Sunday, May 13, 2012

Bloody Mary Bruschetta with White Bean Aioli

I really hope everyone remembers their first *good* Bloody Mary like I do. Prior to this revolution, I had only tasted a beverage consisting of purchased tomato "mix" swished around with cheap vodka producing a barely palatable, acidic and flavorless taste. Yet back in 2005 I had a friend who believed in this brunch time hangover cure of a cocktail and insisted on making a believer out of me. She did. The enchantment began by watching the bartender (at the now closed Cafe Montmartre in Madison, WI) muddle horseradish and fresh lemon zest with sugar and pouring in fresh tomato juice with a dash of this and a spritz of that. The final garnish consisted of a few hearty shakes of Tobasco plus the perfect garnishment of pickled asparagus, onions and olives - the spell was cast and I was hooked. She turned to me and said "it's like a salad in a glass that gives you a buzz."

The position of being the same catalyst for my token omnivore's first Bloody Mary experience was incredibly rewarding. Strolling around San Francisco, we passed a small cafe with patrons-a-plenty drinking the salty ruby on the patio. He had always shunned the idea because it was a "savory" cocktail and the idea of tomato juice sounded like something that only belonged in a nursing home. When I made a believer out of him, it was one of the most satisfying moments in our relationship. Now it's his favorite drink which is what prompted my interest in this dish.

When this recipe for Bloody Mary Tomatoes arrived through an email subscription, I obviously had to make them immediately. Not for me, but for my special someone who has come to love not only this dear combination of mildly sweet, salty and scrumptious flavors but also the idea of "bruschetta." He now even pronounces it correctly in the true, Italian phonetic fashion. Broo-SKEH-tah. So many firsts have I been able to witness for him, including a trip to Napa that involved us saving money and running to the grocery store to get the ingredients for whipping up our own bruschetta-esque. I took this recipe and ran with in the same way - plopped it on some bread smeared with a creamy spread.

I shortened up the recipe a bit to make this a readily prepared appetizer. For the aioli, I used those huge marinated white beans that you see in the olive bar at your natural grocer, but you could easily use white beans with an extra touch of olive oil. Or you could just buy some white bean hummus from Trader Joe's and call it a day. Either way, you won't be disappointed with these tomatoes for which I cannot take credit. Credit-schmedit - they are definitely worth sharing.

Bloody Mary Tomatoes
(adapted from Rachel Saunders of the Blue Chair Fruit Company)
Makes 4-6 servings
Cook time:  40 minutes


For the tomatoes
1 T. horseradish
1 tsp. lemon zest
1/2 tsp. celery salt
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 1/2 T. finely granulated sugar
8 Roma tomatoes, quartered
2 tsp. vegan Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
Cooking spray

For the Aioli
1/3 c. marinated butter beans (or 1/3 c. canned white beans + 1/2 T. olive oil)
2 T. reduced fat Veganaise (or yogurt)
1 T. capers (optional)
4-6 Kalamata olives, chopped (optional)

For the bruschetta
1 medium baguette or sourdough loaf
Cooking spray


Preheat oven to 400*F and grease a baking sheet with cooking spray (I highly recommend using aluminum foil over the pan to prevent a mess).

In a medium bowl rub the horseradish, lemon zest, celery salt and cayenne into the sugar with your fingers. Add the tomatoes and Worcestershire. Toss to coat tomatoes in mixture and season with salt and pepper.

Place tomatoes flesh side up on the baking sheet. Roast for 25-30 minutes or until tender. Remove from heat when done and set aside. Keep oven heated to toast bread.

To prepare the aioli: Mash the beans in a small bowl. Add the Veganaise and whip until blended. Stir on the capers and olives, if using. Set aside.

To prepare the bruschetta: Slice the baguette or bread into 1/4 inch thick slices. Coat each side with cooking spray and toast in oven to 7-8 minutes or until golden brown. When done, spread each slice with aioli and top with one tomato quarter. Garnish with fresh parsley if desired.

Cheers to Bloody Tomatoes and a messy kitchen.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Green Diva Dip

There are a lot of recipes floating around right now for sweet pea guacamole or green pea hummus - both featuring a mush-prone vegetable to put some spring into a dish. Though I don't typically like following blog trends, I do like coming up with quick snacks when I'm low on exciting groceries. In this instance, we were heading poolside and feeling munchy, but I didn't have legumes for hummus or chips for dipping. What I had were crisp vegetables, leafy greens, and frozen peas.

Another fantastic result of a clean-out-the-fridge hodgepodge. With frozen peas and edamame always on hand, I had a good base. I'm also going through a juicing phase and have a lot of greens (chard, beet greens, kale and spinach). While we typically juice greens or use them in salads, why not puree them raw? They are tender and breakdown easily, and it's such an easy way to sneak in an extra nutrient punch. Then I started looking for anything green and delicious in the fridge. Thus arose a beautiful and bright concoction.

We agreed as taste testers that something is only considered a "concoction" until it has a name. "Green Goddess" is an overused title for a green dressing, green smoothies, or green liquid anything. Yet with my token male out of town this weekend, the last 3 days have been jam packed with lady fun. So we came upon this title to embody our energizing female connections over the past few risings and settings of the moon - 2 of which featured this dip.

Cooking note: if you don't have white miso or reduced fat Veganaise (or any kind of Veganaise), this dip will still be delicious. Just add a little more avocado and salt.

Green Diva Dip
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
Prep time: 5-10 minutes


1 c. frozen peas, thawed
1/2 c. edamame
1/4 avocado
1/4 small lemon, peeled (flesh and all, but no rind)
2 large scallions, white and green parts chopped
1/4 c. parsley
1-2 small garlic cloves, sliced
2 tsp. white miso paste (optional)
1 tsp. dried basil or 1 T. fresh basil
1/4 - 1/3 c. veggie broth
2 c. spinach
1/2 T. Reduced Fat Veganaise (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Sliced vegetables for dipping


Combine the first 9 ingredients in a food processor and puree. Slowly pour in broth through the chute until the mixture processes smoothly, without chunking up. Once the mixture is well pureed, add spinach and Veganaise (if using). Process for another 3-4 minutes or until smooth.

Serve with slice zucchini, jicama, carrots, radishes, cucumber, or celery.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

GF Cherry Drop Biscuits

Baking I like. Baking for a cause I like even more. My insanely geologically and hygienically gifted artisan-soap-maker-friend hosted a vegan bake sale to benefit Autism Speaks. While I relied on some classics like Banana Bread and Biscotti which are always get omnivore shout-outs, I wanted to make something gluten free for those who eliminate gluten from their children's diet as means to treat autism. I've dabbled in GF baking before with some wins and some serious failures, but overall my results have been above average. So I figured I'd take a chance, and if it didn't work out, at least I'd get something passable to feed the dog for her morning snack (hopefully).

The venture began with a recipe for gluten free scones. Translating recipes into vegan recipes is one of my greatest pleasures, but there are risks. In this instance, I didn't have cream or even a good vegan equivalent on hand (like soy creamer or coconut cream). So I used "buttermilk" by mixing up some almond milk and cider vinegar. I have made buttermilk scones before, but not with this recipe. Turns out, that thick cream was needed to keep the dough together. When I substituted with something much thinner, I was basically left with a batter. If you've ever made scones, you know that you're supposed to get a dough, something you can work in your hands. This was pourable - crap!

I didn't have scones anymore. BUT the batter still held together and had plenty of leavening in it, so I knew it would at least rise in the oven. Scoop by scoop, I dotted my baking sheet with dollops of what I had hoped would turn into fluffy biscuits. Ten minutes later - success! I had fluffy biscuits. Two minutes of cool time and one bite later - double success! I had fluffy and delicious biscuits. Autism sure had something to say about that.

GF Cherry Drop Biscuits
Makes: 12 biscuits
Total time: 20 minutes


3/4 scant c. almond milk
1 tsp. cider vinegar

1 1/4 c. rice flour
1/2 c. tapioca starch
1/2 c. cornstarch
1/3 c. sugar
1 T. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4+ tsp. xantham gum
6 T. Earth Balance
1/4 c. apple sauce
2 tsp. orange zest
1 c. cherries, chopped (fresh or thawed from frozen)


Preheat the oven to 425*F. Coat two baking sheet with cooking spray.

Combine almond milk and vinegar in a small mixing bowl. Whisk together and set aside.  In a medium bowl, mix the next 8 ingredients together. Drop in the Earth Balance one tablespoon at a time and use a pastry cutter or two knives to cut it into the flour. Keep mincing until flour is crumbly and no big pieces of EB remain.

Add the almond milk mixture and applesauce into the dry mixture and stir until just incorporated, trying not to work the batter too much. Fold in cherries and zest. Drop about 3 tablespoons of batter at a time on the baking sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the outer edges start to turn golden brown (don't wait to see a lot of gold here or they won't be fluffy!). Transfer biscuits carefully to cooling racks. When cool enough to handle, EAT.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Banana Oatmeal Pancakes

Banana Oatmeal Pancakes with Walnuts and Old Fashioned Maple Syrup

The love affair started with my mother's banana oatmeal cookies - there are no words to describe the addictive qualities of these soft pillows of comforting joy. Anyone that has been around me for a few years know that "banana oatmeal" anything will turn my head and get some mean cravings started. I am known at work for my banana bread muffins and banana oatmeal cookies, constantly receiving requests for them at potlucks and birthday parties. So it was only natural that similar ingredients made their way into a pancake.

The means for putting this into action were sparked by seeing another recipe for banana oat pancakes that looked....okay... After reading feedback and reviews, better ideas started forming and in no time these hot cakes were on the griddle. So easy so scrumptious and sooooo much like banana oatmeal cookies flattened out and drizzled with maple syrup!

This recipe calls for very little sugar, so using a super ripe banana is critical for these coming out with a balanced level of sweetness. The high-fiber, protein-rich oats give the batter a cookie-ish texture that fluffs up really nicely in the pan despite not spreading like typical pancake batter. As long as you are not too finicky about the shape, and as long as your love banana bread like any sane person, you will fall in love with these.

Banana Oatmeal Pancakes
Makes: 8 pancakes
Total time: 25 minutes


1/2 c. all purpose flour
1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1 T. brown sugar
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 scant tsp. salt
1 medium (very ripe) banana
1+ c. almond, soy or rice milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. almond extract (optional)
1/2 c. rolled oats

1/2 c. walnuts, chopped
Maple syrup (REAL maple syrup of course)


Mix flours, sugar, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Mash banana until liquified and add remaining wet ingredients. Whisk until well blended. Add wet ingredients to dry mixture, adding more almond milk as necessary (depending on size and moisture of banana). Be careful not to over mix! Stir in rolled oats (batter will be pretty thick - it's ok). Let batter rest while skillet starts to heat.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and coat with cooking spray - be patient, you don't want to the pan to overheat. When hot, scoop 1/4 cup of batter into pan and smear into sort-of-round shape (batter will be thick, so do your best and don't be too picky about the shape).  The pan should fit about 2 cakes. Cook pancakes on each side until just golden brown, about 1-2 minutes per side. Lower heat to just under medium to ensure pancakes crisp on the outside and cook all the way through.

Serve with a scoop of walnuts and small swig of maple syrup. Mmmmmmmm.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Mac n' Cheez Casserole with Chard and Bac'un

Every now and then I muster up the motivation to make a creatively complicated but inspiring dish. It’s usually on days where I’m craving the cooking process as therapy and don’t mind following a bazillion steps to reach a beautiful outcome. Or on occasions and celebrations that call for something out of the ordinary. In this case, it was both. We had cause to celebrate a new and exciting life change in our household this week, and it was a particularly long week at work. So kitchen therapy and a celebration dish were both in order.

Sometimes a celebration calls for something fancy or exotic or challenging. But this instance called for something humble and straightforward. While the long ingredient in this recipe list doesn’t appear to be simple (there are a lot of players in any delicious vegan cheez sauce), the tastes are not complex. They are honest and complimentary, which are two perfect features in this dish. The creamy pasta with mild, barely cooked chard and a pungent, salty bac’un punch together form something pure and comforting for your taste buds. This is the type of dish I wanted to come home to after a soccer practice as a kid. A big heaping scoop of something that tastes like home.

So if you have some patience and the ability to multitask, this recipe doesn’t take that long. Start by marinating the tempeh bac’un. Then cook the pasta while you get the cheese sauce started. The chard and breadcrumbs take about the same cooking time and can be done simultaneously (you have 4 burners on that stove afterall), and finish it off by cooking up the tempeh bits. Layer it up in a dish and plop it in the oven. Viola! The taste of home in an hour-ish. And free therapy to boot!

Mac n Cheez Casserole with Chard and Bac’un
Makes: 4 servings
Cook time: 1 hour

8 oz. macaroni (whole wheat or GF)

1 ½ T. Earth Balance
½ medium onion, diced
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 T. whole wheat or GF flour
1¾ c. almond milk
½ c. nutritional yeast
½ T. miso
1 tsp. mustard
1/8 tsp. turmeric
1/3 c. pasta cooking water
Salt to taste

1/3 c. reduced fat Veganaise
½ c. Daiya (optional)
Pinch of nutmeg and white pepper

1 bunch Swiss chard, stems and leaves separated and chopped (about 3-4 cups)
1 recipe TempehBac’un*
½ c. panko
2 T. pine nuts
*Add about 1/4-1/3 cup of apple juice to the marinade


Cook pasta according to directions on package. Drain and reserve pasta cooking water. Set noodles aside while you prepare the sauce.

In a medium sauce pan, melt Earth Balance over medium heat. Add onions and cook until translucent, about 7-8 minutes. Add garlic and stir until fragrant, about 30-60 seconds. Sprinkle flour over mixture and stir until flour starts to brown, about 1 minute. Increase heat and add almond milk, bringing mixture to a boil. Lower heat back to medium when boiling and add the next 5 ingredients, cooking at a slow boil until desired thickness is reached. Add salt to taste.

Combine sauce and noodles. Stir in Veganaise, Daiya (if using) and a small pinch of nutmeg and white pepper. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and coat with cooking spray. Add chard stems and cook about 2 minutes or until they start to soften.  Add a splash of veggie broth or water to deglaze the pan and add the chard leaves. Cook until just wilted, about 2 minutes and sprinkle with some salt if you wish (optional). Set aside.

Toast the panko and pine nuts together in a skillet over medium-low heat. Stir constantly and be careful not to burn! Cook until panko is browned on all sides, about 3-4 minutes. Set aside.

Prepare the tempeh bac’un (recipe here). Instead of cooking strips, crumble the tempeh and soak the smaller pieces in the marinade(remember to add the apple juice!). Cook bits in a skillet and set aside.

To assemble – coat a casserole or baking dish with cooking spray. Add half of the mac n cheez and smooth out into one even layer. Top with a layer of chard and bac’un. Then cover with remaining noodles. Sprinkle breadcrumb/pine nut mixture over the top and bake for about 30 minutes to set.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Sweet Potato Quesadillas with Smokey BBQ Sauce

"I feel like something spicy for dinner."
"Like Indian?"
"Like Mexican. Refried beans and rice in a tortilla with hot sauce or something. Like a burrito."

The simple suggestions from my token omnivore are often what get my culinary wheels turning. In my head I'm thinking - burritos are simple. But we can do better.

After a bountiful trip to the farmers market this weekend, I came back with some "perfectly" sized sweet potatoes that seemed to have been grown just for me. At grocery stores, I often see sweet potatoes on steroids... a big orange reminder of American portion control issues. The tubers at the market were dainty and a petite, so I snagged a few to cook up single servings throughout the week. Well they also happen to cook more quickly, and when thinly sliced, fit perfectly inside a tortilla.

Chipotle and sweet potato, according to my palette, were made for each other. The smokiness and spice of the chipotle pepper can only be fully appreciated when paired with something sweet to accentuate its flavor (there is a reason Asian food is laced with sugar - sweet takes spicy to a new level). So I whipped up a quick BBQ sauce using a dollop of adobo sauce from canned chipotles. With a killer combination of sweet potatoes, Russet potatoes, and smooth refried beans, only a pinch of Daiya was needed to give these a full fledged, indulgently cheesy texture and taste.

The recipe for BBQ sauce is an approximation, so taste as you go and adjust accordingly. I also used a pinch of makeshift taco seasoning in each quesadilla. Though I included a recipe, packaged seasoning will work just fine. Get your glass of water ready, cuz these are smokin!

Sweet Potato Quesadillas with Smokey BBQ Sauce
Makes 4 quesadillas
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes


1 small sweet potato, pierced a few times with a fork
1 medium Russet potato, pierced

4 whole wheat tortillas
1 c. Daiya
1+ c. refried beans
1 T. taco seasoning (recipe below)
1/2 c. Chipotle BBQ Sauce (recipe below)
Safflower or coconut oil
Fresh cilantro and green onions, chopped


First cook the potatoes: fill a medium sauce pan with enough water to cover the potatoes. Bring water to a boil and add potatoes. Cook until potatoes feel tender but not mushy, about 10-15 minutes (you should be able to pierce easily with a fork, but not pull the fork out smoothly). Remove potatoes from water and pat dry. Set aside to cool for a few minutes.

(While potatoes are cooking, prepare the taco seasoning and BBQ sauce.)

When cool enough to handle, slice the potatoes thinly into coin shapes, about 1/8 inch or slightly thinner. Set aside.

When ready to assemble, prepare one quesadilla at a time. Lay tortilla flat on a large plate and cover one half with a couple tablespoons of Daiya. Then cover cheese with a layer of alternating white and sweet potato slices. Spread the other half of the tortilla with about 1/4 cup (or 1/3 cup if you want a nice thick dilla). Sprinkle another couple of tablespoons of Daiya and a pinch of taco seasoning over everything. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of BBQ sauce and fold carefully in half.

To cook, heat about 1/2 tablespoon of cooking oil over medium-high heat in a skillet. Add quesadilla when oil is hot and lower heat to medium. Cook until golden brown on each side, about 2 minutes. Be careful with the first one, as the pan tends to stay really it hot and will burn the tortilla easily.

Garnish with another drizzle of BBQ sauce, fresh cilantro and green onions.

Taco Seasoning
Makes about 1 tablespoon
Prep time: 2 minutes


1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. garlic salt
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
Pinch of cayenne pepper


Combine all ingredients in small bowl.

Smokey BBQ Sauce
Makes 1/2 cup
Prep time: 5 minutes


1/4 c. ketchup
1 T. apple cider vinegar
2 tsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. chipotle adobo sauce
2 tsp. vegan Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. yellow mustard
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
Couple shakes of liquid smoke


Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Cover a microwave for 45-60 seconds, or until sugar is dissolved. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Fake Out Tuna Salad Sammie

Mock tuna salad? Yeah right, you can't mock tuna.

Having been immersed in the vegan cooking world for over 3 years, I've come across a recipe or two for vegan "tuna" salad. I had my doubts. The texture, the fishy taste, and the deli feel were not promising qualities from substitutes like chickpeas. A whole lotta love do I have for my gusty garbanzo friend, but I just wasn't enticed enough to try my own version.

Never underestimate these beans. I totally fell for it when I mashed this concoction up, thought it was tuna. Ok not really, but it was damn good. What inspired me to finally try this? My obsession with Veganaise. And Dijon. These two staples have been increasingly more prevalent in my everyday dishes and the thought of whipping in a dollop of Veganaise  into mashed anything makes me salivate. That thought would be SO gross if I were talking about real mayo, right? I do use the reduced fat version to cute extra calories and make myself feel better about smothering everything in fake mayo. It tastes just as good.

Pretty sure omnivores and veg heads alike will adore this recipe. I even think I can pass this off at the next company potluck without anyone branding it as a "vegan" dish. If you don't have seaweed flakes, no biggie. You could always crumble sheets of nori if you have it. The only reason I have them is because I fell for a sale at Whole Foods (it was a two-fer). Use quality Dijon though such as Maille and actual Veganaise rather than imposter soy mayo substitute (Noya - gag). You could also try yogurt for a low fat mayo replacement as well. Between some pita and greens, you're gonna wish they sold this at your deli.

Fake Out Tuna Salad Sammie
Makes 2 servings
Prep time: 5 ish minutes


1 c. cooked chickpeas or canned (drained and rinsed)
1 large celery stalk, diced
1 stalk green onions, white parts included, diced
1 heaping T. reduced fat Veganaise
1/2 T. quality Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. dried kelp
1/2 tsp. salt
Dash of freshly ground black pepper

1-2 pita rounds
1 c. mixed greens


In a medium bowl, mash peas with a potato masher or pulse in food processor a few times until broken up but still chunky. Be sure to leave some hunks. Mix in remaining ingredients, adding more seasonings or condiments to your liking.

Slice pitas in half and stuff each half with greens and a generous scoop chuna salad.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Chick au Poivre with Frites

Every now and then, or maybe a little more frequently than that, my token omnivore and I enjoy a good veg session on the couch with a good movie and snuggle time with the pup. This usually involves a meal eaten in our laps at each other’s sides which makes the experience wholesome and special. Most meals have a way of doing that, don’t you think?

So this week, after the hype of the Academy Awards, I was itching to see Hugo. For one, it takes place in Paris and I love all things French (except the B.O.). Plus, with Martin Scorsese in charge now donned with a fresh Oscar, it sounded like my kind of flick. This of course led me to believe we must have something French for dinner. The options however didn’t sound that appealing as I ran through the list of basic ideas: ratatouille, crepes, cassoulet, some kind of tart. Boring. Until I came across a recipe for Steak au Poivre.

To be honest, I was enticed by the French Fries in this picture during my research. So I started thinking about a steak replacement. Leftovers from last weekend’s ski trip? That’ll work! Both the cooked pasta and canned chickpeas needed to be used up before sliming over in the fridge, and I recalled reading a veggie burger recipe somewhere with a secret ingredient of pasta as a binding agent. Can’t remember the source, but the idea sure stuck.

A picture for inspiration and some fridge-clearing creativity brought me to this fabulous meal. Complete with, yes, frozen French Fries. We don’t have to be classy all the time.

Chick au Poivre
Makes: 4 patties
Cook time: 20-30 minutes


1 c. whole wheat or GF pasta, cooked
½ T. soy sauce, tamari or Braggs
½ T. vegan Worcestershire sauce
½ T. poultry seasoning
4-5 drops liquid smoke
¼ tsp. chick-un bouillon (optional)
1 c. chickpeas (drained and rinsed if using canned)

¼ c. tapioca starch
¼ c. rice flour
½ - 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1-2 T. quality Dijon mustard
1-2 T. vegetable oil
Red Wine Glaze (recipe below)


Place the pasta in a food processor and process for 20-30 seconds, or until pasta is well ground. Transfer to a bowl and stir in soy sauce, Worcestershire, poultry seasoning and liquid smoke. Blend to incorporate seasonings. Add chickpeas to the mix and mash with a potato masher or fork to break up the chickpeas leaving some chunks.

Place tapioca and rice flours into a medium bowl and stir in your desired amount of ground pepper. Set flour aside for dipping.

Form the chickpea mixture into 4 circular or funky-shaped patties. Brush one or both sides with Dijon mustard and coat both sides well in the rice flour mix. Transfer to plate and/or refrigerate to firm up patties if desired.

Heat oil of choice in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When pan is hot, add patties and cook until browned on each side, about 3 minutes per side.

Serve patties with a spoonful or two of Red Wine glaze and a good dose of French Fries!

Red Wine Glaze

Makes: about ½ cup
Cook time: 5-7 minutes


½ T. Earth Balance
2 T. shallots, minced
½ c. dry red wine
½ c. vegetable stock or broth
1/3 c. non-dairy milk or creamer of choice


In a small saucepan, melt Earth Balance over medium heat and add shallot. Cook 1-2 minutes or until softened. Add red wine and broth and increase heat to medium-high. Reduce by about half and add milk/creamer of choice. Reduce heat to medium again and cook the liquid down until sauce is nice and thick, using your judgment of when to pull the plug on the heat.

Monday, February 13, 2012

French Lentils with Apple Braised Brussel Sprouts

Red, yellow, green, brown: a rainbow of lentils. What's the difference? Without going into the delicate nuances of each legume, let's take a look at one that isn't in this color scheme. French lentils. Sometimes French lentils and brown or green lentils are synonymous names for the same bean, but the kind I'm talking about are the Lentilles du Puy. That's right, the fancy kind. And if you ask David Lebovitz, a reliable source of French cooking expertise, these puppies are the "caviar" of lentils.

Their flavor is more robust than other lentils, a trait Monsieur Lebovitz contributes to their volcanic environment (um sure ok, I'll take his word for it). Whatever the source of deliciousness, I am now including these as a pantry staple. Other lentils get mushy very easily, but these hold up well in texture and taste. Rarely can I eat lentils alone unless I'm in the mood for a nice cup of dahl, yet I scarfed down a whole bucket of these in this recipe. Maybe scarf isn't the appropriate verb, because it felt as though eating such a delicate pulse called for delicate means. So with a dainty fork in hand and pinky raised, I savored each bite.

Though I already talked about my current apple juice phase, here is another recipe using the same technique with the same fabulous results. Very simply braised brussel sprouts finished with a touch of jus de pomme and a petite smudge of moutarde. So light, so lovely. Serve under the lentils with a side of roasted fingerlings...Tres tres bon.

French Lentils with Apple Braised Brussel Sprouts
Makes: 2 servings
Cook time: 40 minutes


For the Lentils
1/2 c. French lentils
1/3 c. yellow onion, diced
1/2 medium carrot, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. sea salt
2 c. veggie stock or broth
1/4 c. red wine

For the Brussel Sprouts
3/4 c. veggie stock or broth, divided
2 c. brussel sprouts, stems removed and thinly sliced
1/4 c. apple juice
1 tsp. Dijon mustard


In a medium sauce pan, combine all of the ingredient for the lentils except for the wine. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium or medium low (depending on the stove). Simmer lentils at a slow boil until most of the liquid has evaoprated, about 25-30 minutes, covering the pot for about 5 minutes toward the end. When there is just a bit of broth left, add the wine and cook an additional 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

When the lentils are nearly done, heat a large skillet over medium high heat and bring about half of the broth to a boil. Add brussel sprouts and lower heat to medium. Braise about 5 minutes or until liquid has almost evaporated. Add another 1/4 cup of broth, apple juice and mustard. Cook until sprouts are tender and liquid is absorbed. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Dijon Doodad Veggie Mix

I love all things mustard. All things. Having spent 6 months in France and 2 months in Germany a while back, I developed a whole new appreciation for quality mustard. We're starting to make some good competitors in the US with spicy stone ground, stout infused, red wine swirled varieties. But are we cooking enough with it? I think not. It goes into almost all of my salad dressing and lately it's been going into the stove top dishes as well.

Another new ingredient in my cooking routine that has surfaced since Christmas is apple juice. We get mini single serving bottles each year in our stockings and since I'm not a big juice drinker, it usually sits in the fridge until I remind my other half to drink it. I know it's a weird choice, but for some reason a splash of apple juice can completely change a dish! (I've heard this to be true of apple cider vinegar, but I can't subscribe to that recommendation after trying it.) If a dish is a little too sour/acidic, overly salty or missing depth, it could be just the thing to give it a quick makeover. I now highly recommend having a single singer bottle in the fridge to use a tablespoon or 2 at a time.

Which is what I needed today making lunch. This was of course a classic instance of trying to use up the almost-gone ingredients in my fridge. Many of the ingredients are interchangeable with something you might have in your fridge. Use summer squash instead of winter squash, chard instead of kale, celery instead of fennel, or whatever you have lying around. The method is what will give you lovely results. Braise everything to start in broth but finish during the last couple of minutes with apple juice and a dollop of good Dijon mustard. Neither French nor German, this little ditty is still zer gut.

Braised Vegetable Medley with Apple Dijon Sauce
Makes: 1 servings
Cook time: 15-20 minutes


1/4 c. apple juice
2-3 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. maple syrup (optional)
1/2 c. fennel, chopped
3/4 c. veggie broth, divided
1/2 c. artichoke hearts, from jar or frozen (drained or thawed)
1/2 c. green beans, chopped
2-3 sun dried tomatoes, chopped (drained if packed in oil)
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. dried rosemary
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1 c. cooked or parboiled butternut squash, cubed
1 c. kale, chopped
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Parsley for garnish


In a small bowl, whisk the juice, mustard and maple syrup (if using) together. Set aside while you prepare the veggies.

Heat a medium skillet over medium high heat and coat with cooking spray. Add fennel and saute 2-3 minutes or until it softens. Add 1/2 cup of broth and the next 7 ingredients (thru the salt). Lower heat to medium and cook until broth evaporates, about 5 minutes. Add butternut squash, kale and remaining broth. When the broth has evaporated again (another 3-4 minutes), add the apple juice mixture. When the liquid start to boil, lower heat and simmer until liquid has reduced and thickened, about 3 minutes. Top with freshly ground black pepper and chopped parsley.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Spicy Cheezy Cauliflower Casserole

Last night we were getting ready to go to a show and decided we'd make dinner at home to save some moolah. My token omnivore opted for his very own grilled cheese. In a moment of laziness, my intention was just to whip up some cauliflower "rice" with other veggies in it and call it a night. But something happened. Some sriracha made its way into the pan and, the next thing I know, the Daiya cheese is beside me begging to be next. Low and behold, a masterpiece appeared. A delicious, cheesy, midwest-with-a-kick style hot dish.

As my other half chewed away at his semi-burnt sammie, I exuded "mmmmmm" after "mmmmmm" and finally came up for air with a "oh my god, you gotta have a bite." He looked at me with those envious eyes that told me his cheesewich was not very satisfying, begrudgingly leaned over and let his taste buds behold the wonder of this cheesy concoction. Then I got the straight up jealous look: "Yeah that's amazing."

So my mission tonight was to recreate this dish in a larger quantity fit for a complete meal. Served on top of a scoop of jasmine rice and beside a nice lil spinach salad, we were good to go. My other half added a couple of over easy (local, nest run) eggs between the rice and cheesy cauli to add some protein. Then after he was done with all of his "mmmmmm"s, he said "This is my favorite meal you've ever made. I want this for my birthday dinner, write that down." So here it is. I wrote it down.

Spicy Cheezy Cauliflower 
Makes: 2 servings 
Cook time: 30 minutes


2 c. cauliflower flowerets, broken into small pieces
1/2 c. vegetable broth (bouillon or homemade)
2 garlic cloves, sliced 
3/4 c. zucchini, shredded or thinly sliced
1/2 c. red pepper, finely diced
1 T. apple juice (or extra broth*)
2-3 tsp. Sriracha
2 tsp. soy sauce or tamari
½ c. Daiya white cheese, shredded
2 T. reduced fat Veganaise (or other vegan mayo)
2 T. nutritional yeast 
Optional: 1/2 c. frozen peas, thawed


Preheat oven to 400*F and spray a small baking dish with cooking spray.
Pulse the cauliflower in a food processor 20-25 times or until cauliflower is crumbly and resembles rice. Set aside.

In large skillet or wok, bring the broth to boil over medium-high heat. When boiling, add garlic. Cook for 30 seconds or so and add zucchini and peppers. Cook for another minute and add cauliflower. Deglaze the pan with apple juice. Stir in Sriracha and soy sauce. Reduce heat to medium and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated and cauliflower is al dente, about 3-4 minutes. (Add thawed peas if using here.) 

Fold in Daiya cheese, Veganaise, and nooch until thoroughly incorporated. Adjust seasoning to taste by adding Sriracha for more spice or a little more Veganaise to soften the spice.

Transfer cauliflower to baking dish and bake in oven for 15 minutes, or until the top has browned a little. Serve over rice or plain by itself! 

* The apple juice is just a touch of sweet to compliment the spicy. You can just use more broth with an optional teeny tiny pinch of sugar. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Years Day Brunch

After many many many moons of ringing in the New Year with Swedish Crepes and 50+ family members racing around a table set for 10, I’ve sought to start a New Year’s tradition in AZ. With the help of my curly red co-conspirator, this has been a success. We tried crepes one year, and it was a blast. But we were both stuck in the kitchen for a better part of the gathering. So this year, we decided to ditch the typical feast and create our own make-ahead, ready to bake meal.

And what an amazing meal it was. In searching for a make ahead savory dish, I wanted to prepare something that wasn’t a lot of work but really wowed people’s taste buds. I found this recipe on Epicurious and decided it would be ridiculously easy to veganize thanks to the amazing Trader Joe’s soyrizo stand-in. This was super easy to put together and held up really well overnight. Not to mention it was just as tasty as leftovers.

For a sweet counterpart, we chose to actually (well mostly) follow an actual recipe for vegan Baked French Toast. Now I have to admit, that I’ve been known to crash my vegan ways for my mom’s baked French toast, laden with about a dozen eggs and a carton of cream. I am SO happy we found this alternative. No, it’s not healthy. Yes it’s full of sugar. But it’s damn good. We forgot to pick up pecans and didn’t have any walnuts on hand, so we improvised with oats. It worked big time.

The real kicker of the meal however was our starter. BLT Bruschetta. I don’t even know how to illustrate how delicious these little bugger were. I did have to make a large batch of tempeh bac’un the day before, which was kind of a mess. Totally worth it. I prepared everything else the day of and this was the highlight of the meal for me. I even got a request for a particularly stubborn omnivore to patent this bacon recipe. While I do have one on my blog, I must admit that I strayed and tried a new one (but with the same technique of the old one). I don’t have it in my heart to share it yet because I’m hoarding all the credit. Someday I’ll finally let go and divulge the secrets.

Breakfast Polenta with Soyrizo
Makes: 16 servings
Cook time: 1 hour 20 minutes

Feel free to skip any or all of the crazy polenta additions. I like my polenta to have a cheesy taste, and all of these small accoutrements create that cheesy flavor. But if you don't have them, this dish will still taste great. You can simply omit then and just season with salt and pepper to taste.


6 c. water
½ bouillon cube (optional)
1 ½ c. polenta
¼ c. nutritional yeast
2 tsp. white miso
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. yellow mustard
½ tsp. turmeric

1 ½ pkg. Soyrizo (I like Trader Joe’s the best)
5-6 medium tomatoes, chopped (about 3 cups)

Fresh Cilantro, chopped
Vegan feta or raw nut cheese (optional)


Lightly coat a 9X13 baking dish with cooking spray. If preparing the night before, preheat oven to 400°F.

Prepare the polenta: In a large sauce pan, bring water and bouillon (if using) to a boil. Gently whisk in the polenta, adding it to the water in one steady stream. Continue stirring to avoid clumps. When polenta is boiling, reduce heat to low. Stir often while the polenta maintains a low bubble. Cook until almost tender, about 15-20 minutes. When the polenta starts to really thicken and pull away from the pan, stir in the remaining ingredients. Season with salt to taste. When the polenta is really sticky and pulling away at the pan, pour it into the baking dish in one even layer. Set aside to cool.

Prepare the soyrizo sauce: Coat a deep skillet or cast iron pan with cooking spray or a couple of teaspoons of oil over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add the soyrizo and cook for about 5-7 minutes. When the soyizo is staring to brown on all sides, add the tomatoes. Increase heat to bring sauce to a brief boil and cook for 5 minutes. Lower heat to low and simmer for another 10-15 minutes. Slightly mash up to the tomato pieces by smooshing with a fork or spatula. Remove from heat and pour over polenta.

At this point, you can garnish with cilantro and feta and serve, or you can prepare the dish the day before, let it sit overnight, and heat in oven for 15-20 minutes until bubbling.

BLT Bruschetta
Makes: 24-30 slices
Prep time: 30 minutes


For the Aioli
½ c. Veganaise
1 garlic clove
1 tsp. Dijon mustard

For the Bruschetta
2 10-inch Ciabatta loaves
2-3 Roma tomatoes, thinly sliced
5-8 outer leaves of green lettuce (such as Boston leaf)
1 avocado, thinly sliced (optional)
1 ½ pkg. smokey tempeh or your own homemade Tempeh Bac’un


Prepare the aioli: Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until completely smooth. Set aside.

Make the toasts: Preheat oven to 400°F. Slice the bread into ½ inch thick slices and spread out on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Spray the tops with cooking spray and bake until golden brown, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

To prepare the bruschetta: Spread aioli on each toast with a knife or spatula. Carefully rip a few pieces of lettuce to fit the bread. Next place a couple of tomato slices and a slice of avocado over the lettuce. Finally top it off with with a strip of tempeh (cooked if using pre-packaged smokey tempeh bac’un*).

*Note: if you choose to make your own tempeh bac’un, this tastes best with the tempeh still warm and glazed from the pan. If you are buying premade smokey tempeh, fry the tempeh in a generous amount of cooking oil until brown on both sides to get a nice crispy texture.