Category Archives: Savory

Quesadilla Surprise

The basic foods of many cultures are actually vegan.  From Chinese to Indian to Mexican and Egyptian – you will find that the staples, the traditional foods of many cultures, are usually plant-based.  So it is with Mexican food.  But, if you know what a quesadilla is, you know that it is NOT plant-based.

If you order a quesadilla in a regular Mexican restaurant, you will find a creamy, cheese-filled tortilla with lots of toppings (and sometimes sauces!).  This recipe will give you that creaminess and tang of the cheese without the dairy, cholesterol, and fat!  Best of all, the filling makes it a meal on its own.

***Warning: If you make this for guests – you will NOT have left overs.  This is one of the meals we make a lot for our friends and they absolutely love it!!!

Serves 12 – Click here to download the printer-friendly version.
12 tortillas (You can buy these in major supermarkets [Metro, Royal House, Oscar, Spinneys, etc.] here in Cairo)
1 recipe of refried beans
½ cup hummus (You can make your own or buy ready-made)
½ spicy Mexican tomato salsa (You can find this also in major supermarkets here in Cairo)
oil for frying

1.  On a plate, lay out one tortilla as a base.
2.  Spread a few spoons of the refried beans until the entire side of the tortilla is covered.
3.  Spread another few spoons of the hummus.
4.  Finish by spreading a few spoons of the salsa.
5.  Top with another tortilla.
6.  Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a skillet on medium heat for a few seconds.  Place the prepared quesadilla in the skillet and fry until browned.  This will take 3-5 minutes.
7.  Once the bottom is browned, flip and brown the other side.  This should take another 3 minutes or so.
8.  Remove and slice into 4 pieces with a pizza cutter.

Serving Suggestions and Variations:

  • Serve with guacamole.
  • Serve with salsa on top.
  • Serve with salad on top.
  • Use black beans instead of refried beans.
  • If you want to heat up left-overs, heat them in the oven for about 5 minutes.

Nutrition Information: (1 serving = 2 quarters or one half a quesadilla)
250 Calories; 6 g Fat; 0 mg Cholesterol; 41 g Carbohydrates; 5 g Fiber; 9g Protein

What do you like to fill your tortillas with? 
Alf Hana!!!

Refried Beans

This is our favorite recipe for refried beans!  We use it in tortillas, with guacamole, or chips.  Also, we love to make no-queso quesadillas with it (recipe coming soon!)
Serves about 6 Click here for the printer-friendly version.
2 400 g cans of pinto beans, washed and drained

1 onion, chopped fine
3 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
1 fresh green jalapeño pepper, seeds removed and chopped fine (optional)

2 teaspoon paprika powder
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1.  In a skillet, heat the olive oil and onions for 2 minutes.
2.  Add the garlic and chili pepper and fry for another 2 minutes.

3.  Add spices and stir for 30 seconds. Don’t let them burn or stick to the pan.

4.  Add the beans and stir fry for 3 minutes, making sure the spices have coated the beans.

5.  Add chopped tomatoes, stir for another few minutes.
6.  Add tomato paste and stir through.

7.  When the beans are soft enough, mash them either with a potato masher. You can mash them to the consistency you like.  Some people want creamy refried beans and others like to have whole beans in the mix.

8.  Remove from the heat and serve as you like.
Serving Suggestions and Variations:
  • Serve as a filling for hearty no-queso quesadillas.
  • Use in burritos, tacos, on nachos…
  • Serve as a side dish…
  • Add more jalapeno peppers or chili powder to up the spiciness!
  • Experiment with other kinds of beans.

Nutrition Information: 1 of 6 servings
172 Calories; 4 g Fat; 0 mg Cholesterol; 29 g Carbohydrates; 8 g Fiber; 8 g Protein

*This recipe is filling and highly nutritious, and is therefore rated as an excellent choice for weight loss.

Alf Hana!!!

Hearty Minestrone

Recently, I attended a cooking class in Egypt.  It was sponsored by the Healthy Life Center and was all about cooking vegetarian food.  We had a lot of fun and in one day, we made 8 different vegetarian dishes using all kinds of pasta.  The classes are usually held in a series.  We will definitely post the upcoming series so you can attend, too!

One of the delicious, nutritious dishes we made was minestrone.  Minestrone is such a versatile soup – you could do almost anything you want with it!!!  The version we made is on the traditional side, using lima beans.  Remember we told you about lima beans in a recent post?  But, if you can’t find them dried, they’re available in a can, too.  AND, if you just want to use your favorite bean – FEEL FREE to improvise!

One of the great things about this dish is that it is highly nutritious and filling.  That makes it perfect for those of us watching our weights!  For example, in one serving of this soup, you get 151% of your daily requirement for Vitamin A!

Get the printer-friendly version here.

Serves 4
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
6 cups water
1 bouillon cube, crumbled
½ cup of small pasta
1 package (450 g) frozen mixed vegetables (or substitute fresh)
1 can lima beans (450 g) (or soak and cook your own)

We soaked and cooked our own!

salt to taste (we use 2 teaspoons)

1.  Saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil until onions are translucent.
2.  Add the crumbled the bouillon cube, tomato paste, basil and marjoram and stir to mix.
3.  Add the water, pasta, frozen (or fresh) vegetables, cooked beans.
4.  Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes or until the pasta is completely cooked.

Nutrition Information: 1 of 4 servings
296 Calories; 4 g Fat; 0 mg Cholesterol; 53 g Carbohydrates; 12 g Fiber; 13 g Protein

Serving Suggestions and Variations:

  • Use different beans
  • Use your favorite vegetables
  • Serve with garlic bread or crackers
  • Add some hot peppers for a spicy twist
  • Add more greens!




Summer Stir Fry

Sometimes at the end of the week, we have a number of veggies left over in the fridge that didn’t make their way into the wonderful dishes we planned.  That’s when we get stir fry crazy!!!  Yes, we have made variations on the recipe below a number of times, but we keep coming back to this one because it super easy, tastes amazing and is a power punch of nutrition.
Serves 2
250 grams broccoli
250 grams cauliflower
2 medium zucchini, chopped in large chunks
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium potato, chopped in large chunks
3 tablespoons olive oil
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper (about 2 small dried peppers)
1 teaspoon dried basil (or 2 teaspoons fresh)
½  tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper

1.  In a steamer basket, steam the broccoli, cauliflower, and potato for 10-15 minutes until tender but still firm.
2.  In a large saute pan or wok, heat the olive oil and add the garlic.  Cook until the garlic starts to turn brown.
3.  Add the red pepper flakes and cook a few more minutes.
4.  Add the broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini and potato to the garlic, oil and red pepper.  Stir fry until the vegetables are tender and covered with the garlic.
5.  Add the basil, salt and pepper to taste.

Nutritional Information:
341 Calories; 21 g Fat; 0 mg Cholesterol; 36 g Carbohydrates; 9 g Fiber; 9 g Protein
Oh, and by the way, you get 332% of daily recommended intake of Vitamin C and 179% of your recommended intake of Vitamin K in one serving!! Also, this recipe is strongly anti-inflammatory (read more about inflammation here…)
What veggies do you like to throw into your stir fry?
Alf Hana!!!

Pharaoh’s Friday #13: Pureed Potatoes with Black Beans

Fridays are “Pharaoh’s Fridays“!  We like to take traditional, Egyptian recipes and adapt them so they are entirely plant-based!
This recipe will satisfy your craving for a hearty, nutritious meal.  It’s relatively low in calories, low in fat, and will fill you up!  It’s a perfect treat if you’re trying to lose weight!
Serves 6
(for the potatoes)
1 kilo potatoes
2 tablespoons water
1 cup soy milk
4 tablespoons cornstarch, mixed with 4 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper(for the black bean mix)
250 grams black beans, canned or soaked and boiled (about 1 and ½ cups)
125 grams mushrooms
1 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 vegetable bouillon cube
1 tablespoon chili powder(on top)
1 tablespoon fine breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon olive oil

Prepare the potatoes:
Preheat the oven to gas mark 6, or 400º F or 200º C (moderately hot).
1.  In a large pot, boil the potatoes until tender (about 20 minutes).

Prepare the black bean mix:
2.  While the potatoes are boiling, heat the onion and garlic in the 1 tablespoon of olive oil for about 2 minutes.
3.  Add the mushrooms, bouillon cube, and chili powder. Cook for another 4 minutes or so until the mushrooms have released their water.
4.  Add the tomatoes, beans, and tomato paste.  Cook for another 5 minutes.

5.  Once the potatoes have finished boiling, place the potatoes in a colander, but reserve the water they cooked in.  You can peel them if you like or leave the skin on for the extra nutrients (of course, you should invest in organic if you choose this option…).  Mash them with a potato masher or fork.
6.  Place the potatoes back in the empty large pot.  Add 2 tablespoons of the reserved cooking water from the potatoes, soy milk, cornstarch mix, salt and pepper and mix well until creamy.
7.  Using a little bit of oil, grease a casserole dish (9-by-13-inches or 22-by-33-centimeter).  Spread half the mashed potatoes in the dish.
8.  Spread the black bean mix on the first layer of potatoes and then cover with the second half of the potatoes.
9.  Sprinkle the tablespoon of breadcrumbs all over the top of the potatoes and then sprinkle the oil on top.
10.  Bake for 30 minutes until the top turns brown.
Nutritional Information:
324 Calories; 6 g Fat; 0 mg Cholesterol; 60 g Carbohydrates; 9 g Fiber; 10 g Protein

Alf Hana!!!

What’s your favorite way to eat potatoes?

Pharaoh’s Friday #12: Meatless Eggplant and Cream Pie (Moussaka)

Okay, this variation of moussaka (or eggplant [aubergine] casserole) originates in Greece, but many Egyptians do eat their eggplant casserole like this.  This was a very satisfying casserole that will remind you of the non-vegan version immediately.
[veganized from The Complete Middle East Cookbook, by Tess Mallos]
Serves 6
500 g eggplant, with skin, sliced (1 medium-sized eggplant)
oil for brushing

Meat Sauce:
3 cups TVP
3 cups water
2 bouillon cubes

1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon water
½ cup tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped (or ½ tablespoon of dried)
½ teaspoon sugar
⅛ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper

Cream Sauce:
2 tablespoons corn oil
2 tablespoons + ½ teaspoon flour
1 cup of non-dairy milk (we used soymilk)
1/16 teaspoon of nutmeg
salt and black pepper to taste

Prepare the eggplant.
1.  Cut eggplant into slices (leave the skin on).  Sprinkle with salt and leave sit for about an hour.  Pat dry.


After an hour

2.  Brush a cookie or baking sheet with oil and layer the eggplant slices on the baking sheet.  Brush the tops of the slices with oil as well.  Bake in the oven at gas mark 5 (375 degrees F or 190 degrees C) for about 5 minutes.
3.  Once the eggplant slices are browned on the one side, turn them, brush with oil and brown the other side for another 5 minutes.

Browned eggplant

Prepare the meat sauce.
4.  Put the TVP in a large bowl.  Set aside.
5.  In a medium sauce pan, heat the 3 cups of water and the 2 bouillon cubes.  Once they have boiled and become broth, pour over the 3 cups of TVP and let sit for about 15 minutes until the TVP has absorbed the broth.
6.  In a large sauce pan, heat the one tablespoon of oil and one tablespoon of water and add the onion and garlic.  Fry until lightly browned.
7.  Add the reconstituted TVP and the tomatoes, tomato paste, soy sauce, parsley, sugar, cinnamon, salt, and black pepper.  Cover and simmer over low heat for about 30 minutes.

Meatless Meat sauce

Prepare the cream sauce:
8.  Heat the corn oil in a small pan and add the flour.  Cook for about 2 minutes until bubbling.
9.  Add the nondairy milk.  Stir constantly and let the sauce boil for about 1 minute.
10.  Remove the cream sauce from the heat and add the nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.
Prepare the moussaka:
11.  In a 9 x 9 inch (23 cm x 23 cm) casserole dish, brush a bit of oil and then arrange a layer of eggplant slices on the bottom (try to use about ⅓ of the slices).  Top this layer with half of the meat sauce.  Add another layer of eggplant, top with the rest of the meat sauce, and then finish with the final third of the sliced eggplant.

First layer of eggplant

The layered moussaka before the cream

12.  Pour the cream sauce over the top of the meat pie.  Bake in the oven at gas mark 4 (180 degrees C or 350 degrees F).  Cool on a rack for at least 10 minutes before cutting.
It’s important to wait before cutting.
Otherwise, your pieces may fall apart.

Nutritional Information: 1 of 6 pieces
326 Calories; 12g Fat; 0mg Cholesterol; 29g Carbohydrates; 12g Fiber; 25g Protein

Alf Hana!!!

Barbecue Tofu and Mushroom Salad

Are you yearning for a filling, tasty, summer meal?  Well, you should try this.

Serves 2
1 package of fresh tofu, frozen and thawed (about 150 grams)*
½ package of fresh mushrooms (about 150 grams)
1 tablespoon olive oil

¼ cup of vegan barbecue sauce**
about 1 tablespoon sesame seeds

1 small head of lettuce, chopped
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 teaspoon salt

1.  Squeeze any remaining liquid from the thawed tofu.  Slice into ½ thick pieces.
2.  In a skillet, fry the tofu and mushrooms in the oil until browned.
3.  Remove the tofu and mushrooms from the heat and mix in the barbecue sauce and sesame seeds.

Prepare the salad:
4.  In a large bowl, toss the lettuce and tomatoes with salt until well mixed.
5.  Arrange the tofu and mushrooms on top of the salad.

*When you freeze tofu and then thaw it before using, the texture becomes more firm and a bit more like the familiar texture of meat.
**You can use homemade barbecue sauce, but we found an ‘accidentally’ vegan barbecue sauce in the market and it was quite tasty!!  It was called “Bull’s-Eye”.

Nutritional Information:
242 Calories; 11 g Fat; 0 mg Cholesterol; 27 g Carbohydrates; 4 g Fiber; 10 g Protein
What do you like to eat when it gets hot?
Alf Hana!!!