Friday, May 29, 2009

Sesame Peanut Pasta **

As much as I love to cook and bake, sometimes I just need a to make something simple that will be quick, easy, and give me plenty of leftovers for days when I have no time. Of course, it also has to be delicious and nutritious! This recipe for Sesame Peanut Pasta is one that meets all those needs.

You'll need a small frying pan, a saucepan, and a VERY large pot for this!

1 lb of pasta (spaghetti or bowtie or macaroni)
Water to cook the pasta
1 to 2 cups of frozen peas
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped scallions
4 tsp sesame oil
1 jar chunky peanut butter
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp ground ginger
3 TBSP toasted sesame seeds
Cooking spray or oil

In your large pot, begin cooking the pasta according to the box directions. Coat the bottom of your frying pan with oil or nonstick spray and sautee the scallions until just slightly cooked. When the pasta is almost cooked, turn the heat up and add the peas to thaw them(a minute should do); don't overcook the pasta to avoid having it fall apart once the peanut sauce is added. Take the pasta off the stove and drain it with a colander as soon as it is done.
Using a small bowl or custard cup, combine the ginger and garlic. Put the sesame oil in the saucepan and stir in the garlic/ginger mixture; a small whisk will work best but if you don't have one just use a spoon. Add all of the peanut butter and place on the stove. Heat it over medium-low, stirring with a spoon, until the peanut butter melts. Return the pasta and peas to the large pot and add the scallions. Pour the peanut sauce over the pasta and stir it through quickly to coat the pasta before it thickens. Finally, stir in the sesame seeds.

This dish can be served hot or cold, though I prefer hot. It goes well with sauteed red bell peppers. To add extra nutrition, use 2 cups of peas and try whole wheat pasta. For more protein, stir-fry tofu and add it to the noodles before stirring in the peanut sauce.

*** If you have only un-toasted sesame seeds, try toasting them in the frying pan before cooking the scallions or placing them on some foil in a toaster oven (watching carefully to be sure they don't burn).

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Easy Rolls: baking with yeast

Baking bread/rolls from scratch may sound intimidating, but it's actually pretty easy. Aside from being fun and making your kitchen smell wonderful, baking your own rolls allows you to avoid all the bad ingredients in store-bought rolls: preservative chemicals, dough conditioners, high fructose corn syrup, and, of course, animal-derived ingredients. Rolls you bake yourself will be fresher and taste better, anyway. While it doesn't take much work, this recipe will take several hours to complete due to the dough requiring time to rise twice. I adapted it from a recipe found in an old copy of Fannie Farmer; I have found that cookbook more useful than any other for finding classic recipes to adapt.


1 packet of active dry yeast
1 cup of soymilk
1/3 cup of melted soy margarine (Earth Balance)
1/4 cup cane sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups unbleached flour

extra flour to reach consistency and for kneading
enough margarine to grease a cookie sheet
1 to 2 tablespoons melted margarine (for brushing tops)
cooking spray

Make the soymilk slightly warm, but not hot, and pour into the bowl of a stationary electric mixer. Add the yeast and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Stir, then add the 1/3 cup of melted margarine, the sugar, and the salt. Set the mixer on a low speed and gradually add the 2 1/2 cups of flour. Let it mix for several minutes. If necessary, add just enough more flour to make the dough thick enough to handle; it is okay if it's a bit sticky because it will obtain more flour during the next step.

Now it is time to knead the dough. If you have a surface designed for this, such as a wooden board, use it. If not, just lay a pastry cloth flat on your table. Sprinkle flour upon your board or cloth and keep an extra scoop of flour to the side in case you need more. Transfer your dough. It helps to coat your hands with a little margerine or cooking spray. In a nutshell, kneading is using your hands to press the dough down, then fold it back on top of itself, then repeat, until it is easy to handle and rather elastic. If you would like to see kneading to obtain a better understanding, try looking it up on youtube. This video is short and shows decent kneading technique.

After kneading, spray the bowl with nonstick cooking spray and place the ball of dough back in the bowl. Cover it with a clean dish towel and place it somewhere warm. Allow it to rise for about an hour, at which time the dough should be about doubled in size.

Either spray your cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray or grease it lightly with soy margarine (I prefer the latter). Punch down the dough (releasing air bubbles and shrinking it back to previous size), kneading for just a moment if necessary. Although you can make any number of shapes, the easiest shape to make your rolls is round; just take a lump of dough the size of 2/3 of your fist and roll it between your hands. Place the shaped dough on the cookie sheet, evenly spaced. Cover with the dish towel and place in a warm spot to rise for about an hour.

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees and bake the rolls until just slightly browned on top, roughly 12 to 20 minutes. Makes 9 to 12 rolls, depending on how big each roll is.

Dough after kneading:

Three rolls, fresh from my oven:

Lentil Soup *

On a chilly (or sick) day, there is nothing I like better than a bowl of homemade soup accompanied by a warm piece of bread. Soup is easy to make, usually inexpensive, can use up veggies left in your fridge from making salad, and is made in large enough batches to have leftover soup for lunch several times. This recipe for lentil soup is lightly seasoned, so be sure to add your own favorite herbs or spices to taste!

1 tsp oil (olive or any vegetable oil)
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, sliced OR 1 cup shredded carrot
4 cups vegetable broth
1 1/4 cup dried lentils
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
dash of salt
1 TBSP lemon juice
2 cups water
2 small potatoes, chopped
2 cups fresh spinach, washed and torn up

First, use the oil to sautee the onions in a large pot until the onions are clear (about 4 or 5 minutes). Pour in the vegetable broth and water. Rinse your lentils in cold water, then add to the pot. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat, simmering until the lentils are soft and the potatoes are cooked (roughly 45 minutes to an hour). Remove the bay leaves. Add your own herbs or spices to taste; I like mine simple and often just add a little more salt and black pepper. Lentils will absorb more water as the soup sits, so when using it as leftovers you will need to add some water (probably each time you heat a bowlful).

Welcome to The Vegan Kitchen!

Whether you've been vegan for years or are just starting to experiment with vegan cooking, it's always fun to try new recipes. That is the type of experience I plan to share here. I hope you have as much fun in your kitchen as I have in mine!