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.