Welcome to Romeo's Food Lady! This blog contains recipes for delicious vegetarian food. Most of these are not recipes authored by me. Rather, this is just a compilation of great veggie food I've found from all over the place, usually tweaked just a little. It's intended to be a reference FOR ME so I don't lose great food I've found nor the changes I've made to suit my tastes, but I'm happy for you to use it, too. After more than 25 years of being a vegetarian, I know what tastes good.
Romeo's Food Lady is named after my friend and cat, Romeo. Romeo is not a vegetarian, but his Food Lady is!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Soft Pretzels

Scott recently made some soft pretzels, and I think they would be PERFECT for your gameday party on Sunday.  He used an easy recipe from the 75th anniversary edition of Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, and Ethan Becker.  Scott and I both highly recommend this cookbook.  Check out his delicious results, below!

1 c. warm water (105 - 115 degrees F), separated
2 1/4 t. active dry yeast (1 envelope)
3 c. all-purpose flour
2 t. vegan margarine, melted (I like to use Earth Balance brand.)
1 T. sugar
1/2 t. salt
2 T. plus 1 t. baking soda
coarse salt
In a large bowl, combine 1/2 c. warm water and the yeast.  Let stand until yeast is dissolved, about 5 minutes.
Add flour, margarine, sugar, and 1/2 t. salt.  Mix this by hand while slowly pouring in the other 1/2 c. warm water.  Stir for a minute, adding more water if needed to make a moist but not sticky dough.  Knead for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.  Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl and turn the dough to coat it with oil.  Loosely cover the bowl and let it rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, 1 - 1.5 hours.
Punch down the dough and divide it into 8 - 12 pieces, depending on how thick you want the pretzels.  (The recipe calls for 12 pieces, which is what Scott made.)  On an unfloured work surface, roll each piece into a ball.  Loosely cover with oiled plastic wrap and let rest for 10 minutes.
Grease 2 baking sheets.  Roll each ball int an 18-inch-long rope, working from the center outward and slightly tapering the ends.  To form the pretzels, lift the ends of the rope and bring them to meet at the 12 o'clock position, forming an oval.  Twist the 2 ends once or twice around one another about 3 inches from the ends, then fold back down over the oval pressing the twist at the 6 o'clock position of the oval.  Place the pretzels on the baking sheets, cover, and let rise in a warm place until nearly doubled in volume, about 35 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Bring 8 cups of water plus the baking soda to boil in a large pot or Dutch oven, then reduce the heat to a simmer.  Using a slotted spoon, gently slide one or more pretzels into the simmering water.  Simmer for 30 seconds, then flip over and continue to simmer until puffed, approximately 30 more seconds.  Returned to greased baking sheet and sprinkle with coarse salt to taste.
Once all the pretzels have been boiled and salted, bake until deep golden brown, about 15 minutes.
Makes 8 - 12 pretzels.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Spring Rolls!

Ever since Scott made a layer cake at Christmas, he's been on a cooking kick. The sweet joy of success is eating your own creation! I have to give him credit for taking on the task of finding ingredients for and making such a foreign food, which we fell in love with at a local Vietnamese restaurant. With the aid of the classic cookbook Joy of Cooking, he recreated our beloved dish perfectly at home!

First make the peanut dipping sauce, which we mixed with store-bought chili garlic sauce. I could eat this with a spoon!

2 t. canola oil
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 t. peeled and minced fresh ginger
1/2 t. crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 c. water
2 T. soy sauce (or tamari or shoyu)
2 T. fresh lime juice
2/3 c. chunky peanut butter
1 T. brown sugar, or to taste

Heat the canola oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until golden brown (about 1 minute). Add the water, soy sauce, lime juice, peanut butter, and brown sugar. Cook, stirring, until thickened (about 4 minutes).
Serve warm or at room temperature. This sauce will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 1 week.

Now make the rolls:

4 large red-leaf lettuce leaves, washed, large stems removed, leaves torn into large pieces
1 large carrot, peeled and shredded
1 c. bean sprouts, rinsed
1/2 c. cilantro leaves, minced
8 scallions, washed and chopped, white and green parts
2.5 oz. vermicelli noodles, broken in half (or use cellophane noodles or rice stick noodles)
3 T. canola oil
1 lb. firm Chinese-style tofu, water squeezed out, cut into 1/2-inch chunks  (I like to freeze my tofu for 24 hours, then thaw it.  It improves the texture.)
8 12-inch round sheets of rice paper (This stuff is edible, even though it does not appear to be when first taken from the package.)

First make sure all your vegetables are prepared and ready to go.  Put a large saucepan over high heat and bring 4 c. water to boil.  Cook the noodles until just firm to the bite.  Drain and rinse under cold water.

In the meantime, heat the canola oil over medium-high heat in a large non-stick skillet.  Add the tofu to the hot oil and brown on 2 sides of each chunk.  Remove from heat.

Lay a damp kitchen towel on the counter.  Have a large bowl of hot water (115 - 120 degrees F).  Dip 1 sheet of rice paper into the water, completely submerging it, and quickly remove it to lay flat on the damp towel.  Slightly lower then center and leaving about 1 inch on the right and left, put a horizontal line of lettuce, then noodles, then bean sprouts, then tofu, then cilantro, then scallions, then carrots (about 1/8 of each ingredient).  Fold the right and left sides in and overlapping the filling by about an inch so that the paper sticks to itself above and below the filling.  Bring up the bottom edge of the paper to cover the filling and stick to the rice paper at the top of the filling.  Now roll tightly into a neat cylinder.

If the rice paper starts to tear, overlap it with another sheet of paper (prepped in the hot water, as usual), using 2 sheets for one roll.

Cut each roll on the diagonal with a sharp knife and serve immediately as the rice paper will toughen with time.  Serve with peanut dipping sauce and, if you want, some chili garlic sauce.  Makes 8 delicious servings.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Brussels Sprouts Ragout

I modified this recipe from one in the local daily newspaper, The Commercial Appeal. They cited their source as Vegetarian Times. They had it with a lemon/balsamic vinegar/maple syrup pan sauce, but I like it better with a simple shot of lemon. If you're not crazy about Brussels sprouts, this is one way to make them more approachable, mixing them with other vegetables. If you ARE crazy about Brussels sprouts (like me), it's yet another way of enjoying them!
2 T. vegan margarine (I use Earth Balance.)
2 T. olive oil
1 lb. Brussels sprouts, washed/stemmed/quartered
2 1/2 c. thickly slicked leeks, all of the white and some of the green  (Wash the slices carefully, because leeks often have dirt and grit in the layers.
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 c. baby spinach, washed
salt and freshly-ground pepper, to taste
juice of 1 fresh lemon
1/2 c. toasted pecans (optional - Scott won't touch a savory dish with nuts in it!  You don't have to, either!)

Heat 1 T. margarine and 1 T. olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the Brussels sprouts, cover, and cook 8 - 10 minutes or until some are browned.  Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl.

Return the pot to medium-low heat and heat the remaining 1 T. margarine and 1 T. olive oil.  Add leeks, cover, and cook 7 - 10 minutes or until leeks are soft and some are browned.  Uncover, add garlic, and sauté 1 minute.  If any browned bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pan, add 2 T. water to the pan and use a spatula to scrape them up, but do not remove them.

Mix the Brussels sprouts back in with the leeks, add the spinach, and cook until the spinach is wilted.  Stir in lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste.  Garnish with pecans, if using.

Serves 2 - 3 as a side dish.

Gravy Two Ways

Making gravy can be a mystery, even for experienced cooks. My mom once gave me the advice that if you find a method that pretty much works for you, just stick with it. There are many stories about gravy that could be cut with a knife from when she and my dad first got married over 40 years ago. Today, she's an expert at making gravy, but I only really got the hang of it a few years ago. I'm going to give you some general guidelines here, but know that the amounts of everything are sort of guesswork, and you wing it as you go. You have to get a feel for it, and that takes a little practice.

The first gravy recipe is what we in the South call "milk gravy", and it's served on biscuits (recipe here) for breakfast or for that hallowed Southern tradition "breakfast for dinner". I keep the "milk" part to a minimum, but I have to admit I never have found a good vegan substitute for at least a little milk in this gravy. Soy milk gives it a distinctive taste that is not great, and rice milk and almond milk are too sweet. Vegans, take heart, though! The 2nd way of making gravy, below, is vegan.

all-purpose flour
salt and freshly ground pepper
canola oil
1 T. powedered/dried goat's milk mixed with 1 c. water. (I use Meyenberg brand, and I get it at Whole Foods. I like dried goat's milk, because I don't use much milk and this allows me to keep it for a long time. You can use "regular" goat's or cow's milk - although goat's milk irritates the sinuses less - but if you're trying to minimize dairy, like me, dilute it by combining 1/4 c. milk with 3/4 c. water.)

This will approximately describe portions to serve 2 - 3 people, but you can multiply it out as needed. In a medium-sized skillet, put in about 1/3 c. - 1/2 c. flour plus a generous amount of salt and pepper. Let's say 1/2 t. salt, but you may have to add more at the end if it tastes too bland. Sorry, but milk gravy is salty. Now, shake the pan so that the flour spreads out across the bottom of the skillet and put it over medium heat. At this point, you want to toast it until you start to smell it and the edges of the flour mass start to brown. You want to get to this point, but no further (so keep an eye on it) before you:

Add just enough canola oil so that, when mixed with a fork, everything is just barely wet enough to bubble over the heat. Don't add too much oil, but it shouldn't be too dry to bubble. It'll make more sense when you're doing it. Use a fork to make sure everything is well-mixed, because failure to do so will result in lumpy gravy. From this point forward, use the fork to eliminate lumps. It is your mission.
Now take your goat's milk/water mixture and pour about 1/4 c. into the pan.  It will sizzle and get soaked up by the roux almost immediately.  Constantly use your fork to mash the more solid pieces into the milk/water to incorporate the liquid and keep the gravy from being lumpy.  When the milk is completely incorporated, which will happen fast, do another 1/4 c.  Repeat until all the milk/water mixture is thoroughly mixed into the roux, and keep your fork moving.  Now you'll have something that looks like super thick gravy.

Keep adding water (no milk now) in small increments and using the ever-moving fork to combine and avoid lumps until you have gravy that is the consistency you want.  If you accidentally get it too thin, keep it boiling until some of the water boils off, and it will be fine.  Remember, too, that once the gravy cools slightly, it will be a little thicker.

Taste and adjust for salt and pepper.  Now you're ready to pour it over your biscuits and have a great Southern breakfast dish!

The second gravy recipe comes from The New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook, which I have had for many years and still love.  They call it "Golden Gravy", because it has nutritional yeast in it.  Nutritional yeast, according to the cookbook, has good quality proteins and B vitamins, which are so important in vegan diets.  This gravy is completely vegan and would generally be used over mashed potatoes (see a recipe, here) or in a vegan pot pie, which I'll give you the recipe for later.  This one has more definite measurements and concise instructions, so inexperienced cooks will be more comfortable with this one.  The method, though, will be very similar to above.  If you can master this gravy, you can master the previous one!

1/3 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
salt and freshly-ground pepper, to taste
1/3 c. nutritional yeast flakes (Note that nutritional yeast comes in POWDER and in FLAKES.  Use FLAKES in this recipe.)
1/4 c. canola oil or vegan margarine
2 c. water
1 T. soy sauce (or tamari or shoyu)

Add the flour, salt, and pepper to a medium skillet and shake the skillet so that the flour spreads across the surface.  Toast it over medium-low heat until you can start to smell it and the edges are just barely starting to brown.  Stir in the yeast, then add the oil.  Cook until bubbly.  Add 1/2 c. water, and stir into the roux with a fork to eliminate all lumps.  Repeat in 1/2 c. increments until the water is fully incorporated.  Add the soy sauce, taste, and adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Tortellini Soup Verdura

This soup is from Food Network magazine and can be made lacto-vegetarian or vegan. I highly recommend the vegan version, because the soup has a very clean look and feel that I think dairy kind of corrupts. BUT, you're the one eating it, so you decide!

1 T. extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, diced
3 medium carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise, and sliced
3 stalks celery, sliced
1 t. chopped fresh thyme (or 1/2 t. dried thyme)
2 c. vegetable broth
1 9-oz pkg of vegetarian or vegan (like tofu or mushroom) tortellini or ravioli (You could also just use some sort of small, chunky pasta, but it won't be as "special.")
5 c. fresh baby spinach, washed and roughly chopped
salt and freshly-ground pepper, to taste

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery, and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the broth and 3 cups water, and increase heat to high. Cover, and bring to a boil, then add tortellini or ravioli. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer until pasta is tender. (See pkg label for approximate cooking time.)

Add the spinach to the soup and cook, stirring, until wilted. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  I use plenty of both!

Serves 4.

NOTE: To made the soup a little heartier, you can add 1 15-oz. can of white beans, Great Northern beans, or navy beans, rinsed and drained.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Pumpkin Pound Cake

Here's a great seasonal recipe I got from Country Living magazine's November 2012 issue. You can use mashed sweet potatoes OR pureed pumpkin, so it's a great way to use up leftovers if you have just a bit left after opening a can or making a recipe.
non-stick baking spray OR vegan margarine for greasing the pan plus flour
1.5 c. all-purpose flour
1 t. baking powder
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ground nutmeg
1/4 t. baking soda
1/8 t. salt
1 stick vegan margarine (I prefer Earth Balance brand.), at room temperature
3/4 c. granulated sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 t. vanilla OR almond extract
1 c. leftover mashed sweet potatoes OR pureed or canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
2 large eggs, at room temperature (vegans can try substituting Ener-G Egg Replacer)
1/2 c. chopped pecans
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9-inch loaf pan.
In a medium bowl, sift flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, and salt together. (Use a fork to fluff them together if you don't have a sifter.)
In a large bowl and using an electric mixer at medium speed, cream butter, sugars, and flavoring extract until light and fluffy. Blend in sweet potatoes or pumpkin puree, then eggs one at a time. With mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in thirds. Blend until just combined.
Spoon batter into the greased and floured loaf pan. Sprinkle with pecans, and bake until the cake tests clean when a wooden skewer is inserted into the middle, 65 - 75 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool for about 15 minutes. Release cake from pan to cool completely.
Makes about 8 servings.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

Romeo and his food lady wish you a happy, healthy, and fortunate 2013!
PS - It's Romeo's birthday!  He's 8 today!