Sunday, April 18, 2010

Vegan Chickpea and Dumplings Soup

This recipe tastes so much like chicken and dumplings soup that I would have thought it was made with chicken if I hadn't prepared it myself.

You can use canned chickpeas in a pinch, but I really do recommend that you use dried.  The chickpea cooking liquid is used as the soup base here.  It gives it a little more "chicken" taste.


The Soup:
  • 3 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 1.5 liters chickpea cooking liquid (if you don't have that much cooking liquid left over, add water to the chickpea cooking liquid until you reach 1.5 liters)
  • 2 spring onions, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 2 tsp poultry seasoning or hierbas finas
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig fresh parsley
  • 1 chile, finely chopped (optional)
  • 2 tsp MSG
  • salt to taste
The Dumplings:
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 TB minced fresh parsley
  • 3/4 cup soy milk (you can also use regular milk here for a non-vegan version)
  • 1/4 cup canola oil

  1. Put all soup ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer.  While the soup is simmering, prepare the dumplings:
  2. Mix dry dumpling ingredients and fresh parsley together.  Add milk and canola oil and mix with a fork.
  3. Let dumpling mixture sit at least 5 minutes, until the vegetables in the soup are cooked through.
  4. When the soup vegetables are cooked through, turn the heat up on the soup to bring it to a rapid boil.  Drop spoonfuls of the dumpling dough into the boiling soup.
  5. Cover the soup, lower the heat so that the soup remains at a simmer, and simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. Ladle two dumplings and soup into bowls.
Serves 4-6.

Vegetarian Not-Tuna Salad

This not-tuna salad recipe is delicious, easy, and fast.  My husband, a big fan of seafood, was surprised at how much it tasted like real tuna.  My vegetarian friend gave me funny looks as he ate his not-tuna sandwich; he was still trying to decide if I was telling the truth about it being vegetarian or if I had tricked him into eating fish.

The fishy taste comes from the nori, which is the same seaweed used in sushi.  Seaweed is high in vitamin B, and even contains vitamin B-12.  So eat up.  And nori never goes bad, so don't be afraid to save some money per sheet and buy the larger pack.

It's easy to make this salad vegan--just use vegan mayonnaise.

If you're looking for something a little less spicy, you could replace the canned jalapeño with with a dill pickle or dill pickle relish.  I've just never seen a dill pickle in Mexico.  Wait, that's not true.  I saw one once: it was floating in a jar of pickled chile peppers.

  • 3 cups cooked or canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
  • 1 spring onion, chopped (white and green parts)
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 1 rajas (strips) canned jalapeños (equivalent to half a jalapeño), minced
  • 1/2 sheet nori, shredded
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise (vegans, use vegan version)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  1. Place the chickpeas in a large bowl.  Mash them with a potato masher, or smash them with the bottom of a glass cup.  You want the mashed chickpeas to be chunky; you're not making hummus.  
  2. Fold in remaining ingredients.
  3. This recipe is light on the mayonnaise.  Add more if desired.
  4. Serve with lettuce and sliced tomatoes on bread.  

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Oaxacan Cinnamon-Almond Brownies

Rich chocolate brownies with a distinctly Oaxacan taste... what could be better?

Oaxacan chocolate is pure cocoa ground with almonds and cinnamon.  It is pre-sweetened and almost always turned into hot chocolate.  But I've been testing chocolate recipes with Oaxacan chocolate, and with delicious results.  So delicious, in fact, that you'll notice that the picture only features two tiny brownies and a pile of Oaxacan chocolate.  That's because they were gobbled up before I could grab the camera.

This recipe is loosely based on a Hershey's brownie recipe.


  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup Oaxacan Hot Fudge Sauce, at room temperature
  • 1 cup chopped Oaxacan chocolate
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped almonds
  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease 13x9x2-inch baking pan. 
  2. Beat butter, sugar and vanilla in large bowl. Add eggs; beat well. Add fudge sauce and stir. 
  3. Stir together flour and baking soda; add to butter mixture. Stir in chocolate chips and almonds. Pour batter into prepared pan. 
  4. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until brownies begin to pull away from sides of pan. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into squares. 
Makes about 24 bars.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Oaxacan Hot Fudge Sauce

Fondue it, put it on banana sundaes, this is your all-natural Oaxacan fudge sauce.  I love Oaxacan chocolate.  It is minimally processed (my mother-in-law grinds her own cacao beans for her homemade chocolate).  And the chocolate-cinnamon-almond combination is sinfully delicious.

This recipe also calls for mezcal, which is a hard liquor made from agave.  Mezcal is native to Oaxaca.  The crema de mezcal is its liqueur version. 

  1. Put chopped chocolate in a clay pot or metal bowl (something that won't melt or shatter when you fill it with very hot liquid).
  2. Heat heavy whipping cream and butter until it just begins to simmer.
  3. Remove heavy whipping cream and butter from heat and add mezcal or Kaluhua.
  4. Immediately pour the hot liquid over the chocolate pieces.  Let sit 5 minutes.
  5. Stir with a whisk until smooth.
  6. Serve hot.
To store leftovers, transfer to a glass jar and store in refrigerator.  To reheat, remove lid from jar and heat in microwave for 1 minute.  Stir, then microwave at 20-second intervals (stirring at every interval) until the fudge sauce reaches the desired temperature.  Alternatively, remove the lid from the jar and place the jar in a pot with enough water to half-immerse it.  Heat until chocolate melts (give it a stir every now and then once it starts to melt to make it melt faster).  

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Vegan Un-Chicken Barley Soup

I knew this soup was a winner when my husband tasted it and exclaimed, "Wow! This really does taste like chicken."  You see, my husband is a meat-eater.  But not just any old meat-eater.  He was raised in a town where the only meat you can find is fresh, never frozen.  So when he thought my Un-Chicken Barley Soup actually tasted like chicken soup, well, I think that says something.

Most un-chicken soups I've seen assume that cooks have access to fancy condiments like vegetarian chicken-flavored bouillon.  Not in Mexico.  

However, in Mexico we do sometimes have access to this soup's secret ingredient: MSG.  I found some in a little stand that was part of a Chinese food restaurant in a tiny mountain town where I used to live.  If you are lucky enough to come across MSG, buy a bag.  You can also purchase MSG online.  It's cheap and lasts forever because you use so little in every recipe.

Scared by the anti-MSG hype?  I can't find evidence that a little MSG every now and then causes health problems in adults.  However, feel free to use the comments section to argue otherwise.

  • 3 liters water
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 chile, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 handful (about 1/3 cup) texturized vegetable protein (TVP)
  • 1/2 cup pearl barley
  • 2 TB dry parsley or 2 stalks fresh parsley
  • 1 1/2 tsp poultry seasoning (sold as hierbas finas in Mexico)
  • 1 TB soy sauce
  • 3 tsp MSG
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Put water in a large pot to boil.
  2. Add remaining ingredients.
  3. Simmer until vegetables are soft and barley is cooked (about 30-45 minutes).
  4. Adjust salt to taste and serve.
Serves 4-6.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Mexican Noodle Soup (Sopa de Fideo)

This soup is generally served as part of a multi-course meal.  Traditionally, it is simply pasta in tomato broth, no vegetables added.  However, last night we found some vegetables in the fridge and texturized vegetable protein in the cabinet, and we turned this soup into a meal.

Texturized vegetable protein (also known as TVP) is surprisingly easy to find in Mexico--more so than in the United States.  It's sold as "soya" in natural food stores in the Mexico City metro or in the bulk foods section of your local grocery store.

  • 5 plum tomatoes
  • 1/4  medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1-2 dried chile de arbol OR 1-2 jalepeños
  • 3 cups water plus more for blending
  • 1 200-gram bag small pasta, uncooked
  • 1/8 cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 1-2 stalks fresh epazote (1 teaspoon dried) OR 2 stalks fresh parsely
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped (optional)
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped (optional)
  • 1/3 cup texturized vegetable protein (TVP)
  1. Quarter tomatoes and put them in a blender with the onion, chile, and garlic.  Add enough water to cover the tomatoes.  Blend until liquified.
  2. In a large pot, heat the oil.  Add the pasta and fry, stirring constantly until it begins to brown.  As soon as it begins to brown, add 3 cups water and contents of blender.  Stir to make sure no pasta is sticking to the pot.
  3. Add epazote or parsely.  Add vegetables and TVP, if using.
  4. Cook until pasta and vegetables are thoroughly cooked and TVP is re-hydrated.
  5. Serve with warm corn tortillas.
Serves 4.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Basil Pesto Pasta

In our rooftop garden, we grow tomatoes, chile, oregano, and basil in buckets.  Because winter is very mild where we live, we can grow a lot of the plants year-round.  We planted the basil last September, and it's still growing like crazy.  Yesterday I trimmed it back and ended up with about two cups of basil clippings.   Usually I dry what I trim and give it to friends, but this was a lot of basil.  I decided to make a pesto.

I found a tasty Pesto Pasta Salad recipe on Simply Recipes.  I didn't have all of the ingredients and neither did my local supermarket, so I did some substitutions and came up with the following pasta salad.

By far the oddest substitution must be the yogurt for parmesan cheese in the pesto.  Parmesan is very expensive in Mexico, and there's no adequate local substitute.  We make our own yogurt, and I had some in the kitchen that had been fermenting for a bit too long.  It was very, very sharp.  My husband was skeptical when he saw me at work in the kitchen, but he loved the end result, and I think you will, too.  Vegans can simply omit the yogurt entirely, or substitute it with a tablespoon of white or light miso.

We served this pasta with rustic bread and Basic Beans, Mexican Style for a very filling meal.


    • 2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
    • 2 tablespoons plain, unsweetened yogurt OR 1 tablespoon light or white miso
    • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
    • 1/3 cup almonds
    • 3 garlic cloves, minced
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
    (makes about 1 cup pesto)

    • 1/2 kilo (about 1 pound) uncooked penne or spiral pasta
    • 1 cups basil pesto (see recipe above)
    • 2 tablespoons chopped green olives OR olive tapenade
    • 1/3 cup chopped red bell pepper
    • 3 plum or roma tomatoes, chopped
    • 1 Tbsp olive oil
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    1. Prepare pasta according to package directions in salted water.
    2. While the pasta is cooking, combine all pesto ingredients in a blender and blend until basil leaves are pulverized and the almonds are chopped (don't worry if there's some almond chunks).
    3. When pasta is done cooking, drain.  Return the pasta to the cooking pot and add remaining ingredients.
    4. Serve warm or cold.
    Serves 6-8.

      Monday, April 5, 2010

      Banana Bread with Oaxacan Chocolate Chips

      Mexicans often ask me what dishes are "traditional gringo food."  I'm always hard-pressed to come up with a gringo main dish, because one of the beauties of the United States is its culinary diversity.  So many dishes that we grew up with are borrowed from other countries and cultures.  However, one thing that is uniquely "gringo" is our desserts.  When I think of the US, I think of the pies, cakes, and sweet quick breads my grandmother used to make.

      I snagged this banana bread recipe from The Joy of Baking, but I added a Mexican twist: my mother-in-law's Oaxacan chocolate.  Oaxacan choclate is less refined than the chocolate you find in grocery stores.  It's grittier, and it generally has almonds and cinnamon ground up with the chocolate.  It comes pre-sweetened, and Oaxacans drink it with water or milk as a hot chocolate.  It's delicious.   It's wonderful in this recipe because the cinnamon and almond flavors compliment the banana beautifully.

      You can find Mexican chocolate in Mexican grocery stores.  They generally sell the Abuelita brand. has some from Ibarra that is an excellent price.  It's not the same as my mother-in-law's chocolate (she grinds the sugar, cocoa, almonds, and cinnamon herself), but it'll do.  Oaxacan chocolate generally comes in tablets.  You'll have to coarsely chop them in this recipe.

      If worse comes to worse, use regular old chocolate chips (which, ironically, are difficult to find in Mexico).

      I've used both regular bananas and "macho" bananas (the bigger, starchier ones that are similar to plantains) in this recipe.  The end result is the same, but it's more difficult to mash the macho bananas.

      This recipe makes two loafs of banana bread.  You can easily half the recipe, but it's just as easy to make two loaves as it is to make one.  And this bread freezes great.  Just wrap it up well in tin foil or wax paper and stick it in a thick freezer bag to protect from freezer burn.  When you're ready to eat it, put it in the fridge to thaw a day or two ahead of time.

      • 2 cups coarsely chopped Oaxacan chocolate
        1 cup coarsely chopped Oaxacan chocolate and 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
      • 3 1/2 cups flour
      • 1 1/2 cups sugar
      • 2 tsp baking powder
      • 1/2 tsp baking soda
      • 1/2 tsp salt
      • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
      • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
      • 1 cup (two sticks) butter, melted
      • 6 large bananas, mashed
      • 2 tsp vanilla
      1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
      2. Grease and flour two 9 x 5 x 3 inch (23 x 13 x 8 cm) loaf pans.
      3. Combine all of the dry ingredients except chocolate and nuts, if using.
      4. In a separate bowl, combine all wet ingredients.
      5. Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients.  Stir as little as possible so your bread doesn't come out tough.  
      6. Add chocolate and nuts, if using.
      7. Divide the batter evenly between the two greased loaf pans.
      8. Bake 350 degrees Fahrenheit for an 1 - 1 1/2 hours, until a toothpick or wooden chopstick comes out almost clean.
      9. Let the bread cool in the loaf pans.  Once cool, run a spatula or butter knife between the bread and the walls of the pan to loosen the bread.  Turn the loaf pans upside down to remove the bread.

      Scrambled Eggs al la Mexicana (Mexican-Style)

      This is a simple recipe for scrambled eggs.  I make it several times a week because of all of the Mexican breakfasts, it is by far the easiest and quickest.  That's right, I make it several times a week--here in Mexico we eat eggs for breakfast nearly every day.  And if we don't eat them for breakfast, we eat them as part of another meal.

      I added a mild option, replacing chile with green bell pepper.  It's sacrilegious, but I know that not everyone likes chile.

      Mexicans generally prepare their eggs (and all other food) in vegetable oil.  I don't like vegetable oil because it is generally at least half soybean oil (and who knows what else), which is very high in saturated fat.  Saturated fat is one of the worst fats: your body turns it into cholesterol.  While diet's role in a person's cholesterol levels is still being debated, one thing's for sure: saturated fat is not your friend.  For that reason, vegetable oil is not your friend, either.

      When I'm cooking, I prioritize two things: health and flavor.  Vegetable oil is neither healthy nor flavorful, so I never use it and you won't find it in my kitchen.  Olive oil, which I use in this recipe to fry the vegetable ingredients, is relatively low in saturated fat and contains some "good fats."  It is also very flavorful and makes a wonderful combination with the vegetables.  However, I've found that frying eggs in olive oil has less-than-desirable results.  Butter, however, is by far the best fat to fry your eggs.  It's not healthy, but it sure is flavorful!

      Another thing you won't find in my kitchen is non-stick cookware.  That stuff causes cancer.  For frying eggs, I use a heavy-duty stainless steel frying pan.  You need to use more oil with a stainless steel pan than you would with a non-stick one, but I do think it's worth it.  If you are using a non-stick pan, feel free to reduce the oil.

      • 2 tablespoons olive oil
      • 1-2 tablespoons butter
      • 2 plum or roma tomatoes, diced
      • 1 chile, chopped (jalepeño for milder eggs, serano if you want a very spicy breakfast) OR 1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
      • 1/4 cup diced white onion
      • 5 eggs
      • salt to taste
      1. Heat the olive oil in an 8-inch frying pan over medium heat.  Don't let the oil smoke; that means you're burning it.
      2. Add tomatoes, chile, and onion.  Fry until onion is translucent.  Add a little more olive oil if the tomatoes start to stick during frying.
      3. Add butter.  Use less if a decent amount of olive oil remains from frying the vegetables; use more butter if the vegetables have soaked up a lot of the oil.  The goal here is that your eggs don't stick.
      4. Add eggs.  You can either crack them right in the pan or you can crack them in a separate bowl and beat them and then add them.  Obviously, cracking them straight into the pan is much easier.
      5. Scramble the eggs and add salt to taste before they're cooked through.
      6. Serve with warm corn tortillas and Basic Beans, Mexican Style.
      Serves 2.