Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Creamy Chickpea Casserole

I served this delicious casserole with grilled corn 'off the cob,' and roasted asparagus. 

What Satisfies

students who play guitar
11 bell ringers
being a character in someone’s fiction
mulching all by myself
clean windows
new white bed sheets
sleeping dogs
creamy casseroles
a white peony 

One easy meal that I have missed making and eating since becoming vegan, is the classic casserole. Protein and veggies swimming in creamy sauces satisfy the palate. Plus, they’re a cinch to make ahead and serve to a crowd. A few years ago, I hosted a party and made a Cheesy Chicken Casserole, (find that recipe here), and I made my own vegan portion by swapping mushrooms for the chicken, and ate it without anyone knowing the difference. I guess, looking back, I felt embarrassed, for whatever reason, to serve the mushroom version to my guests. Times have changed.

This excellent Creamy Chickpea Casserole is based on a classic from my childhood – in fact, I like it so much, I have featured it twice already here on my blog: once with chicken and dairy cheese and once as a chickpea vegan variety.

Today’s post is the almost perfected version – except for the horrible photos. Which means that I’ll have to post about this again in the future. It’s worth it.

Creamy Chickpea Casserole-Take Two

Make a batch of vegan cream of chicken soup by blending the following:
1 pound firm tofu
2 t vegan chicken base / seasoning
2-3 t curry
1 ½ t onion powder
1 ½ t garlic powder
½ t turmeric
¼ C milk or water

For the casserole
Saute a few stalks of celery until they are soft but not brown. Place in a large bowl and add a can of drained and rinsed chickpeas, some toasted sliced almonds, the correct amount of soup base, some mayo (1/2 C or so), and lemon juice to taste. Oh, also add some cooked rice, but not too much! The last time I made this I added too much and it totally dried out. Keep it satisfyingly saucy.

Mix well. Pour into casserole. Grate cheddar over the top. Bake till warm. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

Rhubarb Toad

There’s a toad living in my rhubarb patch
I rescued him from the middle of the lawn last month
He almost got chopped in the lawn mower.
Caught him in a bucket
     Neighbors watched
          John Deere in idle
               Dumped him in the rhubarb
“Stay!” said I.

I saw him today and felt happy. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

Salsa Suiza Two

Do not, I repeat DO NOT grow tomatillos in your home garden unless you are prepared for 300 tiny invasive plants next year. I grew three tomatillos last year, and this year I have 300. It’s like magic! I’m NOT laughing! So much weeding….but I am allowing three of them to continue to grow in my garden this summer, because I want more Salsa Suiza. I guess the weeding is worth having more of these amazingly tart fruits and more of this gorgeous green and creamy sauce.

A smear of homemade almond cheese, chipotle seasoned refried beans, and a shred or two of vegan cheddar.
Roll up and place in 9x13. I use some green salsa on the bottom and also on the top of the burritos to
keep them from drying out. Bake, covered, until warm....maybe 20 minutes or so. 

Last fall, I experimented with my tomatillos – first making a salsa, that was not near hot enough for us. Then adding more heat, only to find out that the texture was weird. I strained the entire batch and added cream cheese and voila! I had created my own Salsa Suisa.

Well, as the three tomatillos in my garden currently plot to take over the world, we are quietly eating the remaining Salsa Suiza from the freezer.  It raises the humble bean burrito to a gourmet meal.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Rhubarb Martini

Tired of Cosmopolitans and Margaritas? Want to wow your friends at your next cocktail party? Need a little something to lift your spirits? Is it 5:00?

There’s a simple solution! Make this syrup and add vodka.

Rhubarb Syrup

3 C chopped rhubarb
1 ½ C water
1 C sugar

Simmer for about 10-15 minutes, or until all the rhubarb has broken down and gotten all soft and mushy.  Cool a bit. Pour through mesh strainer – resist the temptation to press on the solids. You only want the gorgeous pink syrup. To really make a clear syrup, also strain the liquid  through cheese cloth. You'll be amazed at how much of the solids the cheesecloth will catch. The color just keeps getting prettier and prettier every time you strain it. 

I mix this with lemonade, ice tea, and seltzer water….but it’s best with vodka. It freezes like a dream.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Moong Dal Tadka

Have you shopped on Devon Street in Chicago? Yes? Then you already know that it’s a little India – clothing, groceries, restaurants, and people. We recently took a ½ hour detour on our way through the windy city to visit Devon street and to purchase some spices and dal.

“What’s dal?” you ask. Dal, or dhal, or daal, is quite simply a split, dried pulse.

“What’s a pulse?” you ask. A pulse is a pea, bean, chickpea, or lentil.

The first time I ever entered an Indian grocery, I was speechless at the variety of dal and beans and lentils and chickpeas. It’s crazy how many types of legumes exist! And the spices! We are really limited in choice in the American spice aisle when compared to the Indian spice aisle.

We ended up purchasing two large bags of dal (dried, split beans): a mung bean and a chickpea, both dried and split, and so now called dal…. or daal, or dhal.

I’ve had to put on my detective cap and search far and wide to learn how to prepare these tiny beans. Soup is the obvious first choice, but last night, I made this Moong Dal Tadka.

“What’s tadka?” you ask. Tadka means ‘tempered’ …. in other words, ‘all the spicy goodness you add to the dal to make it taste great.’ In this case: ginger, garlic, jalapeno, cumin seed, garam masala, and pepper.

Moong Dal Tadka (adapted from

For the Dal
¾ C moong dal (dried split mung beans)
1 medium onion, diced
2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 inch of fresh ginger, minced
¼ t red pepper powder
½ t turmeric powder
3 C water

For the Tadka
1 T butter (Earth Balance)
1 T vegetable oil
1 t cumin seeds
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
¼ - ½ t garam masala powder
¼ t red pepper powder
1 jalapeno, diced (with or without the seeds, depending how hot you want it)

Place the dal ingredients in a pressure cooker and process for about 10 minutes. I suppose you could simmer it all on the stove also.

Warm the butter and oil over medium heat. Add the tadka ingredients being very careful not to burn the garlic! Just warm and soften it all.

Mix together and serve with white rice. I also served frozen peas with a bit of fresh spinach and fresh chives.