Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Quick and Easy Pantry Cooking Day Fourteen: Black Bean Soup

My month of quick and easy pantry cooking posts has come to end. For the final post of this series, I saved my favorite go to recipe, black bean soup. We have this at least every other week, usually when I don't feel like coming up with a new recipe or want something really easy to make. It started as a recipe in the Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home cookbook but I have changed it over the years. It is so easy to make and is a filling meal by itself but is great with a scoop of brown rice in it or served with some cornbread.

Black Bean Soup

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne depending on your taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1- 28 ounce can crushed, diced or whole tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2- 15 ounce cans black beans
  • cilantro, chopped (optional)
  • vegan sour cream (optional-I use Tofutti brand)
  • salt to taste

Saute onions, garlic and cayenne in oil in a large pot until onions are translucent about 10 minutes. Add the cumin, water and tomatoes (break them up if using whole tomatoes). Cover, bring to a boil then let simmer for about five minutes. Add the black beans. I add them with their liquid but if you prefer, you can drain and rinse them. Continue simmering for 15 more minutes. Puree 1/2 of the soup in the blender or with an immersion blender. Season to taste. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of chopped cilantro.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Quick and Easy Pantry Cooking Day Thirteen: Trail Mix

I know that making trail mix isn't really cooking but it is from my pantry!!

It seems lately that trail mix is losing in popularity to the energy bar. I love the taste and convenience of a Larabar and others but trail mix can be convenient too and I can put in it what I like. There are some fun trail mixes out there but some are very expensive and many have added sugar, nuts in them that have been roasted in oil or chocolate pieces that are not vegan.

Every weekend I make a batch of trail mix for the week. It goes in lunches, we take some on our weekly hike and the rest is snacked on at home or while out running errands. I always change it up but the main ingredient is almost always raw walnuts. This is what went into it this weekend:

Trail Mix

  • raw walnuts
  • dried cranberries
  • raisins
  • cystallized ginger
  • dark chocolate
  • raw pumpkin seeds

variations: add goji berries, raw sunflower kernels, other raw nuts, dried fruit

Thursday, March 26, 2009

What's in a Vegan Pantry?

This month I have been posting recipes that are quick and easy to make with ingredients most of us have in our dry, refrigerated or freezer pantry. So today I thought I would reveal my very cramped and unorganized dry pantry. My kitchen is pretty small as are the cupboards. This is the space I have to store my dry goods.
What's in a vegan pantry? Probably similar to most other pantries. We rarely eat already prepared meals in our house, such as canned soups, chilis, frozen entrees, etc so those items are absent from my pantry. My dry pantry pretty much contains the following on a regular basis:

Baking Items (top left)

  • sugars (brown, sucanat, cane sugar, powdered sugar)
  • brown rice syrup
  • baking soda and powder
  • cocoa powder
  • vegan sprinkles
  • extracts (vanilla, almond, orange, lemon, rum)
  • agave nectar (on first shelf for easy access since it is our main sweetener)
  • hot sauce
  • tea and coffee


  • bread crumbs (usually panko)
  • wasabi powder
  • oils (coconut, olive oil, canola oil)
  • tofu
  • dried mushrooms
  • pasta (regular Barilla brand, whole wheat and soba noodles)

Canned Goods (top and bottom right)

  • Beans (Pinto, black, garbanzo, kidney, cannellini, black-eyed peas, etc)
  • Pumpkin puree
  • coconut milk
  • tomatoes (diced, crushed and whole-regular and fire roasted)

Rice and Beans (bottom left) I try to keep one bin of dry beans and one of rice but they inevitably overflow into each other

  • Rice (brown basmati and jasmine, white basmati and jasmine, wild)
  • Beans (lentils, kidney, black and garbanzo)

I keep spices in their own drawer except for a few over sized spice containers. Flours and nuts are stored in the refrigerator. I saw this interesting chart, http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/5000/pdf/5401.pdf that explains how long we should keep stuff such as canned goods, spices, etc. I have to admit, I have a few spices that need to be updated!!! Maybe you do too???

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Quick and Easy Pantry Cooking Day Twelve: Spicy Baked Sweet Potato Fries

I love sweet potatoes and try to always keep them in stock. I know have blogged about sweet potatoes before and I am sure I will again-I really love them!!!

Oven fries are great cooked with just some salt, pepper and oil but they are even better when spiced up and made with sweet potatoes. Rachel Ray has a great recipe for Cajun oven fries. My recipe ends up changing a bit every time, depending on what spices I have. This is how I made them today.

Spicy Baked Sweet Potato Fries
  • 4 sweet potatoes, washed well and dried
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sweet, hot or smoked paprika (I used the smoked today)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (depending how hot you want it-use less if you use hot paprika)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425. Cut sweet potatoes into wedges. Combine oil, paprika, cumin and cayenne then toss with potatoes. Spread single layer on baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, turn them over and bake 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot with your favorite dipping sauce.

variations: use another type of potato, add hot sauce to spice mixture (Rachel Ray does this), add a tablespoon or two of maple syrup for some sweetness.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Quick and Easy Pantry Cooking Day Eleven: Yogurt Parfait

In my refrigerated pantry, I always have plain soy yogurt. I use it in smoothies or dollop it on chili. In my freezer pantry, I always have an assortment of frozen fruit which I mostly use for smoothies or the occasional pie. I wanted a healthy treat so I made a parfait. This is much better than buying yogurt with fruit already in it being that you can control the sugar level. Although fresh fruit is wonderful in parfaits, cooking the fruit produces a nice syrup.

Cherry Yogurt Parfait

  • 1-1lb bag frozen cherries
  • 2 tablespoons sweetener (agave, sugar, maple syrup, etc)
  • zest of one lemon
  • plain soy yogurt

Combine ingredients (except yogurt) in a saucepan. Cook on medium to low heat for about 15 minutes. When cool, layer yogurt and cherry mixture in a glass. Store rest of cherry mixture in refrigerator.

variations: use whatever frozen fruit you have (mangoes, blueberries, raspberries, etc), substitute orange zest for the lemon, add a layer of granola.

Vegan Product of the Week: Origins

This is really last week's product of the week but I am trying to catch up!

All of Origins products are not vegan. They do use honey and/or beeswax in a few products (mostly lipsticks). But the majority are vegan and they are great high quality products. I also use vegan only product lines but I like to vary what I use and also support companies that are making an effort to carry vegan items. The challenging part of that can be trying to figure which products in a line are actually vegan. Most companies, like Origins, are good about getting back to you when you email them and most are pretty clear about their ingredient sources. If they don't get back to me after a few attempts, then that pretty much tells me that it is not a vegan friendly company. Certain companies like Urban Decay and Lush actually post on their websites which of their products are vegan. Being that my sister and I are both vegans, we have developed a tag team approach for the other companies. Just to be sure that they are providing accurate information, my sister and I both contact the companies and compare responses. For example, we both received the same response from Origins:

"Regarding the use of non-vegan ingredients, we would like to explain that the majority of our products are appropriate for use by our vegan consumers. We do, however, use beeswax or honey in some of our formulations. Beeswax is naturally produced by bees during the process of making honey, and both ingredients come from nature-driven renewable sources. Honey and beeswax ingredients will appear on a product's ingredient label if either is present in the formulation. "

My favorite Origins product is their Night-a-Mins, a very moisturizing facial cream. This one is great for dry skin. I also love their Frothy Face Wash. When you order online from them, they usually include some free samples. It is a great company to order a gift for someone from because they package gifts in very cute reusable containers.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Quick and Easy Pantry Cooking Day Ten: Lemon and Rosemary Tomato Soup

This is my go to soup when I want a healthy, fast yet filling soup. The lemon zest and rosemary in this hearty tomato soup give it a really fresh flavor. Cannellini beans make it hearty and rich in protein. Sometimes I use the fire roasted tomatoes to give it a more rustic flavor. This recipe was originally on Everyday Italian, Giada de Laurentiis' show on the Food Network. I altered her recipe a bit and veganized it.

Lemon and Rosemary Tomato Soup

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1-15 oz can cannellin beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1-28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 teaspoons of fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • 2/3 cup vegan sour cream (I use Tofutti brand)
  • zest of one lemon

Saute onion and garlic in olive oil until tender, about five minutes. Add the beans, tomatoes, broth, 1 teaspoon of the rosemary and the red pepper flakes. Bring soup to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer covered for 30 minutes. Puree all or part of the soup. If you don't puree it at least partially, which is what I do, then it won't get that creamy texture. Season with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, combine the sour cream, the remaining 1 teaspoon of rosemary and lemonzest. Serve soup with a dollop of the sour cream mixture on top.

Variations: Substitute plain soy yogurt for the sour cream. Fresh rosemary is best for this recipe but you could use dried, 1/4 teaspoon in the soup and 1/4 in the sour cream. Add croutons.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Quick and Easy Pantry Cooking Day Nine: Black Eyed Peas in Spicy Coconut Sauce

This is a dish that is made almost entirely from canned goods. I like to keep the ingredients in stock because this is so easy to make, full of protein and makes a filling and healthy dinner especially when paired with a salad.
I serve it over brown rice but any grain that you have in stock would work well. If you don't have black-eyed peas, you can substitute any kind of bean (pinto beans are a good substitute). I prefer the flavor of the black-eyed peas in this dish but most beans would taste really good. I used a can of tomato sauce because that is what I had. A can of diced or crushed tomatoes would also be fine.

Black-Eyed Peas in Spicy Coconut Sauce
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-15 oz cans black-eyed peas, drained, rinsed and partially mashed
  • 1-15 oz can tomato sauce, diced tomatoes or crushed tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1-14 oz can light coconut milk
  • 2-3 tablespoons cilantro or parsley, chopped (optional)
  • salt to taste

Saute onion in oil until soft, about 5 minutes. Add all ingredients except cilantro and combine well. Cover pan and simmer for about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and add cilantro. Serve over rice.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Quick and Easy Pantry Cooking Day Eight: Wild Rice with Mushrooms

I keep many kinds of rice in my pantry but I find that I usually end up using brown rice for lots of dishes. I had some wild rice left from a Thanksgiving wild rice and corn bread dressing dish so I decided to use it up. There were some beautiful shitake mushrooms at the farmer's market that I thought would be good with wild rice. You could use whatever mushroom you can find or use the dehydrated kind. This is not the prettiest dish but it has a nice earthy flavor.

Wild Rice with Mushrooms

  • 1 cup wild rice
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 teaspoon fresh
  • 2 cups mushrooms, chopped
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper

Cook wild rice in broth for about 45 minutes. Drain excess broth from rice. While the rice is cooking saute onion, garlic, red pepper flakes and thyme until onion is translucent, about five minutes. Add mushrooms and cook about 10 minutes more, until mushrooms are tender. This time will vary depending on the mushroom you are using. Combine mushroom mixture and rice and season to taste with salt and pepper.

variations: Add 1/4 cup white wine to mushrooms near end of their cooking time for some extra flavor. Garnish with chopped scallions or parsley

Friday, March 13, 2009

Vegan Product of the Week: Cool Cups

Friday is product-of-the-week day (back to pantry cooking on Monday). I don't eat processed food very often but I saw these Cool Cups Natural Black Cherry Gels at Whole Foods the other day and was intrigued. Way back before I was even a vegetarian, I only ate Jello on occasion. Once a vegetarian then vegan, I would try different brands of vegan gel type desserts which were usually just ok. Cool Cups have a great flavor and the texture seems just right, firm yet jiggly. They are fairly inexpensive for a specialty vegan item, a four pack was under $2.50. Currently this company just has the ready made gel packs but their website states that dry mixes will be available this spring. I'll be looking forward to those! I would definitely get these again for a refreshing and fairly healthy treat!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Quick and Easy Pantry Cooking Day Seven: Broccoli Pasta

When I want a quick dinner that is healthy and full of veggies, I pick up some fresh broccoli and make broccoli pasta. I usually use the De Boles brand pasta if I want whole wheat or Barilla if I want regular pasta. This time I used the De Boles whole wheat angel hair. For this recipe, you can add lots more broccoli if you want a high broccoli to pasta ratio. You can substitute rapini or cauliflower for the broccoli. I sometimes add fresh or frozen spinach to the broccoli while it is cooking. For a boost of protein, add a drained and rinsed can of cannellini beans after the broccoli has been added to the pasta.

Broccoli Pasta

8 cups fresh broccoli, chopped

2 tablespoons olive for cooking plus 2 more to add after the pasta has cooked

6 garlic cloves, chopped

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/4 cup veggie broth or water

1/2 lb pasta

salt and pepper to taste

Saute garlic and red pepper flakes in 2 tablespoons of olive oil for a few minutes. Do not let brown too much. Add broccoli and broth or water. Cook covered on medium low heat for about 15 minutes until broccoli is tender. While broccoli is cooking, cook pasta according to package directions. When pasta and broccoli are done, combine them and add the other 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season to taste.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Quick and Easy Pantry Cooking Day Six: Lentils and Rice

A few days ago I cooked one pound of lentils. I used half for a lentil salad that day and saved the rest to make lentils and rice. I used brown rice to make it healthier and the brown rice pairs nicely with the lentils, but you could use whatever you have.

I usually cook my rice in veggie broth to add more flavor. Sometimes I use the broth in the cartons but those can be expensive. I do try to make my own broth but that doesn't happen as often as I'd like. So I always keep two bouillon products in stock. The Rapunzel Vegetable Bouillon is wonderful because it comes in individually wrapped cubes and there is a no salt version. This one is good for throwing in with rice or to make a cup of broth to drink. The other one I use regularly is the Better Than Bouillon vegetable base. This one is a bit salty but is a great base for soups. It is a thick liquid that comes in a jar. For this dish, I used one Rapunzel bouillon cube.

Lentils and Rice
1/2 lb dry lentils, cooked
1 cup brown rice
1 vegan bouillon cube
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Cook brown rice according to package directions. Add bouillon cube to rice at start of cooking or replace water with veggie broth. While rice is cooking, saute onion, garlic and red pepper flakes in olive oil until onions are translucent. When rice is done, stir in lentils, onion mixture and parsley. Season to taste.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Quick and Easy Pantry Cooking Day Five: Orange Marmalade Sweet Potatoes

There are certain vegetables such as sweet potatoes that I always keep in stock. I put them in soup, roast them with other veggies, bake them as oven fries or just eat them as a baked potato. I now have a new favorite way to prepare sweet potatoes, mashed with orange marmalade. Rachel Ray made them on her show, Thirty Minute Meals and I veganized her recipe. I have combined orange and sweet potato before, making mashed sweet potatoes with orange juice and maple syrup but the orange marmalade is just delicious and takes it to another level! The picture does not do them justice. Use a good quality orange marmalade.

Orange Marmalade Sweet Potatoes
6 small sweet potatoes or 3-4 large (mine happened to be very tiny so I used 6)
2-3 heaping tablespoons orange marmalade (add three if you like extra sweetness)
2 tablespoons Earth Balance margarine
salt to taste

Roast potatoes in 400 degree oven for about an hour until tender. You could also microrave them or cut into chunks and boil them but I prefer the flavor of baked potatoes. Peel and roughly mash potatoes, add remaining ingredients and combine thoroughly.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Quick and Easy Pantry Cooking Day Four: Lentil Salad

Beans are so versatile and healthy. There are practically endless types of beans and endless possibilities for preparing them. Beans have been a staple food throughout the world for thousands of years. Whenever someone says that they don't like beans-I always ask which one. How could someone not like all beans. Maybe I'll dedicate a month to beans! Being that I am not fond of meat substitutes, tofu, seitan and tempeh (shocking I know, a vegan that doesn't love all those things), I depend on beans for my main source of protein in a meal.

This lentil salad is so simple and you can vary what you add to it depending on what you have. I made a Mediterranean style salad but you could give it a more latino feel with cilantro, cumin and jalapenos or add whatever you like. I cooked the whole 1 lb bag of lentils and used half for this and the other half I set aside for a future dish.

Lentil Salad
1/2 bag (1/2 lb dry beans or 1 1/4 cup dry beans)
2 tomatoes chopped
handful parsley, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
4 tablespoons olive oil
zest of one lemon
juice of half a lemon or about 2 tablespoons lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

variations: add chopped kalamata olives, roasted red peppers, green onions

Cook lentils (no soaking required for lentils) in a large pot of water on medium low heat for 45-60 minutes until tender. Drain. Add all ingredients and mix. Serve warm or cold.

I wanted to make a quick and easy dessert last night so I found the decadent brownie recipe in The Garden of Vegan cookbook. It was so easy to make. But I was so disappointed in the result. It did not make brownies. Brownies are fudgy and rich, a cross between chocolate cake and fudge. This recipe made a chocolate cake. It was a good cake but when you want brownies, this was disappointing!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Quick and Easy Pantry Cooking Day Three: Mediterranean Salad

I found some fresh tomatoes at the farmer's market and had some hearts of palm and artichoke hearts in the cupboard so I decided to make a Mediterranean salad. What is great about this recipe is that you can add whatever you happen to have such as roasted red peppers, olives, garbanzo beans, fresh herbs, etc. This would also be a great topping for a salad.

Mediterranean Salad
2 tomatoes chopped
4 artichoke hearts, halved (use marinated ones or ones in water-whatever you have)
handful of olives (I used kalamata but any kind would be good)
4 hearts of palm, sliced in 1/2 inch pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients
variations: add roasted red peppers, beans, fresh basil or parsley

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Quick and Easy Pantry Cooking Day Two: Banana Nut Chocolate Chip Bread

I love to bake but sometimes I don’t feel like the whole big production of baking like getting out the mixer, all the cleanup, etc. This is the ideal treat for those times. It is very simple to make and requires no mixer and only a little cleanup is necessary. This is wonderful for breakfast with a glass of soymilk or as a dessert with some non-dairy ice cream. If you don’t have any nuts or chocolate chips then it comes out just as well if you leave those out. Sometimes I break up a chocolate bar into chunks and use those when I don't have any chips. You could even use a different type of nut, like pecans.

Banana Nut and Chocolate Chip Bread
3 ripe bananas
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
½ cup oil (I use canola oil)
½ cup sugar
1 ½ cups flour (I use whole wheat pastry flour)
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ baking soda
½ cup chopped walnuts
½ cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375. Lightly grease a loaf pan. In a small bowl mash the bananas really well with a fork. Add lemon juice, oil and sugar to the bananas. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until just mixed. Fold in nuts and chips. Spoon batter into loaf pan. Bake for 40-50 minutes until a knife in the center comes out clean.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Quick and Easy Pantry Cooking Day One: Caramelized Green Beans

Although I enjoy preparing elaborate recipes or ones that require that hard to find yet essential ingredient, I usually cook simple, healthy dishes. This month I will share recipes that are quick and easy to prepare and that use ingredients that most of us have in our pantries (my pantry consists of one cupboard but it sounds better when I call it a pantry) or are easily found at the grocery store. Most of these dishes are very budget friendly as well.

To start the series off..caramelized green beans. I love green beans but I prefer them on the more tender side-not a big fan of the cooked green beans that are still crunchy. This recipe couldn't be easier yet produces a great tasting side dish. I used the Trader Joe's yellow and green bean mix that is already washed and trimmed to make this dish even easier.

Caramelized Green Beans
2 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 pounds green beans (ends trimmed)
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts or almond slivers/slices

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-low heat. Add green beans, cover, stirring occasionally, until green beans are tender and caramelized (partially browned), about 30-40 minutes. While green beans are cooking toast nuts in an un-oiled pan on the stove until lightly browned or on a baking sheet in a 400 degree oven for about 5 minutes. Watch closely since it doesn't take much to go from lightly toasted to burned! After green beans are cooked, toss with nuts. Season with salt and pepper.