Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Garden Talk and Curried Split Pea Soup

I keep meaning to go to the grocery store, but I keep finding yummy ingredients around the kitchen. Since my goal is to keep saving up as much money as possible, this has been a real help. In fact, I only went to the grocery store twice this whole month and one of those times was just to get some produce. Hopefully, I can cut my grocery spending way back in the produce section this summer, as I'm going to be planting my first garden!

I started getting real excited about it this winter when I was wishing I had a bunch of home-canned yummies. I also started to get serious about composting and got a subscription to Mother Earth News. I love that magazine. I grew up reading it, but now I have my very own copies! Lol. The main problem with my yard though, is that it has huge trees that cover almost every patch of grass in shade. Most everything I want to plant requires full sun. Luckily though, my boyfriend's grandparents have a huge open yard as well as many years of gardening experience, so I won't have to figure things out on my own the hard way! Here's what I plan on planting (sorry for the photo):

From left to right: zucchini (Black Beauty), spinach (Long Standing Bloomsdale), tomatoes (Prudens Purple - heirloom seeds), kale (Dwarf Blue Curled - good for my part of Missouri), marigolds (natural pest control), and a sweet pepper "carnival mix" which includes Orange Suns, California Wonders, Golden California Wonders, Purple Beauties, and Diamonds. Since a plant (or seed) can not be labeled organic by the USDA if it is genetically modified, organic seeds are a pretty safe bet. I want to work up to growing heirlooms, but they take a little more care and love than I'm going to be able to give them this summer. I'd also like to be a little more experienced first.

I'm going to be starting my seeds indoors and then moving them outside. Some greens, such as the kale I'm going to grow, does better if it gets hit by a frost because it helps to un-bitter it. Our last frost of the year usually occurs in the last half of April, so I better get to planting! I'm going to try and post garden updates with photos, but you can't hold me to it!

Anywho, back to the tastiness in my kitchen. I knew I wanted some split peas, and I knew I had some vegetables to use up (sweet potato and celery), and I thought the best combination of these possible flavors would be with curry powder, so curried split pea soup was born! I really like this soup! Since it's the middle of the week, I just made a small batch (also, I'm not gonna lie, the big soup pot was holding leftovers and I didn't really feel like washing it...). This soup is thick, hearty, full of flavor, low in fat, full of vitamins and minerals, and love. I think I called this "love soup" two or three times while making it. I'm not sure why...

The soaking step of the peas is kind of important, otherwise your peas will be gross and hard, no matter how long you cook them. I do this with beans as well, and I think it actually works better than an overnight soak. 

Curried Split Pea and Vegetable Soup:
1/2 c. dried split peas, rinsed and picked through
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 small onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 large carrots, finely chopped (about 2 cups)
4 stalks celery, chopped (may use less) with their leaves (about 2 cups)
1 Tb. minced garlic
1 Tb. of your favorite curry powder
1/4 tsp. fennel seed
1/8 tsp. turmeric
1/2 Tb. dried cilantro
Vegetable broth
Sea salt and white pepper, to taste

1. After rinsing peas, cover them in water and bring them to a boil. Cover, and let them boil on high heat for three minutes. Remove any foam that comes to the surface. Turn off the heat then allow them to sit, covered, for one hour.

2. After the peas have soaked, drain them and give them new water, enough to cover them, plus about 1/2-3/4 an inch extra. Add the diced sweet potatoes to the pea pot and set aside.

3. Meanwhile, over medium-high heat in a skillet sprayed with some nonstick, saute the chopped carrot, onion, and celery until tender, about five minutes. Add the garlic, curry powder, fennel seed (crush it between your fingers as you add it to the skillet), and turmeric. Remember those celery leaves? Chop them and add them here. I only use the celery leaves if they are vibrant green and crisp. I also remove most of the celery stem parts because those ends of the celery seem to be a little bitter (I'd even say borderline dirty-foot like, but it's whatev). Saute everything another 1-2 minutes or until nice and fragrant. Add the sauteed veggies to the pea pot.

4. To the pea pot, add 1/2 cup of vegetable broth (or water) and the dried cilantro. You can use fresh but I use dried since I can't ever use it up fast enough. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour, or until both the vegetables and peas are tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

This soup would be excellent with some Indian bread and unsweetened, plain soyogurt dolloped on top! It's also one of those foods that tastes better as it sits, so love on those leftovers!

In case you are curious, this soup makes about four, one-cup servings. Per serving, this soup has (when prepared according to the recipe) 0.5 grams of fat, 8.5 grams of protein, 8.3 grams of fiber, 59.3% of your daily Vitamin A, and about 9.5% each your daily Vitamin C and iron. I hope you all have a great day!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Give Me Tortilla Soup! And Tamales! Lots and Lots of Tamales!

I've got a huge hunger for Mexican food fast approaching (as well as Korean and Middle Eastern...). I've been nourishing it so far with some of Amy's Black Bean Tamale Verde meals and this soup. Those tamales are seriously awesome! I never really thought I could love a frozen item as much as I love Amy's frozen dinners and burritos. In fact, I love those little tamales so much, that I'm going to make some tamales soon. Probably during Spring Break because I hear they're quite an event. My plan is to make a shit ton so that way I can freeze them and have a tamale whenever the urge arises. Luckily, here in my nook of Missouri it's super easy to get authentic Mexican spices, sauces, and corn husks, so I'm prepared to go all out!

Please, sir, may I have some more?

Anywho, the other thing that has been helping with my need for Mexican is this (probably-not-at-all-authenic) tortilla soup. I've made tortilla soup before and I really like it. It's not spiced like a chili and it has a bunch of tasty toppings on it that give it a little edge, so it's kind of a nice change from the usual bean soup. The awesome thing about it is if you just have some beans and a few ingredients, you can make a hearty meal pretty cheaply! You don't even need all the spices if you have plenty of salsa to give it flavor. I've even made this soup without the whole beans and just used a can of refried pinto beans with vegetable broth to thin it instead. It was awesome as well and it came together a little bit quicker. You also don't have to toast the corn, I just happen to really like toasty corn, lol.

This is one of those soups that's pretty good for leftovers as well. If you have some canned beans, leftover rice (or other grains), leftover bell peppers and onions, and some salsa you can have a soup in about 15 minutes!

Oh, and don't think I've forgotten about my ethnic cuisine adventures! I've been planning out what to make and I will be going grocery shopping in a couple days. Right now, in addition to some roasted veggie and black bean tamales, I kind of have my eye on some Indian aloo gobi (peas and potatoes) with homemade garlic naan, Middle Eastern mujadarah (lentils and carmelized onions) with cucumber-yogurt salad and roasted tomatoes (I've planned that one out a little more, lol), and some veganized Korean bibimbap. I've also really been wanting some roasted veggie and bean spread roll-ups to take with me to school. I'm supposed to be getting a food processor in the mail, so I hope it comes soon. I NEED HUMMUS.

I hope you all enjoy muh soup. Oh, and one last thing: if you use only small red beans and add 3 Tb. of canned tomato paste, a little bit of finely chopped zucchini, about 1/2 tsp. of smoked paprika and some black pepper, this tastes ALMOST EXACTLY like Amy's Spanish Rice and Red Bean Soup! Have a great day!

Tortilla Soup:
1/3 c. dry pinto beans
1/3 c. dry kidney beans
1/3 c. dry small red beans
1/3 c. long-grain brown rice
1/2 a green bell pepper, finely diced
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 Tb. minced garlic
1 c. frozen corn, thawed, with the water squeezed out
1/2 c. salsa of choice
1 can green chiles
1 (16 oz.) can fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
3/4 tsp. cumin
3/4 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. coriander
1/2 Tb. dried cilantro
1/2 Tb. raw sugar (optional, to taste)
1 Tb. lime juice
Vegetable broth

1. Place the pinto, kidney, and small red beans in a large soup pot. Rinse and pick through. Cover with enough water to have about 1 inch above the bean line. Cover, bring to a boil and boil for three minutes. Turn off heat and allow to sit for about 1 hour.

2. Rinse beans and give them enough fresh water to cover them about 1 inch above the bean line. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for about an hour.

3. Meanwhile, toast the corn in a small skillet sprayed with nonstick over high heat. Let it toast over high until it gets golden brown, or even a little black. Add it to the simmering beans.

4. Wipe out the skillet and spray it with some more nonstick. Saute the bell pepper and onions until soft and golden, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Add them to the simmering beans.

5. Add the brown rice, salsa, green chiles, cumin, chili powder, corinader, cilantro, and sugar to the simmering beans and allow everything to simmer together for about 45 more minutes (add the rice after the beans have been cooking for 15 minutes so the rice and beans get done at the same time).

6. Once the beans and rice are done, add the crushed tomatoes and give everything a good stir. If the soup is too thick, you can thin it to your desired thiness by adding some vegetable broth or water. Cover the soup and allow everything to simmer another 5 minutes. Stir in the lime juice and serve! I usually leave mine kind of thick.

Serve topped with baked strips of tortilla shell (cut 1/4 inch thick strip and bake at 350 for 5-7 minutes), vegan sour cream, and avocado cubes if desired. Of course, it's the extras that help make it taste more amazing! I didn't have anything like that at home, so I just served it with some sourdough Wasa crackers instead! This recipe makes about 6, one-cup servings.

When made as is (no added oil and not including any toppings), a one-cup portion of this soup has about 160 calories, 0.6 grams of fat, 8.5 g. fiber, 8.2 g. protein, 28% of your daily Vitamin C, and 9.5% of your daily iron.

Friday, February 11, 2011

I-Can't-Believe-It's-Vegan Caramel Apple Pie

I'm not sure what it is, exactly, but for some reason men here in the Midwest really love pie. And apple pie at that. So, in honor of Valentine's Day, I made a dessert for the men in my life, because they prefer pie over just about everything else!

This pie is an old recipe that I veganized. It actually has a sort of caramel syrup that you pour over the apples before you bake it, so it's a pleasant twist on the original apple pie recipe.

I wish I had remembered to take a picture of the whole apple pie, because I think for the first time, my top crust actually evenly covered the whole pie! I guess the third time's a charm! For the crust, I used a sort of Pate Brisee, but instead of using all butter, I used half butter and half shortening. I would have used all but I didn't have enough, lol. After remembering to chill the dough thoroughly, I was finally able to get some good rolling action going on. I apologize for the unflattering photo, but it was taken at night with no flash, and it was the last piece of pie! I, and the empty pie plate, can attest to its deliciousness. This is definitely a recipe you can make during the holidays or give to the grandparents without them being able to tell otherwise!

Caramel Apple Pie:
For the crust:
2 1/2 c. unbleached flour (I used the evil white kind 'cause, hey, it's pie, man)
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 c. Earth Balance
1/2 c. nonhydrogenated shortening (I won't compromise here)

For the pie:
1/2 c. Earth Balance
3 Tb. flour
1/4 c. water
1/2 c. white sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar, packed
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. vanilla
4 very large apples (or 6 small), thinly sliced (about 6 cups or so)

To make the crust:
In a bowl, combine the flour, sea salt, and sugar. Whisk to combine. Add in the Earth Balance and the shortening and work in with your fingers until coarse crumbs form. Divide the dough evenly into two disks, then plastic wrap and place in the fridge to chill for about one hour.

To make the pie:
Preheat the oven to 350F. 

Take one of the pie dough balls from the fridge and form it into the shape of a disc. Sprinkle a clean surface and the rolling pie with some flour and roll the dough out until it's about 1/8-1/4 inch thick. There is enough dough there to completely cover the pie pan, so if it ain't fittin', keep rolling it thinner! Once rolled, place it into a 9-inch pie plate that has been sprayed with a little nonstick. I don't think you need to grease it, but when it doubt, spray it out!

Then slice the apples and place it into the prepared pie crust. Stick all the apples in there, even if it looks like a lot. I don't bother putting them in lemon juice, because you won't be able to tell if they're browned once it's baked.

Roll out the second pie crust in the same manner and just allow it to chill on the surface for a little bit. You'll be using it in a minute. 

Next, make the caramel sauce:
In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour to make a paste, then add the water, white sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Bring to a simmer and allow to simmer for about a minute. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Pour the sauce evenly over the apples.

Top with the second pie crust. Cut off the extra pie crust (use this to make crusties!) and seal the edges. Spread the top of the pie crust with a little extra Earth Balance and sprinkle it with some extra white sugar and cinnamon. Using a sharp knife, cut a couple slits in the top to allow the steam to vent. Take a small baking sheet and cover it with aluminum foil and place the pie on top of that. This will help prevent the juices from overflowing onto the element. Top the pie with an extra sheet of foil, and place in the oven. Bake at 350F for about 45 minutes, then remove the foil from the top of the pie to allow it to brown. Bake it uncovered for another 30-45 minutes or until the bottom of the crust is golden and the apples are soft when a knife is stuck in the center of the pie. Depending on your oven, it may only take about one hour to bake, so start checking it after the one hour mark.

Allow to stand for at least 15 minutes before serving (if you can, lol), and serve it with some vegan whipped topping or ice cream. It's friggin' awesome!

Also, be prepared for some Indian, Korean, and Middle Eastern food! I checked out a bunch of cookbooks from the library and I'm dying to cook from them. Think veggies, tofu, and lentils!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Hoisin Green Beans and Tofu with Cashews and Soba

When I got out of class today I was super hungry and I needed something PRONTO. I wanted something substantial, but I also wanted something kind of light, but not a soup. I save up my soup days for weekends..

Anywho, since I already had half-opened packages of soba, cashews, tofu, and hoisin sauce at home (yes... all were literally open and sitting in various places in my kitchen...), I knew that it wouldn't be hard to throw together this super easy green beans and tofu dish:

 Look at that little bit of tofu goodness down there in the corner. It's crying out for chopsticks.

It's basically green beans and tofu simmered in a hoisin sauce, tossed with roasted cashews, and served over a helping of buckwheat soba noodles. It was super easy to prepare, and it all came together in under 25 minutes. It's based on a recipe from Vegetarian Times, but theirs called for tempeh and I'm just not a tempeh kind of girl (at least not yet). Would you believe that I had to talk myself out of adding onions? I add onions to everything, lol, but I decided to keep this recipe nice and simple and I'm glad I did. I'm looking forward to leftovers! 

The recipe calls for whole, frozen green beans (the long, skinny kind). I usually shun frozen veggies because I prefer the crunch and flavor of fresh, but I'm a firm believer in frozen green beans (and peas and corn...). However, I don't really like the taste of frozen green beans unless they've been simmered a little longer than usual to get that super green taste out. The original recipe only called for them to be simmered 4-5 minutes, but I did about 10. They still stay nice and slightly crunchy that way, but aren't too overpowering. It's up to you! With the leftover third of a package of tofu, you can make yourself a tofu scramble in the morning! Just be sure you submerge any unused portion of tofu in fresh water, then cover it, and place it back in the fridge. Use it within a couple of days.

Hoisin Green Beans and Tofu with Cashews and Soba:
4 tsp. hoisin sauce 
2 tsp. rice vinegar
1 Tb. tamari
1/4 tsp. ginger (use a nice, rounded 1/4 tsp.)
1/2 Tb. garlic, minced (about 2 cloves)
1 1/2 tsp. tapioca starch (can use cornstarch or arrowroot)
1/2 c. water or vegetable broth (I used water this time around)
2/3 a package of extra firm tofu, drained and pressed, cut into cubes
1 (12 oz) pkg. frozen, whole green beans

Cooked soba noodles
Roasted, unsalted cashews, chopped

1. In a small bowl, combine the hoisin sauce, rice vinegar, tamari, ginger, garlic, tapioca starch, and water/broth. Set aside.

2. In a skillet sprayed with some nonstick, saute the tofu cubes over medium high heat until golden. Add the hoisin mixture to the skillet and stir. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 2 minutes or until slightly thickened.

3. Stir in the green beans. Cover and simmer for about 8-10 minutes or until everything is hot. You may need to add a little more tapioca starch to get it saucy.

4. While the green beans are simmering you can cook the soba (3 minutes!) and the cashews (about 5 minutes at 350!). 

To serve: Place the green beans and tofu over the soba and top with cashews! I also added a little bit of Bragg's to mine. Because I love that stuff.

The green bean/tofu mixture makes two large servings (includes cashews). It contains 343 calories, 26 g. carbs, 17 g. fat, and 21 g. protein. You also get 4% of your Vitamin A, 12% of your Vitamin C, 29.3% of your calcium, and 24.1% of your iron. How about that protein and calcium!? A vegan's diet is deficient? Heck no! Not when you make healthy choices like this!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

"Toasted Marshmallow" GRAWnola

Okay, okay. Sooo. It's obvious that if this granola is going to be raw vegan granola it:

1. Can't be toasted, and

2. Can't be made with marshmallows.

That's why this granola IS raw vegan. It's none of the above!

I got a nice tax refund coming in, and I don't know about you, but that means I have a little extra money to buy some things I wouldn't normally buy. I was out filling up some imaginary shopping carts (doesn't everybody do that!?) at Blue Mountain Organics when I actually decided to buy some of the stuff in my cart. While I won't say exactly what I bought (yet), I will mention that I got an awesome idea to make some grawnola. They offer a cereal called Marshmallow Crunch that's made of buckwheat, dates, almonds, flax seeds, agave, and vanilla. Pretty simple, no? I knew at that moment that I had to make me some. I'm mean, it is a blizzard outside. What else am I gonna do?

She's happy cause she's vegan.

First, I had to go about switching up some of the ingredients. Then, I had to do a little soaking. Then I remembered that my food processor kicked the bucket last Christmas. I guess it was about time to see what my blender was really made of anyway. I also made this grawnola truly sugarless. Well, you know, maybe not sugarless, but definitely 100% raw and fruit sweetened. The coconut and vanilla extract is kind of important in here for the flavor it gives. Now, it doesn't taste exactly like marshmallows, but it does have a nice, delicate sweetness with nutty, buttery, vanilla overtones. Oh, yeah. It's good. I can't wait to eat a bowl of it with some sliced bananas and almond milk! This doesn't make a crazy amount, only about 3 1/2 to 4 cups, so if you have quite a bit of the ingredients, feel free to double it!

"Toasted Marshmallow" Raw Granola:
1 1/2 c. prepared buckwheat crispies, or raw buckwheat groats
3/4 c. pitted dates
1/4 c. whole almonds
4 Tb. dried, unsweetened coconut chips (or shreds or flakes)
1/4 c. whole, raw macadamia nuts (about 6).
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3/4 tsp. coconut extract
1/8 tsp. cardamom
Dash of sea salt

1. If you don't have any buckwheat crispies (soaked and dehydrated raw buckwheat groats), you'll need to soak some raw buckwheat groats. In three separate bowls, soak the crispies, dates, and almonds for at least two hours. The buckwheat groats will need to have their water drained and then rinsed off a couple times, until they are no longer slimy. For the almonds, I let them soak until their skins get soft, then I peel all the skins off and give them a fresh change of water before I let them soak a little more. The dates I leave alone because I want their water to become nice and sweet and saturated with delicious dateness. You probably don't need to mess around with the almonds like I do, but I think it's kind of fun peeling the skins off...

2. Once everything is done soaking, drain it. In a blender or food processor. Blend the dates and the almonds with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the date soak water, just until it's nice and paste-like. Chop the macadamia nuts.
3. In a medium bowl, combine the date-almond paste with the buckwheat groats, coconut chips, chopped macadamias, vanilla and coconut extracts, cardamom, and dash of salt. Mix well to coat everything.
4. Evenly spread the granola onto a dehydrator tray lined with parchment paper. Dehydrate for three hours. 5. Break granola into crumbles. At this time I also cut out a lot more of the parchment paper to allow a little more air-circulation, but you don't have to. Dehydrate another three hours or until the granola is completely dry.
6. Allow the granola to cool, and then store in an air-tight container.

Now it's time for me to do a little more imaginary shopping. There's a few items I'd like to get from Living Tree Community Foods

Shall it be the black sesame halvah (though it's not exactly halvah...)?


Maybe it'll be the pistachio pesto?


Or how about the organic carob halvah spread, or the coconut, carob, cacao, goji butter?  Mmm...

Anywho, here's a little note to go out with: I'm really not a member of the agave camp. I have used it in the past, but I did some research and now I've decided against it. I just wanted you to know that I personally don't like agave and it won't be included as an ingredient in any more of my recipes. However, if you want to substitute agave for any of the sweeteners in my recipe, feel free!

Photos from the Living Tree Community Foods website. The link is clickable above.