Next Level Vegan Ramen

This is not your mama’s Ramen.

And it is also not so much a recipe as an approach…

A few weeks ago shopping at a local Asian market, the checkout person generously tucked four packages of Ramen-type dry noodle soup packages into my box of purchased items. And the soup turned out to be vegan. On its own, it is flavorful, if a little salty, and a bit one-note in color and texture, not to mention of questionable nutritional value.

But, stay tuned…

Yesterday, hungry for lunch–I turned out not to need dinner–and with a fridge full of fresh ingredients left over from a dinner party, I changed all that.  The dinner party meal was Southwestern, but the raw ingredients could have just as easily been Asian.

To kick up a basic bowl of Ramen into a truly beautiful, vitamin-packed, and hydrating dish–company-worthy even–as I did, just follow or adapt my quick and easy formula:

To a basic Ramen package consisting of dry noodles and seasoning packets calling for 2 cups of water:

Double the water, add seasoning packet(s), loosely cover, bring to a simmer, add noodles, and simmer for 3 minutes. During last minute, add 2 big handfuls of greens (tender baby kale, spinach, etc.) and stir to combine.

To serve, ladle into one or two pretty bowls and top with any or all of the following:

  • Several good shakes of vegan fish sauce (sold as vegetarian)
  • Shredded raw purple cabbage
  • Shredded raw carrot
  • Thinly sliced raw radish

Thinly sliced rae yellow, orange, or red bell peppers

  • Raw bean sprouts
  • Sliced raw green onions
  • Lightly roasted and salted cashews or peanuts
  • Fresh cilantro, mint, and/or Thai basil sprigs
  • Fresh lime wedges

Serve with chopsticks for the most satisfying quick meal ever.

 

 

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Day 14: Vegan Kung Pao Broccoli and Tofu–“Cooking ‘The Blooming Platter Cookbook’ Julie and Julia Style”

Kung Pao Tofu(A sequential installment from Kim Hastings, my photographer friend and, along with her vet husband, owner of Independence Veterinary Hospital, who decided on her own to cook her way through The Blooming Platter Cookbook: A Harvest of Seasonal Vegan Recipes Julie & Julia Style for her omnivorous family as a strategy for more healthy eating.)

I have had the Kung Pao Broccoli and Tofu recipe on my list for the last two weeks and replaced it each time. I have looked at it so many times that my book opens automatically to it now. Why have I been putting it off? Maybe it was the tofu, but I conquered my fear of that a few days ago so I’m doing this recipe today.

My husband is thrilled that it is a one skillet dish. He always has some comment about the state of the kitchen when I’m done cooking these days. I do honestly try to clean as I go. In fact I hear my mom’s voice in my head telling me those exact words but it usually looks like a cyclone went through my kitchen no matter what I do.

I must admit that I prepared chicken on the side so that if my men refused the tofu they could pick it out and substitute the chicken, but I’m not going to pick it out for them. I was a little worried about what kind of reactions I would get from this meal but I have to say that even I was impressed with the way the tofu looked (and tasted!) before I placed it in the warm oven.

Everything was moving along just fine until I realized I did not have the hot dried chiles. Now that is an important ingredient in Kung Pao and somehow I missed it so I just used a healthy amount of red pepper flakes instead. No problem. Everything else came together beautifully.

My family did not see the tofu part of the preparation so when they asked what it was I just said it was a veggie. That’s not a lie right? One just took it at face value and said it was good. The other tried to analyze it and decided it was fried mashed potato chunks. I think the funniest thing was that my older son came home to eat the leftovers the next day and when he took the foil off the dish, he was so upset that all that was left was the chicken and a few peanuts. His brother had beat him to it.

Get this – no one had eaten the chicken!! (Until that was all that was left of course). I think that speaks for itself about just how amazing this dish tastes. My challenge to get them to love vegetables just as much as the other items on the plate is working! I am so proud of myself – seriously proud.

~Kim Hastings

Kim Hastings

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My Vegan Thai Biscuit Mini Sandwiches Win “Savory” Grand Prize in National Recipe Contest

Photo: Alisa Fleming
Photo: Alisa Fleming

And the winner is…me!

So Delcious and Go Dairy Free just announced the winners of their “Snackables” national (vegan) recipe contest and my Thai Biscuit Mini Sandwiches won the Grand Prize in the “Savory” category!  These are the perfect mini-meal, packed with flavor and nutrition and cute to boot.

This award is such an honor because I know of their high standards and rigorous vetting process.

Congrats to all winners and runner’s up!  And a huge thanks to So Delicous and Alisa Fleming of Go Dairy Free!

 

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Vegan Pad Thai and Scallion Pancakes–Restaurant Redux

Pad Thai Pancakes--Dining Room--CroppedYield: 4 pancakes (2 main dish or 4 appetizer servings)

I love Pad Thai, but our local restaurant won’t serve a lunch size portion at dinner, and a dinner portion is way too much food for one meal.   Heck, it’s way too much food for several meals.

So, after bringing home leftovers and enjoying them as is for one meal, I still had a heaping pile remaining.  Recently fantasizing about Vietnamese crispy pancakes, I decided to fold the Pad Thai into a pancake batter made with all purpose flour for structure combined with rice flour for lightness and authentic flavor.

Be forewarned: these are NOT crispy, as you can’t fold noodles into pancake batter, even pancake batter made with rice flour and veggie stock, and wind up with a crispy cake.  But, they are still delicious, not to mention easy, filling, and quite pretty.

You could serve any kind of Asian-inspired sauce over the pancakes that you like, but I found a sprinkle of vegan fish sauce with 3 dots of sriracha to be perfect.  The bright red of the sriracha is a snappy color contrast to the green scallion tips, lime, and basil, and a zesty counterpoint to the other flavors.  I thought the three little dots were cute–and just enough to swipe a bit of the pancake through on it’s way to my mouth–but drizzle on more or mix it with a peanut-lime sauce if you choose.

Whatever you do, enjoy your restaurant leftovers re-imagined!

1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 cup brown rice flour

1/3 cup vegan fish sauce (sold as vegetarian in Asian markets)

2/3 cup rich vegetable stock

Pinch sea salt if needed

2 scallions, white and about the same amount green as white, thinly sliced (reserve some of the green tips for garnish if desired)

1 to 1 1/4 cups vegan Pad Thai leftovers, large pieces of vegetables and tofu cut in half, slightly warmed in microwave (mine contained sliced mushrooms, broccoli, green beans, baby corn, carrots, and fried tofu pieces, along with the noodles)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Optional garnish: additional vegan fish sauce, green scallion tips, slices of fresh lime, chopped peanuts, sprigs of fresh basil or Thai basil, sriracha

In a medium bowl, whisk together both flours.  Then gradually whisk in vegan fish sauce, stock, and sea salt if needed to make a batter.  Using a fork, fold in scallions, followed by leftover Pad Thai.  Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high, swirling to completely coat bottom of pan.  Using a 1/3 cup measure, scoop up 1/4 of batter and carefully transfer to skillet, smoothing and spreading to about 1/3 to 1/2-inch thick.  Repeat with another 1/4 of batter.  Cook 2 pancakes at a time for about 1/2 to 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown and done all the way through.  Transfer to plates, keep warm and repeat with remaining tablespoon of oil and batter.  Serve immediately garnished as desired with green scallion tips, slices of fresh lime, chopped peanuts, and/or dots of sriracha.

Pad Thai Pancakes

 

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Vegan Vietnamese Tofu Stack with Golden Shitake-Onion Saute, Herb and Peanut Pesto, and Pickled Cucumber-Carrot Relish

Vietnamese Tofu Stack with Golden Shitake Saute, Herb and Peanut Pesto, and Pickled Cucumber-CarrotsYield: 4 servings

This sensational stack was inspired by dinner Friday night at Vietnam Garden (with locations in VA Beach and Norfolk, VA).  My dinner was actually a vegan Pho with fried tofu strips, but I wanted to create a dish that capitalized on all of the same delicious tastes and textures without needing to fry the tofu, nor up the carb content with noodles.  And this beautiful dish does just that.

I do love the hydrating properties of Pho–especially after hot yoga on Friday nights(!)–and I know I could put anything in it that I wanted, e.g. unfried tofu and no noodles, but the truth is that I also didn’t want to take the time to create a rich homemade stock which is essential to Pho.

My resulting “stack” accomplished exactly what I hoped for and it is addicting!  I recommend making the Herb and Peanut Pesto and the Pickled Cucumber-Carrot Relish a day ahead so that the dish goes together even faster.  But, if your schedule doesn’t allow for that, it is still a pretty quick dish and the flavors will be plenty developed.  Just make pesto first, followed by the relish and let them sit while you saute the mushrooms and broil the tofu.

The presentation is stunning with hardly any effort thanks to the beautiful contrasting colors and shapes of the ingredients.  Your family will be wondering who’s coming to dinner!  On the other hand, make it for guests and they will be sure you labored for hours especially for them.

Vietnamese Tofu Stack with with Golden Shitake Saute, Herb and Peanut Pesto, and Pickled Cucumber-Carrot Relish

1-14 ounce box extra-firm tofu, drained, patted dry, and cut into 8 slices

Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Soy sauce (or tamari)

Herb-Peanut Pesto (recipe follows)

Golden Shitake-Onion Saute (recipe follows)

Pickled Cucumber-Carrot Relish m(recipe follows)

Sprigs of fresh thai basil, cilantro, mint; lime wedges; and/or chopped peanuts

Place tofu on an oiled or Silpat-lined baking sheet.  Sprinkle the barest hint of sea salt and pepper on each piece of tofu.  Then place one drop of soy sauce on each and rub in with your fingers to completely cover the top surface. Broil tofu or 5 minutes or until golden and slightly set.  Remove pan from oven, top each piece of tofu with about 1 generous tablespoon of Herb-Peanut Pesto, spread to the edges, and broil for another 2 minutes to heat and set pesto topping.

To serve:  spoon 1/4 of mushrooms and onions in the center of each serving plate.  Top with two pieces of broiled tofu, slightly overlapped.  Arrange Pickled Cucumber-Carrot Relish over the top and garnish as desired with a sprig of fresh herbs, wedge of lime, and/or sprinkling of chopped peanuts.  Serve immediately.

 

Herb-Peanut Pesto

(Note: at the Kroger where I shop, herbs are sold in .66 ounce containers and my garden herbs, other than rosemary and thyme, are not thriving yet, plus we can’t grow cilantro well in our climate.)

.66 ounces fresh Thai or Italian basil (Thai basil is readily available in Asian markets)

.66 onces fresh cilantro

.66 ounces fresh mint

1 small (3 inches) mild to medium chili pepper, stemmed and seeded

1/2 cup lightly salted and roasted peanuts

1 large garlic clove

Juice of 1 small lime

2 tablespoons vegan fish sauce (sold as vegetarian at Asian markets)

1/4 cup olive oil

Sea salt (if needed) and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place all ingredients except olive oil in a food processor and pulse until finely minced, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.  With motor running, drizzle in olive oil to form a pesto, scraping down sides of bowl onc eor twice.  Taste and season with salt and pepper if desired.  If time allows, chill until serving time.

 

Golden Shitake-Onion Saute

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 large yellow onion, thinly sliced

Pinch sea salt

10 ounces golden or regular shitakes, sliced about 1/4 to 1/3-inch thick

2 large garlic clove, minced

In a large cast iron skillet, heat oil over medium-high.  Add onion and a pinch of sea salt and saute, stirring frequently for a minute or two to soften.  Add mushrooms and saute for another two to three minutes or until they have cooked down and are beginning to turn lightly golden brown.  Add garlic and continue sauteing and stirring just for another 30 seconds.  Remove from heat.

 

Pickled Cucumber-Carrot Relish

1-8 inch cucumber, thinly sliced (I use a mandolin for this task)

3/4 cup baby carrots, finely chopped (I use a food processor for this task)

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon demerara sugar (or granulated sugar)

1 tablespoon agave nectar

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes or to taste

Gently toss together all ingredients, taste and adjust seasoning if desired.  If time allows, chill until serving time.

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Vegan Thai Buddha Spring Roll Bowl

Thai Buddha Spring Roll BowlYield: 4 servings

A spring roll wrapper crisped and perfectly puffed in the microwave forms the adorable edible bowl for this delectable Thai-influenced layering of fresh ingredients: limas cooked in coconut water; onion, eggplant, and garlic in a creamy peanut butter-red curry paste sauce with a hint of Thai basil; Cucumber-Carrot Slaw; and, if you’re feeling really decadent, Chili-Mayo, chopped cashews or peanuts, and a sprig of Thai Basil.  Buddha would certianly bless this bowl!

 

1 cup fresh lima beans cooked about 20 minutes or until tender in simmering coconut water to cover, cooled, and drained (reserve water for another use)

1 cup julienned or grated cucumber and carrot, combined in any proportion (I use one medium cucumber and one medium carrot and a food processor for this task)

Sea salt

3 tablespoons vegan “fish” sauce, divided into 2 and 1 tablespoons (sold as “vegetarian” in Asian markets)

1 tablespoon + 1/2 teaspoon rice wine vinegar

1 tablespoon olive oil or peanut oil

1 medium red onion, diced

3/4 pound eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 large clove garlic

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons crunchy peanut butter (I use Kroger brand “natural”)

1 teaspoon Thai red curry paste (widely available in Asian markets and the international aisles of grocery stores)

1 tablespoon finely chopped Thai basil (also widely available at Asian markets; you can substitute regular basil, but it won’t have that distinctive anise-like flavor)

4 spring roll wrappers

Chili Mayo (optional; recipe follows)

Garnishes: 4 teaspoons chopped lightly salted and roasted cashews or peanuts and fresh Thai basil sprigs

 

While lima beans cook, make Asian Cucumber-Carrot Slaw:  in a small, non-reactive bowl, combine julienned or grated cucumber and carrot with a pinch of sea salt, 1 tablespoon fish sauce and 1/2 teaspon rice wine vinegar and set aside.  Make eggplant filling: heat olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium high.  Saute onion with a pinch of sea salt for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently, or until softened.  Add eggplant and garlic and saute, stirring frequently and lowering heat if necessary, for about 12 minutes or until lightly browned.  Stir in water, and allow to simmer while you whisk together in a small cup the peanut butter, the remaining 2 tablespoons of fish sauce, the remaining 1 tablespoon of rice wine vinegar, and the red curry paste.  Drizzle over eggplant mixture, stir to combine, and heat through.  Stir in Thai basil.  Lower heat and keep warm while you prepare spring roll bowls.  Microwave each spring roll wrapper for about 40 seconds on full power or until puffed with no slick, shiny areas.  Check after 20 to 30 seconds.  To serve: place each puffed spring roll wrapper on a plate or in a shallow bowl.  Spoon 1/4th of eggplant mixture in the center, followed by 1/4 of beans and 1/4th of slaw.  Drizzle with Chili Mayo if desired, and garnish each with 1 teaspoon chopped nuts and a sprig of fresh Thai basil.  Serve immediately.

 

Thai Chili Mayo:

6 tablespoonsvegan mayo

2 tablespoons vegan “fish” sauce (sold as “vegetarian” in Asian markets)

1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar

1 teaspoon Thai Red Curry Paste

In a small non-reactive bowl, whish together all ingredients until very smooth.  I like to transfer to a plastic squirt bottle from the dollar store for dispensing.

 

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Vegan Thai Coconut Milk and Vegetable Soup

Thai Coconut Milk and Vegetable Soup 1Yield: 4 servings

This soup is as delicious as it is nutritious and lovely. Thicker than most Thai restaurant soups (due to the starch in the squash), it is very filling, yet still light.

It was inspired by my love of all things Thai, but also by an over-zealous trip to the farmer’s market this week considering I am leaving town on Sunday.  In a little bit of a panic about not wasting food, I created this soup brimming over with vegetables like red bell pepper, fresh chili pepper, pattypan squash, grape tomatoes and Swiss Chard.

I had purchased 2 bunches of the chard–what was I thinking–so I created a really tasty Swissh Chard and Pumpkin Seed Pesto out of the remainder, which will freeze nicely.

I used the vegetables I had on hand, but feel free to substitute other veggies, keeping flavor, texture and color contrast in mind. In addition to the onion and bell pepper, you will want about 4 cups of vegetables. Precokl firmer vegetables like squash and carrots, and simply heat softer ones like tomatoes and mushrooms.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 large red bell pepper, stemmed and seeded, thinly sliced
1 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and very thinly sliced
1 large cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons minced red or green mild chili pepper
Sea salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1-15 ounce can coconut milk or lite coconut milk
2 cups water
2 regular or 1 large vegetable bouillon cube (enough for 2 cups of water)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 pounds pattypan squash (unpeeled and unseeded weight), baked, roasted or grilled until tender, peeled, and cut into wedges [you may substitute eggplant, zucchini and/or yellow squash]; approximately 2 cups cooked chunks
1 cup (approximately) red or gold grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup finely chopped Swiss chard (I use a food processor for this task)
1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems, rough chopped
Zest of 1 large lime
1/4 cup basil leaves, preferably Thai basil
4 teaspoons vegan fish sauce (sold a “vegetarian” in Asian markets) or rice wine vinegar
Garnish: 1/4 cup chopped roasted and lightly salted cashews and peanuts and sprigs of basil or cilantro

In a large (4-quart) saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high. Add onion, bell pepper, ginger, garlic, chili pepper, and a pinch of sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper, and sauté, stirring frequently, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add coconut milk, water, bouillon cube, and soy sauce, and heat until barely simmering. Add squash, tomatoes, and Swiss chard, and return to a gently simmer. Avoid boiling. Stir in cilantro, lime zest, and basil leaves and heat through. Serve in large bowls with 1 teaspoon of vegan fish sauce or rice wine vinegar stirred into each. Garnish with chopped nuts and a sprig of basil or cilantro.

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On the 7th Day of Christmas…Vegan Baked Kale and Sweet Potato Spring Rolls with Anise-Scented Sage Butter Sauce

Recipe: Baked Swiss Chard (or Kale) and Sweet Potato Spring Rolls with Anise-Scented Sage-Butter SaucePublished on One Green Planet, my recipe for spring rolls with a twist is perfect for the Christmas holidays.

Not Asian in flavor–except for the hint of anise–they are, however, a celebration of everything I love about fall and winter cooking and eating.

Kale, sweet potatoes, anise and sage combine in these cute little packages that could easily be served as an entree or an appetizer.

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Vegan Grilled Pattypan Squash with Thai Basil Pesto–Included on WHRO’s “Let’s Eat”

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I am THRILLED to be one of a dozen invited contributors to participate in “Let’s Eat,” a new initiative of Eastern Virginia’s public TV and radio station, WHRO!

I had no more created this recipe than I received the invitation.

Since it is sponsored by Whole Foods, VA Beach, and our local chapter of Buy Fresh, Buy Local, a recipe that featured local produce seemed in order.  At the time I submitted it, pattypan squash was in season, but the site was just launched and, alas, pattypan squash is no longer in season, at least not in Coastal Virginia.  But the pesto would be luscious on grilled pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and much more.  And my basil is still in full bloom!

Stay tuned for more tasty treats ready for their close-up.  I will be posting regularly on “Let’s Eat” and will direct you from here to there!

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