Saturday, October 6, 2012

Chicken-less Entrées- Meatless Versions of Classic Chicken Dishes

Here are three of my favorite chicken-less recipes- classic chicken entries, but without the chicken!  Chicken pot pie, chicken & dumpling soup, and chicken & dressing casserole are among my top favorite chicken dishes.  I have chosen these because they can be easily adapted to meatless versions. 

You can use a variety of vegetables, and switch them up.  I think the key is not to overuse the same vegetables in everything.  I have therefore developed these recipes with very little overlap or repetition of vegetables between recipes. 



Vegetable Pot Pie

2 cans cream of potato soup
2 soup cans milk
1 butternut squash, cubed
2 cups fresh or frozen broccoli florets
2 cups corn
8-12 asparagus spears, cut in 1 ½ inch pieces
1 cup sliced leeks
1 frozen deep dish pie shell, thawed, or 1 refrigerated (rolled) pie crust

1.  Empty soup into 11” X 13” casserole dish.  Fill cans with milk, and empty into dish.  Use spatula to scrape sides of can if necessary.  Stir or whisk to blend. 

2.  Stir in vegetables. 

3.  Top with pie shell.  There will probably be gaps.  Cut off excess to sides, if any.  Add pieces to gaps. 

4.  Bake at 350° for 60 minutes. 



Vegetable & Dumpling Soup

1/3 package of frozen flat dumpling strips, such as Annie’s Old Fashioned
1 bag frozen green beans, 10-16 oz
1 bag frozen lima beans, 10-16 oz
1 can sliced carrots, drained
2 cups frozen corn
2 boxes vegetable broth, about 1 liter
1 can cream soup
1 can water

1.  Empty broth into 5-6 quart Dutch oven pan, or stock pot.  Bring to a boil. 
2.  Break frozen dumpling strips into 1” pieces, and drop into boiling broth.  Cook at low boil for about 15 minutes.

3.  Add green beans and limas.  When mixture returns to a boil, time and cook another 30 minutes. 

4.  Add corn, carrots, soup and water.  Continue cooking at a low boil until all vegetables and the dumplings are cooked done. 



Cornbread Dressing & Vegetable Casserole

1 14-oz bag Pepperidge Farm cornbread stuffing mix, herb flavored
1 can cream of celery soup
3 cups hot vegetable broth
3 eggs, beaten
8 oz baby bella mushrooms, sliced or quartered
1 can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
1 medium sweet onion, diced

1.  Empty stuffing mix into a greased 11” X 13” casserole dish.  Pour broth on stuffing and stir to moisten. 

2.  Add eggs and cream soup.  Scrape can with spatula if necessary.  Stir into stuffing.  Stuffing should be well moistened, and loose.  Add additional broth if necessary.

3.  Stir in mushrooms, onions, and artichoke hearts. 

4.  Bake at 350° for 60 minutes. 

Chicken-less version of casserole with cornbread dressing


Meatless Mondays

I think these meatless versions of favorite chicken dishes make great family entrees.  Why not consider having Meatless Monday at your house? 

Meatless Mondays were introduced during World War I, and backed by President Hoover as an initiative to support the war effort by conserving staples.  Meatless Monday was resurrected in 2003 as a movement to promote better health.  Many medical experts and nutritionists now endorse less meat and more vegetables in our diet.  Environmentalists also endorse reducing meat consumption, as a measure to be kinder to the environment.  This is all a simplification of course.  The issues are more complex. 

Regardless, if you have decided to reduce your own meat consumption like I have, for whatever reason, you’ve come to the right place. 


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Barbecued Tofu

I had barbecued tofu in Austin at Mother’s Café.  It was too hot spicy for me, but I liked the idea of it.  I tried my hand at barbecued tofu, using a mild, but flavorful BBQ sauce.  I think the secrets to success are pressing the tofu, and choosing a barbecue sauce you really like.  Great for a vegan friendly meal with the barbecued tofu as the centerpiece. 


1 lb block of firm or extra firm tofu or 1 ½ to 2 boxes (12-oz) tofu

1 ½ to 2 cups of barbecue sauce


Use a barbecue sauce you really like. I used Kentucky Blues BBQ Sauce from vegan which sounded good.  It has a little bourbon.  Their Sweet and Spicy Barbecue Sauce also sounded good. 

If you don’t want to make barbecue sauce, there are hundreds of bottled sauces to choose from.


Marinate Tofu in Barbecue Sauce

1- Press tofu.  It’s easier than it sounds.  You can check out my post on How to Press Tofu. 

2- Pour ½ to ¾ cup of barbecue sauce in shallow plastic container with cover, or baking dish or pan. 

3- Place tofu slices over barbecue sauce. 

4- Spread ¾ to 1 cup barbecue sauce over top of tofu. 

5- Cover and place in refrigerator to marinate for at least 1 to 2 hours, but you can marinate overnight. 

Bake Then Broil Tofu
1- If you marinated the tofu in a plastic container, transfer the slices and sauce to an oven dish or pan. 
2- Heat for 20 to 30 minutes at 350º. 
3- Move close to broiler and broil for 3 to 5 minutes, until bubbly and starting to brown. 
Ruben Studdard and Soul Food
I have dabbled in vegetarian and vegan cooking in the last several months.  I got interested when researching vegan friendly versions of Southern Comfort food when I wrote an article on Ruben Studdard.  He was the “Velvet Teddy Bear” and season two American Idol winner.  He lost 40 lbs at a Duke University residential program, and continued to lose another 60 lbs afterwards.  He became a vegetarian shortly after discharging from the program, and subsequently decided to embrace veganism. 
Ruben stated on the Wendy Williams show that despite being a vegan, he still enjoys Soul Food and Southern comfort food.  He has favorite vegan restaurants, and has learned vegan cooking, so that he doesn’t feel deprived of his favorite foods.  This got me curious to search out recipes of vegan versions of fried chicken, barbecue, and other Southern classics. 
Doctors and nutritionists are increasingly recommending a 75% vegetarian diet to increase vegetables in the diet and reduce saturated fat.  Not ready to go 75%?  Consider replacing meat in your meals several times a week, with an alternative like barbecued tofu. 

How to Press Tofu

Why Press Tofu? 

I’m pretty funny about food texture, so I was hesitant to try tofu.  So far I have made barbecued tofu and fried tofu, and haven’t minded the texture at all.  Firm or extra firm tofu is used for most meat substitute uses of tofu.  I think the pressing also helps with having a firmer, more meat-like texture. 

Pressing Your Tofu

Most recipes for frying, baking or “barbecuing” tofu specify to press the tofu first.  It’s really easy but can be intimidating when you first read it.  Hopefully it’s pretty clear here, especially with the photos. 

1- Place a dish towel or hand towel on your clean counter.  In pressing the tofu, liquid will gradually ooze out, so you’ll want to have a towel down. 

2- Cover a cutting board with plastic wrap, waxed paper, or butcher paper.  Put the cutting board on top of your towel. 


3- Open tofu package.  Drain and discard the liquid.  Move tofu to cutting board.  If you are using a one pound block of tofu, you will want to cut the tofu block in half.  Then slice each half into three horizontal pieces.  If you have 12 ounce blocks of tofu, you will not need to cut it in half first. 


4- Spread the six tofu slices on the cutting board.  Cover the tofu with another sheet of plastic wrap or paper. 

5- Place a cookie sheet or baking pan on top of the tofu. 

6- Put heavy items on top of the cookie sheet or baking pan, making sure that pressure is applied evenly to the tofu slices.  I used small oven dishes for weight. 


7- You may need to add another layer of weight to the tofu.  Use another cookie sheet or baking pan, and additional weight.  I used plastic containers with water for my second layer. 

8- Leave the tofu with pressure applied for 45 to 60 minutes. 



Ways to Cook Pressed Tofu

Here are a few ways to cook your pressed tofu. 

1.  Southern Fried Tofu:  Coat in rice flour, dip in milk, then coat in mixture of nutritional yeast and spices.  Fry in olive oil in a hot skillet. 

2.  Barbecued Tofu:  Marinate tofu in a favorite BBQ sauce.  Place tofu on a baking pan, top with a little BBQ sauce, and cook under broiler until sauce is bubbly. 

3.  Wrap tofu slices in nori sheets.  Dip in tempura batter.  Fry, drain, and serve with tarter sauce on a bun, like a fish sandwich. 

4.  Sear one-inch tofu pieces in oil in a hot skillet.  Toss with sautéed vegetables and serve over rice, like Chinese food. 


Friday, September 28, 2012

My Absolute Favorite Homemade Vegetable Soup

This vegetable soup is basically the same soup my mom made each summer with fresh vegetables, then stored in the freezer to eat throughout the winter. Mom always made it with tomatoes, cabbage, corn, potatoes, okra, and butter beans. I add English peas, spinach, broccoli, green beans, and pureed carrots.

It recently occurred to me that the vegetable soup that I have always loved, is vegetarian and vegan friendly! Although at times I have seasoned it with bacon drippings, or added ground beef, most often I make it meatless, and season it with olive oil or coconut oil. It was very exciting to me that my ‘old faithful’ soup fits in with my new-found interest in vegetarian and vegan cooking.

Although I have discovered many new foods that are vegetarian and vegan friendly that I enjoy, it is likely there will never be a meatless meal I enjoy more than my long-time friend, homemade vegetable soup. So here’s my recipe. To try it is to love it!

Bowl of my homemade Vegetable Soup


2 large cans tomato juice, about 1 qt each

1 qt vegetable broth

1 bag raw shredded cabbage, or about ½ head shredded

1 box (10 oz) frozen chopped spinach

1 box (10 oz) frozen chopped broccoli

1 can carrots, pureed with juice

1 large can (38 oz) cut green beans, or 1 bag of frozen

1 bag frozen cut okra

2 bags frozen Fordhook lima beans

2 cans Green Giant Niblets corn, or 2-3 cups frozen corn

2 cans Green Giant Llessur English peas, or 2-3 cups frozen peas

6 potatoes, peeled and cut into large cubes, or if you are going to freeze some of the soup, 3 potatoes cubed

Seasoning is very subjective. This is an approximation of what I use:

2 Tbsp oil oil

1 Tbsp Lawry’s seasoned salt

1 Tbsp Lawry’s garlic powder with parsley flakes

1 Tbsp chili powder

1 Tbsp cumin

1 tsp cardamom

1 tsp coriander

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp black pepper

Sometimes I use Italian spices. Skip the cumin, cardamom and coriander. Add 1 tsp oregano, 1 tsp basil, 1 tsp rosemary, and 6 bay leaves.


1. Empty the tomato juice into a 15 to 20 quart stock pot. Add chicken broth.

2. Add cabbage, carrot puree, and spices. Stir to combine. Cover stock pot. Heat to a low boil. Simmer for about 30 minutes.

3. Add frozen chopped spinach and broccoli, and green beans. It will take a little time to return to slow boil. Once simmering again, cook for 30 minutes. As vegetables thaw, stir occasionally.

4. Taste the broth to see if you need to add more seasoning.

5. Add okra and vegetable oil to the soup and continue cooking at a low boil for 30 more minutes.

6. Cook lima beans in separate pot until they are tender. Salt the beans as needed. I put a peeled whole onion in my limas. When the beans are tender, remove the onion, but do not drain. Transfer cooked lima beans and juice to the soup mixture.

7. Again taste the soup broth. Add additional salt or spices if needed.

8. Boil the potatoes in water until tender. I use the same pot as I cooked the lima beans in.

9. Just before potatoes are ready, add corn and English peas, with juice from both, to the soup mixture.

10. I usually freeze some of the soup, and separate the soup into two portions at this time. I put potatoes in the portion I am going to eat in the next few days. Frozen and thawed potatoes change texture, and I don’t personally like the texture. When I thaw soup later, I add cooked potatoes.

11. Pour potatoes with the cooking water into soup mixture. Again test for seasonings.

12. Continue cooking, covered, at a low simmer until all ingredients are hot and flavors have blended.

Great Memories

My dad always eats saltine crackers with his soup. All I need for my soup is a spoon! When I was growing up, my mom would make vegetable soup in the summertime, with garden-fresh vegetables. She’d make it in this huge stockpot, and package it in quart and half gallon containers for the freezer. I never ate breakfast when I was young, except “vegetable soup season”, when I ate soup for breakfast.

I love this vegetable soup so much! When I make it, I usually freeze some, but I keep out enough to eat everyday for lunch for a week. It is definitely a family favorite. I hope that my vegan friendly vegetable soup soon becomes one of your family’s favorites.

Benefits of Vegetarian Meals

I have read several articles in which medical experts have sighted the health benefits of adopting a 75% vegetarian diet. There are many reasons for this. For those with high cholesterol and triglycerides, some would argue there may be dramatic decreases in these crucial lab values from a diet sparse in animal protein.

Other benefits to a diet of limited animal proteins may include decreased exposure to hormones and antibiotics given to livestock. Benefits to the environment and the economy from money saved in not processing and transporting meat are cited by some. Many believe scores more humans would be fed by eating grains, rather than feeding that same grain to cows.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Shepherd Salad and Rice Pilaf

I ate a lot of great food when I lived in Turkey.  Some of my favorites were home-cooked specialties that were quite labor intensive.  One of my favorite meals however was quite simple.  I loved Turkish rice pilaf with a big scoop of Shepherd salad on top. 

Shepherd salad, or coban (pronounced joe-bon) salad is usually made with chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, and parsley, with fresh garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and salt.  My favorite variation is chopped tomato, cucumber, and onion.  When I scoop my salad over my rice, I include a good amount of the juice (the mixture of the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and tomato juice). 

Shepherd salad is a great side dish for many meals, but I especially love it with rice. 

Shepherd Salad (Coban Salad)

1 large cucumber, peeled and chopped
1 medium sweet onion, peeled and chopped
2-3 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
1/3 cup lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil
Salt to taste

I usually combine the chopped cucumber and chopped onion in a bowl, add salt, and let sit for 30 minutes.  I refrigerate if I have room. 

I chop and salt the tomatoes separately.  I like to make enough Shepherd Salad for leftovers, but I mix with fresh tomatoes.  I prefer the texture of the fresh tomatoes versus the tomatoes refrigerated in the lemon and oil. 

Next I add the garlic, lemon juice and olive oil to the cucumbers and onions. 

Refrigerate for 20 minutes.  Add tomatoes before serving. 

Rice Pilaf

1 cup Uncle Ben’s long grain converted rice
1 cup medium grain rice, such as Hindoe
5 cups water
1/3 cup small, thin pasta
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
Chicken bouillon powder

Prepare rice pilaf similar to Rice-a-Roni.  Get oil hot in skillet.  Add pasta, when starting to brown, add butter.  Cook until pasta is browned.  Don’t add the butter too soon, because it will burn before the pasta is browned. 

Add rice, water, and about one heaping tablespoon of chicken bouillon.  Cover and cook on medium for 25 minutes or until water is absorbed. 

Serve pilaf with Shepherd Salad on top.  Rice pilaf is also great in tomato soup. 


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Fresh Vegetable Pasta

We had a simple, yet fabulous dinner last night of pasta with fresh vegetables.  My recipe yielded two large servings, which I immediately regretted.  This dish “tastes like more” as we often say at our house.  My rationale at the time was that I did not want to have leftovers because I wanted the pasta and squash warm, and my tomatoes room temp.  Since this dish does not have a sauce, it may not reheat well in the oven or on the stove top (I don’t use a microwave anymore.)  So be warned, you may want to bump up the recipe a bit, even if you don’t want leftovers, you may want more in the here and now. 

I really wanted to use vegetables from my Scott Arbor organic vegetable program.  I had loads of fresh squash and tomatoes, and had bought a few ears of fresh corn over the weekend.  I also had fresh organic basil, which I was too lazy to put in because of the late hour, but it would be a nice addition.  My final dish is a combination of a couple Rachael Ray recipes. 


1 small zucchini

1 small yellow squash

2 small tomatoes

2 ears corn

½ 8-oz box spiral pasta

¼ cup Parmesan cheese

2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1.  Cook pasta in salted water.  When done, drain and return to pot. 

2.  Cut zucchini and yellow squash into thin slices.  Sauté in olive oil, 2-3 minutes in batches in a hot skillet. 

3.  Cut corn off cob.  Sear in hot skillet, about 30-60 seconds. 

4.  Peel and dice tomatoes. 

5.  Combine pasta, zucchini, yellow squash, corn, and tomatoes.  Add a few tablespoons chopped fresh basil if you have it. 

6.  Serve with fresh grated Parmesan. 

Pappardelle Pasta with Corn, Squash, Onion and Mushroom

For this version, I used Bertolli Alfredo Sauce and fresh corn, tomatoes, yellow squash, baby bella mushrooms, and purple onions 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Greens and Things- Quiche

I made two quiche dishes using greens from my Scott Arbor organic vegetable delivery program a couple weeks ago. 

Greens & Cheese Pie

This is my version of Rachael Ray’s Swiss Chard ParmesanPie.  It’s like a crustless quiche, and very rich because of the egg yolks.  (Subsequently I have made this pie with 5 whole eggs.)  I used four different greens from my week 1 & 2 organic vegetable deliveries.  There was rainbow chard, kale, spinach, and a couple leaves of a green I did not recognize. 


2 lbs leafy greens
2 cloves garlic
8 large egg yolks (or 5 whole eggs)
1 cup whipping cream
½ cup feta cheese
½ cup parmesan cheese

1.  Remove stems and large ribs from greens.  Wash thoroughly and tear each leaf into a couple pieces. 
2.  Blanch greens in boiling water in batches, about 2 minutes.  Dip out, draining off water. 
3.  Drain off any excess water from greens, and place in food processor with minced garlic.  Pulse to chop. 
4.  Separate egg yolks and place into a medium bowl.  Beat yolks.  Add whipping cream or heavy cream. 
5.  Add cheese and greens.  Mix well to combine. 
6.  Bake 50 minutes at 350°. 

Scallion Quiche

The scallions in the vegetable delivery have been plentiful every week.  I decided to throw some in a quiche.  I used the 8 egg whites from the pie above, and used another 3-4 whole eggs.  This was way too much for my pie crust, so I made scrambled eggs with the leftovers for a breakfast taco the next day.  I have estimated 5 whole eggs for the recipe below. 


4 scallions with greens
1 cup sliced leeks
12 stalks asparagus
5 eggs
½ cup whipping cream
½ cup feta cheese
½ cup gruyere cheese
1 deep dish pie crust

1.  Thoroughly wash and slice scallions.  Use as much of the greens as are tender. 
2.  Thoroughly wash and slice leeks, white parts and a little of the greens.  You’ll probably only need one bulb. 
3.  Cut asparagus into one-inch pieces. 
4.  In a bowl, beat eggs and add whipping cream.  Stir in cheese (any favorite cheese will work). 
5.  Add vegetables. 
6.  Pour into deep dish pie crust.  I used a gluten free crust from Whole Foods. 
7.  Bake at 350° for one hour. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Okra, Tomatoes, & Potatoes

The end of the summer yielded lots of okra from my ScottArbor organic vegetable delivery program last year.  I cut some up and put it in the freezer and used it later for making vegetable soup. 

I also used organic okra for this new favorite meal.  It is reminiscent of the classic tomatoes and okra that we often had when I was growing up.  Fire roasted tomatoes really elevated this dish.  And for me, adding potato wedges, and serving the final product over rice made it a satisfying meal, rather than just a vegetable side dish. 


1 large can diced organic fire roasted tomatoes

2 cups water

2-3 cups okra cut into ½” rounds, stem ends disgarded

2 medium potatoes, cut lengthwise into wedges

Lawry’s seasoned salt

Lawry’s garlic with parsley

Cooked rice


1.  Empty fire roasted tomatoes into a Dutch oven pot.  Add water and heat over medium to a low boil. 

2.  Season with Lawry’s seasoned salt and garlic powder. 

3.  Add washed and sliced okra.  Cover and simmer 15-20 minutes. 

4.  In a saucepan, boil potatoes until done.  Drain and add to okra. 

5.  Simmer another 10 minutes. 

6.  Serve over rice.