Red Lentil Taco “Meat”

TacoMeat TacosTacos are the world’s best food.  That’s how we feel in my house, anyway.  Tacos are just so versatile and easy.  You can put practically anything in a tortilla and call it a taco! We use all sorts of different things like mushrooms, squash, potatoes, veggies, and all different types of beans.  This one, using red lentils, is a staple for us.  It’s super easy and is reminiscent of ground taco meat, like the kind we used to have back when we ate like crap and fried our tortillas (did I just say that?).

Of course, you can make tacos with the fake taco meat sold in stores, but that stuff is highly processed and has a ton of fat and oil.  I’d much rather use healthy, fiber-rich filling and save my fat for avocado and Sour Un-Cream.  I use my own, homemade taco seasoning but you can use store-bought if you’d like.  For me, most of them are too spicy, salty and many have MSG. See below for my recipe.  Also, see in Recipe Notes for slow cooker directions.

2 TBS chili powder, 2 TBS cumin, 1 TBS smoked paprika, 1 TBS sea salt, 1/2 TBS onion powder, 1/2 TBS garlic powder, 1 tsp oregano, 1 tsp sugar, 1/2 tsp pepper, 1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne.  Shake everything up in a small jar and use whenever you make Taco “Meat”.

Now have at it!

Chili Chowder

ChiliChowder This delicious, hardy dish has flavors similar to chili, with the texture and consistency of a thick chowder.  I love it! Top with avocado and/or Sour Un-Cream.

I have made this using both canned black beans and beans I made from scratch with the pressure cooker.  As is usually the case, I preferred the version with the homemade beans.    If you have a pressure cooker, it’s SO easy.  Soak 1 pound of dried black beans overnight or 6 hours (some say soaking isn’t necessary but I always do).  Rinse and place in your pressure cooker and add just enough water to cover the top of the beans – the water should be just touching the beans.  Add 4 cloves crushed garlic, a few bay leaves and 2 tsp cumin seeds.  Cook at high pressure 14 minutes, and let the pressure come down naturally.  Beans are done! Makes about 5 cups of black beans. Remove the bay leaves, stir and add the whole batch to the rest of the Chili Chowder ingredients.

I order my dried beans online from Rancho Gordo, a farm in Northern California.  They are heirloom beans, which are open-pollinated seeds that can be planted and you’ll get the exact same bean. They tend to have a lower yield and can be much more difficult to grow but the pay off is in the unique flavors and textures that you don’t find with bland commodity beans.  They are always fresh too, which is great.  You never know how old the beans at the grocery store are, and old beans can take forever to cook.  I highly recommend Rancho Gordo beans.  It’s fun to experiment with all the different varieties they offer. Now get cooking!

Tahini Sauce || vegan | oil-free | gluten-free

Brown rice, sweet potato, kale and baked chickpeas topped with Tahini Sauce.

Brown rice, sweet potato, kale and baked chickpeas topped with Tahini Sauce.

I first created this sauce to use with the kale chips I made in my new dehydrator (still learning and experimenting, but that thing is FUN!).  They turned out great, btw, but I didn’t end up using all the sauce and shortly realized how delicious it was on steamed greens, and as a salad dressing.  It packs a lot of flavor so a little really does go a long way.

Top 5 Reasons to Use a Pressure Cooker + Butternut Squash Risotto Recipe (vegan/gluten-free)

If you’re anything like I used to be, you equate pressure cookers with the 1950’s and a fear of getting hit in the face with scalding steam and a hot lid.  I hear it all the time; “I have a pressure cooker, but I’m scared to death to use it.”  Fear not, my friends! Nowadays pressure cookers have been built with safety features to assure ease of use without scalding, or sky-rocketing lids.  There is definitely a learning curve as it’s a different way of cooking, but once you experiment and get a feel for it, you’ll wonder how you ever went without!

Cuisinart-Pressure-Cooker

Electric pressure cooker

Stove-top pressure cooker

Stove-top pressure cooker

For those who don’t know, pressure cooking is a method which uses water to create steam that does not escape the vessel while the food is being cooked.  A fraction of the water is used compared to other methods.  Since there is less water to heat, it takes less time for the water/food to reach cooking temperature.  As well, due to the intense pressure and heat, items cook faster than simply steaming, boiling or braising.  And they are easy to use – put your food in the pan, lock the lid in place, turn on the heat, wait until it comes up to pressure, turn down heat and wait.  The units are available in electric and stove top versions, and while some steps differ slightly between the two, the concept is the same. Some dishes such, as green veggies, require you to let the steam out manually, which simply means pressing the valve and allowing steam to flow.  Others, like beans and grains, call for natural pressure release, which means you don’t do anything but wait until all the steam has slowly escaped on it’s own.  If you aren’t yet sold on the beauty of a pressure cooker, let me share some other benefits with you:

TOP 5 REASONS TO USE A PRESSURE COOKER:

  • Time savings – “I don’t have time” is the most common reason I hear for why people don’t prepare more of their own meals at home.  Well, a pressure cooker can help!  Example: brown rice would normally take about 40-45 minutes when boiled.  Using a pressure cooker it will cook in half the time.  Garbanzo beans take 14 minutes of cook time (not excluding the time it takes to come up to pressure, and release naturally).
  • Nutrient retention – Since the food is exposed to heat for a shorter period of time, fewer nutrients are lost in cooking.  As well, vitamins and minerals are not whisked away by water since there is so much less of it.
  • Energy savings – Thanks to shorter cooking times, the fire and/or electricity are used less.
  • No stirring required – If you’ve ever made risotto you know what a drag it can be, stirring and stirring and stirring.  You can make arborio rice risotto in the pressure cooker, at 5 minutes high pressure, without having ever lifted a spoon.  How cool is that?
  • Less water – water is a precious resource that is not as abundant as it once was, especially here in Southern California.  The less water we can use in every aspect of life, the better.

Some typical dishes for which I use my pressure cooker:

Steel cut oats
Oatmeal
Beans, chilis and stews
Whole grains such as rice and quinoa
Sweet and white potatoes
Kale and other greens

So basically, pressure cookers are awesome.  They can be used for anything you’d boil, steam or braise.  The tricky part is converting a recipe and figuring out how much liquid to use.  It just takes some experimenting.  In the meantime I wanted to share this yummy recipe with you for Butternut Squash Risotto using brown rice.  Easy and so delicious, without the constant stirring typical risotto calls for.  Also, a wonderful cookbook for pressure cooking is The New Fast Food by Jill Nussinow.  Invaluable, really.  Have fun cooking under pressure, and I hope you enjoy this dish!

Delectable Mushroom Soup | vegan, oil-free, gluten-free

MushroomSoup1txtDelectable was the word used by my sister to describe her feelings on this soup, so I figured I’d call it just that – Delectable Mushroom Soup.  Much more fun than plain old Mushroom Soup.  And honestly people, not to toot my own horn or anything but it really is delectable.  I got lucky with this one, for sure.  I had a ton of cremini and chanterelle mushrooms (thanks to Costco) and realized I’d never made a creamy mushroom soup before, and it sounded really good to me.  I was hopeful the recipe would work out so I made copious notes as I went along.  So glad I did.  The best part?  It’s EASY to make!

This soup is rich and creamy but not overly fattening.  I used only 1/3 cup raw cashews which adds fat of course, but not too much.  The items I used for garnish are optional and do add a small amount of fat.  I grated a very small amount of Miyoko’s killer Smoked Farmhouse “cheese”, and a few drops of truffle oil on top of the fresh chives. Deliciously delectable.  🙂

 

Mesquite-Lime Hummus

Honestly, I don’t know anybody who doesn’t l like  hummus.  I’m sure they exist but I’ve never met them.  Such a simple thing – chickpeas and a handful of ingredients, whirled through a blender.  And so many ways to eat it: with raw veggies, crackers, chips, on a sandwich or wrap, thinned out as gravy to top greens or grains…so many possibilities.  There are also many flavors of hummus, and this one is really delicious.  I love anything with a smoky flavor and the smoked paprika does a great job here, but the lime really makes this hummus come to life.  I used about 2.5 TBS of lime juice and it’s pretty limey….use more or less depending on your tastes.  Same with the cayenne.  1/8 tsp is quite mild.  Now go make some hummus.  🙂

Grilled Pineapple Fried Rice

This rice dish was something I was able to throw together one night, using items I had on hand.  Love it when that happens.

The tofu I used was a packaged, Thai marinated flavor.  Feel free to use any flavor you like, or bake your own.  I was on a mission to make this dish as quick as possible so I used the pre-baked kind.  Nice and easy.

Also, in the spirit of ease and convenience, I used the frozen brown rice you can find at almost any grocery store these days, including Costco.  I separately microwaved 2 bags, and spread the warmed rice out on a large plate in a thin layer to cool.  This is important as the rice can get gooey and clumpy when added to the pan with the other ingredients if not cooled, and the grains somewhat separated.

Make sure to have, as they say in cooking school, your ‘mise en place’ ready (i.e. everything prepared and measured, ready to throw in the pan) as this dish is completed rather quickly.  I served steamed Chinese broccoli alongside this dish.  🙂