Taco Tuesday for Vegetarians (Vegans and Those Who Must Eat Gluten-free)

Even meat-eaters love this recipe!

Even meat eaters love this recipe!

Looking for a quick vegetarian taco Tuesday recipe? Here’s a quick and easy taco recipe that even the meat eaters in your family will love (I know, I’ve tried it on non-vegetarian, teenage boys). The best part about this recipe is that you can easily freeze the leftovers and have them for next Tuesday!

I’ve also discovered the delights of ‘cook at home’ corn tortillas (I’ve found them at Costco and Wal Mart). These babies don’t have any added fat and you don’t have to baptize them in hot oil to make them soft and easy to eat–just cook them on a dry skillet and keep them warm in a tortilla warmer.

Serves 6-12–depending on how many boys you have at the table 😉

Vegetarian Taco ‘Meat’
©2014 Anita Ojeda

2 cups taco-flavored TVP (texturized vegetable protein)*
1 Tbs. oregano
1 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. salt
2 cups boiling water
Mix the first four ingredients together and then pour the boiling water on top. Allow the water to soak into the TVP whilst you prepare the other ingredients.

2 tsp. olive oil
1 cup. chopped carrots
1-2 jalapeños, chopped (it all depends on how spicy you like your food)
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1 small zucchini, chopped

Heat the olive oil in frying pan and then add the carrots, garlic, onion and zucchini (I put the carrots in, and then chop the next ingredient on the list whilst the first one starts sautéing). When the carrots are soft, add another teaspoon of olive oil and then add the taco meat mixture. Mix well and allow the taco meat to brown whilst you prepare the corn tortillas.

Serve with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and your other favorite toppings. If you’re vegan, omit the cheese.

*Taco-flavored TVP can be purchased in the “survival food” section of our local Wal Mart. You can also purchase it from stores such as Win-Co and Smith’s that have bulk food sections, or online from Andy’s Market

If you’d like to know why I eat the way I do, read my Healthy (er) Choices Manifesto.

Bow-Tie Pasta with Pesto, Potatoes and Green Beans

If you're in a hurry, you can purchase ready-made pesto sauce.

If you’re in a hurry, you can purchase ready-made pesto sauce.

I usually make the pesto sauce ahead of time and keep it in the refrigerator with a thin layer of olive oil on top to keep it from discoloring. That way, I can throw the dish together in twenty minutes when I get home form work or from church. If. fresh basil isn’t available, Costco sells a good pesto sauce (I always add some black pepper to it, though). This is not a sponsored post. If I have a favorite ingredient, I just list it and explain why ;).

Pesto Sauce
Serves 6-8

4 cups fresh basil leaves (stems removed)
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 cup. lightly roasted pine nuts (roast in a dry frying pan)
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil

In a food processor or high powered blender, add the first six ingredients in the order listed. Pulse until all of the ingredients have chopped a little, and then slowly add the olive oil and continue to blend until a smooth paste is achieved. If you plan on storing the pesto, reserve a little bit of the oil for spreading across the top.

When you’re ready to assemble the dish:

3 red potatoes, diced into small pieces
1 14.5 box of Barilla Plus Farfalle pasta (I use this kind because it has added protein)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 lb. fresh green beans, stem caps removed and snapped into 2-inch sections

In a large stockpot or sauce pan, bring 4-6 quarts of water to a boil. Add the potatoes and set the timer for 10 minutes. Prepare the green beans whilst you wait for the potatoes. After ten minutes, add the box of pasta and set the timer for 7 minutes. When the timer goes off, add the green beans (frozen green beans work as well). Boil for five more minutes.

Meanwhile, spread about half of the pesto sauce in the bottom of a very large serving bowl or pasta bowl. When the potato, pasta, green bean combo has finished cooking (everything should be tender but not mushy), remove from the burner and drain, reserving about a half a cup of liquid. Add the pasta/potatoes/green beans to the serving bowl and then pour the rest of the pesto sauce on top. Mix well. If needed, add some of the reserved liquid to bowl. Garnish with roasted red pepper slices for flavor and pizzaz.

Vegetarian Fiesta Pizza With Creamy Jalapeño Sauce

Gourmet Vegetarian PizzaI remember the first time I ordered a gourmet vegetarian pizza in Mexico, at a popular pizza joint in Ensenada. When we asked the waiter if they served a vegetarian pizza, he shrugged, gave us an odd look, and nodded. Thirty minutes later, he returned and placed a pizza on our table with a flourish. I almost gagged. It was a vegetarian pizza, all right. Traditional pizza sauce with a bag of frozen veggies dumped on top with just enough mozzarella to thinly disguise the lima beans (which I hate), carrot squares, peas and green beans. NOT my idea of the perfect vegetarian pizza!

Jalapeños on your pizza? You bet! Start a #fiesta in your mouth! #vegetarian Click To TweetThis recipe will please even the meatatarians in your family with the fiesta of flavors. From the whole-wheat crust, stuffed with spicy jalapeño sauce, to the medley of toppings, this pizza is anything but ordinary.

Preheat the oven to 400˚
Yields TWO 13″-15″ Pizzas

Pizza Dough

2 cups of warm water
4 Tbs. dry yeast
2 Tbs. brown sugar
1/2 cup. olive oil
1/2 cup vital wheat gluten
2 tsp. salt

Place the ingredients in the order listed in a mixing bowl, making sure to pour the salt on top of the vital wheat gluten so that it doesn’t sink down and react with the yeast (stop it’s growth). Let sit for five minutes and then mix in:

4 cups of whole-wheat flour (I prefer Wheat Montana’s Prairie Gold flour–they don’t sponsor my posts, I just love their flour! I use their wheat berries and grind my own flour)

If you’re mixing by hand, you should now be able to transfer the dough to a floured surface and start to knead it and incorporate more flour–about 1 1/2 additional cups. If you’re mixing in a mixer with a dough hook, just keep adding flour (about 5-6 cups total, depending on what brand of flour you use) until the dough no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl. Knead for 8 minutes and then cover with a towel and let raise until doubled in size (about an hour).

Jalapeño Cream Cheese Sauce

3 jalapeños, diced very small (this will make it spicy, use fewer jalapeños and remove the seeds if you’re worried about too much heat)
1 tsp. olive oil
16 oz. of Neufchatel or low fat cream cheese (2, eight ounce packages)
1/2 cup of water
1 tsp. salt

Sauté the diced jalapeños in the teaspoon of olive oil over medium-low heat until they are soft. While the jalapeños are sautéing, heat the water in a large glass bowl and then add the Neufchatel cheese and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Stir the water and Neufchatel mixture until it’s relatively smooth (you may need to microwave it for an additional 30 seconds). Add the salt and the jalapeños and mix well. Set aside.

Once the dough has doubled in size, divide it equally and roll each ball of dough into a circle that is about two inches bigger than your pizza pan (my pizza pans are 13 inches in diameter).

Rolling out the crust.

The vital wheat gluten adds more protein to the dough, and keeps it soft and fluffy.

Stuffing the crust ensures that the pizza pleases to the last bite!

Stuffing the crust ensures that the pizza pleases to the last bite!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Place the pizza dough on top of the oiled pizza pan (I used a light coating of olive oil), and then press the dough down around the inner edge of the pan before using a teaspoon to drizzle the jalapeño sauces around the edge of the pizza. Fold the pizza crust up over the circle of sauce, and lightly press the edge to the bottom crust. Fold the pizza crust up over the circle of sauce, and lightly press the edge to the bottom crust.

Now it’s time to add the toppings. Spread about 1/2 cup of the jalapeño sauce on the bottom of the pizza, think sprinkle two tablespoons of drained capers on top of that. Add 1/2 cup of sun-dried tomatoes, 1/2 cup of marinated artichoke hearts and 1/2 of a red pepper (I sliced it in thin slices and grilled them on my Foreman Grill). Sprinkle about 1 1/2 cups of mozzarella cheese on top of everything and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes at 400˚.
Topping the pizza

Shopping List:

Whole wheat flour
Vital Wheat Gluten (Bob’s Red Mill sells packages in most grocery stores)
Yeast
2, eight-ounce packages of Neufchatel cheese
3 jalapeños
1 large red pepper (the kind that looks like a Bell pepper but isn’t)
1 small jar of capers
12 oz. jar of marinated artichoke hearts
12 oz. jar of sun-dried tomatoes
16 oz. bag of shredded mozzarella cheese
(If you don’t have brown sugar, salt and olive oil at home, you’ll need those, too 🙂 )

Last-Minute Vegetarian Meatballs: A Story about Spontaneous Spaghetti Dinners

Vegetarian Meatballs

I know, it’s an oxymoron to call a meatball vegetarian, but if you have guests who don’t eat meat, they’ll appreciate your effort!

It’s 9:20 on a blustery Saturday morning, and we’ve had a desultory debate for three hours about what we should do today. We wanted to find some place beautiful and warm and relax away from school (we live on campus at a boarding school), even if it meant missing church. Unfortunately, the eastern snowcopalypse has leaned towards northern Arizona, bringing high winds and cooler temperatures to the entire region.

“We’d have to drive three hours to find warm weather,” I whine.

“We could spend the night somewhere,” Pedro suggests.

“But we promised to show up for staff horseback riding lessons at ten in the morning.”

“Oh. We’d have to get up really early to make it back on time.”

We look at each other in disappointment. We could have gone somewhere yesterday afternoon—but we had promised to show up for the elementary school puppet show, AND have the first through sixth grade students over for cookies and conversation after the program.

“We should just invite some people over for lunch after church,” Pedro ventures.

“Yeah.” I shrug and mentally tick through a list of “What Must Be Done Before I Want People Over.” Clean bathrooms: check. No big chunks on the floors: check. Spare toilet paper rolls in bathrooms: check. Out loud I say, “I think I have some food in the house.” Most days I’m too busy (or too disinclined) to go grocery shopping, and with only two of us at home now, I only cook a few times a week…in large quantities, because I don’t remember how to cook for two (we eat a lot of leftovers).

“Ok,” he replies. “I guess I’ll go to Sabbath School.” I nod absently and wander to the kitchen to stare at the cupboards. While I text my parents and nephew to invite them over (we work at the same school), Pedro dresses for church and heads out the door.

I stand in the kitchen and look at the cupboards. My mind enters warp speed and I quickly decide that we don’t have much, but I can throw together spaghetti and vegetarian meatballs in less than an hour. I dive in, happy that I keep ‘emergency supplies’ on hand for those random, “Oh, let’s have company” moments.

I don’t have to worry about making a dessert, because we have leftover cookies from last night. I start grabbing ingredients that I think go into the meatballs (it’s been awhile since I made them and I have no time to look for the recipe). Last time I made them, I promised myself that I’d bake the next batch instead of frying them, but I don’t have time to experiment. I’ll fry the ‘meatballs’ and compromise my do-it-healthier credo.

By 10:55, when the church bells ring for the second time, the meatballs are smothered in the jar of homemade spaghetti sauce I had at the back of the cupboard and heating up in the oven. The salad sits in the refrigerator and a pot of water simmers, ready for the noodles.

I throw on wool pants and a sweater and head out the door, glancing regretfully at the unset table (no point in setting it if I don’t know how many people will show up) and the fact that I didn’t notice the pile of cookie crumbs on the floor left by last night’s little visitors. Not my favorite way to entertain, but I’m learning random.

Two hours later, a happy group of ten sits around the table eating healthy cookies (that makes up for the fried meatballs, right?) and ice cream that my mom brought over (which I notice has half the fat of regular ice cream—score—it’s a healthy-ish meal after all).

No one noticed the pile of crumbs under the table, or that fact that the meal consisted of just bread, salad and spaghetti (along with the dessert). And the meatballs? Everyone loved them.

Quick and Easy Vegetarian Meatballs
Yields about 6 dozen small meatballs (they almost double in size after they’re baked in the spaghetti sauce)

1 cup bread crumbs (I make my own out of whole wheat bread)
1 cup pecans (grind in the blender until they’re in small chunks)
1 cup shredded cheese
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. ground sage
4 eggs

Oil for frying—start heating the oil first, so that it’s hot enough to fry the meatballs by the time you finish mixing them (like I said, you could probably bake these and it would be healthier).

This time I used a small saucepan with about three inches of oil in it—some times (if I have enough oil in the house) I use my electric fryer.

Mix everything but the oil together in a small bowl. Use a melon baller to scoop out teaspoon-sized balls of mix and carefully drop them into the hot oil. Fry until golden and remove the meatballs to a paper towel-covered plate to drain.

Fill a four-quart baking dish with spaghetti sauce (home made or store bought) and mix in the meatballs. Cover and bake for an hour (or however long it takes for church to get out 😉 ) at 350˚. I’ve used a lower temperature and baked them for up to two hours before.

Creamy Chipotle Rice Noodles (Vegan & gluten-free)

A meatless Monday dish that's big enough to feed a crowd or reheat for leftovers later in the week.

A meatless Monday dish that’s big enough to feed a crowd or reheat for leftovers later in the week.

Creamy Chipotle Rice Noodles
Serves 8-10

1 Tbs. olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, halved
2 jalapeños, quartered (if you like your food spicy, use two jalapeños, otherwise, just use one!)
½ large onion, cut into large chunks.

Sauté the garlic, jalapeños, and onion over medium-high heat in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan until they are soft.

 

In a blender jar, add:
2 cups of hot water
½ cup of raw cashews
3 dried chipotle peppers
2 teaspoons of salt
1 teaspoon of coriander
½ teaspoon of cumin
1 13-oz. can of Great Northern Beans (drained)
the sautéed vegetables

Blend on high speed until creamy (this works best if you have a high-powered blender such as a Blend Tec or a Vita Mix).

2 16-oz packages of extra firm tofu, rinsed, pressed* and cubed into small cubes.
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 Tbs. Chicken-flavored seasoning (I use Bill’s Chickenish Seasoning—it’s vegan and gluten-free)
1 tsp. salt
Heat olive oil in the same heavy-bottomed saucepan that you used earlier and then add the cubed tofu. Sprinkle the salt and seasoning on top and fry the tofu until it looks slightly browned.

Meanwhile, boil the water for preparing the Thai rice noodles (I used an 8.8 oz. box of thin noodles) and prepare the noodles according to the package directions.

When the tofu is browned, add:
2 cups of frozen sweet corn
the chipotle sauce and stir well.

Steam two cups of broccoli and add to the mix.

After rinsing the rice noodles, add them to the saucepan and mix everything together and allow it to heat through again (about 5-8 minutes).

Garnish with lots of fresh cilantro

Shopping list:
2 lbs. of extra-firm tofu
1 13-oz can of Great Northern Beans
broccoli
frozen sweet corn
3 dried chipotle peppers
1 box of Thai thin rice noodles (8.8 oz)
½ cup raw cashews
4 cloves of garlic
1 large onion
2 jalapeño peppers
cumin
coriander
olive oil
chicken-flavored seasoning
cilantro

*Tofu tips. The most widely available tofu is ‘tub tofu’ that comes in a plastic tub with water. Make sure you purchase ‘Extra Firm’ if you buy ‘tub tofu’. This kind of tofu tastes best if you drain it, rinse it and then squeeze the water out of it before cooking with it. I usually unwrap the tofu, drain and rinse it, set it on a plate, put a plastic lid on top, and set a gallon of milk on top of the lid. The weight of the jug of milk will squeeze out the remaining liquid (it takes about an hour to get most of the water out). If ‘brick tofu’ is available in your area, it is easier to work with and doesn’t require the squeezing process to make it tasty. ‘Brick tofu’ is super-firm and comes wrapped in a brick with no water.

©2013 Anita Strawn de Ojeda

Vegetarian Taco Burgers

Vegetarian Taco Burgers
Yields 12-15 burgers

You can substitute oat flour for the wheat flour and make these gluten-free!

You can substitute oat flour for the wheat flour and make these gluten-free!

2 cups taco-flavored TVP (texturized vegetable protein)*

1 Tbs. dried oregano
1 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. salt
2 cups boiling water

6 eggs
½ c. whole-wheat flour OR ½ cup oat flour (whiz a cup of oats in the blender)
½ onion chopped

Oil for frying

Mix the TVP, the spices and the salt together in a medium bowl and then pour the boiling water over the mixture. Set a plate on top of the mixture and allow the TVP to soak up the water (bout five minutes)

Chop the onion and add it and the flour (or oat flour if you’d prefer gluten-free burgers) to the TVP mixture. Mix well, and then add the eggs. Use a large ice-cream scoop or a 1/2 –cup measuring cup to place the mix on a medium-hot, oil-covered frying pan. It’s important to NOT fry the patties on high temperatures, or the onions won’t cook thoroughly.

I usually freeze the leftovers and have ready-made burgers for those nights when I don’t have time to cook.

*Taco-flavored TVP can be purchased in the “survival food” section of our local Wal Mart. You can also purchase it from stores such as Win-Co and Smith’s that have bulk food sections, or online from Andy’s Market

If you’d like to know why I eat the way I do, read my Healthy (er) Choices Manifesto.

@2013 by Anita Strawn de Ojeda

Vegan Sweet Potato Quesadillas with Tomatillo Sauce

I know. ‘Vegan Quesadilla’ sounds like an oxymoron, but in our family, anything that

Who needs cheese?  These sweet potato quesadillas taste great without it!

Who needs cheese? These sweet potato quesadillas taste great without it!

comes to the table in a folded-in-half-crispy-tortilla is a ‘quesadilla’. If you’re not vegan, add some cheese if you can’t stand eating a ‘quesadilla’ without the queso! Or, try it without—it’s quite tasty and a family favorite.

Serves 4-6, depending on how hungry you are
Prep time: 30 minutes

3 large sweet potatoes-about 2.5 lbs, peeled and grated (I used the light-skinned ones with the light colored interior—the ‘Yams’ with the darker skin and orange interior work well, too)
1/3 c. water
2 tsp. olive oil
½ tsp. cumin seeds
1 jalapeño, chopped (remove the seeds and pith if you want a more mild flavor, leave them in if you like spicier food)
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tsp. salt (add more if you need to)
½ cup chopped cilantro

Use low heat so that that onions don't burn.

Use low heat so that the onions don’t burn.

Heat a very large non-stick frying pan or a cast iron skillet on medium-high heat. Once it’s hot, add the oil and then cumin seeds. When the cumin seeds turn brown, lower the heat a little and add the onions, jalapeño and garlic. Stir occasionally until the onions are almost caramel colored.

Add the sweet potatoes and the 1/3 cup of water and stir everything together before covering the skillet. Every 3-5 minutes, remove the lid and stir the mixture. Cooking time will depend on which type of sweet potato you used (the lighter ones will take a little longer). When the sweet potatoes are almost cooked (they will be tender), add the salt and chopped cilantro and stir well.

While the filling cooks, start the tomatillo sauce.

You don't have to finely chop the veggies, since they'll be blended later on.

You don’t have to finely chop the veggies, since they’ll be blended later on.

1 tsp. olive oil
6-7 tomatillos
1 shallot or ¼ cup chopped onion
½ jalapeño
1 clove of garlic
¼ cup blanched, slivered almonds
3 Tbs. cilantro
1 tsp. salt
½ cup water
2 tsps. chicken-flavored seasoning (I like Bill’s Chickenish Flavoring).

Peel the papery layer from the tomatillos and rinse the tomatillos. Cut them into large wedges or circles. Cut the shallot, jalapeños and garlic into large chunks (everything will be blended, so you don’t have to chop anything into fine pieces). Heat a medium, non-stick or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and then all of the chopped veggies. Stir and then lower the heat to medium. Stir occasionally. When the veggies start to look ‘roasted’, add the almonds and cook for another two minutes. Put the water, salt and chicken-flavored seasoning into a high powered blender (I have a BlendTec) and then add the ‘roasted’ veggies. Blend everything until it’s semi-smooth. Taste and add more salt, if needed.

We prefer whole-wheat tortillas.

We prefer whole-wheat tortillas.

To assemble the ‘quesadillas’: Heat a lightly greased skillet or griddle to medium and lay your favorite brand of whole-wheat tortillas on the griddle and place about ¾ a cup of the sweet potato filling on one side of the tortilla (pretend it’s cheese 😉 ). Fold the tortilla in half and repeat with the other tortillas. Cook for about 2 minutes on each side, and then top with two tablespoons of the tomatillo sauce and serve hot.

You can also make the filling and sauce ahead of time and assemble the quesadillas right before the meal. Garnish with cilantro sprigs.

If you’d like to know why I eat the way I do, see my Healthy (er) Choices Manifesto.

©2013 Anita Strawn de Ojeda

Enchilada Casserole (GF, Vegan, Quick and Spicy!)

This tasty entrée is all flavor, but gluten-free and vegan (unless you like cheese, and add a little to the top).

This tasty entrée is all flavor, but gluten-free and vegan (unless you like cheese, and add a little to the top).

Have you ever wondered what to do when friends or family come to visit and they have dietary restrictions?  (tweet this) Try this spicy enchilada casserole–it’s gluten-free and can be made without cheese for the vegans or with cheese for the vegetarians!

2 lbs extra firm tofu (drained and pressed and grated—see note below)
20 white corn tortillas

Put the following ingredients in the blender in the order listed. Rinse the dried chili pods in cold water first, and remove the stems. If you want a mild dish, remove the seeds as well and/or omit the smaller, hotter dried chilis.

12 dried, sweet red chili pods
6 (or fewer) small, dried Japonés or other hot chili pods
2 cups very hot water
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. oregano
Let the above ingredients soak while you prepare the following:

There's no need to cut things into small pieces

There’s no need to cut things into small pieces

Heat 1 Tbs. olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and coarsely chop the following ingredients and add them to the hot oil.

1 large onion
3 jalapeños
10 cloves of garlic
Sautee until the onion becomes limp
Add the sautéed ingredients to the soaked chilies in the blender and blend on medium-high speed until smooth (this will depend on your blender).

Using the same skillet, add a teaspoon of oil and let it heat and then add:
Grated tofu
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. chicken/chickenish flavor (I use Bill’s Best Chink’Nish Vegetarian Flavor)
Mix well and allow the tofu to brown a little before pouring the chili sauce over it. Stir the tofu and chili sauce well, and allow the ingredients to simmer for 5 minutes.

Rip the corn tortillas into large pieces (1-2 inch) and place them in a large mixing bowl. Pour the tofu/chili mixture over the tortilla chunks and mix well.

If you're cooking a gluten-free diet, check the package to make sure your tortillas are gluten-free.

If you’re cooking a gluten-free diet, check the package to make sure your tortillas are gluten-free.

Lightly grease a 9X13-inch baking dish; pour the enchilada mixture into the dish. Garnish with chopped olives. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.  Serves 8-12.  If I’m cooking for a small group, I divide the mix into two smaller baking dishes and freeze one (let it cool thoroughly first before covering with aluminum foil and freezing) for later.

Tofu tips. The most widely available tofu is ‘tub tofu’ that comes in a plastic tub with water. Make sure you purchase ‘Extra Firm’ if you buy ‘tub tofu’. This kind of tofu tastes best if you drain it, rinse it and then squeeze the water out of it before cooking with it. I usually unwrap the tofu, drain and rinse it, set it on a plate, put a plastic lid on top, and set a gallon of milk on top of the lid. The weight of the jug of milk will squeeze out the remaining liquid (it takes about an hour to get most of the water out). If ‘brick tofu’ is available in your area, it is easier to work with and doesn’t require the squeezing process to make it tasty. ‘Brick tofu’ is super-firm and comes wrapped in a brick with no water.

To find out more about why I cook the way I do, see my “Healthy (er) Choices Manifesto” post http://www.blessedbutstressed.com/?p=185

©2013 Anita Strawn de Ojeda