Wednesday, January 30, 2008

You tell me...

Vegetarian Shepard's Pie

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

How would you change these recipes? I need your help!

This week has been full of interesting experiments in vegetarian cooking! I can feel my southern roots going bananas as I've been trying to use tofu, soy cheese, and using full grains other than white rice, white potatoes, pastas, etc... The additional challenge of this week is to eat foods that are: dairy free, meat free, gluten free (of course), and use whole grains only.

I should have been smart and just headed over to Sea's or Mary Frances' websites to find tried and true vegetarian recipes for this week... but being a little too independant, I wanted to do it all myself... and we've ended up with so-so results.

Here are two of the recipes we've made this week! They are not bad recipes, but they DO need your help!

The first recipe is for Quinoa Stuffed Peppers. We really liked how these peppers turned out. The texture of the quinoa with the crumbled sauteed tofu really had a "meaty" texture and worked well stuffing the peppers. What we need help with is the flavoring... I used garlic granules, oregano, basil, etc... but it just didn't seem to have enough flavor. We need something additional added to this recipe to really make it shine! How would you change this recipe with the requirements we are using?? If you are brave enough to make it and it turns out scrumptious, tell me what you did differently!

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers
  • 2-3 large green bell peppers
  • 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
  • 1 cup quinoa, cooked
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup cheddar soy cheese, shredded
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh chopped parsley
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic granules
  • 1/2 tsp. oregano
  • Salt/Pepper
  • 1 lb. extra firm tofu, crumbled
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil

Saute crumbled tofu in olive oil with garlic granules, oregano, salt, and pepper. Cut bell peppers in half lenghwise. Remove seeds and membrane. Combine 3/4 cup tomato sauce with cooked quinoa (I cooked the quinoa in my rice cooker, while I was sauteing the tofu), half of the shredded soy cheese, and any additional spices to taste. Add sauteed tofu to quinoa mixture. Stuff bell pepper halves with the quinoa/tofu mixture and place in a large greased casserole dish. Pour remaining tomato sauce over the stuffed peppers and into the bottom of the casserole dish. Sprinkle remaining soy cheese on top of the stuffed peppers. Cover the casserole dish with lid or aluminum foil and cook at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove foil or lid and bake an additional 5-10 minutes. Sprinkle parsley on top of stuffed peppers right before serving.


The 2nd recipe is for a Vegetarian Shepard's Pie.

We didn't like how this dish turned out nearly as much as we liked the stuffed peppers. Michael helped me wade through ideas on what we could have done to change the dish, and we decided that the tomato sauce really overpowers the other wonderful flavors of the onions, garlic, and fresh mushrooms.

What I DID like about this recipe was the mashed cauliflower topping instead of starchy mashed potatoes! I thought it was delicious! The nutritional yeast adds a wonderfully cheesy flavor to the mashed cauliflower, making it very similar to cheesy mashed potatoes. I will definitely be making the mashed cauliflower again soon!

What other changes would make with the requirements listed above?? Would you add additional spices? Would you use less tomato sauce? Would you change the tomato base altogether? I really want to hear your thoughts on how we change this dish and really enjoy it! I'd really be honored if someone would make the dish and tell me how you would make it and what you would do differently!

Vegetarian Shepard's Pie

Topping Ingredients:
  • 1 large head cauliflower
  • 1/2 cup rice milk
  • 2 Tbsp. dairy free margarine
  • salt/pepper
  • 1 tsp. garlic granules
  • 1 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
Pie Ingredients:
  • 1 lb. tofu, cut into 1" cubes and marinated overnight in sugar free barbecue sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 sweet onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely diced
  • 1 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup carrots and peas (I used defrosted frozen)
  • 1-2 tsp. garlic granules
  • 12 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. cornstarch or sweet rice flour
  • 1/2 cup cheddar soy cheese, shredded (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place marinated tofu cubes on a baking sheet and bake for around 25 minutes until cubes are firm and crisp. While baking tofu, cut stems and florets of cauliflower into small pieces. Steam (I used a rice cooker) cauliflower until fork tender. In a medium sized bowl, mash cauliflower with a potato ricer and add remaining topping ingredients. Mix thoroughly and set aside. Heat olive oil in a large pan. Add chopped onions, garlic, and mushrooms. Saute until mushrooms are tender. Set aside. In a large bowl, mix tomato sauce and cornstarch together until incorporated. Add carrots and peas, sauted vegetables, baked tofu cubes. Pour into greased casserole dish. Top with mashed cauliflower. If desired, sprinkle with shredded soy cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes until cheese has melted and the dish is heated through. Serve immediately.

Now for your thoughts!
Please add a comment below!

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  1. For me, I would roast your green peppers a bit over an open flame (hopefully you have a gas grill or gas stove) and char them a bit. This adds so much flavor. Your recipe didn't include any salt, so I would add some and think about cooking your quinoa in vegetable broth(I take every opp to add flavor) and add some vegetable stock paste (they have generic veg and mushroom stock) to the tomato sauce. That should add a few flavor components. Try crushing some fresh garlic too, that will bring the garlic to the front instead of to the background.

    For the Shepard's pie I would leave out the tomato sauce (and the bbq sauce) altogether as it traditionally isn't in there (maybe just a few diced tomatoes) and make a gravy with nutrient yeast or vegetable stock (make a roux with rice flour and olive oil and then add the canned veg stock, Swanson's should be GF) and toss you ingredients in that, sort of what you would do for a pot pie. I would also use some comfort food herbs like thyme and marjoram which go really well with mushrooms. And again, fresh garlic! Let me know what you think and if you try these alterations! Now, I must go sear some scallops for my menu of the week!
    I like this idea of posting what we did that we didn't like and seeing how others might do it differently! That might get me to post all my flops.
    Ginger of the North, the very very cold North

  2. Ginger -- THESE ARE GREAT IDEAS!!! I don't have a way to char my peppers, but Maybe I could roast them ahead of time or something... I LOVE the idea of cooking the quinoa in vegetable broth and I love everything you said for the shepards pie! I thought the original base for this pie was with a tomato sauce! I didn't realize it should have been a white sauce! That would have been better! Thank you for these great idea! I will definitely try them again at some point in the future! Thank you so much for taking the time to share with me!!

    Ps... you are welcome to send your cold north air down here, we really want some snow down here in eastern NC!!

  3. Fun, fun. You've put my cooking mind to work.

    For the peppers, I would try adding tamari to the crumbled tofu after you've browned it a bit. (We never eat tofu without tamari.) That should help add additional flavor.

    For pot-pie, I usually use canned chickpeas as my "chicken" - mostly because I love being able to call it Chickpea Pot Pie.

    Thanks for the compliment in the post. Our first efforts at vegetarian were not always the most succesful either; and it took me forever to get supper on the table. Once you find a few good recipes, things get a bit easier...

    and as long as you're doing vegetarian, try Sea's Spinach Onigiri. We actually decided not to eat out tonight so that we could have them =)

  4. Quinoa is not naturally flavorful (or at least does not have a flavor I particularly care for when it's plain) so I NEVER make it without using vegetable or chicken broth in place of water. If I have to I just use a bouillon cube in water. But quinoa shouldn't be made with plain water, in my book. You could also try adding some white wine to the tofu mixture, and I'd recommend sauteeing the tofu for a while with REAL garlic (not granules) as well as adding some garlic powder, and I'd certainly make sure to sautee a bunch of diced onion before adding the tofu to the pan. If you weren't trying to make this dish vegan, I'd also recommend using an extra-sharp and/or smoked cheese.

    I love the idea of a mashed-cauliflower topping for a shepherd's pie - I'm gonna have to try this. I'll let you know what I figure out. The first thing I can think of is white wine and/or soy sauce being added to the filling, and less tomato sauce. You could also try freezing and then thawing the tofu for a meatier texture and/or marinating it in something besides BBQ sauce (which sounds odd in a shepherd's pie, to me... but then again I eat much stranger food combinations than that!)

  5. HI Carrie, I wish my husband would try food like this! He thinks if he doesn't get a slab of meat he's not eating. I was going to say the same thing as Celticjig, add fresh garlic to both recipes. For the stuffed peppers, I also would cook it in broth and saute some onions to throw in with it. Can you use worcestershire sauce? Maybe that's not vegan. Or add some basil and a splash of red wine. They sound really good by the way.

    I also agree with celticjig on the shepard's pie too. I would make more of a mushroom gravy instead of the tomato sauce. Use fresh garlic maybe even rosemary, some white wine. I am really excited to try the cauliflower like this. I have it on my menu this week. Also, I heard somewhere that if you freeze your tofu, then thaw it out before you cook it, that it has a texture more like meat. I have done this and it does have a little different texture. I think Kati would love those peppers. I will have to try them! Great ideas Carrie!

  6. LOVE THIS conversation everybody!!! Thank you so much for your help on these recipes! I'll definitely have to try them again with some of your suggestions!

    Mary Frances -- I'll remember that about the tamari (which I LOVE) that's why I added the barbecue sauce (which sounds a little hokey now, but it was because I thought it would add a "meaty" flavor!... I don't think it worked as well as tamari would have! THANK YOU! And the CHICK PEAS are a GREAT idea!! I love them too and I should have added them to the shepard's pie!! You rock girl!! I will definitely try Sea's spinach dish! Thanks for recommending it!

    BY THE BAY -- SUCH good ideas my friend!! I will definitely use a chicken or vegetable broth next time I make quinoa! Actually I don't know why I didn't add it to the recipe, but I did use fresh garlic in the shepard's pie! I use the garlic granules because for some reason, fresh garlic never seems to stand out that much to me (maybe I use WAY too much of it in my caesar salad and I'm immune! LOL) But I will definitely add more of it next time! I think I used 3 small garlic cloves finely chopped, maybe I should just mash them next time! See the note to Mary Frances above for why I used the barbecue sauce... I agree it was weird! LOL I'm such a veggie newbie! LOL Let me know how you like the smashed cauliflower!

    Melanie -- I have to say that is a wonderful thing about Michael, he will try ANYTHING I make... but it's very obvious whether he likes something or not! But I shouldn't complain since he will eat it and he's learning to tell me why or why not he likes something! I didn't think about the worchester sauce! GOOD IDEA! I'll add that next time too! And a mushroom gravy is a great idea for the shepard's pie as well! I can't wait to try these ideas! Thanks so much girl! OH.. I have some frozen tofu right now that I'm going to try and use for meatballs this week! We'll see how that works! I actually really like tofu now. I miss chicken though! ;-)

  7. I would make your quinoa mixture a day in advance and let it rest so that the flavors meld. And utilize other people's suggestions, of course. ;)

    I posted a sweet-potato-based veggie pot pie a few weeks ago. Cauliflowers are a tasty idea!

  8. Hey Carrie, its John... wanted to add some thoughts on the peppers (I don't know about the shepherd's pie as I have NEVER had it).

    When I make stuffed peppers, I usually go for a mexican seasoning and stuff them with rice.

    If the mexican seasoning interests you, try a blend of the following:

    chili powder
    a little cinnamon

    If you don't have both the cumin and the chili powder, one of the two would work.

    Some fresh cilantro would also perk it up.

    The sauteed onion and fresh garlic would bring some good flavor depth too.

    Corn kernels (frozen or fresh cut off of the cob) would be a good too.

    Use whatever you have on hand! Any combination of these things would work. I always try to remember to season everything as I go and that helps.

    And if you do go mexican with your seasoning, some pepper jack cheese would be great on top!

    Take care!

  9. JOHN!!!! IT's about daggone time you sent me a comment!! ;-) Wow I feel loved!! Mexican stuffed peppers sounds like a great idea too!! pepper jack cheese would be wonderful and I LOVE cumin!!! It's definitely in my spice pantry! How could you think otherwise! haha! ;-) Thanks so much for commenting!! You know your hints and tips are more than welcome anytime!!

    Except for the cilantro... i DESPISE cilantro! Yuck. It's a weed! lol Should never be allowed in a kitchen! LOL

    Glad you pitched your thoughts in here dude!

  10. Sally - I'll have to check out your sweet potato veggie pot pie! Sound delicious!!

  11. If you can find some dairy-free pesto (or make your own) then this is a cracking shepherdless pie (even though I do say so myself!):

    Quinoa is a bit bland on it's own - I've seen a couple of nice-looking recipes that use lime and cumin to spice it up. Would those sort of flavourings work for the pepper dish, give it a bit of zing?