Wednesday, August 31, 2011

What I Ate Wednesday #3

Woohoohooooo!!! I'm super psyched that it's Wednesday!

Normally it's just another day of the week, but lately it's been oodles of fun meeting new bloggers through the Peas & Crayons blog hop...or link party or whatever the heck you want to call it...

I've been MIA for the past couple of weeks because frankly, I ran into a string of less-than-overwhelming recipes that just weren't post-worthy. On the positive side, I lost 6 pounds...a lovely state of being that I'm sure will be short-lived now that my recipe radar appears to be back in working order, but one that I'm more than happy to trade in for a good meal!

Quinoa and Zucchini have been on my list of favorite things this week - partially because we have a boatload of it in the kitchen but probably more so because Q and Z are my favorite letters besides X, which I also find strangely appealing...

Before anyone bothers to psychoanalyze that too much, here's some of the yumminess that I've been snoshing on this week...

Stuffed Zucchini with Spanish Rice and Vegan Cheese (recipe coming soon)

UH-MAY-ZING Cherry-Zucchini Bread

Zucchini Bread Oatmeal (recipe coming soon!)

E2D Seared Tofu and Sassy Swiss Chard

Quinoa & Black Bean Salad with Orange-Lime Vinaigrette 

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers with Rigatoni Marinara (recipe coming soon!)

If you want to join the party, head over to Peas & Crayons and sign yourself up!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sassy Swiss Chard with Raisins and Pumpkin Seeds

Sooooo here's what became of the two pounds of Swiss chard that we hauled out of the garden yesterday. Please excuse the sad photo - I was too lazy (and hungry) to set up a decent shot. I realize it looks like one big rendolent mess, but it was really quite yummy.

I've been getting quite bored of "recipes" featuring greens cooked in olive oil with some salt and pepper (can one really even call that a recipe??) so I pulled one from yet another new favorite book, Pretty Delicious by Candice Kumai - you might remember her from Top Chef's first season? Although this is almost as simple, it's got some nice nuances that make it look far more complicated than it is.

Anyway, I love this book because like me, she's not a fan of "diet" food, favoring "smart swaps" and delicious real food that keeps calories to a minimum without sacrificing flavor. Most (if not all) of her recipes can be easily "veganized", which is a big fat bonus.


Sassy Swiss Chard with Raisins and Pumpkin Seeds
adapted from Pretty Delicious
Serves 6

2 pounds Swiss chard, stem ends trimmed
1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup golden raisins (I used regular ones since that's what I had, but the golden ones will add a nice color contrast)

Cut the colorful stems from the leaves and slice them cross-wise into 1/4" pieces. Place them in a bowl and set aside.

Next, work in batches to cut the greens into a chiffonade: pile a few on top of each other and roll them lengthwise (think "thick cigar"), then slice them cross-wise into 1/4"-wide ribbons. Place them in a separate bowl, NOT on top of the stems - otherwise you'll have the dig the stems out from underneath like I did. That's what I get for not reading the recipe through first. Lesson learned.

Ahem...toast the pumpkin seeds in a small skillet over medium heat, shaking the pan often, until they're nice and fragrantly toasty, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer to a small non-plastic bowl and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large (really large) non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and salt and cook about 4 minutes, stirring often, until it begins to soften. Next stir in the chard stems and cook those for about 4 minutes until they, too, begin to soften. Then throw in the greens and - you guessed it - stir often. You'll really need to keep stirring to get the fresh stuff down to the cooking surface of the skillet. It looks like an impossible mound but it will eventually cook down. Just keep should only take another 4-5 minutes.

Finally, stir in the raisins and remove from heat. Sprinkle with the lemon juice and turn everything out onto a serving platter. Finish by topping it with the toasted pumpkin seeds and enjoy!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Quinoa & Black Bean Salad with Orange-Lime Vinaigrette

I'm crazy for quinoa these days. Mom bought a monster-sized bag so I've been looking for good uses - and this refreshing salad with a fruity twist is definitely one of them. The sweetness of the mangoes, the brightness of the mint, the kick of the jalapeno and the crunch of the jicama make it a groovy little party in your mouth. Woohoooooo!!!

I've also been obsessed with Clean Food - one of my favorite cookbooks that I left for mom in the hopes that she might divine some inspiration. Alas, she enjoys eating food more than making it so I have reclaimed this little baby for myself. There's something about eating clean that seems to replace cravings for "comfort food" with a ravenous desire to eat loads of fruit and veggies, drink gallons of water and tea, and do insane amounts of yoga - a state of being that I sorely need to get back in touch with.

So far, so good!

Quinoa and Black Bean Salad with Orange-Lime Vinaigrette
Adapted from Clean Food by Terry Walters
Serves 8

3/4 cup quinoa
1-1/4 cups water
pinch of sea salt
3 cups cooked black beans (or 2 cans, drained and rinsed)
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1 mango, peeled, pitted and diced
1 cup jicama, peeled and diced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds (optional)
1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds (optional)

Orange Lime Vinaigrette
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 cup orange juice
2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper

Bring water to a boil and add the quinoa and salt. Cover, reduce heat and simmer until all water is absorbed (about 15 minutes). Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Combine beans, onion, mango and jicama in a large bowl. Fluff the cooled quinoa with a fork, add to bowl and fold gently to combine.

In a small bowl, whisk together the vinaigrette ingredients. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat.

Fold in the tomatoes and seeds just before serving. Deeeee-lishhhhhh!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Vegan Cherry Zucchini Bread

If anyone has been wondering why the posts have been so sparse lately, here's the scoop: I've run into an unusual string of utterly average recipes that, whilst I managed to make them edible, I've not found to be post-worthy. [insert long string of crude expletives here]

Admittedly, many have been based on recipes that attempt to "veganize" something familiar and I'm sorry to say, some things just don't work in vegan form. And before anyone gets all up in my grill about my lack of kitchen skills, let me assure you that I always follow recipes with unfamiliar ingredients with obsessive precision to make sure I don't do them any undue injustice...and because there are few things I find more mortifying than watching someone politely choke down a bad meal that I prepared.

Having said that, this little string of failures has only increased my resolve to find some seriously kick-ass vegan recipes that will knock the smug socks off my family, who is always quick to say, "We told you so!" whenever a vegan recipe fails to transport them to culinary nirvana.

So trust me when I tell you that this next one is a real winner.

In fact, I was feeling so competitive that I also made Anna Getty's non-vegan version from Easy Green Organic and did a side-by-side taste test. Can you guess which one is vegan?

Buon appetito!

Heavenly Cherry Zucchini Bread
Adapted from this recipe at Hell yeah It's Vegan
Makes 1 loaf

3 tbsp ground flax seeds whisked into 1/4 c + 1 tbsp warm water
1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
1/4 cup applesauce
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup grated zucchini, packed
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup dried cherries (or raisins, or apricots or whatever you may fancy)

Preheat the oven to 350. (No, I still don't have an oven of my own. I've been visiting Mom this month!)

Grate your zucchini. Make sure to pack it before measuring.

Mix together flax seed mixture, oil, applesauce, sugar, and vanilla.

Add zucchini and stir till just combined.

In a separate bowl, sift together remaining dry ingredients. Add them to the wet ingredients and stir just until moistened and everything is incorporated evenly; some lumps are fine. Add the dried cherries (or any other fun extras) now.

Bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center of loaf comes out clean. I recommend checking it after 40 minutes.

Let it cool a few minutes before removing and slicing.

Crumble Topping (optional)

If you want to make this a really decadent treat, top it off with this sweet crumble. I don't have a snap of this as I'm really trying to cut out blatantly unnecessary calories these days but I just know it would be heavenly. If you make it, send me a pic and make me insanely jealous!

1/4 cup all purpose flour
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds
2 tablespoons unsalted [vegan] butter

Combine the dry ingredients and cut in the cold butter until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Set aside and sprinkle evenly over the batter just before baking.

Note: I was totally out of sorts yesterday and my process was totally out of order. I actually forgot the zucchini so that didn't get added until I was about to pour it into the pan. Oh, and the egg substitute - the flax seed mixture - yeah, totally didn't see it sitting in the corner until I had already poured the batter in the pan. Despite having made a huge mess remixing and re-pouring, it still turned out great. Curious to see what following the directions yields next time...

Thursday, August 11, 2011

BBQ Portabella Sliders

Photo courtesy of How Sweet It Is

Let me first start off with a confession, lest I be stoned, flogged or otherwise ostracized for pulling a fast one: this is NOT vegan cheese in the photo.


Having said that, the reason I'm sharing this is because these scrumptious little suckers are a great example of a Sneaky Vegan meal (sans or substituting the cheese) that was prepared and posted by Jessica from How Sweet It Is: an awesome blogger who - as a self-outed vegetable hater - is about as far from vegan as one can get and still posts some really amazing vegan and vegetarian stuff.

It just goes to show that great vegan food can be found anywhere - even in the most unlikely of places, kitchens and blogs. So when you're looking for good vegan recipes, definitely check out the usual suspects, but stay open to other "omni-sources". You never know where more yummy nuggets like these might be hiding...

Thanks Jessica - I can't wait to try these!

BBQ Portobello Sliders
recipe courtesy of Jessica at How Sweet It Is
makes 6 sliders

6 baby portobello stuffing mushrooms
6 slider buns
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red onion, sliced
2-3 ounces gouda, sliced into squares (not sure vegan gouda exists, but any vegan cheese will do)
1 avocado, sliced
1/2 cup bbq sauce, for drizzling and dipping

Heat a skillet on medium-low heat and add 1/2 tablespoon olive oil. Add sliced onions with a pinch of salt and let caramelize, stirring occasionally. Cook for about 8-10 minutes, then turn off heat and set aside.

While onions are caramelizing, brush mushrooms with remaining olive oil and sprinkle both sides with pepper, paprika, onion and chili powder. Heat a skillet ( or a grill) on medium heat and cook until mushrooms are juicy and tender – about 5 minutes on each side. With 1-2 minutes remaining, add a slice of gouda on top to melt.

Assemble sliders by placing the mushroom on the bun, then top with onions, avocado, and a hefty drizzle of bbq sauce.

Note from Jessica: if you can’t find slider buns in your local store, just buy dinner rolls. I did this for years before grocery stores actually started selling slider buns!

Update: made these for Mom and they were delish - even with vegan cheese =) Pair them up with these Spiced Sweet Potato Fries and use the Maple BBQ Sauce in that recipe. Heaven!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

What I Ate Wednesday #2

Sooooo y'all wanted to know what a blog hop is, yeah?

From what I understand (in my embarrassingly limited knowledge of the blogosphere), a blog hop is this fun little dealio wherein bloggers convene to introduce themselves and meet other bloggers. One of my personal favorites is "What I Ate Wednesdays" at Peas and Crayons where bloggers are invited to share their meals for the week. Everyone adds thumbnail image links to their blogs and it's a super cool way to find other like-minded bloggers as well as some great new recipes.

So here's what I've been cooking up this week:

Blackberry-Peach Vegan Crepes

Lavender Vanilla Oatmeal

Sun-dried Tomato-Basil Risotto with Balsamico
Raw Vegan Salted Chocolate Truffles
If you've been reading for a while you'll probably notice that a few of these are making repeat appearances. I've been super crazy busy the past couple of weeks and sadly, I haven't had time to play with many new recipes. That's the beauty of having a stockpile of go-to recipes that you know will be winners every time. Got to try them out on some out-of-town guests too and they were surprised, stunned, downright shocked to find out (afterwards) that they were vegan meals. Win Win WIN!

So now that y'all know what a blog hop is, would you guys be interested in sharing links to your recipes here if I start one?
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