Monthly Archives: March 2010

The Sopranos and Lorna Sass: Black Bean Skillet Casserole with Cornbread Topping

What a busy weekend!

Last night I did not get a chance to blog about the delicious recipes I made to close out Lorna Sass month, because I was too busy watching season three of  The Sopranos to waste any time blogging.  Ok, I guess that watching TV doesn’t really qualify as busy, but it definitely took up a lot of time!

I am sure that after 12 hours of The Sopranos my world view is a bit skewed, but fortunately my recipe choosing abilities were not harmed.  Actually, it likely has more to do with the fact that I went with a sure thing.  None of Lorna Sass’s recipes have failed me yet.

I mentioned in a previous post that I had ordered Lorna Sass’s Complete Vegetarian Kitchen to augment her collection of pressure cooker recipes in Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure and, well, it arrived on Friday.  Perfect timing.  I would have no trouble squeezing in a recipe from Complete Vegetarian Kitchen before the month’s end.  I decided to go with something a little different and choose the Black Bean Skillet Casserole with Cornbread Topping.  It was really delicious, fun to make, and lovely to look at.  The combination of black beans, red peppers, carrots and cilantro beneath a vegan cornbread crust made for a bright and colourful meal.

I cooked up the beans and vegetables in my cast iron skillet, poured the cornbread batter over and threw it in the oven.  It turned out great!  I have made chili topped with cornbread once before, but the cornbread was a bit soggy.  I think the stew-like mixture beneath was too moist for the cornbread to fully cook.  On the other hand, this cornbread was light and fluffy and the smattering of corn kernels throughout the topping was a nice surprise.  To give you some idea of how delicious it was, EPC ate half the pan last night!  I couldn’t believe it.  To say the least, he really enjoyed it.

As you can see, even though I was glued to the TV, this weekend was not a total loss food-wise.  In addition, I took a break from The Sopranos to make stewed apples and strawberries in my pressure cooker.  This recipe on Lorna’s blog inspired me.  I intended making it with just apples, but the strawberries I had bought that morning were not that great, so I figured I would get better use out of them if I added them to the apples.  The strawberry gave the apples a bit of kick and colour, but did not take away from their tartness; the blend of apples and strawberries was a wonderful combination.

I used a few cups of my stewed fruit to make some apple strawberry bars, in the same tradition as date squares.  A simple oatmeal crust, slathered with stewed fruit topped with remaining oatmeal crust crumbs.  They were delicious.  I brought the majority of the squares to share with my coworkers, which they greatly appreciated.  The stewed fruit that did not make it into the bars will be a nice treat in my lunch bag this week.

You will have to excuse me, but after watching 12 episodes of the Sopranos this past week I couldn’t help but think that they really should put out a cookbook featuring the great-sounding recipes that get feasted upon in each episode.  For a lark I googled Sopranos cookbook today and guess what I found?

Who would have thought.

Black Bean Skillet Casserole with Cornbread Topping

1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 1/2 cups firm cooked black beans
1/4 cup of water
1 small red pepper, diced
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1 large celery stalk, finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
1/2 jalapeno, thinly sliced
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt to taste

For the cornbread topping

1 1/4 cups of yellow cornmeal
3/4 cup of whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 cup of soymilk powder (I used skim milk powder)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup of corn, fresh, frozen defrosted, or canned
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 cup water
1/3 cup corn oil

  • Preheat oven to 375°C
  • In an 8-10 inch cast iron skillet, heat the oil.  Saute onions garlic until tender.
  • Stir in the beans, water, pepper, carrot, celery, cilantro, jalapeno, and salt.  Saute for a few more minutes and then remove from heat and set aside.
  • For the cornbread topping, combine cornmeal, flour, soy powder, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.  Add the corn kernels.
  • In a small bowl whisk maple syrup, water, and corn oil together.
  • Add the wet to the dry and stir until just mixed.
  • Pour topping over the bean mixture.
  • Bake on the middle rack for about 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cornbread comes out clean
  • Cut into wedges and lift out with a large serving spoon.

Click to print


To tired to cook? Try Short-Cut Vegan.

“I am too tired to cook”.

I hear this a lot from my friends, my coworkers, my husband, and from my own two lips.

If you are too tired to cook, what are you eating?  Processed food.  Take-out.  Cereal.  Potato chips (been there, done that). A can of soup.  This is expensive, if you are eating out all the time, or just plain unsatisfying and unhealthy.

That is where Lorna Sass’s Short-Cut Vegan comes in.

I can get really caught up in cooking.  Not that I usually make things that are extremely involved, but cooking takes time.  Sometimes you would rather spend your evenings reading a book or watching TV and unwinding after a long day.  So just because you aren’t into cooking up a storm for a weeknight dinner, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try a new recipe.

Fast cookbooks are all the rage these days, but many of them are not really that fast.  Or if they are fast, they are not “lazy fast”:  there is too much chopping, or stirring, or too many pots to wash up afterward.

Short-cut Vegan is fast and I mean really fast.  In addition, many of the recipes fit into my category of “lazy fast”.  The nice thing about this cookbook is that you can stock up on a few handy items and, should the mood not to cook strike, you can easily whip up a healthy dinner and have a few leftovers for lunch the next day without going through too much pain.

Over the last month I have made some quick and easy recipes from Short-Cut Vegan: Caribbean Black Bean Soup, Udon with Green Beans and Peanut SaucePosole, Bean and Corn Chili pictured directly above and Curry in a Hurry pictured at the beginning of the post.  They have all been quick and tasty – just as promised.

Lorna Sass and Short-Cut Vegan give me some Posole!

I have to thank Short-Cut Vegan and Lorna Sass for introducing me to posole.  Up until the end of January 2010 I was ignorant of what posole or its main ingredient hominy were.  In fact, a favorite local restaurant, Blue Plate Diner, features a vegetarian posole enchilada dish that I was reluctant to order, because I had no idea what it was.  To make a long story short, I noticed a recipe for Posole in Short-Cut Vegan and, after enlightening myself, made a  point of ordering said enchilada dish and thoroughly enjoying it!

That sealed the deal and I knew that I wanted to give Lorna’s recipe a try.  However, hominy corn proved difficult for me to locate without a special trip to the Mexican grocery store, which is why it has taken me until the end of the month to get around to making a dish that I had my eye on from the beginning.

Oh yeah, in case you are wondering what hominy is, it is corn cooked in an  alkaline solution (such as lime) to remove the germ and hull.  This is standard practice when corn is processed into tortillas, corn chips, or our friend hominy.  Instead of being further processed and ground, hominy is sold intact either canned or dried.  It looks like large distressed kernels of canned corn, which is basically what it is.

The recipe that I am focusing on today – posole – is a traditional Mexican stew.  Of course, Lorna’s recipe leaves out the pork (thankfully) and includes black beans to round out the meal.  And like everything else in Short-Cut Vegan it is delicious and simple to prepare.

I decided to take the recipe into my own hands and “Edmonton-Mex” it up in the style of the Blue Plate Diner.  So, I put some of the filling into warmed 6″ corn tortillas, rolled them up and baked them in the toaster oven with a bit of grated Monterey Jack cheese on top for about 5-10 minutes.

Posole as a stew if you are in a hurry, or as filling for rolled and baked tortillas if you have the time, is a flavourful, balanced, and quick meal.


398 ml can of diced tomatoes
15 ounce can of white hominy, drained and rinsed very well
19 ounce can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup of fresh or frozen corn (I used one 7 ounce can)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8-1/4 teaspoon of chipotle chili powder or cayenne

1 tablespoon of roasted garlic oil (I just added 2 cloves of garlic with the other ingredients)

  • In a large pot combine all the ingredients, except the olive oil
  • Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally for about 5-10 minutes
  • Just before serving stir in the olive oil.
*If you want to roll the posole up in a tortilla as pictured above:
  • Warm the tortillas in a skillet and place in a baking dish.
  • Add a couple spoonfuls of filling in the centre of each tortilla.
  • Roll up and place seam-side down.  Top with grated Monterey Jack cheese and broil until cheese bubbles.

Click to print

A month of recipes from Lorna Sass’s Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure

I thought I would begin concluding this month’s focus on Lorna Sass by giving you a quick tour of her wonderful cookbook Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure.  Of course, the month is not over yet, so you can still look forward to more delights from Lorna’s Short-Cut Vegan before month’s end!

Over the last month I have blogged about  three delicious recipes from Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure: Thai ChickpeasNew Mexican Pinto Bean Soup, and Caribbean Rice and Beans.  All these dishes turned out fantastic and both EPC and I loved them. Unbeknownst to you, while I wasn’t blogging about the great dishes from this cookbook, I was making more of Lorna’s pressure cooker creations on the sly.  In fact EPC even got in the fun!

One Saturday, I whipped up Quinoa Vegetable Soup for lunch.  This was EPC’s favorite recipe out of the cookbook (so far)!  He couldn’t put his finger on why he loved this dish so much, but I think he really enjoys the taste and texture of quinoa.  Quinoa has more protein than other grains, plus it is gluten-free and makes a great quick-cooking substitute for brown rice.

On the following weekend EPC made the Zucchini Bisque with Tomatoes and Fresh Basil.  One of his favorite vegetables is zucchini, so I wasn’t at all surprised when this dish came under his radar.  The following day I came in from a walk, intending to have leftover soup for lunch, when to my surprise he was finishing off all the leftovers!  It is nice to see my husband excited about Lorna’s book and wanting to get on the pressure cooker bandwagon.  He is always up for making recipes that are as easy as they are delicious.  However, I do wish he wasn’t as excited about eating them, so I could have at least a small bowl of leftover soup!

Over the last month I only had one mishap.  This occurred when I made the mistake of using the bean cooking chart from my pressure cooker instruction booklet, instead of the one located inside the cover of Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure.  The beans were so soft, they were unsuitable for the dish I had in mind.  Of course hindsight is 20/20, so when I took at look at Lorna’s bean cooking chart inside the front cover of this cookbook and noticed her cooking times where bit shorter, I realized that I should have used Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure as a reference, which would have left me with an intact bean rather than the resulting mush.  I will know better for next time.

That brings me to the great thing about this cookbook, not only is it chock full of over 150 delicious vegan recipes, but it also includes grain, bean and vegetable cooking charts.  She also discusses pressure cookers at  great length, covering such topics as  How to Care for the Cooker, The Language of Pressure Cooking, and What Size Cooker Should I Buy?.  I found all these tips quite helpful and the format considerably engaging in comparison to my instruction manual.

In the introduction Lorna devotes a few pages to menu combinations, such as Vegan Thanksgiving, Curry in a Hurry and American Creole, which gives you an idea about which direction to head if you have a certain flavour craving.  The cookbook is well-organized and I am glad that it sticks to a traditional layout.  Although quite popular these days, I will confess that I do not enjoy when a cookbook is organized according season or menus.    Perhaps I am behind the times, but I think a cookbook is more functional when you can browse through the soup section if you are feeling like soup, rather than having to flip from page to page using the index as your guide.  Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure is divided sensibly into soup, grain, bean, vegetable, sauce and dessert sections.

That’s right, I said dessert.

Lorna does feature a section on vegan pressure cooker desserts.  It definitely piqued my curiosity and I had to try one.  She provides thorough instructions on how to make a wonderful steamed blueberry pudding cake.  I was blown away that I could make a cake in the pressure cooker and have it turn out fantastic!  The great thing about this cake is there is no oil, it is sweetened with fruit juice and maple syrup and it is totally vegan.  Although not a dessert, Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure even has  a recipe for steamed Boston Brown Bread. How much fun is that!

I have really enjoyed using my pressure cooker to make Lorna’s great recipes, so I am disappointed that she does not have another vegetarian pressure cooker cookbook.   I figured my pressure cooking adventures would be limited to one cookbook.  Luckily, when I was browsing through her other cookbooks on I noticed that Complete Vegetarian Kitchen has pressure cooker instructions for many of its recipes.

I guess I need to make room for another cookbook!

Lorna Sass’s Caribbean Rice and Beans


Sometimes one word is all you need.

Although I have more than “delicious” to say about Lorna Sass’s recipe, I will be keeping the post short.  I seem to be suffering from a bit of blogger’s block this week.  Regardless of my lack of words, I think the photo does the recipe justice.  It really does taste as wonderful as it looks.

When I saw this recipe in Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure I knew that it would be excellent.  Lorna Sass’s version of  Caribbean Rice and Beans trades the traditional white rice for the more healthy and flavourful brown.  Although it looses the customary look of pink beans against white coconut rice, I prefer it with brown rice.

The Caribbean dish of rice and beans is familiar to me; when I was growing up my Mom had a very good friend from Jamaica who use to make this dish quite often.  My Mother can tell you that I was picky eater as a child and would not eat beans. As a result, I did not try this dish until we went to visit her when I was in my late teens.  I have not had anything similar to this dish until now and I am quite happy to know that I can easily recreate it anytime I want!  Coincidently, my parents will be visiting her in Florida next month.  I wonder if she will prepare this dish for them?

Caribbean Rice and Beans

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 hot pepper, seeded and chopped
1 red pepper, diced
1 15 ounce can of diced tomato
2 -2 1/4 cups of boiling water (use larger amount if using jiggle-top cooker)
1 1/2 cups long-grained brown rice, rinsed and drained (I use brown basmati)
1/2 cup dried unsweetened coconut
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup of firm cooked pigeon peas or black-eyed peas (I used 1 19 ounce can of kidney beans)
1/4 cup of fresh cilantro, finely diced

  • Heat the oil and saute the onion, garlic and chili pepper over medium high heat for about 1 minute.
  • Add the red pepper, tomatoes, water, rice, coconut, thyme and salt.
  • Lock the lid in place (if using a jiggle-top cooker set it on a heated flame tamer) and bring to high pressure over high heat
  • Lower the heat just enough to maintain high pressure and cook for 25 minutes
  • Allow the pressure to come down naturally for 10 minutes.  Quick release the remaining pressure.
  • Remove the lid facing away from you
  • Add the beans and cilantro and stir well and let sit for a few minutes so the beans can warm up from the heat of the rice.

Click to print

Lorna Sass Month: This is a vegetarian cooking blog and, don’t worry, this is the meatiest Cookbook Cooks is gonna’ get!

As you may or may not know, Cookbook Cooks has dedicated the  month of March  to the Queen of Pressure Cooking, Lorna Sass.  Although Lorna was vegan for many years, a point reflected in her many vegan and vegetarian cookbooks, she also has a number of non-veg cookbooks (one of which won a James Beard award!).  For a complete listing and description of her cookbooks take a look at her website.  In case you are wondering, I figured that I couldn’t really do Lorna Sass Month justice if I did not touch on her other bodies of work – vegetarian or not.  That is the purpose of this post.

Since I purchased a pressure cooker of my own at the beginning of the month, a popular topic of conversation with my coffee/lunch group at work has been pressure cooking.  In fact, one of my meat-eating co-workers has even asked to borrow my pressure cooker when I take holidays this summer so he and his family can try it out!    Being the nice guy that he is, he even asked if I was comfortable with him cooking meat in it.  Of course I don’t mind, and I will be delighted to share my pressure cooker with him.  Afterall, it really takes recipe sharing to the next level, and how much fun is that!

A considerable number of my readers are not vegetarians, so I thought it might be a good time to dispel any myths that pressure cookers are just for beans, vegetables, and grains.

Of course I cannot speak from cooking experience, but I have seen recipes for chicken, ribs, and meat based stews and soups in my pressure cooker instruction booklet.  If I have peaked you interest, take at look at Lorna’s website and blog.  Her website features such recipes as Southern Split Pea Soup with Ham and Chuckwagon Beef Stew with Cheddar Smashed Potatoes taken from her Pressure Perfect Cookbook and The Pressured Cook, respectively.   Her blog even has a recipe for cooking Penne with Meat Sauce in the pressure cooker.  Of course her cookbooks (and blog) also contain vegetarian recipes, so you can give these a try to find out how easy and tasty vegetarian cooking can be.

I am sure that these recipes will inspire you and make you a pressure cooker convert in no-time!

Oh, and if my husband is reading, don’t worry honey,  I don’t have plans to become a meat eater any time soon!

Lorna Sass’s Udon with Green Beans and Peanut Sauce from Short-Cut Vegan

Thank goodness the recipes in this cookbook are quick, otherwise I may have finished off all the peanut sauce before it even made its way onto my noodles!

I couldn’t decide if I should make Lorna Sass’s peanut sauce recipe, or use the bottle of store-bought I had in the fridge.  In the end I decided that I should be true to the recipe and take the extra five minutes to make the sauce. Well, I made the right choice.  Short-Cut Vegan’s peanut sauce is simply delicious.  And yes, the pun is intended.

I took Lorna’s suggestion and added some tofu to the mix.  Did you know that 85 grams of tofu has 45 % of your daily calcium requirement!  Aside from the fact that tofu is a great source of protein, the calcium alone is a great reason to include it in your diet.  I also substituted whole wheat linguine noodles for the udon, because that is what I had in the cupboard

I always find it a bit challenging to cook when EPC is away.  I get used to cooking for two.  Having my husband around gives me that extra motivation to take time in the kitchen to make something special (or at least more special than the prepared spaghetti sauce I ate last night).

Short-Cut Vegan is making cooking for one a bit easier for me with it’s collection of quick tasty meals.  So, instead of me being jealous that my husband is eating out every night, he will be jealous of  me eating this delicious meal in the comfort of our home!

And that, dear readers, is exactly what happened.

Udon with Green Beans and Peanut Sauce

8 ounces of brown rice udon, rice noodles, or angel hair, or whatever long noodle you have in the cupboard
1 2/3 cups of frozen green beans (defrosted) or use fresh, cut into thirds
1/2 cup diced red or yellow pepper (I just used a whole one)
1/2 cup of Asian peanut sauce (see recipe below)
Tamari or soy sauce to taste
175 g firm tofu, cubed (if desired)

  • Bring water to boil in a large pot
  • Cook the pasta for 2 minutes less than indicated on the package
  • Meanwhile saute tofu (if using) until golden
  • Add the green beans to the pasta and continue to cook until the pasta is done.
  • Drain pasta and beans and transfer to a large bowl
  • Add tofu and bell pepper and enough peanut sauce to coat.
  • Add tamari/soy sauce to taste
  • Serve warm or at room temperature

Asian Peanut Sauce

1 cup of natural peanut butter
2 1/2 tablespoons of tamari or soy sauce
2 teaspoons of seasoned rice vinegar
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
2/3 to 3/4 cup of boiling water, or more if needed

garlic and ginger, finely minced to taste

  • Blend peanut butter, tamari, vinegar, cayenne, and boiling water in your food processor.   Add more water if needed to make a thick but pourable sauce.
  • Add ginger and garlic before serving
  • This can keep up to two weeks in the fridge and will need to be thinned with hot water before serving

Click to print