Friday, December 31, 2010

Fruit Juicing for the Spirit

I mentioned previously that I've been doing a lot of juicing (thanks to my new juicer, yay!). Up until now, all the juice I've been making has been vegetable-based. I've been really concerned about the sugar in fruit juices, even though they're homemade and contain no added sugar. I read a lot about how juices supposedly don't affect your blood sugar, especially if you're following a raw vegan diet (not that I'm raw), but I'm still a little nervous about juicing.

But, like any chick with a new juicer, I was bound to make some fruit juice sooner or later. This was the first one I tried. I bought a bunch of black grapes because they were on sale super cheap and the organic apples were at a good prices (I always try to get organic apples, they're a member of the dirty dozen. I probably should've went with organic grapes too, but it's whatev. I rarely eat them). I've also been putting a lot of lemons in my juices, as they brighten and balance the flavors and are just damn tasty. This particular juice was refreshing and nicely sweet. My dad (who is a super picky guy) took a drink and exclaimed that it was "just like eating an apple!" And there was an exclamation to his statement.

This drink also passed the boyfriend test. He was surprised at how unlike store-bought juice this was. It's so much lighter. I love it! Also, all this juicing and smoothie making have given me an excuse to use my new glass straw. That alone makes juicing ten times more fun!

Red Grape and Apple Lemonade:
1 1/2 c. red or black grapes (seeded if they aren't seedless)
1 red apple, cored
1/2 a lemon, peeled

Prepare fruits to be juiced by scrubbing them and chopping them into smaller pieces. Don't juice any large grape stems as they will dull your blades. While juicing, alternate between the grapes and the apple slices, and finish off with the lemon. Give the drink a good swirl before drinking and enjoy!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Indian Feast Night

I've been having a mega craving for some Indian food, but there isn't any place near me that sells it (I'm not really a fan of the canned stuff), so when the hunger strikes, I usually have to make it myself.

Well, the other day I was all cheerfully cooking in my kitchen for this meal. I had the rice a-simmering, the veggies a-caramelizing, and the lightly sauteed tofu cubes ready to be sauced. It was at this very moment that I remember I had to be at work at 2:00 pm instead of 4:00 pm and it was currently 1:00. I do this every single Monday, and I'm always cooking some sort of tasty meal when I remember I gotta leave. I quickly finished up the veggies and rice and stuffed everything in the fridge for later, and then scrambled got ready for work.

However, once I got home that night I was able to just simmer the tofu in some Madras simmer sauce from Seeds of Change (very tasty stuff, and this flavor is accidentally vegan) for about 10 minutes and then heat everything else up in the microwave. It came together very quickly. I then topped off the meal with a dollop of plain soyogurt to balance out all the spices.
It absolutely hit the spot. I was stuffed!

Indian Fennel, Cabbage, and Onions:
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/2 a head of green cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
2 Tb. oil
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. fennel seeds
1 tsp. curry powder
1/8 tsp. sea salt, optional or to taste
Juice of 1/2 a lemon, about 2 Tb.

1. In a dutch oven, saute the fennel and onion in oil about five minutes until softened. Add the cumin and fennel seeds and saute another couple of minutes, or until fragrant.
2. Add the cabbage, then cover, reduce heat and allow the cabbage to wilt down and the veggies to caramelize, about twenty minutes, stirring occasionally. Add a little bit of water to the pot if the veggies seem to be sticking.
3. Add the curry powder, sea salt, and lemon juice (don't forget it! It provides balance!), then stir and cover and allow to cook for another five minutes. Done.

Serve alongside Indian food as a mild veggie side dish!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Vegetable Juicing for the Soul

There's a thrift store about 30 minutes away from me called the DAV. I used to go there a lot, but I kind of quit going when they rose their prices (I mean, it is a thrift store). Well, I got paid the other day and I told my mom that I was going to go to the DAV to get myself a juicer. She said, "well, I'm sure you'll find something there.".

Upon arrival I headed to the sweater section (darn, nothing black and comfy), then the cookbook section (darn, nothing ethnic or veg), then the dish section (man, what is it with the unphotogenic plates today?), then finally the appliance section. I knew I was gonna find something good so I saved it for last. At the very end of the aisle was my juicer. Brand new. For $8.98. It still had all the books with it and the factory tape around the cords. It was also not monstrously huge, which is a plus in my space-starved kitchen. 

I then promptly went to Border's to get myself a guide to juicing, because I needed a few helpful hints, like, what's good to juice, what's not good to juice, what you got to peel, etc. After buying my juicer and my book I then went to the grocery store and stocked up on a few items: parsley, beets, carrots, lemons, etc. Luckily, it was grocery day so I wasn't being completely ridiculous.

Better Than Spicy V8 Juice:
2 Roma tomatoes or 4 Campanari tomatoes
1/2 a bunch of fresh parsley
1 red, yellow, or orange bell pepper (not green in this case)
1/3 a lemon
3 stalks of celery, with the leaves
5 beet leaves
A few shakes habanero hot sauce
A few shakes cayenne pepper
A pinch of sea salt

Cut all the vegetables into small enough pieces to fit into the juicer. Feed them in in this order: Tomatoes, then parsley, then bell pepper, lemon, celery, and finally the beet leaves. Top the juice with the hot sauce, cayenne, and sea salt, then give it a good stir and serve with ice.
Tastes better than it looks...

Ha ha. It's not the prettiest juice in the world, but man, it was seriously tasty. My mom and I loved it. You can make it more V8-like by adding more tomatoes if you'd like, but I loved it the way it was. This is infinitely better for you too considering it's fresh and full of enzymes and low in sodium. I also have the ability to ensure that my ingredients are organic and that everything tastes to my liking.

Here are some fun benefits of this particular juice (I try not to get too science-y, but science my life calling, lol):

Parsley - Parsley is an excellent digestion restorative remedy. It improves the digestion of proteins and fats therefore promoting intestinal absorption, liver assimilation and storage. Because of its high enzyme content, parsley benefits digestive activity and elimination. It is also bactericidal (bacteria killer) and high in both iron and Vitamin C, so you absorb it better. 

Beet Leaves - Have a crap ton of Vitamin K, which works alongside Calcium to strengthen your bones. MUY IMPORTANTE for us vegans. They are a good source of Vitamin A and Iron. 

Bell Peppers - Are an excellent source of Vitamins A and C, and an important source of folic acid and B6 (which acts as a coenzyme to other enzymes in the body; basically B6 is needed for other enzymes to function properly in a variety of metabolic processes)

This juice is supposed to be good for depression and stress reduction, and I believe it! Man, I feel great! Lots more juices on the way!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Black Bean and Toasted Corn Salad

Yes, I know that salads aren't exactly winter fare. But what can I say? When the body wants a salad, the body gets a salad.

Of course, I'm not about making any sissy salads that consist of some lettuce and fat-free dressing. No thank you. That is not a meal, my friend. That is a sad side salad found in a non-veg restaurant. My salad are meals. They include complete proteins, vitamins from the first half of the alphabet, a variety of texture, and a mad amount of flavor. They are the salads that make you fell full, satisfied, and proud to be a veggie-lover.

This salad is pretty easy to prepare. It's nothing that fancy. In fact, you can toast the corn while you prep the veggies and everything will be done at the same time. If you don't have any leftover grain, both quinoa and bulgur are pretty quick to cook. I personally recommend the quinoa in this recipe. Black beans and quinoa were meant to be together! This recipe is sized to make about two large salads, so you can share with a friend!

Black Bean and Toasted Corn Salad:
1/2 a green pepper, diced
1/2 a red pepper, diced
1/2 a red onion, diced
1/2 a cucumber, diced
2 Roma tomatoes, or 4 campanari tomatoes (super tasty!), chopped
1 c. canned black beans, rinsed and drained
1 c. cooked leftover grains, such as bulgur, brown rice, or quinoa
2 romaine hearts, cored and chopped
1/2 a bag of fancy romaine blend (with romaine, carrots, frisee, and radicchio), or more romaine
2 Tb. raw or roasted sunflower seeds
1 recipe Toasted Corn

Toasted Corn:
2/3 c. frozen corn, thawed, and squeezed dry with a paper towel (I nuke it in the micro for about a minute)
1 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. smoked or regular paprika
Nonstick spray

To make the toasted corn:
In a skillet sprayed with nonstick spray, place the corn in a single layer and dust with the spices. Toast over medium-high heat until the corn is dry and slightly blackened and spices are fragrant. About 5-7 minutes. You'll need to stir the corn around occasionally.

To assemble the salads:
Thoroughly wash all the ingredients, and prepare as specified above. Layer all the ingredients, starting with the lettuces and then up through the grain, the beans, and the rest of the vegetables. Top with the toasted corn and the sunflower seeds.

There is a strategically placed fork in this photo. 

Not gonna lie, my salad is lacking the grain, because it was 8:30 at night, I'd been away from home all day, and I was ravenous. However, I've made this salad many times and I like it best with some quinoa added to it.

I've been eating the salad with a champagne caper vinaigrette (which is what is in the photo). It's made with capers, agave, champagne vinegar, dijon mustard, and garlic. I need to get it perfect and then post the recipe on here for this salad. However, I used to just eat it with salsa, and that is just as good. I prefer the ChiChi's brand of salsa for salads because it's pretty tomato-y (meaning, I don't exactly recommend it for chip dipping, lol). The toasted corn really gives it a little something special.

Also, feel free to add alfalfa sprouts and avocado chunks. They're also good with this particular salad blend.

Anyway, have a great Christmas! I hope everyone remembers to eat their veggies! Bwahaha!!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Chai Spice Banana Bread

My Chai Spice Tea Cake is one of my most popular recipes, and one of these days I'd like to go back to the recipe and remake it into a full fancy cake. I was originally going to do that today, but I had two very large and very ripe bananas that needed to be used. Luckily, I had found my loaf pan (it's always in the last box you look in...), so I was finally able to make a full-sized loaf of something!

This recipe makes a most excellent breakfast bread. I made my loaf without the optional brown sugar and I thought the delicately-sweetened bread was best. However, if you're looking for a more standard level of sweetness, I would go ahead and add the brown sugar. For the tea I use Stash brand Chai Spice Black Tea. It's currently my favorite, but you can use what ever black tea you have. Since the bread has the actually chai spices, I'm mostly looking for a certain depth of flavor that is imparted by the tea. This is a very good banana bread recipe, one of my favorites (although I still have yet to make a chocolate-banana bread...)!

Chai Spice Banana Bread:
Dry Mix:
1 1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. cardamom
1/8 tsp. cloves
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. sea salt

Wet Mix:
2-3 very ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 c. agave nectar or maple syrup
1/3 c. no-sugar-added applesauce
1/4 c. packed brown sugar, optional
1/3 c. coconut oil, liquefied
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 c. lite coconut milk
3 chai spice black tea bags

1. Preheat oven to 350F.

2. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients in the dry mix. Whisk to combine.

3. In a small saucepan, heat the coconut milk to a boil. Add the tea bags, turn off the heat, and allow to steep for five minutes.

4. In a medium bowl, combine the mashed bananas, agave, applesauce, brown sugar, vanilla and almond extract, and stir well. Give the tea bags a squeeze after their steeping time is up and mix it with the wet mix. Mix well.

5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, then add the coconut oil to the bowl with all the ingredients. Mix well with a wooden spoon.

6. Pour the batter into a standard loaf pan sprayed with nonstick and bake at 350F for 50 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Best when served warm with a little vegan butter spread on top!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Cranberry Almond Biscotti and the Last of the Sweet Taters

You know how every once in awhile you'll cook or bake a newly veganized item and think to yourself, "oh wow!! This is great!" and it's like you've opened a new door in your travels as a vegan? Well, this is one of those recipes. I LOVE biscotti. As I'm a coffee girl, I love having the perfect crunchy cookie to balance out my cup of dark roast. After not eating a single biscotti in like, three years, I decided that enough was enough and that if a wedding cake could be veganized, some crunchy biscotti could be as well! This recipe turned out so well the first time that I plan on making much more biscotti in the future. Thus, my door to Italian vegan biscotti goodness was proverbially opened!

Baking them was new, since you had to bake them twice. You have to cook the biscotti almost like a loaf a bread and when it's just about done, you slice them to crisp the centers and edges up. So, when the directions say to "shape like a loaf" I mean you shape them kind of like a roundish-long loaf of bread. I'd recommend an insulated cookie pan for biscotti making since it crisps everything up without browning it a whole bunch. I didn't use that pan for this batch, tough I wished I had. It still turned out lovely in the end though.

This biscotti is just lightly sweetened with a smattering of cranberries and almonds. The almond flavor is enhanced by the almond extract, and the orange juice gives such the cranberries a perfect little boost. I recommend using fresh-squeezed though, since you can't ever seem to get any real orange flavor out of boxed juice when cooking (or at least that's my opinion). The egg replacer in this recipe is the tapioca starch-o.j. slurry. It worked really well. I think I might try it in other recipes. I was really pleased at how easy this batter was to mix up and bake. I'm already planning my next batch... maybe some chocolate-hazelnut or some cranberry-pistachio. How about some cardamom-almond...?

Cranberry-Almond Biscotti: 
2 3/4 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
Juice of 3 juicy oranges (about 3/4 cup)
4 Tb. tapioca starch (or cornstarch)
1 c. sugar + 1 Tb.
2 Tb. coconut oil
1 tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. dried cranberries
1/2 c. slivered almonds

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 

2. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in bowl.

3. Whisk together 1/4 c. orange juice and cornstarch in a large mixing bowl until thick and well-combined. Then, to that mixing bowl, beat in 1 cup sugar, the remaining 1/2 cup orange juice, the coconut oil, and extracts until fluffy.  Fold in cranberries and almonds.

4. Beat in the flour mixture until well-combined. Stir in the cranberries and slivered almonds.

5. Shape the dough into 2 logs on prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle them with the 1 Tb. sugar. Bake 35 minutes, or until light brown. Cool 15 minutes on baking sheet.

6. Slice into 1/2-inch thick slices. Return slices to baking sheet, and bake 20 minutes more, or until browned and crisp. Enjoy!

To view the original Vegetarian Times version from this modified one, click here.
Now it's time for a little recipe review...

Well, I think my sweet potato kick has finally ended after a good four or five week run. However, it ended nicely with a small batch of HEAB's Hawaiian Sweet Potatoes. The genius part of this recipe was combining the granola and coconut together in a coffee grinder to get the PERFECT crisp topping (and it was super quick too!). The major thing I changed was I left out the step where she steamed the sweet potatoes. I don't have the capacity to steam in that manner, so I just chunked them up into 1/2 inch cubes and placed them, along with the pineapple juice, in a small (3" x 7" or so) covered baking dish. After about 35 minutes, I topped the potatoes with the crumb mixture and let finish baking until the potatoes were soft.

The Verdict: They were pretty good, but I would've added about one tablespoon of brown sugar to the crumb mixture. Neither my granola nor my coconut was sweetened, so it just needed a little boost in that department. I'll do that the next time I make this dish!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Vegan Milano Cookies and an Old-School Tofu Scramble

My mom and I did a lot of baking this week. We made up a bunch of different cookies and snacks to give out as gifts. We packaged all of the different cookies up in little bags and then placed the bags in a Christmas tin decorated with holiday ribbons and bows. We then gave them out before Christmas so that people wouldn't be too burnt out on holiday food to eat our goodies. Lol. My mom and sister's items were not vegan, but my four items were. This year, I made: gingerbread men, jam thumbprints, cranberry almond biscotti, and these "milano" cookies you see here (or as my boyfriend Drew calls them, "E.L. Fudges"). Nobody else in my family is vegan (or even vegetarian), so I just snuck them in with everything else.

I gotta forewarn you though, I've never ate a Pepperidge Farm Milano cookie. I just know that they're crisp vanilla cookies with a cookie filling. I can't vouch that they're accurate, but I can vouch that they're delicious! If I had rolled them out instead of doing the "flatten-a-ball-with-a-cup" method, they would've been thinner and crispier (and also had a perfect oval shape...). You can do that if you'd like to make them more authentic. When you just flatten a ball of dough with a cup, the cookie tends to be a little softer in the middle and crispy on the edges.

I also added a little orange zest to the chocolate center to just give it a little flair. I thought the flavor went with it quite nicely. Mom said that these were her favorite out of the whole lot of cookies, even more than her white chocolate-macadamia nut cookies. That, my friends, is success!

 Cookie makin' elves ain't got nuthin' on me.

Vegan Milano (or E.L. Fudge) Cookies:
3 2/3 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. Earth Balance (2 sticks), softened
2/3 c. coconut oil
3/4 c. powdered sugar, sifted (just make sure they are no lumps)
2/3 c. brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. egg replacer plus 2 Tb. warm water, mixed well
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract (or 2 tsp. imitation)

Chocolate filling:
8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
1/4 tsp. fresh orange zest

To make the cookies:
1. Preheat to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and the salt. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, using a mixer on medium speed, beat the butter, oil, and sugars for about 2 minutes, until very light and fluffy, scraping down the bowl as needed. Add the egg replacer, vanilla extract and mix until smooth. Reduce the speed to low and add about half the flour mixture, mixing to incorporate. By hand, add the remainder of the flour mixture, mixing well. Let the dough stand 10 minutes to firm up slightly.
4. Roll the tablespoon-sized portions of dough between the palms of your hands to form balls; place them on the baking sheets, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Wipe the bottom of a flat-bottomed glass lightly with oil, then press down on a ball to form a thin cookie round. Continue forming the cookies in this manner.
5. Bake, 1 sheet at a time, for 6 to 9 minutes or until the cookies are just light golden brown around the edges; do not overbake. (Rotate the pan from front to back about halfway through baking to ensure even browning.) Let cool for 2 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the chocolate filling:
1. Melt the chocolate with the orange zest in a microwave-safe bowl on medium power. Stir about every 30 seconds until the chocolate is completely smooth. This may take 3-5 minutes depending on your microwave.

To assemble the cookies:
Place about 1-2 tsp. worth of chocolate on the backside of one cookie, then top with another cookie and lightly press until the chocolate reaches out to the edge. Allow the chocolate centers to cool and harden before enjoying. The amount of chocolate you use per cookie will kind of depend on how large you made the cookies.

Enjoy the tastiness that are these awesome cookies, and don't forget to share!

Now, let's balance out that massive sugar load with a little savory...

I woke up one morning with an intense craving for a tofu scramble. Tofu scrambles are like introductory vegan food. For most of us, it's one of the first tofu dishes we made ourselves. It's easy, quick to prepare, high in protein, and makes an awesome filling breakfast (or lunch or dinner). I literally have not made one of these in like, three years, (when I first went vegan) but the craving that morning was too strong to deny! Besides, I'm a good little vegan and I always seem to have a block of tofu in my fridge. Lol. Although we all have our favorite recipe, and although most recipes are about the same, I've decided to go ahead and post my version of a tofu scramble here (after I managed to dig out my old recipe). After all, what vegan blog doesn't have a complimentary recipe for a tofu scramble?

And man oh man, did that scramble hit the spot! I embarked onto my plant systematics final ready to go, and truly tofu-powered!

Tofu and Vegetable Scramble:
1/2 (14 or 16 oz.) container of firm tofu, pressed and drained for about 10-15 minutes
2 tsp. nutritional yeast
1 tsp. tamari
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. dried parsley
1/4 tsp. each garlic and onion powder
1/8 tsp. turmeric
1/8 tsp. smoked paprika

1/4 a green pepper, diced
1/4 a red pepper, diced
3 mushrooms, sliced
1/2 an onion, diced

1. Mash the pressed and drained tofu in a bowl with a fork until it's scrambled egg-looking.

2. Add the nooch, tamari, minced garlic, parsley, garlic and onion powders, turmeric, and smoked paprika with the mashed tofu, and use the fork to blend it all up nicely. If you'd like it a little more yellow, like eggs, you can add some more turmeric. :)

3. In a skilled sprayed with some nonstick, saute the red and green peppers, onions, and mushrooms until soft. About 3-5 minutes.

4. Add the tofu to the skillet and saute for another 2 or 3 minutes. Basically just until the veggies are done, the tofu is hot, and the veggies and tofu are well mixed up.

Enjoy! This dish is also complimented by some black salt, which tends to be a little eggy (due to the sulfur in it), but is also good without it. Serve it alongside some toast and maybe some Gimmie Lean, and you're set! This also makes two average-sized or one large serving.

And it didn't come out of a chicken's butt.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Oven-Roasted Tomatoes and Vegetable Pizza

This is one of those lovely, lengthy posts that I've been working on for a couple of days. It all began with a little planning...

Tomatoes aren't in season this year, but I like to eat tomatoes on my veggie pizzas. The easiest way to get a bunch of flavor out of some out of season produce is to roast them. Also, if you tend to have a bunch of end-of-the-season tomatoes from your garden or the farmer's market, this is the perfect way to use them up. I knew these roasted tomatoes would add a bunch of flavor to my pizza, so I decided to roast all the veggies for my pizza! I had to do the tomatoes first and by themselves though. They roast differently than say, red peppers.

Oven-Roasted Tomatoes:
1 lb. Roma tomatoes, quartered
2 Tb. minced garlic
1 tsp. kosher salt
Olive oil, for drizzling.

To begin the roasting process, I first quartered my Roma tomatoes. I then sprinkled them with minced garlic and kosher salt, then I drizzled them all over with some good olive oil.

After that, I baked them for one hour at 350F, or until they were completely soft and kind of browned around the edges.

I then followed up the tomato roasting with the roasting of my peppers and onions. I would've liked some roasted zucchini and yellow squash on there, but alas, they're not longer in season (of course, that didn't stop me with the tomatoes... lol). To roast bell peppers, use this process here. You roast them the same way as poblano peppers.

I kept the olives and artichokes as they were because well, they came from a can.

I then stored these vegetables overnight because I wasn't quite ready to be making any pizza. They next day though, I was ready to get to some pizza dough making. I followed my favorite recipe for whole wheat pizza crust (it's got wheat germ in it and stuff. I love it!) and once that process was completed I used the previously roasted vegetables (plus them canned ones) to top my pizza. I then baked it at 350F for about 15 minutes. Just until the crust was browned and the vegetables were nice and hot. I don't use vegan cheese because I'm just not a fan of that stuff. I might try Daiya one of these days, but at $6 a package and with the possiblity I won't like it, I just haven't put it very high on my priority list. However, if you like some cheeze on there, feel free to add and broil!

I would show you what it looked like, but apparently I ate it all before I took any photos. Oops. Anyway, I hope you don't mind the short post. I'll be back in full force now that finals week is over with!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Winter Medley Vegetable Soup

Yay soup!

I'm not sure if you guys have noticed this, but I have quite a few recipes for soup. I love to make it because it's relatively simple, and you can munch on the leftovers for days. This is handy when you're busy with school and other commitments 'cause all you have to do is heat n' eat.

I found a sort of recipe like this in Martha Stewart Living (which has some surprisingly good recipes that are fun to veganize). I used it to base my ingredient amounts, but the recipe itself is all mine. I kind of thought the original recipe was odd. This one's better, lol.

Anywho, it's a very fall inspired recipe, full of root vegetables. It's nice and warming and it goes deliciously with my homemade whole wheat bread. I've been wanting to try chard for a really long time, and I've had some butternut squashes sitting in my pantry forever. Swiss chard is one of them wonderful leafy greens, full of Vitamin A, C, K, iron, calcium, potassium, and manganese. Add that to the Vitamin A powerhouse that is squash and the protein that is Great Northern beans, and you truly have a soup that is feeding your body and your health (all these vitamins and minerals are excellent at preventing winter illnesses as well).

Winter Medley Vegetable Soup:
1-2 Tb. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 Tb. minced garlic (about 3 cloves)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. parsley
1/2 tsp. marjoram
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/4 tsp. celery seed
1 bay leaf
3 c. vegetable broth
3 c. water
1 butternut squash, peeled and diced
2 Yukon Gold potatoes, diced
1 bunch Red Swiss chard, tough stems removed, cut into 1 inch ribbons, washed thoroughly
1 can Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
2 Tb. lemon juice
Sea salt and pepper

1. In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, saute the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic in olive oil until soft, about five minutes. Add the salt, parsley, marjoram, thyme, rosemary, and celery seed, and saute until fragrant, about two minutes.

2. Add the vegetable broth, water, and bay leaf, and bring to a boil. Add the squash, potatoes, and chard, reduce heat, cover the pot slightly, and simmer about 30-45 minutes or until the potatoes and squash are tender.

3. Stir in the lemon juice at the end and add sea salt and pepper to taste.

I'll be making lots more tasty food since school is finishing up. I've already decided on some pomegranate roasted vegetables, biscuits with white bean gravy, roasted vegetable pizza, and a gingerbread somethingorother. Also, next week my mom and sister and I are gathering to do some Christmas baking, so stay tuned for some seriously awesome vegan deliciousness.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Some Things I'm Obsessed With...

I'd like to time out and take this post to introduce you to a few things that I'm currently obsessed with...

I think I previously mentioned that I'm on a sweet potato kick (it started with Thanksgiving), so I'd like to introduce you to something I've been eating a lot of:

These chipotle-seasoned sweet potato fries are AWESOME. I bake them until crispy (only takes 20 minutes at 400F) and then enjoy them immensely. They are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The seasoning is nice and spicy that can be a tad bit bitter at times, but I don't mind. I love these fries served as a snack (only 170 calories) or alongside veganaise a nice big salad.

My two-year-old niece absolutely loved these. She kept stealing them off my plate. I would give her a small one, and she would just look at it then steal a big one from me! So, I'm happy to report that these fries are kid-friendly (of course, she does love spicy things).

Oh, yeah, they also have 60% of your daily Vitamin A in one serving. Go veggies!

Another couple of items I've been eating a lot of lately (maybe something to do with a little PMS...? Maybe?):

Chuao Chocolate Bar with Panko Breadcrumbs and a touch of sea salt, 62% (I believe) cacao

Hageland Chocolate. It's 71% dark chocolate that made from single-origin cacao beans from Costa Rica. 

Both of these chocolate bars are truly amazing.  I love the Chauo chocolate. The touch of sea salt was perfect for bringing out the flavor of the chocolate and the panko provided and nice crunch. However, I believe the 71% from Hageland was my favorite. It was just a solid dark chocolate bar made with only four ingredients: cacao, sugar, cocoa butter, and vanilla. It simply melted in your mouth with absolutely no bitterness. It's also fair-trade, which is what I try to look for with I buy products with rainforest-produced ingredients. 

I'm not gonna lie. I didn't share either of these two chocolate bars!

Alright, and here's one item I absolutely DISPISE:

I can see how if you liked tempeh, you might like this, but ohmygoodness, I was horrified. I made tempeh myself once before and I thought it was awful, but like my early tofu experiments that didn't turn out, I thought I just needed to try again. My HyVee got in some of this Fakin' Bacon awhile back so I thought I would give it a go. I was gonna munch on it with some butter beans and buttered toast for a super quick dinner.

I followed the package directions and cooked them up nice and crispy, but egads! This stuff is awful. I guess what I'm saying is that I think tempeh is awful. When I bit into it, it was like biting into little bits of uncooked rice, and it was pretty salty (like bacon?). I tried about half a strip, but then I threw it away. I don't know any other vegans around here... I thought by buying it already marinated I could get past the obvious mold in it (that's a real turnoff, lol), but it was a no-go.

I guess I'll just be sticking to my seitan and tofu. I love those! So, I'm curious...

What do you guys think about tempeh? Have you tried it? How did you eat it? Was it good?

I might give it another just one last time, as I think I need to experience it three times before I can form a true opinion. Lol.

Oh, and all photos were obtained from the respective manufacturer's websites.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Green Split Pea Dal with Coconut-Turmeric Rice

Oh my goodness. My kitchen smells so amazing right now!

Let's start with the glorious Cocoa-Dusted Sweet Potatoes I've just finished making:

These are awesome! I found the recipe over at Heather Eats Almond Butter. Right now, she's about to wrap up her week of sweet potatoes and this little gem of a recipe was posted earlier this week. I LOVE IT. I've went through most of my sweet potatoes thanks to this recipe! I'm going to save my last one to eat another way (maybe Hawaiian baked?). The only thing I did differently than she did was bake my potatoes on parchment paper rather than aluminum foil. The bottoms burnt on foil. I also found that mine only took about 25 minutes to be completely cooked, but my oven runs kind of high. Anywho, if you like sweet potatoes, you should definitely try them like this!

Another reason why my kitchen smells so good:

Dal is never photogenic.
Green Split Pea Dal with Coconut-Turmeric Rice.

This recipe was pretty simple to make. The flavorful dal paired perfectly with the creamy coconut rice. Dal is usually made with yellow split peas, but I prefer the green ones (mostly because they're a lot easier to find in the grocery stores here. Lol). If you haven't had much Indian food, this recipe here is a nice introduction!

Green Split Pea Dal:
1 c. green split peas, rinsed and picked through
1/2 Tb. coconut oil, liquid
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 Tb. garlic, minced (about 3 cloves)
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. coriander
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. cayenne (can use less)
3 c. vegetable broth and/or water
1/2 tsp. sea salt, or to taste

1. After rinsing and sorting through the peas, bring them to a boil, and let them boil for 3 minutes.  After boiling, turn them off and let them soak, covered, for one hour.

2. At the end of the soaking hour (right before you put on the peas to cook), saute the onion and garlic in the coconut oil over medium-high heat until nice and soft, about five minutes. Add the cumin, coriander, cinnamon, and cayenne and let them cook another two minutes or until fragrant. Set aside.

3. Drain and rinse the soaked peas. Add the vegetable broth and/or water and the spiced, sauteed onions. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat, and simmer for about one hour and 15 minutes, or until the peas have broken down and a lot of the extra broth is gone. Salt to taste at the end.

Coconut-Turmeric Rice:
1 c. long-grain brown rice or brown basmati rice, rinsed
1 (6 oz.) can coconut milk (about 3/4 cup)
1 3/4 c. water
1/4. tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. salt

1. Bring rice, coconut milk, water, turmeric, and salt to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 45 minutes. Stir before serving with dal.

A meal that contains 3/4 a cup of dal served with 3/4 of a cup of coconut rice provides you with 16.8 grams of protein and 15.3% of your daily iron. Toss in a sliced tomato-onion-cucumber (soy) yogurt salad to round out the plate and you're set for a tasty, wholesome meal!

On Monday, I think I'm gonna be making some more Indian food, though this time I'm leaning towards more of a hot tofu curry. We'll see. Have a great day!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Roasted Brussel Sprouts and a Giveaway!

I'm not gonna lie, this is a sort of Thanksgiving-ish post (since I made this dish on Thanksgiving), but I'll keep it brief as I'm sure we've all had our fill of holiday food (at least until Christmas...).

So, as the only member of my entire extended family who does not eat meat, I didn't bother cooking up a Tofurkey or anything. Besides, I find that I'm more of a "sides" kind of girl anyway. I mostly loaded up on veggies (green beans, roasted brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes), stuffing (which was accidently vegan, lol), cranberry sauce, and bread rolls. Seriously. I ate so many sweet potatoes. I love those things! I had them both regular and with ricemallow creme. Good stuff.

However, the one dish I made that was only for me was my roasted brussels sprouts. Can you believe nobody in my family likes these tasty little gems? 

In fact, my sister starting griping at me that I needed to "put a lid on them" because she couldn't stand the smell. I suppose they are a little strong... So, if you like brussels sprouts, this is a perfect recipe. It's easy, simple, and soooo tasty. I like mine a little salty and a pretty crispy on the edges, so feel free to adjust the salt and/or how long you cook them.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts:
1 lb. (ish) of brussels sprouts
2 Tb. olive oil (or just enough to coat)
1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1. Preheat the oven to 375F.

2. Prepare the brussel sprouts by washing them, cutting off the hard ends, pulling off any yellow outer leaves (green outer leaves are okay), and quartering them.

3. Toss them in a bowl with the oil and salt until coated.

4. Roast them on a baking sheet in a single layer for 35 minutes or so, until the outer edges are crispy and the insides are nice and tender. Shake the pan occasionally to mix them up. You can add more salt to serve.

After about 15 minutes, a lot of the stray leaves will be super brown and crispy. I like to steal these from the pan and then munch on them while the rest of the sprouts are roasting. Lol.

I would also like to take the time here to loudly announce that Bianca from Vegan Crunk is giving away a copy of Caribbean Vegan. If you're into exploring new ethnic foods and expanding your palate, this cookbook would be an awesome addition to your collection.

For a chance to win, just visit her blog post, Cookie Sale and Caribbean Vegan Giveaway, and do as she instructs. Good luck!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Down-Home Split Pea Soup

I love split peas, though they never seem to photograph well...

Sometimes, when I mention split pea soup, people are like, "eww. I hate peas." That's why I want you to know that split pea soup doesn't taste like I mashed up a can of peas! Actually, split peas are an entirely different species of pea, which accounts for the different taste and method of preparation. Split peas are always harvested, dried and well, split, and are more like lentils in texture and preparation. They have a neutral flavor and take on spices well. They are an excellent source of molybdenum (which breaks down sulfite toxins and may help prevent cavities), a very good source of dietary fiber, and a good source of protein, manganese, folate, vitamin B1, potassium, and phosphorus (which also may prevent cavities, so get your phosphorus!).

 Tryptophan is the chemical that gives you that sleepy, feel good feeling after eating. Source.

Many Indian dishes are made with green or yellow split peas (dals), but this dish is more of an American-style stew made with local vegetables and easy-to-find spices (minus the chunks of pig). I was reading through an old cookbook one day when I got this soup idea. The cookbook is most certainly NOT vegan, but there are some excellent recipes in there (as well as some KILLER ol' fashioned, homecookin', type desserts) that I want to veganize and put in my belly (we're talking wild berry buckle with vanilla cream sauce here).

Anywho, this stew is excellent when served with some homemade biscuits or crusty bread. If you haven't had split peas before, you should definitely give this recipe a try!! Oh, and you'll have plenty of leftovers, so feel free to halve it.

Some people say you don't have to soak your peas, but I always do. I found that if you don't soak them beforehand the texture is a little more toothy. Soaking softens them up a little more. It's up to you, though. I personally do a quick soak before cooking (bring the peas to a boil, let boil a couple of minutes, then turn off the heat, and let soak in the hot water at least an hour).

Split Pea and Vegetable Stew:
1 lb. dried green or yellow split peas
2 qts. water (8 cups)
1 Tb. olive oil
1 onion
1 Tb. garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. dried marjoram
1 tsp. dried parsley
1 1/2 c. carrots, chopped
1 1/2 c. celery, chopped
2 medium potatoes, diced
Celery leaves, chopped (all the good-looking ones on the celery stalks)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper

1. Rinse the dried peas, drain, and sort in order to remove any stones or debris. Place into a large soup pot, cover with water, add the bay leaves, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. If you use yellow peas, remove any of the shells that float to the top. Also remove any foam (contains impurities...?).
2. Meanwhile, saute the onion, garlic, carrots, and celery in olive oil until softened and fragrant, about five minutes.
3. Add the sauted veggies, diced potato, marjoram, parsley, the celery tops, and the black pepper to the pot. Let simmer for 45 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and the peas are soft. Add some additional water if necessary before adding the vegetables to make sure there is enough to cook the potatoes and stuff. Salt to taste before serving. Enjoy!

To end my post, I present to you a glorious photo on which to feast your eyes (that's a joke... pea soup never looks appetizing!):