Mexicali Scramble

I have fallen into a bit of a brekkie rut. I have the most fantastic waffle maker on the planet, coupled with the best recipe for waffles (modified from Vegan Brunch- it's the Buckwheat one but since I didn't have buckwheat flour, I used 1/2 wheat, 1/2 unbleached, and it makes for waffle greatness). I have my fave tofu scramble recipe from, there's the crepes from Vegan Brunch, but that requires thought before hand to get a couple pints of berries or bananas (worth it when I remember), but also not a brunch to have weekly. Pancakes (which, actually, my faves are from The Compassionate Cook, but I seem to have never blogged about those). And if I am low on ingredients, lazy, or in a hurry to get someplace- it's just cereal. So, next week, I pledge to delve further into vegan brunch and do the benedict or the puff pastry tempeh thing, something jazzy. For this week, I needed to work with what was in the kitchen and created this iteration of a scramble. It was good, I would like to experiment and use the extra ultra firm and kind of dry tofu- as this was a bit moist but the flavors were spot on, and it was a great way to start the day! I recommend a cast iron skillet as I do for a lot of dishes these days, since it's a short cut to amazingness. 1 package extra firm tofu 1 can black beans, drained and well rinsed 1/2 onion, finely chopped 3 cloves garlic- smooshed through a press 1 med-large tomato, finely chopped 1T tamari 1t dijon mustard 1/8 t smoked paprika (secret ingredient, don't skip it, it adds a lot of smoky goodness) 1t nutritional yeast 1T sun dried tomato-infused oil salt and pepper to taste Sautee the onion in 1/2 the oil. Combine spices, garlic, tamari, mustard and nutritional yeast and whisk around with a fork until well combined. When the onions are soft approaching translucent, crumble the tofu into the pan. Add in the spice mix, I use tofu bits to get every last bit out (saves washing a spatula). Let that cook until the color is bright yellow-gold and the tofu is drying out. Add tomatoes and well rinsed black beans. Add the sun dried oil as needed to keep the dish from sticking too much. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook until dish is dry enough and some tofu is browning. Serve with toast or corn tortillas- I wouldn't kick some potatoes out of bed with it either.

Cuban Black Bean Soup

This is the Cuban Black Bean Soup from "Viva Vegan!". It's a good 'day off' soup because it takes a long time to make. Most of it is simmering, but stirring is necessary, so you can't just leave it be for the multiple hours that it takes to cook.

It uses dried beans, which I'm still sort of warming up to. I just have a hard time getting past how flipping long they take to soak and cook. I know that they're supposed to be what real cooks use, but I don't know, with how many steps some of my recipes use- adding more is kind of annoying. They do taste a bit better, the canned ones turn to mush too fast. But the dried ones are kind of a pain on the whole and I'm not sure that they taste THAT much better for all the attention that they need. Perhaps if I just shift to dried being the norm, I won't think about it and it'll just be part of the process.

Anyway, I made my own vegetable broth in another attempt to be a real cook. I have spoken with and read info from some chefs who, although they seem elitist and d-baggish about it, insist that homemade broth is the only way to go. I made the RFD broth recipe, which seems fine, but I've honestly never tasted straight up store bought broth, so I'm not sure of the difference. I'm going to use the rest of it in a lighter flavored soup where the broth can shine though and I'll report back.

Anyway, the black bean soup. S'good, but honestly, I prefer mine (see HERE) I like the red bell, carrots and celery in mine. This one has green bell and a whole other process (with the dried beans and all). It utilizes the bean cooking liquid, uses green bells and not a lot of tomato. So, it's a very husky, deep soup. It also has a bit of liquid smoke in it, which further darkens the whole thing. It's good, I just prefer black bean soup to be less smoky and heavy. Hearty is great, but this tastes heavy. I should have made the cashew cream, it may have balanced everything out better. I was just tired of making things at that point.

Yam and Black Bean Stew with Orange and Cilantro

This recipe was great for me because it was a lesson in learning to trust my gut. We had a bag of yams left over from a dinner party last weekend, and with the price of food being out of control (plus the moral issues with wasting food), I wanted to do something with them. The recipe is from Appetite for Reduction- kind of. I say "kind of" because all along the way, I was switching things up to my taste. Which is the beauty of this. I am finally getting to the point with cooking where I can anticipate how things will work together and what I like and how I can alter things to my taste. There's definitely still something to be said for following recipes to the letter to experience new flavors and ways of doing things, but I think that this is a big step for me.

I changed the water that it called for (3 cups) to broth because I thought water was going to make it too bland (it may also have been water in the recipe b/c it's a low-cal book. Adding broth adds calories that she may have been trying to shave out of the soup). It called for a cup of orange juice at the end too. I tasted it and it was really sweet as-is, so I was inclined to skip it all together. But, because "orange" was in the title and she said that it jazzed up the yam flavor, I added 1/4 c. anyway. I was right, I didn't like it. The orange was sweetness that this soup sure didn't need. Really, I wasn't fond of it at all. I think that I like far more savory soups, and the yams really overpowered it. The taste and the texture weren't my thing at all. Which isn't to say that it wouldn't be the bees knees for someone else. And, another up side is that had I not tried this soup, I just would have made piles of sweet potato fries, which sure aren't all about 'reduction!

Black Bean Cakes with Lime Peppered Mayo

I was craving the southern style black bean cakes from Wishbone in Chicago. When I worked at Columbia, they would often cater our meetings and events and the black bean cakes with cornbread and mango salsa was about the only veg thing that they had (which I grew to love).

I got the Best Life Cookbook in a swap from a while back. It has a fair about of plant-based recipes, primarily because they're generally lower in fat and calories than meat stuff. This is from that book, it's from the guest chef section in the back. Since the "best life" stuff sprouted from the Oprah show, you can get the recipe HERE

It's ... alright. It's not what I was going for, really. The patties have a great flavor, the creole seasoning mix in the recipe is amazingly good. They had the problem that so, so many veg patties have and that is coagulation. They're kinda a blob of mush that smooshes when flipped and never really firms up. It's kind of a paste consistency. Also, they're fried (which is kind of weird b/c the best life book is a diet book), so they're pretty greasy and ridiculously messy to make- mostly because since they aren't firmed up patties, they disintegrate a bit in the oil, so you end up with a gritty, globby, oily mess. Again, great flavor, but the rest really counters that.

The lime peppered mayo sauce was very sour and pickled tasting. It was kind of okay, but really, if you made the recipe as-is, just the cakes with that sauce- I'd have walked away not liking it at all. What redeemed the dish was that I made corn muffins from scratch to have with it and also just reverted to Trader Joes roasted red salsa on top when I realized that the mayo was a bit too sour (and runny) for my taste. So... all in all, I'm still looking for a good Wishbone-style black bean cake recipe. I did see in their menu that I linked to in this post that theirs has lentils in it, so maybe I'll experiment with my own franken-burger creation.

Mexican Quinoa Salad

This is a recipe from Milwaukee's Beans and Barley café. It's a great place that I utterly miss not living closer to. This is from their teeny book "Another Little Book of Beans". I have no idea if they still sell their cookbooks, this is from the year 2000. I hope that they do, though, b/c this is volume 2, and I'd like to get #1.

Anyway, this is delicious. It's great as a side, great alone, would be great as a pot luck or picnic dish, it's amazing. For such a little salad, there's a ton of nutritious goodness in it; the qunioa, black beans, peppers, tomato, avocado, etc. It made a TON (I noticed after the fact that it said that it made 8-12 servings), and I made it only for Davey and me. So, right now, I'm tired of it and won't be making it probably until summer when we have a picnic to go to where I want everyone to be asking who made the tasty salad.

J-R Black Bean Soup

This is a recipe that I made up and LOVE. It was modeled after (I'm a hint embarrassed to say) Panera's black bean soup. My office in Chicago was down the block from a Panera, and their black bean soup was about the only vegetarian thing there that didn't have a million calories (I loved their asiago bagels until I learned that plain with no cream cheese they have 330 calories- with the cream cheese- something like 700 ;)

Anyway, if they have Paneras in L.A., we're no where near one, so I decided to make my own black bean soup. This is also a great end of the week dish when you have 1/2 of an onion, bits of bell peppers, etc. left in the fridge and need a use for them.

Black Bean Soup (makes 4-6 servings)

2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 6oz. can tomato paste
2 stalks celery, chopped small
2 medium carrots, chopped small
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, chopped small
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped small
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped small
1 T canola oil
1 1/2 T chili powder
1 t cumin
salt to taste
1 t ground black pepper
1/4 t ground red pepper
*great with crusty bread

Sautée the onions, celery and carrots in oil until all is soft and onion is translucent. Add garlic, sautée another minute or so. Add the beans,broth, tomato paste and spices (all but the bell peppers). Bring to a boil and simmer for about an hour. Add peppers and simmer another hour. The long cooking time lets everything get married and taste delicious.

20 minutes prep, 2 hours cooking.

Black Bean, Sweet Potato Burrito

These are from La Dolce Vegan and have become a staple in our house. The first time that I saw the recipe, I thought it sounded weird. The sweet potatoes are boiled and mashed and then layered with seasoned black beans. The beans have a very deep, rich flavor, and coupled with the sweetness of the taters- these are amazingly tasty. I used Frontera's Jalapeño and Cilantro salsa- a bit inside and some on top. Also, from the crappiest little taco hut in Chicago (Burrito House, oh how I miss thee), I got the trick of pan cooking a finished burrito to get that crispiness on the top and bottom. I don't do it for all burritos, but it's absolutely necessary for this one. A soft tortilla just wouldn't work with this. This recipe is also always a hit with non-veg peoples too. It's A+ #1 delicious.

Black Bean Tostadas

This is from Real Food Daily p. 165 + 135 (and could be potentially from p 70 and 64... geez!) Only this book could turn tostadas into a 4 recipe affair. Again- it's time consuming b/c it's good, but even I don't have that much time on my hands.

The Spanish rice for this is really good, but again- makes a vat for an army. Next time, even though it would involve halving a carrot and a few bell peppers, I'm halving it. If I even make it again, it was good, but not amazing good. I think that the other flavors in the tostada just don't balance it enough. It's really pretty sweet from all of the tomatoes, so I feel like it needs some spicy seitan or something instead of black beans.

Also, I didn't make the tofu sour cream (I had tofutti in the fridge, but forgot to add it), or the Pico de Gallo because I had already been cooking for hours and was tired of chopping. Also, the rice has enough tomato flavor, the dish didn't really need more.

It was cool to make my own tostada shell by baking a corn tortilla though. I'm sure it's Mexican cooking 101, but I've always bought the crispy shells vs making them (duy).

I am happy, with how high this was piled, that Davey worked late tonight since I ended the meal with as much tostada fixings or more on the plate and my lap as were on the damn thing when I started.

All in all- it's so-so. That seems to be my pattern with this book so far. Over the top amazing or ... eh, s'alright. Maybe the over the top ones just set the bar too high (?)