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!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Angel Biscuits

Like any good carb-loving, Midwestern girl, I have a particular fondness for biscuits. I love 'em. Many years ago, my dad used to make them out of the can for breakfast on the weekends. That was the biscuit as we knew it: little hockey puck-shaped bits of bread full of white flour, hydrogenated oil, and high fructose corn syrup. I loved them though, and they made a tasty diversion from my usual cold cereal.

Although I don't remember all the details too clearly (I think I was in high school and branching out my cooking a little more), I remember noticing a biscuit recipe in my Mom's favorite cookbook. It had only five or six ingredients and didn't have to rise, so I decided to try my hand at baking something bread-like. They were surprisingly easy to make and only baked in 10 minutes. They came out of the oven perfect the first time and they tasted so different from the canned ones... so much BETTER, that I never ate a canned biscuit again. I even got Mom in on the biscuit-making action!

Oh, and I got a camera. Now I can start buying decorative plates!

I've had a baking powder biscuit recipe that I've used for years and any time I've wanted some biscuits in a snap, I just pulled out my recipe card and got to work (my old roommates thought I was crazy baking something from scratch in the early hours of the morning!). However, I've always seen another recipe that had me intrigued. They're always called Angel Biscuits because they're so "light and flaky" and they're just like your standard baking powder recipe, only yeasted, and well, without much baking powder! Baking powder is tricky and if you get too much of it in a recipe (even though it's a vital ingredient), you can taste it... And it doesn't taste good. Since the angel biscuits are yeasted, you don't have to rely on the baking powder to help it rise (although a little is still needed) and you don't have to worry about any lingering taste.

They do have to rise, but it's so easy! You just mix them up and let them hang out in the fridge for an hour before you roll them out. The result was seriously the lightest, flakiest, and tastiest biscuit I've ever made to date. They also have this amazing crispy bottom crust that I haven't had on a biscuit in ages. I now know why this recipe is mentioned in cookbooks and magazines again and again. It's really that much better (especially now that it's vegan)!

Whole-Wheat Angel Biscuits:
1 pkg. active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp.)
1/2 c. warm water (should feel like a hot bath)
3 c. unbleached, all-purpose flour
2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 c. raw sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 c. non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening
2 c. original unsweetened almond milk

1. Dissolve the sugar in the warm water in a small bowl and add the yeast. Let stand for 5 minutes or until completely foamy. If it's not foamy and the end of 5 minutes, dump it out and try again.

2. Combine the all-purpose flour, whole wheat pastry flour, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt in a large bowl with a whisk. Cut in the shortening with a pastry blender or 2 knives until the mixture makes coarse crumbs. Add the yeast mixture (make sure you get all the sugar if there's some still left in the bowl) and the almond milk to the flour mixture and stir just until all the flour is mixed and moistened. Cover and chill 1 hour.

3. After one hour, preheat the oven to 450F.

4. Turn the dough out onto a HEAVILY floured surface; knead lightly 5 times. Roll dough to a 1/2-inch thickness; cut with a 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter (I used a drinking glass that was slightly larger than that). Do not twist when cutting out the dough and if the drinking glass/cutter sticks, dip it into a little flour.

5. Place the biscuits on a baking sheet coated with some nonstick (make sure that the sides of the biscuit don't touch). Bake at 450F for 12 minutes or until golden.

If using a drinking glass slightly larger than 2 1/2-inches, you'll get around 20 biscuits exactly at 161 calories each. If you make more than 20 the calories will be less and if you make less biscuits, the calories will be more.

Serve these anywhere a biscuit or dinner roll is needed!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Decadent Rocky Road Brownies

For once, I'm actually delivering a recipe to you in the same week that I promised it! Of course, I'm older and wiser now and I know that when you promise a bunch of vegans rocky road brownies you had better see it through! Though, to tell you the truth, the reason I made these so fast was because I had almost munched my way through the entire bag over the last week and a half. It was obvious to me that they were some tasty sweet snackin', but the real marshmallow test involves baking them in something to see if you get that delicious vanilla goo... Or lighting them on fire, but I didn't have any sticks... Or fire...

These brownies are something I just HAD to try. When I bought my Dandies I browsed tons of recipes that included marshmallows and after weeding everything out, I was finally down to two recipes: Mississippi Mud Cake and Rocky Road Brownies. It was a tough decision, but I already have a go-to brownie recipe so I thought I'd start there. I'll make some Mississippi Mud Cake the next time I pick up a bag of marshies. You know... eventually.

I basically just adapted CCK's Fudge Daddies recipe with the ingredients I had on hand. These brownies are decadent and contain everything you love about that rocky road trio: nuts, chocolate, and marshmallows. I used almonds, but you could also use pecans or walnuts. This makes a nice, small batch, which is great if you're only making brownies for one or two people. They were everything I wanted them to be: fudgy, rich, gooey, nutty, and all around liked by everyone who tried them!

And, by dandy, these marshmallows blew up and melted just like a champ. No-one would know a difference! I will DEFINITELY be baking with these during the holidays! I am so stoked to have such an awesome vegan marshmallow available to me. Thank goodness for Chicago Soy Dairy!

Top Side: Melty!

In this recipe, I use silken tofu, the real smooth kind found in aseptic containers (they may or may not be refrigerated). I also bake them for 20 minutes, turn off the oven, and then let them sit in the oven for an additional five minutes. That way they're completely done, but not overbaked. Overbaking them causes them to lose that fudgy texture. I also refrigerate them once they've completely cooled and for some reason that also makes them really fudgy. I highly recommend chilling them OR eating them warm with some vanilla almond dream! Either way, you can't lose!

Rocky Road Brownies:
1/2 c. flour
1/4 c. cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 pkg. silken tofu
1/4 c. liquid sweetener
1/4 c. raw sugar
1/4 c. no-sugar-added applesauce
1/2 a vanilla bean (or 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract)
2 Tb. unsweetened almond milk
2 Tb. canola oil
2 Tb. chopped almonds, toasted
2 Tb. vegan chocolate chips
9 Dandies marshmallows, halved

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 4" x 6" pan with nonstick spray and set aside.

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt until well-combined. Drop in the marshmallow halves and stir to coat them with flour (this separates them and keeps them from clumping together).

2. In a food processor or blender, puree the tofu with the liquid sweetener, raw sugar, applesauce, vanilla bean (or extract), almond milk, and canola oil until completely smooth and well blended.

3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir well. Add in the chopped almonds and chocolate chips and stir to mix.

4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake at 350F for about 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool slightly before cutting.

I thought about making a sort of quick frosting out of melted chocolate chips and coconut butter, but they're pretty rich as it is. Instead, I just eat them with a little CB melted on top. You should make these. For serious.

Side side: Also melty!

Also, you could probably double this recipe and make it in the standard 8" x 8" brownie pan, but I haven't tried it yet so I can't vouch for those results. If you do decide to do that I would only use about 1 1/2 times the amount of marshmallows. Things might get a little crazy if you double those!

Oh, and you wanna know something really crazy? An eighth of the pan only nets you about 175 calories, nuts, chocolate chips, marshies and all! That's still less than regular, plain boxed brownies with a slightly less serving size! 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Cherry-Ginger Oaties!

I'm going to start today's post with my recent score at Big Lots:

It's cereal, baby.

I stumbled upon this when I made my weekly stop. It's Mesa Sunrise, an organic, gluten-free cereal from Nature's Path. Don't let the bag fool you, though. It actually contains 26.4 ounces, which is almost double the amount of cereal that you would find in a regular box. The cereal itself is a wheat- and gluten-free blend of Indian corn, amaranth, and flax. Although I'm not necessarily gluten- or wheat-free, I find that I do feel better and less bloat-y if I start my day out the gluten-free way. Having a nice bowl of GF cereal or a GF hot cereal starts my day off right!

MESA SUNRISE INGREDIENTS: Corn meal, yellow corn flour, evaporated cane juice, flax, buckwheat flour, quinoa, amaranth, sea salt, and tocopherols (natural Vitamin E).

I like to eat it with sliced strawberries or bananas and a couple tablespoons of gluten-free granola. I really like this cereal, but I still think that Nature's Path Organic, Gluten-Free Cornflakes are the best. I LOVE those (also a Big Lots find).

So anywho, the cereal is packaged in a new Eco-Pac. Their goal is to reduce waste and resource use by nixing the cardboard box and packaging in #2 recyclable plastic. On their website, some people were griping because they didn't "know what to do with" the cereal once the bag was opened. Uhhhh.... eat it? How about the same thing you always do to store cereal? The floppy opened cardboard box doesn't keep it from going stale. I just wrap a twisty-tie around that sucker and it stays fresh for weeks. You can also use a glass jar and keep the lid on tight. They make glass (or plastic, ick) jars specifically for storing cereal. But I digress... my main victory in buying this cereal from the cereal aisle at Big Lots is this:

I just got a 26.4 ounce (almost double the regular amount) of gluten-free, vegan, organic cereal at Big Lots for $3.50 when it retails at Whole Foods for over $7. I know, because I checked myself! YAY BIG LOTS!

And, speaking of Whole Foods, I also made a huge score there. This past visit was more like a detour since we actually had other things we needed to do while we were in town (I live about 1 1/2 hours away from Whole Foods), but I was able to stock up on a few dry bulk goods, though sadly, nothing refrigerated (next time!!). I got some awesome dried tart cherries while we were there (which I proceeded to make some cookies with!) and these:

For some reason, these children look like the ones who want to play with Log.

Dandies VEGAN MARSHMALLOWS! I've been to the Overland Park Whole Foods a few times, but I've never seen these in the baking aisle. It's possible that I've just missed them, or they've been sold out, but NOT TODAY! I haven't ate a marshmallow in years, but ever since I got these goodies I haven't been able to keep my hands off them! They melted a little in the car while shopping on the way home, but they're still delicious. The texture is a tad different, but they're still soft and spongy. I also think they have a truer vanilla flavor than their pig-hoof containing counterpart.


Anywho... that particular recipe will be made sometime this week. I promise to save some marshmallows for it...

Like I previously mentioned, I also got some dried tart cherries from the bulk bin. I love tart fruit and these cherries really are delicious. I'm going to have to buy way more next time so I can make it through the winter with them on my oatmeal, lol. I knew that some had to be baked in a cookie and as I was browsing through my Martha Stewart Living Cookbook, I found a recipe for "Low-Fat Oatmeal Cookies". They peaked my interest because they contained dried cherries and surprisingly, crystallized ginger. They also only called for a single egg yolk so I knew they were going to be a piece of cake to veganize. I wound up changing the recipe somewhat in order to make the cookies a little more healthy and a little more moist, but I didn't change the fat content at all. My only complaint with this recipe is that even if you make them tiny like the recipe wants you too (a dough ball of 3/4"), you still only get about 2 1/2 dozen, quite a few cookies short of the proclaimed four dozen. But they were delicious, so I'll definitely be making them again... only I'll be doubling the recipe and making the cookies BIGGER!! I might even throw in a couple tablespoons of vegan mini chocolate chips because I think that would add some decadence to them (seriously... chocolate + crystallized ginger + cherry = amazing). But yeah, if you're in search of a cookie that's a little out-of-the-ordinary but just as tasty, you found it!

Oh, and this is the small-batch version. If you want more cookies, just double it.

Cherry-Ginger Oatmeal Cookies:
(adapted from, but not really resembling Martha's version)
3/4 c. unbleached, all-purpose flour
2 Tb. whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 c. old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
3 Tb. dried cherries, finely chopped
2 Tb. crystallized ginger, finely chopped
4 Tb. Earth Balance, softened
1/4 c. packed brown sugar
2 Tb. liquid sweetener (agave, maple syrup, etc.)
3 Tb. no-sugar-added applesauce
1 Tb. milled flax seed + 2 Tb. warm water
1/2 a vanilla bean, seeds scraped (can use 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract)

Preheat oven to 375 and prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper. Mix the milled flax seed with warm water, stir a little with a fork, and set aside.

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the unbleached flour, whole wheat pastry flour, rolled oats, baking powder, and kosher salt. Add the dried cherries and chopped ginger, and stir to separate the pieces and coat them with flour. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, beat together the Earth Balance, brown sugar, liquid sweetener, and vanilla bean seeds until fluffy. Add the "flax egg" (flax seed + water) and applesauce and beat until well combined. Gradually add the dry ingredients, beating well after each addition, until well-combined.

3. Drop by teaspoonful onto the prepared baking sheets. The dough is kind of sticky, so it won't really roll into balls. Bake at 375 for about 8-12 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway during baking so that they brown evenly. Remove from oven when a toothpick (or fork!) comes out clean. Let the cookies rest on the baking sheet another minute or two before placing them on a wire rack to finish cooling. THEN MUNCH! When small, they are like tiny little tea cookies.

Please, sir... may I have some Earl Grey?

NOTE: Placing the dough in the fridge between batches helps the dough to stiffen so that the cookie dough-dropping (???) part goes faster.

Also, since these cookies are low in oil, the parchment paper helps keep them from sticking to the baking sheet. If you don't have parchment paper, you might be able to get away with spraying the sheet with some nonstick cooking spray, but I haven't tried that yet and can't vouch for its cookie-removal-ability.

Well... I made those peach pancakes and they were awesome, but they didn't have quite enough peach flavor for me. I probably should have used regular yellow peaches instead of small white ones because that just made the recipe annoying. I'll get back to them some other time. I also want to make some yeasted potato rolls, but I need to figure out what I want to serve them with. And, lastly, I'd really like to make and freeze some seitan so that I'll have some ready for quick meals when school starts again (only ONE WEEK left! Oh noes!). Can I do it?!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Easy Indian-Inspired Supper

My mom has started to turn her diet around! Her cousin and her cousin's husband and daughter have started juicing. Between them all, I think they've lost a total of 50 lbs. in one month and their overall health has improved dramatically! I think that they've finally discovered the power of juicing and of healthy foods! This has rubbed off on my mom who has also started juicing. She's lost about nine pounds and even my dad, who has an aversion to most vegetables, has been drinking a daily juice! I believe it's a carrot, celery, ginger, orange combination, but I'm not sure. Mom made some yesterday and I drank a whole glass of it. It was great! As part of this new healthy-eating-for-life plan, Mom and I have decided to get together once a month to make a healthy vegan meal. For this month, we made an Indian-inspired meal with a potato curry, curried vegetables, couscous, and steamed spinach. It was delicious! We had a plateful and were STUFFED by the end of it!

My potato curry also gave me a chance to try out Gardein's beefless tips. I used a recipe for a spicy beef and potato curry I found online and then I veganized it and "healthified" it. I also left out the spicy, because I just wasn't really digging it at the moment. The beefless tips were good. I like them a lot because I liked the texture of them. My mom liked them too and my boyfriend, who's an omni, said they were good, but not at all like beef. That's okay with me though, since I tend to get weirded out by things that are too meat-like. For instance, I LOVE Gardein's not-chicken nuggets, but they remind me so much of real ones that I have to remind myself they're 100% veg! I really liked the tips in the curry, but I normally wouldn't buy them because they're kind of expensive. This was a special occasion, lol. However, a can of chickpeas would be an excellent substitute and I'll probably do that next time (that is, unless I decide to splurge on that tasty Gardein again).

I made the curry first, while mom made the vegetables. Then, when everything was almost done we put on the spinach and couscous since those both take five minutes. If you like, you can serve with a dollop of vegan yogurt or a vegan cucumber raita. I have an amazing cucumber raita that I make but I can't remember the exact recipe. I promise you I will go out and search for the written copy, and then post it here! Lol.

"Beef" and Potato Curry:
1 Tb. oil, divided
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/4 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. turmeric
3/4 tsp. ground coriander
1 cinnamon stick
6 medium potatoes, peeled, diced into 1" pieces
1 (15 oz.) can regular diced or fire-roasted tomatoes
1 c. coconut milk
1 c. frozen peas
1 pkg. Gardein Beefless Tips

1. In a large pot or dutch oven, saute the onion and garlic in 1/2 Tb. oil over medium-high heat until softened, about five minutes. Add the cumin, turmeric, coriander, cinnamon stick, and saute until fragrant, another 2-3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup water and let simmer another 5 minutes or until the water is mostly gone.

2. Add the diced tomatoes, coconut milk, and potatoes, and another 1 cup water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are pretty much done. Remove the cinnamon stick and stir in the frozen peas; let simmer another 10 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, in a small skillet with the remaining 1/2 Tb. oil, add the beefless tips and saute until browned on the outside, about 4-5 minutes. Stir the tips into the curry and simmer, uncovered (to let it thicken up), another five minutes or until they are completely heated through.

Next month we're doing Thai food, and I'm super stoked because I happen to have some authentic ingredients on hand (tamarind paste, kaffir lime leaves). Now all I gotta do is find the perfect recipe!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Strawberry Cake and Roasted Garlic Bread!

My boyfriend's birthday was this past August 8th so as his birthday cake I made him my famous Strawberry Cake with Strawberry Buttercreme Frosting. It's a real simple cake that uses strawberry purée to bind, moisten, and flavor the cake. It's actually the same recipe as my strawberry cupcakes, just adapted into cake form. It's a real hit with everyone and I've been asked for the recipe multiple times! I also make him lasagna every year since it's his favorite food, but that recipe isn't vegan so I won't bother you with the details. I know there's some controversy over vegans dating non-vegans, but eh, I'm not bothered by it. Seriously, I live in the Midwest, so I've met one other vegan and one vegetarian in all my life years here. Besides, he'll eat all the vegan food I make and he loves Boca burgers and Chik'n patties, so I think we're doing alright. One meatless meal is another win in my book! However, with his non-vegan lasagna, I did make a vegan roasted garlic bread to go with it. It turned out to be the perfect accompaniment!

For the strawberry cake, I made the strawberry cupcakes recipe just like it said, except I divided the batter evening into two 9-inch cake pans that had been sprayed with nonstick and lined with parchment paper (for easy, pretty removal). I then baked it at 350 for about 20 minutes. It didn't take very long. Once the cakes were completely cooled, I filled the middle layer with about half the buttercreme, topped it with the second cake, and then just frosted the top. I used the same amount of buttercreme as made in the cupcake recipe. You could also garnish the cake with some fresh sliced strawberries, but only do so right before you serve it, as the juice from the strawberries causes them to slip off the icing.

Also, I have tomatoes everywhere.

It doesn't make a very tall cake, so I'm thinking I could do 1 1/2 times the original amount (3 cups flour instead of 2, 3/4 cup strawberry purée instead of 1/2) in order to get more cake. However, I haven't tried that yet so I can't guarantee the results! Lol.

For the roasted garlic bread, I roasted up a couple bulbs of garlic and mashed them into a stick of softened Earth Balance. I only wound up using half the garlic butter on the bread though, so I had lots of delicious garlicky goodness leftover for baked potatoes. If you're only concerned about having enough for the bread, you could reduce the Earth Balance to one-half a stick, but I wouldn't reduce the roasted garlic. It's what makes it delicious! Most French bread you buy in the bakery section of grocery stores are vegan, but double-check the ingredients to make sure. Also by French bread I don't mean the long, skinny baguette. Go for the wider, softer loafs (also called "Italian bread"). I'm afraid a baguette would get too hard if baked again.

Roasted Garlic - Garlic Bread:
2 bulbs garlic, roasted
1/2 c. Earth Balance (one stick)
1 loaf French bread

To roast the garlic:
Remove extra loose skins on the outside, but make sure the bulb stays intact. Cut the top off the garlic to expose the cloves. Place the bulb at the center of a square of aluminium foil and drizzle it with olive oil. Seal up the bulb by making a foil "packet" and then place it in a 350F oven. Bake for about 30-40 minutes or until completely soft and golden. If the bulbs are completely soft, they won't be easy to mix into the butter and they will have that "hot" raw garlic flavor. Roasting will sweeten and mellow its flavor. Also, I use a separate foil packet for each bulb.

After the garlic is roasted pop the cloves into the softened (room temperature) Earth Balance. Mix well.

Garlicky buttery goodness.

Split the bread in half and place on a cookie sheet with the cut side up. Butter the bread as desired (I used half for the bread) and then broil for about 4 minutes.

If, however, you are like me and your broiler doesn't work, you can also bake it at 350 for about 10 minutes. It won't be browned on top of the butter, but the bread itself will be browned and crunchy and delicious.

Then enjoy!

You can use this bread anywhere a garlic bread is required, with veggie lasagna, spaghetti (or pasta in general) or with a soup/salad/bread night. The butter can be used on anything. It's especially good with baked potatoes. I'm going to try it with some gnocchi as well!

I've also make some crazy awesome "pizza potatoes" for my friend, the Wandering Hen and her husband. They went over real well! It was an easy recipe, so I'll definitely have to put it in my arsenal. I'll make them again soon and take pictures, lol! I'm going to Whole Foods on Saturday, so expect a post about that! Yay!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Chili-Lime Tofu Kebabs

I'm pretty stoked. School's out, I've been cooking up a storm of tasty food, AND I just visited the library to check me out a couple new cookbooks (try before you buy! Lol). I'm especially excited for The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook. It's one of the newer ones they got in at my library. I love MSL. I will seriously tear up that magazine for the recipes. It's kind of like gourmet cooking, but much more manageable. Anything you cook seems fancy (even the easy recipes), and although the majority of it isn't vegan, I really enjoy making it so. So, yeah... be prepared for an onslaught of Martha, 'cause it's coming your way!

This is my teaser photo.

I actually have a bunch of new recipes I'm trying out. This is some of the only time off I get all year long, so I basically just have fun and experiment in the kitchen. I'm going to make Caramelized Onion Foccacia  Bread soon (probably tomorrow), Tuscan White Bean Burgers with Roasted Garlic Aioli (I've mentioned that one a LONG time ago!), Strawberry Layer Cake (next week for my boyfriend's birthday... I'm super stoked about making a cake. Love them!), and definitely a special dinner since my long-time-gone best friend Ally is stopping through on a break from touring the country's Renaissance Fairs. I have no idea what to make, so I'll be getting together with her about that soon! I'm also going to make a Whole Foods trip next week, so I'll be stocking up all the essentials, like chickpea flour, wheat gluten, gluten-free flours, nuts (hazelnuts!!), other organic bulk flours, vegan ramen, kombucha (it's half the price of what is found where I live!), and cooking/baking supplies. I'd really like to prep a couple of batches of seitan because I've been craving some hot sandwiches. I'm going to make my BF some non-veg Italian beef sandwiches and I'm going to need a hot seitan one to eat along with him! I hijacked my mom's crockpot for this adventure... I don't think she's noticed it's missing...

Anywho... today I made some tofu and veggie kebabs. My mom had just given me a bunch of limes and I still had a good amount of garden produce leftover, so I marinated some tofu in a chili-lime sauce for awhile, tossed everything on some sticks and served it over same plain bulgur. Easy and tasty! This only makes about 7 kebabs, so it's perfect for yourself with leftovers or for a couple people. Adding some bell peppers, potatoes (though you'll need to boil the potatoes first until they're almost done, but not so done they don't stay on the skewer), or some fresh pineapple will also help make more kebabs and give it additional flavor, so feel free to add them in if you have them. You could also cook these outside on the grill, but I am not the one who can tell you how to do that! Grilling is not my forte! And last but not least, the initial sauteing of the tofu is a pretty important step. It helps to create a nice "crust" that will help the tofu stay on the skewer. This is especially important if you use firm tofu instead of extra-firm.

Chili-Lime Tofu Kebabs:
Chili-Lime Marinade:
3 Tb. olive oil
1 1/2 Tb. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. lime zest
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Juice of 1 lime
pinch of black pepper
pinch of cayenne

1/3 (18-oz) carton of extra-firm tofu, pressed well and drained, cut into 1-inch cubes
about 24 cherry tomatoes, left whole
1 medium zucchini, cut lengthwise into quarters, then in thick 1/2-inch or so slices
1 yellow onion, cut into chunks

Bamboo or metal skewers (if using bamboo, soak for about 30 minutes before using)

1. Prepare the tofu by pressing, draining, and cubing. In a skillet sprayed with some nonstick over medium-high heat, saute the tofu until it is golden brown on all sides.
2. Meanwhile, prepare the marinade by whisking together the oil, vinegar, chili powder, paprika, lime zest, garlic, lime juice, black pepper, and cayenne until well-combined. Once the tofu is done, add the the marinade, toss tofu to coat, cover, and let marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes (maybe while the bamboo is soaking, eh?). I let my go a couple hours this time around.
3. Once the tofu is done marinating, thread the skewers, alternating between the zucchini, tomatoes, onions, and tofu.
4. Heat a grill pan or a griddle to medium-high and spray with some nonstick. Add the skewers and brush on the remaining marinade. Grill, turning occasionally, until all the vegetables are mostly soft, about 15 minutes. You want to get some charred grill marks on there if you can.
5. Serve over a cooked grain, and season to taste with some sea salt. Enjoy!

Although I'm starting to look forward to fall produce (apples, root vegetables, winter squash), it's fresh summer recipes like this that help to remind me there's still some summer left to enjoy!