Archive for the ‘vegetarian’ Category

3-step (or so) Spicy Potato Salad

Spicy Potato Salad

Like many in our area, we had stocked up on food to survive a few days without power, anticipating Hurricane Joaquin would make landfall just down the street. And just last week, the US models had the center line of the hurricane’s path pushing right into the Chesapeake Bay, towards Baltimore and DC. So yes, that line was less than 8 miles down the road.

Thankfully, Joaquin moved east and is somewhere out in the Atlantic. That said, we still are dealing with a Nor’easter (fancy colloquialism for a massive rain and wind storm blowing in from the northeast.) Our problem now? It’s Saturday night, the grocery store is closing, and the church pot luck is tomorrow.

But we stocked up on food, right? There must be something…different…tasty…with a little zip, right?

[Cue light bulb over head]

Of course! Here’s a nice side dish you can whip up without too much trouble. And you probably have many of the ingredients siting inside your refrigerator right now! Bonus: it only takes three steps to make – four if you count baking the potatoes, which I didn’t. Well, yes. I baked the potatoes. But no, I did not count that as one of the steps. If I did, I’d have to change the name at the top. Okay fine, here you go:

4-step Spicy Potato Salad


10 – 12 baked potatoes, peeled and cubed (I baked these in advance, thinking they would go bad if we lost power)

2 celery stalks, ends trimmed, diced

3/4 cup bread and butter pickles, rough chopped

3/ 4 cup mayonnaise

4 Tablespoons spicy brown mustard

4 Tablespoons yellow mustard

2 Tablespoons cracked black pepper (use more if you want extra tang-ee-ness!)

1 teaspoon garlic, minced

1 teaspoon onion powder


Step 1: bake the potatoes. There. Everyone should be happy!

Step 2: Once the potatoes have baked, let them thoroughly cool, then peel and cube.

Step 2 and a half: Place the cubed potatoes in your serving container to make sure you have enough. Or to make sure you don’t have too much. Take your pick. If you have extra potatoes, fry them in some butter with a few chopped onions and serve with a fried egg on top. But let’s get back to the recipe, shall we?

Step 3: In a separate large bowl, mix all of the other ingredients.

Step 4: Add the cubed potatoes to the mustard mixture and gently fold using a spatula or wooden spoon until all of the potatoes are coated.

Step 4 and a half: Return the spicy potato salad to the serving bowl.

Step 4 and three quarters: Cover with clear wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The next day – serve with your entree of choice and a fine Merlot. For some of us , the Merlot “is” an entree of choice, but then again – this is a church potluck. No wine to be had, but let’s not talk about that now. Time to hit the rack so I don’t oversleep and miss the dang pot luck!

Enjoy the recipe!






Mac ‘n Pimento Cheese

The secret ingredient!

The secret ingredient!

Spoilers: this recipe contains a secret ingredient. Of course, trained chef’s are reluctant to tell their secrets, but I’m not a chef. I’m just a decent cook. Says so on my business card. But this dish has received too many great comments from taste-testers to keep the recipe under wraps. It’s easy to assemble, cooks in the slow-cooker so you don’t have to watch it much, and is a great twist on what might be the world’s most popular comfort food.

Did I sell you on it?

I hope so.

Next time you need something new for a potluck, try this version of Mac ‘n Pimento Cheese!


  • A 4.5 quart crock pot, or the equivalent-sized oven-safe casserole dish or pot.


  • 16 oz. cooked macaroni (I use spirals, but the traditional elbow style will be fine)
    • Helpful hint: cook the macaroni the day before and keep refrigerated until needed. Saves time the next day when you are worried about the guests coming early. And they always come early.
  • 10 oz. Colby Jack cheese, shredded
  • 12 oz. Pimento Cheese
    • Spoiler: I use Palmetto Cheese with Jalapeno as my secret ingredient. This South Carolina low country specialty food is thankfully available in most higher quality grocery stores, or online here.
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (any version that works for you. Except chocolate milk. That would be a bad choice.)
  • 12 oz. Evaporated Milk
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced


I use a “layer” approach to building this mac ‘n cheese.

  • Place enough cooked macaroni in the bottom of the crock pot to cover the bottom.
  • Sprinkle a handful of shredded Colby Jack cheese on top of the cooked macaroni.
  • Using a small spoon, or a melon baller, place 4 – 5 small scoops of pimento cheese evenly on top of the Colby Jack cheese. I do four corners and a center.
    • Helpful hint: use the spoon to spread the pimento cheese into a thin layer across the entire pot.
  • Repeat the layering of macaroni, Colby Jack cheese, and pimento cheese. Make the top layer one of the cheeses.
  • In a separate bowl, mix the remaining ingredients.
  • Pour the liquid mixture on top of the macaroni and cheese. Try to drizzle it around the entire top surface so liquid will seep down throughout the crock pot.
  • Cover and cook on low heat for 3 hours. If using the oven, bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
  • Now check the inside of the crock pot wall. Using a plastic spatula, scrape the macaroni away to keep the cheese from forming a burnt crust.
  • If your mac ‘n cheese has thickened to the point a large spoonful will maintain its shape, you are done!
    • If still soggy, then cover and continue to cook for 30 additional minutes.
    • Check again. The dish should be done.
      • The longest I have let this cook is 4 hours, but I ended up with a thick inedible crust which wasted probably three servings.

This dish has won rave reviews from both office-mates and church ladies. I don’t which group has the more discriminating palate, but on both occasions I returned home with zero leftovers.




Veggie Lettuce Wraps

Tofu Lettuce Wraps

Veggie Lettuce Wraps

If you like the lettuce wraps at P.F. Chang’s, then you will love this version – perhaps you will like them more. I do. Thanks to a great recipe courtesy of vegan cook, Namely Marly, for once I was able to stay true to (most of) the recipe. The only substitution was iceberg lettuce for butter lettuce. You use what you have, right?

The clincher? The blackberry hoisin sauce, made with blackberry jam, garlic, soy sauce, a little vinegar, and the best part – ginger. It was good tonight. I think it may be awesome tomorrow. I’m thinking adding it to fried potatoes for breakfast. Really.

I’d post the recipe, but you should stop by Marly’s website. Plenty of tasty recipes there; why try just one?

Buen Provecho, amigos!


Sweet & Spicy Eggplant Parmesan for Two

Sweet & Spicy Eggplant Parmesan

Sweet & Spicy Eggplant Parmesan

My better half had just returned from three days of driving across and around two states. I knew she would be tired and not in the mood to eat much at all. Sitting in a car all day will do that to a person. Fortunately, I had a spare eggplant and some noodles so I knew, with a little help from some spices, I could create a nice dinner she could not refuse. And it only took about 30 minutes to prep and cook!

Sweet and Spicy Eggplant Parmesan for Two

Prep: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and start heating a large stock pot of salted water for the pasta.


1 large eggplant, sliced crosswise, between a quarter and a half inch in thickness

Olive oil, you will need a good bit of this. Just keep the bottle handy.

8 oz. angel hair pasta (capellini)

2 Tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon lime juice

2 Tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves


Tip: to keep the eggplant slices from sticking to the baking sheet and casserole dish, you may want to apply a light coat of cooking spray first.

Place the eggplant slices on a baking sheet in a single layer. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush a little olive oil onto each slice.

Turn the slices over and brush olive oil onto the eggplant, just as before. Place eggplant slices (still on the baking sheet, silly) into the preheated oven. Bake for 10 minutes or until the top of the eggplant slices start to brown.

By now your pasta water should be boiling. Add the angel hair pasta, stir once with a wooden spoon, and let cook.

Once the eggplant has browned on top, using an oven mitt (hot oven, remember?) and a metal spatula, flip the eggplant slices, then bake for another 10 minutes.

Time for the sauce!

In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, lime juice, sugar, cayenne pepper, cumin, and sea salt. Stir until the sugar has dissolved.

When the eggplant has finished baking, remove from the oven BUT DO NOT TURN OFF THE OVEN.

Layer the eggplant slices in a 9×13 casserole dish, offsetting the slices slightly. Drizzle the sauce over the eggplant. Bake in the oven one more time, for 10 minutes.

Your pasta should be done by now. Drain in a colander, then return the cooked pasta to the pan and cover.

Tip: to help keep the noodles from sticking together, gently stir in a tablespoon or two of butter.

Putting It All Together

Begin by creating a nice bed of cooked pasta in the center of your dinner plate.

Place 4 or 5 eggplant slices on top of the pasta.

Sprinkle a few chopped mint leaves on top of the eggplant.’

Finish by sprinkling grated Parmesan cheese over everything.

Kripyā bhojan kā ānnaṅd lijīyai! (enjoy the meal!)

Smokey Black Beans and Rice

Smokey Black Beans & Rice

Smokey Black Beans & Rice

A good friend living in Nicaragua (see footnote) asked if I could post a recipe or two that would work for her, given the lack of gourmet grocery stores in her part of the world. Having lived there myself, years ago, I knew gallo pinto, or rice and beans, was a staple, and she confirmed nothing had changed. So to help out – here is a great recipe to spice things up a bit!

This is best done with a crock pot / slow cooker; but you can also make this in a regular pot on the stove, cooking over low heat. You may need to stir at times to keep things from sticking and burning to the bottom of your pot.

Smokey Black Beans and Rice

Serves 8 – 10, depending on your serving size. I used one big ladle per serving.


4 Tablespoons of olive oil (you could use vegetable or peanut oil – whatever you have)

1 onion, chopped – any type will do. I used a Vidalia

1 red bell pepper, cored/seeded, and chopped

1 green bell pepper, cored/seeded, and chopped

1 large carrot, peeled and chopped

4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

8 cups cooked (and drained) black beans

1 cup uncooked white rice

3 Tablespoons smoked paprika

2 Tablespoons black pepper

(I didn’t use any salt – personal choice.)

5 cups liquid – I used 3 cups of unsalted vegetable stock and 2 cups of water.


Heat the oil in a large pan and saute the onion, bell peppers, carrot, and garlic for about 10 minutes. When the onions start to become translucent, you are ready to move on.

Sauteing the vegetables.

Sauteing the vegetables.

Put the black beans in the crock pot, stir in the sauteed vegetables.

Mix in the uncooked rice, smoked paprika, and black pepper.

Pour in the 5 cups of liquid. Gently stir into the mix. You want enough liquid to just cover the rice, beans, and vegetables.

Just before cooking started.

Just before cooking started.

Cover and simmer for 8 hours, or until the rice has absorbed all of the liquid.


Pairs well with fried plantain slices dusted with a bit of sugar and cinnamon.

This is perfect in any climate – from the wonderfully warm temperatures of Nicaragua, to the frozen tundra I currently find myself inhabiting in Virginia.

* If you want to help children in need, and can spare a few dollars a month – please consider sending a donation to Thanks!

Who ordered all this snow? Not me.

Who ordered all this snow? Not me.





Carrot-Ginger Soup

Carrot-Ginger Soup

Carrot-Ginger Soup

The original plan was to make recipe numero dos in my quest to cook the book Easy Vegan – Simple Recipes for Healthy Eating. But then I found the bag of baby carrots in the freezer.

If this freezing had been planned, the carrots would have been blanched first, then frozen. Alas, this had not been the case. Still, it was a goodly amount of carrots and I hated to just throw them away. There had to be a way (a safe from food-borne illness way) to use these now thawed, soggy carrots.

Plan A: Roast them. So I thawed the carrots, drained as much water away as I could, then put them on a baking pan in a single layer. I seasoned the carrots with poultry seasoning (no worries, vegans – this is just a label for a combination of spices you probably have in your pantry right now) and some sea salt. 30 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven later – I thought Plan A had been the right approach.

Result: Hot, well-seasoned, and soggy carrots. Obviously, I needed a new plan.

Plan B: Saute them. I had a spare bit of Earth Balance Butter so why not toss the roasted carrots into a skillet and see if adding some buttery flavor would help. The carrot texture was still limp and soggy at the start; I was hoping the transfer of heat through conduction would steam the remaining water from the carrot’s cells, thusly reviving the original texture of a solid carrot.

Result: Very hot, well-seasoned, buttery, and still soggy carrots. Yes, you are right – time for the next plan.

Plan C: Make a soup. If there were any unwanted bacteria on the carrots due to the unplanned freezing, the roasting, sauteing and now soup-making should have been to kill those nasty things off. Chef’s tip: reducing the risk from unwanted bacteria is one very important reason why you blanch carrots first, then freeze them.

Result: It worked!

Since I do not want you to deal with accidentally frozen, unblanched carrots, let’s assume we are starting from scratch here. Try this recipe if you want a nice hot soup that tastes good, keeps the chill away, and is probably good for you!


1.5 – 2.0 pounds of fresh carrots, peeled and chopped into chunks the size of large wine corks

Olive oil

Poultry Seasoning

Sea Salt

4 Tablespoons (or more if you dare) of fresh ginger, chopped.

2 cloves of garlic

2 Tablespoon of black peppercorns

4 cups vegetable stock

2 Tablespoons sugar

1/2 cup coconut cream, or full-fat coconut milk


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place carrots on a baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil over the carrots- not too much, just a quick drizzle over all of them.

Sprinkle poultry seasoning and sea salt on top. Again, not too much, but make sure every piece of carrot has some seasoning.

Bake for 30 minutes or until tender. Turn the carrots every once in a while if they start to char up on the underside. Nobody likes burned carrots. Not even rabbits.

When done, remove from the oven and let rest. Now go look for your food processor or blender. It’s that device hiding in the back of the lowest cupboard shelf you have. That’s where the things you need always end up. See it? Good.

You may have to do this next part in batches, depending on the size of your food processor/blender.

Put the roasted carrots into the food processor. Adding the fresh ginger, garlic, peppercorns, and a cup or so of the vegetable stock, puree the ingredients. Transfer the mixture to a stock pot.

Once all of the carrot mixture is in the stock pot, stir in the remaining vegetable stock, sugar, and coconut cream. Keep stirring occasionally, and heat the soup until it just starts to boil. Now turn the heat down and simmer for 20 minutes. Continue to stir every once in a while, just to keep carrot solids from sticking to the bottom of the stock pot.

Once done – serve it up! And what you don’t use? Why, you can freeze it, of course.

I hope you have enjoyed my tale of kitchen (mis)adventures. And I hope you enjoy the soup!

Godt Nytar!








Garlic-Red Pepper Vegetable Rice

Garlic-Red Pepper Vegetable Rice

Garlic-Red Pepper Vegetable Rice

Huzzah! I received a great cookbook from my Secret Santa (who was nice enough to sign the title page. Thanks, Temma!) Anyhow, I immediately did what one always does when receiving a new cookbook – I looked at all the photos! And it was clear I had a new mission:

The cookbook, easy vegan – simple recipes for healthy eating,  contains over 100 recipes so it will take a little over two years to fulfill this quest, recreating one recipe per week. I had thought about waiting until the New Year started, but in the category of what the heck – why wait, I have already started!

But first – a couple of caveats: (1) I reserve the right to change the recipe to fit what I have available and (2) I reserve the right to change the recipe to fit our personal taste. Number one is in response to not having enough vegetable stock to make a soup for this first recipe, and number two is in anticipation of the beet salad about a third of the way into the book.

And by the way – this is a one pan dinner. You can’t get any easier than that, can you?


Garlic-Red Pepper Vegetable Rice

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: approximately 40 minutes

Serves: 8

Ingredients for Step One

3 Tablespoons of vegetable oil

1 Tablespoon of sesame oil

4 scallion, chopped

1 cup carrots, julienned (thin little matchsticks)

1 medium red bell pepper, diced

1 cup frozen green peas

8 cloves garlic, chopped (not minced)

1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, finely chopped – practically minced. Okay, go ahead. Mince away! Make the garlic jealous!

Ingredients for Step Two

3 cups uncooked rice (I used Jasmine-scented white rice)

4 cups of unsalted vegetable broth

1 cup of water

1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce

2 Tablespoons crushed red pepper (yep – two!)

Ingredients for Step Three

3 – 4 cups of hand-torn field greens

1 cup cashews or peanuts. Use more if you want. It’ll be okay.


Using a (very) large non-stick sauce pan, pre-heat the olive oil and sesame oil over medium-high heat. Test the temperature by carefully dropping a carrot stick into the pan. If you hear it start to sizzle, add the Step One Ingredients.

Stir until the ingredients are mixed, then reduce to medium heat and cover. You are sautéing the vegetables here so be aware of how heat applied to oil reacts with damp vegetables such as frozen peas. Stir occasionally, sautéing for 10 minutes.

Can you believe it? You are almost done!

Add the Step Two ingredients, stirring until mixed. Reduce heat to low, cover, and let cook until the liquid has been absorbed into the rice. This might take 30 to 40 minutes.

In this step, you are allowing the liquid to cook the rice, and you are giving the spices and aromatics a chance to meld into the other ingredients. Plus you are giving yourself an opportunity to pour the glass of wine that has been calling your name since this morning. I know. I have the same thing happen to me all the time!

Just before serving, gently stir in the Step Three Ingredients. There you go – you have just created a wonderful one-dish meal full of substance and flavor. This works both as a main dish and as a side.

Optional: Add two more cups of hot vegetable broth after the rice has been cooked and you will have yourself a nice spicy soup, too.

Chef’s tip: Try to use fresh ginger whenever possible. Candied ginger is right out. All you need to do is peel the root a bit, chop what you need, then wrap the remainder in foil, place in a freezer bag (squeeze as much air out as possible) and keep in the freezer until you need more. The next time it may be a slight bit soggy, but the fresh flavor will still be there. And now you know!


P.S. If you don’t use the V-word (you know – vegan) people will never know. It’s just a great tasting bowl of food!


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