For the first 20 years of our marriage, because of our work schedules, my husband, Vince, prepared dinner for the family. I never thought this was an unusual arrangement. When our work schedules changed, I arrived home first, and I prepared the evening meal.

Although I am happy to do most of the cooking now that we’re retired, my husband still takes over the cooking for a few months every year. Here are some of Vince’s culinary masterpieces. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Ramen (Susan Alexander / For the News Tribune)
Ramen (Susan Alexander / For the News Tribune)

Ramen

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Vince deemed Mondays ramen night. I admit that ramen is ridiculously easy to repair. By itself, it isn’t particularly nutritious, but loaded up with broccoli and other vegetables, ramen becomes something wonderful.

Visit an Asian grocery store, and you’ll find there are more varieties of ramen than you could ever imagine. We enjoy fermented black bean, hoisin and kimchi varieties as well as an animal-free pork flavor.

Vary the vegetables and the amounts to accommodate your tastes and the number of people you’re feeding. The seasoning packets with ramen noodles can be too salty and spicy, so taste the seasonings first to determine how much you would like in your dish. We usually use half a seasoning packet but put bottles of hoisin sauce, teriyaki sauce and sriracha on the table to add zing.

1 stalk of celery, sliced

1 carrot, chopped

1 large head of broccoli, chopped

about a half cup of frozen edamame or frozen peas

2 packages vegan ramen noodles, broken

1 package baked (or a tub of extra firm) tofu, cubed

1 can water chestnuts, sliced or chopped

2 packets of ramen seasoning

peanuts to taste

mint leaves, if desired

Put about four cups of water in a large pot. Add celery and carrots and bring to a boil. After about two minutes, add broccoli and frozen edamame. Boil for another minute. Add ramen and cook for three to four minutes (according to package directions). Add tofu and water chestnuts. Drain off most of the water. Return the ramen noodles and vegetables to the pot. Add seasonings from the seasoning packets to taste.

Plate the ramen. Top each serving with a handful of peanuts and garnish with mint leaves, if desired. Serve hot.

Curry (Susan Alexander / For the News Tribune)
Curry (Susan Alexander / For the News Tribune)

Curry

Curry served on rice is always on the menu when my husband takes a turn cooking. Vince serves his curry with tofu that has been marinated in fresh ginger and soy sauce, then breaded and baked in the oven until golden brown. There’s always wasabi paste on the table to further liven up the chunks of baked tofu.

The vegetables in Vince’s curry are chopped into roughly 1½-inch inch pieces.

1 package S&B curry sauce mix (mild, medium, hot or extra hot)

1 bunch broccoli, washed and coarsely chopped

1 onion, coarsely chopped

1 carrot, coarsely chopped

1 sweet potato, chopped (skin on or off, your preference)

1 brown, red, or yellow potato, chopped (skin on or off, your preference)

Follow directions on the package of curry sauce using a large pot. When the sauce is boiling, add veggies and cook until they are tender. Serve the vegetables over steamed rice.

Note: To ensure the root vegetables are adequately cooked, Vince likes to boil the potatoes and carrots for a few minutes before adding the curry sauce.

Curry burgers plated on a bun with toppings. (Susan Alexander / For the News Tribune)
Curry burgers plated on a bun with toppings. (Susan Alexander / For the News Tribune)

Curry Burgers

Leftover curry makes delicious curry burgers.

Drain most of the curry gravy from the vegetables and reserve if desired. Place vegetables in a food processer and chop until vegetables are pea-sized. Add enough quick oats to form a fairly loose mixture. Refrigerate a few hours, or overnight, for the curry-oatmeal mixture to firm up.

Curry burgers fry up in a pan. (Susan Alexander / For the News Tribune)
Curry burgers fry up in a pan. (Susan Alexander / For the News Tribune)

When you’re ready to prepare burgers, form burger-size patties from the oatmeal-curry mix. Fry the burgers in a skillet in little canola oil until a crust forms on each side of the burger.

Place the burger on a soft, whole-wheat bun and top with whatever fixings sound good to you. One option is to heat the reserved curry sauce and drizzle the sauce on top of the burger. I like my curry burger topped with kimchi, sliced raw onion, tomato slices, lettuce and Korean chili sauce.

A plated slice of Vince's 16-layer Tortilla Casserole, served with salad. (Susan Alexander / For the News Tribune)
A plated slice of Vince's 16-layer Tortilla Casserole, served with salad. (Susan Alexander / For the News Tribune)

Vince’s 16-layer Tortilla Casserole

I advise you use a deep baking dish for this casserole. You can put the ingredients into the casserole in any order you want and even skip a few layers. Or be adventurous and add a few more! (Why stop at 16?) Either way, the casserole will be delicious.

28-ounce can enchilada sauce

24 corn tortillas

2 large yams

soy chorizo (a meat-free version of spicy Spanish sausage)

1 to 2 cans black beans, depending how many people you’re feeding

1 large zucchini or 2 small zucchinis, sliced into long strips

1 onion cut in half and sliced into half moons

2 large tomatoes, sliced

2 cans sliced black olives

1 cup vegan cheddar cheese (we like Daiya)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook yams. Vince likes to wrap the yams loosely in a towel and microwave for 10 minutes, flipping halfway through. You want the yams cooked but not mushy. Remove the yam skin and slice the cooked yams into long strips about one-third-inch thick.

Mix the black beans with the soy chorizo.

Vince's 16-layer Tortilla Casserole as it appears in the oven. (Susan Alexander / For the News Tribune)
Vince's 16-layer Tortilla Casserole as it appears in the oven. (Susan Alexander / For the News Tribune)

Place about ½ cup of enchilada sauce in the bottom of the casserole dish. Layer 12 tortillas on top of the enchilada sauce to create a double layer. Top the tortillas with yam slices, half the chorizo bean mix, then zucchini slices. Top the zucchini slices with about 1/3 cup of enchilada sauce. Add a layer of six tortillas. Top the tortillas with onions, remaining half of the black bean chorizo mix, and more enchilada sauce. Add one more layer of tortillas, the remaining enchilada sauce, then tomato slices, black olives and vegan cheddar cheese.

Bake, covered, for 45 minutes to an hour. Top each slice with a dollop of sour cream and plate with lettuce and avocado, if desired.

Yam Pizza (Susan Alexander / For the News Tribune)
Yam Pizza (Susan Alexander / For the News Tribune)

Yam Pizza

This recipe is adapted from the “4 Ingredient Vegan” cookbook by Maribeth Abrams and Anne Dinshah.

2 yams, cooked

2 large vegan naan breads

1 cup (approximately) hummus, any flavor

1 mild onion, sliced

1 large tomato, sliced

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cook the yams. (Vince uses the microwave.) After the yams are cool enough to handle, slip the skins off and slice them into thick (1/3-inch) slices.

While the yams are cooking and cooling, place naans on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 5 to 8 minutes, until the bottoms are slightly browned. Remove from oven and flip over so that the bottom side is facing up.

Spread the hummus onto the tops of the naan breads. Top the hummus with the sliced onion, yam slices, then tomato slices.

Bake the yam pizzas for 10 to 15 minutes until piping hot. Cut each naan into four pieces and serve. Two naans make 8 pieces of yam pizza.

Salad for Dinner (Susan Alexander / For the News Tribune)
Salad for Dinner (Susan Alexander / For the News Tribune)

Salad for Dinner

The following ingredient measurements are roughly for one person. Double the ingredients for two, quadruple for four, etc.

½ cup seitan strips or chunks

½ cup frozen edamame

1 cup broccoli, chopped

½ cup soy sauce or other Asian marinade or sauce

1 cup mixed, pre-washed salad greens

½ cup sliced fresh button mushrooms, sliced

½ cup mandarin orange segments

¼ cup Trader Joe’s coconut cashews, or plain cashews

In a skillet over low heat, sauté seitan, edamame and broccoli in soy sauce until broccoli is bright green and tender-crisp. Plate the salad greens. Top with mushrooms and seitan mixture. Top with orange segments and cashews.

The salad can be served with an Asian-style salad dressing, more soy sauce or Asian marinate, teriyaki sauce, or nothing at all.

Note: Any packaged seitan would work in this salad. However, some packaged seitans are better than others. West Soy and Sweet Earth brands are my personal favorites.

Vegan Grilled Cheese (Susan Alexander / For the News Tribune)
Vegan Grilled Cheese (Susan Alexander / For the News Tribune)

Grilled Cheese

Vegans don’t need to pass on the comfort of grilled cheese sandwiches. These are particularly good served with a vegan tomato soup.

Per sandwich:

2 slices of whole wheat bread

2 tablespoons vegan margarine, softened

1 slice of any flavor vegan cheese: pepper jack, cheddar or swiss

2 slices tomato

onion slice

slices of mushrooms, if desired

sliced green olives, if desired

Italian seasoning, if desired

Spread margarine on bread slices. Place one slice margarine side down in skillet. Top with vegan cheese, tomato, onion and other toppings, if using. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning, if desired. Top with remaining bread slice, margarine side up. Grill sandwiches on medium heat until golden brown, flipping once while trying to keep all the delicious fillings from escaping.

COMING UP: Next time, from Barbecued Beans to Burritos, we'll look at more favorites from my husband.

Did you know?

Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Eating Animals” and “We Are the Weather writes: “We cannot protect against pandemics while continuing to eat meat regularly. Much attention has been paid to wet markets, but factory farms, specifically poultry farms, are a more important breeding ground for pandemics. Further, that the three out of four new or emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic — the result of our broken relationship with animals.”

Susan Alexander
Susan Alexander

Susan Alexander is an avid cyclist. She loves gardening, farmers' markets and creating delicious meals consisting of whole grains, fresh vegetables and fruits.