Curried “Meat” Hand Pies (vegan)

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This past summer, I’ve finally created a sustainable approach to cooking for one (hungry) person. I aim for fresh meals and zero waste, and so far it’s working well. As a result I’ve been thinking a lot about my food philosophy and approach to cooking.

On one hand, I’m a huge fan of the minimalist approach to cooking. I love simple high-quality dishes with flavors that are bright and true, rather than cluttered and muddled. Think, Minimalist Baker or Budget Bytes.

At the same time, some of the best foods have page long lists of ingredients that combine to form the perfect symphony of flavors. Think, Lady and Pups or Serious Eats.

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I’m still trying to figure out where I should focus my cooking with respect to these two extremes, but I’ve found it’s usually better to start simple.

These curry “meat” pies are my take on Jamaican Hand Pies. I combined a few of the recipes I found online, stripping down the ingredients to my kitchen staples (hence, the minimalism). TVP might not be a kitchen staple of yours (yet), but I recommend buying a bag because it’s cheap, an easy protein addition to sauces and soups, and it has a shelf life of over a year. If you’re still hesitant, feel free to replace it with a generous ¾ cup of crumbled tofu or 8 ounces of ground beef.

Until I get a chance to try authentic Jamaican pies, I can’t say how close they taste to the real things, but they are savory and flavorful, and my friends inhaled them. I’m headed back to college soon, but my next kitchen with have a freezer stocked with these for sure (they’re basically a much improved hot pocket). These and this vegetable lasagna. So good.

Curry “Meat” Hand Pies

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup tvp “grains”
  • 3 tablespoons butter, margarine, or olive oil
  • 3 oz diced yellow onion
  • 4 oz sweet potatoes, diced in small pieces
  • 2 oz carrots, diced in small pieces
  • 4 oz cabbage, finely chopped
  • 2 oz frozen or fresh peas
  • 3 tsp beef flavored bouillon (3 cubes in my case)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • ¼ cup tomato sauce (or ¼ cup water and 2 tbs tomato paste)
  • 2 sheets puff pastry (1 box)
  • optional: 2 tbs crushed walnuts, salt or soy sauce to taste

Preparation process:

Combine in a bowl:

  • 1/3 cup tvp pellets
  • ½ cup boiling water

Stir, and let sit for 20 minutes so that the tvp can rehydrate (you can proceed while waiting).

In a large saucepan, cook at medium-low heat:

  • 3 tablespoons vegan butter or olive oil
  • 3 oz diced yellow onion

Continue cooking the onion until it is soft and light golden brown. Then, add:

  • 4 oz sweet potatoes, diced in small pieces
  • 2 oz carrots, diced in small pieces
  • 4 oz cabbage, finely chopped

Once the vegetables are beginning to soften, add the the pan:

  • the rehydrated tvp
  • 3 tsp beef flavored bouillon (3 SMALL–much smaller than the boillon cubes i’ve used in the past–cubes in my case)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • ½ tsp cumin powder
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • ¼ cup tomato sauce (or ¼ cup water and 2 tbs tomato paste)
  • optional: 2 tbs crushed walnuts

Continue cooking for 10 minutes, adding a few tablespoons water if the filling mixture looks dry.

Lastly, fold in:

  • 2 oz frozen or fresh peas

Taste, and add a pinch of salt or drizzle of soy sauce if desired (I added ½ tsp soy sauce). Transfer the “meat” pie filling to a bowl and refrigerate until cold.

While the filling is chilling, place a box of frozen puff pastry out to defrost for 45 minutes and preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Cut the two puff pastry sheets (each box of puff pastry should come with 2 sheets) into four pieces each. Put away 2 pieces for later use. I went this route and made peanut butter banana pastries. So good.

Roll out the remaining 6 pieces of puff pastry into thin squares. Place 1/6 of the filling onto one side of each square (each side is a triangle), leaving a ¼ inch border between the edge of the puff pastry and the filling.

Fold the puff pastry over the filling, creating a triangle shape.Crimp the edges with a fork, making sure to not leave any gaps where the filling might fall out.

Now, either bake at 400 degrees until golden brown (~15-25 minutes) OR put the “meat” pies into the freezer. Frozen pies can be baked straight from the freezer at 400 degrees for about 25-35 minutes. The pies are down when they are golden brown and flaky, and the filling is steamin’ hot.

Enjoy!

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The Greatest Healthy Zucchini Cake (vegan)

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I’m banning modesty from this post. This zucchini cake deserves so much better than what modesty can afford it.

I’m a bit antsy to be posting a recipe for “The Greatest Healthy Zucchini Cake” after a recipe for “The Best Veggie Lasagna,” but I think that’s mainly caused by my lack of posts. Up until this zucchini bread, nothing I made inspired me enough to write about it.

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College has started up again, but because I’m living off campus I have my own kitchen. Lately I’ve been honing my healthy banana bread making skills (I’ve been taking a lot of bananas from my dining hall…), but that’s still a recipe in progress.

That’s, however, irrelevant. Back to what’s important.

This zucchini cake.

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This zucchini cake is soft, perfectly moist, and loaded with zucchini and chocolate chunks. It’s also really, really healthy as far as cake goes, made with only ¼ cup oil, no processed sugar, and sprouted spelt flour. (Truth be told I’m a bit surprised it turned out so well.) I also added a oatmeal crumble topping, which was probably one of my smartest ideas of the semester (besides faking LaTex, but that’s another story entirely).

I’m a huge fan of sharing food with others (well, except sushi. Sharing sushi tests my generosity), but I’m finding it really hard to convince myself to share these. This is my 2015 recipe. Really, really, really.

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The Greatest Zucchini Cake

In a bowl combine:

  • 1 ¾ cup shredded zucchini (1 large zucchini)
  • ¼ cup oil
  • ½ cup dry sweetener (I used erythritol, sugar or coconut palm sugar should also works)
  • 2 tbs buttermilk powder (or 1 tsp lemon juice to keep the recipe vegan)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Stir in:

  • 1 cup spelt flour (or regular all purpose flour)
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • (optional) ¼ cup chocolate chips

Pour batter in a greased 8×8 pan. In a small bowl combine:

  • ¼ cup spelt flour
  • 2 tbs instant oats
  • 2 tbs coconut palm sugar
  • 1 tbs coconut oil

Stir until a crumbly mixture forms, and then sprinkle on top of the batter. Bake for 30-35 minutes at 350 degrees, or until a knife comes out clean.

Best Veggie Lasagna

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It’s hellishly hot, I’m running on 5 hours of sleep, and I forgot my laptop charger at work so I’m anxiously watching the battery drain, but at the moment all that matters is this lasagna.

The origins of this lasagna are a losing battle I have with cheese. Aka, I can’t stop buying new varieties of cheese. My latest impulse cheese buy was queso fresco, which, while a delicious cheese, is not a particularly versatile one. I used it once as a topping for shrimp tacos, a second time on top of refried beans, and then watched it go untouched for a week before I decided there had to be some good way to repurpose it. Enter this veggie lasagna.

It turns out crumbled queso fresco mixed with a bit of cottage cheese makes a remarkably good mock ricotta. It also turns out that layering paper thin slices of zucchini creates something similar enough pasta that it’s kind of unsettling. I added regular lasagna sheets too because pasta is delicious, but they were the no boil kind which made assembly super easy.

I haven’t even finished this batch of lasagna, and I’m already eyeing the frozen paneer since I think it’s quite similar to queso fresco. We’ll see. Very, very soon.

I’m putting the recipe under a read more because it’s a bit long, even though the actual process is quite simple.

Recipe ahead.

Best Veggie Lasagna

Make one loaf sized pan of lasagna: 2 huge servings, 3 big servings, 4 regular servings

For the full ingredients list, see the bottom of the recipe.

Preparing the zucchini:

1) Obtain:

  • 1 large zucchini

2) Create long, paper thin slices of zucchini using a vegetable peeler. Discard or save the middle of the zucchini for another use. Add the slices into a bowl with 2 cups of water + 1 tsp salt. This process will remove excess water from the zucchini and prevent it from making the lasagna watery later. After 20 minutes (make the pasta sauce while you wait!), drain and rinse the zucchini, and then pat dry with paper towels, removing as much excess water as possible.

Making the pasta sauce (or you can use 2 cups of premade pasta sauce):

Note: This makes just enough sauce. If you’re a fan of extra saucy lasagna, it might be smart to double the recipe and just store any leftovers.

1) To make the lasagna sauce, heat in a saucepan:

  • 1 tsp oil
  • ¼ a large onion, diced (½ cup diced onion)
  • 1 heaping tsp diced garlic (1-2 cloves)

2) Cook until the onion is soft and translucent. Add:

  • 8 ounces white mushrooms, sliced

3) Continue cooking for 5 minutes, and then add:

  • 1 tbs tomato paste
  • 1 13.5 ounce of no salt added tomatoes, crushed
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ tsp lemon juice or apple cider vinegar

4) Cook at medium heat for 15 minutes, or until the sauce is thick. Remove the bay leaf.

5) Add to taste:

  • salt
  • pepper

Lasagna cheese filling:

Again, this is just enough cheese filling. Use 1.5 cups of ricotta cheese if you’re a fan of extra

1) In a bowl, add:

  • Option A: 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • Option B: ½ cup ricotta cheese + ½ cup cottage cheese
  • Option C: 5 ounces crumbled queso fresco + ¼ cup cottage cheese + 2 tbs egg whites

2) Stir in:

  • 2 tbs grated parmesan
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt

3) Cook at medium heat until wilted.

  • 1 cup spinach leaves

Once the spinach cools, chop roughly and stir into the cheese. Set aside.

To assemble the lasagna:

1) First, gather:

  • the prepared zucchini
  • 1 recipe pasta sauce
  • 1 recipe ricotta cheese filling
  • 3 lasagna noodles
  • 1 tbs grated parmesan
  • ¼ cup shredded mozzarella

2) Add ¼ of the pasta sauce (½ cup approximately) to the bottom of a greased 9×5 loaf pan.

3) Top with 1 lasagna noodle.

4) Spread 1/3 of the cheese filling (1/3 cup approximately) over the lasagna noodle and any exposed sauce.

5) Add a layer of the zucchini slices, using approximately ¼ of the slices.

6) Repeat steps 2-5.

7) Repeat steps 2-5. By now you should have used up the cheese, zucchini, and noodles, but have ¼ of the sauce left.

8) Top the lasagna with the remaining sauce. Sprinkle with the grated parmesan and shredded mozzarella.

9) Cover the pan with a piece of aluminum foil and bake at 375 for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 5 minutes more, or until the mozzarella is melted and bubbly.

Full Ingredients List:

  • 1 tsp oil
  • ¼ a large onion, diced (½ cup diced onion)
  • 1 large zucchini
  • 1 heaping tsp diced garlic (1-2 cloves)
  • 8 ounces white mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup spinach leaves
  • 1 tbs tomato paste
  • 1 13.5 ounce of no salt added tomatoes, crushed
  • ½ tsp lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese or ½ cup ricotta cheese + ½ cup cottage cheese or 5 ounces crumbled queso fresco + ¼ cup cottage cheese + 2 tbs egg whites
  • 3 tbs parmesan
  • ¼ cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • salt & pepper
  • no boil lasagna noodles