothies so it’s a bit of a staple in my kitchen.
  4. Add the spices and mix well.
  5. Dice the onion and slice the garlic. Place in a microwave safe dish, spray with cooking spray and microwave for 5 minutes. This will start the caramelization process of your aromatics and help them develop flavors.
  6. Pour the onions and garlic over the mango chunks.
  7. Pour in the crushed tomatoes and mix again.
  8. Add coconut cream and mix to incorporate.
  9. Put the lid on and turn your slow cooker on high for 3 to 4 hours.
  10. When playing, serve over rice, quinoa or couscous and top with fresh cilantro.

 

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

Sunday Slow Cooker Jackfruit Stew

Jackfruit is the “It” ingredient of the plant-based and vegan cooking world. When I started blogging about my plant-based cooking exploration and experimentation, jackfruit was one of those exotic ingredients that I could only get in a local Asian grocery store.

My first jackfruit recipe were the tacos, which still make a frequent appearance at the dinner table because they take no time to make and are really, really good. But what I discovered soon after is that jackfruit is a lovely and realistic stand in for seafood, and you can make a fabulous crab-free crab cakes and clam-free New England clam chowder. I’ve also used jackfruit to make a very rich chickenless tikka masala – yummy!

So in order to feed this new hunger for jackfruit I would go to the Asian grocery store and buy a pile of canned green jackfruit in brine. But, two weeks ago I found out that Trader Joe’s now carries jackfruit suggesting that this amazing plant has gone mainstream.  I still bought more than I need just in case and immediately jumped on testing it out.

What I did with two cans of young (green) jackfruit in brine this time around is transform it into a mellow slow cooker (crockpot) stew infused with onions, garlic, Indian bay leaf, dry basil and ground cumin, as well as spiced up with a bit of red and green chili pepper. In case you are wondering about the Indian bay leaf, the tree it comes from belongs to the same family as the cinnamon tree so the flavor is a bit of a mix between bay leaf and cinnamon. So, if you don’t have Indian bay leaf on hand, you can simply use some regular bay leaf and a dash of cinnamon.

What I like to do when using canned vegetables is to dump the contents of the can out into a strainer and rinse well with lots of water. Then I let access water drain out for few minutes before using. In the case of jackfruit I also prefer to pull the bits of fruit apart, so what I end up with is a pile of pulled jackfruit ready to be flavored in any way I like.

My favorite slow cooker trick that I mentioned before, but is definitely worth repeating, is to combine the aromatics (onion, garlic, chili peppers, and spices), add some oil or cooking spray, and soften in the microwave for three to five minutes.  This helps them develop some caramelization and flavors that slow cooker is not able to achieve. Finally, these days I don’t use the slow cooker unless lined up with crockpot liners that make the cleanup an absolute breeze.

One last note: don’t worry if you don’t have a slow cooker. You can try making this stew on a stovetop in a Dutch oven type of pot or any other. If this is what you are doing remember to brown your aromatics in a bit of oil first then add the jackfruit, and lastly diced tomatoes. The benefit of using a slow cooker is that you set it and forget it, which frees you up to spend your Sunday doing whatever…

Slow Cooker Jackfruit Stew

What you’ll need:

2 cans (10 oz, 280 g) young jackfruit in brine

1 can (28 oz, 800 g) petit diced tomatoes

1 yellow onion, diced

2 tablespoons garlic, crushed

1 red chili pepper, seeds and veins removed

1 green chili pepper, seeds and veins removed

1 tablespoon basil, dried

1 teaspoon ground cumin

2-3 Indian bay leaves

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

What you’ll do:

  1. Rinse and drain the jackfruit to clean out access brine. Pull the jackfruit pieces apart, removing any hard bits of core and seeds that may have been present (I leave softer bits of core and seeds in).
  2. Place the jackfruit in the crockpot that’s been lined with a liner.
  3. Remove the seeds and the veins from the chili peppers and diced them finely. Dice the onions and crush the garlic.
  4. Mix chili peppers, onion, garlic, dry basil, and ground cumin in a microwave safe bowl with the vegetable oil until everything is well coated. Microwave for 3-5 minutes.
  5. Add the aromatics to the crockpot as well as petit diced tomatoes and mix everything together.
  6. Cover and cook on low for 5 hours.
  7. Serve over basmati rice, or even pasta. This stew is fragrant and just discretely spicy. You can definitely adjust the level of spiciness to fit your palate.
  8. Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

Oh My… It’s Another Meatless Shepherd’s Pie

Meatless Shepherd’s Pie, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
The first full meal post on this blog was my version of that classic, Shepherd’s Pie. The reason I kicked things off by veganizing a classic was that I wanted to push the limits and see if I can do it and be happy with the results. At that point I was one month into plant-based diet, and felt that I need to step it up in terms of how I create my meals. That’s a quick story behind the first Vegan Shepherd’s Pie.

Once that recipe was published I did get some backlash from people who firmly believed that a Shepherd’s Pie without meat is an abomination. I obviously don’t agree and have now created another version of Shepherd’s Pie that is so close to the original that very few people will know the difference. I served this for Easter Sunday dinner few weeks ago, and it was a hit!

The three main tricks I used are to fully cook the lentils on their own in water, to use full sprigs of rosemary without chopping, and to grind the mushrooms in the food processor before using. All these three things put together make this Shepherd’s Pie taste very, very similar to the ground lamb containing version. Except that this recipe leaves the lambs alone – which can’t be bad, right?


And if you are not concerned about the well-being of lambs much, perhaps you’ll find the health benefits of this recipe or its budget-friendliness more appealing. Regardless of your reasons, I hope you find at least one to compel you to try this meatless Shepherd’s Pie. Enjoy!!!

Meatless Shepherd’s Pie

What you’ll need (for 8 HUNGRY people):

14 oz (400 g) dark (brown) lentils

4 large carrots, chopped

5 celery stalks, diced

1 onion, diced

20 oz (570 g) mushrooms

3-4 sprigs of rosemary

2 tablespoons thyme, chopped

4 cups green peas, frozen

6 potatoes, medium size

3 cloves garlic

1/4 cup almond milk

2 tablespoons olive oil

Cooking spray

What you’ll do:

  1. Cook lentils according to bag instructions. In brief, for this amount of lentils you’ll need 4-6 cups of water that you need to bring to boil. Once the water is boiling add rinsed lentils in and simmer until lentils are done, which will take 20 to 25 minutes. Set cooked lentils aside.
  2. Peel and cube the potatoes. Put them in a large pot, and add the garlic cloves too. You don’t need to chop the garlic as it will soften during boiling and you will be able to mash it with potatoes. Cover the potatoes with water and bring to boil. Decrease the heat and boil until potatoes are cooked through. Take the pot of the heat, and let it cool off before mashing.
  3. Clean the mushrooms with a paper towel to remove any visible bits of dirt. Use a food processor to chop the mushrooms until they are about the same size as little bits of ground meat.
  4. Spray the bottom of a large frying pan with cooking spray and turn the heat on to medium high. Add onion,  carrots and celery. Sauté for 3 to 5 minutes.
  5. Add whole sprigs of rosemary and chopped thyme and stir everything together. Sauté for another 8 to 10 minutes.
  6. Add chopped mushrooms, stir well and sauté until mushrooms are softened, which should not take longer than 5 minutes.
  7. Add frozen green peas, and mix everything together.  You can lower the heat or turn it completely off as all you need to do now is mix the pie filling until the peas thaw.
  8. Take rosemary sprigs out and discard. Some of the leaves will fall off and that’s OK. Remove as many as you can but leaving some in will help the flavor develop further.
  9. Add cooked lentils and mix everything together. Set aside.
  10. Preaheat the oven to 375 F (190 C).
  11. While the oven is preheating, mash the potatoes. To the pot of boiled potatoes that have been drained and cooked, add almond milk, olive oil and mash using a potato masher until the mashed potatoes are soft and smooth. You can always add more almond milk to get the consistency just right.
  12. Spay the bottom and the sides of a large baking dish with cooking spray. Pour the Shepherd’s Pie filling in and smooth out.
  13. Spoon the mashed potatoes over the top. Smooth out the mash and then using a fork create nooks and ridges. Spray the top with a bit more cooking spray and place in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until the potato topping is nice and browned.
  14. Serve with your favorite salad or even some vegan gravy. Trust me, this Shepherd’s Pie will leave you speechless!
  15. Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

Easy Breadfruit Curry

Easy Breadfruit Curry, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Easy Breadfruit Curry, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Breadfruit is not something that you can find in your local grocery store unless you live in one of the tropical countries where it’s been a staple food for millennia. Yet, it’s a fruit, or maybe I should say a vegetable, that has been taking the fancy of historians, writers, artists and the silver screen perhaps because of its poetic name, breadfruit, that suggest ability to pick your loaf of a branch! Or perhaps because it hails from exotic regions of our planet that one could reach only by taking an epic journey, like the one taken by the “Bounty“, a ship whose voyage and its mutiny is part of actual and the movie making history.

To be quite honest all my knowledge of breadfruit comes from watching different versions of the mutiny on the Bounty movies so I got quite excited when I saw it in my local Indian supermarket. I was looking for some frozen jackfruit and the breadfruit was right next to it. So I grabbed a bag and decided to give breadfruit a try!

Texture-wise, breadfruit is not unlike jackfruit, and they do belong to the same plant family. But, breadfruit is a bit softer, at least in my hands, and less chewy. It worked really well in this simple curry, and pairs really well with simple Basmati Rice.

The recipe is really simple and starts with frozen breadfruit, scallions (green onions), curry powder, green curry and turmeric, and finishes with some rich coconut cream. The dish comes together into a fragrant curry that tastes almost decadent.

Easy Breadfruit Curry

What you’ll need:

14 oz (400 g) bread fruit frozen

6 scallions (green onions)

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon curry powder

1 tablespoon green curry paste, like Thai Kitchen (or make your own)

13.5 oz (400 ml) coconut cream

Cooking spray

What you’ll do:

  1. Spray a large pan with cooking spray and place over medium high heat.
  2. While the pan is heating up chop scallions, both white and green parts. Add to the pan and sauté for 3-5 minutes.
  3. Add the green curry paste, turmeric and curry powder. Mix everything together and sauté for another minute or two.
  4. Add the breadfruit. You can add it frozen or defrost in a microwave. Mix well, and let sauté for 10 minutes or so until breadfruit is soft, covered in spices and starts to brown.
  5. Pour in the coconut milk and deglaze the bottom, which means use your wooden spoon and coconut milk to lift all the brown bits of caramelized scallions and spices of the bottom of the pan and incorporate them into the sauce.
  6. Decrease the heat to low and let simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
  7. Serve over rice, couscous or even polenta!!!
  8. Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai

Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Basic Pad Thai is a simple noodle dish, where wide rice noodles are mixed with eggs and chopped peanuts, then sprinkled with crushed red pepper flakes, lime juice and chopped scallions (green onions) and sometimes fresh cilantro. The whole dish comes together in five to ten minutes and can be eaten as is, or customized with a range of toppings so it is definitely a very popular dish found in every Thai restaurant.

Although it is relatively straightforward to find the right type of rice noodles that are typically used in Pad Thai, I decided to explore whether spaghetti squash would work. Spaghetti squash is a squash that, as the name suggests, has a stringy flesh structure that can be forked into a noodle-like structures. The texture of these noodles is softer than the regular pasta, and they are usually shorter but the flavor is rich and delicious, and the nutritional facts are definitely on the side of the squash when compared to either rice noodles that one would use in Pad Thai or any other pasta.

One down side to using spaghetti squash in a recipe like Pad Thai is that squash needs to be roasted first, which means that a five to ten minute recipe all of a sudden becomes a sixty to ninety minute recipe. Still, I recommend you give it a try especially as the hands on time is not as intense.

Are there any tricks to spaghetti squash? No, not really. The only two tips that are worth mentioning is to roast the squash cut side down on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, and to let the roasted squash cool as it will help with handling the squash as well help the squash noodles come out better defined.

To make this into vegan Pad Thai, I recommend using extra firm tofu instead of eggs. You don’t need to press it, but do let it drain for just a bit. Otherwise it may make your Pad Thai too mushy.

One final modification to the traditional Pad Thai recipe I made is using peanut butter in the sauce and some chopped cashews for the topping. Reason for this? I ran out of peanuts!

Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai

What you’ll need:

1 medium spaghetti squash, 1 to 1.5 lbs (about 500 to 700 g)

2 tablespoons garlic, crushed

2 tablespoons peanut butter

2-3 tablespoons lime juice

14 oz. (400 g) extra firm tofu

7 scallions (green onions), finely sliced

1/3 cup cashews, chopped

Cooking spray

What you’ll do:

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 F (220 C).
  2. Wash the spaghetti squash, wipe dry and cut in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to clean out the seeds.
  3. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Place spaghetti squash on the parchment paper, cut side down. Place in the oven and let roast for 25 to 30 minutes. Check with a knife and it goes in without resistance your squash is done. Take it our of the oven and let cool for at least 30 minutes. Be patient because the squash needs to be cool to handle.
  4. Once cool, take half of the squash, flip over and using a large fork go in and pull the flesh to make the “spaghetti”.
  5. Spray the bottom of a large pan or wok with cooking spray and place it over medium-high heat. Add garlic and let the garlic aroma develop, which will take about 1-2 minutes.
  6. Add soy sauce and peanut butter. Stir well and cook for 1-2 minutes.
  7. Add spaghetti squash and mix with the sauce. Here, I recommend using a pair of tongs to gently fold the squash into the sauce. Once the two are well incorporated add tofu that you have crumbled to small bits that look like scrambled eggs.
  8. Mix everything well together and cook for another 4-5 minutes.
  9. Turn the heat off, add the lime juice, scallions and cashews.
  10. If you like to add some heat you can use crushed red pepper flakes, or a dash of sriracha sauce. You can also top with fresh cilantro for some added freshness.
  11. Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

Mushroom and Eggplant Couscous

Mushroom and Eggplant Couscous
Mushroom and Eggplant Couscous, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Sometimes you need to throw together couple of ingredients you have on hand and have the meal ready in a blink of an eye. This recipe is your one way ticket to a no fuss meal that is filling and satisfying. When it comes to easy and hands-off cooking nothing comes even remotely close to couscous. I’ve been making couscous for years and all you need to remember is to 1:2 ratio – 1 cup couscous plus 2 cups of boiling water – and to keep your lid on and your hand off.

Basically, once you pour your boiling water over the couscous and give it one gentle stir, all you need to do is put the lid on and let the couscous sit for 15-30 minutes. For best results use a fork to fluff the couscous up and that’s it – a delicious base for your meal is done!

The rest is very straightforward. The eggplant needs to be chopped into good size, 1 x 1 in (2.5 x 2.5 cm), cubes and mushrooms need to be quartered. The cooking begins with browning onions, then adding eggplant and letting it brown for a bit, adding mushrooms and sprinkling some corn starch to bind everything together, especially mushrooms that tend to release a lot of liquid. Another important thing to do is deglaze the pot as a lot of great caramelized flavor will be stuck to the bottom of your pan. Here, just a little bit of vegetable stock will help.

Mushroom and Eggplant Stew
Mushroom and Eggplant Stew, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Mushroom and Eggplant Couscous

What you’ll need:

2 medium eggplants, cubed

2 10 oz. (284g) white button mushrooms, quartered

1 yellow onion, diced

1/2 red onion, diced

2 tablespoons garlic, crushed

6 scallions, diced

3 tablespoons corn starch

1/2 cup vegetable stock

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon dry thyme

Cooking spray

What you’ll do:

  1. Prepare couscous according to the box instructions, usually by mixing 1 cup of couscous with 2 cups of boiling water, putting the lid on the container and letting couscous soak for 15 to 30 minutes.
  2. Spray the bottom and the sides of a large Dutch oven or another heavy pot with a good lid with cooking spray. Turn the heat to medium high, add diced onions and scallions and brown for 5-6 minutes.
  3. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute or so, letting the garlic release its aroma.
  4. Add eggplant and let it brown which will take anywhere between 5 and 10 minutes, depending on the size of your pot.
  5. Lower heat to medium, and add mushrooms, corn starch and thyme. Sauté for 5-8 minutes. You want your mushrooms to be soft.
  6. Use the vegetable stock to deglaze the bottom of your pot and let everything cook for 5-10 minutes more, covered.
  7. Fluff the couscous with a fork, then plate the couscous and spread the mushroom and eggplant stew on top. Sprinkle with fresh flat leaf (Italian) parsley, and enjoy!
  8. Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

Balkan Cabbage and Bean Stew

Balkan Cabbage and Beans
Balkan Cabbage and Beans, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Growing up in the Balkans cabbage and beans were unavoidable, especially during the winter months when each household used to have bins of dry beans and barrels of homemade sauerkraut. Although for the most part dishes that I grew up with kept cabbage and beans apart, one of my grandmother’s signature dishes was a cabbage and dark bean stew that was packed with both, as well as with piles of smoked meat. I do remember the taste with fondness, so I wondered if I can come up with a vegan way of making a Balkan style cabbage and bean stew.

This is a straightforward recipe with only a handful ingredients. I recommend using a Dutch oven, or a similar type of pot, and not being afraid of keeping it on relatively high heat to get the onions, which form the aromatic base of the stew, and Trader Joe’s Soy Chorizo, brown and caramelize. In looking for an ingredient that can replace smoked meat, I decided to go with this chorizo as I found it to work really well in the past, both in Mexican-style lasagnas, and in hearty soups.

Balkan Cabbage and Beans Stew Step 1
Balkan Cabbage and Beans Stew Step 1, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
The star of this stew is definitely cabbage and for a big pot you will need lots of it. In principle, you could grab few bags of shredded cabbage and that will work fine, but for best texture I recommend shredding the cabbage a bit more thickly. This time around I used both red and green cabbage, but traditionally this type of stew would use fresh green cabbage or even sauerkraut (don’t laugh until you try it – it is delicious!). And don’t freak out about the volume of cabbage, it will cook down.

Balkan Cabbage and Beans Stew Step 2
Balkan Cabbage and Beans Stew Step 2, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
One final trick to this stew is creating a bit of a roux to bind the stew together. Traditionally, the roux in the Balkans starts with lard and flour, and it often includes paprika. To keep this stew vegan and gluten-free, I used corn starch and instead of making the roux in a separate pan and pouring it over I simply sprinkled the corn starch and mixed in with the onion, chorizo and wilted cabbage before adding the beans and water.

Balkan Cabbage and Beans Stew Step 4
Balkan Cabbage and Beans Stew Step 3, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Once you add corn starch, beans and water, as well as whole peppercorns and bay leaves, the rest is easy. You bring your pot to gentle simmer, put the lid on and leave it on low heat. In less than 30 minutes you have your perfect post of a not-so-traditional Balkan Cabbage and Bean Stew which is best enjoyed hot with a piece of freshly baked Balkan cornbread (proja).

Balkan Cabbage and Beans Stew

What you’ll need:

1 medium head of green cabbage, anywhere between 1.5 to 2 lbs (700 to 900 g)

1/2 small head of red cabbage, anywhere between 0.5 to 0.75 lbs (250 to 350 g)

1 yellow onion, diced

1 Trader Joe’s Soy Chorizo

2 15.5 oz (439g) cans pinto beans

3 tablespoons corn starch

2 cups water

3 bay leaves

20 whole peppercorns

Cooking Spray

What you’ll do:

  1. Spray the bottom and the sides of your Dutch oven or a large pot with the cooking spray. Turn the heat on to medium high to high and add diced onions. Let the onions brown for 3-5 minutes.
  2. Add soy chorizo (note: if using Trader Joe’s Soy chorizo please make sure to remove the casing before cooking because it is plastic and inedible!), and brown for additional 3-5 minutes.
  3. While onions and chorizo are cooking, shred the cabbage into thick shreds. Add the cabbage into the pot, stir well and let it cook down for 5-10 minutes with occasionally stirring.
  4. When the cabbage has gone down a bit, stir in corn starch. Mix well and cook for 1-2 minutes.
  5. Add beans that have been drained and rinsed. Mix well.
  6. Add bay leaves, peppercorns and water. Let the pot come to a simmer than lower the heat to low, put the lid on and let it cook for 20-30 minutes.
  7. Enjoy with the piece of Balkan Style Cornbread!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

Red Curry with Sweet Potatoes & Zucchini

VeganRedCurry_04
Vegan Red Curry with Sweet Potatoes and Zucchini, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
I do like strong and bold spices, and food that is full of flavors yet not overpowering. So I gravitate towards Indian cuisine as you may have been able to tell given that I’ve already shared my vegan take on Chicken Tikka Masala and Saag Paneer. Another style of food that I enjoy comes from Southeast Asia, and I’ve been experimenting with Thai and Vietnamese recipes in the past. Most of those recipes do involve some animal ingredients so I wanted to try my hand at testing out the idea that Thai can be vegan.

My first stop on this journey is this Red Curry. You can make your own curry paste but Thai Kitchen Red Curry Paste is inexpensive, gluten free and vegan. It worked really well in this recipe so for now I am sticking with it!

In my view the secret to a great Red Curry is to go bold and diverse with your vegetables, and chop them in different ways so that your curry has some interesting color as well as texture. Here I use several different kinds of peppers, sweet potatoes and zucchini. You can use any kind of pepper you have handy. On this day in my kitchen I had a bag of mini sweet peppers that came in two colors, red and orange. I also got some shishito peppers that I’ve never used before but I figured it’s OK to be adventures. At the end, the shishitos turned out to be mild and did not overpower the flavors but I did remove all their seeds before using, which may have reduced any heat they would have brought in. If you do like your curry’s hot, you can use chili peppers, or other varieties with more heat.

VeganRedCurry_02
Peppers and Zucchini for Vegan Red Curry, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Final tip that I think makes a big difference is cooking the sweet potatoes almost all the way through before adding them to the curry. I cooked mine, skin on in the microwave and they came out perfectly sweet and delicious. What also makes a huge difference is using fresh basil and adding it at the very end so that it has just enough time to release its aroma without getting cooked.

Vegan Red Curry with Sweet Potatoes and Zucchini

What you’ll need:

2 large sweet potatoes, skin on

2 large zucchini, unpeeled

6 mini peppers, orange

6 mini peppers, red

4 shishito peppers

1 13.5 oz (400 mL) can light coconut milk

3 tablespoons shredded coconut, unsweetened

2 tablespoons red curry paste (like Thai Kitchen)

10 basil leaves, fresh

Cooking spray

What you’ll do:

  1. Wash the sweet potatoes and put them in a large, microwave safe dish with 1/2 cup of water. Put the lid on, but don’t close all the way. Cook on high in the microwave for 10 minutes. Let stand for 15-20 minutes. Make sure sweet potatoes are cool enough to handle before you peel them. Chop the potatoes into 1 in x 1 in (2.5 cm x 2.5 cm) cubes. Set aside.
  2. While sweet potatoes are cooking and resting, chop the zucchini and the peppers. You want zucchini chopped into small dice, and red and orange mini peppers into thin matchsticks. Clean the seeds out the shishito peppers and chop them very finely.
  3. Spray the bottom of a large pan with cooking spray and heat on medium-high. Add all the peppers into the pan at once. Sauté for 10-15 minutes, until peppers are soft and their edges start to get brown.
  4. Add diced zucchini and sauté for another 5 minutes, until zucchini is cooked about half way through.
  5. Add curry paste, stir well and let sauté for another 5 minutes.
  6. Add coconut milk and coconut shreds, and cook for another 5 minutes.
  7. Add sweet potatoes. Mix well, lower the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Turn the heat off, add fresh basil, and let stand for 5 minutes.
  8. Serve with rice, like the Saffron Brown Basmati Rice, or without it!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

Gluten-free Vegan Spaghetti & Meatballs

VeganMeatballs_withZucchiniSpaghetti_DONE
Gluten-free Vegan Spaghetti & Meatballs, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Can gluten-free, vegan cooking be budget friendly, healthy, feed the whole family, and yet leave everyone feeling they are getting away with something? The answer is yes, and this recipe is my evidence. I use no fancy ingredients, and no fancy techniques.

How did I end up here? Well, as they say “Necessity is the mother of invention”. What happened is that I found myself facing a large bag of frozen vegetable mix, which I have cooked with many times before never to any great success. This is a classic item you can find in any grocery store – a bag that includes unspecified amounts of frozen peas, corn, green beans, carrots, and lima beans. The price on these is usually too hard to resist, and they keep really well if kept frozen so I usually have a couple in my freezer in case of an emergency where all other options dry up.

So one of those emergency situations came up and this time around, perhaps because of all this blogging I’ve been doing recently, I had a real brain wave. I decided to transform the relatively amorphous tasting vegetable mix into really incredible vegan meatballs, or should I say veggie balls?

VeganMeatballs_01
Frozen Vegetable Mix, thawed, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
There are couple of simple tips that when put together make this recipe work. First of all, thaw your vegetables don’t cook them! Depending on the amount of veggies you use this may take 5-10 minutes in the microwave on high. Once the veggies are thawed and soft all through, use a stick (immersion) blender, or a food processor to make a thick paste out of it all. This will be a base for your “meatballs”.

Another thing that you will need to do is add flavor to the mix. Although each one of these veggies is lovely on their own and when fresh, put all together and after freezing and thawing they do lose some of their flavor. My secret ingredient in this recipe is definitely a dash of Trader Joe’s Chile Lime Seasoning Bland. If you don’t live in the area with a handy Trader Joe’s store near by, you can use regular chili powder and add some lime or lemon zest – that will do the trick!

You will have to be a bit patient with this recipe as it does take a bit of time. First of all, I use oats to help the meatballs stick together. I did not leave the oats whole, rather I blended them all into the veggie mix using a stick blender, added the spices, and left the mix to sit for about 15 minutes. That gives oats some time to absorb the liquid and make the mix stick together better, which helps for the next step – forming the “meatballs” and browning them. I recommend using a Dutch oven to brown the “meatballs”, as well as simmering the rich tomato sauce.

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Vegan “Meatballs” Browned in a Dutch Oven, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
One word of advice is not to overcrowd your Dutch oven, and keep some room in between the “meatballs”. This helps them cook, and helps you maneuver them around. Once the “meatballs” are nicely browned set them aside and use the same Dutch oven for putting your tomato sauce together. I kept my recipe simple and my cost down by using canned crushed tomatoes and using some crushed garlic, dried oregano and dried basil to flavor the sauce. The sauce does not need to cook for long, and once it starts to simmer nicely and gently you can add the “meatballs” back.

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Vegan Meatballs in Tomato Sauce, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Don’t forget to lower the heat , bring the post to a very gentle simmer, and put the lid on! Without the lid you will soon end up with tomato sauce all over the stove top and the floor as this sauce does erupt in tiny little tomato sauce geysers.

To keep the recipe ultra healthy and gluten-free, I paired the meatballs with simple Zucchini Spaghetti.

Gluten-free Vegan Spaghetti & Meatballs

What you’ll need:

2 lbs (1 kg) bag of classic frozen vegetable mix

2 cups oats

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 tablespoon soy sauce, reduced sodium

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon Trader Joe’s Chile Lime Seasoning Bland

1 1/2-2 28 oz (800 g) can crushed tomatoes

2 tablespoons crushed garlic

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

Cooking spray

Fresh basil for serving

What you’ll do:

  1. Place the frozen vegetable into a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5-10 minutes to thaw the vegetables and slightly heat them through.
  2. Place the vegetables into a large mixing bowl. Use the stick blender to grind the vegetables into a relatively fine paste.
  3. Add oats and blend again.
  4. Add tomato paste, soy sauce, as well as onion, garlic, chili and lime chili powder. Mix well and let stand for 15 minutes or so.
  5. Spray the bottom of a large Dutch oven with cooking spray and bring to medium high heat. Use 1/4 cup or the ice cream scoop to scoop out the “meatball” mix and form the balls. Place them into the hot Dutch oven and let brown for 2-3 minutes. Turn the “meatballs” over and brown on the other side. Take them out of the Dutch oven and set aside. Spray with more cooking spray if needed and add another batch of “meatballs”. Continue until all your “meatballs” have been browned.
  6. Bring the heat up to high, add more cooking spray, and add crushed garlic and dried oregano and basil. Let it bloom, develop & release the aroma for 1-2 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes. Depending how much tomato sauce you’d like to have you may need to adjust the amount of crushed tomatoes you add. Bring the tomato sauce to a simmer and let it simmer for 5-10 minutes.
  7. Turn the heat way down and add back the “meatballs”. You will likely have two layers of meatballs which is fine, but it’s a good idea to keep in mind that they are relatively soft so treat them gently! Make sure they are nicely snuggled and covered by the sauce. Put the lid on and let the “meatballs” and sauce simmer for 15 – 20 minutes.
  8. When you are ready to serve, start with a generous amount of Zucchini Spaghetti, add couple of vegan meatballs, spread some sauce, and top with fresh basil. Enjoy!

Update: Few days ago I used the same “meatball” mix and made a “meatloaf” out of it. It worked really well!!! Here are couple of pictures to show you what it all looks like. One tip: bake the “meatloaf” on 375 F (190 C) for 25-30 minutes first, before putting on the tomato paste, then bake for 15 minutes more. Let the “meatloaf” stand for 15 minutes before cutting – the loaf will be soft when it comes out of the oven but it will firm up!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

Quinoa & Cherry Tomatoes Stuffed Eggplant

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Stuffed Eggplant with Quinoa and Cherry Tomatoes, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
One could say that I am on the stuffing kick: I stuffed some peppers, made a Mexican lasagna, which is almost like stuffing corn tortillas, and played around a zucchini moussaka. Perhaps it is time to say enough is enough and move away from stuffing, but I just can’t. Stuffed things are simply too much fun to eat and so simple to make that I can’t let go. Plus, although you may think you’ve reached the point where there’s nothing new to try, a new idea pops into your mind and you simply have to pursue it.

This happened to me the other day when I returned home from grocery shopping with two nice and plump pieces of eggplant in my bag. For me eggplant is one of those vegetables that’s neither here nor there. It’s a bit complicated to make into something great and delicious, especially if you decide not to bread it, fry it, or stuff it with a ton of cheese – Eggplant Parmesan I am looking at you!

To make eggplant ready for stuffing and minimize the amount of oil needed to almost zilch, I decided to roast it first and then stuff it. Roasting does take a bit of time, although not too much as 20-30 minutes at 425 F (220 C) usually does the trick.

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Roasting the Eggplant is the First Step En Route to Stuffing, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Once the eggplant is out of the oven leave it to cool for 10-15 minutes. This makes it much easier to handle as you will need to scoop out the roasted eggplant flash and mix it with the rest of the stuffing. One time saving tip is to cook your quinoa while the eggplant is roasting and cooling. That way both of your key stuffing ingredients will be ready to go. The rest is easy. You need to wash and half some cherry tomatoes, and dice one red onion. Mix everything together with a bit of dried or fresh basil or oregano, freshly ground black pepper, and even some lemon or lime zest to the stuffing. Any, or all, of these work well together!

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Stuffed Eggplant with Quinoa and Cherry Tomatoes stuffing, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Once the stuffing is back in the eggplant shells, and the cheese is sprinkled lightly over the top, the dish goes back to the 350 F (175 C) oven for another 15 minutes or so.

Bon appétite!

Quinoa and Cherry Tomatoes Stuffed Eggplant

What you’ll need:

2 eggplants, large

1 red onion, diced

1 cup quinoa

2 cups water (or vegetable stock)

1 pint (300 g) cherry tomatoes

1/2 cup vegan cheese, shredded

1 teaspoon dry basil

Black pepper, freshly ground

Cooking spray

What you’ll do:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 425 F (220 C).
  2. Wash the two pieces of eggplant and cut in half lengthwise. Place on the aluminum foil covered baking sheet, crosshatch the surface and spray with a cooking spray. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes or until the top is nicely browned. once the eggplant is out, lower the oven temperature to 350 F (180 C).
  3. While the eggplant is roasting, prepare quinoa according to the instructions on the box. I usually cook quinoa in water, but you can definitely use vegetable (vegan) stock if you’d like to add a bit extra flavor.
  4. Once quinoa is fully cooked, transfer into a large mixing bowl. Mix with diced onion and cherry tomatoes that you’ve cut in half lengthwise. Next, scoop out eggplant flash and add to the quinoa stuffing. Lastly, add basil and freshly ground black pepper and mix well.
  5. Spoon a generous amount of stuffing into each eggplant half, spray the top with some cooking spray, and top with shredded cheese. Put the stuffed eggplant back into the oven until the stuffing is heated through, tomatoes cooked, and the cheese melted. This should not take more than 15-20 minutes.
  6. Serve warm!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

Vegan Zucchini Moussaka

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Vegan Zucchini Moussaka, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Growing up moussaka was probably one of my least favorite dishes. Somehow, layers of potato and ground meat, cooked in rich Béchamel-type of sauce just did not work for me. The version that used zucchini instead of potatoes worked a little bit better, especially when paired up with plain yogurt, but even then the dish was too bland yet to heavy for me.

I decided to give the moussaka of my youth a vegan make-over and I’m happy to report that veganizing this traditional recipe worked! I used rainbow carrots, yellow onion, celery, vegan ground “beef”, all the zucchini ends that are not quite right shape or size to make good layers, and a generous amount of tomato paste for my stuffing.

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Zucchini Moussaka ingredients, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
For Béchamel sauce, which usually uses flour, butter and milk, I used almond milk, nutritional yeast and corn starch to make the sauce vegan and gluten free. My moussaka starts with a well oiled deep baking dish, a layer of zucchini slices, stuffing, another layer of zucchini slices and finishes with the vegan Béchamel sauce.

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Zucchini Moussaka with Vegan Béchamel sauce, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
The assembled moussaka goes into the oven to cook covered for 30 minutes and uncovered for another 15 minutes. The vegan Béchamel sauce gives this dish great thickness and richness, without making the moussaka heavy. Your taste buds and your tummy will thank you for taking it lightly!

Vegan Zucchini Moussaka

What you’ll need:

4 zucchinis

4 rainbow carrots, diced

6 stalks celery, diced

1 yellow onion, diced

1 cup of vegan ground “beef”, store bought or homemade

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

2 cups unsweetened, plain almond milk

3 tablespoons corn starch

1 tablespoon nutritional yeast

Cooking spray

What you’ll do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F (175 C).
  2. Spray the bottom and sides of your 13 x 9 in (33 x 23 cm) baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside.
  3. Wash and slice zucchini lengthwise to make 16 to 18 slices that are about 1/4 in (6 mm) thickness. Don’t throw out the left over and edge pieces – dice them to medium size dice and put them in a large mixing bowl.
  4. Add diced onions, carrots and celery to the mixing bowl, as well as vegan ground “beef”, tomato paste, and smoked paprika. Mix well.
  5. Line the bottom of the baking dish with zucchini slices. Pour the filling into the dish. Top with another layer of zucchini slices.
  6. Separately, mix the almond milk, corn starch and nutritional yeast together. Make sure the mix is smooth and lump free. Pour over the moussaka.
  7. Cover the moussaka with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for additional 15 – 20 minutes, until the top is nicely browned.
  8. Take out the oven and let stand for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

Vegan Stuffed Peppers with Homemade Beef Substitute

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Vegan Stuffed Peppers with Homemade Beef Substitute, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
My mom is the queen of stuffed bell peppers. Her peppers have been well-known within our extended family, and frequently requested by friends and family when they visit. What I am saying is that stuffed bell peppers should be in my DNA, but it took me years to transform what I learned in my mom’s kitchen to a dish that will be a crowd pleaser.

The first major breakthrough in my pursuit to a perfect stuffed bell pepper recipe came when I realized that cutting the peppers in half lengthwise makes my life so much easier than cutting just the top off. Cutting peppers lengthwise makes cleaning out the seeds and the spines a breeze, plus helps distribute the stuffing and helps the stuffing stay put. It also helps peppers cook faster. Another thing that I found through many round of experimentation is that it helps if you pre-cooks peppers just a bit before stuffing them. I tried parboiling and it helps but it changes the flavor of peppers in a direction that I don’t really like. So, I recommend par-roasting, which means letting your peppers roast for 10-15 minutes, until they just start to soften and get browned on the surface. This is a great way to jump start cooking your papers and add some flavor.

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Pre-roasted Bell Peppers, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
The second breakthrough came when I discovered that the stuffing does not need to include a starch component. You can have lovely stuffed bell peppers without filling them with rice, or potatoes, or quinoa, or barley, or any of that stuff. I am not saying these are bad things to use, but most recipe use them as space fillers more than anything else. But for me in this recipe, a mix of yellow onion, red onion, white mushrooms, and baby bella (crimini) mushrooms. One tip here is to chop all these to pretty small pieces so that they match the size of ground meat chunks you would usually find in a stuffed bell pepper recipe. Another tip: for a recipe like this you can use both the mushroom tops and stems, and minimize the waste!

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Vegan Stuffed Peppers with Homemade Ground Beef Substitute, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
This brings me to my most recent breakthrough: vegan substitute for ground meat. I followed this recipe I found on Glow Kitchen, with only one modifications – I did not add olive oil and used cooking spray on my baking sheet instead. The recipe produces amazing ground beef substitute and uses tofu and a handful of pantry staples. The prep time is a bit on a longer side, as it takes about 1 hour in the oven with frequent stirring, but it is worth it!!! I think you will love this so much that I recommend doubling the recipe right off the bat.

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Vegan Ground Beef Substitute, recipe via Glow Kitchen, execution via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Finally, I did use some vegan cheese to top the stuffed peppers, but you can definitely skip that step or top them with fresh Italian (flat leaf) parsley. Or both!

Vegan Stuffed Peppers with Homemade Beef Substitute

What you’ll need:

4 bell peppers (red, orange, yellow, green – any color will do)

8 oz. (225 g) white mushrooms, finely diced

8 oz. (225g) baby bella (crimini) mushrooms, finely diced

1/2 large yellow onion, finely diced

1/2 red red onion, finely diced

1 batch of Vegan Substitute for Ground “Beef”

15 oz. (425 g) crushed tomatoes, can

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/4 cup vegan cheese, shredded

Cooking spray

What you’ll do:

  1. Prepare the ground beef substitute according to instructions here. You can make this a day ahead, which is what I did. Also, you can use any store bought ground beef substitute you like.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 F (220 C).
  3. Wash and dry the peppers, then cut lengthwise and clean out the seeds and spines. Put them into a roasting pan and spray gently with cooking spray. Par-roast for 15 minutes or so. Take them out of the oven and remove any liquid that peppers released during roasting. Set aside.
  4. Lower the oven temperature to 350 F (175 C).
  5. Sauté onions and mushrooms on medium heat with a bit of cooking spray for 5-8 minutes. Stir in beef substitute and sauté for another 5 minutes. Turn the heat off and mix in smoked paprika. Your stuffing is ready for the next step!
  6. Pour the can of crushed tomatoes into your baking dish. Place par-roasted peppers in, and fill them with the stuffing. Cover the baking dish with foil and put in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake uncovered for 10 minutes.
  7. Sprinkle the cheese on top and let it melt which will take another 5 minutes. And that is it. You are ready to enjoy!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017