Saturday, July 21, 2007

Home and Tradition

We always love to try something new, but at the same time incorporate our favorites. This week we went back to try to "recreate" the childhood homemade foods we used to make when we lived back home. Our traditional meals updated to be vegetarian included "burgers" with sweet potato fries, fresh tomato soup with whole wheat buttery crescent rolls, "tuna melts" with cucumber dill salad, and miscellanous leftover creations.

Before we chat about our homemade foods, last Saturday evening we made a new dish and enjoyed delicious tofu scramble, adapted from "Passionate Vegetarian" cookbook by Crescent Dragonwagon. It was a feast of vegetables and tofu! The scramble had onions, mushrooms, green bell pepper, frozen green peas, spinach, garlic powder, tumeric, nutritional yeast, olive oil, and crushed red pepper. We served it with fresh tomato wedges and a slice of whole grain pumpernickle bread. This was our first time to use tumeric, and it was really quite good! A subtle flavor with a bold color enhancement!

Last Sunday we had time to make homemade tomato soup. This soup is so delicious with a little bread and olive oil, or over pasta as fresh spaghetti sauce. The flavors are so fresh tasting and well-blended. Tastes like the soup came straight from Italy! We served it with leftover Crescent Dragonwagon's "Whole Wheat Butterhorns".
Later on in the week for leftovers we served the soup over whole wheat orzo pasta and sauteed herbed mushrooms for a variation. Here is our special soup recipe, great when tomatoes are especially in season!:
Fresh Tomato Basil Soup
1 cup finely chopped carrots
2-3 stalks celery (1 cup), finely chopped (OR 2 Tbsp dried celery flakes)
1/2 - 1 cup white onion, finely chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 lb (6 cups) tomatoes, chopped, with seeds (about 11 Romas)
1 can low sodium diced tomatoes, reserved till later
1 whole red bell pepper plus 1/4 of another red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil, OR 2 Tbsp dried basil
dried Italian seasoning, sprinkled plentifully
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt (OR to taste)
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Chop all vegetables. Place the fresh tomatoes and red bell pepper on cookie sheet, and place the carrots, celery (if using fresh), and onion on a skillet.
Drizzle 1 Tbsp olive oil evenly over the tomatoes and red bell peppers. Sprinkle heavily with Italian seasoning, and lightly sprinkle some ground black pepper and salt. Roast the vegetables for about 30 minutes, or until veggies tender and edges lightly browned.
While red bell peppers and tomatoes are roasting in the oven, saute onions, carrots, and celery at medium high heat, till slightly tender, stirring occasionally.
Transfer vegetables to a food processor. Add the can of diced tomatoes to the processor. Depending on your desires, process until the texture is either mostly smooth, semi-smooth, or still fairly chunky. (We like it semi-smooth for texture). Return processed vegetables to a large pot.
Turn the heat onto to medium low to heat the soup in the pot. Add the basil (fresh or dried) as well as the balsamic vinegar. If soup to thick, add a little water. Simmer till ready to eat!

Last Monday we enjoyed black bean burgers with all of the works - avocado, tomato, lettuce, spicy mustard, and whole wheat bread! The burgers are so tasty and will become a weekly recipe!
We made some modifications and used 4 tsp dried onion flakes, a green bell pepper instead of red, 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper and 1/2 tsp ground jalepeno pepper, 1/4 cup flax seed with water instead of egg substitute, 1/4 cup cornmeal and 2 TB nutritional yeast instead of bread crumbs, 2 Tb dried oregano instead of fresh cilantro, and no oil. We cooked them in the oven the first time, and then on the skillet (no oil) the second.
The jalapeno pepper, green bell pepper, and oregano add a great flavor! It wasn't too cornmealy, but just enough for texture. It is a simple and versatile recipe - could try kidney beans, pinto beans, or white beans with various bell peppers and spices, and could use these for burritoes or baked enchiladas filling. We also loved the heat - and could use more! (Hey, were from Texas, we like spice). When we had them again for leftovers, the flavors really came out the next day.

We served the burgers with spicy sweet potato fries.
Some modifications: We doubled the recipe (had 4 large sweet potatoes). At first it seemed like too much spices, but at the end after it was cooked, we ended up using all the spice mix. We dribbled olive oil over the sweet potatoes to coat. We used 1 tsp chili powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 3/4 tsp pepper, 2 tsp dried oregano, 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, 1/2 tsp garlic poder, and dribbled all over spicy mustard to coat.

Overall, we love sweet potatoes, and the oregano was a nice touch, but it isn't as good as our own "sweet potato fries" recipe (which has cumin, cayenne pepper, and garlic powder). It was spicy, but it could use more (we are Texans who like our heat!) Also, we didn't care for as much for the mustard, and the recipe didn't enhance the sweet carmelization flavor of sweet potatoes. If we were to use this again for sweet potatoes, we would add cumin, a tad more heat, and omit mustard. Like the burgers, leftover sweet potatoes are even better. The flavors and spice really comes out the next day.

This past Wednesday we experimented and adapted our childhood "tuna melt" recipe, which consists of tuna, mayo, mustard, celery, and onion mixture placed on a burger bun or English muffin, topped with a slice of tomato and cheese, and then broiled in the oven. Instead, we made "un-tuna melts" and used garbonzo beans (mashed), added diced mushrooms and green bell peppers, and placed Rice American "Cheese" slice on top.

The results - it was ok after we took off the cheese. We aren't big fonds of melted cheese, and it tasted gross with the cheese. Cheese-lovers may enjoy it though. The recipe was a good start, but more flavor needs to be added. We actually had some extra filling that we save for another day. When we had the leftovers, we ate the filling chilled, added dill, and served with herbed crackers. It was alot

So that is the food for last week. Hope you enjoyed our week of old fashioned food revised vegetarian! We will leave you with a saying about hope and optimism....Always count your blessings and view your life with a positive view! Life is something to cherish and not take advantage of. We are so grateful to live in a free nation with alot of opportunies. We are also so blessed to have our friends and family to love! If we see life from a positive light, we can live better, healthier lives full of hope!


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