Breakfast Scramble with Swiss Chard and Peas

One of my favorite easy meals is a tofu scramble.  It’s a great way to introduce tofu into your diet without too much trouble, and in fact, I made my first when I was in junior-high and just learning to cook plant-based food.  That first recipe came in the Vegetarian Started Kit I had ordered from PETA, and was the first time I made something edible from tofu.

The simplest scrambles are usually tofu, onion, potatoes, bell peppers, and whatever else you have lying around, plus a sauce.  My first had barbecue sauce on it, and I know I’ve eaten it with ketchup when I was really feeling lazy.  Today’s scramble is a little more gourmet.  I found some beautiful Swiss chard at the farmers’ market, as well as sugar-snap peas that I somehow resisted the urge to polish off raw on my walk home (cherry tomatoes didn’t fare so well).  I’ve found that chard is rather bitter on its own, so from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian I got the idea to add an orange to it to balance that out.  Also more reason to use those sweet sweet peas!

For this recipe, you need a big deep skillet or a wok.

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1 pkg extra-firm tofu (I like Trader Joe’s because it’s only about $1.99!)

a big bunch of Swiss chard, stemmed and chopped, stems reserved

sugar-snap peas, stringed (oops, didn’t measure them!  use as many as you like)

1 orange, peeled and chopped, reserving all the juices

1 bunch of scallions

1-3 Tbls tamari or soy sauce (I did measure this! So proud of myself)

sesame seeds (optional)

black pepper to taste

1.  Drain the tofu and squeeze out as much water as you can. When I have the time, I like to cut mine into 4 slabs and brown it in a non-stick pan over medium-high flame before I scramble it.  You can skip that step and just crumble it into the pan if you want.

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2.  If you browned it, break up the tofu slabs with a wooden spoon.  Add the chard stems to the pan with a little water and put a lid on it to soften them up for a few minutes.

3.  Meanwhile, steam the peas.  I did this separately because I know that sugar-snaps are awful if overcooked.  They need only 2 or 3 minutes to get bright green.  You want them to still be sweet and a little crunchy.  Then drain them and set aside.

4.  Add the chard leaves to the big pan and put the lid back on after giving it a good stir.  If they don’t all fit, have no fear!   They’ll cook down enough in a few minutes to add the rest.

5.  Once all the greens have wilted, add the orange, scallions, tamari, and sesame seeds.  Stir and cook uncovered for a few minutes to blend the flavors, then add the peas.  Stir it some more, adjust the seasonings, and serve with fresh ground pepper.

Enjoy a healthy and hearty meal!  Depending on how big your appetite is, you should be able to get 4-6 servings out of this.  Don’t worry about eating too much!  The bulk of this is greens, so it has lots of nutritional punch and few calories.

Green Smoothie

Green smoothies are this crazy health-nut thing that I always thought sounded completely revolting.  Kale  and spinach in a fruit smoothie??  Yuck!  Or so I thought.  Sometime last fall, my roommate got a new blender and decided to try a green smoothie.  Well God bless her, because I tried making one soon after (taking careful notes on hers, of course) and with some tweaking found it delicious.  Here’s a loose formula:

1/2 c unsweetened plant milk (I like almond or soy)

1/2 c water

1 frozen, very ripe banana

1/2 c thawed frozen greens (spinach, kale, collards, mustard greens, etc) OR a big handful of raw greens (Only go this route if you have a really good blender.  It doesn’t work so great with an immersion blender)

1/2 c other fruit (mango, strawberries, blueberries, etc), fresh or frozen

Optional:

a date or two, pitted (hides any bitterness from the greens)  OR some other sweetener.  But dates are a whole food, so I like to think they’re good for me.  Also, honey freezes in the blender.

a spoonful of ground flax seed

and if you really want it to be hearty and thick, add about 1/4 c dry oatmeal.  I do this for a meal on the run.

1.  Blenderize until smooth.  Sometimes it works better if you add things one at a time.

2.  Enjoy drinking something sweet and cold and good for you!  And if you use strawberries, try not to look at it.  Go for blueberries if you’re concerned about appearances 😉

Simple Lentil Soup

We had a few cool rainy days this week and I was too busy to go grocery shopping, so I ended up making one of my favorite soups just out of stuff I had hanging around. Easy to make, easy to vary.  Forgive me for inexact amounts.  I like making soup because you don’t have to do much measuring!  Feel free to add any other veggies you like, or use bulgur for the rice.  Quinoa might be good too, but I’ve never tried it in lentil soup.  No pics of this one because let’s face it, lentil soup is not pretty.

Lentil Soup
1lb lentils (any kind, but be aware that red ones sort of dissolve)
1 c brown rice
1/2 c wild rice (optional)
1 large onion, chopped
6 celery stalks, diced
3 carrots, diced
couple cloves of garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
broth or water (I used half of each), enough to cover plus a few inches
*tamari or other soy sauce, to taste
salt and pepper to taste
fresh or dried herbs (try sage, thyme, parsley, oregano, etc)
a glob of tomato paste or a can of crushed or diced tomatoes, if you have them.

1. Rinse and sort the lentils then put them on to start boiling in the broth/water, with the bay leaf and the rice. Get them started while you chop your veggies.

2. After the lentils have simmered for about 20 mins, add all the veggies and dried herbs, as well as more broth or water if it’s getting too thick.

3. Cook it until the lentils, rice, and veggies are done, about an hour or more. Add tamari, tomato, salt, and fresh herbs to taste and simmer a few minutes more to blend the flavors.

*Note about tamari:  I like to add low-sodium tamari to my soups because it gives them what my mom calls “that mmmmm quality” without using so much salt or oil.  Tamari is a little more expensive than soy sauce, but I think it’s so much richer tasting that it’s worth the money.  Always go with low-sodium.  Bragg’s Liquid Aminos are also pretty good, especially if you can’t find tamari in your small-town grocery.  You can order Bragg’s online.

Mango Salsa

Usually I’m all for condiments in a bottle, but mangos have been on sale lately and I wanted to something extra special to go with those black bean burgers.  This is what I came up with:

Mango Salsa

(this recipe makes enough for a crowd!  cut in half if you aren’t sharing)

2 cups frozen sweet corn (I like Trader Joe’s organic.  It’s like candy.)

1 ripe mango, diced

1/2red bell pepper, minced

1/4 red onion, minced

fresh cilantro, minced

lime juice (2 or 3 limes)

Slap Ya Mama! or other spicy seasoning blend, to taste

1.  Mix all ingredients in a bowl, squeeze lime juice over it, season with salt and pepper if you like.  But I really recommend Slap Ya Mama!

2.  Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight to allow the flavors to blend and the corn to thaw completely. Serve with burgers, chips, tacos, guac, etc.

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Black Bean Burgers

I had a ton of leftover black beans from making the quinoa salad earlier in the week, so I decided to put them to good use.  I hadn’t made my own burgers in over ten years because my teenage self thought they were a pain and my mom was willing to buy the over-processed frozen ones.  These days I don’t bother with those burgers.  They’re too expensive and not very good for you.

I dove in with the help of one of my favorite cookbooks:  How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman.  My only problem with this book is that it relies so heavily on the food processor, which Bittman uses for everything!  Obviously he’s never had a tiny NYC kitchen.  I don’t have one, except for tiny one that attaches to my blender, so I used a potato masher.  It worked great, except I had big chunks of onion.  Next time, I’m going to process the onion in the blender.

UPDATE:  I pureed the onion, herbs, and lime juice this time.  WOW!  What a difference.  Big flavor, nice and moist, and the cilantro-onion slurry is such a gorgeous color.  Just know that you may need a little extra oatmeal if the mixture is too wet, and that the slurry will make your eyes tear.

The Simplest Bean Burgers

2 cups well-cooked beans (I used black of course)

1 medium onion, finely minced if you don’t have a food processor, quartered if you do.

1/2 cup rolled oats (not instant)

1 egg, or 1/2 c mashed potatoes, or 1/2 c cooked oatmeal, or 1/4 c miso, or 1/2 c tofu

^ I used the cooked oatmeal, since it’s the cheapest and I had it on hand

Seasonings:  I used some cumin, chopped fresh oregano, zest of one lime, and a little lime juice when the mixture got too dry.  Also a little salt and pepper and my favorite seasoning blend Slap Ya Mama.

1.  Combine all the ingredients in a food processor or by hand with a potato masher.

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2.  With wet hands, form into patties (I used a 1/2 c measuring cup to keep them even).  I got six 1/2 c sized patties out of this recipe.

3.  Brown in a non-stick skillet, or lightly oiled cast iron skillet over medium heat, about 5 minutes for each side.

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Delicious with salsa or even a little ketchup.  I’m going to try them with avocado or guacamole next.  Yum!  I’ve definitely revised my opinion of home-made burgers.  These were so easy, and you can even make a big batch and freeze them.

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Quinoa and Black Bean Salad

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I’m not a big salad person, in terms of things involving lettuce.  I like hot food most of the time.  But give me a salad with grains, beans, potatoes, or pasta and I’m sold on the idea that a dish doesn’t have to be hot and covered with yummy sauce.

Yesterday I was inspired by the offerings of my local farmers’ market.  That sounds corny but it’s true.  Pickings are slim this time of year, limited to things like fresh herbs, green onions and garlic, baby greens, and hot-house tomatoes.  So that’s what I bought:  cilantro, scallions, and tomatoes (which aren’t great like in August, but are worlds apart from the supermarket offerings).  I knew I had some limes in the fridge that I bought on a whim last week, as well as a pound of black beans in the pantry.  Then my wonderful roommate offered up some quinoa and this week’s dish was born.  I also picked up a red pepper at the store and found a cucumber in the drawer that needed to be eaten asap.

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Disclaimer: I am not great about measuring things, ever.  All amounts are approximate and can be adjusted to your taste.

Ingredients:

1 cup of quinoa (I like red because it’s pretty)

1/4 – 1/2 lb of dry black beans or 1 can, rinsed and drained

4 scallions, diced

1/2 red bell pepper, diced

1/2 cucumber, seeded and diced

1 or 2 tomatoes, diced (halved grape or cherry tomatoes would be good too!)

2 limes

a lot of fresh cilantro, chopped

pepitas or avocado (optional)

1.  Start by cooking your beans if you’re using dry ones.  Then cook your quinoa.  2 cups water to 1 cup quinoa, boiled for about 20 mins.

2.  While the quinoa is cooking, chop veggies and throw ’em in a great big bowl.

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3.  Add the quinoa and bean to the great big bowl and toss gently a few times.  Then squeeze the juice of the limes over the mixture, add some black or red pepper to taste, then toss some more until it’s combined and it tastes good.

You can eat it as is, a little warm, or put it away until tomorrow and eat it cold.  Generally this sort of thing is better the second day when the flavors have blended.  I for one ate a nice bowl for dinner, sprinkled with pepitas.  The rest I put in small containers to take to work for lunch each day this week.  I’ll be cooking up some collard greens tomorrow to round out the meal.  If you are a salad eater, it would probably be good on a bed of lettuce or baby spinach.

There you have it!  Whole grain + bean + veggies = meal

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Welcome!

Over the years, I feel that I’ve nearly perfected the art of shopping on a tight budget and I’m always learning new ways to save.  Importantly, I’m always learning which things are worth shelling out for too!A long-time vegetarian, I’ve found that a lot of people out there think that if you eat plant-based, you have to buy really expensive food.  This is simply not the case.  Beans, whole grains, and vegetables are not super expensive!  Frozen meals, processed soy burgers and sausages, and canned soups are not only pricey, they’re not especially good for you to eat on a regular basis.

My goal here is to show people how easy it can be to cook tasty, nourishing food without breaking the bank.  Recipes, shopping and cooking tips to follow!