Category Archives: Entree

Tempeh Potato Pepper Curry with Pickled Onions

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Hello! It’s been a long time since my last post. I have been very busy with garden things and kid & school things. I have been tweeting a bit, in case you want to follow me there just look for thisspicylife… I usually re-tweet interesting nutrition articles, garden info and other inspiring stuff.

Yesterday I hosted a huge garden work day at our school garden as part of an Eagle Scout Project. We worked pretty much all day rebuilding raised beds and moving soil into the new beds. We had a lot of help from a local Boy Scout Troop #127 and our school parents and community volunteers. It was such a great day with beautiful weather and nice people. See the end of this post for some pics of our garden remodel.

I really worked up an appetite because today I was ready for a rather substantial (for me) breakfast. It turned into brunch by the time I got it made and ready to eat, though this is a pretty quick dish to make. We had some leftover pickled onions from the weekend, so added these to the plate along with some yummy grits seasoned with nutritional yeast. The leftovers will be made into burritos. It was the perfect addition to this non-spicy curry. If you want the onions, you should plan ahead. Or just make a batch and find ways to use them! They are a pretty pink color and delicious (if you like onions). Here is the tempeh recipe:

Tempeh Potato Pepper Curry with Pickled Onions (Serves 4)

1/2 package of tempeh, cut in bite-sized pieces
1 large baking potato, cut in bite-sized pieces
1 orange bell pepper (or other color), cut in bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup finely chopped kale
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper (optional, to taste)
pinch of garam masala (optional)
salt to taste

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add the oil and allow to heat a bit before adding the cumin seeds. Once the cumin seeds start to toast, add the potato pieces and a bit of salt, stirring the potatoes to coat with the oil. Cover with a lid and allow the potatoes to cook, stirring occasionally. When the potatoes are almost cooked through, sprinkle with the turmeric, coriander powder and cayenne pepper and stir well. Add the tempeh, pepper, kale and garlic. Continue cooking and stir frequently until the tempeh is heated and the pepper is cooked to your liking. This should take just 3 to 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the pinch of garam masala and additional salt to taste. Serve with pickled onions over grits, rice or with bread of your choice.

Pickled Onions

1 red onion
1/2 cup of vinegar (any kind you like)
1/2 cup of water
pinch of salt

Peel the onion and cut in rings. Loosen the rings and place the rings in a non-reactive bowl. Sprinkle a pinch of salt over the onion and add the vinegar (we used white vinegar) and water. Allow to sit for an hour or up to two days before using. These can be used in sandwiches, as part of an appetizer tray with other veggies, on pizza, or just on the side of any spicy curry. The longer they pickle, the better they taste. Just keep ’em in the fridge.

Here are some pics of our garden remodel:

Rebuilding the raised beds with cinder blocks…Boy Scouts in yellow shirts. The blocks will get painted later by the students.

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Some artichokes growing in the garden… can’t wait to harvest!

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One of our hard-working volunteers!

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Cutlets Meet Vada Pav Sliders (Indian Potato Burgers)

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There is a delicious Indian treat called “Vada Pav” that is a round deep-fried potato ball served on a bun with garlic chutney. It is so good to eat with the crispy chickpea flour coating outside and the soft flavorful potatoes inside. I decided to try a  healthy twist on this dish, though I would never turn down the original! I’m not trying to improve it but rather make it a bit more healthy for everyday eating. Not that I’m suggesting that this be eaten everyday! With the addition of cooked mung beans, it’s more of a cross between the Vada Pav and a cutlet.

This is a recipe that calls for a few Indian ingredients. If you don’t have them, then come up with your own spice mix. I think a southwest version would be very good. Hmm… that’s definitely a future experiment! The traditional version of Vada Pav features garlic chutney. It gives it a delicious, spicy flavor. However, you don’t need the garlic chutney to complete this dish – sub in some spicy ketchup or other chutney or just dress it up as you would  a burger. You won’t be disappointed!

Healthy Twist on Vada Pav (Indian Potato Burgers) (Makes approx. 9 patties)

1 cup mung beans, cooked
1 potato, boiled or steamed, mashed and cooled (about 1 cup of potato)
2 tsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
pinch of hing
a few curry leaves, chopped
1/2 cup of onions, finely chopped
1 tsp garlic paste
2 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp of cayenne pepper
salt to taste
1/4 cup chickpea flour (besan) plus additional flour for coating
1/8 – 1/4 cup oil for pan frying
small round hamburger buns
1/2 cup dry garlic chutney (or to taste)

In a large bowl, mix together the mung beans and potato. In a small pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds, hing and curry leaves. When the mustard seeds start to pop, add the onion and allow to cook for a few minutes, stirring. Then add the garlic and ginger paste and cayenne. Allow to cook for a minute or until the garlic is cooked to your liking. Remove from heat and pour this in the mung bean mixture. Add the salt and 1/4 cup of chickpea flour and mash everything together until well combined. Taste for salt and adjust if necessary.When the mixture is ready,  roll it into large rounds approx. 2″ in diameter. Set aside until all are rolled out. Place the additional chickpea flour on a plate and roll each ball in the chickpea flour, dusting the outside with the flour.

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Heat a skillet over medium heat and add a tbsp or 2 of oil. When the oil is heated, place a few of the balls in the oil, pressing down slightly on the top to flatten a little.

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Once the bottom is nicely browned, flip over each ball and cook on the other side, flattening a bit more.

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Once browned on the 2nd side, remove from the oil to a plate or paper. Repeat frying until all of the balls are cooked.

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If using the garlic chutney, spread a nice layer on the bottom bun, place the patty on the bun, top with sliced onion. Or skip the chutney and use condiments of your choice. Enjoy!

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Coconut & Peanut Poha

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Have you ever been searching for something in your pantry or kitchen only to find a whole package of something else? And then realize that you really should use it soon before it expires/stales/etc.? That’s what happened today when I found a very large bag of thick poha. It was a pleasant surprise since my hubby and I both love poha. In case you don’ t know about this unusual ingredient, poha is also called “beaten rice” and “flattened rice”. It’s basically a dried flattened raw rice product that can be used raw or cooked. Poha is used in Indian snacks, breakfasts, lunches and light meals in both savory and sweet preparations. It can be added to some dosa batters to thicken the batter. It’s an ingredient that is easy to work with and keeps a long time. Pick up a package next time you are in an Asian or Indian market! A few years ago I posted a recipe for the thin variety of poha.

Here’s a simple recipe I made for lunch today that turned much better than I expected. I started looking in a few cookbooks for ideas, but didn’t really find anything that seemed new. My usual go-to recipe for thick poha uses onion and potato. That seemed too heavy for today. Therefore, I started out with a very basic recipe but tweaked it a bit by adding peanuts (for protein), cilantro for more flavor and lots of coconut. It turned out light, spicy and very tasty. I hope you try it too!

Coconut & Peanut Poha (Serves 4)

4 cups of thick poha
4 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 cup raw peanuts (or roasted peanuts)
2 tsp salt or to taste
1 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
2 tsp urad dal
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
2 dried red chili peppers, broken
1 green chili peppers, sliced
4 tbsp water
sprig of curry leaves
1/2 cup fresh or frozen (not sweet!) coconut flakes
cilantro – about 1/2 cup chopped
lemon slices

The poha is a little tricky. It’s easy to make it too soft so be careful. You don’t want it too soft and soggy nor do you want it “al dente”: Place the poha in a large colander or strainer and place in the sink. Quickly wash the poha with water running, using your hand to fluff it and get each grain wet. Let the water drain immediately. Let sit for a few minutes. It should have softened without any additional water. Taste a bite to see if it’s soft enough for you. When it’s ready, place it in a large bowl and set aside.

Heat a medium-sized pan of your choice over medium heat. Add the coconut oil and raw peanuts (if using roasted peanuts, skip this step). Allow the peanuts to fry a bit until they are browned. Once done, immediately remove from the oil to a plate (leaving the oil in the pan), sprinkle with a bit of salt and allow to cool.

Now add the mustard seeds to the oil. Once popping, add the urad dal, cumin seeds, red chili peppers, green chili peppers and curry leaves. Carefully add the water and allow it to cook off. This will make the urad dal soft. When the water is evaporated, pour this seasoning over the washed poha.

Now toss in the peanuts, coconut flakes and cilantro. Add salt to taste. Stir gently but well. If the poha is a bit too wet it may stick together. If that happens, just stir as gently as possible, breaking up pieces as you do so. Can you tell that I have experience at making the poha too soft? It’s okay if it happens, it will still taste good! Serve with some yummy garlic pickle and lemon slices to squeeze over.

Mouth-watering Mushroom, Kale & Tofu Scramble & Grits

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Hello! I’m back to the Indian-inspired cooking for a bit. It’s “cold” here in S. Cali this week requiring some spicy comfort food. Yes, it’s in the high 50’s to low 60’s, but what can I say? This morning I threw together a quick tofu scramble while the grits were gurgling on the stove. I love mushrooms and when I’m feeling a bit under the weather they always seem to bring me back around. For some extra nutrients, I threw in kale and tomatoes. The tomatoes were just cooked enough to be soft but still pop a little in your mouth. Hence, the “mouth-watering” description. I ate these served over yellow corn grits with a few dashes of super-spicy Marie Sharp’s Belizean Heat. I think grits have to be eaten with a bit of hot sauce. Just goes hand-in-hand.

This is an easier recipe than my scrambled tofu with spinach since I don’t use onion and garlic. It also takes less time since you don’t have to wait on the onion to cook. The only thing you have to mess with is chopping the mushrooms (and kale if using fresh). I have a bag of organic kale in the freezer. It’s handy for quick meals where I really need some greens. The kale cooks faster than fresh since the ice crystals have broken it down a bit.

If you don’t have all of the spices, run out to the store and get them! What are you waiting for? Just kidding… you can add whatever you like – just don’t use too much of any one thing so you keep a balanced flavor. Of course, you could go the Mexican or Italian route with the spices too. Tomorrow I will use the leftovers to make tacos with corn tortillas. Just throw on some spicy salsa, fresh shredded cabbage and another nice, healthy meal is ready! Here is today’s version of the tofu scramble…

Mouth-watering Mushroom, Kale & Tofu Scramble & Grits (serves 2 – 4)

1 pkg. firm tofu (press out the water for 10 – 15 minutes)
1 lb. of portabella or other mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
1 cup of kale, frozen or washed and chopped
2+ tbsp oil
2 tsp of black salt (or to taste)
1 tsp cumin seed
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin powder
2 tsp coriander
1 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)
2 tsp garam masala (optional)
1 cup cherry tomatoes
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
hot sauce to taste
3 cups cooked grits

Heat up your trusty cast-iron skillet (or other large skillet) to medium. When it’s really hot, add your mushrooms and let them cook for a minute or two. Stir and add a pinch of salt over them. As they start cooking down and releasing their water, you can add the oil and kale. After about two minutes, crumble the tofu with your hands into the skillet. There should be bite-sized pieces and some smaller pieces. Add a bit more oil if necessary to keep it from sticking. Stir and then add all of the spices and stir again to get the spices incorporated. Reduce the heat to low. Allow to cook, stirring only once in while so that the tofu starts to get slightly brown and crispy in spots. After approximately 5 – 8 minutes, make a little space in the middle of the pan by moving everything else to the sides. Toss the tomatoes in the center and let everything cook for about 3 minutes. Stir and turn off the heat. Keep in mind that cooking times will vary depending on the type of tofu you are using, how much water is in it, if you are using cast-iron or not… Spoon over hot grits. Serve with fresh cilantro and hot sauce.

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Roasted Golden Beets & ArugulaWalnut Pesto Salad

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Hello! Welcome to The Salad Project! Our weather is unseasonably warm here in S. California so I’m having a burst of summer-type salads. I actually harvested a fresh red tomato from my garden today. I was not too hopeful about the taste since the texture seemed extra-firm. But what an explosion of summer flavor! It’s unexpected but appreciated!

Today I roasted some small golden beets with olive oil and salt. They came out of the oven crispy but soft – perfect for a salad! I also had a bag of arugula on hand from Trader Joe’s. I don’t often buy bagged greens but I haven’t made it to the Farmers’ Market in a few weeks. If you have never tried arugula, please do asap! It’s a slightly peppery green that is perfect in salads, cooked with pasta or made into pesto.  You can throw it into some soup at the end of cooking for a burst of pretty green color. I think it’s perfect for pesto because it is so flavorful but also holds its bright green color. I sometimes add some fresh spinach too, just to amp up the nutrients. Today I made a batch of arugula pesto that I used for my dressing. Instead of my usual sunflower seeds, I added chopped walnuts and used walnut oil in place of olive oil. The combination of walnuts and arugula is fantastic! You just have to try it! I have about 1 cup left of this yummy sauce. The rest will be used with pasta salad tomorrow or maybe on sandwiches or in lasagna…Love, love, love pesto!

Roasted Golden Beets & Arugula Walnut Pesto Salad (Serves 2-4)

For the Roasted Beets:

5 small or 3 large Golden Beets (or other beets)
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp kosher salt

Preheat oven to 400F. Use about 1 tbsp of oil to coat a baking sheet. Set aside. Wash the beets thoroughly and trim any leaves. Cut in quarters or eighths, depending on size, and place on the baking sheet. Drizzle the remaining oil over the beets, coating all sides. Sprinkle the salt over the beets and place in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, then if they aren’t soft enough, cover with foil and bake for 10 more minutes or until soft. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Now make the Arugula Walnut Pesto:

2 packed cups arugula leaves, washed
1 – 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 to 1 cup of walnut oil

Place arugula, garlic, salt and walnuts in a blender in that order. Pour in 1/4 cup of oil and turn on to blend. As it’s blending, slowly add more oil through the top (or stop the blender and add a bit of oil at a time) and continue to blend until the mixture flows freely and loosely in the blender. This is the best way I can think of to explain this! 🙂 The pesto will be a smooth, thick sauce (rather than the usual chunky pesto though you can leave it chunky if you like). Here’s a close up of the pesto (not the greatest shot – the sun is so low that it makes winter photography almost impossible!):

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Assemble the salad:

1 cup of cooked quinoa
1/4 of a lemon
2 cups of arugula leaves, washed and dry
2 pinches salt
black pepper to taste
2 tbsp walnuts, chopped
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Squeeze the lemon over the quinoa and mix well. Divide the arugula leaves amongst your plates and top with divided quinoa. Sprinkle a pinch of salt and black pepper over each salad. Divide the beets over each salad and top with a few walnuts. Now drizzle the pesto over each salad to taste. Enjoy!

Black Bean & Brown Basmati Burritos

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Hello! Today I opened a fridge packed with bits of leftovers from this past week. What to do with that leftover lettuce and cabbage salad? I have been eating salads almost everyday since the new year, so no salad today. With some leftover brown basmati rice and tortillas, I made up a very quick and satisfying (and healthy) lunch. I also used up the last of the leftover salad! I did save a few bites for our composting worms  – they get hungry too.

This looks like a lot of ingredients but it’s very fast to make. While the beans are heating up, you can prep the tortillas and cut up the garnishes. I don’t usually use canned beans because it’s so easy to make them from dry. Normally I get a bag of dry beans, cook the whole bag and freeze them in portions. Today I resorted to the can since I didn’t have any black beans in the freezer. For this quick bean recipe, I used prepared salsa (Fire-Roasted Tomato Salsa) to give good flavor. It’s smart to keep a few things like this on hand for quick meals and for your emergency bin. I listed sour cream and cheese though I didn’t use them in my burritos and here you could obviously use a vegan option or a non-vegan option. There are a lot of great flavors going on already, so you really won’t miss the dairy or dairy-sub and the accompanying calories. FYI, in the picture you will see what looks like sour cream but it’s actually veganaise mixed with hot sauce. I thought it would be good since sometimes I use this as a dip for veggie-chicken nuggets, but it wasn’t that great. I don’t recommend it!

Black Bean & Brown Basmati Burritos (Serves 2)

For the Bean & Rice Mixture:
1 tbsp oil
1 yellow or white onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
1 can of black beans (or 1 cup of cooked black beans)
1 cup of cooked brown basmati rice (or rice of your choice)
2 tbsp hot sauce (optional)
1/2 cup of salsa

Heat a medium sized sauce pan over medium-low heat. Add the oil and after a minute add the onion and salt. Stir until the onion is translucent and cooked. Add the garlic, oregano, cumin and cayenne and stir around for a minute. Once the garlic starts cooking, add the black beans, rice, hot sauce and salsa. Stir and let heat for a few minutes. Mash the beans a little bit with the back of your spoon to get the mixture incorporated. Leave whole beans too. Once everything is heated thoroughly, remove from heat. Taste for salt and salsa and add if necessary. Set aside. Here’s a close up shot of the beans and rice (on the right side):

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Now you can start assembling the burritos:

2 large flour tortillas
1 1/2 cups of lettuce or mixed salad (I had romaine lettuce, purple cabbage and carrots)
1 ripe avocado, sliced
2 green onions, chopped
additional salsa or hot sauce to garnish
1/4 cup of sour cream mixed with 2 tbsp of hot sauce  (optional)
1/2 cup of cheese (optional)

Heat the tortillas a bit on a griddle or big frying pan. Once heated, remove to a plate. Pile on the black bean mixture, then top with your salad, avocado slices, green onions and salsa. Top with the sour cream and cheese if using. Roll up and enjoy!

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Crunchy Cabbage & Broccoli Salad with Asian Tofu

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Welcome to The Salad Project! Today’s inspiration is a winter salad with tofu, cabbage and Asian-inspired flavors. This may seem complicated but it’s super easy. And you can always leave off the green beans to save a step. As usual, substitutions are welcome. But try this full recipe if you can. It’s truly yummy!

A note about the tofu: You may use some other protein instead of tofu, but I think you do need a protein to make this salad complete. If you have never used tofu, be sure to press the water out before you marinate it. Less water = firmer texture and more flavor. While it’s pressing and marinating you can prepare the rest of the salad and clean up the kitchen! Or prepare the tofu the day before you will use it.

Crunchy Cabbage & Broccoli Salad with Asian Tofu (Serves 2)

First, make the tofu:

1/2 package extra firm or firm tofu (not silken, not high-protein)
2 tbsp tamari or soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp agave syrup or maple syrup
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp red chili flakes

Press the tofu between clean dishtowels or paper towels for 1/2 hour (or longer, but keep in the fridge). After pressing, cut into bite-sized pieces and place on a plate. Mix the remaining ingredients and pour over the tofu. Allow to marinate for at least 10 minutes or longer (can keep in the fridge up to overnight). Place the tofu on a lightly oiled baking sheet in a preheated 400F oven for 10 – 15 minutes, turning the pieces over half way through cooking. When brown around the edges, remove and allow to cool to room temp. Here’s a close-up of the tofu:

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For the Sesame Green Beans:

2 tbsp sesame seeds (hulled or unhulled)
handful of fresh green beans, washed and trimmed
1 tsp sesame oil
pinch of salt

Toast the sesame seeds in a small pan. This takes just a few minutes, so stay with them while they cook. Set aside. Steam the green beans in 1 inch of water for 3 – 5 minutes until al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water. Remove to a plate and sprinkle the sesame oil, sesame seeds and a pinch of salt over the beans.

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Salad:

1 cup cabbage, chopped or shredded
3 radishes, grated
1 large stalk broccoli, florets and stem
1 clove garlic (or 1/4 tsp paste) (optional)
1/2 tsp fresh ginger (or to taste), micro-planed (or paste)
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp tamari or soy sauce
1 tsp. agave syrup (to taste – optional)
pinch of salt or to taste
wedge of fresh lemon or lime
1/4 cup of cilantro, chopped
2 green onions, green and/or white parts, chopped

For the salad:

Into a salad bowl, place the cabbage and radishes.

Prepare the broccoli by cutting off the florets and steaming them in 1 inch of water for 3 minutes until al dente. Drain well and put in the salad bowl. Use the stalk of the broccoli by first trimming off the fibrous cut end. Then peel the stalk and cut into bite-sized pieces. Add to the salad bowl. Add the garlic, ginger, rice vinegar, tamari, agave and salt to the bowl and mix well. Squeeze the lemon juice over the salad and toss in the cilantro and green onions. Stir and set aside.

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To plate:

Divide the salad between two plates or bowls. Top with the green beans and tofu. Garnish with some cilantro leaves and green onion. Enjoy!

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