Meatless Monday - Meatless Meals for Carnivores

>> Monday, September 27, 2010

Ah...Meatless Monday!  We have been committed to the concept of Meatless Monday (though our meatless day is not always on Monday) for over a year now.  You know what?  It was an easy transition.  But what do you do if you are a committed carnivore who likes the idea of going meatless but are afraid that finding tasty vegetarian meals will be hard? 

Enter the cookbook The Meat Lover's Meatless Cookbook:  Vegetarian Recipes Carnivores Will Devour.  If you can't find good recipes on this blog ('cause there are a lot of great meatless recipes in the A Life Less Sweet archives - just do a quick search on Meatless Monday), then this is a great cookbook to turn to.

The Meat Lover's Meatless Cookbook is filled with recipes that made my husband and I drool.  The recipe organization is unusual, but it works.  There are 52 "menus" - each with a main dish and at least one side dish - divided among the four seasons of the year plus a few "wild card" menus that are great anytime of year.  I wasn't sure what I thought about this layout at first, but I find that I really do like the "menus" even though I'm just as likely to make a summer dish in winter as in summer.

Another thing I fake meat!  After all, if you're a carnivore, why bother with fake meat?  These recipes don't have to rely on gimmicks to be good.  They are delicious vegetarian recipes that will appeal to vegetarians and carnivores alike. 

Each recipe is keyed with icons for gluten-free, kid friendly, dairy optional, vegan, and leftover bonus.  The key is a quick visual that is nice for those with special dietary limitations, parents looking for some thing kid-friendly, or a busy cook that wants a meal that will stretch more than one day. 

For our taste test, I made three recipes from the book.  We tried one of the summer menus - Zucchini and Corn Studded Orzo, and Goat Cheesy Roasted Pepper - and supplemented with a side from another menu - Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini Sauce.  All were excellent.  The kids loved the orzo.  So did my husband who still waxes poetic about that dish.  The sides were excellent too, though my goat cheese hating son didn't appreciate the Goat Cheesy Roasted Pepper, and neither of the kids were thrilled with the cauliflower (the adults were, though!). 

Zucchini and Corn Studded Orzo, Goat Cheesy Roasted Pepper, and Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini Sauce from The Meat Lover's Meatless Cookbook
All in all, I am very pleased with this cookbook.  The recipes we tried were easy to follow and very tasty.  There are many others in the book that will be going on our menu soon!

And now a couple of recipes from the book!  The Tempeh Hoagie-Letta is the amazing looking cover photo recipe and the Kale Chips are the accompanying side.  We haven't tried these yet, but if the sandwich tastes half as good as it looks, it will be a winner!

Tempeh Hoagie-Letta
From the book The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook by Kim O’Donnel.  Excerpted by arrangement with Da Capo Lifelong, a member of the Perseus Books Group.  Copyright © 2010

1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp sesame oil
juice 1/2 lime
1 clove garlic, chopped, plus 1 whole clove
1 tsp hot sauce of choice (optional)
1 (8 oz) package soy tempeh (multigrain or flax is fine, too), sliced into thumb size pieces, about 1/2" thick
3 TBSP vegetable oil
4-6" hoagie rolls (look for something soft)
olive oil, to moisten the rolls
A few slices of smoked Gouda or provolone cheese per sandwich (optional tasty treat)

Fixins Salad:
1/2 medium size onion, cut through root in half, then slice into half moons
1 tsp dried oregano
2 TBSP olive oil
1 large or 2 small celery stalks, washed thoroughly, halved lengthwise, and cut into 1/2" slices
juice 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup good quality olives (green and/or black), pitted and roughly chopped
1/4 cup pepperocini or your favorite pickled pepper, chopped roughly
1/4 cup roasted peppers (1/2 to 1 medium sized pepper), chopped roughly (jarred is fine)
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped finely
salt and ground black pepper

In a shallow baking dish, combine the soy sauce, mustard, sesame oil, lime juice, garlic, and hot sauce (if using) and whisk with a fork to blend.  Add the tempeh, making sure it's covered in marinade.  Allow to marinate about 30 minutes, turning to coat the second side after 15 minutes.

In a medium size mixing bowl, combine the onion, oregano, oil, celery, and lemon juice and stir.  Allow to sit about 15 minutes.  The onion will mellow out a bit with the citrus.

Stir in the olives, pepperocini, roasted peppers, and parsley.  Taste for salt and pepper, and season accordingly (the olives and pickled peppers are salty, FYI).

Can be made several hours or day in advance.  The salad gets better the next day.

Heat the oil in a wide skillet over medium heat.  Remove the tempeh from the marinade and transfer to the skillet to pan-fry.  Don't crowd the skillet; if necessary, cook the tempeh in batches.

Cook until golden brown on both sides, about 10 minutes.  With tongs, transfer to a paper towel to drain.  Sprinkle immediately with salt. 

Slice the rolls in half (but not all the way through; keep attached along one edge).  In a dry skillet or under the low setting of your broiler, toast the rolls, cut side toward the heat source, until slightly crisp on the inside.  Remove form the heat and rub the insides with the whole garlic clove.

Drizzle a small amount of olive oil on each roll half to moisten.  Add the cheese, if using, followed by 1/2 cup of salad, topped off with four pieces of tempeh.  Push the tempeh down to meet the salad, squish both sides of the foll, and dig in.

Makes 4 sandwiches

Kale Chips
From the book The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook by Kim O’Donnel.  Excerpted by arrangement with Da Capo Lifelong, a member of the Perseus Books Group.  Copyright © 2010

1 bunch (4 to 5 cups) Lacinato kale (also sold as Dinosaur kale)
1 TBSP olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

With a sharp knife, remove the stem and middle rib of each kale leaf so that all you have left are leaves.  Wash the leaves, then dry thoroughly, preferably in a salad spinner.  With a knife, cut the leaves into small pieces (ideally 3" long, 2" wide).

Transfer the leaves to a medium size mixing bowl and add the olive oil, salt and red pepper flakes (if using).  With your hand, coat leaves with the seasonings; the leaves will glisten a bit.

Place the kale in a single layer on a baking sheet, giving the leaves plenty of room to roast.  Cook for 8 minutes, maybe a few seconds more.  Remove from the oven and enjoy.

Makes enough chips for 4 sandwiches or a bowl of TV snacks.  Best eaten within 24 hours, stored in a paper bag.

Many thanks to Da Capo Lifelong Books for providing a sample copy of The Meat Lover's Meatless Cookbook for review.  All opinions held in this review are my own.


Saving Summer's Bounty

>> Monday, September 20, 2010

I'm at it again.  Summer is gone - has been for a while here - and fall is full force.  And so starts my yearly ritual of buying beautiful, in-season produce from the Farmer's Market and other sources and freezing them.  There is nothing better in the middle of winter than pulling out a pack of corn that was frozen the summer or fall before.  The taste is so different from the frozen corn that I can buy at the grocery store.  And so, every year I have a few things that I like to tuck away into my freezer.  This year it was raspberries (thank you previous homeowners who blessed us with a huge, mature patch of raspberry canes!), corn, carrots, basil, and peaches.  (You can see how I freeze these foods in my post on freezing from last year.)

Carrots - I froze carrots for the first time last year, and what a treat they were in the middle of winter!  Carrots from the grocery store are great, but the carrots I can get at the end of summer, both from my own garden and from my favorite local farm (Evergreen Farm in Star Valley, WY, in case you're interested) are so tender and sweet and very unlike those at the grocery store.  I simply slice the carrots into coins, place the coins in a single layer on a baking sheet, and freeze.    Once they're frozen, I'll transfer them to a container and use them all winter in soups and other recipes. 

Basil - Amazingly, this is my first year to freeze basil.  There is nothing quite like fresh basil, but fresh basil in the middle of winter is expensive!  I have high hopes that freezing the basil from my own garden will be successful.  I'm trying it two ways.  Both ways start with finely chopping the basil in a food processor.  In the first way, I drizzle in a little olive oil as well and then freeze in small portion sizes using an ice cube tray.  In the second way, I put the chopped basil in an ice cube tray and then cover with water.  So far, the basil in both methods looks great!  We'll see how they fare in the middle of winter.

Peaches - I've talked about peaches before.  This year, I took my plethora of peaches from Palisade, CO and made a peach BBQ sauce, peach bread, and these fabulous peach crisps in a jar and froze them all.  I first came across the recipe for Peach Crisps in a Jar on a fabulous (and now gone) blog called Eating Well Anywhere.  I make several (10 this year) and pop them in the freezer to eat later in the winter.  It's a fabulous treat when there is snow on the ground outside.  This year, I added some fresh blackberries to the filling.  Any berry or stone fruit would work well in this recipe.

Peach Crisps in a Jar
from Eating Well Anywhere

3 peaches
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp sll-purpose flour
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1 TBSP all-purpose flour
1 TBSP brown sugar
1 TBSP cold butter
pinch salt
3 half pint canning jars

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Peel peaches.  Place one sliced peach into each canning jar.  Sprinkle each jar with 1/2 tsp sugar, 1/2 tsp flour, and 1/4 tsp cinnamon.  Shake the jar a little to let the flour settle.  Cut brown sugar, butter, and salt into butter.  Top each jar with 1/3 of the mixture.

Bake for 40 minutes or until juices bubble on a baking sheet.  Let jars cool completely.  Cap and place in freezer.

To reheat, I simply put the frozen jars into a 400 F oven and bake until it reaches the desired temperature - usually 20-30 min. 

Anyone else trying to save a bit of summer for the middle of winter?  What's going in your freezer or pantry?


Chicken and Vegetable Soup that will make your mouth happy!

>> Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I'm still here!  As much as I love writing this blog, it's always a little hard to get back into the swing of things after taking a self-imposed break.  But, the kids are back in school, and I have a lot of ideas on the back burner, so hopefully you'll see more posts here in the near future. 

My husband is a huge soup fan - HUGE!  Me, well, not so much.  I like my comforting tomato soup, but I usually have a hard time getting excited about soup.  My kids would agree.  They groan when they find out I'm making soup, which turns out to be quite a bit during the colder months.  This soup, however, has grown on both my kids and me, so much so that my son declared, "This soup is delicious!" upon eating it recently. 

I like to go all the way when I make this soup, and it becomes a two day affair.  I start by making a simple chicken stock.  The cooked chicken goes back into the soup the next day, and I'm left with a flavorful soup base that is way better than any broth or stock from a box.  One advantage of making the stock the day before is that I can let it cool in the fridge overnight and then skim off the solidified fat layer the next day.  If you're vegetarian, you could start by making a vegetable broth and forgo the chicken, of course.  And, if you don't have the time or inclination or are just feeling lazy (we've all been there), you could skip making the stock altogether and use canned or boxed broth instead.

The second day is reserved for actually making the soup.  The vegetables cook for a good hour, which lets the flavors really meld.  If you don't have the exact vegetables listed in the recipe on hand, use what you have or what you like...but the combo of vegetables in the recipe really does make an amazing soup.

Oh, and the name?  I don't know where the soup recipe originally came from, but my version is a permutation of a soup recipe from my husband's cousin Susan.  I've changed it up a bit to suit our tastes, but this soup will forever be Susan's Chicken and Vegetable Soup to me.

Susan's Chicken and Vegetable Soup

1 whole chicken (I tend to get as small a chicken as I can find, which is still pretty big)
3 quarts water
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs fresh thyme (optional)
1 TBSP peppercorns
2 carrots, chopped
1 onion, quartered
1 stalk celery, chopped

Place all ingredients in a large stock pot.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer covered until the chicken is fully cooked.  Turn off heat, remove chicken, and let cool.  When cool enough to handle, remove meat from the bones and chop.  Set cooked chicken aside for the next day.  Place the bones back into the stock pot and bring to a boil again.  Cover and simmer for another 40 min.  Pour liquid through a colander or strainer into a container.  Refrigerate overnight.  The next day, skim the congealed fat layer before continuing on with the soup.

stock from above
2 lbs corn (frozen is fine)
2 lbs tomatoes (or 2-15 oz cans diced tomatoes with juice)
2 cups chopped okra (frozen is fine)
2 cups baby lima beans (frozen is fine)
1-2 onions, chopped
3-4 carrots, chopped
3-6 cloves garlic, finely chopped (to taste)
1 TBSP sugar
2-3 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
reserved chopped chicken

Add stock through pepper into stock pot.  Bring to a boil and cook uncovered for 1 hour.  Add chicken about 15 min before serving.

Serves 8-10

This makes a lot of soup!  I take the extra and freeze it to use on a night when I don't feel like cooking.  If you halve the recipe, freeze the extra stock for another day.


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