Wednesday, June 26, 2013

German Potato Salad

Last weekend Michael was a groomsman in a college friend's wedding. That meant a trip to Lake Tahoe! I went there for the first time in March for his sister's wedding and instantly fell in love with the area. We are already trying to plan a camping trip back there soon. The day before the wedding they had a BBQ at park right on the lake and requested everyone bring something to share.

Brunt Cedar Park in North Lake

I instantly thought German Potato Salad. My mom found the recipe in Cooking Light years ago and made it often when I was a kid. It's WAY better than traditional potato salad. Light, but still creamy. Salty, but a little tang. However, the real recipe for German Potato Salad has bacon and uses the bacon fat to make a sauce. I still wanted it, so I decided to make a vegan version. I figured if it did not come out right, we can always just buy a veggie platter on the way to the BBQ.

I decided to use Bac-O Bits ( they are made from soy, check out my Mac and Cheese post) instead of bacon. However, I had some trouble deciding what to use instead of the bacon fat. Normally you cook the bacon, reserve the fat and use it to make a roux for the sauce. I thought about adding some olive oil instead, but the flavor would be wrong. And the more I thought about it, what is the point of making this dish healthier if I was going to load it up oil? Good fats are an important part of healthy diet, but there would be plenty of other food with adequate fat at the BBQ. No need to add more. So I decided to just skip oil all together and just use some water.

This recipe makes 15 servings.

German Potato Salad
5 lbs bag of red potatoes, washed and quartered
1 small onion, chopped
1 container of Bac-O Bits
1 cup water (add more as needed)
3 tbs flour
2/3 cup white wine vinegar
1 tbs brown mustard
4 stalks green onions, sliced
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Fill a large pot with cold water. Add the quartered potatoes and bring to a boil. Cook until the potatoes are soft enough for a fork to easily pierce.

While that cooks,  saute the onions until soft (I did this was just a little water, but you can use a little oil).

Add the bacon bits and cook for a minute, just to warm them up.

Next add the water and flour. It should make a lose paste. Stir out any clumps.

Add the vinegar and mustard. Turn off the heat and set aside.

Once the potatoes are cooked, drain and return to the pot.

Add the sauce and mix well to coat every potato.

Add the sliced green onions, mix well.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Let this sit for at least 2 hours, overnight would be better. I actually made this two days beforehand (mainly because there was no way I could make it at the hotel) and it was prefect.

This dish is served room temperature, and it has no dairy so no need to worry about it spoiling in the sun during your BBQ.
Veggie burger, water melon, chips, and German Potato Salad!

Everyone liked my potato salad, the Step-Mother-of-the-Bride thanked me for bringing it!

Beautiful weather, wonderful view of the lake in the distance.

Congratulations Jeff and Rachel! Your wedding was beautiful and I wish you a long, happy life together!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

In and Out Veggie Burger

A few months ago a deal came up on Groupon for the Pitbull and Ke$sha concert in Mountain View. I do not really know why, but I LOVE Ke$ha's music. I find her as a person a bit annoying though. I guess I like her "be yourself, even if you are a freak" musical message. Must be the Oregonian in me. And, how can anyone not love Pitbull? My mom even things he is sexy. I asked Michael to go with me---more as a courtesy though, he knew he was going no matter what. We had a really fun night. We drank some beers, laughed at the 14-year-old's dressed like hookers, sang, and danced together.

After dancing to Mr. Worldwide for 2 hours, we were starving. And as a Californian now, that usually means In and Out. I normally get a tray of fries and just watch everyone happily eat their burgers. Now, I do not really crave meat ever, but I do love burgers (veggies ones now that is). I had read an article awhile about that In and Out toyed with the idea of doing a veggie patty burger, but, they do not want to deviate too much from the original menu. So, I assumed I would always munch fries in jealousy.

But I was wrong. I knew In and Out had a secret menu. Michael introduced it to me when I was visiting here and he ordered Animal Fries. However, last week we watched an episode of California's Gold about In and Out, and someone ordered a Veggie Burger. I instantly searched the internet to find if it was true. And it is true....but not quite.

An In and Out Veggie Burger is simply the hamburger with no meat. Just the bun, lettuce, tomato, sauce, and onion or cheese if you want it. Simply order it with no sauce, ketchup/ mustard instead, and no cheese to make it vegan.

Now, I know what you are thinking, "A bun with veggies on it? Seriously? I can make that at home, what's the point!" I thought the same thing. But Michael really wanted In and Out after the concert, so I thought I would give it a try. IT WAS AMAZING. The spongy bun, the crisp lettuce, the juicy tomato, the slightly tangy onion, and just the right amount of condiments...I want another one right now, it is that good.

Besides wanting to share the delicious discovery, the reason I posted this to show that you can be vegan and eat at normal restaurants. You can live a normal life and not be alienated by your lifestyle choice.

Seriously, try one next time you at In and Out. SO GOOD! It's like heaven on a bun.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Tamale Pie

I have no real story or reason behind the recipe. I had dry pinto beans, I had masa, and I had fresh organic veggies. So I made a tamale pie. I decided to make it more like dumplings on top instead of a solid crust, just trying something different.

Tamale Pie
2 cups dry pinto beans
6 cups water
1 tbs chili powder
2 tsp Mexican oregano
1 tsp cumin
Salt and pepper
2 zucchini, cubed
1 medium onion, diced
2 green bell peppers, diced
2 sweet gypsy peppers, diced
2 cups masa harina
About 3 cups water

Rinse the dry pinto beans.

In a large pot, add the beans, 6 cups water, chili powder, oregano, and cumin. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cook for one and a half hours, or until the beans are almost soft and most of the water is absorbed. Add more water if needed. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Next add the zucchini, onion, bell peppers, and sweet peppers. Stir well and let if cook covered 30 minutes. Now the beans and the veggies should be all soft.

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees and spray a baking pan with cooking spray.

In a small bowl, mix together the masa and salt. Add a little water at a time until the dough reaches a moist play-dough-like consistency.

Pour the bean and veggie mixture into the baking pan.

Tear off small chunks of the dough and cover the top of the bean and veggie mixture. It's okay if not every spot is covered.

Bake for 30 minutes, until the masa is slightly golden.

I topped mine with homemade guacamole, try one of my Guacamole 3 Ways recipes. And all the veggies (but the onion) were organic from the box delivery I mentioned in Roasted Beet and Carrot Salad post.  

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Creamy Spinach Pasta

I posted a recipe awhile ago for Cheesy Rice where you cook the rice/pasta in milk to make it creamier. That got me to thinking...if the noodles come out creamier, then you do not need all the (vegan) butter and cheese right? You still get a bowl of creamy goodness but cut out a lot of calories. Thus, I came up with this recipe. I added in spinach for some extra nutrition.  And before you start saying "But the butter gives it more flavor," just relax. Yes, it is true this dish is not a rich as it could be, but it does not lack any flavor. And I ask you this: Is it that big of a deal to have a slightly less rich bowl of pasta? Will your life come to end because you did not indulge? Do you have to cut out butter and cheese for the rest of your life? No. Nothing will happen if you eat healthy food (that still tastes great) and you can always have the richer stuff on occasion too. I believe this is that magically thing called moderation :-)

This recipes makes 4 servings.

Creamy Spinach Pasta
4 cups plain soy milk
2 cups water
2 and 1/3 cup of Gemelli pasta
1 tbs cornstrach (optional)
4 cups fresh spinach
1 clove of garlic
1 tsp soy sauce (optional)
Salt and pepper

In a large pot, bring the soy milk and water to a boil.

Add the pasta and cook according to the directions.

When the pasta has about 5 minutes left, add the spinach and garlic. Mix together well.

Once the pasta is cooked to your liking, if there is still liquid in the pot you can add the cornstarch to thicken the sauce and cook for a bit longer. The first time I made it I needed it. The second time I did not. It just depends.

If you want a more "salty/meaty" flavor, you can add the soy sauce.

Season with salt and pepper.

I sprinkled on a little dried parsley as well.

Easy and delicious. This way can you enjoy a bowl of pasta with less guilt!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Organic Roasted Beet and Carrot Salad with Lemon Quinoa

I decided that Michael and I need to eat more organic vegetables. I wish we could afford to buy all organic, especially from a farmers' market so we could support the local agriculture. Unfortunately, for a young couple just starting out, that is out of our budget. Then I randomly thought of farm delivery service. Most of them allow you to select a package within your price range and it comes right to your door. So I simply Googled "organic produce delivery Bay Area" and a bunch came up. I decided to go with Farm Fresh to You. I like how professional the website is (I hate when business have website's that look like 1995) and thought the farm's story was nice. I also thought the prices were reasonable and I liked that you could chose the frequency of delivery. And you can customize your deliveries by adding produce to your exclude list. For  example, I am not a fan of peaches, so I added peaches to my exclusion list. Now I will open the box and go "Ick, peaches!"

I selected the Veggies Only box every other week. Friday morning when I stepped out the door to go work, there was the box. When I came home from work I checked out all the lovely produce. Sweet peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, avocados, eggplant, nectarines (I modified my order because I did not want something), baby beets, and carrots. It all looked good, but the minute I saw the beets and carrots, I thought only one thing: roasted salad. I LOVE roasted beets. So good and so easy to make. And, roasted carrots are so sweet. Nothing not to love.

Now I would just eat the salad for dinner, but Michael would not be happy. "I know all you eat is vegetables, but I need more food!" Our lemon tree had a brunch of ripe lemons, so made him lemon chicken. Since I had so many, I thought I would make lemon quinoa as well.

Another side note, I also decided Michael and I are going to eat only healthy fats. So only olive oil and coconut oil from now on. Obviously Michael still eats meat so he has animal fat too. That is his life choice and I respect that.

Roasted Beet and Carrot Salad:
4 beets (I had one large and 3 medium)
1 bunch of carrots (I had Nantes specifically)
1 tbs olive oil, divided
Salt and Pepper
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 squirt of fresh lemon juice

Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees. Alternately, you can do this on the grill. But you REALLY need to watch them and turn them regularly. They tend to go from uncooked to burned-beyond-all-recognition in an instant.

Cut the tops and bottoms off the beets. Wash well. Cut a small silt in the top of the each beet. Place each beet in it's own piece of foil. Sprinkle each with salt and pepper.Wrap each beet up with the foil so it is covered completely. *Side note: I do not put olive oil on them before roasting. You are going to be peeling the skin off later, so I feel it is just a waste and add excess calories.

Cut the greens off the top and the root strings off the bottom of the carrots. Wash well. Cut into 1/4 of inch sized pieces. In a small pan or baking sheet, toss together will 1/2 tbs of olive oil. Then season with salt and pepper. *I do add olive oil to the carrots for roasting since they will not be peeled and loosing the flavor.

Place beets in the oven right-side-up. Cook for 30-40 minutes. They will be ready when a knife can be inserted in the middle with no resistance.

When the beets have 20 minutes left, add the carrots to the oven. When the timer goes the carrots should be   golden (it is okay if they are a little black) and soften,  and the beets will black on the outside but soft on the inside.

Set both the beets and the carrots aside to cool. This salad is served chilled or room temperature.

Once the beets are completely cooled (unless you like burning your hands on hot beet juice), take a spoon or a peeler (or your hands if you do not mind pink fingers) and peel off the charred skin.

Cut the beets into bite-sized cubes.

In a small serving bowl, add the beets, carrots, remaining olive oil, Italian seasoning, and a squirt of lemon juice. Mix together well. Season with salt and pepper as needed.

Lemon Quinoa:
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 tbs olive oil
2 tsp Italian Seasoning
Salt and pepper

In a small pot, add the quinoa, water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil.

Reduce to simmer and cook for 10 minutes.

Remove from the heat and let sit covered for 5 minutes.

Then add the remaining ingredients and mix well.

I let mine cool for a bit, that way the flavors could set in more. Plus, it was hot and I did not want to eat a lot of hot food.

A lovely summer dinner. The beets and carrots were so good. Organic really does make all the difference. I really encourage everyone to not only eat more vegetables, but eat organic ones. Good for you, supports the local economy, and support sustainable agriculture. Another cool thing about Farm Fresh to You, you can adjust your delivery dates. We are going to a wedding in Tahoe in two weeks, when the next box delivery will come. I do not want my veggies to spoil, so I adjusted the delivery to this week instead. So look out for some more organic recipes soon!