Thursday, December 29, 2011

Whole Foods Salad: Take One

Like a majority of others, I am completely obsessed with Whole Foods' salad bar. It doesn't matter what I put on my creation, it will always taste good. As long as they have some of my favorite items: marinated gigante beans (delicious!), toasted pumpkin seeds, and shredded raw veggies of some sort, I am a happy camper.

Unfortunately, I live almost an hour and a half from the nearest Whole Foods, so if I wind up going there it becomes quite an excursion. It always take a few hours, involves a giant shopping list, and of course, eating an amazing salad at the salad bar and drinking a kombucha from the tap.

After eating wicked amounts of sugar over the holidays, I have been mega-craving salads, beans, and other healthy foods. And since I'd much rather be feeling like my usual vibrant and healthy self than a sluggish mess of brain fog, I decided to go ahead and start afresh with my diet. Why wait until the New Year to start over if I can do it today and feel great now?

So, due to the fact that I yearn for some crisp, clean vegetables and whole grains and beans, I did my best to recreate my favorite Whole Foods salad:

Basically, it's a layered salad made up of the following:
2 c. mixed salad greens and baby spinach
1 c. chopped romaine lettuce
1/2 c. steamed squash (delicata this time around, 10 min. to steam)
1/2 c. butter beans, rinsed and patted dry
1/4 c. cooked quinoa or brown rice
A heaping 1/8 c. raw beets, shredded
1/8 c. raw zucchini, shredded
1/8 c. raw carrots, shredded
1/8 c. daikon, shredded
2 Tb. low-fat raspberry vinaigrette
2 Tb. chopped green onion
1 tsp. shelled hemp seeds

The major difference between my homemade salad and the Whole Foods one is that I usually add a little bit of baked tofu and use pumpkin seeds instead of hemp on the WF one. Also, at Whole Foods I use the Follow Your Heart Oil-Free Tamari-Miso dressing. It is amazing! I will buy some the next time I down there.

Also, you might be thinking, "raw beets?? raw zucchini?? daikon??". These raw shredded veggies are a great addition to your salad. You don't really notice the flavor because they're shredded up so fine but they add lots of nutrition. Daikon tastes like a sweeter, milder radish when raw, and I like it a lot, but you could also leave it out. I just shred a good amount at once that way I have plenty on hand for awhile.

As for delicata squash, some people really like it, but I wasn't very impressed. I don't really like the skin on it (which is edible), so if I ever cook it again, I'll leave off the skin. However, that seems like a lot of work and I really love butternut (what can I say?) so I'll probably stick to steamed butternut for my salads. Although, I do have a carnival squash I have yet to roast and I'd still like to try a kabocha sometime this winter, if I can find one. 

Overall, this is a mega tasty salad. I will eat it until I run out of raspberry vinaigrette, then I will switch things up a bit!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Almond Joy Cake!

Alright! I baked a cake! I love baking those things! I wanted a cake for my graduation party, and since it was MY party and MY cake I make it the way I wanted. With coconut. Ha ha!

This cake had two layers of moist vanilla-almond cake, a dark chocolate-coconut-almond filling, and a fluffy dark chocolate frosting. It was then garnished with sliced almonds.


So actually, I suppose it's a Mounds cake... with almonds... but eh. I think Almond Joy has more name recognition. Lol. For the chocolate, I used Enjoy Life brand (which is gluten-free, nut-free, and dairy-free. Also, it's affordable). I think that it is a milder chocolate, so it's good for people who don't have as much love for the dark stuff. It also comes in the bag as mini chips so it's fairly easy to measure out and melt.

Almond Joy Cake:
For the cake:
3 c. unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 c. turbinado sugar
1/4 c. canola oil
1/4 c. coconut oil (warmed to liquid, then measured)
2 Tb. no-sugar-added applesauce
1 1/2 c. unsweetened almond milk
1/2 Tb. rice vinegar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. pure almond extract

For the frosting/filling:
2 c. vegan chocolate chips (12 oz., which is one full bag plus part of another)
1/2 c. plain coconut creamer (or soy creamer)
2 sticks Earth Balance, softened
2 c. powdered sugar (make sure there are no lumps, sift if you have to)

1 c. sweetened, flaked coconut
1/3 c. sliced almonds, plus additional almonds to decorate the top of the cake

Preheat oven to 350F, and prepare two 8" rounds by covering the bottom and sides with parchment paper, using a spritz of nonstick to help them adhere to the pan. Spray the bottom of each round with some more nonstick.

1. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
2. In a large bowl, beat together the sugar, canola oil, coconut oil, applesauce, almond milk, vinegar, vanilla and almond extracts until completely combined.
3. Beat in half the flour on low speed.
4. Stir in last half the flour until combined.
5. Pour half the batter into each of the cake pans and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the top springs back when touched and a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in the pans about 5 minutes, then let them finish cooling on a wire rack.

1. Combine the chocolate and the coconut creamer in a bowl and heat in the microwave until the chocolate is melted. Stir it every 30 seconds or so until it is completely smooth. Remove it from the microwave and allow it to cool about 15 minutes.
2. Beat together the softened Earth Balance and powdered sugar until it's nice and fluffy, then add the melted chocolate.
3. Beat in the melted chocolate and whip the frosting together about five minutes, so that it is well combined. Set aside.

*It's IMPORTANT that the chocolate has cooled (until it's lukewarm to touch), otherwise it will melt the butter!!*

1. Remove about 1/3 the prepared frosting and place it into a small bowl.
2. Add in the flaked coconut and sliced almonds and mix completely. Set aside.

1. Remove the parchment paper and place it onto the platter/cake tray that you plan on serving it on.
2. Place one layer right side up, and cover the top of it with the coconut-almond filling.
3. Place the second layer UPSIDE DOWN so that the flat part is on top. This will give you a nice, smooth surface to decorate. You may need to cut off part of the top of the second layer so that the cake will be level (if you want).
4. Use the rest of the frosting to completely cover the sides and the top of the cake. It helps if you have a flat spatula to smooth it out with. I would frost the cake as soon as the cake is cool enough to handle frosting. Otherwise, it might harden. 

Makes a good breakfast...

Garnish with sliced almonds and flaked coconut! Also, I think that you should leave this cake at room temperature. It tends to harden up if left in the fridge. I also liked to eat my slices nuked in the microwave for about 10 seconds so that the chocolate got slightly melty.

This cake got a thumbs up from all who tried it... even those who didn't care too much for coconut!

Also, it is official. Now that I have eaten cake, I am a university graduate! I'll have an interesting announcement regarding that in February or so, and it may just change the direction my blog is headed... literally... like, the Midwest Vegan will probably be moving to Georgia this summer!

ANYWHO, I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! My boyfriend got me a wok, a bamboo steamer, and the Happy Herbivore cookbook (he knows me so well!). Which is good, because I've really wanted to make steamed dumpling for forever. Also, I make a lot of stir-fry and the regular ol' skillet just ain't cutting it. And last but not least, I make some awesome vegan cinnamon rolls for Christmas for my family (who loved them!) and I shall post the recipe before New Year. After all, something-something New Year's resolutions something something, am I right?

(So yes, lots of healthy stuff coming from me in a couple of days!).

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Pad Thai with Edamame!

Haha. My last few posts have been pretty centered on Asian ingredients and flavors and this one is no different! However, I do feel the winds of change a-blowin' and I'm pretty sure that I'm going to wander off into some Indian flavors for awhile. Well, I mean I'm at least gonna make some chickpeas and butternut squash (cooked in coconut milk) because I've been hoarding those two ingredients for awhile. I live with three other people and our pantry has started getting crazy! Must... clear... space!!

In a change of pace from my usual Korean and Chinese-styled lunches, I made something Thai-ish. It's something I've made for a long time, and each time I made it I tweaked it a little bit more. I believe it's finally done being tweaked with and is now ready for your own enjoyment! It's really not that authentic, but I did my best with what I had available, lol. I also used edamame (which is obviously not Thai) instead of tofu because I felt I was kind of in a tofu rut and I really liked it a lot. And I'm not gonna lie, boiling some edamame for a couple minutes is really super easy. Add the edamame to some packaged broccoli slaw, a touch of fresh ingredients, and some rice noodles, and you've got your self a very quick meal. It will definitely be on your table in 30 minutes.

It's all about the garnish, baby.

I actually made up the sauce part the night before to save even more time. It worked just fine! You could also chop up all the garnishes beforehand too, if you know you're going to be in a pinch. Also, I don't have a picture of it all garnished and fancy. I forgot. All well. I'll be making this again!

Pad Thai with Edamame:
1 c. frozen shelled edamame, cooked according to package directions
1 pkg. broccoli slaw
1/2 c. minced shallots (about 2-3 shallots, can use onion)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 Tb. coconut oil

1/4 c. fresh lime juice (about 2-3 limes)
1 tsp. lime zest
3 Tb. Bragg's liquid aminos (or soy sauce or tamari or GF soy sauce/tamari)
1 Tb. brown sugar
1 tsp. tapioca starch (or cornstarch)
1/2 tsp. tamarind paste
1/4 tsp. garlic powder

Rice noodles, cooked according to package directions, to serve
Chopped peanuts, to serve
Lime wedges, to serve
Chopped cilantro, to serve
Sesame seeds, to serve
Chopped green onions, to serve
Sriracha, to serve

1. Mix all the sauce ingredients and set aside.

2. In a large skillet or wok on medium-high, add the coconut oil and let it melt. Add the minced shallots and garlic and cook until softened and golden, about 3 minutes.

3. Add the broccoli slaw, cooked edamame, and sauce, and cook another 5-7 minutes, or until the slaw is crisp-tender and the sauce has thickened/cooked into the veggies. You can add more tapioca starch if necessary.

4. Serve the Pad Thai over the rice noodles, and garnish with the peanuts, cilantro, sesame seeds, green onions, lime wedges, and sriracha.

This makes your kitchen smell really good! And really, even if you don't normally add oil to your stir-fries, you should really add some coconut oil to this one. It gives it a little something-something. Same with the lime zest. I got a microplaner (zester) awhile back and I love it.

Photo from

I normally don't really promote kitchen gadgets or trinkets, but a lot of my recipes call for zest. The zest of a citrus fruit contains all the flavor and essence of that fruit, even more so than the juice does, due to the aromatic oils and other compounds located there. If you made Orange Tofu with orange juice once and you were extremely disappointed about the lack of oranginess, it's because it needed a boost from the zest. I use mine all the time (because we all know them box graters don't actually work with fruit!), and it's actually pretty easy to clean. It's literally one of my favorite kitchen devices. Best $12 bucks I ever spent!

Ok, shameless plug over with! Lol, and just so you know, I don't get any money from that. I just borrowed the picture and used the link so you could see what I was talking about. My blog will always be ad-free, and the other products/items/ingredients I mention are ones that I personally use on a regular basis!

Oh, and my next post will involve my Almond Joy cake. Yumz.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

High Protein Lo Mein? Yes.

So, I've had mega cravings for all sorts of Asian inspired recipes lately and that's mostly what I've been eating. I pulled out a copy of 30 Minute Vegan's Taste of the East this past grocery day and I've picked out a couple of recipes to make from it. I'm definitely going to be making some Pad Thai (I have't had any of that in awhile!), and the Tofu with Lemon Sauce sounds glorious. The only little problem that I'm running into is that I can't find any Szechuan pepper. It's so ridiculous! I live in a CITY of 80000 people (yes, four zeros there) and none of our grocery stores carry any sort of Szechuan anything. I mean, I could understand if it was something obscure, like pomegranate molasses or berbere or something, but it's not!!! It's a famous Chinese spice blend. My HyVee carried it a couple months ago, but magically, when I want it, it's gone. Ok... rant over...

Le Sigh. I'm still hoping I can find it somewhere. I have one more place to look. If I can't find it, I'm not going to make Kung Pao anything (or Lemon Tofu anything). It'll just have to wait. And yes. I am that ridiculous. This is one of those occasions where a substitute will not suffice! I'm going to Whole Foods next week and I will definitely spend some time browsing the spice aisle (along with pretty much every other aisle...).

Anywho, when I was at the grocery store picking out my maple syrup fix, I looked over my shoulder to see some "soybean spaghetti" from a brand called Explore Asian.

Being intrigued, and deciding that soybean spaghetti might be quite alright, I picked up a bag. Vegan... Organic... Gluten-Free.... 20.5 grams of protein a serving?? For reals?? And I then proceeded to toss that baby in my shopping cart. Today, when lunchtime rolled around, I knew that this was what I would be crafting my meal around. The noodles are kind of thin, but I like them like that, and they would make a good gluten-free substitute for udon or ramen (even though they're not nearly as thick as udon). Since everything was getting all noodle-y up in my kitchen and I was running short on time, I decided to made a quick lo mein. When I opened the package, I thought they smelled a little different and it caught me off guard, but I mean, they didn't smell bad or anything, just like soybeans, I suppose!

My Lo Mein turned out perfect, even though I forgot to oil up the drained noodles and they wound up sticking to each other. The noodles themselves had a pleasant flavor and a good texture (actually, I liked the texture a lot. It reminded me of my beloved, much-missed ramen) and even though I ate lunch at 1:30-ish, I was still satisfied until 5:30. I work second shift and I usually take a "fruit break" (instead of a smoke break) around 4:00 when I start feeling a little snacky, but I wound up working through it because I wasn't ready for my fruit break yet! So, I guess these high protein noodles do a pretty good job of filling me up and keeping me satisfied! I will definitely be buying them again.


Note: The spaghetti takes six minutes to cook, so brown the tofu first while bringing the water to a boil. If you add the chopped veggies to the tofu at the same time you add the spaghetti to the boiling water, everything will come out around the exact same time (just be sure to have the sauce mixed and the veggies prepped!).

High-Protein Lo Mein:
1/2 a tub (9 oz.) of firm or extra-firm tofu, pressed for 15 minutes, drained, and cut into cubes
1/2 a package of soybean spaghetti
1 tsp. walnut oil (or oil of choice)
1/2 yellow onion, cut into chunks
1 red bell pepper, cut into chunks
3 stalks celery, cut diagonally (just for fanciness)
1/2 c. sliced mushrooms (crimini, shittake, white, or a mixture)
2 c. baby spinach, packed

1 1/2 Tb. Bragg's liquid aminos or soy sauce/tamari (keep it gluten-free to make this recipe GF)
1 1/2 Tb. sherry (or mirin if you have it)
2 tsp. peanut oil (or oil of choice)
1 tsp. toasted seasame oil
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
Big pinch of dried pepper flakes
2 green onions, white and green parts, chopped

1. Sauté tofu cubes in a skillet sprayed with nonstick over medium-high heat until golden brown.

2. Meanwhile, boil spaghetti according to package directions (it takes six minutes).

3. Once the tofu, is golden, add the onions, bell pepper, celery, and mushrooms and sauté about 5 minutes.

4. Drain the spaghetti and toss it with the walnut oil. Set aside.

5. Add the baby spinach and the sauce (already mixed together and ready to go) to the tofu mix and sauté everything together for another minute or two until the spinach is wilted. Turn off the heat and add the drained noodles. Toss everything together real good and...

...voila! You now have a quick and easy, high protein lo mein!

This recipe makes two servings. Each serving has about 450 calories and around 14 grams of fat (slightly dependent on how much oil you decide to use), almost 25% of your daily calcium (muy importante!), and 35 grams of delicious, clean, vegan protein. If you can find soybean spaghetti near you, I suggest you give it a try. It's a little different, all gluten-free pastas are, but I like it a lot. Enough to make it my long noodle-y pasta of choice!

Ok, and just to let you all know, I'm pretty much out of school, so be prepared! I have a lot of recipes that I've been piling on my "to make" list and now that I don't have to devote the front half of my day and spare time to school, I can FINALLY start cooking and baking delicious things again. And first things first, I've got a vegan, ALMOND JOY LAYER CAKE to make. My graduation ceremony is Saturday (the 17th) and I decided I wanted a nacho party (with all the fixins') and a cake at home with my family and boyfriend. I'll let you know how that cake turns out (and I hope to do another step-by-step layer cake tutorial, since I have a better camera to take pictures with this time).

Have a great afternoon!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Roasted Veggie Noms

I love vegetables, and one of my favorite things about fall cooking is working with lots of root vegetables. So behold, the root vegetables:

Aww. Look at that little lonely carrot.

As I was reading last month's issue of Vegetarian Times, I saw a roasted vegetable recipe that called for fennel. Suddenly, fennel sounded really good, which was super weird because I've had fennel before and I thought it was kind of "meh". But, since I'm on a veggie kick now, I decided I would try roasting the fennel to see how that would come out. My previous attempts were all sauteed.

I didn't use the recipe in VT, I just roasted the vegetables like I always do: a touch of olive oil and kosher salt, then finished off with some good balsamic vinegar. I also went crazy with the vegetables I had (note to self: stick to boiling turnips. They get kind of weird and crunchy went you roast them).

Anywho, I LOVED the roasted fennel. It tamed its anise-like flavor and became really sweet (in a good way). When mixed with the potatoes, onions, and cauliflower, the whole dish had a nice balance to it. I wanted to find a celery root to stick in here (since they're another root I'd like to try), but although I've seen them around town before, they're not here now. Maybe some other time? Also, I threw a carrot in there. I don't know why and it was only one carrot. Didn't really add much to the dish, lol (hence the lonely carrot in the above photo!). Feel free to add a carrot or two though, if you'd like!

Roasted Vegetables with Fennel:
1/2 a head of cauliflower, broken into florets
1 fennel bulb, end and top remove, thinly sliced
1/2 lb. baby potatoes (about 12), halved
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
5 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 Tb. olive oil
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
a few pinches black pepper
Preheat oven to 400F.

1. In a large bowl, toss together the cauliflower florets, fennel slices, baby potatoes, onion slices, garlic.
2. Drizzle the veggies with the olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss to coat.
3. Turn veggies out onto a large baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper and roast at 400 for about 45-1 hour, or until the veggies are golden brown, soft in the middle, and crispy on the edges. I would give them a good stir every once in awhile, and rotate your pan if your oven is the devil, like mine is.

This recipe serves four as a side dish or two as a main dish.  For a main dish (half the recipe, and not including the single carrot!) you get 114 calories, 3.9 grams of fat, 3.9 grams of fiber, 3.1 grams of protein, and about half of your daily Vitamin C. Surprisingly, fennel and potatoes have a good amount of that vitamin in them.

See, there is literally one piece of carrot in there! Bwahaha!

Oh, and those purple things are potatoes. I bought a bunch of mixed colored ones to make it a little more interesting, but it pretty much wound up monochrome anyway! I meant to make a chickpea-orzo pilaf to go along with this, but I just wound up eating it for dinner all by itself. I know I'll be roasting more veggies in the future, so maybe I'll just save it until then. Lol.

Best way to serve leftovers? Warm. In a tortilla. With a hummus. Yeah. Roasted vegetable hummus wrap.
Have a great day!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Korean Stir-Fry For One

So, I realize "stir-fry for one" isn't exactly a recipe amount that is in high demand, but I remember when I was a new vegan. I wanted to try a lot of new things and I was only cooking for myself. What if I didn't like it? What if I had too many leftovers?

Heck, even now there are days when I just want to whip up something quick for just me. Don't get me wrong, leftovers are great, but sometimes a stir-fry just takes best as a crispy stir-fry the first time around.

This stir-fry is great. It's Korean-inspired (a personal fave) and full of spicy and savory flavor. I served it on top of some soba noodles with some kimche on the side and lunch was on my table in less than 20 minutes (I would say 15 but that might be rather bold. Lol).

It's so awesome it's bathed in an ethereal mist.

So this recipe makes enough stir-fry for one person (well, as in one average me), but feel free to double this goodness if you have more than one person to feed. As a note though, if you decide to double this for two people, I wouldn't double the sauce. I think it would be fine with the amount the recipe already makes. You don't want it to be too salty.

Oh, and gochujang is a spicy, fermented Korean chili paste. It doesn't really have a substitute since it has a flavor to it, but you could simply omit it for a less-spicy version. If you still want some heat, a pinch of chili flakes would be good.

And one last thing! Extra tofu can be stored in water, in the fridge, for a few days. Just be sure you change the water every so often.

Korean Stir-Fry For One:
1 serving extra-firm tofu (3 oz. or around 1/6 of a container)
1/2 a container shiitake mushrooms, sliced
4 white button mushrooms, sliced
1/2 a red bell pepper, sliced
1 c. baby spinach, packed

2 green onions, white and green parts, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tb. tamari
1 tsp. oil
1 tsp. liquid sweetener
1/2 tsp. gochujang
1/2 tsp. white miso

1. Press the tofu for about 15 minutes, drain the water, and cut it until little cubes. Spray a skillet with some nonstick and saute it until golden brown over medium-high heat, about 5-8 minutes.
2. Add the sliced mushrooms and red bell pepper and saute another 4-5 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, make the sauce by mixing together the chopped green onions, garlic clove, tamari, oil, sweetener, gochujang, and miso until well-combined.
4. Once the mushrooms and bell pepper are done sauteing, add the spinach and stir-fry sauce and saute until the spinach is wilted and everything is coated with sauce, about another 1-2 minutes.

Serve over pasta or rice and enjoy!

The stir-fry (including sauce, but not any noodles) has 177 calories, 8 grams of fat, 12 grams of protein, and lots of Vitamin A and C! Add a grain and you get a nice calorie and fiber boost to make a healthy and satisfying lunch!

So remember my declaration of healthy eating this past Monday? Well, it's been going great. I've been eating a lot more vegetables and fruit, and a lot less sodium (you really wouldn't believe how much sodium them crystal noodles had. Lol. Way more than a person should ever eat, around 1200 mg a container... eek!). I haven't made it to the gym yet, but I'll work on that one again next week, lol. I've got deadlines!

Anywho, expect some roasted veggies (with fennel!), some stuffed poblanos, chickpea tagine, and carrot cake oatmeal in the near future. Have a great afternoon!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Weekend Beans

I realize the title of this post is called "Weekend Beans" and it's well, not the weekend, but that was when they got ate. Another good reason why I call them weekend beans? Because the recipe below makes enough for two servings, or two meals. I took these beans to work both nights this past weekend and they were gone even before I had time to get sick of leftovers, lol. Which, if you make beans from scratch very often, it's pretty easy to wind up making a TON of beans! Of course, since my recipe makes two servings of beans, you could easily double it to get enough for more than one day's worth of leftovers or to feed a couple more people.

That's another good point. These beans were made from dried, so that's a huge money saver. Seriously. A pound of red beans is about $1.50 (although, I think they're actually a little cheaper than that around here). Then say, one full bag contains about 2 cups dried beans (it's probably more, lol). If you make half the bag W(1 cup) and split what you make between two people (that would be two servings apiece since 1/4 cup dried is one serving), your meal of beans is only costing you $0.38! Talk about economical! Show me the beans!

Of course, spices and whatnot up the cost a little bit, but bottom line is: beans are cheap.

And healthy.

And since I've been working on my healthy eating (less processed food. I've gotten lazy), beans are the perfect food to get plenty of.

I also made a batch of cornbread, and I ask you, what good is that without a pot of beans?!

These are my "comfort" beans. The kind Mom made for my Dad and I. Of course, she used ham in hers and a little butter. I use a few spices, a little oil, and some liquid smoke. They're a little plain (which is how I like them) so they go best with some cornbread or rice and some caramelized onions on top. Oh, and Taco Bell hot sauce... but I'll leave that to your discretion!

Weekend Beans:
3/4 c. dried "small red beans" (that's what the bag says)
1 bay leaf
3 Tb. minced yellow onion
1/2 Tb. garlic powder
1/2 Tb. onion powder
1 tsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. liquid smoke
Sea salt to taste

1. Rinse and pick through beans. Get rid of any stones or bad beans. Rinse beans and if any float to the surface, toss 'em.

2. Cover them with water (about 2 inches above the surface of the beans), bring them to a boil, and let them boil 3 minutes.

3. Once they're done boiling, cover them and let them soak for about an hour to an hour and a half.

4. Once the beans are done soaking, drain the water, rinse them a few times, and cover them with enough water to go about 1 inch above the surface of the beans.

5. Bring them to a boil, add the onion, bay leaf, garlic powder, onion powder, and liquid smoke. NOT THE SALT. Cover them, reduce the heat to a simmer and let them cook, stirring occasionally, for about an hour or until the beans are tender.

6. Once they're done cooking, remove a little of the broth (although you don't have too), give them a few good mashes with a potato masher to thicken them a little, and add the salt to taste.

Serve them with a grain and or cornbread, and some caramelized onions and you have a hearty meal!

Since I made this into two servings, each serving contains 110 calories, 2.25 grams of fat (from the olive oil. The beans themselves are fat free), and 10.5 grams of protein. You also get 22.5% of your RDA of iron and 24 grams of fiber (!).

Ahh. Good stuff. Hearty winter food for sure!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

I Finally Posted My Cornbread Recipe!

But before I go any further, there is something I would like to mention. Teniesha of Vegan on the Go-Go gave me the Liebster Blog award! I love Teniesha's blog and I read it regularly. Her food is always full of color and nutrition and her posts always are friendly and honest. I just happened to stumble across it one day, and I've loved it ever since!

Anywho, liebster is German for “dearest” or “favorite” and is an award given to lesser-known blogs.

When receiving a Liebster award, you're supposed to do the following:
1) Show your thanks to those who gave you the award by linking back to them.         (CHECK)
2) Link 5 of your top picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.     (UM...)
3) Post the award on your blog.                                                                             (CHECK)
4) Enjoy the love and support of some wonderful people.

Okay, so I know you're supposed to link 5 of your favorite blogs, but I always keep links to my favorite blogs on the right-hand side of the page. I like to cruise around the blogosphere and as soon as I find some goodies I post them on the side. So, I hate to be a party pooper, but I'm gonna take the easy way out and tell you that my links are on the side of the page (don't hate me!!! lol!). I've just been unbelievably busy this semester. I don't have enough to to cook, or bake, or read blogs, or even hardly workout!

Now, to divert your attention, I shall show you pictures of foodz...
Some mighty fine ears you got there.

My family is a cornbread family. Everytime we ate beans (which was quite often), we had cornbread. When I made beans or Mexican food or hearty bean stews, I made cornbread. Sometimes I just wanted cornbread... so I made cornbread. I've been using this recipe for years, so I can guarantee that this recipe is tasty and delicious. I actually tried to go out of the box a couple months back and bake a cornbread recipe from a certain well-known vegan cookbook author and I did not like it at all! I was so disappointed that I vowed I would use my recipe from now on (unless of course, I find a super decadent one to try).

MY cornbread is slightly dry and crumbly, but in a good way. It's not so dry you can't eat it by itself (with peanut butter...) but it's dry enough that it does a good job soaking up soupy deliciousness. It also stays in one piece so you don't have it crumbling all over the place. It's a tad sweet, but not too sweet. I've never been fond of sugary "Northern" cornbread. It's also not too high in calories, which I think is something a lot of health-conscious people look for in a cornbread (of course, it kind of depends on how many muffins you decide to make out of the batter...).

For this recipe I used melted (vegan) butter to give it richer flavor, but feel free to use the same amount of oil. I also used liquid sweetener instead of granular to add some moisture to the final product. I've found that most vegan cornbread tends to be unpleasantly dry, but using liquid oils and liquid sweeteners help remedy that.

Good ol' Cornbread:

1 1/4 c. unbleached, all-purpose flour
3/4 c. yellow cornmeal
1 Tb. baking powder
3/4 tsp. sea salt
1 Tb. flax meal +2 Tb. warm water
1 c. unsweetened original almond milk + 1/2 Tb. rice vinegar
1/4 c. liquid sweetener of your choice (agave, maple syrup, etc.)
4 Tb. Earth Balance, melted

1. First, preheat the oven to 400F. Stir together the flax meal and the warm water and set aside. Stir together the almond milk and rice vinegar and set aside.

2. Whisk together the all-purpose flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and sea salt until well-combined.

3. Stir in the flax "egg", the melted Earth Balance, the almond milk mixture, and the liquid sweetener until completely combined. Pour into muffin tins that have been sprayed with nonstick or pour into a 9" x 9" round pan (also sprayed with nonstick). You can also you an 8" x 8" square pan or muffin tins, but adjust the time as necessary.

4. Bake about 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Enjoy!

If cut into 16 squares or wedges or made into 16 muffins, you get: 98 calories, 3.3 grams of fat, and 1.6 grams of protein per serving (1 muffin/square/wedge). Not too shabby for a cornbread!

I love, love, LOVE retro/vintage/antique kitchen things. I have literally been looking for a cornbread pan that made "mini-corns" for ages! I mean seriously, corn-shaped cornbread?? Bwahaha!!! I've probably seen about a hundred of them, but all the ones I've came across have been pretty beat up or rusted all to heck. I found this pan at a thrift store for $1.48 yesterday and I seriously went home to make cornbread and try it out. It was everything I dreamed it would be! The little corns came out looking like, well, corns, and with a nice coating of nonstick, they popped out of the heavy cast iron just fine. My boyfriend got a kick out of them and I have a now have a new favorite vintage kitchen item!

Anywho, I've been living off a lot of vegan convenience foods because I've been so busy with work and school, but I've only got about a month left. I've been MEGA craving some vegetables and I'm sick of the sodium overload I've been feeding myself. I'm DONE. I'm going to make the time to start cooking again because I miss having veggies and leftovers around the house. I've also gained a couple "stress" pounds since I tend to munch while I study and I haven't had the time to workout. Blech. I miss being my active, healthy me, so this week I'm gonna step it up a notch. I'm gonna start running again on Tuesdays and Thursdays (hey, two days a week are better than none!) and I'm working on a list of meals for next week. I'm for sure going to post my recipes. For now, I've got roasted veggies with balsamic-flavored orzo as well a Morroccan stew planned. Teniesha's blog has got me craving squashes and chickpeas so I'm going to make sure I get a hefty dose of those this week.

I'm so ready for a change!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

I know most of you have probably done all your celebrating, but I wanted to wish you all a safe and fun Halloween anyway! 

So, until next year...
Happy Halloween! 

(and no, those aren't real bird feathers!!)

Big Lots Obsession of the Month

Alright guys! It's time for my latest Big Lots find! A couple of weeks ago I ran in there real quick during my between-work-and-school break. I needed something really fast for lunch, that wasn't refrigerated, and I knew that that day was going to be my lucky day! Thank goodness I was right because I only had about $5 and 45 minutes so there wasn't any back up plans in case the Big Lots idea didn't work out...

Anywho, one of the first aisles I walked in had a bunch of different, brightly-colored, cup-o-noodle looking things. I picked one up and I was surprised to find out that it was completely vegan. Even better, there wasn't a whole lot of weird, convenience-food ingredients in there either (there were a few, but not many). Way less than ramen, that's for sure. There were about six flavors and half of them were accidently vegan. The ones that weren't vegan contained eggs, but they were all vegetarian and none of them contained dairy. I bought one of each vegan flavor: Spicy Sesame Paste, Savory Shoyu, and Spicy Tofu. The sesame paste one isn't pictured before. It had already been nommed. Also, two words: A dollar-fifty. It's two words because one is hyphenated. Also, that's what I paid.

So it's basically just a cup of bean-thread (or cellophane) noodles with a dehydrated block of vegetables and spices. The spicy tofu one also has a packet of spiced oil and the sesame paste one has a packet of sesame paste. You just dump everything out, add boiling (or really hot) water to the line, cover it, and let it sit there for like, five minutes. I usually do ten but that's just whatever. 

Dehydrated block of whatchusay?

I didn't like the sesame paste flavor, but that's honestly just a personal preference thing. I like a touch of tahini, but this one had bold flavor. A little too much for me. I LOVE the spicy tofu flavor. It's hot. Hot and spicy. And delicious. If I had more adjectives, I'd throw them out there as well, but alas, it's late and my brain is tired.

And you know me, in order to make my "cup-o-noodle" a little more satisfying, I toss in some leftover tofu cubes (simply pressed and sauteed until golden, then tossed with a touch of Bragg's Liquid Aminos), sprinkle on some sesame seeds, and throw in a green onion or two. This is way better than ramen and it actually rekindled my love of cellophane noodles. I thought I didn't like them, but I guess it's all about preparation and they sure were tasty prepared like this:

Ha-ha! I found black sesame seeds! Yay for contrasting garnish!

I can't guarentee that you'll find them at a Big Lots near you, but they're a California based company so you might be able to find them at a regular old grocery store. They're called "Crystal Noodles". I think I literally went this entire post without mentioning what they were called...

Anyway, that's about all I got for now. I've got six weeks of school left, so bear with me! I promise I'll be a little more regular with my posts since I've finally just gotten over my midterm hump. It's all downhill from here baby!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Mmmm... Bibimbap

So, just a couple of days ago, a huge kimche craving hit. There's just something about that spicy, fermented cabbage I've grown to love. I had a small variety of vegetables in my fridge so I decided to get my Korean food fix and make some bibimbap.

I made this in true Korean style... instead of sticking to a rigid recipe, I just used a bunch of different items that I already had. I also used one authentic ingredient: gochujang.

Gochujang is a spicy, fermented soybean and chili paste. It's spicy, but not super spicy (though that bit of information is according to me... it did make my nose run!). The box shows a chili pepper and the number 3, so I assume that means "medium-spicy"... also assuming that's on a scale from one to five! Lol. Anywho, since I live in the ethnic ingredient void that is the Midwest, I had to buy this online from Amazon. It was kind of expensive, since it is an import from South Korean, but one tub will last you quite awhile. Also, I had a gift certificate to Amazon. I just closed my eyes and clicked "add to shopping cart" and pretended I didn't see how much the shipping was... I think the item plus shipping was like, $15. But I needed it. You know how that goes.

Back to the bibimbap. It's a very famous Korean dish and I believe it literally means, "mixed meal". A bowl is filled with rice, then all the ingredients are arranged on top. Before serving, everything gets all mixed together, hence its name. It usually consists of rice, mixed vegetables, sliced meat, and an egg, but my version is much more vegan-friendly!

This can be prepared with any veggies you might have on hand: carrots, daikon or radishes, cucumbers, mushrooms, bean sprouts, zucchini, spinach, bok choy, etc. For a garnish you could top with sliced green onions, sesame seeds, toasted pine nuts (very popular in Korean cooking), and of course, the gochujang. I like to use both tofu and edamame for protein but you can use whatever you like. It's a mixed meal after all, so feel free to use up any odds and ends you think might work.

The main musthaves for my bibimbap are shiitake mushrooms, kimche, tofu, and a green veggie of some sort. As long as I have those four things, everything else is a bonus! The sauce is a modified recipe from Saveur, but you can just use a dollop of gochujang.

Vegan Bibimbap:
Bibimbap vegetables:
2 c. shredded green cabbage
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 med. carrots, cut into matchsticks
1/2 pkg. shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
3-4 button mushrooms, thinly sliced
9 oz. firm or extra-firm tofu, pressed, cut into small cubes
1 Tb. oil
3/4 c. frozen edamame
1/2 tsp. walnut or sesame oil
a few drops toasted sesame oil
Bibimbap sauce:
1/4 c. gochujang
2 Tb. lemon-lime soda
1 Tb. miso
2 tsp. liquid sweetener
2 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. rice vinegar
1/4 tsp. ginger

hot cooked brown rice (short-grain is good here if you have it)
kimche (check to make sure it's vegan before you buy it)
2 green onions, white and green parts, chopped

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the gochujang, soda, miso, liquid sweetener, sesame oil, vinegar, and ginger until thoroughly mixed. Set aside.

2. Sauté the tofu over medium-high in the oil until golden brown on all sides. Set aside. Meanwhile, boil the frozen edamame (only takes three minutes). Drain it, and place it in a small bowl and toss with the walnut oil and toasted sesame oil. Set aside.

3. In a skillet, sauté the minced garlic and the cabbage for three minutes over medium-high. Place on a plate and set aside.

4. In the same skillet, sauté the carrots for about three minutes or until crisp-tender. Feel free to add some nonstick spray or oil if you need to. Set aside on the same plate as the cabbage.

5. In the same skillet (wipe out and respray with cooking spray if necessary), sauté the shiitake mushrooms and the button mushrooms until they are softened and browned, about three minutes. Set aside on the same place as everything else.

6. To serve, fill a bowl with hot (or room temperature) cooked rice. Around the edge of the bowl, arrange the tofu, edamame, sautéed cabbage, carrots, mushrooms, and lots and lots of kimche. Garnish with green onions and 1-2 tablespoons of the gochujang sauce.


Sauté all the vegetables (mushrooms, carrot, cabbage, garlic) all together for 3-5 minutes. This will save time, since the separate cooking of all the vegetable parts is mostly for presentation anyway! For other (raw) vegetables, like daikon, radishes, shredded lettuce, and cucumber, just cut them into slices or matchsticks and arrange them on top of the cooked vegetables.

 Needs more kimche.

Another bonus: leftovers can be served cold! Talk about easy!

This recipe makes about four servings. When made just like the recipe above, each serving (not including the rice, kimche, or sauce), you get 141 calories, 8 grams of fat, and 8.8 grams of protein. It's also got half your daily Vitamin A and about 18% of your daily calcium.

Dishes like this are the reason why I love Korean food. They're usually pretty quick to make, flexible with the ingredients (for the most part), full of flavor and fresh veggies, and are easily adapted to the vegan lifestyle. I also like spicy foods and Korean dishes can usually be made hot... or not. I hope y'all like it as much as I do!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Indian-Spiced Detox Soup

The other day I decided that I needed to make a big ol' pot of soup so that I could have something to take to work for the next few nights. I glanced around my kitchen and I had quite a medley of ingredients to work with: carrots, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, split peas... So after thinking about the kind of flavor I wanted to create, I decided that a cauliflower-based Indian soup was the direction I wanted to head.

As I started compiling my ingredients, I went ahead and threw in some millet to make it a complete protein. I also decided to include sweet potato, but leave out regular potato.

After simmering for awhile on the stove, I looked into my pot and decided it didn't look too appetizing, what with the little bits of cauliflower, green peas, and the bright yellow color from the turmeric. This soup had to be a blended soup! There was no way to get around it!

Then, as I was enjoying a soothing bowl of hot soup, I started to think about all the goodness that was in it: whole grains, organic vegetables, legumes, and anti-inflammatory spices... I also pondered what wasn't in it and I realized that this was a perfect food for those who have decided to embark on a detox diet, or for those who just wanted to ease back into a healthy diet after eating too much junk food or too little whole foods.

This soup is perfect. It is full of Indian spice (but isn't hot), is thick and satisfying, low in fat, and high in nutrition!

It's also completely free of: wheat, gluten, nightshades, dairy, eggs, and soy. Though keep in mind that some store-bought vegetable broths may contain gluten/wheat/soy. Just remember to check the labels.

If you're not on a detox, or if you're not on a very strict one you can top the soup with a little plain soy yogurt and chopped, toasted cashews. Delicious!

Also, since the water and vegetable broth are estimates based on how much I used, you may have to use more or less, depending on how large your vegetables are. 

Indian-Spiced Detox Soup:
1/2 c. green split peas, washed and picked through
1/4 c. millet, washed
1 smallish head of cauliflower, chopped up into small pieces
1 small to medium sweet potato, peeled and chopped
2 1/2 c. vegetable broth
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 small, whole carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 Tb. olive oil
2-3 tsp. mild curry powder
1tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. coriander
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1 bay leaf
Sea salt and white pepper to taste

1. Place the split peas in a medium soup pot and cover with an inch or so of water. Bring to a boil, cover, and let boil 3 minutes. Keep covered, and allow the peas to stand for an hour.

2. Once the peas are done soaking, drain and rinse them, then add the vegetable broth, 1 1/2 cups of water, millet, cauliflower, sweet potato, and the bay leaf. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer.

3. Meanwhile, sauté the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic in the olive oil over medium heat until softened and golden, about 5-7 minutes. If they start to go a little dry, you can add about 1/4 cup of vegetable broth to finish sautéing them instead of adding more olive oil (or you can omit the oil altogether and just add broth).

4. Add the curry powder, cumin, coriander, garlic powder, onion powder, and turmeric to the vegetables and continue to sauté another 2-3 minutes or until fragrant. Add the vegetables to the soup pot, return to a simmer, and allow the soup to simmer for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until everything is nice and soft.

5. Using a blender, blend the soup in batches until completely smooth. You might have to add a little broth or water if you blender is having a tough time. Mine is just a regular old Oster blender and it was no trouble, so I'm sure your blenders will do just fine. No need for a Vitamix here! Reheat to serve if necessary. You can also use an immersion blender, but I don't have one of those yet. Lol.

This golden fall soup was just what I needed to bring me back to life. Have a great evening.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Brussels Sprouts n' Lima Beans

Okay, back track eight years ago. I definitely would not have been eating this:

Pictured: Delicious stereotypical health food.

Heck, I hadn't even tried a brussel sprout yet. And, except for one dinner in which my much younger self and younger sister made a mess with Lima beans and ketchup (ketchup made them "taste better"...), I hadn't ate a Lima bean either. Now, however, I'm much more in tune with what is good for me, good for the planet, and well, good tasting!

I got a small bag of baby brussel sprouts from the garden and I knew that they would be roasted. But with what? I have a Whole Foods recipe app for my phone and awhile back I bookmarked a recipe for roasted lima beans. Why not roast the two things together?

Luckily, the idea turned out to be genius and I was able to munch on these for a couple of days! The sprouts and beans rely on roasting to really bring out their flavor and the onions, garlic, and thyme give them a little oompf. This meal comes together fairly quickly and without much effort. It's also great if you only have a couple items on hand. To make it a complete meal I served them with some mashed sweet potatoes that I had leftover. This meal goes really well with sweet potatoes (but then again, what doesn't!?).

I am not gonna lie though, I felt super granola-crunchy-hippie as I was eating this... but that's not always a bad thing! Lol.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Lima Beans:
1 (10 oz.) box of frozen Lima Beans
1 bay leaf
3 c. brussel sprouts, ends trimmed and quartered if large
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, divided, minced
3/4 tsp. thyme (I used the leafy thyme, not powdered... not sure if that makes a difference...)
1 Tb. olive oil, divided
Kosher salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400F.
2. Combine sprouts with onion, 3 cloves garlic, 2 tsp. oil, and kosher salt and pepper to taste. Pop in the oven and roast for 20 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, boil the frozen lima beans in salted water with the bay leaf and a minced garlic clove for 6-8 minutes or until firm-tender. Drain them well and blot the excess water with a paper towel. Set aside.
4. After the 20 minutes is up, pull the sprouts out of the oven and toss them with the drained limas, an additional teaspoon of olive oil, and the thyme. Stir well to mix everything up.
5. Roast an additional 15 minutes, stirring once or twice, until the sprouts are browned and tender. Enjoy!

This recipe will make about three servings, with about 192 calories, 4.9 grams of fat, 9.3, grams of protein, 13.3% of your Vitamin A, 145.7% of your Vitamin C, 8.5% of your Calcium, and 15.8% of your Iron per serving! And since it's a cruciferous vegetable (like broccoli, cabbage, kale, and collards) you know it's an excellent part of a disease-fighting, healthy diet!

For the sweet potatoes, I just cut a couple peeled potatoes into 1/2 inch thick coins and boiled them until they were done (around 10-15 minutes or until a fork pierces them easily). After that, they were drained, mashed, buttered, and a little plain, unsweetened almond milk was added for smoothness. Delicious! I'll be making this whole meal again once I get some more brussel sprouts.

Oh, and by the way, how is this thing spelled: Brussels sprouts (capitalized like the city?), Brussel (capitalized like the city but not plural?), brussel (quite possibly not named after any city??). I'm too lazy to look it up, lol. Anywho, some more quick meals I've got planned: an epic tofu scramble (I know, I know, what vegan doesn't make a tofu scramble... but this one is awesome, I promise), a bok choy, bell pepper, and tofu stir-fry, and ohmygoodness... today I tried a Field Roast sausage. Amazing! I am going to stock up when I go to Whole Foods next month, because even though they're expensive, they're still WAY cheaper than where I get them!

So yeah, that's about it! I've got 11 weeks and I'll be back to blogging on a regular basis, no more school for me (except, for that additional six years I plan on undertaking next year...)! People keep giving me a confused look and saying, "Jess, isn't that three months?" Le sigh... yes, it is, but "weeks" don't sound nearly as long as "months"!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Mabon Recipes Two and Three!

Sorry I don't have any pictures to go with these recipes. The last time I made them was last fall... I guess that means that I'm going to have to make both of these dishes all over again so I can show you what they look like, huh?

The first recipe is my Pecan and Apple Stuffing. I lurve stuffing. Of course, I'm a carboholic, so I tend to naturally gravitate towards these kinds of foods anyway, lol. This stuffing is great, and I've even made it for our large family gatherings and nobody knew it was vegan... soy sausage and all! The tart apples and crunchy pecans give a nice balance to the savory sausage. This dish (as well as the veggie medley, below) have all the flavors of fall wrapped up into one dish!

One note: the recipe calls for fresh sage, but I've never used fresh. I usually use a teaspoon or two of rubbed sage (the leafy kind, not the powdered kind). Since sage can be a little overpowering, I would just add a teaspoon of dried and then maybe go from there. Just don't add 1/4 cup dried! Lol (ahem... speaking from experience here...). Also, I can't remember where the recipe is from or what I've done to change it. My bad. I usually like to give credit where credit is due, so if it looks familiar, just let me know!

Pecan and Apple Stuffing:
10 slices whole wheat bread, cubed
10 slices hearty white bread, cubed (I like to use a thick oat bread)
1 (14 oz.) tube Gimmie lean, crumbled
1 Tb. olive oil
1 lg. white onion, chopped
5 ribs celery, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tart apples, peeled, diced (Granny Smith are good)
1/2 c. roasted pecans, chopped
1/4 c. fresh sage
1 1/2 c. vegetable broth
Salt and pepper to taste.

1. Preheat oven to 325F. Bake bread cubes 10-15 minutes, or until toasted. Once toasted, set aside to cool then place in a large bowl.

2. Spray a skillet with some nonstick and saute the Gimmie Lean until cooked and crumbled, about 5 minutes. Toss with the toasted bread cubes in the bowl.

3. Heat the olive oil, then add the onion, celery, and garlic. Saute 1 minute. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook 7 minutes more. Stir in apples, nuts, and sage. Cover, and cook 5 minutes more or until apples are crisp-tender. Add to bread in the bowl (you can actually make ahead to this point. Once you reach here, just cover the bowl and place in the refrigerator until you're ready to finish the stuffing later. You could easily make this a day ahead).

4. Increase oven to 350F. Coat a 13 x 9 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Toss stuffing with the vegetable broth and season with salt and pepper. Cover with foil. Bake 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake 15 more, or until top is crisp and brown.

The second recipe is for a simple roasted vegetable medley. The rosemary and sage give it lots of "autumn" flavor and the sweetness of the butternut squash pairs well with the potatoes and onions. Since I love garlic, I usually roast an entire head along with the vegetables, but if you're not as hip on garlic as I am, you can reduce it. You could also substitute sweet potatoes for the butternut squash if you have them around. I love both of those vegetables so I often go back and forth between them. Apparently, you can use a vegetable peeler to peel squash (at least that's what the new issue of Vegetarian Times tells me!), so I can't wait to try that out and see if it works. If it does, I bet it's a lot easier than peeling the whole damn thing with a large knife!

Simple Roasted Vegetable Medley:
1 medium-sized butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1" cubes
1 lb. potatoes, cut into 1" cubes
1-2 onions, cut into wedges
1 head garlic, cloves peeled and crushed (I use the back of my knife)
1 Tb. minced garlic (I told you I get crazy with the stuff...)
1 tsp. rubbed sage
1 tsp. rosemary
3 Tb. oil, divided
Kosher salt and black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 450F.

2. Toss the squash, potatoes, onion, garlic cloves, 2 Tb. oil, sage, and rosemary in a large roasting pan (a "turkey pan"). Season with salt and pepper. Roast, covered, for 25 minutes. Toss once. Add the minced garlic, and the remaining oil (if necessary).

3. Roast 25 minutes more, tossing once, until vegetables are browned on the edges and completely tender. Enjoy!

Also, feel free to add carrots and parsnips. I've never ate a parsnip. I just really like the sound of the word. Parsnip... parsnip... parrrrsnip. Anytime anybody says that word I imagine bunnies munching on them in some garden somewhere (thank you, Beatrix Potter). However, we have some parsnips (as well as carrots and turnips) in the garden. I'm kind of excited to try one! The ones you buy at the store are all woody and covered in wax, so I feel homegrown would be the best route to try them, by far!

The Fall Equinox is this Friday, September 23rd! There is still time to plan your own autumn celebration! Enjoy this traditional fall foods with copious amounts of mulled cider and red wine and I can guarantee that good times will be had!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Mabon Recipe One: Chocolate-Nut Tart

I recently had a comment on my old Mabon post asking about an ingredient in a recipe. As I looked at the comment, and then looked back at the post, I realized I had never actually gotten around to posting any of my Mabon recipes! Not only that, but my Mabon recipes were actually made a couple of years in a row, so they had been tried and tested all around!

(Oh, and Mabon is a harvest celebration festival that is based around the autumn equinox. The actual post explains it in more detail).

I replied back to the comment about the ingredient, but I then promised I would actually POST the recipes in question! And, since I'm not one to go about breaking promises without abandon, here's the first recipe: a vegan chocolate-nut tart. When I made this, I'm not gonna lie, I think I was the only one who really liked it. HOWEVER, it is a sort-of sophisticated dessert. It will absolutely be enjoyed by your foodie friends, but those who tend to live off the Standard American Diet and enjoy cheap snack cakes and McDonald's won't appreciate it as much (that was the crowd I served it to). You can find the original recipe here. Although, I didn't actually change anything!

 Another great VT photo!

I personally thought this tart was delicious, and I'd definitely make it again if I thought I had the self-control to not eat the whole thing! The bittersweet chocolate contrasts nicely with the buttery nuts, and the cornmeal adds a great texture to the crust. It is a very rich tart... prefect for any holiday or festival gathering!

Triple Nut Chocolate Tart:
1 cup pastry flour
½ cup cornmeal
2 Tbs. sugar
¼ tsp. salt
½ cup Earth Balance (1 stick)
1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 cups mixed walnuts, pecans, and almonds (1 cup each), coarsely chopped
¼ cup Earth Balance (½ stick)
5 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped or in chips
2 Tbs. pastry flour
¼ tsp. salt
½ cup maple syrup
2 tsp. vanilla extract

1. To make Crust: Combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, and salt in bowl. Rub margarine into flour mixture with fingers until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle in vanilla, and stir. Add 1 to 2 Tbs. cold water until dough clumps together loosely. Press dough into pie dish or tart pan until sides and bottom are covered (I actually used a cookie sheet!). Chill in freezer 30 minutes.

2. To make Filling: Preheat oven to 375°F. Spread nuts on baking sheet, and bake 10 to 12 minutes, until lightly browned.

3. Melt margarine and chocolate in saucepan over low heat, stirring until smooth. Sprinkle in flour and salt, and stir until smooth. Stir in maple syrup and vanilla. Stir in nuts.

4. Spread nut mixture in piecrust. Bake 25 minutes, or until crust is golden and filling is firm. Cool on wire rack at least 20 minutes before serving.

Now I've got to go back and find my famous pecan and "sausage" stuffing recipe and my signature roasted vegetables. All these recipes have got me longing for the holidays, and I know they'll make a great addition to your Mabon table!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Lazy Chana Masala and Cookies in a Jar??

Okay, so a waaayyyy long time ago, I saw a mention on Bianca's Vegan Crunk blog about a mysterious vegan spread that was literally made from cookies. It was called "Biscoff Spread" (or "speckuloos spread") and it was a jar of ground up Biscoff cookies made into a spread the consistency of peanut butter. It looked glorious but here in the good ol' Midwest, no such item existed. I daydreamed about it gracing many a bowl of oatmeal, and then promptly forgot about it.

Fast forward. I'm making a usual trip to my favorite store, Big Lots. I walked in and they had a new "international foods" section set up. I immediately noticed the Nutkao stuff, which is an Italian brand that makes their own version of Nutella, but this was something different! It was a product I hadn't seen before: Nutkao brand Fine Dark Chocolate Spread. I read the ingredients expecting there to be some milk or something in there, but it was completely vegan! I was shocked! Into the basket it went.

Om nom nom.

Then, next to the chocolate spread, was the 'effing speckuloos spead. I read the ingredients... completely vegan! The price was a little steep, $5, but I knew that I wouldn't eat more than a serving at a time so it would last me awhile. I also knew that if it was $5 at Big Lots it was probably $7 somewhere else (in fact, the similar Biscoff spread can be bought online, but it is around $6.50 a jar not including shipping). And folks, let me tell ya, it is delicious.

Ground up, spreadable cookies in a jar. One word: Genius.

I love putting these two spreads together, the cinnamon spread and the thick, ganache-like chocolate are amazing. Mostly I've been eating them spread on bananas, but today I did the unthinkable:

It's ghost-toast... you know... cause it's floating in mid-air. Ooohh.

I made some toast.

Finally, tomorrow I'm going to put it to the ultimate test when I stir them up in my bowl of oatmeal. With bananas. Then, later on in the week I'm going to put it to the PMS test when I melt them together and pour them on top of some Almond Dream ice cream... somebody stop me!!!! But seriously. This moment would not have been possible without Big Lots... so a shout out to Big Lots. I love you, man.

Anywho, I'll wrap this post up by sharing with you a recipe for some easy, lazy, chana masala. Authentic chana masala is a North Indian stew consisting mainly of chickpeas, tomatoes, and lots of spices. This is a streamlined version of the same dish using common canned beans and spices, some fresh tomatoes, and lemon for a citrusy-sour background. It's super-quick to make, about 30 minutes total. In fact, I made it with rice and the rice was the part of the meal that took the longest! It's not the most authentic version around, but it's super filling and it satisfied that Indian urge I started to feel coming on. I'm definitely going to put this recipe in my weeknight dinner rotation. It's a small recipe too, the perfect size for two meals or two people. Double it if you would like some leftovers or wish to serve a couple additional people.

Also, since I was out of garam masala, I used my favorite curry powder instead. It was an excellent idea!

Lazy Chana Masala:
1 (15 oz.) can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 c. onion, chopped (about 1 medium)
1/2 Tb. fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. curry powder OR garam masala
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp. salt
2-3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
3/4 c. vegetable broth or water
juice from 1/2 a fresh lemon
Additional salt to taste (optional)

1. In a skillet over medium heat, saute the onion, garlic, and ginger in the olive oil until softened and golden. About 5-7 minutes.

2. Add the cumin, curry powder/garam masala, cayenne pepper, and salt; cook 1 minute or until fragrant.

3. Add the chickpeas, tomato, and water or broth. Stir. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer about 15 minutes, or until all the broth has evaporated. Before serving, taste for salt and squeeze in the fresh lemon juice. Stir. Enjoy!

To make this a complete meal, I served it with some plain brown rice and some swiss chard I sautéed with onion and a little olive oil (it also had a nice squeeze of fresh lemon). Not bad for a Tuesday night dinner... not bad at all!

This recipe makes two servings of chana masala at one cup per serving. It has around 235 calories, 5.2 grams of fat, 12.9 grams of fiber, 15.9 grams of protein, 27.3% of your RDA of Vitamin A, 56.7% of your Vitamin C, 11.1% of your Calcium, and 16.9% of your Iron!

So, next up on my blog: my decadent chocolate-speckuloos oatmeal, Filipino Pancit (a easy weeknight version of a noodle dish), and a beer chili... cause I really like putting (vegan, microbrewed) beer in my chili!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Pasta with White Beans, Spinach, and Lemon (Gluten-Free!)

Lately I've been looking to the pasta world for some quick and easy one-dish meals. I've also had a mighty craving for cooked greens (especially chard and spinach). As I was looking across some old magazines, I came across the white bean-greens-tomato combo, and in an instant I knew I had to make something to that effect. As I scanned the kitchen for the main component of the dish, I rediscovered the last little bit of gluten-free pasta I had. Suddenly, my gluten-free pasta with white beans, spinach, and tomatoes (with lemon!) was born!

Give me a few days and I'll figure out how to get rid of that date!

Taking a moment to talk pasta here, I used to eat a ton of the stuff back in the day when I was a chubby kid. As I became more aware of how important good food is to a sound body, I gave up refined flours and along with it, pasta. I've tried whole wheat pastas in the past but I didn't care too much for their texture. Also, after not eating it for so long, it really wasn't a go-to ingredient any more. Enter quinoa pasta.

I love quinoa. In my kitchen right now, I have at least a couple quinoa products. Awhile back, my grocery store had some quinoa pasta on sale. I wasn't even thinking about it's gluten-free-ness, I just knew that it was quinoa and I'd like to try it out. It was great! It had a much better texture than whole wheat pasta, and it reminded me a lot of the pasta I had grown up on! It wasn't too heavy, it didn't have a weird texture or flavor, and best of all, its only ingredients were non-GMO organic corn flour and organic quinoa flour (at least with the Ancient Harvest brand). If you have only tried cooked quinoa and didn't care too much for its flavor, I still recommend this pasta. It has a much milder flavor when it is made into pasta (since quinoa can taste a little distinctive!). The only brand I've tried is Ancient Harvest, but I love all their varieties. I haven't bought pasta with gluten in it for a long time.

Photo from Ancient Harvest.

So, anywho. Before work today, I made my pasta dish, and I was surprised at how quickly it came together! It was literally ready to go in about 30 minutes, which is great because I know the majority of us are in a time-crunch. It's also low in fat, high in nutrients, and packs around 18 grams of protein per serving! This is definitely one of those proud moments in my vegan kitchen!

And did I mention it tastes awesome?? The sun-dried tomatoes add a bit of tang to the pasta, while the lemon juice and zest brighten the flavors of the beans and spinach. A garnish of toasted walnuts brings both satisfying crunch and heart healthy fats to the table. This recipe is going in my recipe rotation for sure! It will make two main-dish servings or four side-dish servings. I used roasted garlic because of the flavor it imparts and because I had a bulb ready-to-go in my fridge, but if you don't have the time (or desire, lol) to roast any garlic, feel free to use regular garlic.

Gluten-Free Pasta with White Beans, Spinach, and Lemon:
4 oz. gluten-free quinoa pasta (half a package)
1 tsp. olive oil
1/2 a bulb of roasted garlic (or 3-4 cloves, minced)
12 sun-dried tomato halves, packed without oil, and finely chopped
1 (15-oz) can Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 a (5 oz.) bag of baby spinach (about 3 cups)
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 Tb. grated lemon rind
juice from 1/2 a lemon
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
3 Tb. chopped walnuts, toasted (optional)

1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain. Drizzle cooked pasta with the olive oil and toss to coat. Set aside.

2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and spray with some nonstick. Add pasta mixture, roasted garlic, tomatoes, and beans; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

3. Stir in baby spinach, basil, lemon zest, juice, and salt. Cook another minute or until the spinach has wilted.

4. Serve each portion with a sprinkling of toasted walnuts, if desired! 

When served as a main dish (without walnuts), this dish has 423 calories, 4.3 grams of fat, 21.4 grams of fiber (!), 18.1 grams of protein, 72.7% of your daily Vitamin A, 28.1% of your daily Vitamin C, 15.7% of your daily Calcium, and 50.8% of your daily Iron. Adding 1 Tb. of chopped walnuts will add an additional 50 cals, 5 g. fat, and 2 g. protein.

I would definitely give this quick and easy dish a go!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Pizza Potatoes!

Have you ever had one of those nights were you had a large amount of a single ingredient left, and you knew you needed to use them up, but couldn't go to the store to buy anything to supplement it, so you just wing it and make do? Then, out of the laboratory that is your kitchen, you make something awesome and wonder why you didn't think it up before? Well, a few nights back was one of those nights.

My hippie friends had stopped through Missouri on their way to Pennsylvania (...though I'm kind of freaking out now because they're Rennies staying at a campground in the midst of Hurricane Irene and I'm praying they're okay!) a couple weeks ago. I had already been to the grocery store a few days prior and I didn't have the cash to make a second trip to buy additional groceries for anything too crazy. I also had a prolific amount of potatoes, thanks to the abundance of the garden. As I was pondering about what I could make, it donned on me: I got pizza sauce, some pizza-esque canned pantry goods, and some produce. Eventually, I got to the idea that I could make a chunky pizza sauce and use it to dress some regular ol' baked potatoes.

And did it work??


Well, let's just say I've already made my "pizza potatoes" a few times! My boyfriend is crazy about them ("why hasn't anyone thought of this before??"), my friends scarfed them down, and I really like them too because I can make up a batch using whatever ingredients I might have on hand! As long as I have the basics (potatoes, pizza sauce, and at least an onion) I'm good to go! The beauty of the recipe is that you're not really limitied by ingredients and you can customize them based on what you like. Any veggies, or even vegan "meats" like Gimmie Lean or TVP or soy crumbles, could be tossed on your potato.

The recipe below is for my "standard" potato (these are the things that go in it every time). It will make about 8 fully-topped potatoes if you use average-medium-sized potatoes. If you need to stretch the sauce to fill up more potatoes you can add an additional (8 oz) can of tomato sauce. I've done this as well and it's worked like a charm!

Pizza Potatoes:
8 medium baking potatoes (I used homegrown Yukon Golds, which are a favorite)

1 (16-oz-ish) jar pizza sauce
1 medium zucchini, chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 gloves of garlic, chopped
2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
4-6 white mushrooms, sliced
1/2 tsp. Tone's spicy pizza seasoning (optional)

1 small jar artichoke hearts (or 1/2 a can), drained and chopped
1 small can black olives

1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Wash and scrub potatoes. Cut the center with a knife or poke holes all over it and bake in the oven for about 1 hour.

2. Meanwhile, as the potatoes are almost finished baking, saute the zucchini, onion, garlic, and mushrooms in a skillet sprayed with nonstick on medium-high until they are softened and golden, about 5-6 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook another 2-3 minutes, or until the tomatoes have softened some.

3. Add the pizza sauce and 1/3 cup water and stir. Reduce heat to low and simmer until the potatoes are completely done.

4. Once the potatoes have finished baking, open them up and place them on a baking sheet lined with some parchment paper (or foil or nonstick). Evenly distribute the sauce between each potato. Top with chopped artichokes and olives. Place the potatoes back in the oven for another 8-10 minutes or until everything is heated through.

Then enjoy! You could even serve this up like it's pizza night, with a nice green salad and a shaking of vegan Parmesan, if you so desire!

I think by making my pizza potatoes I have pretty much made my way through the bushel of potatoes in my kitchen! I still have some left, but I'm probably going to toss those in the lentil soup I'm going to make on Monday. Unfortunately, both school and my full-time work schedule starts on Monday. I hope I'll be able to keep posting somewhat regularly, since I do enjoy blogging. I aim to post every Thurdsay, since that's my day off an when I'll have my most free time (cooking and blogging!). I also got a digital camera (in case you noticed a slight difference in the photography starting with my Angel Biscuit post). I'm still learning, but hopefully my photos will provide a much-needed boost to my blog!

But hey, it's my last semester, so come January I'll have quite a bit more free time!