Sunday, November 13, 2011

Quinoa Falafel

Falafel is delicious. It's also one of those foods I think vegetarians end up eating frequently because you can count on finding it at restaurants that aren't as vegan-friendly as you'd like them to be. I had toyed around with making my own non-fried version of falafel for quite a while before I finally found this particular mixture. It's a little unusual because of the quinoa, but I think that's what manages to keep these moist when many of my other attempts turned out dry as a bone. Making the patties is really quite easy, and the real trick to making these delicious is in assembling an awesome assortment of toppings. (The same rule, by the way, applies to tacos. As long as you have 5 or so fun things to put on top, I don't even care very much what the "meat" of the taco is. Spend that extra time prepping the toppings and the result will be 10x better.) This recipe for the falafel patties is a mixture of a recipe from a cookbook I can't remember and also mixes in ideas I read on another blog. The final recipe involves this:

1 can garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1/2 cup fresh parsley
1 cup cooked quinoa
1 1/2 tsp. yellow curry powder
1/2 tsp. cayenne powder
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 cup bread crumbs
salt & pepper

Combine all ingredients from garbanzo beans through cayenne pepper in a food processor and pulse until everything is evenly mixed. Don't overdo it, you still want the mixture to be a little chunky. Transfer everything to a bowl and add remaining ingredients. Mix with your hand and form into small balls. I find making them into balls first, then flattening them helps me keep the size even. Don't be tempted to make them too big....smaller will allow more surface area to cook.

Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray and arrange flattened falafel balls on the sheet. Spray everything lightly with nonstick spray again and bake in the oven at 400 degrees for about 20-30 minutes. You aren't actually "cooking" much here, just warming through and browning each side, so flip the falafels once and when they look done to you, they probably are.

In the meantime, prep all your toppings:
chopped romaine lettuce
chopped cucumbers
chopped tomatoes
chopped red onion (optional)
lemon wedges

I also make a quick yogurt sauce. I just made up this recipe in my head. Mix together:

1 small container of plain soy yogurt
1 generous handful of chopped fresh dill (dried will work too if you need to, just use a lot less)
1 Tbsp. or so lemon juice
salt and pepper
1 handful of very finely chopped cucumber

Mix it, taste it and adjust seasonings as necessary. This sauce is really good. Usually when I make this I'll end up making a little side salad out of just the vegetable toppings and eat it with a dollop of this sauce as well.

Serve falafel hot with pitas and all the toppings. Yum!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Pumpkin Stuffed Shells with Sage (Remix!)

I'm being a little lazy today. How long has it been since I've blogged? Months perhaps? I figured I'd get back into it with a super easy post today.


This is actually just going to be an update on one of the very
first recipes I ever blogged about. I said at the time I made it that I felt it was a fantastic recipe idea, but that if I made it again, I would definitely make quite a few changes to the original recipe. This is very very common, and if I look at some of my favorite recipes that I consider to be truly my own creation, most of them started this way. Check back in a few years and I'll probably have a million more changes to add to this recipe.

Most recently, my dad and sister were in town and we wanted to make a big hearty and delicious meal to eat together. We decided to make this one, and I kept track of the many changes from the original reci
pe. Here's what we did:

First make the vegetable marinara sauce. Gather and prepare your ingredients:
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 cup baby carrots, roughly chopped1/2 large red bell pepper, roughly chopped (or one small pepper)
1-15 oz. can fire roasted diced tomatoes w/ green chiles
1/2 can water
2 Tbsp. grade B maple syrup
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
Pinch garlic powder
Pinch onion powder
Pinch crushed red pepper1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk
Pinch salt
Pinch black pepper
Saute onion, garlic, carrots and red bell pepper about 10 minutes until tender. Add the remaining ingredients except the soy milk and simmer for about 15 additional minutes. Let sauce cool to room temperature, then place in food processor. Process sauce until smooth, then stir in soy milk and season with salt and pepper.


Next gather your ingredients for the make the pumpkin filling:
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh sage
1 15-oz. can pureed pumpkin
2 Tbsp. of the vegetable marinara saucePinch salt
Pinch black pepper
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
Pinch nutmeg
1 Tbsp. white miso
1 box firm tofu (I like extra firm lite, but anything along those lines will do)

Saute onion and garlic with the sage until tender. Add onion mixture with all remaining ingredients except the tofu in a food processor and pulse until will combined, but not totally smooth. Transfer to a bowl and add the tofu, crumbling it well with your hands. Stir to combine everything well.


Cook about 20-25 large pasta shells in salted boiling water for
15 minutes, drain and rinse with cold water. Ladle all of the marinara sauce into a large baking dish, fill each shell with pumpkin mixture and place each shell into the bed of sauce. Bake shells uncovered in a 350 degree oven for about 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, slice 10-15 cremini mushrooms and saute them in a bit of olive oil with another 2 Tbsp. or so of chopped fresh sage. Set aside. When the shells are cooked, remove from oven and spoon mushrooms and sage over the top. Turn the oven up to broil and cook the shells for about 5-10 more minutes under the broiler until the bits of pasta begin to get brown and crispy.

This dish gets a super-special flare when you garnish it with a few fried sage leaves. An amazing (and not that really guilty) pleasure, I'm completely obsessed with fried sage leaves. Just heat up a bit of oil and add the sage, a few whole leaves at a time. Let them sizzle and cook but not get brown, only a few seconds. Take them out of the oil and onto a paper towel. Sprinkle with a little salt while they are still hot.

Needless to say, this is a very elegant and pretty looking dish, perfect for guests. It is also filling, hearty and comforting while still being very healthy. The tangy vegetable sauce and the unique pumpkin and sage flavor is a welcome bit of variety from the usual stuffed shells or lasagna with red sauce. Give it a try!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Homemade Gluten Ribs

My family has been asking me to blog about this one for a while now, and I'm finally getting to it. I've been making this recipe for about a year, but way back when I made it for the first time, I liked it so much that I made it again the very next week when my family was out visiting us. We've always been a big grilling family and I liked the idea of my husband and dad out in the back yard grilling up some meat while my mom and I made veggies and potatoes inside. Yes, I am just that traditional at heart. Anyway, my parents are pretty adventurous when it comes to trying strange vegan foods, but the true testament to how much they liked this is that my mom has since taken to making it herself back in Boston. I'm very proud.

The first time I ever heard about gluten, it was in the context of gluten-free. I know there are a lot of people out there who can't eat gluten, so I'm sorry about that -- this recipe is not for you. For those who can eat it, I highly recommend gluten as a fun alternative to soy and other usual vegan protein sources. It's really quite easy to buy the gluten flour and to make homemade seitan. From there, you can dress it up any way you want. In all honesty, I'm not a huge fan of the seitan I've had in restaurants. Most often you see it in BBQ sandwiches (not too bad) or in Asian stir-fry or curry dishes (pretty bad), and I'm just not a fan all the way around. I have to admit that I've never even had the nerve to buy the pre-packaged seitan they sell at my natural food store. It looks so grey and slimy that it honestly turns my stomach looking at it. BUT, this recipe for homemade seitan (which came pretty much directly from Susan Voisin at Fat Free Vegan) tastes nothing like any seitan I've ever eaten. It's chewy and firm and just a perfect texture. Slather it in barbecue sauce and slap it on the grill and I promise you a delicious cook-out that will satisfy all of your cravings and please your meat-eating guests. Hey, it's almost summer. Break out the grill and give this a try!

First you have to make the seitan. Think of it as a very dense loaf of bread. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Mix together the dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately, then mix them together.

1 cup gluten flour (vital wheat gluten)
2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. chile powder
2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
2 tsp. dried onion flakes
1 tsp. garlic powder or 2 tsp. fresh garlic, minced
3/4 cup water
2 Tbsp. tahini
1 tsp. liquid smoke
1 Tbsp. soy sauce

Once the ingredients are mixed, go ahead and knead the dough with your hands for a good 2-3 minutes. You will notice the gooey, stringy texture of the gluten holding everything together. Lightly spray a square 8x8 baking pan and use your fingers to stretch the dough to fill the entire square pan. Next, take a knife and scar the dough once down the middle and then 7 times across. This will help the ribs cut apart more easily at the end. Bake the seitan in the oven for about 25-30 minutes. When it's done you should be able to easily lift the entire thing out of the pan with a spatula.
If you want to make your own barbecue sauce for this dish, go ahead. Myself, I'm pretty happy just using the All Natural Barbecue Sauce from Trader Joe's. Either way, you need about a cup of it to make these really tasty. Fire up the grill and let it preheat for a while. Brush the ribs generously with barbecue sauce on both sides and grill for about 8-10 minutes or so. Flip the ribs and give them another coat of sauce and grill until you think they look done. I like them pretty well done where the sauce is getting crispy and there are dark black grill lines. Serve it up with some baked or mashed potatoes and some veggies and you have yourself a pretty awesome vegan version of an American classic. My dad even liked it. I bet yours would too.


Monday, April 25, 2011

5-Minute Blueberry Pancakes

Breakfast again! I figure that after posting my all time favorite savory breakfast recipe a few weeks ago, it's a good time to complete the circle and post my all time favorite sweet breakfast recipe. While this recipe may not boast the variety of healthy vegetables present in tofu scramble, it does hold up pretty well as a not only delicious, but remarkably heathy breakfast option. That and it takes 5 minutes to make. Seriously, 5 minutes. I promise!

I make these pancakes with whole wheat flour, mostly because for some reason, in this dish you really can't tell that they are whole wheat, so why not? There are 8 ingredients. Mix together the dry ones first:
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
pinch of salt

Once these are blended up, add the wet ingredients:
1 cup soymilk (vanilla, original or unsweetened, I've done them all)
2 Tbsp. canola oil

Mix well to combine then stir in 1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries. Cook pancakes in a medium-hot griddle sprayed with nonstick spray. I like to sprinkle each side with a bit of cinnamon for extra flavor.

This recipe is fairly small and makes about 6 large or 8 small pancakes (perfect for two very hungry people). The baking powder allows them to rise very nicely and creates a thick, fluffy pancake. The sweet and tangy flavor of the blueberries gives the pancakes a sweet, rich flavor with only 1 Tbsp. of added sugar. Even I, a self-proclaimed condiment addict, don't have to use that much syrup on these pancakes. The flavors stand on their own and the moisture of the blueberries goes a long way.

So the next time you want an extra special breakfast, or a leisurely brunch, or the perfect item to whip up in no time for house guests, try these blueberry pancakes. I promise you won't be disappointed.

P.S. I feel that I say this quite often, but this is another recipe J and I like to take camping. In fact, I don't think we have ever had a camping trip that did not include these pancakes. I mix up the dry ingredients in a ziplock and pack the oil and soymilk in little plastic jars. In that case, we use dried blueberries rather than fresh and they work quite well. Nothing like a hot breakfast after a night of sleeping in a tent!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Spicy Black Bean Patties

What vegetarian doesn't like veggie burgers? I think that pretty much anyone who makes the decision to become vegetarian or vegan goes through a phase of relying on things like veggie burgers as a simple way to fill out a meal. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of good veggie burger options out there, but when I began to care more about eating whole foods and less processed and packaged items, I realized that many of the veggie burgers available are made up of a very long list of ingredients that don't sound particularly healthy or delicious. I set out looking for ways to construct my own "burgers" out of ingredients that taste good and are actually good. The first recipe I ever tried, and still my favorite today is Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's Spicy Black Bean Patties. Not only is the flavor of these patties hearty, smoky and rich, but because they are packed full of vegetables, they taste bright and fresh. I must mention right off the bat that I decided to call this recipe Black Bean Patties, rather than Burgers for a reason: I don't really think they taste good on a bun. While they can, of course, be slathered in ketchup and eaten on a roll (and my husband eats them this way quite frequently), I think that the texture of the mashed beans is too soft to hold up against a roll. The soft bread and the soft beans are too similar and tend to meld together into one texture. You can serve them however you like, but I tend to best enjoy them alone, paired with various sides, and not as a sandwich.

Preparing these burgers is not complicated at all, but it does take a moderate amount of time. The best thing about this recipe is that you can make the entire thing up to a day in advance (maybe more than a day...haven't tested that out). When you have formed all the patties, simply wrap them in saran wrap or in a tupperware separated by wax paper. About a year ago for July 4th, J and I were camping and I brought four of these patties along in our backpacks all day to cook over the fire at night. I think our meat-eating fellow campers were actually jealous.

Begin by gathering all of the ingredients:
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp oregano
1 jalapeno pepper, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 cups cooked black beans
1/2 cup frozen corn, defrosted
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp chili powder
1 Tbsp dried parsley
1/8 cup whole wheat flour
1/8 cup cornmeal or grits
nonstick cooking spray

Saute the onion, garlic, oregano and peppers until tender. In a large bowl, mash the beans with a pastry masher or a fork until they are pretty well broken up.
Mix in the cooked veggies and all other ingredients except the flour and cornmeal. Use your hands to really mush everything up. You may want to let the veggies cool a bit before you add them, so as to not burn your hands, but usually I'm too impatient. The moisture from the veggies really combines with the beans to make a texture that is easily formed into 6 round balls. Flatten each ball into a hearty patty with your hands and set aside. Mix the flour and cornmeal together in a shallow dish and coat each patty lightly in the mixture. This last step is really optional, but I find that it goes a long way to keep the patties together and creates a tiny crust on the outside which is delicious.

Heat a cast iron or nonstick skillet over medium high heat and spray with cooking spray or oil. I usually cook three patties at a time. Place the patties in the pan and cook until toasty brown, then flip. Sometimes I spray the pan again when I flip the patties. That tiny bit of oil goes a long way to crisp up the outsides. Serve the patties with any assortment of sides you wish. Most of the time we go with grilled or baked vegetables or a big salad. Sometime we'll serve some rice or other starch, and as I mentioned, J usually eats one with a bun. I find that ketchup or barbecue sauce mask the delicate flavor of the patties, to I prefer to put a bit of pico de gallo or salsa on top and leave it at that. However you make them, these patties are a definite winner and put any veggie burgers you can buy in the freezer case to shame.


Sunday, March 27, 2011

International Curry Off: Caribbean Black-Eyed Pea Curry with Plantains

Okay. I might have to admit right now that this curry-off is a bit of a failure. I don't think there can be a winner. Both curries are so incredibly good that I don't think either can official beat the other. They are very different and so would respond well to completely different moods or cravings, but over all I loved them both so much that I will be making them both many many more times in the future. I'm pretty excited to have two new curries to add to my repertoire...maybe I'll have to do this again and go searching for more curries!

This curry, unlike the other one, does not use a pre-blended curry paste. The spices are very different and include cinnamon, star anise, bay leaves and a yellow curry powder. These spices were a bit unusual for me, but I easily found them in bulk at my natural food store. Also, this curry does not have nearly as many vegetables as the other, so I felt that serving it with a side of jerk flavored asparagus was appropriate. I'll have to blog about those another day. Let's just get started and make the curry. Gather the ingredients:

1/2 chopped shallot
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. fresh ginger, grated
2 bay leaves
1 star anise
2 tsp. mild yellow curry powder
pinch of cinnamon
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup light coconut milk
3/4 cup water
1 16 oz can of black eyed peas or 1 1/2 cup black eyed peas cooked from dry
1 tsp. agave nectar
juice from 1/2 lime
2 very ripe plantains, split lengthwise and cut into 1-inch chunks
brown rice or other grains, for serving

Heat a large skillet and spray with cooking spray. Saute the shallot, red pepper and jalapeno for about 5 minutes, then add the garlic, ginger, whole bay leaves and whole star anise. You will take these guys out later after they impart their deliciousness. Cook about 2 more minutes then add a splash of water and the curry, cinnamon and thyme. Stir for about 30 seconds to toast the curry.

Add the salt, coconut milk, water and peas. Cover and heat through for about 5-8 minutes. Add the agave and lime and taste for salt and seasoning. Turn off the heat and let the curry sit about 10 minutes for the flavors to meld, then remove the bay leaves and star anise.

Meanwhile, heat up a steamer basket over an inch or two of water. Heat the water, then steam the plantains for about 6-7 minutes. You will know they are done when they are bright yellow and a little bit puffy. Serve the curry over rice and garnish with a hearty scoop of plantains.

I had never prepared plantains in my life when I made this recipe. They were easy enough to find at my local Safeway, but I had never ventured to try them before. If you are like me and haven't experienced plantains, I have two pieces of advice: #1. Try them, you'll love them! #2 Do NOT expect them to taste like bananas. They don't. Expect something like a steamed cube of sweet potato. Very starchy but with a hint of sweetness. They are a delicious and luxurious addition to this dish. The final product tasted rich and filling while still being light and tropical. It brought me way out of my normal curry rut and I can't wait to make it again.

I hope that some of you will be inspired by these new curry recipes and the opportunity to try something a little out of the box. Oh, and buy Isa Chandra's book!!! I'm in love with it!


Monday, March 7, 2011

International Curry-Off: Roasted Root Vegetable Thai Curry

It's a curry-off! I love all curry. Red, green, yellow, potato, pumpkin, Thai, non-Thai...whatever. My love of curry is best explained by my single favorite dish served in a San Francisco restaurant: Traffic Jam Curry from Be My Guest Thai Bistro. If you've never heard of the place, I'm not surprised. I am seriously worried that this place may go out of business soon because it's pretty much empty every time we go there. Sure, it has a stupid name and it does look kind of strange and the emptiness of the huge corner location definitely does give the place a weird vibe, but once you eat the curry, you will overlook all of that, I promise! The Traffic Jam Curry is exactly what it sounds like: THREE curries in one dish! You get a cute little plate with three small bowls, each filled with either red curry, green curry or yellow curry. Vegetarians can choose a combination of tofu, gluten and plain veggie for the three curries. I love them all, but mostly I just love that I can have them all in the same meal. If you live in SF, please help keep Be My Guest in business by visiting them at the corner of 11th and Clement.

Now onto the actual reason for this post. I love to eat curry at restaurants, but in my attempts to be healthy, save money etc. etc. I of course try to make my own healthy versions from time to time. None have ever turned out badly exactly (coconut milk + anything = delicious) but none have ever been able to replicate the deliciousness of restaurant curries. I decided this week to try two brand new and unusual sounding curries from my new favorite cookbook (have I mentioned my new favorite cookbook enough lately?) to widen my curry repertoire and to see which one is better. It's a curry-off!!

Up tonight: Roasted Root Vegetable Thai Curry.

What? Roasted root vegetables in curry? Now this I would never ever have thought of. My curry staples usually include a variety of things along the lines of red bell peppers, onions, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, tofu... you get the picture. Root vegetables of any kind, much less roasted, seemed like an odd idea for a curry, but I gave it a whirl anyway. I'm just telling you now: Tomorrow's curry better watch out because this curry just blew my mind with delicious awesomeness. Here's a list of all the ingredients:

1 lb. rutabagas, peeled and cut into bite-sized cubes
1 lb. parsnips, peeled and cut into bite-sized cubes
1 lb. brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half
1 tsp. canola oil
3 Tbsp. green curry paste (Thai Kitchen)
1 red onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
1 cup carrots, cut into large-ish chunks
1 cup sweet potato, peeled and cut into small-ish chunks
3 cups vegetable broth
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1/2 Tbsp. cornstarch
3/4 cup light coconut milk
2 Tbsp. lime juice
1 Tbsp. agave nectar
1 cup fresh
cilantro, chopped

First roast the vegetables. Can you believe how many incredible delicious veggies are packed into this dish? Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Toss the rutabagas, parsnips and brussels sprouts with 1 tsp. canola oil and lay them on a sprayed baking sheet (or two) in a single layer. Yes, they only need 1 tsp. of oil. Roast the veggies for 30-40 minutes until golden brown and tender. Remove them from the oven and set aside.

Meanwhile, make your curry. Preheat a large pot, then add the curry paste and onions with a pinch of salt. Stir constantly so that the curry paste doesn't stick too much. After a couple minutes, add a splash of water and the garlic and ginger. Saute another couple minutes, then add the broth, soy sauce, sweet potato and carrot. Cover the pan and bring it to a boil. Cook for about 20 minutes until the sweet potato is soft and mushy but the carrot is not quite mushy. Once you reach this point, take a fort and try to mash as many of the sweet potato cubes as you can. This will thicken up the broth a little. Mix the cornstarch with a little water or broth and add it to the pot while still simmering. Stir until the sauce begins to thicken, then add the coconut milk, lime juice, agave and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in all the roasted veggies and the cilantro last and tada, you are done!

I know the ingredient list is intimidating, but trust me making the actual dish is not hard at all. It doesn't even take long. This ends up as 4 large hearty servings of delicious goodness. I would never ever think of parsnips, rutabagas or brussels sprouts in a curry, but that's exactly what makes me like this so much. It's so unique that I've never tasted anything like it, and I doubt I will - which means I have to make it myself :)

P.S. The night I made this dish, I shopped at Trader Joes for various items including brussels sprouts. They happened to be out, but instead had this bizarre mix of brussels sprouts, snap peas and asparagus they called "roasting vegetables." I bought it because I was desperate, which is why you see peas and asparagus in my photos. It was fine, but not as good as it would have been with just brussels sprouts. And, FYI Trader Joe's: brussels sprouts, peas and asparagus do not take the same amount of time to cook and therefore should not be sold as a mix. Thanks.

Nutrition Facts: 1 serving = 1/4 recipe. 230 calories; 4.4 g fat (2.5 sat); 0 mg cholesterol; 620 mg sodium; 46 g carbohydrate; 11 g fiber; 21 g sugars; 5 g protein; 184 % vitamin A; 145 % vitamin C; 12% calcium; 11 % iron.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Tofu Scramble

Tofu Scramble. It's a dish that strikes fear into the heart of non-vegetarians everywhere. Honestly, I had never even heard of such a thing before I became vegan, so I don't really know what I would have thought, but ever since the first time I tried it, I have loved tofu scramble. Now, one of the main reasons I feel that my cholesterol got so out of hand when I was a young adult was because of my love for eggs. During my first couple of years living in tiny studio apartments in New York City, I don't think I can possibly count the number of nights when fried eggs on toast was my dinner. Or my breakfast. Or my leisurely brunch on a Saturday morning. It takes about 4 minutes to prepare, it's delicious, it's salty, it's filling. Honestly, it's not too bad for you nutritionally and so I thought I was doing a good thing by eating this meal so frequently. Better than a Big Mac and fries I figured. Needless to say, several years later when my doctor threatened to put me on Lipitor or something like it within a year if I could not lower my cholesterol, I looked back at those decisions with some regret.

Even later, as a vegan, I still crave the taste of eggs on toast. Frequently. Lucky for me there is something so delicious, so easy to prepare and SO healthy which more than satisfies my craving every time: tofu scramble!! If you have doubts about my claims, just look at the picture above (or below). Doesn't it look delicious?? Even sort of like scrambled eggs? Go on, give it a try. I've read a few different recipes for tofu scramble and eaten it at a handful of restaurants. This recipe pulls all of those experiences together into one perfect master recipe. The veggies I list here are my ideal combo, but you can adjust them to your liking...or more likely, adjust them to whatever you happen to have in your fridge when the inspiration strikes. Gather up the ingredients:

1 package extra firm tofu (Lite if you can find it)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
10 cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
1-2 cups fresh spinach leaves
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. paprika
2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
salt and pepper to taste.

Start by draining and pressing your tofu. If you're new here, I explain in detail how to do this in this recipe here (which happens to be for another incredibly delicious tofu-based breakfast dish, Tofu Benedict). Crumble to tofu with your hands into a bowl and set aside. Chop your veggies and heat a large skillet over medium heat. Spray the pan with cooking spray and saute your onions and garlic for a couple minutes, then add peppers and mushrooms. Cook until the veggies are done to your liking, then add the crumbled tofu to the pan. Add all spices, and stir to combine. Continue cooking until the tofu is heated through and is bright yellow (thank you turmeric).

I find that this dish is best served with toast or bagels and with avocado and pico de gallo salsa. Sometimes I'll add a little hot sauce to my plate as well. I love this dish with all of my heart. It is pretty much a sure thing any time my husband and I have a lazy morning to sleep in and eat a big yummy breakfast. It also comes up quite frequently when we have overnight guests and I want to put out a nice spread. And I'm not ashamed to say that it makes it's way to the dinner table on more than a few occasions.

End note: the long vertical picture was taken by a good friend of mine who was visiting recently. She has a real camera (alas I'm still saving up) and snapped a few pictures of various things we ate that weekend. After a late first night catching up out on the town, we woke up the next day and made, what else? Tofu Scramble! Thanks, Holly, for the picture :)

Nutrition Facts: Serving = 1/3 of recipe. 133 calories; 3.2 g fat (0.1 sat); 0 mg cholesterol; 123 mg sodium; 13.7 g carbohydrate; 5.6 g fiber; 3.7 g sugars; 17.3 g protein; 110% vitamin A; 93% vitamin c; 29% calcium; 21% iron. If these nutrition facts seem too good to be true, welcome to the secret! This dish feels like a naughty (and large) breakfast but it's actually...like the healthiest thing ever. Feel free to eat a heaping serving and to indulge in some avocado and a bagel...you've got calories to spare!

Buffalo Tempeh with Creamy Coleslaw

I have a new favorite favorite favorite favorite cookbook. That's four favorites. It's called Appetite for Reduction and you can go buy it on Amazon right now. Isa Chandra Moskowitz has long been one of my favorite vegan bloggers and her Post Punk Kitchen is both helpful and hilarious. I had the chance to meet her at a cooking demonstration/cookbook signing at the San Francisco Ferry Building a couple of weeks ago and I have cooked nearly exclusively from her new cookbook since that day. This book is creative, healthy and I seriously have loved every recipe I've tried so far...like 25 at least. That's really saying something! I have a back log of a million new meals to blog about, so I'm just going to jump in and begin with one of my favorites, this Buffalo Tempeh. I'm not sure what made me try this one. I've never been a big Buffalo wing person, but I do like spicy food and I don't have too much variety in my repertoire of tempeh recipes so I thought I'd give it a try. I am, however, a big coleslaw person. I love it all from the horribly unhealthy stuff dripping in creamy fatty goodness all the way to light, healthy kale slaw or asian cabbage slaw. When Isa's book promised a delicious and creamy coleslaw that is both vegan AND low fat I had to give it a try right away. I'm going to start with the recipe for the tempeh because it needs to marinate.

If you aren't familiar with tempeh, don't feel bad. It's the much-ignored and less popular cousin of tofu and a lot of people (including my mom and sister) are afraid of it. I challenge you to give it a try sometime if you never have. I'm not sure if it's the name (How to say it? Temp-ay or Temp-uh??) or the strange discoloration sometimes visible on the outside of the block (ignore it, it's just part of the natural fermentation process) or the simple fact that people don't know what to do with it. If you've never seen it, just think about all the little edamame beans that are used when soymilk is made. All the juice is squeezed out of the beans and what is left? Lots of edamame shells. These aren't the big, furry pods, but rather the smaller outer layer of the actual beans. They take these shells, mash them up into a rectangular form and then ferment them, much like they do when making tofu. That is a much simplified explanation I'm sure, but it was enough for me and that's the extent of my tempeh knowledge. The key, I have found, to making delicious tempeh is to cook it in a variety of ways: steam it to make the inside tender and to allow it to open up and soak in flavor and then also pan-fry it to give it a little crispness on the outside and to highlight the nutty flavor. This recipe suggests exactly that, so I guess Isa thinks the same thing!

To make this dish, first cut the block of tempeh in half across the middle, then into 4 pieces and cut each piece into two triangles. Steam the tempeh pieces for 5 minutes, then put them in a shallow baking dish and mix together your marinade:

1/2 cup vegetable broth
1/2 cup cayenne hot sauce (Frank's Red Hot)
6 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp. dried oregano

Marinate the tempeh in this mixture for about an hour, flipping the tempeh once. Heat a large skillet and spray it with cooking spray. Add the tempeh slices and cook them for about 10 minutes, flipping often so that each side gets browned nicely. When the tempeh looks good and golden brown, add back in all the leftover marinade and simmer for 3-5 minutes until the liquid is mostly gone. You're ready to go!

The slaw is also a very simple recipe, so pull that together while the tempeh is marinating and your slaw will have time to sit in the dressing while you cook the tempeh and both will be ready to eat at exactly the same time! I made a few changes to her original recipe to make the slaw a little more tangy, the way I like it. First make the dressing:

1/4 cup cashews, preferably soaked in water for an hour or so
2 Tbsp. chopped onion
1/2 cup water
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. white vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. agave nectar
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
black pepper to taste

Whiz everything up in a blender for about 5 minutes. If you need to give your blender a break in the middle, that's fine but be sure to blend the entire 5 minutes. This is what it takes to blend the cashews with the other liquids to make a delicious and creamy dressing. Pour the dressing over an entire bag of coleslaw mix (or about 4 cups shredded cabbage and 1 cup shredded carrot). I like to also add a couple chopped green onions, but that's up to you. Mix everything thoroughly and let it sit in the fridge for a while until the flavors all meld.

Both of these dishes taste exactly how you would want them to and really remind me of the original dishes they are based on. The tempeh is the perfect texture and has just the right about of spice and heat. The slaw is creamy and cool but still tangy and crunchy. This was a big hit and I can't wait to make it for a football game or an appetizer for guests. Mostly though, it's the perfect lunch on a lazy Saturday or Sunday. Give it a shot!

Nutrition Facts: Tempeh Serving = 4 pieces or half the recipe. 250 calories; 8.5 g fat (1 sat); 0 mg cholesterol; 410 mg sodium; 20.2 g carbohydrate; 12.6 g fiber; 0.8 g sugars; 23 g protein; 19% vitamin A; 10% vitamin C; 16% calcium; 23% iron.

Slaw Serving = 1/3 recipe. 117 calories; 4.9 g fat (0.7 g sat); 0 mg cholesterol; 447 mg sodium; 16.1 g carbohydrate; 5 g fiber; 9.4 g sugars; 4.1 g protein; 82% Vitamin A; 82 % Vitamin C.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Favorite Food: Quinoa

Quinoa is one of my all time favorite foods. When J and I became vegan, two of the first new foods we were exposed to were kale and quinoa, which together eventually became one of our go-to favorite dishes. Cook up some quinoa, then top with steamed kale and drizzle with soy sauce, sesame oil and sriracha hot sauce. To this day, this is one of the simplest, most inexpensive, delicious and nutritionally satisfying dishes we enjoy. And we enjoy it OFTEN. I've had the priveledge of introducing a lot of my friends and family to quinoa, but for some reason, the perfect cooking method is sometimes tricky to pin down. A long time lover of rice, polenta, risotto and other grains which take a long time and a bit of love to cook properly, I was thrilled when I discovered that cooking quinoa is about a simple as anything could possibly be. SO, if you want to spice up your dinners with this amazing and delicious grain which has much more fiber and protein than rice as well as a little very healthy fat and 10% of your daily iron, follow these simple steps:

Put 1 cup dry quinoa in a cold saucepan. Add 2 cups low sodium vegetable broth (or 2 cups water and abot 1 Tbsp. better than bullion paste). Cover the pan, bring to a boil and then reduce to medium low. Cook for about 25-30 minutes without disturbing the pan, then check on it by running a fork through the quinoa. It should be light and fluffy and not wet anymore. If not, cook a little longer. Some of the most common mistakes with quinoa include using too much water (a simply 1:2 ratio is best, unlike rice and some other grains) or stirring while cooking. Once you've made it a few times, you will feel more comfortable with the no-stirring thing. Trust me, this will make the lightest, fluffiest quinoa you've ever had. Enjoy!

Quinoa:
1/4 cup dry (which cooks up to 1 cup cooked) - 170 calories; 3 g fat (0 g sat); 0 mg cholesterol; 5 mg sodium; 30 g carb; 3 g fiber; 1 g sugar; 5 g protein; 10% iron.

Rice:
1/4 cup dry (which cooks up to 1 cup cooked) - 150 calories; 0.5 g fat (0sat); 0 mg cholesterol; 0 mg sodium; 33 g carb; 0.5 g fiber; 0 g sugar; 3 g protein; 2% iron.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Samosa Stuffed Baked Potatoes

I LOVE samosas! If you've never had them, samosas are little fried triangles filled with a mixture of potato, peas, and delicious spices. One of my delicious delicious guilty pleasures is the samosa soup at Burma Superstar . Seriously, if you're in San Francisco you need to find this place and order the samosa soup! I know it might sound weird, but I think the basic recipe is that they take the leftover samosas from the day before, cut them into bite size pieces and mix it with the most amazingly delicious broth ever created. Someday I'll have to work out my own recipe for samosa soup, but for now I can usually satisfy my craving for the flavors of a samosa with this dish. I've been making this unique take on a twice baked potato a lot lately. They reheat very well, especially if after microwaving you take the extra couple of minutes it takes to put it under the broiler until the top is browned again. Oh, and to give credit where it is due, I got this recipe from Veganomicon, one of the best vegan cookbooks ever. I've added a couple things and changed the amounts a bit, but the basic recipe is from there.

Start by baking 4 large russet potatoes. Scrub them and poke them with a fork then cook for about an hour at 400 degrees. I often will do this in the morning while I'm getting ready for work, then just leave them on the counter all day until I get home. That way, when I get back in the evening they are cooked, cooled and all ready to go. Cut each potato in half and scoop out the insides into a bowl. Try not to puncture the skin while you do this.

Mash the potato insides with 1/4 cup of unsweetened soymilk and set aside. Then gather all the other ingredients:

1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 tsp. coriander seeds
1 large onion, diced
4 medium carrots, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup frozen peas
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 cup vegan plain soy yogurt
canola oil spray

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Heat a skillet and spray with cooking spray. Add the mustard and coriander seeds and cook over medium heat until the seeds begin to pop. Cover the pan and let them pop away for about a minute, then add the carrots and onions. Saute about 10 minutes until the carrots are tender, then add the ginger and garlic and cook for another minute or two. Add the cumin, turmeric, splash of water. Stir to combine and to get all the bits stuck to the bottom of the pan, then add the potatoes. Continue cooking while stirring until the potatoes are heated through. Add the peas, lemon juice and yogurt and stir to combine.

Take each potato half and fill it with 1/8 of the potato filling. I like to really pack it in there to fill each half, then take what's left and pile it up on top. Spray the outside of the skin with a little canola oil and put each half on a baking sheet. Cook for about 20 minutes, then move the potatoes you plan to eat tonight into the broiler for about 5 minutes. The tops should get just the slightest bit brown and crunchy. These potatoes are one of my total obsessions right now and I love that this dish gives enough for leftovers for days. Yum, I'm so happy I can eat one again tomorrow!

Nutrition Facts: Serving = 2 potato halves. 412 calories; 3.4 g fat (0.2 sat); 0 mg cholesterol; 165 mg sodium; 82.3 g carbohydrate; 11.6 g fiber; 8.4 g sugar; 14.2 g protein; 382% vitamin A; 88% vitamin C; 9% calcium; 24% iron

Maggie Mudd Vegan Birthday Cake

Living in San Francisco, I have the privilege of having access to some of the most amazing vegan restaurants anywhere. I keep meaning to begin adding posts to this blog about fantastic restaurant meals I've had the opportunity to eat. I promise to bring my camera to restaurants more often in the future, but I'm starting with this easy one since it was delivered to my door!

It was J's birthday a few weeks ago (30! Woot woot!) and I thought he deserved an extra special dessert. When I first arrived in San Francisco, my colleagues surprised me with a vegan ice cream cake (who knew there was such a thing!?) at work that I remember being incredible. I searched out the restaurant in advance of J's b-day and found that not only does the amazing Maggie Mudd make vegan ice cream cakes, they make them in every flavor imaginable!! Seriously, you can choose from several different base layers and then choose either one or two ice cream flavors to add on top. Amazing! We went with a vegan brownie base topped with mint Oreo cookie ice cream. J is obsessed with mint-chocolate anything and I just couldn't resist the Oreo flavor. You know Oreos are vegan, right? I love it that somehow everyone knows that Oreos are vegan.

Anyway, to view a full list of Maggie Mudd's vegan ice cream flavors, click here. Holy cow! To say I was overwhelmed is an overstatement. Everything from Mariachi Mambo (a delicious-sounding combination of light chocolate ice cream with chocolate covered almond chunks and a touch of cinnamon to Lychee Coconut, to Banana Rum Brownie to Pink Trousers (Ummmm... who ever thought of fresh strawberry and coconut ice cream with tequila in it?). I can't wait for the next special occasion so I can try out more and more and more of these flavors! Thank you Maggie Mudd.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Stuffed Jalapenos

Oh wow. It's not that frequently that I make a new dish that gets me as excited as I am right now. This is going to revolutionize my menus for a long time. Parties, football games on TV, lazy afternoons, late nights... may I introduce you to your new companion: The non-fried, vegan stuffed jalapeno popper. I found the inspiration for this recipe in one of my very old favorite cookbooks, Very Vegetarian. It's actually the first vegan cookbook I ever bought. It has some great stuff in it, but also some so-so stuff. I was flipping through it and saw a recipe which suggested stuffing jalapeno peppers with a mixture of mashed potatoes and almond meal. It sounded interesting enough to pique my interest, but also pretty boring. I decided to go for it but to make up my own recipe for the filling, still maintaining those two ingredients as the base. When I was just about ready to put these babies in the oven, I also had a thought to bread them with cornflake crumbs. Of course I stay away from frying things as much as possible, but to bread them in a crispy little coating before baking sounded like a good way to get a similar effect. I went ahead and breaded half of them and left the other half plain. Boy boy boy were these amazing. I can still taste them right now as I sit typing (and J is in the kitchen cleaning up the wreckage from the cooking storm). Yum yum yum. These take a bit of time, but they are completely worth it. These are now added to the esteemed company of Thai spring rolls, tempeh sushi, stuffed mushrooms and crispy baked egg rolls as the perfect food to serve when I have people over for pretty much any occasion. If you come to my apartment any time in the near future, you can be assured that this is what I will be serving. I just want to spread the good news!!

Gather the ingredients:
16 large jalapeno peppers
4 or so yukon gold potatoes
1/2 small onion
1 clove garlic
1 medium tomato
1/2 cup ground almonds or
almond meal
2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp marjoram
1 Tbsp. lime juice
salt to taste
1/2 or so cup corn flake crumbs
1 1/2 Tbsp. Ener-G egg replacer powder mixed with about 3-4 Tbsp. unsweetened soy milk

OK, so the first step is to take about 16 jalapenos and to boil them in salted water for about 5 minutes. These jalapenos that I bought are HUGE, so you might need more if yours are not mutant like mine were. Rinse them in cold water to cool them down and slice each one lengthwise. My tip is to definitely wear some sort of disposable gloves during this process so you don't get spicy jalapeno all over you and then touch your eyes...you get the picture. Take your fingers and/or a paring knife and remove all the seeds and internal ribs from the jalapenos. Take your time and do this right otherwise your peppers will be too spicy.

Meanwhile, cube the potatoes and boil them until very tender. Drain all the water but about 1/4 cup and mash them until smooth. You need about 3/4 cup of potatoes, so if you end up with too much just feed it to your husband or something. Chop the onion and garlic and saute for just a couple of minutes, then add the tomato, almond meal, nutritional yeast, spices, lime juice, salt and mashed potatoes. Stir to combine and remove from heat. You don't want the onions to be totally cooked, just enough to take the edge off.

Put the potato mixture in a medium-sized plastic ziplock bag, squeeze out the air and seal the bag. Cut off one of the corners of the bag so you have a little piping bag to fill the peppers. This works really well and makes is super easy to fill the peppers without making a big mess. Preheat your oven to about 350 degrees and fill each pepper with potato mixture.

I got the idea late in the game to bread the peppers with cornflake crumbs. I actually love cornflake crumbs because they are much more naturally crunchy than breadcrumbs or even panko, although panko would probably do in a pinch. I decided to bread half the peppers and leave the other half plain, but after eating them I recommend breading them all. It worked perfectly! I took about 1 Tbsp. of Ener-G Egg Replacer powder and mixed it with a few Tbsp. of soymilk. I won't go into a long explanation of Ener-G because the truth is that I use it very infrequently. It's just a powder you mix with liquid to create a consistency somewhat like an egg. It works well in baked goods...but we all know I don't really bake much. I bought one box about 100 years ago and I'm still working through it. Ener-G has basically no taste, but it seems to do the trick binding breading to things...I also like to use it when making breaded eggplant. So carefully dip the pepper into a small bowl of the Ener-G stuff and then coat in cornflake crumbs. Bake in a lightly oiled baking dish for 25 minutes until everything is warmed through and the filling is kind of bubbling.

I decided to serve these with pico de gallo and cilantro. I wouldn't suggest a very spicy salsa, but I do like the acidity of the tomato, so any mild salsa would do. I also paired it with a quick salad with lots of cilantro for some light freshness. I can't tell you enough times how delicious these are. Please do not be put off by the concept of peppers filled with potatoes and almonds... the consistency ends up extremely good and the flavors are really all up to what you mix in. I think I may even add some corn kernels or other items in the future depending on my mood. These peppers take a little time to make, but are completely worth it.

Nutrition Facts: Serving=1/4 recipe or 4 peppers. 201 calories; 8.3 g fat (0.6 sat); 0 mg cholesterol; 157 mg sodium; 26.7 g carbohyrate; 5.8 g fiber; 5.9 g sugar; 8.6 g protein; 19% vitamin A; 60% vitamin C; 25 % iron

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Warm Shallot Dressing

I love to make my own salad dressings. For one, I get tired of the same old ones I buy at the store, and for two, I tend to like the homemade ones quite a bit more. Some I like to make in a big batch and save in a washed out dressing bottle I keep exactly for this purpose. (To view the recipe for a nice big batch of ridiculously good and ridiculously low fat vegan Caesar dressing, click here) Others I like to whip up at the last minute to eat right away. This recipe falls into the latter category. One batch is perfect for 2 salads. I prefer to use it on spinach, because the dressing is warm and it wilts the spinach just a little bit when you toss it. I like the wilted spinach effect but I don't think it would be the same on mixed greens or romaine or something. The beauty of this dressing is the simplicity. Open a bag of spinach, toss with the dressing and voila, you have a very elegant little salad. Toss on a couple croutons and it's practically restaurant quality. I tend to make this salad a lot when dinner is almost ready and I decide that there aren't enough veggies on the menu. Add this salad to any meal and not only will it seem more elegant, but it will get you a solid dose of vitamin A, vitamin C, iron and calcium.

The instructions are simple:

Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a small sauce pan. Add one shallot, peeled and sliced into thin rounds. Cook until shallots are soft and almost translucent then add 1 tsp. dijon mustard, 1 tsp. sugar, 1/2 Tbsp. cooking sherry and 1/2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar. Keep on the heat until warmed through, then remove and drizzle immediately on spinach. Toss to coat and eat!

We had this just the other night and J raved three or four times about how yummy it was. I have to agree. I know that an entire Tbsp. of olive oil in each serving makes this dressing higher in fat than some others I would choose. While I tend to try to keep the fat content low in most of my meals, I do think it is important to incorporate some healthy fat into every meal...just keep an eye on it. For example, I love to eat avocado on my sandwiches, but if I do that means I can't also have delicious Wildwood Zesty Garlic Aioli, because both are high in fat. Likewise, this dressing is great, but only if the rest of the meal is low in fat. Which is why I love to toss on a few fat free croutons and a few grinds of black pepper and leave out any avocado, nuts, pumpkin seeds or any other delicious yet fattening salad toppings. Enjoy!

Nutrition Facts: 1 serving = 1/2 recipe of dressing and 3 cups raw baby spinach. 158 calories, 14.4 g fat (2 g sat), 0 mg cholesterol, 156 mg sodium, 8.4 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 4.8 g sugar, 2.8 g protein.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Leek and Sweet Potato Gratin

A couple of days ago, I received my absolute favorite issue of Vegetarian Times each year: the January issue. I love January issues of most things because they figure everyone is on a diet now and recipes and articles tend to be health focused. Just being vegan does not automatically make you healthy. Contrary to the beliefs of many, you can be very unhealthy and get very fat as a vegan, just as you can as an omnivore. I find that many vegan recipes rely heavily on margarine, oils, fake cheese, nuts etc. All of these are fine in moderation, but not in large doses in my opinion. For this reason you will not see me whipping up big bad vegan chocolate cakes very often or dipping chips in big batches of cashew "cheese."

Anyway, in January Vegetarian times always has a lot of light, healthy recipes and I tend to like trying as many as possible. This dish, Leek and Sweet Potato Gratin, was my first new recipe of the new year and I'm very happy with the results. I did make a few adjustments to the original recipe, which are reflected below. This is a perfect side dish for a savory fall or winter meal. It would be great at Thanksgiving and ideal for entertaining. Tonight we actually paired it with a random assortment of leftovers because our poor little fridge is bursting at the seams with all the food I made over the long weekend. Not very glamorous, but practical nonetheless. First gather the ingredients:

1 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
4 medium leeks, white and light green parts
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 1/2 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/8-inch thick slices
1/3 cup vegetable broth
3 Tbsp. Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Begin by cutting each leek lengthwise and then slicing rather thin crescents. I find that the only way to truly get a leek clean of sand and grit is to slice it and then soak it in a bowl of water. Try to break apart the layers with your hand while the leeks float around. The dirt will sink to the bottom and you can just grab the clean leeks out with your hands.

Heat 1/2 Tbsp. of olive oil in a skillet and add leeks, garlic and 1 1/2 Tbsp. of the rosemary. Saute for about 8-10 minutes until softened and season with salt and pepper. Take a 10-inch round casserole dish and spray it with cooking spray. Arrange 1/3 of the sweet potato slices on the bottom of the dish and top with 1/2 of the leek mixture. Repeat by making a second layer of sweet potatoes topped with the remainder of the leek mixture. Cover the leeks with a final layer of sweet potatoes and drizzle the vegetable oil over everything. Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake in the over for about 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the breadcrumbs with 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil and the remaining 1 Tbsp. of rosemary. I didn't actually have Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs, so I mixed in a few appropriate Italian spices with my plain breadcrumbs. It worked just fine of course. After the 35 minutes, remove the foil and sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top of the entire dish. Return to the oven for an additional 15 minutes until the breadcrumbs are golden brown.

This dish was much more flavorful than I had expected. I worried that it might be a bit bland, but the sweet and savory combination worked extremely well. J had one suggestion which I liked very much, which was to add a few toasted slivers of almond to the topping as well. A little bit of crunch to add a different texture would probably enhance the dish, and the nutty flavor of almonds would work very well with the breadcrumbs. Next time I make it, I may add some almonds as well. Yum. Thanks Vegetarian Times, we are off to a good year together.

Nutrition Facts: 1 serving = 1/4 of recipe. 170 calories; 3.8 g fat (0.6 sat); 0 mg cholesterol; 78 mg sodium; 31.9 g carbohydrate; 4.5 g dietary fiber; 10.5 g sugars; 3.5 g protein; 386% Vitamin A; 44% Vitamin c; 9% Calcium; 12 % Iron.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Favorite Food: Crispy Kale Chips

As you know, kale is one of my favorite foods. It's one of those incredible and rare situations where something that is amazingly good for you is also amazingly delicious. And it doesn't get enough attention. I bet if I sampled 20 people I know, at least half of them would have never prepared kale at home - maybe even more than half. One of my resolutions this year is to change that (I'm only half kidding)! Maybe your new year's resolution should be to eat kale once a week. I promise I'll be featuring it on this blog more often, so I'll give you plenty of ideas for how to prepare it. In fact, I just realized that my post yesterday had kale in it too! If you didn't read it, check out these delicious Potato and Kale Enchiladas.

Now kale is great in many things, soups being primary among them, but my absolute favorite way to eat it is virtually alone. You can steam it, braise it, saute it or bake it. This preparation is a lot of fun and is super easy. Give this a try the next time you are craving potato chips. Seriously. Bust out a half recipe of these and eat them when they are still hot right off the baking tray. You will forget all about those Ruffles and you will have done your body a big favor.

The recipe could not be more simple:

1 medium bunch of kale
1 Tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to about 350 degrees. Wash the kale leaves and remove the tough stems. Pat the leaves dry and cut into large bite size pieces. Toss kale with 1 Tbsp. olive oil and mix well with your hands to distribute the oil evenly. Spread the kale leaves on a large baking tray and put it in the oven. Cook for 10 minutes, then toss with a large spatula or kitchen tongs. Cook for an additional 5 minutes or until kale is crispy and just barely turning brown. Season with salt and pepper and eat! These chips are a great side for just about any dish. This picture shows them with Smothered Cauliflower and Potatoes, but the options are limitless. To be honest, these guys almost never even make it to the table in our house - we just stand over the stove and eat them. These also taste good cold, so if you don't eat them immediately, you can save them for a little later. I don't recommend saving them until the next day though because they will lose their crunch.

The nutrition facts for this baby will blow your mind. 1 serving = half of the recipe. 159 calories; 8.2 g fat; 1.1 g saturated fat; 0 mg cholesterol; sodium varies depending on how much salt you use; 20.1 g carbohydrate; 4 g dietary fiber; 0 g sugars; 6.6 g protein. Did you get that? 6.6 g of protein in a little vegetable snack! That is MORE protein that is found in a hard boiled egg (but without the 211 mg of cholesterol mind you)! And the vitamins in a serving of this stuff? 618% of your daily recommended Vitamin A; 402% of your recommended Vitamin C; 27% of your recommended Calcium and 19% of your recommended iron. Not bad!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Invariably Vegan Changes in 2011!

I'm still on vacation from work for one more day, so I've had extra time to think about food, to cook food, to eat food and of course to blog about food. I'm excited about some changes I'm making on the blog. While I definitely slowed down during the busy season at work, the next several months are the off season, which means I get home from work at a reasonable hour most days and therefore have the time and energy to cook dinner much much more often. Looking ahead, I'm excited to spend more time on the blog and more time developing my own recipes and trying new ones from my many cookbooks. I have a number of positive changes in mind for the coming months, and I'll be sure to let you know about them as they occur.

For starters, you can now reach this blog at invariablyvegan.com! I'm still creating and hosting the site on Blogger, but it is now easier for you to remember and find! Please change your bookmarks to invariablyvegan.com rather than the blogspot address. My plan is to move the site off of Blogger at some point in the near future, so save yourself the trouble now and start accessing from invariablyvegan.com. Yippee!

I am also finally taking some much needed steps forward in my food photography. I don't need to be told that many of the pictures up until this point have not been of the highest quality ;) I've never been a photographer and with most of my time spent on the actual food itself, the photos are often an afterthought. Well, you will be happy to learn that I am taking (baby) steps towards fixing that. I've been doing a bit of reading and a bit of playing around in iphoto...hence the somewhat better photos in the Hoppin' John and Enchilada posts. The most exciting improvement is yet to come...I finally invested in a set of lights. Because I do my cooking at night and actually eat it for dinner (as opposed to the lucky people out there who get to do this for a living and spend hours styling and photographing in daylight), my photos are taken when it is dark out and thus no natural light is available. The lights are in the mail (or perhaps have already been delivered to my office), so hopefully within several posts, the photos will look even clearer and more delicious than ever. I can't wait!

I have also decided to start posting the nutrition facts for each of the recipes at the end of the blog entry. For the most part, what sets what I cook aside from many other vegans and non-vegans alike is how healthy it is. I'm excited to show you for each recipe how low in fat, how high in fiber and how adequate in protein each of the recipes are. Also, never hurts to show off that every single recipe on this blog has 0 mg of cholesterol!

Many other exciting changes are in the works as well... so stay tuned! Now enough of this boring stuff and on with the food!

Potato and Kale Enchiladas with Homemade Chile Sauce

Enchiladas are delicious. They might be my favorite type of Mexican food, period. The problem (and probably the reason I like them so much as well) is that if you try to order vegetarian enchiladas at a restaurant, the only thing they seem to be able to replace the meat with is cheese. I've even tried to bargain with them before - I'm not picky...fill them with rice, beans, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, onions...any old thing you have back in the kitchen! But apparently that's not possible, and because I (and my cholesterol) prefer to stay away from huge globs of greasy cheese, I never get to order the enchiladas. SO, I must make my own.

Today I made one of two enchilada recipes that we eat on a very regular basis. The other is a bean/corn etc. type of enchilada assembled as a casserole. I'll certainly blog about that one at some point, but today I made a different one that is somewhat more time consuming. I had loads of time, so it wasn't a problem. This recipe comes from one of the greatest vegan cookbooks ever written, Veganomicon. If you just buy one vegan cookbook, that's the one I recommend. The key to these enchiladas is the potato and kale filling. It's tangy and smoky and has the perfect toothsome texture I look for. The corn tortillas cook in the warm, spicy sauce until they are so tender they fall apart and the filling provides the needed backbone for the dish. Let's get started by assembling the ingredients:

For the Enchilada Chile Sauce:
1 onion, diced
3 large green chiles (anaheim or italian style)
3 tsp. chile powder
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp marjoram or oregano
2 15-oz cans of diced tomatoes (fire roasted preferred)
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt

For the Potato and Kale Filling:
1 pound yukon gold potatoes, diced
1 bunch kale, washed, trimmed and chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/4 cup vegetable broth
3 Tbsp. lime juice
1 1/2 tsp salt
12 corn tortillas

First start on the sauce. I actually did this several hours before I made the rest of the dish, just to give myself a head start. The first project is to roast, peel and seed the peppers. If you've never roasted peppers at home, please don't be scared. It's the easiest thing in the world and it happens to be super fun. You need to have a gas stove (which I happen to have and could never live without) or else I'm not sure how you do this exactly. Anyway, just turn on a burner or two and put the peppers right there on the grates. Keep and eye on them so you don't burn down the house, but just turn them every now and then so the outsides get equally charred everywhere. I took this picture when I was about halfway done roasting so you can see exactly what happens. When the outsides are mostly black, put the peppers in a plastic ziplock bag and wait about 10 minutes. By that time, the skins will literally peel right off the peppers easily. Cut each one open, remove the seeds and roughly chop.

Next, in a large saucepan, saute the onions for about 5 minutes until soft. Add all of the remaining sauce ingredients and bring to a simmer. Simmer the mixture for a couple of minutes, then remove from heat and set aside. Once the sauce has cooled enough, put it in a food processor and blend until smooth. It will take a while of blending to get the sauce fairly smooth, so don't rush it.

Next prepare the filling. Boil the potato cubes in water for about 20 minutes until quite tender. The original recipe said to peel them but I see no point. I love potato peels and the skins on yukon golds are so fine that you don't even notice them. Drain the potatoes and set aside. Saute the garlic in a large pot for about 1 minute, then add all of the kale with a sprinkle of salt. Mostly cover the pot and cook about 5 minutes until the kale has wilted. Remove the lid and add all remaining ingredients. Mash up the potatoes with a pastry blender until chunky, but not whole pieces. Cook the entire mixture for about 3 minutes while stirring to mix all ingredients. Now preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Now it's time to assemble. Set up a little assembly line in this order left to right: A shallow dish with about a cup of the enchilada chile sauce in it; Stack of 12 corn tortillas; empty dry skillet over medium heat; Potato-kale mixture; Baking dish with about 1/2 cup of enchilada chile sauce in it. I like to use 2 Pyrex 25 x 16 cm dishes because they are the exact perfect size for 6 enchiladas. This way we can eat one dish and save the other for the next day...or give the other dish to a friend. Go ahead and improvise though with whatever size dishes you have. Take the first tortilla and heat it about 30seconds on each side in the dry skillet. This softens up the tortilla so it's ready to bend. Coat the tortilla lightly with sauce by dipping it in the shallow dish on each side. Then place 1/12 of the potato kale mixture
in the tortilla and roll it up. Place the roll in the casserole dish and repeat until all 12 tortillas are used. Pour the remaining enchilada sauce over the rolls and cover each dish with aluminum foil. Bake the dishes for about 35 minutes and allow to cool slightly before serving. I garnished these with a few toasted pumpkin seeds for a little extra crunch. Yum.

Don't be afraid if the enchiladas fall apart a little bit during serving. The taste more than makes up for the lack of glamour. I just love the tangy, chewy flavor of this filling, and to think I'm replacing that fatty, cholesterol-ridden cheese with something as healthy as potatoes and kale! Who knew! Try this dish, and I bet it will be one of your favorites too.

Nutrition Facts: 1 serving = 2 enchiladas or 1/6 of recipe. 236 calories; 1.5 g fat; 0.1 g saturated fat; 0 mg cholesterol; 565 mg sodium; 51.8 g carbohydrate; 8.8 g dietary fiber; 8.7 g sugars; 9 g protein.

New Year's Day: Hoppin' John with Collard Greens

Happy 2011! Yesterday was New Year's Day, so what else could I possibly make other than collard greens and black eyed peas? Collards are kind of a neglected green in our house, compared to it's more popular relative, kale. We eat kale at least once if not more times every week. It's actually in the works for two dishes this week. I end up using collards much less frequently, but this dish is one of the several ways that we really enjoy them. This time of year is the best time for the dark leafy greens - they are in season and incredibly healthy. This preparation doesn't overcook the greens, leaving most of their delicious nutrients intact.


Usually, I start this dish earlier in the day or even the night before by preparing my rice and black eyed peas. Sometimes, if I'm making rice earlier in the week I'll just save out a couple of cups of it for use in this recipe later in the week. This really cuts down on prep time when you actually make this for dinner.

However you do it, start off with about 1 1/2 cups of cooked brown rice and 1 1/2 cups of cooked black eyed peas. You can buy them in the can, but I tend to think they are much too mushy that way. Trader Joe's sells them in the refrigerated section already steamed, and those are not bad. Most of the time I just cook them from dry beans, which takes a lot of time but tends to have the best results. This time, I didn't have much extra time and I found a great new item in the grocery store. These black eyed peas are by Melissa's brand (which I love) and are partially pre-cooked. Just put them in a pot of boiling water and boil for 10 minutes to cook them the rest of the way. The result is perfectly cooked, al-dente peas in a tiny fraction of the time. Nice.

Once you have your rice and peas ready, put a large pot
of salted water on to boil and assemble the rest of your ingredients:

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, divided
2 Tbsp. honey
2 tsp. olive oil, divided
1 1/2 tsp. chili powder, divided
1 tsp salt, divided
2-3 shakes liquid smoke
Hot sauce, to taste
2 large bunches of collard greens, washed and chopped
4 slices smart bacon
1 onion, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice
1 1/2 cups cooked black eyed peas

Whisk together 2 Tbsp. of the vinegar, honey, 1 tsp. olive oil, 1 tsp.chili powder, 1/2 tsp. salt, liquid smoke and hot sauce. I use Tapatio hot sauce for this because it's something I always have around, but you can use whatever kind you like best. Meanwhile, put the collards in the rapidly boiling salted water for 15 minutes. Drain, reserving about 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 tsp. of olive oil and saute the smart bacon, onion, celery, garlic and remaining 1/2 tsp. chili powder. Cook everything for 5-10 minutes until tender. Add the cooked collard greens, 1/4 cup reserved cooking liquid, 2 Tbsp. vinegar and remaining 1/2 tsp salt. Cover and cook about 10 minutes until greens are tender.

Heat a separate skillet and add the rice and peas, remaining 1/4 cup cooking liquid and the vinegar/honey/spice mixture. Cook until everything is heated through and the liquid is soaked into the rice. At this point, be sure to taste both the rice/peas mixture and the collards mixture. Adjust seasonings as desired. You can serve the collards over the rice or you can mix the entire thing together.

I can't think of a better way to start the year than a delicious and healthy meal of cooked greens and beans and rice. The flavor combination of spicy, tangy, smoky and sweet makes this dish a sure winner. Let's see...maybe one of my New Year's resolutions should be to eat more collards.

Nutrition Facts: 1 serving = 1/3 of the rice and beans mixture topped with 1/3 of the collards mixture. 415 calories; 8g fat; 1.9 g saturated fat; 0 mg cholesterol; 492 mg sodium; 68.9 g carbohydrate; 14.3 g dietary fiber; 25.7 g sugars; 20.2 g protein.