Red Beans and Rice

One pot meals are genius invention. Whether you be busy with work, a fussy 3 month-old or both,  it’s nice to still have a home-cooked meal. And even better when there is only one dish to clean!

I  came up with this one day while Jack was napping and I had a few spare moments to think about dinner. It’s pretty much your standard red beans and rice dish, just with frozen kale instead of bell peppers.

Red Beans and Rice
1 lb bag of Kidney Beans, soaked overnight and rinsed
5 oz frozen kale (about half a bag)
2 cups uncooked brown rice
10 cups water or vegetable broth
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large white onion, chopped
1 tbs chili powder
1/2 tbs smoked paprika
1 tps thyme
1 tps oregano
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Tabasco, to taste

Combine all ingredients–except the salt, pepper, and Tabasco– into a large pot.

Bring to boil then reduce to a simmer and cover.

Cook for an hour. The beans will be soft enough to eat but still a little firm. The rice should be fully cooked. There will be a little bit of liquid left, similar to a light sauce.

Season with the salt, pepper, and Tabasco as desired!

There is something so satisfying in a classic simple meal like red beans and rice 🙂

Pilothouse and The Argonaut Cafe

A few weekends ago, Michael and I went on our babymoon in California’s Gold Country. Check out my pregnancy blog for a full review of the trip and money saving travel tips. We had both been dying for a Gold Country trip for over a year now, so this was the perfect way for us to have some quality time before the baby comes. We ate at two restaurants that really impressed me, so I thought I would share.

Old Town Sacramento at night.

We went on our babymoon starting the Saturday of Presidents’ Day weekend, so we decided to save our fancy Valentine’s Day dinner for that night. We both wanted a nice dinner in Old Town Sacramento, so I did some online research and found Pilothouse.

source

The restaurant is located inside the Delta King Hotel, a retired riverboat docked along the Sacramento River. I made reservations online, but we probably did not need them. We came later in the evening so we missed the rush, and the hostess told me that the day after Valentines Day is never that busy. She suggested that in the future we always make a reservation just in case.

The staff was very friendly, though our specific waiter was kinda slow (Michael’s beer and our bread came about 15 minutes later). The atmosphere was very nice, the whole dinning room restored to it’s 1930’s charm. And the view of the river all lit up at night was lovely.

I ordered the beet salad (Michael just ate the cheese for me). It was sooo good. The beets were perfectly cooked and very juicy.

For my entree, I had to order the only vegan thing on the menu, Grilled Vegetable Tagine. I was a little annoyed at first there was only one choice, but it was tasted good so I have no complaints. Lovely crisp veggies served over rice, seasoned with a sweet but savory spice blend. I am sorry I don’t have a photo of my entree, I know I took one and somehow it vanished off my phone….

Michael ordered the Saturday Night Steak Dinner Special—nothing besides his starter salad was vegan. He always wants steak for Valentines Day. I can’t complain because I didn’t have to cook it for once. He loved his organic and antibiotic free prime rib. And was in heaven with his buttery mashed potatoes. Meh, I will stick to my still delicious healthier food 🙂

Aren’t we cute all dressed up?

This place is expensive, but it was a lovely treat. We got to dress up and snuggle up next to each other. It would have been even better if I could have sampled the wine selection…..

On Monday while visiting the Marshall Gold Discovery Park, we had a lunch at this adorable little cafe across the street from the Visitor’s Center. The Argonaut Cafe is an organic, farm-to-fork style restaurant. It’s a tiny little building, and even at 2:30 PM when we entered, it was pretty busy.

The cafe is decorated like an old Gold Rush era store, mostly wood and metal. There are a lot of picnic tables out back with a great view of the American River.

The menu is basic cafe foods, like soups, sandwiches, salad, and a few desserts. I ordered the Fresh Veggie Sandwich (without the cheese) on Sourdough and Michael got the Organic Smoked Turkey on Sourdough. My sandwich was heavenly. Fresh, crispy veggies with a creamy hummus. And I love buttery California avocados. I was so happy to find fresh organic food in such a small town at reasonable price (both sandwiches were $8 each).  The soup of the day was vegan chili, but I didn’t want to be too full and set off my acid reflux. It looked really good though, maybe next time.

We want to do a bigger Gold Country trip when Jack is old enough and I totally plan on coming to both these restaurants again. Though, Jack might stay the night with his Auntie who lives nearby when we go back to Pilothouse so momma can enjoy some wine in peace.

And see, it’s not that hard to go on a vacation and eat vegan. Just do some research and be prepared that your food will be delicious, just not a mound of buttery mashed potatoes. Or who knows, maybe you will luck out and find an awesome organic cafe!

"Cheesy" Rice

Awhile ago I saw something on Pinterest that said mac and cheese comes out creamier if you cook the noodles in milk. I thought why not try it with rice? I added some nutritional yeast and veggies, and ended up with a big pot of creamy and cheesy rice.

This makes 4 servings.

“Cheesy” Rice
1 cup of rice
2 cups soy milk
1 tbs vegan butter
1 clove of garlic, minced
3/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 cup of frozen veggies (I used the standard carrots, corn, and peas mix)
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a large pot, add the rice and soy milk.  Cover and bring to a boil.

Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and cook until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is cooked. Watch it so it does not burn. Add more liquid if necessary to keep it from burning. Try not to open the lid too much though.

Once the rice is cooked, remove from the heat and add the butter. Mix together well.

Spray a skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and frozen veggies. Cooked until the veggies are heated through.

Add the veggies to the rice and mix together well.

Season with salt and pepper.

This is a basic recipe, feel free to add any veggies, seasonings or anything else you like!

Slowcooker Dhal

Forgive me for being tardy to VeganMofo! I volunteered to be the Chapter Advisor for the UC Santa Cruz chapter of my sorority, Gamma Phi Beta. This week was recruitment, and for those of you who are not Greeks,  all I can say is it is insanely time consuming. It was well worth it though. I am more than happy to help share the love of Gamma Phi to the next generation.

Anyways, a few days ago I made another one of my go-to meals: crockpot dahl. When I was still in college, I used to do this over the stove but it really does come out better in a slow cooker. I have posted a recipe about lentils before, and I eat them often because they are so versatile. There are so many ways to prepare them, but this is just my basic version.

Crockpot Dahl
3 cups of dry lentils, rinsed and picked over
2 cups vegetable broth or water
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 medium onion, diced
3 large carrots, diced
1/2 tbs of curry powder
1/2 tbs of cumin
1/2 tbs of turmeric
Chili powder, to taste (I used about 1 tps because I like it spicy)
3 medium tomatoes, diced
Salt and Pepper, to taste.
Cilantro

This recipe is so easy.

Rinse and pick over the lentils.

Mince the garlic.

And dice the onion carrots, and tomatoes.

Another lovely treasure we have uncovered in the house!

Now add all the ingredients into a crockpot.

Set the crockpot to simmer or another low setting.

Check it every once and awhile to make sure nothing is burning. Add more water if needed.

It is ready when the lentils are soft and it has the consistency of a thick soup.

I served it over rice and top it with cilantro and  this amazing tamarind chutney Michael’s mom makes.

Thank you Mrs. Reddy!

Easy, delicious and healthy!

Halloween Taco Rice Bowl

Apparently today is National Taco day. And Halloween is just around the corner. So I thought I would combine the two. But, my normal grocery store did not have vegan tortillas and I didn’t feel like driving around town to find some, so I decided to make a rice bowl instead. All the same stuff as a taco, just over rice. For the Halloween  aspect, I used orange bell peppers, black-eyed peas (wooo, scary your food has eyes!) and topped it with a slimy-looking (but actual texture far from it) green kale pesto. I made the pesto the other day so I don’t have photos, but it’s so easy they aren’t needed. This recipe makes 2, but can easily be multiplied. Black beans would be good for the Halloween theme too.

Halloween Taco Rice Bowl

Kale Pesto:
1 large bunch of kale (sorry I didn’t measure it exactly)
Handful of basil
3 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup of olive oil
1/4 cup of lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Red pepper flakes (optional)
The Rest of the Stuff:

1 cup cooked brown rice
1 cup black-eyed peas (I used dried and cooked them myself but canned is fine too)
1 clove of garlic, chopped
2 orange bell peppers, sliced into strips
1/2 cup onion, sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 medium tomato, chopped
Cilantro, chopped
Jalapeños
Or any taco toppings you wish.

To make the kale pesto, first wash the kale and basil well. You can remove the stems if you like but I left them on. Peel the garlic too.

In a blender or food processor, add the kale, basil, garlic, and pine nuts. Pulse until ground up and combined.

Add the olive oil and lemon juice. Blend until smooth.

Season with salt and pepper to taste. I also added some red pepper flakes for a little kick.

The color might be reminiscent of slime, but it’s so good. And not to mention the wonderful health benefits of kale.

For the rest of the rice bowl….

Cook the rice according to the direction. I did mine in a rice cooker. Set aside.

I soaked my beans overnight and cooked them according to the package with just a bit of salt. If using canned, rinse them well and just heat them up. Set aside.

Slice the onions and peppers into strips. Chopped the garlic.

Heat some oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook just until it softens.

Add the onions and bell peppers. Season with a bit of salt and pepper and cook until the bell peppers start to blacken a bit and onions start to caramelize.

Time to assemble. In a bowl, put a serving of rice.

Next put on some black-eyed peas.

Then the orange peppers and onions.

Now put some of that lovely green kale pesto.

Lastly, I topped mine with some cilantro and jalapeños. But sour cream, vegan cheese, olives, or any taco toppings would be wonderful too. I am trying to eat more holistic foods so I kept it simple.

The pesto is what totally makes the rice bowl. And the orange peppers are just fun.

There will be more Halloween posts to come. It’s my favorite holiday because I am named after Elizabeth Montgomery’s character Samantha on the TV show Bewithched.

Easy Rice Bake

I hate when it’s almost time to go grocery shopping so you don’t have enough of anything to make a real recipe. For dinner tonight, I decided to follow in the footsteps of generations of housewives and make a baked casserole. Casseroles became household favorites because they were a cheap way to stretch a a few ingredients into a hearty meal.  They really took off when companies like Betty Crocker made prepackaged versions like Hamburger Helper (ha, a Hamburger Helper commercial came on TV as I typed that). But, they aren’t vegan and aren’t the healthiest. I made my own version instead. I had some fresh basil and canned pasta sauce that needed to be used up, so I made an Italian-style rice bake. You can make a pasta bake with this recipe too, just replace the rice with any pasta you like. Besides being tasty, this dish is a good way to clean out the fridge. You can throw in whatever veggies or leftovers you have kicking around.

Italian-Style Rice Bake
4 cups cooked brown rice
1/2 cup fresh basil
1 garlic clove
1 tbs olive oil
1 tbs cashews
1/4 of a tub of silken tofu, drained
1 cup pasta sauce
1 cup frozen veggies (carrots, peas–whatever you have in the freezer)
1 cup canned beans (I suggest white or pinto)
Anything else you want to clear out of the fridge or freezer

Everyone claims to have the secret to perfect rice, so cooked the rice according to your own method.

While your rice cooks, pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and spray a baking pan with cooking spray, set aside.

To make the “pesto”, add the basil, garlic clove, cashews, and olive oil into a blender. Blend until the cashews are ground up and the mixture is smooth. Next add the tofu and blend until smooth. I suggest adding the tofu separately so the nuts gets thoroughly ground up.

Put the “pesto” into a large bowl. Next add the pasta sauce and mix together.

Now add your veggies, beans, or whatever else you want. I had a few fake chicken strips left over so I threw them in too.

Now add your cooked rice and mix it all together.

Spread evenly into your baking dish. Normally casseroles and other bakes are covered with cheese.  You could cover this with some vegan mozzarella, but I took a little healthier approach by just topping it with some Italian breadcrumbs.

Bake for 30-35 minutes in the oven, until the top is golden and crunchy.

This will easily feed a family of four or a college kid for a couple day. It would go lovely with a nice spinach salad too.

Pineapple Fried Rice

What could be more Hawaiian than pineapple? To learn about the history of pineapple in Hawaii, visit the Dole website, they explain it better than I can. FYI,  the maze at the plantation on Oahu is hard.

Pineapple is very sweet and juicy. I have to admit that I don’t like them on their own, too sweet for my taste. But I love them for cooking and baking because they pretty much eliminate the need for any additional sweeteners.

They have been used as an anti-inflammatory since ancient times and have lot of vitamin C. They are also a great source of manganese and thiamin. It also has an enzyme that aids digestion so it is good after a heavy meal.

However, this fried rice dish isn’t heavy at all. It is a nice balance between sweet and savory. I used canned pineapples because I hate peeling and coring whole ones. When buying canned fruit, make sure it is stored in 100% juice, not syrup. No one needs extra sugar water. I also used edamame (whole soy beans) instead of peas because it gives it more texture.


Pineapple Fried Rice
2 cups cooked brown rice
Sesame oil
1/2 block of firm tofu, drained
1/2 cup onion
1 clove garlic
1/4 inch of fresh ginger
2 medium carrots
1/2 cup edamame, shelled
1/2 cup pineapple, canned or fresh
4 tbs soy sauce
2 tps rice wine vinegar
1 tps red pepper flakes
Green onion, chopped, for garnish

Everyone has their own technique for making rice, so make it the way you like and set aside to cool. It will “fry” easier when cooled.

Finely chop the onion, garlic and ginger. Next chop the tofu, carrots, and pineapple into bite-size pieces.

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the sesame oil. Add the tofu and cook until the outside is slightly golden. Then remove from the skillet.

If needed, add a bit more oil to the pan. Add the onion, garlic, and ginger and cook until the onions are slightly golden.

Next add the carrots, cook until tender.

Add the rice, cooked tofu, edamame, and pineapple. Mix together well.

In a small bowl, mix together the soy sauce, vinegar, and red pepper flakes. Add to the skillet and mix in well.

Press into a flat layer and let it cook for a few minutes. Break it up, press it flat again, and cook for another few minutes. Repeat until it reaches desired level of “fried.”

Sprinkle with the green onion before serving and enjoy a sweet taste of Hawaii!