Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Springtime Potato Salad

There is nothing inherently "spring" about this salad. The colors are bright and crisp and remind me of Spring. You could certainly vary the colors for a different feel. Red and yellow bell peppers would be lovely, but I didn't have those in my fridge when I made this, so how about we just stick with Springtime?

Springtime Potato Salad


4 medium white or yellow potatoes
4 medium purple potatoes
1 small red onion
2 stalks celery (diced)
2 carrots (diced)
2 decent-sized broccoli florets (cut up)
1/2 cup diced green bell pepper
1 1/2 cup mayonnaise or vegan alternative (or to taste)
1/8 cup dijon mustard
1 tsp dried parsley
salt to taste

1. Cut up all vegetables and set aside.
2. Peel potatoes and cut into 1 inch cubes. 
2. Boil potatoes in salted water, checking regularly with a for for desired tenderness.
3. Drain cooked potatoes and spray with cold water. 
4. Combine all ingredients and chow down.

Easy Peasy! Enjoy.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Italian & Swiss Super Hero

Some people call them subs. Some call them grinders. My Philly friends all call them hoagies.
My mom's side of the family were mostly New Yawwwk Italians, so I grew up calling them heros.
Who doesn't love a hero filled to the brim with Italian sausage and beautiful red and green peppers. The thought of the smell alone is enough to make ones mouth water.

Here's an almost-vegan version of this classic (with a bit of a twist).

Italian & Swiss Super Hero


1 pack tofu/soy Italian sausage (I used Tofurky Italian Sausage, 14 oz pack)
1 baguette fresh Italian bread (or your favorite bread)
1 medium onion
1-2 sweet red peppers (depending on size)
1-2 green peppers (depending on size)
a few drizzles olive oil
6 cloves diced garlic (or to taste)
pinch of red pepper flakes
salt to taste
shaved parmesan (or favorite cheese)

1. Slice onion and peppers and set aside. 
2. Cut sausage into 1-2 inch pieces and set aside.
3. Heat oil and sauté garlic and pepper flakes until aromatic.
4. Add sausage and sauté, stirring frequently for about 5-7 minutes.
5. Add peppers, onion and salt. Continue to cook, stirring along the way, until desired tenderness.

Balsamic & Garlic Swiss Chard

1 bunch Swiss chard
3-4 cloves minced garlic (or to taste)
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
salt to taste

1. Wash, drain and chop Swiss chard (discard lower  end of stalks).
2.  Saute garlic in oil until aromatic. 
3. Add and sauté Swiss chard, stirring, 2-3 minutes.
4. Add balsamic vinegar and bring to a quick boil. Once chard has wilted remove from heat and let stand.

Makes about 3 decent size heros. Or 2 good-eater size ones (yes, my partner and I still have some work to do when it comes to portion control) with a bit left over for a later snack.
The Swiss chard makes a wonderful side dish and is also delicious inside the hero.
Top with cheese (we used Parmesan, Romano and Asiago shavings) and Ta-DAA!

What are you waiting for? MANGIA!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Blue & Cheddar Portabella "Burgers"

These "burgers" are super-tasty and filling served bun-less (if you want to skip some carbs) with a side of broccoli slaw. If preparing as vegan, simply substitute cheese (and mayo in the slaw) with vegan alternatives.

Blue & Cheddar Portabella "Burgers"


4 portabella mushroom caps
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp dried Italian seasonings
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/2 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese

1. Combine and whisk oil, vinegar, dried seasonings, salt and pepper in a small bowl.
2. Combine blue and cheddar cheeses and set aside.
3. Place mushrooms in a container that allows them to rest flat, without overlapping much. I used a pyrex baking dish. 
4. Pour marinade over mushrooms. Use a brush to coat completely. Marinate for 20 minutes, turning them over halfway through.
5. Place mushrooms cap side down on a wire rack on a cookie sheet or baking dish and broil on low for  5-7 minutes.
6. Flip mushrooms over and add cheese mixture to caps. Broil on low for another 5 minutes.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Quick Kale Fix

Today I found myself realizing at 3:30pm that I still had not eaten lunch. I'm not one of those "Oops, I forgot to eat" people, trust me. Forgetting to eat is a foreign concept to my brain (and stomach). I might miss a breakfast or lunch here and there, due to timing but I always more than make up for it, not always in the healthiest of ways, unfortunately.
Wanting to silence the rumbling in my belly without spoiling tonight's dinner with a heavy afternoon meal, I turned to my good friend Mr. Kale. This also makes a yummy side dish.

Quick Kale Fix

A small bunch of fresh kale (I didn't measure, but I'd guess about 4-5 cups)
1 small red onion, sliced
4 cloves of garlic, chopped (or to taste, I happen to love it)
A splash (let's say 1/4 cup) of Marsala wine (because, well...why not?)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt (or to taste)

1. Wash, drain and chop kale (set aside).
2.  Add garlic and onion to heated oil and sauté for about 3 minutes.
3. Add kale, wine and salt. Stir and cover.
4. Cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes or until kale is at desired tenderness.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Two Weeks a Vegetarian

Two weeks into this I must say that I don't miss eating meats as much as I feared I might. I have not weighed myself but my pants feel a bit looser. I feel, how should I put this...less gross. Meals suddenly seem to count, meaning that I am more aware and in the moment while eating. I am taking the time to enjoy what I'm eating rather than thoughtlessly stuffing my face. Foods taste cleaner and are more satisfying.

I am learning how to buy groceries all over again. There is a world of vegetarian and vegan products out there to consider. Practically everything is new to us. We are in the trial-and-error phase. So far I have been pleased with all of the meat and chicken substitutes While we enjoyed the Go Veggy! cheese substitute slices in sandwiches (Tofurky deli slices were also good) the Vegan Gourmet cheddar (block) alternative was less than thrilling. I think it was more of a texture thing. You just don't expect block cheddar to crumble into a soggy mess in your mouth.  Rather than giving up on it completely I will try melting it over some veggies.

Last night I prepared some tofu "patties" with Korean BBQ sauce and scallions. I prefer extra-firm tofu to other varieties. I served them with a side of Chinese broccoli and Bok Choy, lightly sautéed with garlic over sesame oil. Not by any means an "inspired" recipe (they can't all be), but it tasted delicious and was quick and easy to make.

So two weeks in, I'm quite satisfied with the dietary changes we've made, so onward we go.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Vegan Arroz con Habichuelas y Chorizo

No Puerto Rican diet is complete without rice and beans. We eat it with just about anything. Arroz Junto (together rice) is what we call it when we cook the rice together with the beans and just about any other ingredients you might wish to add into the mix (usually beans and shrimp or chorizo). 

Puerto Ricans are masters of "pauper" meals. We may find ourselves out of a job from time to time and we might have to scrape our pennies together to make the bills when things get tough, but we will seldom go without delicious food in our tummies. Arroz Junto is a great example of that. It is satisfying AND cheap...and most importantly delicioso!

Vegan Arroz con Habichuelas & Chorizo

2 cups long grain rice
2 cups water
2 Soy Chorizo (I use Trader Joe's Soy Chorizo)
1 can red beans (drained)
4 oz. tomato sauce
1/2 cup Goya Recaito
1 tbsp oregano
1 tsp dried epizote
2 tbsp vegetable or olive oil
1-2 packets Goya Sazon (to taste)
1 handfull manzanilla olives (or go crazy if you love them!)

1. Remove chorizo "meat" from casing and set aside.
2. Heat oil in caldero.
3. Add chorizo to caldero and brown for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly.
4. Add all other ingredients (except for rice and water) and stir.
5. When mixture begins to boil add rice and water and stir.
6. Bring to boil, cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook for 15-20 minutes covered.
7. Uncover and stir. If rice is not yet tender, continue to cook until desired tenderness.

Great served with a side salad! Another idea is to serve as a burrito filling with vegan or cheddar cheese and sour cream (or alternative) and shredded lettuce, tomatoes and raw diced onions.
Serves about 6 (normal servings). Less if you go for seconds (or thirds) like I do.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Almost-Vegan Rican

I'll kick this blog off by giving future readers this fair warning: I am not perfect. That said, neither is my diet. But I am trying, and that is precisely what this blog will be about. After a lifetime of poor eating habits, my partner and I have decided to go the vegetarian route. We have tried every diet from Deal-a-Meal (the oldies in the crowd will remember it) to Atkins and Paleo. I am not saying that some may not work, they just never "stuck" for us.  Our decision to become vegetarians didn't come out of health concerns alone. We are animal lovers. From the start of our relationship, almost 17 years ago, we have never shared our lives with less than at least two dogs at any given time. They are our children. Our friends.

As we become more and more aware of the cruelty and atrocities committed by factory farming it has become harder and harder for us to separate our animals from the rest of the animal kingdom. If our pets have souls (and, call me crazy, but I believe they do), why wouldn't other animals as well? We simply have reached a point in our lives at which we can no longer go on supporting such heartless industries.

We are aware that sketchy practices spill onto even some "cruelty-free" sources of dairy, but as I said at the start of this post: I am not perfect. As of now we have been vegetarians for two weeks. That means no meat, chicken, pork or fish. We gave a freezer-ful away to neighbors. There are eggs still in our fridge, but I suspect they will expire before we might consider consuming them. In the past two weeks we have used a combination of vegan and real cheese. Also non-vegan mayonnaise and real butter. So... baby steps.

All in all, I don't think that's entirely too shabby for two 40-something guys who just two weeks ago were chomping down on some big juicy T-bone steaks. One of them (guilty!) gnawing on the bone like a modern day caveman. We are striving to go as vegan as possible, but will not beat ourselves up over not not achieving perfection. We're glad for every bit of animal suffering we manage to diminish along the way.

I have decided to start this blog so that I can share with others who might be on the same path our progress and experiences. I will share recipes I try and especially those I create. There will never be bashing of meat-eaters on this blog. I am not here to nag others. I refuse to be "that guy".  I am only here to do what I believe is best for my partner and myself (and perhaps some animals along the way).