Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Mushroom Lover's Stroganoff Casserole

Mushroom Lover's Stroganoff Casserole
During my carnivore days this recipe was a favorite in our house. It's been years since we've made it and looking through my old recipe box made me nostalgic. So, I decided to try a twist on it with a little help from my old friend, Quorn and a whole lot of fresh mushrooms.

What I Used
6-8 ounces of egg noodles
12 ounce package of Quorn brand ground beef substitute
1 can of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup
1 pound fresh, sliced mushrooms
1/2 Cup chopped onion
1/2 Cup sour cream
1/2 Cup of milk
1/2 Stick of butter

How I Prepared It
Cook egg noodles according to package directions
Microwave Quorn crumbles for 1 minute to thaw
Saute about 2/3 of the mushrooms with the onion in about half the butter - do not drain
Combine Quorn, Soup, Sour Cream, Milk, Mushroom, Onion and Noodles in a large bowl
Pour mixture into a casserole dish
Saute remaining mushrooms in remaining butter and pour over top of casserole
Cover loosely with foil
Bake at 375 degrees until hot and bubbly (about 30 minutes)

How It Turned Out? was good but not great. The kids wouldn't eat it. My husband said it was just okay. I agree. We made two meals out of it and I wasn't that impressed. My thought is that it worked differently when actual beef was used because this used to be one of our favorite recipes. This may be one of those recipes best left to the carnivores. Hint: it needs a lot of salt added.
Pro's: Relatively easy recipe, portable for potlucks.
Con's: Just an okay recipe, 360 calories per serving, which just isn't worth it for what it was.

How does it rate? 2 out of 4 stars. It was edible, and it was okay but I probably won't make it again.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Imaginary Chicken Fajitas

Mexican food is a serious affair in our house. My husband, the bona-fide Tex-Mex addict, lived in a few states where Mexican food is literally non-existant. Not only is it impossible to to find as much as a Taco Bell in these desolate wastelands but even a trip to purchase tortillas at a local grocery store is a lost cause. In these situations, hurting for his fix, he would even go as far as to buy corn meal and attempt making his own tortillas even though he seldom ever cooked.

So when I decided I wanted to attempt to make meatless chicken fajitas I knew it was a task not to be taken lightly. So I was careful with my grocery shopping and took my time in the kitchen. I loved the results but more importantly my husband was floored. This is a quick and easy recipe and your carnivores won't know what hit them!

What I Used:
1 package Morning Star Meal Starters Chick'n Strips
1 small yellow onion
1 small yellow bell pepper
Mission brand fajita style flour tortillas
Store brand Mexican blend shredded cheese
Store brand fresh pico de gallo (or fresh salsa)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 tablespoon cumin
1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
2 cups shredded lettuce
2 small, ripe Haas avocados
1 lime
Pinch of sea salt

How I Prepared It
VERY Simple Fresh Guacamole
Cut avocados in half longways, remove the seed and scoop out the insides into a medium sized bowl
Add the juice from the lime and pinch of sea salt
Mash the mixture together until smooth

Empty Morning Star Chick'n Strips into a large microwave safe dish. Pour about 1.5 tablesppons olive oil over the strips, mix until well coated and microwave for about 2 minutes or until well thawed.
Slice yellow bell pepper and onions into thin, two inch long strips.
Heat remaining 1.5 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet. Sautee onions and peppers until tender.
Add chick'n strips to the skillet. Stir in cumin and garlic powder. Continue cooking until heated through.
Heat tortillas and fill with chick'n mixture. Add guacamole, lettuce and pico de gallo or picante sauce and cheese.

How It Turned Out
We loved it. We didn't have enough leftovers and I made it again the very next night. One of the greatest things about this recipe is that it's far less expensive then having fajitas in most Mexican restaraunts at $12 - 15 per person. This recipe made six, good-sized fajita tacos for about $15. They're just as good, better for you and vegetarian!

How It Rates
4 out of 4 stars! This recipe is fast, simple and fantastic. Time in the kitchen is about 25 minutes. I look forward to making it again!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Chicken NOT Pie

I admit it: I'm a sucker for the classics. While perusing the web, last week, I came upon a classic recipe on that I had to try vegetarian style. Of course this version of Chicken Pot Pie was completely experimental. The properties of chicken and chicken broth are a little different from those of chicken substitute and vegetable broth. I wasn't sure how it would turn out. It took two attempts to get it right.

The first time I used Morning Star Meal Starters. Morning Star is a great brand but it's simply wrong for this particular recipe. The pie turned out  just okay for my husband and myself. The kids refused to eat it. The second time around I used Quorn Brand chicken substitute. The results were phenominal. So get ready, vegetarians and carnivores, alike. You're in for a real treat!

Introducing Chicken Not Pie.

What I Used
2 Refrigerated Pie Crusts (top and bottom)
1/3 Cup Butter
1/3 Cup Chopped Onion
1/3 Cup Flour
½ Teaspoon Salt
¼ Teaspoon Pepper
1 ¾ Cups Vegetarian Vegetable Broth (one 14 oz. can)
½ Cup Milk
2 – 2 ½ Cups Quorn Brand Chicken Substitute
2 Cups Mixed Vegetables

How I Prepared It
Preheat oven to 425. Generously spread olive oil on a 9-inch, glass pie pan. Lay bottom pie crust in the bottom of the pie pan and press into place.

In a 2 quart sauce pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion; cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until tender. Stir in flour, salt and pepper until well blended. Gradually stir in broth and milk, continuing to stir until bubbly and thickened.

Stir in “chicken” and mixed vegetables. Remove from heat. Spoon mixture into the curst-lined pan. Top with second crust. Seal edge and flute. Cut slits in several places in top of crust. Cover edges with strips of tin foil.

Bake 30 – 40 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Let stand 5 – 10 minutes before serving.

How It Turned Out
Amazing. This was the best pot pie I have ever had, hands down. My four-year-old loved it, my husband had a huge second helping and so did I. I didn't feed it to my toddler. She had made it quite clear she wanted macaroni and cheese. I wasn't up to going against her.

Pros: It's incredibly good, portable for potlucks, good for leftovers, relatively simple to prepare.
Cons: It's a little time consuming.

How does it rate? 4 out of 4 stars. This is one of those recipes that friends and family will ask you to share. It's simply an incredible, easy to make, classic dish that your whole group will love.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Garden Sloppy Joes

While both traditional and adventurous dishes are often featured at my dinner table there is always room for the fun, the simple and the very, very messy! My four-year-old's favorite is all of those things. "Garden" sloppy joes are among the absolute easiest of vegetarian recipes I know. They're full-proof, great for kids and undetectable by carnivores.

12 ounce package of Quorn brand ground beef substitue
One can of sloppy joe sauce Hamburger buns
Pickles, Onions, Banana Peppers or whatever else you would like on your sandwich.

Put the frozen ground beef substitue into a large, microwave safe bowl and heat on high for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a large skillet over medium heat.
Add the sloppy joe sauce to the ground beef substitue. Stir until well combined. Continue cooking over medium heat, stiring occasionally until heated through.
Searve on hamburger buns - usually I put about 1/3 to 1/2 cup on each bun.

This is always a hit at my table. Prep time is only about 8 minutes and there's usually leftovers. Time spent from the time I start this recipe until I'm done with after dinner cleanup is usually under an hour so it's great for a quick meal. This is great with oven baked french fries or chips. Also works with a small salad or fruit.

Pros: Fast, easy prep, popular with kids and groups, good to take to a pot luck. I have served this to several carnivores and all reported that if they didn't know it was a meat substitute they wouldn't have been able to tell the difference. Using the substitue does away with under or overcooked beef, greece, and a few calories.

Cons: They're called "Sloppy Joes" for a reason. They can be a mess but with the ease and speed of this family favorite a little mess is certainly worth it.

How does it rate? 4 out of 4 stars. This recipe is fast, easy and super yummy. I recommend it especially for families with younger children!

A note about ingredients:
Ground beef substitue - there are many brands to choose from - Quorn is my personal favorite. You can find these in the frozen vegetable / meat substitue section of the grocery store.
Sloppy Joe Sauce - again, several brands are available. Read the label: some use anchovies, some are completely vegetarian. I've tried them all, each is slightly different but work well in this recipe.

Friday, April 1, 2011

"Chick'n" Noodle Casserole

I love the classics and you can't get much more classic then chicken noodle casserole! Back when I was a carnivore this was a family favorite and I have tried all vegetable (no meat substitute) variations that didn't work out so well. Tonight I decided to experiment with Morning Star's Meal Starters Chick'n Strips, leaving all other ingredients the same as in my original recipe.

What I Used
12 ounce package of No Yokes Extra Broad Egg Noodles
16 ounce package of Morning Star Meal Starters Chick'n Strips
3 cans of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup
2 Cups of mixed, frozen vegetables
1 Medium onion, chopped and sauteed
1 Cup of mild cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 Cup of milk
1/2 Stick of butter, melted

How I Prepared It
Cook and drain the noodles and saute the onion
Cook and drain the vegetables
Combine all ingredients well in a large bowl
Pour into a casserole dish (2 quarts or more)
Cover with lid or tin foil
Bake at 375 degrees until hot and bubbly (about 30 minutes usually does it)

How It Turned Out? Well, it was a BIG hit! My 4-year-old - the extra picky one - devoured it and only left a few bites of veggies, which is to be expected. My husband ate all of his and said he'd have more but he was stuffed. My 2-year-old seemed to like it but her big lunch got in the way and she only ate a few bites. I had seconds. And I'll pay for that later in the gym.

Pro's: Fairly easy to prepare, definitely tasty, great texture. A balanced meal that makes for easy leftovers.
Con's: A little time consuming and if you're a calorie counter like me this casserole will not be a regular at your table. At 350 calories per one cup serving you might end up a little hungry after dinner.

How does it rate? 3 1/2 out of 4 Tomatoes. I would have given it all 4 if not for the high calories in the small serving size. Over all this casserole is a winner and definitely deserves a try!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Vegetarian for Carnivores: An Introduction

Writers write. I have heard that over and over and over again. I'm a writer. I've always been a writer. That's not what I am, it's who I am. I don't know if it came from one of my parents or both since they are both writers. I have no problem with being a writer, or that writers write, or that writing has been in my blood and oozing from my fingertips since birth, probably. I have accepted those things and I enjoy writing immensely.

The problem is that writing takes time. I stay home with my 22-month-old daughter while my 4-year-old son attends daycare and my husband works full-time. Between laundry, potty training, grocery shopping, bank runs, park runs, doctor appointments, skinned knees, cooking dinners and cleaning up after said dinners when would that writing take place?

The answer is: it doesn't. So I decided that I had to somehow make some time for a new writing project. I decided I wanted to start a blog. Although the intro seems to have little to do with what I will be writing about here, my family life is at the heart of things.

I'm a vegetarian. My husband and children are not. When I started dating my husband it seemed almost impossible for us to eat a meal together. He would want steak or hotdogs or chicken fried something-or-other which are all off limits for me. I would want black beans and rice and mushroom and spinach enchiladas which just made him grimace. So just before we got married I decided that I would sacrifice my diet to make things easier in our newly combined household.

At first things were, well, disgusting. I hated eating meat. I had to pretend that it was tofu. But eventually I got used to it and after a few years I loved the prospect of a rare, bloody steak. I started cooking a lot after our kids were born and my recipes revolved around meat. Meatloaf, pot roast, spaghetti with meat sauce, sausage and rice, chicken casserole. My husband was happy with the endless parade of home cooked meals and I was happy to serve them.

About two years ago, though, I found myself feeling sick of beef and chicken. I started to miss my veggies like I was homesick but I knew that my husband would have no interest in black beans and brussel sprouts and neither would our children. So I started to experiment in the kitchen.

What I discovered was a seemingly endless array of possibilities. I found several products at my local grocery store combined with a little time and a lot of imagination were a sure mixture for some very interresting and fantastic vegetarian meals that even my carnivores love!

What I would like to share, here, are some of the recipes, product reviews, tips and tricks to pleasing carnivores with vegetables.