Thursday, January 28, 2010

Vegetable Biriyani with mint and cilantro raita

Biriyani Ingredients
2 cups of basmati rice
8 pieces broccoli
8 pcs cauliflower,
1/2 cup peas,
1/2 cup chopped carrots,
1/4 cup corn,
1/2 chopped green beans,
2 tomatoes
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp grated ginger
2 cups yogurt
chilli powder
curry powder
turmeric powder
cardamom powder
5 cloves
pinch mustard seeds
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup chopped mint
salt to taste
enough oil to coat bottom of large frying pan

Add all ingredients with oil except rice and yogurt. Meanwhile, boil rice.
simmer all vegetables till cooked in the spices. Then add yogurt and simmer for a couple more minutes. Add salt to taste, bearing in mind you are going to mix this in with rice.Once done, mix the rice in with the vegetable mixture (make sure rice has cooled down).

Raita ingredients
1 cup yogurt
1/4 cup each of chopped mint and cilantro
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin

Stir all ingredients well.

serve rice with raita on the side.

I apologize for the spices not having amounts. I just cook by eyeballing everything, so just do that.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Vegetarian Pad Thai Egg Noodles

1 cup uncooked egg noodles (skinny noodles)
1/2 cup sliced green beans
1/2 sliced bell pepper
2-3 basil leaves
1/4 cup crushed almonds (peanuts, cashews...your favorite)
1 small onion
1 tsp crushed garlic
2 Tbsp olive/canola/vegetable oil
1 Tbsp chili oil
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp lemon juice
3 Tbsp pad thai paste

Boil noodles for about 2 minutes (slightly undercook). Strain and keep aside. Add oil, chopped onion and garlic to frying pan, and saute for about a minute. Add the rest of the veggies and stir fry for about 2-3 minutes. Add noodles and stir, breaking the clumps up if they stick. If the noodles are sticking, add a little more oil to help break the clumps. Add the nuts, pad thai paste, lemon juice and soy sauce (soy sauce/lemon juice to taste, add more or less if you like). Toss and stir until all ingredients are completely and evenly combined.

Serve with hot sauce if you like that kind of thing (I do!).

The hot sauce I used is Cluck U brand (don't knock it) 911 sauce. It's made from habaneros, one of the hottest peppers you can find. SO GOOD!!

With the hot sauce:

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Simple fruit and almond salad

The soup was so rich, I needed a refreshing cleanse. So for dinner tonight I had chopped strawberries, kiwi and a cocktail grapefruit with whole roasted almonds. The fruit refreshed and the nuts were very satisfying and filling.

If you've never had a cocktail grapefruit, it's delicious. Only a hint of that grapefruit bitterness, and very juicy and sweet.

Vegan Dad's Leek, Onion and Potato Soup

I tried this recipe out, and it was decent but not something I'd make again. Not that it was a bad recipe - It's great - but it just doesn't appeal to my taste, that's all.

It took over 2 hours to make. I finished at midnight, and I had worked that day and then went and spent an hour in a hot jacuzzi (not something I do often, my life is not one of leisure and luxury :) ), so cooking was taxing. But here it is:

Serves 6
- 2 tbsp oil
- 2 tbsp margarine
- 2 medium yellow onions, halved and sliced
- 5 leeks, white and light greens part, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups red wine
- 6 cups water or veggie stock
- 2 tsp sage
- 1/2 tsp coriander
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 tsp thyme
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- salt and pepper to taste (heavy on the pepper)
- 4 medium idaho potatoes, peeled, small dice
- 1 medium sweet potato, peeled, small dice
- 1 15 0z can white kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1. Heat oil and margarine in a large pot over medium heat. Add in onions and and saute for a few mins until they begin to soften. Then add in leeks and garlic and mix well. Once things are sizzling along, reduce heat to med-lo and cook, uncovered, for 45-60 mins, until onions and leeks become a nice golden brown. Stir occasionally to keep from sticking.
2. Add wine to the pot and stir to deglaze. Add in water, spices, soy sauce, potatoes and beans. Bring to bubbling, then reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 30-45 mins, until potatoes are soft but not mushy. Adjust seasoning to taste and serve.

Niki's notes: This recipe is from Vegan Dad, whose blog link is to the right ===>
I changed it up a little. For instance, his called for oregano and marjoram, and I used bay leaves and thyme as I had none. See his recipe for the original. His picture is also better :)

For the record, this is how cluttered it gets when I cook:

And that's a good day.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Chocolate Chip Flat Breads

Ok, I admit it. I tried to make cookies and they came out bread-like, so I christened them flat breads. But if you want chocolate chip flat breads, these are perfect!


* 1 cup butter
* 1/2 cup white sugar
* 1/2 honey
* 2 eggs
* 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
* 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 2 cups milk or dark chocolate chips


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets.
2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and honey until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well with each addition, then stir in the vanilla .Combine the flour, baking soda and salt; gradually stir into the creamed mixture. Finally, fold in the chocolate chips. Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto the prepared cookie sheets.
3. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, until light brown. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
*EDIT: Apparently they came out like cake because I used "I can't believe it's not butter" instead of real butter or shortening. LESSON LEARNED

I made my own chocolate chips by melting a chunk of callebaut dark chocolate in the microwave (careful, don't overheat. It doesn't look like it's melted when it actually is: take it out and stir to check).
Once melted, I used the wrong end of a fork (or spoon) to place little dollops of chocolate on a piece of wax paper laid on a tray:

I placed 3 trays (I used cutting boards too - flat surface) in the fridge and left them in there until the chips were completely cold (1/2 hour-1 hour depending on the variables):

Forgive the bad picture.

It was a fun project :)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Thai Tom Yum Mixed Vegetable Curry

Today I made a mixed vegetable Thai Tom Yum curry. I went in search for Thai curry paste, either green or red, and couldn't find any anywhere. i could only find the pre made sauce, bottled, which is only good for one use. Not worth it. So I got a jar of tom yum soup paste, and used it to make a curry.


3 tsp tom yum paste
1 can lite coconut milk
1/2 cup water
3-4 tsp thai peanut sauce
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp chillie oil
a pinch of grated fresh ginger
1/2 cup spinach
8 snow peas
8-10 green beans, cut into thirds
1/3 bell pepper, any color
6 basil leaves
1/2 chinese eggplant, diced

Serves only 2, so double if needed.

In a saucepan, add tom yum paste , peanut sauce, soy sauce and chillie oil to coconut milk and combine with a whisk. Add water and heat. Add ginger and vegetables, bring to a boil, and simmer till sauce is desired thickness and veggies are done to your liking. Add soy sauce at the end to taste (instead of salt).

Serve over jasmine rice

SO EASY! And tasty.

I'm pretty sure it would be nice with any veggies you like (except maybe carrots and celery, they don't go well with Asian food). Add or subtract as desired.

San-J Peanut sauce:

Deer brand Tom Yum paste:

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Bad food Day

I'm too depressed to write a lot about this. Suffice it to say I spent a couple hours cooking a spinach curry and beet salad, and it turned out so bad that I had to throw everything out. This has never happened to me. What a waste of time and money. the spinach looked like Linda Blair's puke and the shallots I put in the beet salad were so old (I just bought them!) they ruined the whole salad.

Otherwise, the beet salad I make is usually very good. I will give you the recipe another, happier day.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Niki's pumkin and carrot curry soup infused with ginger

Ok. This is by far the BEST pumpkin soup you will ever taste. I was wondering what I could make tonight with what I had in the house, aka I didn't want to spend any money. I had 15oz of pumpkin pulp (canned) left over from the pumpkin bars, and I decided to make pumpkin soup. I also had some baby carrots, ginger and celery, so voila: thus is born Niki's crazy pumpkin soup.

15oz pumpkin pulp
7-8 baby carrots
2 plum tomatoes (or any kind you like)
1 celery heart (with leaves)
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled
1 onion
1T butter
1t minced garlic
2t curry powder
1t sugar
1 bay leaf
1 curry leaf
1 pinch each of:
celery seed
cumin powder
coriander powder
chillie flakes

1/2 can coconut milk
1 1/2 cup vegetable stock

Blend tomatoes, ginger, carrots, celery heart and onion. Heat butter in a saucepan, and once melted, add garlic. Saute until fragrant. Add tomato puree, stir well. Add curry powder, stir. Add pumpkin and the rest of the ingredients except the milk and stock. Stir well and heat through. Add stock and milk. Stir well, and let the soup simmer and cook down to desired thickness. Add more stock or milk if desired. Finally add salt to taste.

I had the soup with some Freihofer's hearty 12 grain bread, which positively melted in my mouth. It was divine.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Pea and Carrot Matar; Indian food, the salvation of vegetarians

Indian food is delicious. There happen to be very many Indian vegetarian dishes in the cultural repertoire. Why? Because a lot of the country is vegetarian. Therefore, the Indian people had to make damn sure they knew how to whip up a mean veggie dish.

Today I made pea and carrot matar, which is peas and carrots simmered in a yummy spiced tomato sauce. everything is made from scratch, but it is very simple to make.

1 pinch mustard seeds
favorite kind of cooking oil
2 curry leaves
1/2 inch of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 onion, halved
2 green chillies
1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic
1 cup of frozed peas and carrots
1/3 can of coconut milk
1/2 cup of water

1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp each of:
curry powder
cumin powder
coriander powder
favorite chillie powder

Add oil to pot and heat. Add curry leaves, mustard seeds and 1/2 the onion (chopped). In a blender, combine chopped tomatoes, chillies, ginger, garlic, and half a chopped onion. Blend until smooth. Once the ingredients in the oil start getting fragrant, add tomato mixture. Add all spice powders, stir, and simmer for a while till flavors combine (4 mins approx). Add peas and carrots, coconut milk and water, stir to combine. Cover and simmer till sauce boils down and thickens (not too thick!). Add salt to taste.

Serve with white basmati rice.

The matar:

I added some cucumber salad to the dish, which is just chopped cukes, salt, pepper, vinegar and lemon/lime juice all to taste:

Applebee’s and work food

I’ve started to realize I should be taking pictures of the food I eat in restaurants. I wish you could have seen the plate of meatless nachos I got at Chevy’s (yuck) or the spinach dip at Applebee’s that looked so beautiful but gave me stomach cramps. It didn’t help that halfway through my meal one of my dinner companions informed me they put mayonnaise into the dip. GROSS.

The thing is, I remember the spinach and artichoke dip to be so lovely. Clearly it makes a difference when the dip is my entire meal.

The dip is served in a hot bowl, with a generous amount of tortilla chips to dip. They include a small cup of salsa, too, to break up the flavor. I appreciated that. However: the chips were deep fried and some still dripped with oil. I KNOW. Disgusting. The dip was more creamy (mayo-y) than cheesy or spinachy-artichoky, and therefore had very little flavor. The ONLY other vegetarian option on the menu, besides the veggie burger, was a queso-blanco dip (of course full of cheese) and I suspect they put bacon in that anyway. I was going to get that just to try something new, but they had run out by 10:15pm, so no dice.

Gross gross gross.

That was on Thursday. On Friday I was back at work. They had salmon and I was tempted, as I haven’t decided whether to allow myself a pescatarian diet or just stick to a plain vegetarian one. I passed this time. So I piled my plate with some rice that had peas and carrots in it, some beets and some cauliflower. It was after I started eating that I could really taste how much butter they put in the rice. I almost puked and ended up eating some creamy tomato soup with some rice in it to mask the butter, and some caesar salad (wilted and soggy). I will have to bring my own food to work from now on.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


I went to Chevy's yesterday for a friends bday. Honestly....there are no options for vegetarians. My friend Steph is a veg too, and we have a plat of nachos sans the meat. It has some kidney beans, a tiny amount of guac and sour cream, some lettuce and pico de gallo. I'm going to Applebee's tonight, and I called them to see what their veg options were. "Um...we have a veggie burger?" That was it. They said they could make any dish and omit the meat. On their menu, a lot of their dishes contain a warning that says "may contain bacon." It's like they put bacon in everything. I don't know why I'm so surprised....I've always hated large unholy chains. They're so unoriginal.

I guess the East cast is so into meat that there aren't as many veg restaurant options as there are out West. It's pretty sad. I almost feel guilty that I was so unaware of this until I became a vegetarian. There are a lot of Hindu people in this area, and I know there are a lot (thank God) of Indian restaurants in the area that serve veg options because of it. But, if a group of friends go out to one of the pervasive chains, or if one has to go on an obligatory work dinner or a bday party, options are very limited. Oftentimes, restaurants like this have ONE vegetarian option at the MOST. I am sure that upon request, meat can be omitted from some dishes like at Applebee's, but the dish is not meant to be served that way and is subsequently inferior.

It's lucky I can cook and also that I love Indian food.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Mango Banana smoothies and hard times

Today was really tough. Actually, last night and today. It's at night for some reason that I start thinking about how much I want meat. I didn't sleep very well. I almost gave up today (like yesterday) but I hung in there. BF and I moved some stuff into a friend's place to be stored, and they wanted pizza. I was about to get a spinach calzone or something, when I decided to get come veggie fried rice from Hunan Wok, my fave fave Chinese food place. I am a Chinese take-out expert, and no one makes it like they do. True, they've been shut down *ahem* THREE times for health code violations, and I HAVE found a band aid in my food once...just once...there, but hell...I'm still alive and their food is the shiznit.

So that's what I had for lunch. Chinese veggie fried rice with a ton of hot sauce (gotta have the hot sauce).

I think that if I satisfy my meat cravings with some other thing that I crave sometimes, like pizza or whatever, maybe my "crave" instinct will turn off. I have head of new vegetarians compensating with eating a lot of sweets, which of course is bad. I am consciously trying not to do that. In fact, I have noticed some cravings for sweets, but have ignored them specifically because I am sure they are related to my body trying to compensate. Today, I chose to avoid cheesy Italian food and went with the (oily, sigh) Chinese food. Avoiding to much dairy seems to be smarter as I'm not used to large volumes of it. I am more used to Chinese Food.

For an afternoon snack I had a mango banana smoothie. Just one mango, one banana, and some ice. That's it. It turned out well. My mango was overripe, so it was a good use for it.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Maeda-En Green Tea Ice Cream

I searched high and low in NJ for Soy ice cream and green tea ice cream. For my future reference, Foodtown, Pathmark and Shoprite do not have soy ice cream (??) but Whole Foods does. Also, NONE of these stores have green tea ice cream, but the local Chinese food market does. I am seriously grateful to be in an area with so many ethnic food stores. I just wish some sort of African food store would open now. I really wanna try Harissa.

So I ventured into the Chinese store for the 2nd time in my life, bracing myself for the stares, but since it was midday, it was ok. I mean I can pull off Indian (I'm Sri Lankan) but not Chinese. I just look like a tourist or something.

I bought what they had, which was:

It was nice.

It had that distinctive tea leaf taste, stronger than in the ice cream I've had at Hibachi restaurants, and the creaminess reminded me of some homemade avocado ice cream I once had in Beruwala, Sri Lanka.

Veggie Lunch: Potato Masala curry and Eggplant curry

Today was tough. I didn't think I could make it through. I was having severe meat cravings, but I forced myself to ignore them.

I bought veggies at Patel Bro.s food market (Parsippany NJ), and was amazed at how cheap it all was. I bought:

3 tomatoes
1 section of fresh ginger root
1 longish snakegourd
1 midsized eggplant
1 5lb bag of potatoes
1 sizeable jar of garam masala
1 jar of sweet lime pickle
6 green chillies
1 bag frozen lotus root

it came to $12 and change!!!!

And I cannot believe I found snakegourd and lotus root.

Anyway, I made potato and eggplant curry, and ate it with basmati rice and a dollop of the delicious Swad sweet lime pickle. It was YUMMY. That pickle was really really good, and really gave such pizazz to a lunch I was dreading. It was sweet, but tangy and hot. I sort of poured out the excess oil from the top of the jar. It has chilie seeds and lime rinds in it, which were great. meat = no problem (for one more day).



Swad sweet lime pickle:

Pumpkin Bars

Hey all
I made Pumpkin Bars for the house, and with me subbing honey for sugar and adding nutmeg, they came out scrumptious:

Pumpkin Bars (recipe courtesy Patty Ronning, adapted by Paula Deen, and further adapted by Niki)


* 4 eggs
* 1 cup of honey, add some sugar to taste
* 1 cup melted butter or oil
* 15-ounce can pumpkin
* 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
* 2 teaspoons baking powder
* 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
* 1 dash of fresh grated nutmeg
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1 teaspoon baking soda


* 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
* 1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
* honey to texture and taste
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Using an electric mixer at medium speed, combine the eggs, sugar, oil and pumpkin until light and fluffy. Stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and mix at low speed until thoroughly combined and the batter is smooth. Spread the batter into a greased 13 by 10-inch baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting. Cut into bars.

To make the icing: Combine the cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the sugar and mix at low speed until combined. Stir in the vanilla and mix again. Spread on cooled pumpkin bars.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Thai Vegetable soup; Or, Becoming a Vegetarian

On Sunday I got violently sick. I though it was from a homemade burger I had had that night for dinner. I felt so nauseous after eating. After a medicinal solution from the BF, I felt slightly better but got hungry again and housed some canned (ugh) chicken soup. Fast forward to the middle of the night and let’s just say it was coming out both ends. Ok that wasn’t so subtle…but it wasn’t pretty. I’m traumatized.

I made Veg soup the next day. Plain old veggies and broth, no noodles, rice or trimmings, soup. It lasted for a couple days, over which time I realized I had probably caught a bug (as opposed to food poisoning) as BF’s cousin had had the same thing a few days earlier.

I threw the burger patties I made out the window for the stray cats nonetheless, moved to waves of nausea every time I thought of meat. Talk about negative association.

I have now made the tentative decision, after a successful week of vegetarian subsistence, to try and become and actual vegetarian. Why? I feel healthier, my skin feels better, and I have lost 3 pounds. Nice, right?

I remade my veg soup after I ran out, and added extra lemon, cilantro and coconut milk for a Thai twist. I also threw in curry powder, cumin, coriander and ginger. Turned out quite well. A whole pot that lasts me days (BF is not a healthy eater) may have been a bit much, but still, I like it:

Around 12 cups of water (I usually use enough for whatever amount of veggies I have to cover, and adjust other ingredients accordingly. I never measure, I throw sh*t in).
Some bouillon cubes of your choice (or powder, or nothing)
Approx 1t of cumin, coriander, ginger and curry powder. Omit any of these you don’t like.
Veggies I had in the house:
Green beans
(leeks are a great addition)
red lentils (adds amazing texture, I always add these to my Veg soup).
Tomatoes (2 or 3)
Salt and pepper
Half can of coconut milk

Boil all ingredients, adding cilantro/coco milk towards the end. Boil till flavours are combined and veggies are cooked through. Salt through to taste.

Remember you can add ANY veggies you like. To make regular veggie soup, omit cilantro, coco milk, coriander, cumin and ginger. I like to keep the curry powder in, it adds a nice depth of flavour.
The pics are my thai veg soup both:


and blended