Friday, March 5, 2010

Quinotto (Quinoa Risotto)

Serves 4

1 cup Quinoa
3 cups vegetable stock
1 teaspoon tumeric
1 Tablespoon Onion Powder
1 Tablespoon garlic powder
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon Olive Oil

Toast quinoa in a dry pan until slightly brown around edges.

In a saucepan, mix vegetable stock, tumeric, onion and garlic powder. Bring vegetable stock to a boil. Add toasted quinoa. Bring back to a boil and then lower heat to a simmer. Let it simmer for about 20 minutes or until all the stock is aborbed. Once the quinoa has absorbed all liquid, stir in grated parmesan cheese and olive oil.

Serve as is or with roasted vegetables and your favorite pasta sauce.

Calories per serving: 253 (without sauce or accompaniment)
Ancient Harvest Organic Quinoa, Traditional, 12-Ounce Bags (Pack of 12)The Quinoa Cookbook: Over 70 Great Quinoa Recipes

I've survived the first month...well...sort of

February is over!

It's been awhile since my last blog. Boy, was I overwhelmed with mommy duties, side projects, and cooking our daily meals! It feels great to be back though, and I am looking forward to posting the recipes I've tried during our vegetarian days.

Having gone this far made me realize how difficult it is to be vegetarian. The transition from being carnivorous to non-carnivorous was truly an experience and an adventure. Eating out at some of our favorite restaurants have proved to be challenging (and tempting!). I truly feel for vegetarians all over the world who end up having the bread appetizer (if they're lucky!) as their main course, and only meal, of the dining experience. Most restaurant menus are just not kind to vegetarians, or at least, not imaginative enough. It seems you have to go to a specialized vegetarian restaurant or an Italian restaurant with an extensive pasta menu.

We have been eating out a needless to say, the lack of choices has lead me astray. I admit that I have cheated this month. It was fish and BOY OH BOY, was it the best piece of fish I've ever had!

OK. Done! Let's move on! Forgive me...


Just as I posted my very first blog entry, my husband corrected me afterward. I thought that going vegetarian was going to be a lifetime deal. It turned out, he just intended it to be a month-long thing (the whole month of February). I, being idealistic about this whole project, told him I could do it for a longer time. He laughed. I guess he knows me more than I know myself.

Ironically, he had no problems whatsoever with the dietary change. I, on the other hand, had a laundry list of ailments, from hunger pangs to hyper acidity. Not that going vegetarian was a sure way to get these aliments, but the drastic change did a few wicked things to my digestive system! So the cheating was caused by three things really: boring menus, temptation, and to cure my hyper acidity. I believed that the acidity was from the lack of protein from meat, which supposedly gives you a more satisfying feeling once combined with carbs. (This is where you're probably thinking, great logical deduction for someone who was deprived of and craving meat!) Only to realize that I had cut down my calorie intake so drastically that it was my body's way of saying that I should eat more. It was just vegetables after all! So, after I increased my portion sizes (If you don't eat meat, you need to take in more vegetables and healthy grain), I felt much better.

I noticed a big difference in the succeeding weeks. Eating more vegetables gave me more energy and made me feel a lot better. Actually, it made me feel really good. I felt lighter and healthier somehow. Before I started the experiment, I was going to spinning classes twice a week. These sessions made me so hungry after that I ate like there was no tomorrow. I believed for some reason that I needed meat to help me get through the class. Surprisingly, none of that mattered. Sure I was hungry but the body knows. It adjusted. It turns out, all I needed was a healthy attitude and lots of water!

Turning Point

This whole experiment forced me to look at food in a different way. Going vegetarian was a real eye-opener; a great experience, but it is not something I can do forever. With that said, we have come up with another plan for the month of March. We've decided to continue being vegetarian 3 days of the week, eat chicken or fish 2 days of the week, and pretty much anything goes on the weekend. However, the important thing is to choose vegetarian whenever we can, whenever it is available. This works out perfectly since we are having family visiting throughout the months of March, April and May. The last thing we want is for our guests to feel obligated to eat our vegetarian dishes. :)

For people who are following this blog for vegetarian recipes, don't worry. I will still be posting a lot of vegetarian recipes. Vegetarian cooking is challenging for me and when I am challenged, I really push myself to learn more. A great chef is only as good as her ingredients. If you can see potential in the simplest ingredients and turn it into a spectacular meal, you're already a super chef in my book! I am truly in awe of Vegetarian chefs, more so of Vegan chefs. So please keep on reading!

I will consolidate my vegetarian recipes and post them a day at a time. For now, I am so glad to be blogging again!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Day 11

We've been busy exploring the vegetarian restaurants in Sacramento. We've tried some really good ones, and some pretty bad ones, but I'd like to focus on our latest find (one of the good ones, still searching for THE best): Au Lac Veggie. The food at Au Lac was pretty good, service was amazing, and the price was extremely affordable (we paid $30 for 3 entrées, rice and drinks). They have interesting menus with all these fake meat products. They call them "Veggie Chicken, Veggie Fish, Veggie Beef", and what we've tried so far have been impressive (as far as fake meat entrées go). We ordered the Mongolian Veggie Beef, Claypot Veggie Fish, and the Eggplant with Basil.
I was pleasantly surprised when the "Mongolian Veggie Beef" arrived. It looked like real beef! The "beef" was sliced thinly and stir fried with some green bell peppers onions, garlic, coated with a spicy-sweet sauce that worked so perfectly with brown rice. I thought it would be chewy (more like gummy) but it actually tasted pretty close to the real thing.
The Clay Pot Veggie Fish was just "OK", not as good as the real thing. I mean the fish was good, but the sauce could use a little work.
My favorite was the Eggplant and Basil. The basil flavor permeated the eggplant in this delicious and slightly sweet sauce, the eggplant was smokey too, I love smokey flavor. All in all we walked out of that place happy and full (but not disgustingly full, like you would feel after finishing a huge piece of steak!) with left-overs for the next day. Awesome! Too bad I didn't have a camera with me so I could share photos, oh well!

Au Lac Veggie got me really curious about these fabricated meat products. I was obsessed and fascinated with the idea. So I tracked down the source. I found them in the Asian part of town which is south of where we live. They had a freezer chest full of these "meats". They had veggie mutton, chicken, fish, beef chunks, ham, and goose! I've already tried the fish so I got that. I figured I'd try the goose too.

For dinner on our 11th day, we had pan fried Veggie Fish with homemade Thai Vegetable Curry.

Here's the recipe:

Serves 3-4
1 1/2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 onion, sliced thin
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ginger, grated
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons Thai red curry paste
2 medium sized Japanese or Thai* eggplants, cut into chunks
1/2 pound cup squash, cut into cubes
1 pound green beans
1 medium sized red bell pepper, sliced into strips
1/4 cup or water
1-15 oz. can unsweetened coconut milk
1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce (soy sauce, if you prefer)
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup basil leaves

In a heavy pan or dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until it starts to to turn translucent,about 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger, stir until fragrant. Stir in the curry paste and fry, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the eggplants, squash, green beans, and red bell pepper. Season with a teaspoon of salt. Pour in the water and cover pot to let the veggies steam for 5 minutes. Add half of the coconut milk and reduce to half under medium heat. Once reduced, add the remaining coconut milk and bring to a boil. Stir in the fish sauce (soy sauce), brown sugar. Reduce the heat and simmer, for 5 minutes or until vegetables, particularly the squash, have softened.

Remove from the heat and add the basil leaves. Serve over rice.

*If you are using Thai eggplants, use about 6 of them for this recipe. They are tiny, about the size of a small tomato. 

You can use other vegetables that are in season. Carrots, cauliflower, snow peas, cabbage, mushrooms and canned baby corn work well. Try your favorite, or use a combination of vegetables.

Calories per serving: 350 (without rice)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

February 8, 2010 Easy Pea-sy Ravee-O-lee

Day 8
Ravioli time! Here’s an easy version. I used store bought wonton wrappers as my pasta. They are half the thickness of traditional ravioli so they cook a lot faster. I decided to fill them with some roasted butternut squash I had made the day before.
I thought it would be great with a Beurre Blanc sauce since it has a nice acidity and creaminess to complement the sweetness of the squash. I refer to it as “Blur” Blanc in the recipe because I polished off half a bottle of wine (I only needed a quarter of a cup for the sauce) and everything was a blur after that…(insert evil laugh here)

Easy Ravioli with Roasted Butternut Squash with Blur Blanc sauce
Serves 2, Serving Size: 6 Raviolis

24 sheets store-bought wanton wrapper
3/4 cup roasted butternut squash (roasted cubed squash at 400° F for 45 minutes)
3 Tablespoons Goat Cheese
1 small head roasted garlic (cut head in half, drizzle with olive oil, roast at 400° F for 45 minutes)

For the ravioli filling:
Combine butternut squash, goat cheese and roasted garlic in a food processor and puree for 30 seconds. Taste before seasoning.

To make ravioli:
Lay out 12 wanton wrappers and drop about half a tablespoon on each.
Lay out the remaining 12 wrappers and coat the entire wrapper with a thin film of water using the tip of your fingers.
Combine the two sides and seal the edges of wrapper by pressing your fingers around each mound, making sure there is no air trapped inside. Repeat this process for the rest of the raviolis.

To cook ravioli:
In a large stockpot, bring water to a rolling boil. Season water with salt and drop ravioli one at a time. Work in batches so they don’t stick together. They will float to the top once they’re done (about 5 minutes). Remove with slotted spoon and drain. Serve with Beurre Blanc sauce and garnish with fried sage leaves or snipped chives.

Calories per serving: 275

Blur (Beurre) Blanc
Serves 2

1/4 cup white wine
1 Tablespoon white vinegar
1 Tablespoon water
1 medium shallot, minced finely
6 Tablespoons butter, cold, diced into ½” cubes (Yes you read that right 6 Tablespoons, but after reading about traditional Beurre Blanc sauces, they actually use more butter than that-more like 14 Tablespoons. SO this is a "lighter" version)
salt and pepper

In a small thick-bottomed saucepan, combine wine, vinegar, shallots, and water. Reduce liquid over low heat to half. Once reduced, whisk in diced butter a little at a time. Make sure that the sauce is barely simmering otherwise it will break (oil will melt and you will end up with an oily sauce). Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Calories per serving: 332

Sunday, February 7, 2010

February 5-6-7, 2010 Mise en place

I know I've missed a few blog days, but no need to fear, I am here. Just in case you were wondering, I did not pass-out from meat-deprivation. 

Although, I have to admit that the adjustment has triggered major hunger pangs BUT I am doing okay. 

What kept me busy the past few days was my mise en place. What-a what?!?
Yes, Mise en place (miz-un-plas): a fancy-schmancy French term (which I learned from reading Anthony Bourdain's "Kitchen Confidential") for getting everything ready in the kitchen. Actually, literally, it means "everything in place", and I've set up my kitchen and fridge with ingredients and already made (home made) necessities to make my life easier. 

I've been busy making cheese and gnocchi. I stored the cheese in the fridge and the gnocchi in the freezer so I can whip up some tasty treats for the week. 

Cheese? Gnocchi? You might think I'm insane and you're probably thinking: "I can never make cheese and pasta from scratch!"; but trust me, it's not as hard as you think. So give these recipes a try and let me know how they turn out for you!

Basil-Infused Soft Cheese
1 quart organic whole milk
2 Tablespoons white vinegar
1/2 cup Basil infused water (recipe follows)

Salt bath:
1 cup basil infused water
2 Tablespoon vinegar
1/8 C salt

In a large pot, bring milk to a gentle rolling boil under medium-low heat. Stir often to avoid burning the bottom. Once boiling, drizzle the vinegar and cook for 15 seconds while stirring.

Turn off heat and continue stirring until curds form (whey should be clear and not milky). Stir in basil infused water. Once you obtain clear separation of curds and whey, let it set for 10 minutes.When the curds have settled below the whey, ladle the curds onto a muslin lined colander. Tie corners into a knot and hold the bag under running lukewarm water to wash off the vinegar. Gently twist the top of the muslin to squeeze out more whey.

Shape the cheese in the muslin into a 3-inch diamerter ball, return to the colander and place a bowl of water or a 5-lb weight on top for 20 minutes.

Unwrap cheese and let it soak in the salt bath for future use.
Store in refrigerator. This Will keep for 2 weeks.

Serving suggestions:
-Slice medium-thick, pan fry on each side until golden brown along the edges and serve with toast.
-Crumble over salad or pasta
-Bake on pizza or flatbread

Basil Infused Water:
6 fresh basil leaves
1 1/2 C water

Bring water to a boil, lower heat to a simmer and add basil leaves. Leave for 5 minutes and turn off heat.

Calories per serving: 150

Hazelnut Gnocchi

8 servings; Serving size: 1/2 cup cooked gnocchi

1 cup toasted hazelnuts, finely ground
1 cup russet potatoes, mashed (about 1 medium sized potato)
1 cup all purpose flour (or more to work with)
1 egg
1 tsp. nutmeg
2 teaspoons salt

Preheat oven to 450°F with rack in middle.
Pierce russet potatoes in several places with a fork, then bake in a sheet pan until just tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Cool potatoes slightly, then peel and smash with a potato masher. Spread potatoes on a sheet pan in an even layer. Cool potatoes completely.

Lightly flour work table or line with parchment paper.
Gather potatoes into a mound on work table, using a pastry scraper, and form a well in center.
Beat together egg, nutmeg, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a small bowl.
Pour egg mixture into well, then knead into potatoes. Knead in 1 cup of flour, then knead, adding more flour as necessary, until mixture forms a smooth but slightly sticky dough. Dust top lightly with some of flour.
Cut dough into 6 pieces. Form 1 piece of dough into a 1/2-inch-thick rope on a lightly floured surface. Cut rope into 1/2-inch pieces. Gently roll each piece into a ball and lightly dust with flour.
Repeat with remaining 5 pieces of dough.

You can prepare gnocchi in advance and store in the freezer. Arrange gnocchi pieces on a sheet pan, and put in the freezer for an hour, then transfer them into an airtight bag to freeze up to a week.

To cook gnocchi:

Add gnocchi to a pasta pot of well-salted boiling water and stir. Cook until they float to surface, about 3 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to skillet with preferred sauce. Cook remaining gnocchi in same manner, transferring to skillet as cooked.
Calories per serving: 108

Hazelnut Gnocchi with Sage and Brown Butter
What we had for dinner last night (2-6-10) turned out so good I think I'll make it again for dinner tonight!
2 servings

1 cup prepared hazelnut gnocchi
1/8 cup butter, melted
6 sage leaves
1 cup crimini mushrooms
1 cup butternut squash (roasted)
1/2 cup pearl onions (braised)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Olive Oil for roasting
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shaved or grated
salt and pepper

Roast Butternut squash:
Preheat oven to 400°F. 
Peel and cut butternut squash into 1 1/2" cubes. Lay on a sheet tray and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Let it roast in the oven for 3o minutes. It should be slightly caramelized along the edges. Take out of the oven to let cool.

Braise the pearl onions:
Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in a small pan. Add pearl onions until fragrant. Pour in balsamic vinegar and let it reduce until nice and thick. Turn off heat and set aside.

Brown butter and fry sage leaves:
Heat butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat until melted. Fry sage leaves in batches, stirring, until they turn just a shade lighter and crisp (they will continue to crisp as they cool), about 30 seconds per batch. Transfer to paper towels to drain. 

Season lightly with salt. By the time sage is done, butter will turn a slight shade of brown and will have a nutty aroma. Lower heat so as not to burn the butter.

In the same pan used to fry the sage leaves, sauté crimini mushrooms until fragrant and shiny. Add roasted butternut squash and braised pearl onions. Add prepared gnocchi and stir until coated. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and fried sage leaves.
Calories per serving: 230

Thursday, February 4, 2010

February 4, 2010 Trader Joe's to the rescue!!!

Day 4

It's bound to happen: a lazy day where I don't feel like burning brain cells thinking of a new dish. Instead, I opted to use ready-made products from Trader Joe's. They have awesome vegetarian selections and I chose to take advantage of it.

For breakfast: Soyrizo, stirred in some beaten eggwhites, a side of 12 grain toast. HEAVENLY...who needs meat when you have FAKE meat in the form of SOYrizo?!?

Lunch was easy, I enjoyed it with a friend and had a vegetarian meal at Panera bread.

For dinner: another Trader Joe's concoction of Spinach and Chives linguine. All I have to do is boil the pasta and sauté it  with some crimini mushrooms, smashed roasted garlic and sun-dried tomatoes in some of  their AMAZING $3.99 (1- liter) bottle of extra virgin olive oil ( I KID you not, it was that cheap!).

Trader Giotto, ti voglio bene!!!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

February 3, Ratatat...

I had an eventful day and I am totally exhausted (protein deprivation maybe?), but I had time to make a Ratatouille tart for dinner.

Here's the recipe:

Ratatouille Tart
Serves 8; Serving Size: 1 wedge

Tart Shell:

* 2/3 cup yellow cornmeal
* 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 2 Tbsp. butter, cold
* 2 Tbsp. olive oil
* 3 Tbsp. ice-cold water


* 2 Tbsp. plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
* 2 shallots, thinly sliced (about 1/3 cup)
* 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
* 1 medium sized eggplant, sliced thinly into rounds
* 1 zucchini, sliced into 1/8-inch rounds
* 3 medium tomatoes, sliced thinly
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
* 1/2 teaspoon dried herbes de Provence (optional)
* 3 ounces shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
* 1/4 cup shredded fresh basil leaves
* 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan


Preheat the oven to 400˚F.

For the tart shell:

Combine cornmeal, pastry flour, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to incorporate. Add butter and oil and pulse until mixture resembles the size of small peas. Slowly add ice-cold water and pulse until mixture forms loose dough. Remove dough from processor and press into bottom and about 1/8-inch up the sides of a 9-inch tart pan with a detachable rim. Line the pastry with aluminum foil and weigh down with uncooked rice or beans. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove the foil and rice (or beans) and return to oven to bake for an additional 2-3 minutes, or until the bottom turns opaque. Remove from oven and let cool. Leave the oven at 400˚F

For the filling:

Prepare 2 baking trays. Toss lightly, the eggplant, zucchini and tomato slices with olive oil, herbes de Provence, salt and pepper. Arrange on the trays in a single layer and roast the vegetables for 15 minutes until soft but not browned. Remove the vegetables from oven and cool.

While vegetables are in the oven, heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat; sauté shallots until soft, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add ¼ cup of balsamic vinegar. Let it simmer and reduce to about half. Take off the heat and set aside.

Lower the oven temperature to 350˚F. Lay the vegetable slices in 2 layers on the bottom of tart; spread half of the shallot-balsamic reduction; then cover with 1/3 of the mozzarella cheese and some of the shredded basil. Repeat this process, until all vegetable and mozzarella cheese are used. Top with the grated Parmesan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until cheese is melted and vegetables are nicely caramelized. Remove from oven, let cool for 15 minutes.

To serve, gently slide a knife around the edges to release any pastry that might be sticking, then remove the bottom and place the tart on a serving plate. Cut into 8 wedges and serve warm.


You can use yellow instead of green zucchini, sun-dried tomatoes instead of fresh (but reduce the portion to a quarter). You can also add roasted red peppers, yellow squash, or whatever is in season at your local market.

If you are lazy to make your own tart shell (as I sometimes am), you can use a store bought pastry dough and it'll turn out just as good.

Calories per serving: 232