Taco Pasta

Yesterday evening while waiting for my son to wake up from his nap, I was browsing on Pinterest. I came across this pin for Taco Pasta. Noodles with a Mexican-style meat sauce. It looked so good and I hadn’t had an actual home cooked dinner since my mom left a week ago. So I decided to quickly make a vegan version of it before Jack woke up.

I did not use a taco seasoning packet like in the original recipe. I never buy spice packets like that, too high in sodium and you never know what else in there exactly. Just make your own spice blend with your own fresh spices.

Taco Pasta
5 oz Penne 
Olive oil
1/2 white onion, chopped fine 
1 clove if garlic, minced 
1 package of vegan ground beef (I used Tofurky Ground Beef Style
1/4 tsp salt 
1/4 tsp pepper 
1/2 tsp garlic powder 
1/2 tsp Mexican oregano 
1/2 tsp paprika 
1/2 tsp ground cumin 
1 tsp chili powder 
1 cup salsa (I used pico de gallo) 
1/2 cup vegan cream cheese ( I used Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese
1/2 cup vegan sour cream 
Vegan cheddar cheese, optional 
Cook the pasta according to the direction on the package. 
While that cooks, add a little olive oil to a large skillet. Heat over medium heat. 
Add the onions and sauté until soft. 
Add the garlic and the ground “beef”. Cook until the “beef” is slightly browned. 
Add the salt, pepper, garlic powder, oregano, paprika, cumin, and chili powder. Cook until fragrant.
Turn the heat to low. Add the salsa, cream cheese, and sour cream. Mix well and cook until heated through. 
Once the pasta is ready, drain and return to the pot. 
Add the “meat” sauce to the pasta and stir together well. 
Serve it up and add a sprinkle of cheddar cheese on top if you wish.

Michael was really happy to have a home cooked meal and so was I. This was so filling and tasty after several says of frozen food and sandwiches. I love the tang from the sour cream.

Chipotle Sofritas

Last week Michael and I stopped by the mall after work to browse for some stuff. I suddenly got that horrible pregnancy hunger—the one like “IF I DON’T EAT NOW I WILL TURN INTO GODZILLA AND DESTROY THIS WHOLE BUILDING!!!” So Michael suggested we eat before continued. I saw Chipotle and thought of how those warm burritos saved my life after hours of studying in college. As we entered, I saw the sign for sofritas! I totally forgot they added a vegan protein option to the menu! I thought I died and went to heaven!

The sofritas are braised organic tofu  marinated in a blend of spices and peppers. It’s was very tender and very flavorful. It had a bit of a kick, but was not overly hot. I wouldn’t say it tasted exactly like meat (a meat eater would probably be able to tell the difference), but the texture was pretty close.
While I love Chipotle, they can be very high in calories. Even if you make it all vegan. Let’s compare the burrito I used to order in college:

Do you see that? 1505 calories in a burrito and side of chips & salsa. With no meat or dairy! It’s all the carbs and fat. Proof you can still be vegan and eat unhealthy. Let’s make some reasonable variations, like adding the new sofritas and cutting out the chips & salsa:

Just buy cutting out the chips& salsa, you save 590 calories alone. The carbs drop from 215 to 147, and the total fat from 60 to 43. Getting better, but let’s look at what I ordered last week:
A total of 660 calories, way more reasonable. I switched to tacos instead, which saves about 50 calories from the tortilla. I also cut out the rice. Yes, you can get brown rice for added nutrition, but that is still a lot of carbs for one meal, so skip it. I also cut out the guacamole. It is a healthy fat, but it’s high in calories and still is a fat. I add it as treat every one and awhile, but not every time. I also always pick black beans over pinto beans because they have less sodium and more fiber. But load it up with all the salsas you want! They are lower in calories and you get more veggies in for the day.
If you are really cutting calories try this:
A salad with sofritas, only 440 calories. More nutrition from the added lettuce. The black beans still provide some carbs to make it a balanced meal. No dressing (215 calories), but all the salsas will provide enough liquid/flavor to take it’s place at a less than half the calories.
I really suggest trying the sofritas next time, they are really delicious. Just make wise decisions on what you add to your meal. Even healthy and organic food in the wrong amounts can become unhealthy. And if you are pregnant like me, make sure you get enough protein (likes sofritas) with every meal to keep you full so you don’t end up wanting calorie-packed extras like chips. No one want to be losing a ton of baby weight because you didn’t balance meals properly.
ol
I couldn’t get a good shot of just the sofritas without
it falling apart, but it pretty much looks like tofu pieces.
By the way, all the images I used are screen captures from Chipotle’s Nutrition Calculator on its website. I really suggest checking to see if you favorite chain restaurants have this feature before you go. You can see what vegan options they have or how you can make things vegans. You can also figure out how to get what you really want, without going overboard.

Green Chili Stew

I fell asleep on the couch last week (one of the joys of being pregnant) while watching Food Network. As I started to wake up, I heard something about roasting hatch chilies for green chili strew. By the time I actually woke up, the show was over so I have no idea what it was or who was making. It still sounded good so I decided to make it for dinner.

This stew came out FANTASTIC. When Michael walked in the door he said it smelled like his grandma was cooking (he is half Hispanic, his grandparents were of Spanish decent born in New Mexico).  He is not a big soup or stew fan, but he asked for a second bowl!

Sadly, I don’t have hatch chilies right now. And, I did not feel like going to the store to by anaheims or some other chili. So I just used the jalapenos already in my fridge. It still came out AMAZING, but would be even better with hatches if you can get them.

This recipe makes 4 servings.

Green Chili Stew
6 jalapenos
3 tbs olive oil
1 block of extra firm tofu, cubed
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 large carrots, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbs flour
4 cups water (or vegetable broth)
1 large tomato, diced
Salt and pepper, to taste
Cilantro, for garnish

Roast the whole jalapenos. I did this over my gas stove burner. You can also do it in the broiler or over a grill. You want a nice black char on the skins.

Pop the roasted peppers into a zip lock bag and let them cool. The steam will loosen the skins. Once cooled, remove the charred skins and the stems.

Chop the jalapenos.

In a large pot over medium heat, add the olive oil.

Lightly brown the tofu.

Add the chopped onions and carrots, saute until they start to soften.

Add the garlic and cook saute for a minute.

Add the flour and coat the veggies well.

Add the water and mix together well. Break up all the flour clumps.

Stir in the chopped jalapenos.

Turn the heat down the low and let the broth thicken slightly, about 10-15 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Removed from the heat and add the diced tomatoes.

Garnish with a little cilantro and serve.

A warm tortilla on the side and you have a very tasty dinner!

Tamale Pie

I have no real story or reason behind the recipe. I had dry pinto beans, I had masa, and I had fresh organic veggies. So I made a tamale pie. I decided to make it more like dumplings on top instead of a solid crust, just trying something different.

Tamale Pie
2 cups dry pinto beans
6 cups water
1 tbs chili powder
2 tsp Mexican oregano
1 tsp cumin
Salt and pepper
2 zucchini, cubed
1 medium onion, diced
2 green bell peppers, diced
2 sweet gypsy peppers, diced
2 cups masa harina
Salt
About 3 cups water

Rinse the dry pinto beans.

In a large pot, add the beans, 6 cups water, chili powder, oregano, and cumin. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cook for one and a half hours, or until the beans are almost soft and most of the water is absorbed. Add more water if needed. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Next add the zucchini, onion, bell peppers, and sweet peppers. Stir well and let if cook covered 30 minutes. Now the beans and the veggies should be all soft.

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees and spray a baking pan with cooking spray.

In a small bowl, mix together the masa and salt. Add a little water at a time until the dough reaches a moist play-dough-like consistency.

Pour the bean and veggie mixture into the baking pan.

Tear off small chunks of the dough and cover the top of the bean and veggie mixture. It’s okay if not every spot is covered.

Bake for 30 minutes, until the masa is slightly golden.

I topped mine with homemade guacamole, try one of my Guacamole 3 Ways recipes. And all the veggies (but the onion) were organic from the box delivery I mentioned in Roasted Beet and Carrot Salad post.

Tequila Sunrise Fajitas

I like fajitas and I like tequila sunrises, so this recipe was inevitable.  They were my last call drink during college (my logic being that it is almost morning so why not have some OJ). My mom brought me back from sliver tequila from her trip to Mexico last month, and I have been wanting to make this delicious drink very badly. But, I began to think, why stop there? I heard of margartia-style tacos and such before, so why not try tequila-sunrise-style?

This post contains two side recipes in order to assemble the fajitas. This will make enough for 8 fajitas.


Tequila Sunrise Fajitas
Fajita Vegetables
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 small yellow onion, cut into strips
1 cup white mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp olive oil
1 oz sliver tequila
1/4 cup orange juice
Salt and pepper
Corn Salsa
2 ears of white corn
1 jalepeno, chopped finely
2 tsp fresh cilantro
1 tbs orange juice
1/2 tsp chili powder
Salt and pepper
Other Ingredients 
Guacamole (try one of my recipes)
Small tortillas (I used Trader Joe’s Corn and Wheat Tortillas)
Salsa of your choice

To make the fajita vegetables….

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and mix together well. Make sure to coat the veggies thoroughly.

Let this marinate for at least an hour.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the veggies.

Stir often and cook until the veggies soften and most of the liquid has been absorbed.

To make the corn salsa…

Remove the kernels from the cob. I do this by standing the ear up in a large bowl, and cutting the kernels off downward in to bow.

In a large bowl (like the one you just conveniently cut all the kernels in) add the remaining ingredients and mix together well.

Chill in the fridge until ready to serve.

Now to assemble to fajitas…

Warm your tortillas (I usually place mine on a plate, cover with a damp paper towel and microwave for 30-60 seconds).

There is no “right way” to assemble them really, I did mine in this order but do them however you like.

Lay the warmed tortilla flat.

Add a small scoop of fajita veggies.

Add a small scoop of corn salsa.

A dollop of guacamole.

Top with some salsa.

Eat!

A tangy from the orange juice, with a little flavor kick from the tequila. I loved the contrast from the fresh and crisp corn salsa.  I must confess,  I did make Michael steak strips for this. I used the same marinade for the vegetables. He loved it. And, I did have a tequila sunrise with my dinner too.

Tortilla Soup

One of the most popular dishes at the restaurant I work at is the Tortilla Soup. Unfortunately, it is made with chicken and chicken broth, so I have never tried it. On Saturday the cooks were making a giant batch of it and it smelled so good, so I decided to make my own version. No chicken obviously and I used vegetable broth. I added more vegetables too. Pretty easy to make and very filling. I used tortilla strips from my work, but you can make your own or use crushed tortilla chips.

This recipe makes 4-6 servings of soup.

Tortilla Soup
1/2 of a red onion
1 large carrot, grated
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 green bell pepper, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
32 oz vegetable broth
2 cups water
14.5 oz can roasted and crushed tomatoes
1 tsp Mexican oregano
1 tsp taco seasoning
1/2 tsp cumin
Salt and Pepper to taste
Tortilla strips (or crushed tortilla chips)
Cilantro or any other desired toppings

Heat some oil in a large pot over medium heat.

Add the onions, bell peppers, and grated carrot. Cook until the onions are golden.

Add the garlic and cook for a few more minutes.

Add the vegetable broth and water. Stir well.

Add the can of tomatoes. Stir well.

Add the oregano, taco seasoning, and cumin. Mix in well.

Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and let it cook for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Once it has thicken slightly, add the salt and pepper to taste.

In individual bowls, put a handful of tortilla strips.

Ladle the soup on top.

You can garnish with some cilantro and salsa like I did, or anything you like. Try some avocado, hot sauce, vegan sour cream & etc.

I was so happy to have this steaming hot bowl on such cold day (I thought California was supposed to be warm!).  I ate this a warm tortilla on the side too. Light but really hit the spot.

Southwest Quiche

I have done a quiche recipe before but I wanted to try a different recipe. This is a Southwest inspired quiche, mainly because I work at a Southwest cafe and thought that sounded good. This can be a lovely brunch or can be paired with a fresh salad for dinner.

Southwest Quiche
1 vegan pie crust (I used frozen)
1 block of firm tofu
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup soy milk (add more if not blending well)
2 tps turmeric
1 tps cumin
1 tsp paprika
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 poblano pepper, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 cup salsa of your choice ( I used the black bean and corn salsa from my work)

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Spray a pie pan with cooking spray.

Shape the pie crust into pie pan, set aside.

In a food processor or a blender, add the tofu block and soy milk, blend until smooth. Add the turmeric, cumin, paprika, salt, and pepper. Blend until combined.

Pour the tofu mixture into a large bowl. Add all remaining ingredients Mix well.

Pour the tofu/veggie mixture into pie crust.

Bake for 45 minutes, or until the crust is brown and the filling is firm.

 Topped with tomatillo salsa and paired with a cabbage salad.

Top your Southwest treat with some salsa and enjoy!

Beanadilla? Noquesadilla? Something Like That…

My work has these quesadillas with mushrooms in them, and it sounds amazing. But, queso is not vegan so I can’t have them. Then it dawned on me today that I could make a quesadilla with beans instead, like I often do at home. I originally got the idea from a recipe I saw on VegWeb for one with white beans.

I had the luxury of making this on the flat top grill at work. And I used the homemade slow-cooked pinto beans and the already marinated mushrooms and poblano peppers. But, luckily I have already posted a recipe for how to slow cook pinto beans and it’s not that hard to marinade and sauté veggies at home.

As I was making this, the cooks all looked at me funny and asked what I was making. When I explained it was, they thought I was crazy, “Quesa-dilla, you need queso in order to make it, not frijoles!” So I said, “Fine, it’s a noquesadilla…a beanadilla.”

This makes 1 large quesadilla/beanadilla/whatever you want to call it.

Beanadilla
1/2 cup mushrooms, washed and sliced
1/2 of a poblano pepper, chopped
1/2 tbs of olive oil
Juice of a lime
Red pepper flake, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 large tortilla (read the label carefully to make sure it doesn’t have lard)
1/2 cup of cooked pinto beans (try mine)
Salsa, guacamole, or whatever other condiment for dipping

In a skillet over medium heat, sauté the sliced mushrooms and chopped poblano pepper until soft.

Immediately add to a small bowl and add the oil, lime juice, pepper, and salt and pepper. Let it sit for at least 15 minutes. Drain off the excess liquid when ready to use.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, place the tortilla down in it.

Spread the beans evenly on one half.

Top the beans with the veggie mixture.

Fold the tortilla over to cover the filling.

Brown on the onside as desired.

Flip carefully and brown on the other side.

Slice into wedges and serve with the sauce of your choice.

My restaurant makes killer homemade salsas. I had some of the tomatillo, my favorite and our delicious homemade guacamole.

Forget cheese, mushrooms are good no matter how you serve them. And the poblano gives it just a touch of sweetness.

Soy Cheese Quesadilla

I have some very exciting news: I have a real job! I now work for Greenpeace doing frontline canvassing. I am so happy to work for an organization that shares my same morals and ethics. I love the environment and know that if people just understood what is truly going on in the world, they would want to be more accountable. I am happy with job and my semi-adult life so far. And, hopefully soon I will have my own place so I can start cooking more again.

I thought I would post a recipe for a healthy version of a college staple: quesadillas. Of course I don’t use real queso, I use Daiya Cheddar Shreds. Using soy cheese alone makes it healthier because it cuts out all the cholesterol. Daiya hands down make the best nondairy cheeses (you can read my review in my Mac and Cheese post), but I don’t care what it claims, soy cheese never melt under basic heat like dairy cheese. But, there is a secret to making it melt—steam. 
For some added nutrients (I mean come on, you can’t just eat a cheap pile of cheese and tortillas), I always add some greens into my quesadillas.  Any fresh greens will do—kale, spinach, swiss chard, lettuce & etc. I used some left over mixed salad that from dinner a few nights ago so I had a bit of each. I also whole wheat tortillas. They have more fiber, which is always good. 
This makes one quesadillas, but just multiply to make as any as you like.
Soy Cheese Quesadillas 
2 small whole wheat tortillas
Handful of Greens (spinach, kale, chard, lettuce…)
Red pepper flakes, to taste
2-3 tablespoons of water, just enough to barely cover the bottom of the skillet 
Spray a large skillet with some cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat.

Place one tortilla down into the pan.

Pile the cheese on top of the tortilla. 
Pile the greens on top of the cheese.
Sprinkle on some red pepper flakes.
Top with the other tortilla. 
Pour in the water. I suggest pouring it rounding the tortillas, not directly on, so they do not get too soggy. Add it slowly and stop once it barely cover the whole bottom.
Next cover the skillet, I used a large plate but a lid works fine too. 
Let it steam until the water is all evaporated. You can peak under the cover if you need to, but I just listen until I hear the tortilla start to sizzle.
Remove the cover, and adjust the heat as needed. Let it brown lightly. 
Flip gently and let the other side brown.
Remove from the pan and cut into desired pieces. 
I topped mine with some salsa and hot sauce. It’s easy and pack with protein, vitamins, and fiber. 

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.