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Saturday, January 3, 2009

Menu 1: Thai Pizza, Chickpea Tacos, Tomato Soup...

This week’s recipes:
I’m vegan, so I draw mostly from vegetarian recipes. The recipes can easily be adjusted – make a vegetarian dish vegan by substituting soy cheese, for example. Or, make a vegetarian dish non-veg by using chicken, instead of chick’n strips.

Some of my recipes are my own. Others come from websites and cookbooks. Here are this week’s recipes:

Thai Chick’n Pizza
This recipe is my own:

¼ cup natural salt-free peanut butter
½ can coconut milk
1 Tbs. Soy Sauce
1 Tbs. red curry paste
1 Tbs. sugar
2 ¼ tsp. tamarind concentrate
1 clove garlic, minced
½ tsp. curry powder
¼ tsp. toasted sesame oil
¼ tsp. grated fresh ginger
1 whole wheat pizza crust
4 cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 pkg. diced LightLife SmartStrips, Chik’n Strips
½ cup diced red bell pepper
1 small shallot, quartered and thinly sliced
1/3 cup chopped cilantro leaves

  1. Preheat oven to 375˚F. Coat baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Whisk together peanut butter, coconut milk, soy sauce, red curry paste, sugar, tamarind concentrate, garlic, curry powder, oil, and ginger in small bowl.
  3. Mix the Chick’n Strips into the sauce, marinating them. Once they are all coated in the sauce, use a fork to take them out and put them into a bowl.
  4. Spread the remaining peanut butter mixture over pizza crust. (You may have more sauce than you need, so spread just enough to form a thin layer on the crust. If you add too much, the pizza will become soggy.) Sprinkle evenly with mushrooms, marinated Chik’n Strips, bell pepper, and shallot.
  5. Bake 25 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. Cool 5 minutes, then sprinkle with cilantro leaves.

Note: Refrigerate the remaining coconut milk in a container – you will use the rest of it for the Thai Potato Curry.

Tomato Soup with Broccoli and Cheese Quesadillas

Recipe for Tomato Soup
I really like basil. So, when I made the tomato soup, I was feeling like 1 tbsp. of chopped basil really wasn't enough. I chopped a handful and added it to the soup, and when it was done, it seemed like the perfect amount. I was really glad I hadn't only put 1 tbsp. in. This applied to all the seasonings in the soup, so for the tomato soup, I recommend that you use:

3 cloves of garlic, 4 tbsp of chopped fresh basil, and 1 teaspoon of dried thyme.

Note: For vegetable broth, I use vegetable bullion cubes. When you start cooking the soup, bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a pot, and add one cube. By the time you need the 1 ½ cups of broth, the cube should be dissolved and broth ready to go. Also, refrigerate the remaining tomato paste – you’ll use it to make the pizza sauce for the Mushroom and Olive Pizza.

Broccoli and Cheese Quesadillas:

Cooking oil spray
¼ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Whole wheat tortilla
1 small head of broccoli, chopped


  1. Spray pan with cooking spray, place on stove, set burner to medium-low heat, and place tortilla in pan. Sprinkle cheese on half of tortilla.
  2. Heat one teaspoon of olive in a another small pan on medium-low heat. Add the broccoli, sprinkle it with a bit of salt and pepper, and stir. Cover it and let it cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring once a minute. The broccoli will become a slightly brighter green, and will be cooked, while retaining a slight crunch.
  3. Spread cooked broccoli on top of cheese, (which should be melting).
  4. When tortilla is slightly browned and crispy, fold it over. Serve warm with soup.

Note: Refrigerate the remaining tortillas – you will use them for the chickpea tacos. Also refrigerate the remaining mozzarella cheese – you will use it for the Mushroom and Olive Pizza.

Mushroom and Olive Pizza
This recipe is my own:

For sauce:
2 tsp. olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. black pepper
8 – 10 fresh basil leaves
1 22-ounce can of whole tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste

For pizza:
Cooking oil spray
1 whole wheat pizza crust
Pizza sauce (from above)
4 cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
16 Kalamata olives, sliced
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Pizza sauce:
  1. In a sauce pan over medium heat, sauté the garlic in the olive oil for about 2 minutes.
  2. Add the oregano, thyme, salt, and pepper.
  3. Stir in the canned tomatoes, crushing them in your hands as you add them. Add half of the juice from the tomatoes and the tomato paste.
  4. Stir in the basil leaves.
  5. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook for about ten minutes. Stir and crush the tomatoes every couple of minutes.


  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Spray pizza pan with cooking spray and lay the pizza crust on top.
  3. Use the back of a large spoon to even spread a thin layer of pizza sauce across the crust.
  4. Scatter the mushrooms and olives on top of the pizza. Evenly sprinkle the cheese on the pizza.
  5. Bake for 10 minutes – check the crust and the cheese. Once the cheese is melted, the mushrooms are cooked and the crust is slightly crispy, the pizza is done. You could bake the pizza for up to 15 minutes. Allow to cool for 3 – 5 minutes before slicing.

Chickpea Tacos
Recipe for Chickpea Tacos

Note: Instead of using bottled salsa, I prefer to make fresh pico de gallo. To do this, you simply need to chop one tomato and one red onion and mix it in a bowl with 1 tbsp. of chopped cilantro, and a teaspoon of salt. Squeeze half a lime into the mixture (or more to taste, if you want). If you want to make it spicy, add some chili powder or jalapeno.

Thai Potato Curry
Recipe for Thai Potato Curry
This needed more seasoning, too. I bought the "Thai Kitchen"brand of coconut milk and green curry paste for this dish. The green curry paste is not nearly as spicy as the red curry paste, so I added more than the amount recommended in the recipe. I like my dishes to be flavorful, without being too spicy (I have a pretty low threshold for spiciness.) If you're similar, then I recommend changing the ingredients in the recipe to the following dosage in this dish:

3-4 tbsp. of basil, (Thai basil if you can find it - I usually find it at farmer's markets, not at the grocery store), 4 teaspoons of green curry paste, and 1/2 cup of coconut milk.

Note: For vegetable broth, I use vegetable bullion cubes. When you start cooking, bring 1 cup of water to a boil in a pot, and add ½ of a cube. By the time you need the ½ cup of broth, the cube should be dissolved and broth ready to go.

The Menu:
So that I know what to cook each night, I have prepared the menu below. Some things are made in advance – I’m cooking the tomato soup on Sunday, so that it’s ready on Monday night when I get home, and all I have to make are the quesadillas. I’m making the mushroom pizza on Monday night, so that it’s ready for lunch on Tuesday, etc.

Some weekend meals are missing because that is when I tend to be more social, and go out to eat with friends. This is not to say that I don’t cook on weekends - it just varies so much that I don’t really include that in my menu.

The menu is flexible, and I definitely make adjustments through the week as needed – maybe my tomato soup provided more servings than I thought, so I push something back, or maybe I decided to meet a friend for dinner on Wednesday, so I pushed the chickpea tacos back. Feel free to adjust however you see fit. It’s just nice to have a plan.

Dinner: Thai Chick’n Pizza
Cook: Thai Pizza, Tomato Soup

Lunch: Thai Pizza
Dinner: Tomato Soup and Quesadillas
Cook: Quesadillas, Mushroom Pizza

Lunch: Mushroom Pizza
Dinner: Tomato Soup and Quesadillas
Cook: Quesadillas

Lunch: Mushroom Pizza
Dinner: Chickpea tacos
Cook: Chickpea tacos

Lunch: Chickpea tacos
Dinner: Thai Potato Curry
Cook: Thai Potato Curry

Lunch: Thai Potato Curry

Some notes about grocery shopping:
This is a comprehensive list of all ingredients required to make all of the dishes in this week’s menu. So, if there’s something that you don’t want to make, just take those ingredients out.

I do most of my shopping at Whole Foods, because it’s the most convenient place – I have one near my apartment, and one near my office. Wherever possible, I buy their generic (365) brand of canned and dry goods. I also try to get all of my produce at farmer’s markets – if you live in NYC, you can find one that is convenient for you here. Local Harvest is another good site to find farmer’s markets anywhere in the country.

Also, if you cook regularly, you should have all or most of the things in the “Oils, Spices, Condiments” category. For example, the only thing that I need to buy from that category this week is the green curry paste. If you have a well stocked pantry, the cost of grocery shopping is pretty low. When I started cooking, I had to buy a lot of this stuff as I tried new dishes, and it seemed expensive. But, now that I have everything, I just have to pull it out of the pantry. You can find lots of information on how to stock your pantry by Googling it, or inside of a good cookbook, but here is one set of suggestions for starters: How to stock your vegetarian pantry

Here is this week's list:


1 bulb of garlic
1 small piece of ginger (enough for 1 tablespoon of minced ginger)
1 shallot
8 cremini mushrooms
1 small red bell pepper
1 avocado
2 limes
2 cups of fresh greens
2 vine ripened tomatoes
2 pounds of roma or plum tomatoes
1 small red onion
2 yellow onions
1 small head of broccoli
1 lb. of red potatoes
16 Kalamata olives from the Olive Bar

Oils, Spices, Condiments:

Curry powder
Sesame oil
Soy sauce
Olive oil
Black pepper
Vegetable bullion cubes (to make vegetable broth)
Peanut Butter
Tamarind Paste
Thai Green Curry paste
Thai Red Curry paste

Canned Goods:

1 can of coconut milk
1 can of chickpeas
1 can of tomato paste
2 cans of whole tomatoes (plum, if possible)

Dry Goods:

1 pk. pizza crusts (2 crusts inside)


1 box of LightLife SmartStrips, Chik’n Strips
1 pk. Tortillas (10)
Sour cream
Mozzarella cheese

I think we’re set for the week – if you have questions, comments, concerns, please e-mail me at themenudrawer@gmail.com. Happy cooking!

1 comment:

  1. This is awesome! I am so excited for this blog. I think I may print your grocery list and try it for this week. One of my New Year's resolutions was to stop eating student lunch...You are amazing! (You make remake my health, too).