Saturday, September 30, 2006

Pasta salad with pep

My husband and I love to cook. Heck, we just love to eat, period, but we especially love cooking for each other at home. David may not be as adventurous as I am (I try out new recipes all the time, while he tends to stick to his 'tried and true' recipes), but he brings plenty of great dishes to the table. This is one of my favorites. It's so easy it's sick (you know, in a good way), and the salty creaminess of it all grabs me from the first bite.

David’s Peppy Pasta Salad

1 pound penne pasta (or other short, tubular pasta), cooked according to directions
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
1 cup carrots, sliced into medallions
1 package vegetarian pepperoni
4 or 5 green onions, sliced
1 cup mayonnaise
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions, then drain and rinse under cold water for a few seconds.

Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables and the sauce. In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

When pasta, veggies and sauce are ready, stir together in a large bowl. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper, if needed. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes or until needed.

Friday, September 29, 2006

A sandwich that's good any time of day

That damn Rachel Ray. I want to dislike her, I really do--what with her huge grin, even bigger voice and completely over-the-top personality (not to mention her overused catch phrases). But, try as I might, I can't hate her. It seems like her heart's in the right place and, more importantly, she makes some great-looking, quick-cooking meals on her Food Network show, "30 Minute Meals."

Speaking of which, this recipe was inspired by something I saw her make a few weeks ago. She called her version a "breakfast sammie," which I thought was cute, so I'll call mine "Bryan's veggie breakfast sammie," since it's fully vegetarian (and can easily be made vegan, if that's your thing).

I have a hard time calling this a recipe, to tell you the truth, since the only thing you actually make is the scrambled tofu. Call it what you like--regardless, you can rest assured they're easy and cheap to make, and fantastic to eat.

Bryan's Veggie Breakfast Sammie

1 block herb tofu, crumbled into largish pieces
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
8 ounces of white mushrooms, sliced
1-2 teaspoons turmeric
Salt and pepper to taste

4 English muffins, split and toasted
4 vegetarian burger or sausage patties, cooked according to directions
4 slices of American cheese
Mayonnaise (if desired)

Heat a large skillet, coated with olive oil, over medium heat. Add garlic, onion, pepper and mushrooms and cook until softened. Add crumbled tofu, turmeric, salt and pepper and stir until spices have been incorporated (mixture should be a light yellow). Taste and season with more salt and/or pepper if needed.

In the meantime, cook the veggie burgers/sausage patties according to directions and toast muffins. When everything is hot and ready to go, stack them as you wish. I like to go in this order: muffin, mayo, burger, tofu mixture, cheese, muffin top.

A side of potatoes would be a nice accompaniment, but it's not needed if you're planning to eat two of these (or more) by yourself.

That's a (curry) wrap!

I developed this recipe after chatting with a friend about the chicken salad she salivates over at a nearby cafe. She didn't divulge many ingredients--just that it had curry powder in it and was "light." For some reason that put my brain into gear and I started contemplating a vegetarian version of said recipe.

Here's what I came up with after a few trials and errors. Balancing the chutney seems to be the most important step--add too much and it overwhelms the final product, but add too little and there's not enough punch.

Anyway, I like to put a few, nice-sized dollops of the tofu mixture into a whole wheat tortilla and eat it that way. I'm sure it would be good in pitas or on a bed of lettuce or plain as well.

Curry Tofu Wraps

1 block extra firm tofu, drained and cubed
A nice handful of shredded carrot
A nice handful of salted cashews
A small handful of dried cranberries
2-3 green onions, thinly sliced
½ cup sour cream (for vegans: Tofutti Sour Supreme is a perfect substitute)
2 tablespoons prepared mango chutney (use apricot jam if you can't find chutney)
2 teaspoons curry powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the tofu, carrot, nuts, cranberries and green onion in a medium-sized bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the sour cream, chutney, curry powder, salt and pepper. Stir until combined. Pour wet mixture into the bowl containing the tofu mixture. Fold ingredients together with a rubber spatula until the tofu et al is nicely coated with the sauce. Check seasoning and add more salt and pepper if needed. Refrigerate until needed.

Note: This is best the day you make it, as the nuts and berries soften and the tofu seems to sweat a bit. I often just make a half-batch for each day I want to use it - and just keep the second half of the tofu block in the fridge until I want to make it again.

Cookies for monster-sized mouths (and crowds)

An extremely friendly co-worker of mine brought these into our place of business the other day. I should have known I was doomed when she sent out an e-mail announcing their arrival--they contain peanut butter, chocolate chips and M&Ms? Sign me up! I promptly ate three of them, and would have eaten many more if I hadn't mentally decided the cafeteria was off limits.

Thankfully, Teri was nice enough to share her mom's recipe with me, so I can make them whenever I feel the need to put on a dozen or so pounds. The recipe makes a ton, but it's very adaptable, so feel free to cut it in half (and maybe fourths) if you'd like. The batter supposedly freezes well, so you can always bake a few now and freeze individual scoops for later.

Teri's Mom's Monster Cookies

Makes about 8 dozen.

1 pound butter, room temperature
3 pounds crunchy peanut butter
4 ½ cups brown sugar, packed
12 eggs
1 tablespoon white corn syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
18 cups quick-cooking oats
8 teaspoons baking soda
1-pound bag M&Ms candies
12-ounce bag chocolate chips
6-ounce bag peanut butter chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream together butter, peanut butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Add eggs, vanilla and corn syrup and mix well. Stir in dry ingredients until combined.

Using an ice cream scoop, drop balls of batter onto a greased cookie sheet and flatten slightly.

Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on cookie sheets until firm, then place in an air-tight container.