Archive | November, 2013

Liars, all of them: anyone who tells you interesting vegan meals (or making any meals for that matter) is simple is spinning the yarn

1 Nov

asparagus cover

Hello readers! A great panic has been afflicting me for the past few weeks. As I sit at my desk at work, grooming fancy vegan and vegetarian friendly blogs and websites during my downtime, a wave of panic courses through my veins.  As I skim the list of ingredients necessary to accomplish something so simple as chana masala or stewed beets, I think, sometimes aloud holy f**k, I will never find a Whole Foods, farmer’s market or Fairway on this side of the ocean that sells these products. Surrounded in a swarm of despair that not only will I NOT be able to find all these ingredients before 10PM, but also by the fear that there is little chance that I will execute any of these recipes before midnight.

After having attempted several meals (for which I DID have,  or COULD have procured, ingredients) I came to a stark revelation. Add half an hour to an hour onto the times provided for prep and cooking.  The dirty truth of the matter is this: they are all liars, all bearers of published recipes who claim their dinners can be whipped up easily.  Everyone from Rachel Ray and her damn thirty minute meals to vegan bloggers lying through their teeth about how long it takes to put dinner together.  When they say chives, those chives don’t just materialize from thin air, first you have to buy them, and then you have to slice them and separate those little rings…did they think of that? How about the thirty minutes alone it might take you to wash, peel and chop two large sweet potatoes into 1/2″ thick cubes?!?!? Probably 40 minutes.

The truth my friends, is that once you finish mincing, dicing, slicing and pureeing the myriad ingredients in a given recipe, you still have to go through the various phases of cooking them up.  In this post, I offer several snappy(ier) alternatives to the long winded ten step versions offered online for, what should be, simple foods. While making no claim to quick meals, I offer these simple, whole food, vegan dinners as “quicker” options:

1.) Brussels Sprouts

Not too salty, just the right amount of pepper. Totally perfect.

Not too salty, just the right amount of pepper. Totally perfect.

Do you know how yummy Brussels sprouts can be when you buy them fresh and cook them up just right? Soooo good. Forget your childhood hatred of these golf ball sized greens, doing it up just right in the oven will overwhelm your senses in an instant.  Simply rinse between fifteen and twenty sprouts under cold water, peeling away any overtly loose ends and cut off the harder part of the base. Use extra virgin olive oil or organic oil alternative to coat lightly. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Oven should be at 400 degrees. Roast for anywhere between 15 to 30 minutes depending on how brown you’d like them to get. I like darker, more burnt flavors, the middle stays soft and green no matter what.

2.)  Steamed Broccoli and Roasted Asparagus in Whole Grain Pasta

sometimes it's easy being green.

sometimes it’s easy being green.

Asparagus can be roasted without trouble. Set oven to 400 degrees, check periodically after 15 minutes have passed. Ovens vary, so your asparagus could be fully cooked after 15 minutes or it could need more like 20.  General tip, is that the bottom of the stem should no longer be white and tissue-like. It should start looking a little less “crunchy” so-to-speak.

While your asparagus is cooking, boil some water and cook a half a box of whole grain linguine to taste.  As that cooks, you can steam some fresh broccoli on the second burner.

When pasta is ready, toss with fresh tomatoes, vegan or regular shredded parmesan cheese and fresh ground pepper.  Slice asparagus into quarters and toss in the pasta as well. For extra protein, I would saute some chickpeas in extra virgin olive oil and red pepper flakes and mix those in the pasta as well.

Serve steamed broccoli on the side.

3.)  Baked Zucchini Topped with Tomato and Veggie Cheese

Baked tomato totally floats my boat.

Baked tomato totally floats my boat.

This is so simple and so delicious it shouldn’t be so easy.  Set the oven to 400 degrees. Get together about four small organic zucchini cut them in half and place them on a large oven safe dish or cookie sheet.  Cover with cooking spray or lightly coat in olive oil.  If you’ve got it on hand season liberally with fresh ground pepper and mediterranean herb mix or provence type mix (available at most Whole Foods). Next cover with your cheese of choice. I used GO Veggie, cheese alternative in mozzarella flavor.  After this, slice any tomato you’ve got on hand into medium-small cubes and place on top of the cheese. Bake for about 20-25 mins, again depending on the strength of your oven. When finished prepared to be amazed and to wow your friends…if you plan on sharing.

4.)  Steamed Purple Kale

A perfect fall treat, dark and leafy, so mysterious.

A perfect fall treat, dark and leafy, so mysterious.

I suppose I don’t really need to explain this. I steamed my kale in a medium deep pan, filled with 1/2″ of water and covered partially. I allowed the kale to steam for about 10-15 mins (clearly I can’t recall all that well) on medium heat, testing frequently to check for doneness.

Another fun tip is to use steamed leftovers for kale chips. Turn oven up to the ever popular 400 degrees, season with mesquite flavoring and roast for about 20 minutes. Lowering temp if the chips are roasting too fast on the ends but staying soft in the center.

5.)  Make it fun.

Color everywhere.

Color everywhere.

I don’t pretend to believe it’s easy to come upon good quality colored pasta but I happened to be in a specialty store the other day and came upon some naturally dyed pasta.  I don’t know if I can actually recommend this one, but I had fun making it. I cooked up the pasta and tossed with some olive oil, garlic and basil that I’d sauteed slowly. I added some shiitake mushrooms and sliced cherry tomatoes.

Just for the record, just because it’s a week night doesn’t mean you can’t start throwing what you’ve got on hand together. Sometimes it works.