Sunday, December 25, 2011

Teeny Weeny Zucchini Bites



Ok they're not that teeny. And they are definitely note weeny. But they are surely zucchini.

Christmas Eve is usually a big hullabaloo consisting of lots of family, wine, loud chatter, dinner, carols, more wine and too many cookies. That’s Minnesota style holidays on my side of the family. But this year, we were on the Arizona rotation where there isn’t really a Christmas Eve tradition. So we decided to spend it, just me and my other half.
I had a crazy desire to make gnocchi because I thought it would be fun to make together. But it takes foooor-evvvvvv-er. Well it takes a while for the potatoes to bake anyway. Knowing we had a long wait ahead of us before any dinner would manifest, I turned to my favorite taste-tester and said “What would you like to nosh on whilst we await this glorious.
Fabulous idea it was. I had only made these once before and did not use breadcrumbs because of a gluten allergy in the audience of eaters. Well not this time, so I loaded up on the panko and added a pinch of vegan cheese. Oh boy, these suckers are making into the regular rotation for potlucks and entertaining. Simple ingredients, easy to make, and beautifully scrumptious. Not to mention they made a wonderful stand-in for the Christmas tree we did not set up.
Teeny Weeny Zucchiini Bites
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Ingredients
3 T. plain soy yogurt
3 T. veganaise
¼ tsp. onion powder
2/3 c. panko
2 T. nutritional yeast
½ tsp. garlic salt
1/3 c. Daiya cheese or other vegan cheese
Optional: bac’un bits, crushed red pepper
1-2 small/medium zucchini, sliced into ¼ inch thick rounds
Directions
Preheat oven to 400*F. Cover baking sheet with aluminum foil and coat with cooking spray.
In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, veganaise and onion powder. Set aside. In another bowl, combine the panko, nutritional yeast and garlic salt and stir until well combine. Have the cheese nearby in another bowl for prep.
Dip each zucchini round in the yogurt mixture followed by the panko mix. Cover completely with crunchy coating and place on the baking sheet. Place a little pinch of Daiya or cheese. Top with a few bac’un bits or a few flakes of crushed red pepper if desired.
Bake for about 20 minutes or until crispy brown.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Wild Sweet Potato Hash with Tempeh Bac'un








Background: I’ve been in yoga teacher training for the past 3 months. I am so thrilled I decided to do this, because it’s been on my to-do list for about 3 years. As I got further into the program however, many other projects started to intersect with training: starting an employee wellness group at my job, project launches, employee cookbook, holidays. My desire to do household activities (i.e.. casual cleaning, laundry, showering) significantly decreased. This includes cooking. Yes, even cooking. Our takeout bill skyrocketed.

Some of these things have been completed by now: one whole Thanksgiving and half of Christmas, the cookbook, and an intense system implementation at work. And today I finally finished yoga teacher training. I wanted to celebrate! But still not cook.

This is the conversation that led up to this meal.

Me: What are we getting for dinner? Take out?
Partner in Crime: We don’t have anything at home?
Me: No… well we have a bunch of sweet potatoes.
PIC:  And tempeh. Can’t we do sweet potatoes and tempeh over rice.
Me: No. Item + item over rice does not a meal make. Plus that’s too many starches.
PIC: [Blank stare]
Me: Well maybe I can do something.

So in a moment of absolute hesitation I thought of this recipe in an awesome cookbook my father gave me 2 years ago. The recipe is for East African Wilderness Sweet Potato Patties, but I didn’t feel like doing all the work that goes into patties. Hash is easier; everything goes into one pan. This fabulously flavorful dish seems to have revived some semblance of my passion for cooking before life took over.

Wild Sweet Potato Hash with Tempeh Bac’un
Makes 2-3 servings
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 45-50 minutes

Ingredients

1 T. coconut oil
½ medium onion, chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1 red chili pepper or jalapeno, minced
1 tsp. cumin seeds
2 inch cinnamon stick
4 whole cloves
½ tsp. paprika
¼ tsp. turmeric
¼ tsp. ground cardamom
1 medium russet potato, cubed (small)
1 medium sweet potato, cubed (small)
½ summer squash, diced
½ medium red pepper
½ c. fresh or frozen yellow corn (thawed)
Salt and cayenne pepper

¼ c. cilantro, chopped
2 T. chives, chopped
Tempeh Bac’un (recipe below)

Directions

Optional: Toast the cumin, cinnamon and cloves over dry heat until fragrant. Remove from heat and ground in a mortar and pestle. Or be lazy like me and just throw them in the dish as their beautiful selves come in the bottle.

In a medium cast iron pan, heat the coconut oil over medium-high heat and add onions. Sauté until translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Lower heat to medium and add garlic and chili pepper. Stir and cook until garlic is fragrant, 30-60 seconds. Add remaining spices and stir for another 30 seconds and add potatoes. Cook until potatoes are al dente, about 20 minutes. Add remaining veggies plus a pinch of salt and cayenne pepper to taste. Cook until potatoes are tender and browned on all sides.  Remove from heat and stir in cilantro and chives. Serve with tempeh bac’un on top.



Tempeh Bac’un
Makes: 3-4 servings
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes

After making this several times, I’ve found that the proportions can always change depending on your taste. If you like a sweeter flavor, opt for more maple syrup. If you like salt, add a dash more soy sauce. Taste this as you go and adjust accordingly.

Ingredients

1 pkg tempeh, thinly sliced into strips
2-3 T. soy sauce or tamari
½ -1 T. maple syrup.
½ tsp. liquid smoke (10 shakes or so)
Pinch of ground cumin

Directions

Lay tempeh flat in a baking dish or roasting pan. Mix marinade ingredients together and pour evenly over tempeh. Flip over to coat evenly on both sides. Let side for 5 minutes or so. When ready to cook, remove the tempeh reserving the marinade.

Heat a skillet over high heat and either coat with cooking spray or heat with a dash of canola oil or Earth Balance. Add tempeh in one layer (you may have to make 2 batches) and cook until brown, about 2-3 minutes. Flip over and cook on other side for another 2 minutes. Pour remaining marinade and cook just until marinade cooks through and evaporates. Remove and serve!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Spaghetti Squash Gratin


Chilled to the bone. You midwesterners might call me sissy, but it's been c-c-c-cold down here. Which isn't a bad thing, because I love my warm clothes. And the only real cure for chilly weather and a downstairs without heating vents is something warm, soft and scoopable. Yep. Scoopable. The scooping is pivotal to the warming process.

Lately, I've come to adore spaghetti squash. I wrote a post long ago regarding my dismay at the hulabaloo around spaghetti squash, failing to find anything special about the stringy stuff. But for some reason, the fall of 2011 was the beginning of a magical season for me and the big yellow guy. An interest in getting away from too many grains and cooking with more of a variety of starches has been good for our relationship. We've grown. We're tight. With few calories and more nutrition, it's now my preference to actual spaghetti. I usually eat it al dente with all the same toppings you'd put on noodles.

That is, until I ordered a side of spaghetti squash at the local eatery across the street. While I typically like all veggies a little crisp (wth the exception of potatoes, duh), I realized how much I seriously undercook spaghetti squash. This lovely, soft, pillowy version of a squash I thought I had come to know gave me the ah-hah moment. This is why people love it so much. Buttery, smooth comfort. So with 1.25 spaghetti squash lying around, 1.5 cans of diced tomatoes, and about .25 bags of chickpea flour in the kitch, I curse the 56 degrees outside and set out to make myself a scoopalicious comfort good. Gratin.

I found one recipe that matched my mood for warm and scoopy with a nice tomato sauce, but of course it calls for a lot of cheese. Naturally my random mind came to a brilliant alternative - how about a socca on top? Since I'm so good at posting hyperlinks today, I also wrote a recipe for socca a while back. It's like a pancake made out of chickpeas. Yum. So instead of ricotta on top, I added a good amount of plant protein with a chickpea flour batter. It baked nicely in the oven and added an extra creaminess that made this perfect. Enjoy on a cold evening complete with red wine and more red wine.

Spaghetti Squash Gratin
Makes: 3-4 servings
Total cook time: 2 hours

Ingredients

1 medium spaghetti squash

2 tsp. olive or coconut oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 heaping tsp. basil
1 heaping tsp. oregano
1/4 - 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
2 14oz cans of diced tomatoes, in juice
Salt and pepper to taste

3/4 c. chickpea flour
3/4 c. almond milk
1 T. nutritional yeast
1 T. cornstarch
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of nutmeg and white pepper

3/4 c. shredded vegan cheese, such as Daiya or Kase (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 450*F. Fill a large roasting pan with 1/2" of water.

Cut squash in 2 or 4 pieces and scoop out the seeds. Place squash flesh side down in roasting pan and cover with aluminum foil. Roast in oven for 40 minutes or until very tender.

While the squash is cooking, prepare the tomato sauce. Heat oil over medium-low heat and cook garlic slowly until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes (being careful not to burn). Add herbs and crushed red pepper. Stir for another 30 seconds and add tomatoes, salt and pepper. Increase heat to medium high and bring sauce to a low boil. Reduce heat to medium and cover. Simmer sauce for 20 minutes or until the "canned-ness" is cooked out of the tomatoes (alternatively, you could make your own fresh tomato sauce instead of being a bum like me).

While the sauce simmers, prepare the socca batter. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside to rest. At this point you should be able to return to the baking squash. Remove from the oven when tender and reduce temperature to 375*F.

Using a spoon, lift the squash flesh away from the skin (sounds gross like a freshman year biology class). Season with salt and pepper to taste and tranfer to a casserole dish. Layer the bottom completely with squash and cover with tomato sauce. Sprinkle half of the cheese over the sauce (if using) and cover evenly with batter. Sprinkel remaining cheese on top and bake for 45-55 minutes, or until socca has set and browned on top.

Let cool 10 minutes before serving (we both burned our tongues getting a little antsy).

Monday, October 24, 2011

Red Curry Cacophony



My curry craving tonight was fierce. And with a "bare" fridge, the prospects were looking dismal. No  soy sauce, no coconut milk, no sugar, no lime. That pretty much means no curry. But who says I have to follow the curry rules? How many people keep a back-up stock of coconut milk and a constant supply of Kefir lime leaves? How is anyone supposed to make a decent Thai curry on a whim?!

Here's how. You dance to your own tune, you float your own boat, you write your own recipe. Nothing about this is authentic and it won't taste like it came from a food cart right off a beach in Thailand. But oh my sriracha is this deeeeeelish! Sea salt, almond milk, maple syrup and lemon were damn good stand-ins for what an actual Thai recipe might call for, though you can't really call it Thai at this point anymore. As long as you have the curry paste, you can wing it. You just need salty, creamy, sweet and a touch of tart to make the magic happen.

Those close to me know I have a little bit of a thing for peanut butter, and it really (and I mean REALLY) does this dish justice. It was a game changer when I mixed it in last minute, so don't skip. Unless your allergic, in which case I don't know how you eat. Ever. Just kidding. PS: add tofu if you'd like extra protein.

This might not be the prettiest of pictures and it might not be authentic Thai, but your panel of taste buds will be the ultimate judge.

Red Curry Cacophony
Makes: 1 serving
Cook time: 15-20 minutes

Ingredients

Cooking spray
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2-1 T. red curry paste
1/2 medium carrot, thinly sliced
1/4 c. red pepper, thinly sliced
1/4 c. fennel or cabbage, thinly sliced
1 c. cauliflower, chopped into small pieces
1/4 c. green peas, from fresh or frozen
1/2 c. almond milk, unsweetened
1/2 tsp. maple syrup (or more to cut spice)
1/2 tsp. lemon juice, freshly sqeezed
1/2-1 tsp. peanut butter
1 tsp. chickpea flour
1/8 tsp. sambal or garlic chili paste (optional)
Salt to taste
1 green onion stalk, sliced

Directions

Heat a wok or deep skillet over medium-high heat and coat with cooking spray. Add garlic and cook until just fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add curry paste plus 2 tablespoons of water and a pinch of salt. Stir in pan until paste is smooth and thin. Add carrot, pepper and fennel/cabbage plus a couple more tablespoons of water to deglaze the pan if it's becoming too dry. Cook until vegetables just start to soften, 2-3 minutes, and increase heat slightly. Add remaining ingredients except for the onion. Be sure to really whisk in the flour and peanut butter so that they coat the veggies. When milk is starting to boil, reduce heat again to medium-high and cook until cauliflower is tender, about 10 minutes.

Adjust seasonings to taste - if too spicy, add a little more maple syrup and/or almond milk. If too sweet, add a touch more lemon juice. If too thin, add a small pinch of chickpea flour. Garnish with sliced green onion and enjoy!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Lemon Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting and Sliced Strawberries



Day 12 of Vegan Mofo: This recipes makes me giddy. A veganized version of a lovely favorite. I was stumped as to a good birthday dessert for a very Italian co-worker whose 2 favorite desserts are Tiramisu and Lemon Cake. There are a few vegan Tiramisu recipes out there, but I really wasn't feeling up to that challenge considering I was also making a pasta dish for the potluck (sounds like overkill for a work lunch, but I always need to bring a vegan sweet and savory option for the sheer pleasure of demonstrating how feasible vegan eating is). All tangeants aside, I found a great source of inspiration on Epicurious who has a killer Lemon Buttermilk Cake recipe that is very eaily veganizable.

The crowd's reaction: "This is seriously vegan? Can I please have this recipe?" Yes and yes. The cupcakes turned out incredibly moist for what I think is probably 2 reasons. The applesauce adds a ton of moisture, and the extra tablespoon of cider vinegar makes the batter a little more wet than the original version. Regardless of the real reason, these are fabulous, light and vibrantly flavorful. The cake itself has a very subtle lemon flavor, but the frosting...oh the frosting. It could be eaten (and maybe was eaten) by itself. Tanti auguri e buon appetito!

Lemon Cupcakes with Sliced Strawberries
Makes: 24 cupcakes
Total prep time: 2 hours with cooling

For the Cupcakes
1 1/2 c. almond or soy milk + 1 T. cider vinegar
1 3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. Earth Balance, room temperature
2 T. grated lemon peel
3/4 c. applesauce
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 c.cake flour (or all purpose)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt

For the Frosting
12 oz. Tofutti cream cheese, room temperature
2 T. Earth Balance, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
3-4 T. lemon juice
2 tsp finely grated lemon peel

1 pint strawberries, washed and sliced

* For a thicker frosting, use lemonade concentrate (thawed) and decrease the fresh lemon peel.

Directions
For the Cake: Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray and flour muffin tins/cupcake pans or spray the lined paper cups.

Whisk vinegar and almond/soy milk together in a small bowl. Set aside to curdle while you prepare the other ingredients. In a separate large bowl, beat the sugar, Earth Balance and lemon peel. Add applesauce and lemon juice and beat until well blended. In a third bowl, sift flour, baking soda and salt. Stir dry ingredients into wet mixture alternately with curdled milk until batter is smooth.
Divide batter among tins or cups. Bake until tester inserted into center of cupcakes comes out clean, about 15-20 minutes. Transfer cupcakes to racks and cool 30-45 minutes.

For the frosting: Beat Tofutti and Earth Balance in large bowl until completely blended. Gradually add powdered sugar and beat until smooth. Beat in lemonade concentrate or lemon juice and lemon peel.

To assemble: Top each cupcake with 1-2 tablespoons of frosting and 2-3 slices of fresh strawberries.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Warm and Creamy Sweet Potato Salad



Day 10 of Vegan Mofo. I guess I owe a bit of a eulogy to days 3 through 9. This thing called life got in the way, but those days did not pass in vain. In fact, the whirling of time right now is what generates the most inspiration. Which is what I absolutely love about this recipe. Even though senor time is totally trying to road block me from taking the time to cook and write most of my recipes down, this particular recipe was too resilient, too easy to make and too flavorful to let chaos keep me from giving it to you. If you're finding yourself rushed through this fall as well, just know that there is always time for a sweet potato.

There are about a million more things I love about this recipe other that it being busy-life proof. 1) I'm a sucker for sweet potato in any way shape or form. 2) Avocado for me is the equivalent of most people's butter, in fact I even spread it on toast I love it so much. Plus chunks of avocado taste even better than chunks of butter (cue in gag reflex). 3) Tahini dressing...enough said. 4) I hope I don't have to keep persuading you to make this. It's easy and lovely and tasty and you shouldn't have to think twice about a sweet potato.

Summer picnic potato salads are cold and generally appeal to everyone. But who can resist a warm autumnal  potato salad? Not me and not you. To make this super quick on the fly, feel free to microwave (gasp!) the sweet potato to cut down on cooking time. For serving at a dinner party, I'd probably go a little classier and boil the sweet potato. Everything else just falls into place.

Warm & Creamy Sweet Potato Salad
Makes: 3-4 servings
Cook time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

2 medium sweet potatoes, washed and cubed*
1 medium avocado, cubed
2-3 green onion stalks, green and white parts sliced
1/3 c. parsley, chopped

1 1/2 T. apple cider vinegar
1 T. stone ground or dijon mustard
1 T. tahini
1 tsp. pure maple syrup
Black pepper to taste

Directions

Prepare the potatoes by covering with water in a saucepan by 1 inch. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium. Simmer for 10-15 minutes or until potatoes are tender. When done, set aside in a medium mixing bowl and mix in avocado and green onion.

While the potatoes are boiling, make the dressing. Whisk all ingredients together and adjust seasoning to taste. If the dressing is too thick, add a little more cider vinegar. If too tart, add a touch more tahini or maple syrup.

Coat the potato/avocado mixture with dressing and top with fresh parsley. Serve warm.

*If you are opting for the microwave, poke each potato a bunch of times and microwave whole for 5-7 minutes or until tender.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Mexican Risotto and Beans



Day 2 of Vegan MOFO: As I expected, coming up with a "recipe" is a little high maintenance every day.  But then again, what I think of as a recipe is really kitchen voodoo to someone else. And what someone else thinks is a recipe, I think is more an assembly. Tomay-to, tomah-to.

Call this a recipe or a matter of assembly, but it's one of my favorite convenience meals especially after a long and late workout when I have little energy to cook. This simply requires having the ingredients on hand rather than carefully crafting them in a cooking-like fashion. In short, the stove does the work for you. You just have to show up with the goods. What I'm calling "risotto" is truly just Mexican rice that comes out looking like Italian risotto because of the broth and nutritional yeast making a saucy, creamy goodness. In fact, this isn't just rice. I mixed quinoa and rice together because that's what I had left over in the fridge and there wasn't enough rice to make a whole serving. The spinach was the last of a bag that didn't have enough to make a salad. Creativity points?

So what perhaps is one of the laziest, unchef-ish meals to come out of this kitchen, is in fact a go-to staple at our residence and one that all kitchens should have on hand just in case. Bring out the can opener, scrounge through your leftover grains and eat like it's sophomore year in college.

Mexican Risotto and Refried Beans
Makes 2-3 servings
Cook time: 5 minutes

Ingredients

3/4 c. cooked rice
3/4 c. cooked quinoa
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp cayenne or crushed red pepper
  -- or use 2 tsp of your favorite taco seasoning
Pinch of salt
1/2-3/4 c. vegetable broth, divided
1 1/2 T. nutritional yeast
3/4 c. spinach

1 can refried beans
Salsa
Guacamole
Fresh tomatoes, diced
Hot sauce

Directions

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and cover the bottom with 1/4 cup of broth. When broth is bubbling, add the rice, quinoa and spices (through the salt). Stir to completely coat rice. When liquid has almost evaporated and rice starts to stick to the bottom, pour in another 1/3-1/2 cup of broth, nutritional yeast and spinch. Stir again and cook a minute longer or until some of the liquid has evaporated and the texture becomes creamy.

Meanwhile, heat the beans in a sauce pan over low heat. To serve, plate the beans and risotto together topped with salsa, guac and fresh tomatoes. If you're like me and you like a kick, top it all off with a few shakes of Chalula.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Garlicky Parsnip Equinox Mash



Ok sorry I missed the equinox by a few days... Ah hem, well a week plus some. What is the equinox you ask? It's the transition from summer to fall. A time when all Phoenicians royally curse the summer, because this transition is much more tangible in other climates while we are stuck with an overly exuberant sun that perseveres through October.  The equinox my personal favorite of the seasonal changes. It sports my color wheels and means a whole lot more pumpkin in the kitchen! It also makes me nostalgic for falling leaves and autumn in New York. There is nothing I don't like about fall. Especially in Arizona, as fall does not symbolize the coming of chew-your-arm-off windchill winter. You win some, you lose some.

Ok another apology owed. I also missed the start of Vegan MOFO. What is vegan mofo you ask? It's the vegan month of food! October is world vegetarian month, with October 1st being the World Vegetarian Day and the day I was supposed to start blogging on my 31 day vegan montage (see the official site for more participating blogs). Hopefully despite my lack of time due to my yoga teacher training program starting and having a busy life in general, I will be able to contribute daily. Hopefully you despite your lack of time or want to analyze vegan ranting, will be able to enjoy the spirit and taste of this ultimate plant based booyakasha.

So this dish came about spur of the moment of course. Parsnips are one of my absolute favorite vegetables and taste like quintessential fall to me. But somehow every time I purchase them, they end up mingled in with the carrots and I never notice them until they are starting to prune. When they are in the beginning stages of sagging, I always revert to a mash. In a mash, it never matters what the veggie looked like before. And you get all the credit for the taste without the mess of presentation. This is a lighter mash because it's actually a blend of winter and summer squash - how perfectly equinox! Enjoy how simply season it is.

Garlicky Parsnip Mash
Makes 3-4 servings
Cook time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

2 c. parsnips, peeled and sliced
1 c. butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 medium summer squash, sliced
2 garlic cloves
Pinch of salt

Directions

Place all ingredients in a large sauce pan and cover with water by about an 1-2 inches. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to medium. Simmer until veggies are tender, about 10-15 minutes. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Add any fresh herbs you like to spruce it up!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Roasted Broccoli with Tahini Sauce over Curried Squash




Somewhere amidst traveling, working full time, running, yoga and happy hour, I’ve lost the desire to stand in the kitchen for hours to impress…myself. I used to concoct these complicated displays with a bagillion ingredients, always making homemade seitan or soysage, whipping up my own Worcestershire sauce, etc. Has reality finally sunk in? Do I really have no time or energy to cook? No, it’s not quite that extreme. But I am understanding better and better the people who tell me they just don’t have the time or the know-how to do what I do.

Well neither do I right now. Ok, ok, I have the know-how. But that’s why I write this little ditty. For you. To impart how easy it is to truly concoct something incredible with just a few things on hand in about a half hour that will appeal to any veg hater out there. This is a beautifully simple dish.  If you look at the 3 components separately, nothing requires more than 5 ingredients.  Do the math people! Sorry, I’ve been watching a lot of Numbers on Netflix. But seriously, you absolutely have time for this.

This recipe is based on one I found on Vegetarian Times. I adjusted the Tahini Sauce to my taste and deviated quite a bit from the bulgur nonsense. I like my version, and so did my token omnivore, which (as you know) is always the final test to determine the final fate of my crazy kitchen madness. “Mmmmmm”s all around. If you need a little protein boost, this would go great with falafel or just some mashed chickpeas mixed right into that squash. Ok it’s go time - start preheating that oven (toaster oven will do for those of you who live in stupidly extreme climates like me).

Roasted Broccoli with Tahini Sauce over Curried Squash
Makes: 2-4 servings
Cook time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

For the Broccoli
1 broccoli crown/stalk, cut into small flowerets (about 3 cups)
1/2 - 1 T. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

For the Squash
1 small acorn squash, halved and seeded
1 T. veggie broth
1 tsp. curry powder
1/4 tsp garam masala
1 T. dried currants
Salt to taste

For the Tahini Sauce
1 T. tahini
1 T. lemon juice (about 1 whole small lemon)
1 small garlic clove, finely minced
1 T. veggie broth

Directions

Preheat oven to 450F.

In a medium bowl, drizzle broccoli with olive oil and coat generously with salt and pepper. Spread evenly over a foil lined pan and roast until browned and crispy around edges, about 25 minutes. Remove and set aside.

While the broccoli is cooking, place the squash flesh side down in a microwave safe dish about 2-3 inches in depth. Fill dish up to 1 inch with water and cover. Microwave on high for 7-10 minutes or until completely tender. Remove from pan and set aside until cool enough to handle. Scoop/scrape flesh from the peel into a mixing bowl. Add broth and mash the sqaush with curry powder and garam masala. Fold in currants and set aside (cover to keep warm).

Finally prepare the sauce, combin tahini and lemon juice into a small bowl. Whisk vigorously until tahini separates and then smooths out to a creamy texture (stick with me here, the tahini will "fall apart" in the lemon juice all oil-on-water like but after about a minute or so, it will start to thicken and will become very creamy). Add garlic and broth to sauce. Season with salt to taste.

To assmeble: pile up a huge mound of squash on a plate. Top with broccoli and drizze with sauce. Delish!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Funkalicious Fat Free Fried Rice





When I went through my little “raw” experimental phase a while back, I came out with some good lessons.

Some of these include:
  1. I have a lot to learn about effective sprouting.
  2. I should have spent the money on a square food dehydrator. Now I have to cut holes in wax paper around the center tube. I would make kale chips everyday if I didn’t have to do this stupid step.
  3. Cauliflower is a beautiful stand in for rice.

So without going too much into the first two lessons, we’ll skip right to the rice. One of my absolute favorite types of recipe in the uncooked world is cauliflower “rice.” When pulsed in a food processor, cauliflower beads up and actually looks like rice. The texture is somewhat similar, but it takes to flavor extremely well. And when it’s all ground up, you don’t feel like you’re eating straight up fiber. You don’t get the side effects of eating straight up fiber either, which is nice for you and your loved ones.

 
Deviating from the raw theme, I cooked the pulsed cauliflower in this recipe. It beats waiting the 20 minutes it takes to cook rice and the hours it takes to cool it before reheating again in a frying pan. This is quicker, healthier and easier. And truth be told, I’m all about volume. I have a weakness for incredibly tasty food and therefore like to eat LARGE amounts of it, like any other person lacking self control. But think of 2 whole cups of cauliflower compared to 2 cups of fried rice. Such an easy way to trick your brain! Not to mention you’ve got boat loads more nutrients in the cruciferous cruncher than in the bland, bleached rice.

 
* Tofu Tip: A super convenient way to add tofu that actually has flavor is to buy pre-baked and seasoned tofu. My favorite kind is from Trader Joe’s and costs a whole 3 bucks. You don’t have to cook it, press it or season it. Just add it on top!

 
Funkalicious Fat Free Fried Rice

Makes: 1 huge serving
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes

 
Ingredients

 
2 c. cauliflower flowerets

1 large garlic clove, minced
1 tsp ginger root, minced
1 tsp. jalapeno or Serrano pepper, minced
½ c. mushrooms, sliced
¼ - ½ c. veggie broth (homemade or bouillon)
¼ c. shredded carrots
¼ c. green peas, from fresh or frozen (thawed)
¼ c. yellow corn, from fresh or frozen (thawed)
1 stalk green onions, chopped
1-2 tsp soy sauce
Baked & seasoned tofu such as Wildwood or Trader Joe’s, cubed

 
Directions

In a food processor, pulse the cauliflower until completely crumbled and no large chunks remain, about 20-25 pulses. Be sure to NOT process into a puree. When you pulse the processor in short bursts, you’ll get lovely little rice looking beads. Remove and set aside.

 
Heat a skillet over medium high heat and coat with cooking spray. Add garlic, ginger and jalapeno and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add mushrooms and ¼ cup of veggie broth to deglaze the pan (you don’t want burnt garlic!). Lower the heat slightly and cook until most of the liquid is gone, about 1 minute. Add cauliflower, remaining veggies and 1 teaspoon of soy sauce. If pan is too dry or anything starts sticking to the bottom, deglaze the pan with another ¼ cup of broth. Add baked tofu at the end an any additional soy sauce to taste.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Pasta with Creamy Truffle Sauce




I got a little ambitious last weekend with dried beans. My dear red headed curly-Q and I headed to Flagstaff for some escape from the blazing Phoenix sun and wanted to make the weekend cheap. We did a pretty good job considering we made one trip to the grocery story and ate out once for breakfast. To keep the food cost down I grabbed a jar of beans and a jar of rice (that is how I store my bulk foods - in old applesauce jars) and a can of those spicy fire roasted tomatoes I've been so keen on for the past few weeks.

At first I thought that making a big batch of beans would be a good way to save some prep time throughout the next week. So I cooked up a bunch of anasazi beans, made our lovely dish in Flagstaff using half the amount and headed back to the heat with the leftovers. Each night throughout the next week I looked at those beans and thought "uhhhh so what do I do with these now?"

We tried a couple of things at home - beans and potatoes, roasted eggplant "hummus" but by the time I came up on the very last scoop, I just had to get rid of these suckers. I'm a three bean salad kind of girl, I don't like to stick to one variety for too long. So one additional idea came to mind. While many vegan sauce recipes out there feature pureed beans, I had never really tried it myself. It seemed like the sauce would be too lumpy. Sure I'll use a good pinch of garbanzo flour once in a while, but as a base? I wasn't convinced it would actually be creamy.

That's because I didn't my food processor enough credit or enough time to do it's thang. Patience. When you let it go for more than a minute, it really gets its groove. It tore through those beans after adding enough broth and gave me a straight up sauce in about 4 minutes. With a couple of flavor punches like truffle spread and a garlic, this dinner was no effort. Don't have a jar of truffle spread floating around? Go to an Italian grocer or substitute with olive tapenade, mashed roasted garlic cloves, or another paste-type item with a strong flavor. I'm convinced this could even be served in a diner and pulled off as gravy. Mmmm comfort food.

So wait, I said anasazi beans above and it says cannellini beans below. So which is it? I figure if red beans were delicious, cannellini would be down right spectacular. You make the call.


Pasta with Creamy Truffle Sauce and Oyster Shrooms
Makes: 3-4 servings
Cook time: 15-20 minutes

Ingredients

1 c. cooked cannellini beans
1 clove garlic
2 T. nutritional yeast
1 heaping T. truffle-mushroom pâté or spread
1 tsp lemon juice
½ tsp sea salt*
1 ½ - 2 c. broth (homemade or from bouillon)

1 T. olive oil
3 c. oyster mushrooms
Pinch of salt

Any kind of pasta cooked according to package directions
Freshly ground black pepper

*Note: reduce the salt if using broth made from bouillon.

Directions

In a food processor, combine beans, garlic, nutritional yeast, truffle pâté, lemon juice and sea salt. Process on high and slowly add broth through the chute, half a cup at a time until desired thickness is reached. Process until sauce is completely smooth, about 4-5 minutes. Transfer sauce to a saucepan and heat over medium low until bubbling.  Turn heat all the way to low. If mixture is too thin, let the sauce bubble until it thickens, whisking constantly to avoid clumps.

While the sauce is heating, prepare the mushrooms. In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and add the mushrooms without crowding too much. Cook for 4-5 minutes or until mushrooms are tender. Season with a pinch of salt.




To assemble, top prepared pasta with a generous helping of mushrooms. Top with ¾ cup of sauce and a good grind of black pepper.



Thursday, August 11, 2011

MexiTempeh with Cheesy Polenta




Leafy greens. Not featured in the title of this recipe, because this recipe is for those that don’t like leafy greens. For the vegetarians that hate vegetables. For the children that grew up on hot dish. This dish is every bit as comforting as the mysterious casserole and every bit as convenient as the sensational Hamburger Helper. Ok, maybe not every bit as convenient, but this is super easy. You have no excuses.

Back to the leafy greens. Hopefully everyone knows by now that these sturdy green leaves pack a lot of nutrition. Kale is now commonly referred to as a super food, and it is. Other types have just as much bang for their buck. Chard, beet greens, mustard greens – these are all not only healthy but they each have unique flavors and complexities. The trick is in preparing them with enough complimentary flavor to counter some of the minor challenges they have. One being bitterness and the other being texture. Cooked too short, they will be bitter and chewy. Cooked too long and they will be flavorless mush.

In the case of veg haters, the nutritional components and soft flavors of greens matter not. It is those that cook for veg haters that must meet the challenge. I am one of those cooks. Do I criticize my fellow herbivores or loving omnivores for hating on greens? I could never be so harsh. But I will sneak them into my meals. All of them.

One of my new favorite go-to greens is the Trader Joe’s bag of braising greens – conveniently washed and chopped for your green-sneaking pleasure. Whole Foods has also starting offering braising green in bulk next to the salad greens. So now you really have no excuses! For this particular recipe, the spicy pizazz of cumin and chili powder will help to mask your good intentions as well. The only thing I haven’t figured out yet is how to make the greens invisible.


MexiTempeh over Cheesy Polenta
Serves: 2
Cook time: 25 minutes

Ingredients

2 tsp. canola oil
½ medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, sliced or minced
½ pkg tempeh, crumbled/broken into large chunks
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. oregano
½ tsp. chili powder
½ tsp. paprika
½ tsp. black pepper
¼ tsp. salt
(If you don’t have all those, use 1-2 T. taco seasoning)
¾ c. canned fire roasted tomatoes with chilis such as Rotel
3 c. leafy greens (collards, kale, mustard, chard etc.)
2 tsp. flour (garbanzo, potato or all purpose)
Dash of cinnamon
¼ c. cilantro, chopped

Directions

In a deep skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat and add onion. Cook until translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and cook another 30 seconds until fragrant. Stir in crumbled tempeh and spices. Cook until tempeh starts to brown, about 8-10 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes.

When pan starts to become dry, add in tomatoes and leafy greens. Add ¼ cup of water if mixture is too thick to make a light sauce. Sprinkle flour over stew and stir to thicken. Cook another 5-7 minutes, or until greens are wilted and tender. Turn the heat off. Sprinkle a faint dash of cinnamon over the top and stir in cilantro. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


Cheesy Polenta

Ingredients

2 c. Water
½ c. Polenta
½ tsp Salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
½ tsp miso paste
¼ tsp turmeric
¼ tsp salt
2 T. Nutritional Yeast

Directions

In a large sauce pan, bring water to a boil. Slowly add polenta in an even stream, whisking vigorously to avoid clumps. When polenta comes to a boil, lower heat to low and add in remaining ingredients. Let polenta simmer another 15 minutes or so until tender.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Braised Celery with Mustard Mash



Celery Heads - they grow so big. And though that's what we all want from a seedling, sometimes a whole head of celery is just...a lot. I get excited about the outer crunchy stalks for a few days, maybe dip them in hummus or use them to make jambalaya, then tuck the rest away for another day. Then another week goes by and the last few stalks call it quits. But it's almost a resentful kind of quits because my celery never gets soggy or brown, it just wilts. "See me? I'm green still. But I've lost my snap. Thanks to you." That's what my celery says to me when it passes its dipper or scooper prime. So what can be done with that limp, abandoned and seemingly hopeless last bit of celery hiding in the back of your "crisper" that hasn't done too well in keeping your green stalks crisp? Embrace it. Ah-hem, excuse me, em-braise it.

Braising is a lovely technique if you have a dose of patience and an eye for when to stop the heat. It can be perfect for yielding effortless sauces but a curse if you neglect your veggies to the point of mush. It really doesn't take that long, and the ingredient list is short. The method works well on almost every vegetable, particularly those that have already lost their oomph. While I don't typically think of celery as a main gig in any dish, it's a terrific star in this fabulously simple dish.

Now let's get to the potatoes. But more seriously, let's get to the mustard. I had some mustard mashed potatoes on, of all places, an airplane. Yes first class on a transatlantic flight has its benefits, one being meals that more closely resemble food. Ever since the flight back from Italy, I can't mash potatoes without mustard. Stone ground, semi-sharp. I use Annie's Horseradish Mustard in these potatoes because I love anything with horseradish in it. For those that don't care for it, you can use any other stone-ground mustard or maybe even get funky with a Sierra Nevada Stout or Porter variety.

As for the crunchy peas - so many braised celery recipes I found used some kind of bacon or pork fat to flavor the celery. While that makes me wanna hurl just a little bit, I appreciate what the smokiness of bacon might contribute. Personally, I though using vegetable bouillon was more than enough to keep the celery flavorful, but I was curious about the bacon. So I concocted a little something as a garnish of sorts to just throw on top for fun. It was fun. It tasted fun. And I think my poor neglected celery-turned-belle-of-the-ball felt extra special too.


Braised Celery with Mustard Mashed Potatoes
Makes: 3-4 Servings
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

For the celery
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 c. leeks or onion, sliced thinly
2 c. celery, chopped
1 1/2 c. vegetable broth
1/2 T. flour (chickpea or all purpose)
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper to taste

For the mashed potatoes
2-3 medium russet potatoes, cubed
1 T. stone ground mustard
1/2 T. Earth Balance
1-2 T. nutritional yeast
Salt to taste

Optional Topping
1/2 c. peas (frozen or raw, thawed if using frozen)
1 T. Veggie bac'un bits 

Directions

To make the celery: Heat olive oil in a deep skillet over medium high heat. Add onions and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add celery and continue to cook 3-4 minutes more. Add bay leaves and broth, stirring to make sure celery is dispersed in an even layer throughout the pan. Sprinkle the flour over the top and cover. Cook 15-20 minutes, stirring every few minutes, until celery is tender to your liking.

To make the potatoes: In a large sauce pan, bring potatoes to a boil. When boiling, reduce the heat to medium and cook at a low boil for 10-15 minutes or until a fork passes easily through the potatoes. Drain potatoes when done, reserving the cooking water for the mashing. Return the potatoes back to the warm pot and mash with a form or potato ricer. Add mustard, nutritional yeast, Earth Balance and 1/4 to 1/3 cup of the cooking water. Continue to mash until everything is incorporated and smooth. Add salt to taste.

Optional topping: Coat a small skillet with cooking spray and heat the peas until just warm and sizzling. Add bac'un bits and remove from heat. Stir until bac'un bits have warmed and use as garnish over potatoes and celery.

To assemble: Shape a big messy pile of potatoes into some kind of round volcano shape. Pour 1/2 cup of braised celery in the middle and top with a lil smokey scoop of green peas. Indulge.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Portobello Barbacoa and Smokey Queso Spread



Turning something inherently carnivorous into a vegan masterpiece is one of my favorite things about cooking. Though I’ve had some success with roasts and loaves, mimicking popular meat dishes has its obvious challenges. Texture, flavor from fat and drippings, cook time, etc. At this point I’ve learned that it’s not about creating an exact replica, but creating an incredible, flavorful, delicious dish in and of its own. The real challenge? Appealing to the skeptics. They don’t always buy the fact that it doesn’t have to taste the same as the fleshy version to taste meatlessly delicious. So you have to set some realistic expectations.

The expectation I set when serving these Barbacoa bites: “Yo peeps! These are friggin’ awesome! No it’s not going to taste like the shredded beef that is typically used in Barbacoa. It’s not supposed to. No the Queso is not going to feel like gelatinous ball park cheez because it’s way better!” These are the real pictures that must be painted for non-believers. And I did. And it worked. I made this recipe as individual “bites” for work, and also made them as roll-ups for a pool party. Both versions were inhaled.

Who could blame these hungry hippos? This Barbacoa recipe is madness. Barbacoa is a style of slow cooking meat in Mexico and relates to the origination of “barbecue.” It’s really all about the sauce. And consistent with any barbecue master, I couldn’t help myself picking at the stringy Portobellos as they slow cooked for hours in a spicy marinade. You may have probably picked up on my obsession with vegan cheesy things as well, so needless to say the food processor and spatula did not have one speck of Queso dip after I was through with it. Finger lickin’ good!

Recommended toppings/accompaniments:
  • slivered spinach or romaine
  • salsa and/or fresh tomatoes
  • vegan sour cream or Veganaise
  • roasted green chili peppers
  • fresh cilantro
 Recommended serving styles:
  • tacos
  • layered Dip
  • burritos
  • tortilla roll ups
Suggestion for Portobello preparation: slice the bellos into thin strings to cook in this recipe. Afterward you can pulse in a food processor to use as a spread if doing layered dip or roll ups.


Portobello Barbacoa
Makes: 6-8 Servings
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 2 hours

Ingredients

For the Marinade
1/3 c. apple cider vinegar
3 T. lime juice
5 cloves garlic
3-4 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1 T. ground cumin
2 tsp. Mexican oregano
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
½ tsp. ground cloves¼ tsp. allspice

For the Shrooms
2 T. canola oil
1 tsp. cumin seeds
4-6 Portobello mushrooms, sliced 1/8 inch thin (optional to remove gills)
Pinch of salt
Marinade
3/4 - 1 c. vegetable broth (from bouillon)
3 bay leaves

Directions

Place all marinade ingredients in a blender and puree until completely smooth, about 2 minutes. Set aside while you prepare the mushrooms.

In a large stock pot, heat canola oil over medium high heat. When oil is hot, add cumin seeds and cook until they start to pop. Add mushrooms and a pinch of salt. Stir to coat in cumin and cook 3-5 minutes. Add marinade, broth and bay leaves. Turn heat to low and simmer for 2-4 hours. If too spice or acidic, add a pinch of sugar.


Smokey Queso Spread
Makes: 1 ½ cups
Prep time: 5 minutes

Ingredients

1 can white cannellini beans
½ c. tomatoes
1/3 c. nutritional yeast
1 tsp. yellow mustard
1 tsp. Miso paste
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
¼ tsp. paprika
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
1/8-1/4 tsp. liquid smoke
Salt to taste

Directions

Puree all ingredients in a food processor until completely smooth. Adjust seasonings to taste, adding more salt or cayenne for spice. Add more mustard or Miso for a sharper cheesy taste.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Mustard Coriander Roasted Cauliflower



I have probably professed my love for roasted cauliflower before - I don’t know how I could have not mentioned it somewhere in the past couple of years writing here. There is something about how the edges of those little florets get so crunchy that makes this a very addictive snack, side dish, or salad topper. It hardly even needs to be dressed up to taste incredible, but sometimes a fancy twist is in order just to make things exciting. We all need to shake it up from the routine every now and then, and in this case, an aromatic-earthy combination livened up this Plain Jane veggie just right.

Mustard and coriander is not an uncommon combination, but they do make a very good flavor team. Mustard has that tangy edge and coriander has a bright, vibrant quality that pairs really well with simple foods. However, though not necessarily title worthy, I actually think the tahini is what makes this dish seriously slammin. After some discussion with my sister, my kitchen confidant and bearer of many tricks of the trade, we decided that tahini just has a “je ne sais quoi” that makes it irresistible. How does it turn chickpeas into “hummus” [said with a middle eastern throaty grimace], how does it transform raw garlic into an incredible dipping sauce for french fries? Magic. Je ne sais quoi. It’s a must have on your shelf, right next to the peanut butter, in between the nutritional yeast and pomegranate molasses (ok it’s not that obscure).

So while this recipe is title “cauliflower” - I actually used summer squash as well, as you probably deduced from the photo, you Sherlock you. I think many simple roasting veggies would be terrific in this dressing - broccoli, carrots, turnips, artichokes. Play around with whats in the fridge and if you don’t have tahini, get your booty to the nearest middle eastern market and buy a jar. It deserves staple status in any pantry.


Mustard Coriander Roasted Cauliflower
Makes 4-6 servings
Cook time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

4 cups cauliflower florets
(or 2 c. cauliflower + 2 c. summer squash)
1 ½ T. olive oil
1 ½ T. stone ground mustard
½ T. ground coriander
2 tsp. tahini
1 tsp salt
¾ tsp. black pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 450F.

Place cauliflower in a medium mixing bowl and spray evenly with cooking spray (this will help the dressing coat evenly). In a smaller bowl, combine remaining ingredients and whisk until well blended. Pour dressing over cauliflower and toss. Roast for 15-20 minutes or until cauliflower is tender and golden brown around the edges.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Tomato Plum Bruschetta with Turnicotta Spread



What easy entertaining appetizer can you whip up in T-20 minutes that pleases just about anyone's taste? Italian toast. Bruschetta. Phonetically pronounced "broo-SKEH-ta." You hearrrrd me, not "broo-SHEH-ta," and don't let some uptight waitress try to correct you when you pronounce in the appropriate tongue. Chances are she doesn't even eat bread and Olive Garden/Macaroni Grill don't include a linguistics course in employee orientation. Broo-SKEH-ta.

Bruschetta is the ultimate nosh because just about anything works. It lends itself very well to indecisive cooks because so many ingredients work to make a stellar slice - you don't just have to make one kind. In fact, bruschetta is one of the most popular appetizers in Phoenix - about 80% of "hip" restaurants, or those striving to be, have a "choose any 4" theme on their menu. Ingredients include: brie and apple, ricotta-date-pistachio, hummus spread, roasted pepper and goat cheese, etc. After frequenting a few of these places, you get the feeling that having a bruschetta menu is almost a cop out for being creative. Luckily you can be much more creative in your own home.

With that said, this combination was uber random (it felt "creative" but sometimes random and creative are synonymous in the kitchen) but worked better than I could have hoped. I had some killer heirloom tomatoes that were sweet as can be plus someone planted a turnip bomb in my produce bag over the weekend so I had to use up some of those. Plums, you ask? I don't know. I wanted something to complement the sweet of the tomatoes but that still had a little tart factor going on. Plus they are pretty.

The "turnicotta" came from a vegan version of ricotta that usually features tofu crumbled with some garlic and spice. Instead, I used creamy turnips. As many understudies, they ended up completely upstaging tofu. With the smackin' sweet tomatoes, smarty tart plums, and a balsamic punch - these toasts were the perfect Act One. Not too much to make the main act uninteresting, but just enough to make you want to keep eating. Though you may just want to keep eating bruschetta I guess.

Tomato Plum Bruschetta with Turnicotta Spread
Makes 4-6 servings
Prep time: 25 minutes

Ingredients

2 c. turnips, ends trimmed and cubed
4 garlic cloves, in peel
2 T. cashews
1 T. parsley
1/2 tsp. salt
Pinch of nutmeg and white pepper

Ciabatta, sliced 1/2 inch thick
Olive oil
1 medium tomato, sliced paper thin
2 small plums, sliced paper thin
Balsamic vinegar
Parsley

Directions

Place turnips and unpeeled garlic in a medium sauce pan and cover with water by about 2 inches. Bring to a boil and and reduce heat to medium. Cook at a low boil under turnips are tender, 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat, drain and set aside.

Remove the garlic cloves, peel and throw into a food processor with cashews. Puree into a paste and add turnips and salt. Process until mixture is completely smooth, 2-3 minutes. Last, pulse the parsley, nutmeg and white pepper into the mixture until evenly blended. Set aside and refrigerate to cool.

Preheat oven to 450F.

Slice the Ciabatta about 3/4 inch thick and coat each slice with olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt and toast in oven for 7-8 minutes, or until slices are golden brown. Remove from oven and set aside.

To assemble: Spread 1/2-3/4 tablespoon of turnip spread on each slice of toast. Top with alternating slices of tomato and plum. Top each slice with a few small drops of good balsamic vinegar and a pinch of parsley.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Curried Plantains with Ginger Chard & Mango Relish


Plantains. A love affair.

Plantains are the kind of vegetable I daydream about cooking but always neglect at the market unless sold as a bag of chips. All at once they resonate ocean waves of the Caribbean (where I've never actually been), ice clinking in a nice cold mojito, and shoulder-shimmy cha cha drum beats at the local Salsa club. They are exotic and comforting, sweet and tangy, soft and delicious. So many lovely things wrapped up in one peel! 

Finally, the humble plantain caught my eye this weekend at the grocery store in it's perfectly ripe state. As I prepared for a week of veggie delights, I had no plans or recipes for the impromptu purchase but instead waitied for the inspiration. And it came with no work at all. I have a weakness for the aforementioned plantain chips, which are delicious but terribly addicting and therefore not so waist-friendly. Plantains are typically fried and served plain, but I had better intentions. Lower fat and more flavor.

This sweet, succulent and spicy dish came from blending Caribbean and Indian flavors, two different cuisines that are closer in flavor than they appear. Mango is common in both which made me think of a very underused jar in the back of my fridge...pickled mango was an impulse buy from a local Indian grocer. I had no idea how spicy it was at the time (runny nose spicy), but it was perfect in the relish and complimented the sweet flavors of the dish. The crunchy relish went perfectly with the soft texture and the garlicky ginger greens served as a scrumptious undertone to the symphony in my mouth. Well maybe less like a symphony and more like the Mamba. Cue in that cha cha drum beat.

Curried Plantains with Ginger Chard
Makes 2 servings
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

For the Plantains
2 ripe plantains, peeled and diagonally sliced
2 tsp curry powder
Cooking spray
Black pepper

For the Ginger Chard
1/2 T. fresh ginger root, minced
1/2 tsp. jalapeno, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2-3 cups Swiss chard, chopped
Salt to taste

For the Relish
1/4 c. red bell pepper, finely diced
1/4 c. grape tomatoes, quartered
2 medium radishes, finely diced
1 green onion, finely sliced
1 tsp. pickled mango or mango chutney
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. agave nectar
Cayenne pepper (optional)

Directions

For the plantains: Preheat oven to 450F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. Place the plantain sliced in a medium bowl and also coat with cooking spray. Toss plantains with curry powder and another quick spritz of cooking spray (alternatively you could use a half tablespoon of canola oil, but I like the spray's coverage better). Sprinkle plantain slices with black pepper. Transfer slices to baking sheet, making sure the slices are evenly spaced and laying flat without overlapping. Roast for 20-25 minutes or until slices become dark golden brown and crispy around the edges.

While the plantains are roasting...make the chard!

For the chard: Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat and generously coat with cooking spray. When pan is hot, add ginger, jalapeno and garlic. Lower heat to medium and cook until ginger becomes fragrant, 30-40 seconds. Add chard and a splash of water (2 tablespoons), stir to coat in ginger mix. Add a pinch of salt and stir frequently until chard is wilted and tender, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.

When the chard and plantains are done...whip together the relish!

For the relish: Mix all relish ingredients together. If you do not have pickled mango, use mango chutney plus 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper or super spicy hot sauce. If using mango chutney, be careful with the agave, as you may not need it. If using pickled mango, beware! Taste before adding more.

To assemble: Divide the chard between two plates and top with plantains. Scoop a few tablespoons of relish or more over the plantains and serve with a side of Caribbean Cauliflower rice (below).


Caribbean Cauliflower Rice
Makes 2 servings
Prep time: 5-7 minutes

Ingredients


2 cups cauliflower flowerets
1 T. coconut, dried and unsweetened
1 T. dried currants
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. thyme
Salt and pepper to taste


Directions


In a food processor fitted with an "S" blade, pulse the raw cauliflower until crumbled. Transfer to a medium mixing bowl and mix with currants and spices.


Heat a medium skillet (preferably the one you cooked the chard in and didn't clean yet) over medium high heat and toast the coconut until fragrant, about 30-45 seconds. Add cauliflower mixture and 1-2 tablespoons of water. Season generously with salt and pepper. Stir well to heat through and remove from heat. Serve alongside plantains and chard.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

KB's Bangin’ Veggie Burgers


I have a confession. *Deep breath*

In the 3 years of being vegan, I have never made a homemade veggie burger. *Gasp*

It feels so good to get that off my chest. *Sigh*

There are so many veggie burger recipes out there, I’ve been indecisive and lacked motivation to sift through which ones sound spectacular and which ones appear average. Most of them looked plain and average to me. If I’m going to try to replicate the meat dish of all meat dishes, I don’t want it to be so-so. Avoiding the challenge was a way to avoid the risk of failure. Of ruining the notion of “burger” all together.

Well I finally risked it. And man, these were not so-so. These were BANGIN! I went through a few recipes and liked the technique of chilling the patties before cooking them. When it comes down to the ingredients, this was another fridge cleaning masterpiece. The last few sundried tomatoes, only 5 mushrooms in the drawer, some limp celery, and spare artichokes in the freezer to add to the filling. Not even an onion to my name. These were spectacular! The texture was perfect. Literally – the oats and flax give these bad boys a stick-to-your-ribs feel without feeling grainy. And they were sturdy enough not to bread apart in the pan.

I highly recommend serving these on English muffins. We happen to be lucky enough to live across the street from the best homemade English muffins in the Southwest that are so large, one side suffices per burger. As for the toppings, be creative. I loved the sprinkle of dill over a thin spread of Veganaise. My token omnivore put a little mozz and catsup on top. After one bite came the reassuring “mmmmmm.” After finishing the second burger, this was declared to be one of the very best meals to come out of my kitchen. This burger is here to stay.



KB's Bangin’ Veggie Burgers
Makes: 4 patties
Cook time: 30 minutes
Total Prep Time: 1 hour

Ingredients

½ c. dry red lentils, rinsed
½ T. canola oil
½ c. celery, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
½ c. mushrooms, diced
4-6 sundried tomatoes, minced
½ c. artichoke hearts, chopped (thawed from frozen or canned)
1 tsp oregano
½ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper
½ c. rolled oats
2 T. ground flax seed

4 English muffins
Arugula or spinach
Sliced tomatoes
Chopped kalamata olives
Fresh dill
Veganaise



Directions

Bring the lentils and 4 cups of water to a boil. Lower heat to medium and simmer until lentils are tender and falling apart, 15-20 minutes. Drain lentils and set aside. If you are using sundried tomatoes that were not packed in oil, rehydrate them by throwing them in the pot with lentils for 5-10 minutes. Pick them out with tongs when soft.

While lentils are cooking, heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add celery and cook until it starts to become translucent, 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and stir until it becomes fragrant. Add the remaining ingredients and additional broth or water if pan becomes too dry. Cook until all veggies are tender, 6-8 minutes. Remove and transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl.

In the large mixing bowl, add 1 cup of lentils (you may end up with extra). Smoosh everything with a potato ricer at first to break lentils apart, then use your hands to knead everything together. The mixture will be really moist as you mush the lentils, and you can stir in additional lentils if you’d like. Add oats and flax and continue to mix until everything start to stick together. If the mixture is still too wet, add more flax and oats by the tablespoon. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

Form the mixture into 4 medium patties (or meatless balls, or quarter pounders, whatever you feel) and refrigerate for 30 minutes. When the patties are nice and stiff they are ready to cook.

Preheat (toaster) oven to 450°F. While the oven is warming up, heat 1 tablespoon of canola oil in a non-stick or cast iron skillet over high heat. Lower heat slightly when oil is hot and add patties. Cook 3-4 minutes on each side until golden brown. Transfer patties to oven to continue cooking until the middles are hot, about 5 minutes. You can also add the English muffins in the oven to toast along with the burger, or throw them in the toaster at this point.

To assemble: Spread some Veganaise over one side of the English muffin and sprinkle with dill. Follow with a layer of spinach or arugula. Place burger on top and follow with sliced tomatoes and olives. If you are using giant English muffins, feel free to use one side per burger. If you are using smaller ones, put the Veganaise on one side and the burger/toppings on the others.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Sweet n’ Sassy Salad with Pickled Ginger and Pepitas


Every time I see a salad recipe, I think - really? Directions to make a salad? How hard can it be to throw ingredients in a bowl and top with a basic oil/vinegar dressing? Then I remember how salads have slowly become so second nature to me ever since I started this vegan venture. Not just lettuce or green salads, but bean and grain combos, shredded veggie slaws and the like. I never think to write up a recipe for them because they are truly a no brainer. Perusing through recipes on my own, I never stop to read the salad recipes. It isn’t until I make a crazy awesome, crunchy, yummy salad that I am possessed to make it possible for others to replicate the deliciousness.

This turned out to be one of those brilliant yet simple salads. Looking for a post-work snack yesterday, I was trying to avoid resigning myself bread, crackers or chips. But I didn’t want to work too hard for my snack. This came together so easily! Grape tomatoes are veggie manifestations of convenience, and sugar snap peas are effortlessly flavorful. Seeing as though I cannot make salads with fewer that 5 ingredients, something else had to be added.

Pickled ginger is typically used for one thing and one thing only: sushi. But it’s too delicious to be confined to this limitation. I tossed some in hoping it would mesh well with an Asian dressing and it worked! The pepitas (roasted pumpkin seeds) gave it a rounded crunch in contrast to the severe crunch of the snap peas. So where do dulse flakes come in? Well Whole Foods had this sale once where you can buy one get one…yeah a lot of products in my kitchen start that way. Anyway, if you have some other kind of dried seaweed, the mild sea flavor gives the salad a lovely finish.

Just a note: I didn't actually make a dressing for this. I simply drizzled a little bit of rice vinegar on top, but if you are a fan of dressing, the one below should work nicely.

Sweet n’ Sassy Salad with Pickled Ginger and Pepitas
Makes: 3-4 servings
Prep time: 5 minutes

Ingredients

Salad
4 c. romaine lettuce, rinsed and chopped
1 c. grape tomatoes, whole or halved
1 c. sugar snap peas, chopped
¼ c. green onions, chopped
¼ c. pickled ginger, chopped
¼ c. pepitas (preferably unsalted)
2-3 T. dulse flakes

Dressing
3 T. rice vinegar
½ T. soy sauce, low sodium or regular
½ T. agave nectar or maple syrup
¼ tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
1/8 tsp. sesame or canola oil (optional)

Directions

In a large bowl, combine first 4 ingredients and toss well. Top the salad off with pickled ginger and pepitas. Reserve dulse flakes for noe.

Prepare dressing by combining all ingredients in a small bowl and stirring to blend well. Adjust flavors to taste - if you like a milder dressing, add more canola oil and skip the sesame oil. If you like tart dressing, skip the agave and lower the soy sauce. Drizzle your preferred dressing over salad and top with dulse flakes.

Optional: You can pump this up by making a faux sea creature salad by mashing up some chickpeas, mixing with veganaise, green onions, pimentos and seaweed flakes (dulse or kelp). If you’re an omnivore, feel free to top with some kind of sustainably captured sashimi. Not advocating…just sayin.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Petite Stuffed Patty Pan Squash




The aesthetics, the sheer beauty, the intrigue of many a mysterious vegetable have motivated me to try an abundance of unknown produce. Example: Patty pan squash. After being on vacation for a week and diving head first into the farmer's market, I was dazzled by how many new veggies had appeared while I was our of the country (frolicking in the meadows of a castle in Tuscany for my beautiful sister and her husband's wedding mind you). I of course went overboard with all of the new beautiful choices. Despite having to travel for work and moving into a new abode this next week, I still bought a whole fridge full of veggies!

Patty pan squash - these things are positively adorable. There aren't many vegetables that can be classified in that category, though any baby version of a bigger bulb like baby artichokes are definitely more appealing to me. Fiddleheads, those are in the cute category. Though the exterior of patty pans suggest they have something interesting going on inside, they taste very much like any old summer squash. What makes them special is how fun they are to play with. Nature itself built into each little tulip of a squash a serving platter with which you can fill glorious flavors and textures. Well, semi-built-in. You do have to perform a little manual work to get them to serve as cups, but you simply have to parboil them for a few minutes and scoop out the center. Easier than you think.

So after browsing a few recipes, I decided to just go with what was in my kitchen. With a 3-day-old rock hard baguette, I whipped up a very taste batch of homemade bread crumbs. If you have some good, stale bread, I recommend chopping it, toasting it (if needed) and running those crusty carbs through a food processor for a minute or two. Voila! Homemade bread crumbs that are far superior to store bought. If you do use store bought crumbs, use panko - it's crunchier. Add any seasonings or herbs you'd like. Next time I make this, I'll probably add a few tablespoons of walnuts. But I have to admit the bacon bits were perfect. Served on top a bed of blanched spinach with a pinch of sea salt...Delicioso!

Stuffed Patty Pan Squash
Makes: 6-8 squash
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes 

Ingredients

6-8 medium patty pan squash
2 T. Earth Balance, divided
2 T. red onion or shallot, minced
1 T. garlic, minced (2-3 large cloves)
1/4 c. bread crumbs, homemade
1 T. meatless bacon bits
1/4 tsp. rosemary
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1 T. nutritional yeast (or parmesan for you omnivores that probably don't have nooch in the cupboard)
Fresh ground pepper
Spinach for serving
Directions

Fill a deep skillet or large shallow pot with 2 inches of water, heat over high heat and lay whole squash in pan, stem side up. When water is boiling, lower heat to medium and simmer squash about 5 minutes or until just tender. Remove from heat, drain and set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 400F. Set aside a muffin tin to hold the squash.

When squash are cool enough to handle, cut a circle around the top stem with a pairing knife. Using a spoon, scoop out the stem and any flesh with seeds from the center. Set aside and mince to use for the filling. Repeat with all remaining squash. Place prepared squash in muffin tin and make filling.

In a large skillet, heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of Earth Balance over medium heat. When butter has melted, add minced onion and garlic. Cook on medium heat 3-4 minutes or until vegetables are becoming golden (but be careful not to burn). Add minced squash flesh and cook another 2-3 minute. Add remaining Earth Balance, breadcrumbs, bacon bits, rosemary and salt. Cook, stirringly constantly, until breadcrumbs are golden brown. Finally, add nutritional yeast, stirring to combine, and remove from heat. Set aside in a small mixing bowl.

Fill each squash to the brim with breadcrumb filling. Bake in oven for 15-20 minute or until tops are browned. Remove and serve!