Thursday, June 30, 2011

Balsamic Roasted Beets

Whenever I get to wondering whether there's a point to adding any more recipes into the overly-saturated blogosphere, someone sends me a recipe request.

Really, honestly and truly, I can't thank you guys enough for letting me know that this little blog of mine is actually useful to someone out there. Your comments, posts, and retweets are without a doubt what keeps me going. As Paul said to Julia, "You are the butter-like vegan substance to my bread."

Lisa, this is for you. It's my absolute most favorite-est way to prepare beets. I hope you like it!

Balsamic Roasted Beets

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons shallots, thinly sliced (red onion works as well)
1 tablespoon honey maple syrup
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 medium beets, cooked and thickly diced

Line a baking sheet with foil. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Whisk the vinegar, shallots (if ya got ‘em) and honey syrup in a medium bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in the oil. Season the vinaigrette with salt and pepper to taste.

Toss the beets in a small bowl with enough dressing to coat. Place the beets on the prepared baking sheet and roast until the beets are slightly caramelized, stirring occasionally, about 12 minutes. Set aside and cool.

Eat 'em straight up or toss them in a salad. Add some candied walnuts and orange slices and you've got heaven on a plate.

Incidentally, the Bear goes nuts for these! It's like catnip for...uh...Bears.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Warm Butter-Lettuce Salad with Green Garlic and Fresh Peas

This sweet little summer salad got so many lovely comments I wanted to share this super simple recipe:
5 ingredients. 10 minutes. And my salad-hating Bear LOVED it. Win.

Warm Butter-Lettuce Salad with GreenGarlic and Fresh Peas
adapted from Saveur
Serves 2

2 tablespoons vegan butter or olive oil
1 small head butter lettuce, washed and hand-torn into large pieces
2-3 stalks green garlic, thinly sliced (or 2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped)
1 cup of fresh or frozen peas
sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Heat 1 tablespoon vegan butter or olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the garlic, season with salt, and cook, (stirring often) until soft but not browned, about 3 minutes. Turn the heat up to medium, add the peas and cook until they're bright green and tender, about 4 minutes.

Stir in the remaining butter or oil along with lettuce and 1 tablespoon of water, season with salt and pepper. Stir until lettuce is just wilted, about 1 minute, remove from heat and serve with breadsticks or some toasted whole-grain rolls.

Great on it's own or a perfect side dish to this pasta or these fritters.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Tomato-Spinach Tofu Skillet

The Bear was out of town for a couple of days so I took this opportunity to play with some of my vegan cookbooks.

My advice to Sneaky Vegans who want to encourage others to eat more vegan meals has always been this: test recipes that feature any kind of food substitute - soy, seitan, tofu, etc - and make sure it actually tastes good (and not just "good-for-vegan-food" good, I mean the "so-gobsmacking-good-you-want-to-stick-your-head-in-the-bowl-and-bathe-in-it" kind of good) before you try to sneak it past an omni. Sure non-vegan recipes can suck sometimes too, but those seem to be more easily forgiven and quickly forgotten.

Another thing I do when the Bear isn't home is work ridiculously long hours. So the other night I found myself starving to death after realizing that I hadn't eaten since the night before. I had pre-emptively purchased a block of tofu at the beginning of my little husband-holiday so I immediately pounced on this opportunity to use it. I don't use it a lot as I'm not a fan of processed food but the truth is, I actually like tofu. At least when it's in a recipe that's built around it rather than thrown in as a placeholder for something else. It's all about expectations folks.

This is one of the easiest dishes to make and it's wonderfully versatile as you can substitute all kinds of spice blends to vary the flavor. This is one I tried.

Scrambled Tofu
adapted from Vegan with a Vengeance
Serves 2 as a stand-alone meal or 4 for brekkie served with potatoes and toast

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped in 1/2" chunks
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound extra-firm tofu, drained but not necessarily dry
1/4 cup nutritional yeast (optional, as I didn't have any but it was still good!)
1 medium tomato, chopped
2 handfuls of freshly washed spinach

Spice Blend
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed with your fingers
1 teaspoon ground paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric (you can also substitute curry powder)
1 teaspoon salt

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Saute the onions for about 3 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and saute another 2 minutes. Then add the spice blend and mix it all up for another minute. Add 1/4 cup water and deglaze the pan. Be sure to scrape up all the garlic and spices. Yum.

Crumble the tofu and mix it in well. Don't crush or mash it, just fold it in until everything is well combined. Let it cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Lower the heat a bit if you find the tofu is sticking. If you happen to have nutritional yeast (this is still on my list of things to get) this is where you'd mix it in. I'm told it's delicious, but I didn't miss not having it so up to you.

Throw in the chopped tomato and spinach, mixing well to get the spinach cooked down. I realize it's probably easier to saute the spinach first, but doing it at the end keeps it from shrinking into nothingness. Same for the tomatoes, to keep them somewhat in tact rather than reducing them to mush.

Depending on how much water the tofu was retaining, you may need to add splashes of water here and there if it gets sticky. When the veggies are cooked to your liking, serve it up and enjoy.

The bear saw this photo when he came home and wants me to make it for him. So for all the folks out there who think vegan food doesn't look THAT!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Veggie Num Num: Pomegranate Lentil Tart

Photo and Recipe courtesy of Veggie Num Num

If only I had an oven.

For those of you who are lucky enough to have this masterpiece of modern invention in your kitchens, consider treating yourself to this mouthful of amazingness from the fabulous Trudy over at Veggie Num Num.

Lentils. Pomegranate. Mint. Swoon.

I can't imagine a more vivacious combination of flavors. It just screams SUMMER IS HERE!

You can find a printable version of the recipe on her guest post at this gorgeous blog.

Bookmark 'em both folks. They're keepers!

Spicy Lentil Tart with Pomegranate and Mint
Serves 4

1 sheet of ready-rolled puff pastry (thawed)
1 free-range egg lightly whisked or 1/4 cup non-dairy milk
1 cup brown lentils, rinsed
3 cups vegetable stock
2 bay leaves
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 Tbsp pomegranate molasses
2 Tbsp warm water
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp salt flakes or rock salt
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 red onion, finely diced
1 red chili, seeded and finely diced
1/2 cup pine nuts, roasted
1 cup flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1 cup fresh mint, roughly chopped
1 tsp sumac
1/2 pomegranate, seeds only

To serve
1/2 cup tahini paste
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 lemon, juiced
1/2 Tbsp water
Extra lemon wedges

Preheat the oven to 180°C/356°F.

Bring the stock, lentils, bay leaves and cinnamon stick to a gentle simmer in a large pot, allow to cook for 15-20 minutes over a medium/low heat, stirring occasionally until the lentils are tender and liquid absorbed. Remove the bay leaves and cinnamon stick and strain off any excess liquid, set aside.

Grind the black peppercorns, salt flakes or rock salt, cumin, paprika and coriander seeds together in a mortar & pestle or spice grinder to form a fine spice powder.

Combine the pomegranate molasses with the warm water until smooth, set aside.

Lay the thawed puff pastry sheet out on a baking tray, carefully score a 3cm (1 inch) border around the outside and brush with the prepared egg or non-dairy milk being careful not to brush over the score mark.

Place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes until the pastry just begins to puff and golden, remove from the oven and set aside.

Meanwhile fry off the onion in the olive oil for a few minutes over a medium heat in a large frying pan until soft, add the cooked lentils and prepared spice powder and continue to cook for 3-4 minutes over a medium heat.

Add the pomegranate molasses & water mixture and the pine nuts, fry the lentils until they just begin to brown and stick to the bottom of the pan, add the fresh herbs reserving half the mint and stir though.

Spoon the lentil mixture onto the prepared puff pastry sheet, sprinkle over the sumac and return to the oven for 15 minutes until pastry is golden.

Meanwhile whisk the tahini paste with the olive oil, lemon juice and water until smooth.

Remove the tart from the oven a serve sprinkled with pomegranate seeds and reserved mint. Accompany with the tahini dressing and wedges of fresh lemon.

If anyone makes this, PLEASE share the results so I can live/taste vicariously.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Goodies for the Greater Good

We interrupt our regularly scheduled frivolity to bring you breaking news from the outskirts of Chicago:

Word has it that someone is setting up a real live lemonade stand offering lemonade, herbal sun tea, cow-hugger cookies (chocolate chip with oats and toasted pecans) and blueberry lemon muffins. Everything will be "as organic as it can get", Fair Trade and - wait for it - vegan.

All profits from their weekly sales will be equally divided at the end of summer to the following charities: Mercy For Animals, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, Oak Park's Animal Care League and Have a Heart Farm.

Times, locations and other details can be found on the Stand for Kindness blog.

Did I mention that the proprietor is a 9-year old? How awesomely awesome is that?

Even if you don't live in or near Chicago, please stop by his blog and wish him good luck. It's refreshing to see kids channel energy into something besides video games so please take a peek and send him some blog love. Your support would be much appreciated.

If all this talk of treats is making you hungry, make yourself this amazing summer pie, some strawberry-lime pound cake, or try out a new version of avocado chocolate pudding. Or just look at some really pretty pictures of lemonade until you're inspired to make some for yourself.

Oh, and if anyone figures out a way to make any of these yummy treats available via FedEx, please let me know - I'm dying over here without an oven!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

No-bake Brownies with Lemon-Date Frosting

I'm obsessed.

Admittedly I'm more of an avocadoholic than a chocoholic, but these brownies have totally won me over. I'm mostly amazed at the ingredient list because it is completely devoid of anything I would have thought a brownie properly consists of (dairy-free, butter-less, eggless) and a whole bunch of other stuff that I'd never expect. I mean, I've had brownies with fruit and nuts, but never one that was actually made from them.

Oh happy day.

The lemon-date frosting is the kicker. The lemon juice cuts the sweetness of the dates just enough to give it the perfect tang. The lightness is a bonus as well and since it's completely natural, you can pile on as much as you want without feeling like a psychotic sugar monkey. I usually have to make it when I'm alone or the Bear will slurp it all up before it gets anywhere near the brownies.

Hope you enjoy these as much as we do!

No-bake Brownies with Lemon-Date Frosting
Recipe courtesy of Katrine Volynsky via La Vita Saporita

1 cup walnuts
3/4 cup plump raisins (make sure they're pretty fresh - if they're dry they won't stick)
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/8 teaspoon alcohol free vanilla extract
1/3 cup raw chocolate powder or finally ground cacao beans
1/2 teaspoon coconut butter*
1 teaspoon grated raw cacao butter*
* if you don't have these handy, any nut butter (peanut, almond, etc) will work fabulously

Guilt-Free Lemon Date Frosting
1/2 cup lemon juice (I use 2-3 fresh lemons but the bottled stuff works in a pinch)
1/2 cup soaked dates

*FYI - these quantities will not yield Starbucks-super-sized squares so if that's what you're looking for, you might want to double the batch. In a glass baking pan of 18x26cm (7x10in) they end up being about 2cm (1in) thick, which is actually fine because they're really dense.

For those of you who like step-by-step snaps, you can find them here.

Soak the dates for at least 30 minutes. You can remove the pits before or after - up to you.

Meanwhile, process the walnuts, raisins, chocolate powder, and raw cacao butter in a food processor.

Next, add the add vanilla, maple syrup, and coconut butter and blend until batter forms into a ball.

Spread the batter into a glass pan about 1 inch high and place in the freezer for at least 15 minutes.

By now the dates should be gorgeously mushy. Remove the pits (if you haven't already) and blend them with the lemon juice until it's all smooth and creamy.

Spread it on top of the brownies and enjoy these little slices of citrusy-chocolate heaven!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tangy Rhubarb Whips

Photo by Elinor Carucci, Recipe courtesy of Bon Appetit
So I decided it was time to include some kind of pink dessert in my repertoire.

Don't really know why - but dessert sections just never seem quite complete without something pink.

Here's a little something I stumbled across just in time to enjoy the last rhubarb of the season. Similar to my Mascarpone Clouds but fruitier and...well, pink.

I'm partial to yogurt for the extra tang, but you can also use your favorite vegan substitute for heavy cream - here's a link to a cool soy-free recipe.

8 oz fresh rhubarb stalks, trimmed and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices (or 8oz frozen rhubarb, thawed)
1/4 cup of sugar
3 tablespoons orange juice
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
1/2 cup heavy cream (1 cup of vanilla soy yogurt)
1 teaspoon sugar

Bring rhubarb, sugar and orange juice to simmer in medium saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Partially cover pan and cook until rhubarb is very soft, about 6 minutes. Mix in Grand Marnier. Refrigerate until cold, about 15 minutes.

Use an electric mixer to beat the cream and 1 teaspoon sugar in a large bowl until soft peaks form. Cover and chill up to 6 hours. If you opt for yogurt, just fold in the sugar.

To assemble, alternate layers of rhubarb mixture and whipped cream (or yogurt) in 2 large wine goblets or dessert dishes. Using small knife, swirl mixtures together. Serve immediately or refrigerate up to 1 hour.

Happy Summer!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Pumpkin-Parsley Risotto

Photo courtesy of La Vita Saporita

The first runner-up to that other amazing risotto is this lovely bowl of deliciousness.

Although I normally reserve pumpkin-related stuff for the Fall, this weather has been so bizarrely autumnal recently, we decided to celebrate instead of curse it. It actually turned out to be a much lighter dish than I expected, so it's perfect for Spring as well.

I'm happy to report that the same taste-tester who stuck his head in this other pot of gooey goodness was caught sneaking the pot into the kitchen yet AGAIN. Super score!

Pumpkin-Parsley Risotto
Recipe courtesy of La Vita Saporita

1/2 cup olive oil
1-4 shallots (or 1 onion), chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 small bunch Italian (flat) parsley, chopped
1-1/2 cups pumpkin, cubed (500g/1lb)
2 cups risotto rice (300g)
1 cup vino bianco (white wine)
5-6 cups (1.5L) vegetable broth
freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup vegan parmesan (optional)

In a medium saucepan, heat the vegetable broth.

In a separate, heavy-bottomed saucepan, start by making your soffritto. This is the base for every good risotto. Heat the butter or olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the shallots (or onion) and the sea salt - this will help onion soften the onion without browning to keep the flavor delicate. Add the sugar and cook for 3-5 mins. Add the garlic and half the parsley and cook another 3-4 mins, stirring frequently.

Next, add the pumpkin and cook until fork-tender. This could take anywhere form 5-20 minutes, depending on the pumpkin. If it starts to stick, add a few spoons of stock to keep everything loose.

When you can cut through the pumpkin with the side of your wooden spoon, add the rice and saute for 1-2 minutes until the rice is well coated and slightly toasted.

When the rice is slightly translucent or spotted turn up the heat to high and stir for about 30 seconds to keep it from burning before adding the white wine - it should make that great sizzling sound and begin to evaporate immediately.

Then turn the heat back to medium and continue cooking (and stirring) until the wine has evaporated. Add enough stock to cover the rice completely and continue to cook, stirring often, until all the liquid is absorbed.

Add one cup at a time of the remaining stock, and keep stirring until it is absorbed again. It is this act of constant stirring that gives risotto its creamy texture. It is also one of the things that makes risotto such a great group activity, as it permits plenty of time to drink and gossip.

Repeat until the rice is al dente, tender but still very chewy. The consistency should be slightly liquid, somewhere between solid and soupy. Then season with a bit of pepper and check the salt.

If you happen to have some vegan parmesan, you can toss it in at this point or sprinkle it on top for serving. However, don't let anyone, ANYONE (not even great Italian food writers) tell you that risotto gets it's creamy consistency from butter or cheese 'cuz it just ain't so. Master the simple art of stirring and you, too, can be a Risotto Queen!

Spoon it into shallow bowls, sprinkle with remaining parsley and enjoy immediately.
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