Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Potato, Spinach and Garbanzo Bean Curry {GF + Vegetarian}

Potato, Spinach and Garbanzo Bean Curry

A spicy, healthy Potato, Spinach and Garbanzo Bean Curry.  Gluten Free** (omit naan bread) and Vegetarian recipe!
**For Gluten Free, omit naan bread (or use GF version) and always make sure the ingredients you use are clearly labeled Gluten Free, including your spices!


• 1/4 cup olive oil (or to taste)
• 1 teaspoon mustard seeds or mustard powder
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1 teaspoon ground coriander
• 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
• 1/2 tablespoon cayenne (or to taste)
• 6 tablespoons curry powder (or to taste)
• 6 tablespoons garam masala (or to taste)
• 1/2 cup chopped yellow onions
• 4-6 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger or 1 teaspoon ground ginger
• 2 minced jalapeno peppers
• 4 small Yukon Gold potatoes
• 1 can garbanzo beans
• 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
• 2 pounds fresh spinach, rinsed, stems removed, and chopped
• 2-3 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
• 1 bunch fresh cilantro leaves; finely chopped


1. Wash and peel potatoes. Place them in boiling water to partially pre-cook, about 10-minutes. Remove from water and cube. 
2. Heat the oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the mustard seeds and cook, stirring, until they pop. Or, add mustard powder if you don't have the seeds. Add cumin, coriander, turmeric cayenne, curry powder and garam masala and cook, stirring constantly for 30 seconds until fragrant. 
3. Add the onions, the (cubed, partially pre-cooked) potatoes, garlic, ginger and jalapenos and cook for approximately 10-15 minutes. 
4. Add the garbanzo beans followed by the spinach; cook until the spinach is wilted. 
5. Add the tomatoes and cook over medium-low heat until curry is thickened, approximately 15 to 20 minutes. 
6. Add the cilantro and stir well. 
7. Serve hot over quinoa or rice if following a Gluten Free diet OR with naan bread if not on a GF diet. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Three Courses of French Vegetarian Goodness

Three Courses of French Vegetarian Goodness:

Braised Baby Artichokes over Brown Rice with Tomato Coulis & Goat Cheese Stuffed Roasted Tomato
Now, anyone familiar with French food will probably be wondering how I could pull off a decent, multi-course French dinner given my status as vegetarian and subsequent lack of desire to prepare, let alone eat, a meaty dish.  

But, happily for me, one of my more productive means of procrastination is perusing online cooking and recipe sites for recipes that sound particularly interesting, challenging, or which meet some other criteria I've deemed of the utmost importance (most recently, I've been pursing BBQ'd meat substitutes). 

On one of my many sojourns through the wonderful world of online cooking resources, I came across a set of recipes on Food and Wine magazine's website, intriguingly titled: "French Provincial Vegetarian."  I clicked the link excitedly and found myself anything but disappointed.  

In fact, I was quite happy to be staring at a French Vegetarian menu developed by Chef Alain Coumont.  

The menu included:

As usual, I made some alterations to the original recipes (links found above, next to the bulleted menu items) but given my unfamiliarity with French cooking a I was less comfortable than usual with making too many spur-of-the-moment changes.  

Chilled Zucchini Soup
My major cooking intervention came in the form of adding greater quantities of spices than the recipes called for, and occasionally adding an extra clove of garlic or bit more chopped onion or basil.  This was all in the service of producing a more robust flavor and I would recommend that anyone embarking upon these recipes start off with recommended amounts and slowly adapt things to their taste.  

The other major changes I made were to reduce serving sizes and I opted to use canned whole artichokes (HEB brand) rather than preparing fresh artichokes for the artichoke dish.  This eliminated the need to pare the artichokes and then soak them in lemon-water (although I drizzled lemon on the canned artichokes prior to cooking).  This adaptation necessitated that I add the artichokes later in the cooking process than originally called for in order to prevent them from becoming overdone. 

NOTE: Every recipe I made could be made Gluten Free if you are following a GF diet.  It would require using certified GF ingredients but no other alteration to the recipes.

Although I don't typically tackle multiple dishes when I make dinner (I usually opt for a one course, one-food meal), I found Coumont's recipes to be relatively easy to make (balking popular conceptions of the complexity of French cooking), if still time consuming.  

I was able to make two of the recipes, the chilled zucchini soup and tomato coulis, the day before the dinner and enjoyed the fact that I was able to tackle things across two days rather than slaving away in the kitchen nonstop for a full day.

Mocha Pots, fresh out of oven
Overall, my experiment in vegetarian French cooking was a success.  The artichokes with tomato coulis and brown rice combo. was a hit, and the oven-baked tomatoes stuffed with goat cheese are absolutely heavenly.  

The chilled zucchini soup was good, but less of a pleaser than the other dishes.  It is a nice, light first course, but I feel it needs something like a nice crusty, toasted bread paired with it to be really successful.  

The Mocha Pots for dessert also turned out well.  I made them fresh after dinner so they could be consumed while still warm and I put a healthy dollop of reduced fat whipped cream on top before serving.  All in all, a great night of foodie decadence of the Provencal French Vegetarian variety. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Product Review: Shirley J Gluten Free Chocolate Brownie Mug Cake

[Product Review]: Shirley J Gluten Free Chocolate Brownie Mug Cake


Overall I recommend the mug cake, specifically the Chocolate Brownie Mug Cake, mix from Shirley J.  

The cake is quick, it's so easy, requires no specialized equipment (except a microwave) and little to no skill to make.  Even those of you who hate cooking and baking or who fear you're no good at it can make this mug cake from Shirley J with great ease and great results.  Seriously.  A great, single-portion cake in a little over a minute.  What's not to like about that?

I also think it's a boon to those of you out there who don't have celiac disease yourselves, but who have family or friends that do.  You'll really make your family member / friend/ co-worker with celiac a happy camper if you can make or gift them their own individual, GF cake so that they can enjoy dessert along with everybody else!


So fast, so easy:  Takes only about two minutes to open the package, whisk in the water and add the chocolate chips.  Cooks in 90seconds in the microwave.

Low energy requirements:  Requires only 90 seconds in the microwave versus hours of baking in a conventional oven.  This is especially nice if you're in a hot climate and are paying to cool your home--turning the oven on is always painful in that situation.

No special equipment required: All you need is the mix, additional chocolate chips, a fork, water, a tablespoon, a microwave, and microwaveable mug.  These are all very common household items, even for people without full or well equipped kitchens (like college students).

Taste: Cake is very moist and the chocolate flavor is there. 

Versatility:  The flavor profile of the mix could easily be slightly varied with a dash of vanilla, cinnamon, orange oil, or espresso powder.  You could also probably easily add walnuts or pecans, marshmallows, or coconut to the mix in small proportions.  You can also serve the cake with frosting, ice cream, or whipped cream.  Or, you can do like me and eat it with a big mug--yes another mug--of almond milk.

Individual Portioning:  Individual portioning makes it easy to satisfy your sweet tooth without getting sucked into eating or getting rid of a multi-portion sized cake.

Great Gift Idea: The mugging kit, which includes a microwaveable mug and 1 pack of mug-cake costs around $15.  The mugging kit would make a great gift for a GF friend, co-worker, or relative and is in a good price range for moderate to low-cost gifting.


Additional Ingredients: 1/4 cup chocolate chips called for by mix is NOT included.

Texture:  Nice and moist, but has a grainier mouth-feel than a traditional cake.  The same is true of almond-flour based cakes and some others using non-traditional flours.  This is really a mild "con," as the texture is merely slightly different rather than poor or unappetizing.

Cost: If you buy 1 packet of Shirley J's mug cake the mix runs you about $3.  The more economical way to buy is to purchase a 5-pack of a single flavor for $12.95.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Harictos Verts and Crimini Mushrooms served with Quinoa, Poached Egg, and Red Wine-Sundried Tomato Sauce

Harictos Verts and Crimini Mushrooms served with Quinoa, Poached Egg, and Red Wine-Sundried Tomato Sauce 

This is definitely a rustic-style comfort food made healthy!  The recipe is vegetarian and gluten free and could easily be varied to accomodate a vegan diet.  I used the sauce over  quinoa, instead of pasta, for a complete vegetarian-friendly protein.  The sauce could very easily be turned into a healthy-style "cream" sauce by adding 0% plain Greek Yogurt.  I actually gave it a try by putting a little bit of the sauce in a separate bowl and mixing it with Greek Yogurt and it added the creaminess of a heavy cream sauce without adding the fat.  I think this variation would be great on pasta!


  • 1 6oz can Organic Tomato Paste
  • 1 10oz can diced Hot Rotel Tomatoes
  • 1 cup jarred Organic Marinara Sauce (I use Newman’s Own brand)
  • ½ cup diced (or strips) sundried tomatoes (not in oil; add more to your taste)
  • 8 cloves garlic; minced (add less/more to your taste)
  • 1 Bell Pepper (I used ½ red and ½ green); diced
  • Basil; chopped to taste
  • ¼-1/3 cup Red Wine
  • ½ cup water (added to sauce to thin; be conservative)
  • Small handful of cherry or other small tomato (I left smaller ones whole, sliced bigger ones in half)
  • 1-2 cups Crimini (or Baby Bella) mushrooms; sliced in half
  • 2 heaping handfuls Haricots Verts (French Green Beans)
  • ½ cup uncooked Quinoa; prepared according to instructions (this is enough quinoa to serve 2-3 people; remainder of recipe feeds about 2x that so increase quinoa as needed)
  • 1 egg; poached (you need a pot of hot water + vinegar)*
  • Olive oil; to taste
  • Salt + Pepper; to taste (I used about 50/50 regular sea salt and smoked sea salt)
  • Parmesan; grated (to taste / optional)


  1. Sautee halved Crimini (or Baby Bella) mushrooms in sauté pan with olive oil and salt and pepper until tender.  Remove mushrooms to bowl and reserve liquid produced while cooking.
  2. In large sauce pan sauté minced garlic and bell peppers in olive oil.  When tender and browned add reserved mushroom “juice,” tomato paste, diced tomatoes, marinara sauce and sundried tomatoes.  Add wine, water, and salt and pepper and allow to cook down for 7-10 minutes on low heat.  Add chopped basil. 
  3. Add Haricots Verts and cook on medium-low temperature for 5 minutes or until beans start to get tender.  Add sautéed Crimini mushrooms and cherry (or other small) tomatoes.
  4. Continue to cook on low heat until Haricots Verts are tender and fully cooked (they should still have a little crunch to them).  Stir grated parmesan cheese into sauce if desired or use as garnish. 
  5. Plate quinoa (I packed mine in a mini-bowl and turned it out on top of my plate to have a molded-quinoa look); top with portion of Haricots Verts and Crimini in sundried tomato + red wine sauce.  Top with poached egg and garnish as desired.
  6. Enjoy with your left-over red wine!
* Not sure how to poach an egg?  See one of my favorite food blogs for instructions: http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2008/08/how-to-poach-an-egg-smitten-kitchen-style/

Notes on Variations + Dietary Restrictions--

  1. This sauce can easily be transformed into a healthy “cream” sauce to be used over pasta by adding 0% plain Greek Yogurt.  One caution:  Add the yogurt in small batches of the sauce and combine into larger portion to retain yogurt’s live cultures.  Using Greek Yogurt in the sauce will make it taste like a cream sauce without the added fat and calories and will boost the protein considerably.
  2. Recipe is Gluten Free and can be made vegan if poached egg and parmesan are omitted.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Chocolate Cupcakes with Candied Vegetarian Bacon and Maple Buttercream Frosting

CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES with CANDIED VEGETARIAN BACON with Maple Butter Cream Frosting and Spiced Fresh Cherries


Chocolate Cupcake--
   [1] Follow directions on one box of Chocolate Devil's Food cake (use GF chocolate cake mix for GF variation).  
   [2] Replace 1/2 cup of water called for with coffee and add 1/2 tablespoon of vanilla to batter.
   [3] Use cupcake tin.  Insert cupcake wrappers into the tin.  Place roughly 1/4cup of batter (2/3 full) into each cupcake wrapper and then, if you desire, top each cupcake with about a tablespoon of spiced cherries (fresh cherries spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, and a pinch of cayenne)
   [4] Bake according to instructions on cake mix box.

Maple Butter Cream Frosting--
   [1] Cream together 2-sticks unsalted butter at room temperature, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, 1 pound confectioner's sugar, and 1/3 cup pure maple syrup.  Add cinnamon to taste and 1 teaspoon salt; both optional.
   [2] Transfer frosting to a gallon-sized zip-lock bag that will serve as your pastry bag (or use dedicated pastry bag if available).  Cut a hole in one corner of the plastic ziploc bag and pipe frosting onto cupcakes when cooled. 

Vegetarian Candied Bacon--
   [1] Create spice rub for veggie bacon using 3/4 cup brown sugar, a pinch of curry powder, about 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon, and cayenne pepper to your taste.
   [2] Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and turn the oven to 300degres F.
   [3] Using 5-6 slices of vegetarian bacon (I used Morningstar Farms) pat on a thick coating of the spice rub on each side of the bacon.***
   [4] Bake for approximately 10-13 minutes and let cool before garnishing the tops of your cupcakes post-frosting.

***NOTE:  For GF variation do NOT use Morningstar brand veggie bacon.  It does contain wheat products.  Instead, if you are GF but not vegetarian use real bacon.  For GF and vegetarian, you can try to use brands like this: Augason Farms Gluten Free, Vegetarian Bacon Bits

Thursday, March 28, 2013

BBQ Pulled Pork-Style Jackfruit Sandwich

Vegetarian BBQ Pulled Pork-Style Jackfruit Sandwich + Vegan and Gluten Free Variations

BBQ Pulled Pork-Style Jackfruit Sandwich with Baked Sweet Potato Chips and Cucumber-Asparagus Side Salad

What is Jackfruit?:

Until very recently I had never heard of Jackfruit.  It was only when I saw a tantalizingly tasty looking recipe for a vegetarian BBQ pulled pork using Jackfruit in place of meat that I learned about this magnificent plant.  As a good old-fashioned Wikipedia search will confirm, Jackfruit is the product of a tree native to South and Southeast Asia.  

Jackfruit Photo
There are several varieties of Jackfruit and you can eat it in several different stages of ripeness.  Young, green Jackfruit is firmer and starchier and is used in vegan and vegetarian cooking to replace and mimic the texture of meat. Ripe Jackfruit, on the other hand, is softer and sweeter in flavor--it is eaten as a fruit or in desserts in this state rather than used as a meat replacement.

Jackfruit in its whole, fresh state is a specialty item in the United States.  One of my friends reported that a whole, ripe Jackfruit is rarely found except in specialty markets and can cost $15 a pound or more.  In addition, a fresh, whole Jackfruit is a challenging food item to prepare.  As you cut into it, the fruit oozes a sticky substance that can adhere stubbornly to your arms and hands, to your knife, and even to cutting surfaces and floors.  My friend reported having to douse her hands and knife in oil before beginning to prepare fresh Jackfruit.

Cans of Young, Green Jackfruit in Brine

Luckily, young, green Jackfruit used for vegan and vegetarian cooking comes already nicely prepared and packaged in brine or water in 20oz cans at your local Asian market.  Buying Jackfruit in the can allows you to get the young, green variety needed for cooking as a meat replacement while eliminating the high costs of whole, fresh Jackfruit and the difficulty of preparing it!

Well, Was it Good?:

YES!  The Jackfruit once slow-cooked in onion, garlic, peppers, liquid smoke, hot sauce, and BBQ sauce was amazing and really took on the flavors of BBQ while providing a great meat-like texture.  
Closeup of BBQ Pulled Pork-Style Jackfruit

The texture of slow-cooked Jackfruit more closely mimicked the texture of real meat than any other meat replacement I've ever had.  In fact, it had a consistency that reminded me of good slow-cooked ribs (a favorite of my meat-eating days).  You can see what I'm saying about the authenticity of the texture if you look at the pictures I've posted closely.  

You might feel skeptical when you open up your cans of Jackfruit that the texture will turn out as well as it does--I had this misgiving myself--but the hard, firm-pineapple-like chunks of the Jackfruit change a lot in consistency during cooking.  I promise!

Jackfruit and other Ingredients in the Crockpot

Recipe:  BBQ Pulled Pork-Style Jackfruit Sandwich

(Serves 4)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups BBQ sauce
  • 1 head garlic, smashed
  • 2/3 yellow onion, halved and sliced
  • 2 Serrano or jalapeno peppers, sliced (optional)
  • 2 20-ounce cans young green jackfruit in brine or water (not syrup!)
  • Liquid smoke, a couple of dashes
  • Dave’s Insanity Gourmet Hot Sauce, a couple of dashes (optional)*
  • Smoked Salt (or sea salt)
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup, optional (I added to offset spicyness.  Do not add if your BBQ sauce is already sweet.)
  • Hamburger buns, for serving (use gluten free bread or buns for Gluten Free variation)
  • Cheese, for serving (omit for Vegan variation)
* Use 2-3 drops for mildly spicy BBQ, 5-7 for spicy BBQ

Gluten Free:  Select Gluten Free bread or bun for sandwich; make sure to check BBQ sauce and all other pre-prepared ingredients for Gluten Free label before using

Vegan: Omit cheese when serving; make sure to check BBQ sauce and all other pre-prepared ingredients for Vegan label before using

  1. Drain and wash the jackfruit thoroughly in water using a colander. After washing let sit and prepare onion, peppers, and garlic and transfer them to crock pot.
  2. Return to jackfruit.  Place in several layers of paper towels and squeeze.  Do this over a colander in the sink to catch fruit if your towels rip.  Squeeze out as much water as possible by pressing it firmly with your hands (much like you press water out of tofu!).
  3. Place jackfruit in slow cooker with onion, garlic, and peppers.  Add the liquid smoke, 1 ½ cups of BBQ sauce, and optional Dave’s Insanity Gourmet Hot Sauce (or preferred variety).  Mix well.
  4. Cook in the slow cooker for 1 hour on high.  Stir once (opening the slow cooker often causes it to loose heat).
  5. After 1 hour, add another ½ cup of BBQ sauce and taste.  Add salt and optional maple syrup.  Add any additional hot sauce desired.  Turn the slow cooker to low and cook for an additional 3-5 hours or until jackfruit is tender and can easily be pulled apart with a fork.  
  6. When done cooking, store jackfruit BBQ in refrigerator for 24-hours for deepest infusion of flavors.
  7. Serve on toasted hamburger buns topped with melted cheddar cheese (pictured) or swiss cheese (omit for vegan), caramelized onions, pickled red onions (pictured), coleslaw, or pickles.

Recommended Sides:  
Small side-salad of asparagus, tomato, cucumber and red onion (pictured); small side of healthy baked sweet potato chips (pictured).

Adapted from: http://chowvegan.com/2008/05/28/bbq-pulled-jackfruit-sandwich/

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Zucchini and Shirataki Noodles: Gluten-Free, Low-Carb Pasta Alternatives! {Gluten Free + Vegetarian + Low Carb}

Gluten-Free, Low-Carb Noodles: Shirataki Noodles and Zucchini Spaghetti with Sundried Tomato Pesto
Gluten Free + Vegetarian + Low Carb

I've been interested in non-wheat based, low-carb alternatives to pasta for a while now, and I've hit on two options that I really like.

Shirataki Noodles: 
I can highly recommend the amazing Shirataki Noodle.  Shirtake Noodles boast the following characteristics:  
  • 0 net carbs
  • 0 calories
  • gluten-free
  • 0 fat
  • 0 sugar
  • 0 starch. 
These noodles cook super quickly and are great, especially, in Asian inspired dishes like Pad Thai and Curries, while also being amenable to traditional tomato sauces.  I strongly recommend these noodles to gluten-free and carb-conscious eaters.  I've found them for sale in the same section as tofu, vegan cheeses, and vegetarian deli-style meats.  The only downfall to these noodles is that they aren't as cheap as traditional pastas, nor as cheap as the next pasta substitute I'll discuss: zucchini noodles.

How Do I Cook Them?:
Cooking Shirataki Noodles is simple.  Open the package, dump them in a colander and rinse them thoroughly under water.  Be warned that they will smell funny--I promise they do not taste funny!  After rinsing, dump the noodles into boiling water for 2 minutes.  Remove, rinse, and pat dry with paper towels.  Serve.

Beware the "fake" variety of the noodles made with tofu.  They're still pretty healthy and tasty, but they don't confer the same carb-benefits as the true Shirataki Noodles.

Zucchini Noodles: 
Another healthy gluten-free and lower-carb alternative to traditional grain-based pastas that I've tried out and really enjoy are zucchini noodles.  Zucchini noodles can be super time intensive to produce depending what kitchen tools you have handy.  But, given all of the right tools, you can whip them up pretty efficiently.  

When I first started making zucchini noodles I did everything with a knife--sliced the zucchini into length-wise strips with a kitchen knife and, then, into spaghetti-like strands with the knife.  This took FOREVER.  Seriously, my wrist would get kind of sore. 

Then, I invested in a mandoline slicer (this one, actually).  The mandoline slicer made the zucchini noodles a LOT easier to manage.  It cut the time for producing them down drastically and eradicated the wrist-cramping that I suffered when I only had my knife to help me out.  And, I have to say that it's come in super handy since for cutting super thin slices of cucumber, carrot, and onion for salads.

But, then, I got even more zucchini-noodle savvy and invested in a handheld spiralizer.  The spiralizer contains a series of blades that allows you to take a vegetable, for example a small zucchini, yellow squash, or even a carrot, and create uniform strands of noodles!  Many spiralizers out there are a bit fancier and, also, more expensive than the one I got.  But, mine is compact--good for my small kitchen--and was about $30 on Amazon.com.  

GEFU Spirelli Spiral Cutter

The bottom line is that zucchini noodles don't have to be a pain in the wrist to make, and depending on what produce goes for in your area, they're much cheaper than the Shirataki Noodles are.  You also don't have to cook them--at all!  

How Do I Cook Them?:
The short answer is--you don't!  

Merely place zucchini noodle strands in a colander and sprinkle on some salt and let them sit for about 20 minutes to tenderize them (gets ride of their crunchier raw texture by forcing out water).  Rinse the noodles thoroughly, squeeze excess water out of them, and pat them dry on paper towels.  

Serve with red sauce to make Italian style pasta, or serve with Pad-Thai peanut sauce (or whatever you want)!

I ate my zucchini noodles with sundried tomato pesto, fresh basil leaves, and fresh mozzarella.  YUM.