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
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
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


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)


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.


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


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


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)


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).