Thursday, March 31, 2011

Brandon's Chana Masala

Just picked up a copy of Molly Wizenberg's book, A Homemade Life. She's one of my favorite food bloggers who, along with her husband Brandon (a vegetarian she met through her blog, Orangette), are living proof that omnivores and herbivores can live happily ever after in the same kitchen. Way to go guys!

So this is actually Brandon's recipe that Molly put in her book and it consistently gets rave reviews. Don't be intimidated by the ingredient list - this seriously simple and fabulously filling one-pot wonder is beyond bursting with flavor. It's even better the next day after the flavors have marinated.

1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground corriander
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon garam masala (optional if you can't find it but sooo good if you can!)
3 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 cup water
One 28-oz can whole peeled tomatoes (crushed or diced work as well)
1 tablesppon coarsely chopped cilatnro
Pinch of cayenne or red pepper flakes, or to taste
Two 15-oz cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/3-1/2 cup plain (soy) yogurt
Lemon wedges for serving (optional)

Pour the olive oil into a Dutch oven and carmelize the onion over medium heat. Stir occassionally but let it stew. Even a little charring is ok - the more color, the more flavorful the final result.

Reduce heat to low and add the garlic, cumin seeds, corriander, ginger, garam masala, cardamom pods and salt. Stir constantly until fragrant and toasty, about 30 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of water and stir. Scrape up the yummy brown bits from the bottom and cook until the water has evaporated completely.

Your kitchen should be smelling heavenly right about now.

Now pour in the tomatoes - if you're using the whole tomatoes, either break them apart with your hands as you add them or crush them in the pot with a masher. Raise the heat to medium and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to simmer, add cilantro and cayenne and continue to cook, stirring occassionally, until the mixture reduces a bit and begins to thicken. Add the chickpeas, stir well, and cook over low heat for another 5 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of water and cook a few minutes more until it is absorbed. According to the recipe, the process of adding and cooking off water helps to concentrate the sauce's flavor and makes the chickpeas more tender. Kind of the same concept as the secret to a great risotto. Taste, and adjust the seasonings as needed.

Stir in the yogurt if you like (I used a dollop as garnish instead) or you can leave that out and serve with the lemon wedges instead. Either way, sprinkle with a pinch of garam masala and some chopped cilantro.

I found some delicious artisanal olive bread to serve it with, but any nicely toasted or crusty bread will do.

 Buon appetito!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Stylish Bloggers

WOW! My first award. Super YAY!

Thanks so much to the Vegan Mom who gave it to me!

I'm honored that my little blog is getting so much attention and would like to take this opportunity to pay it forward.

I always struggle with awards because there are so many great sites and I feel bad leaving anyone out, so for now I will focus my homage on seven other blogs that I follow consistently and are my personal go-tos when I need inspiration.

Drum roll please...

First up is Jennifer at Sweet on Veg - her delicious discoveries and magical inspirations always brighten my day and one of her photos helped to launch this blog.

Next is Isa at the Post Punk Kitchen. She makes veganism just plain cool. Just ordered her Veganomicon cookbook - can't wait!

Allyson's Manifest Vegan is a gorgeous site with great vegan recipes and for raw food fans, you will love Susan's Rawmazing site.

Another favorite site is All This Is Grace & Charm, with its witty writing and whimsical photos. You won't find many vegan recipes (Carly is one of my favorite omnivores) but then again, there's more to life than food!

I must also give props to Aine from PeaSoupEats - her blog is simple, but her style shows through - and her recipes are delish!

And last but not least, Amy's dessert recipes on Fragrant Vanilla Cake produce some of the most gorgeously decadent results you will ever see!

Bravissima ladies - very well done!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Vanilla Lavender Oatmeal

Photo and recipe courtesy of Healthy Slow Cooking
Perhaps this is just a futile attempt to push Spring along, but I seem to be on some kind of bizarre lavender kick. In any case, I can't wait to try this!

This recipe uses a smaller slow cooker that’s 1-1/2 to 2 quarts and makes 2-3 servings.

1/2 cup steel-cut oats (they have a gluten-free one as well)
2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon culinary lavender (food grade)
1 – 2 tablespoons sweetener (vanilla sugar would be lovely)

Vanilla Creme Topping (optional)
3 tablespoons vanilla coconut yogurt mixed with the paste scraped out of 1/2 vanilla bean

The night before: Spray your crock with some oil to help with clean up later. Add oats, milk, lavender and vanilla extracts. Cook on low over night (7 to 9 hours).

In the morning: Stir your oatmeal well. It may seem watery at the top but if stirred it should become a more uniform consistency. Stir in sweetener. Top each serving with the vanilla creme topping. It will add sweetness and extra vanilla flavor. What a delicious way to start the day!

NOTE: whilst fresh lavender always looks lovely in a photo, personally I don't recommend it as an edible garnish. The flavor is a little too fresh and can taste a bit "soapy" if it doesn't have time to marinate a bit.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Lovely Thought

What a lovely thought to warm up a cold winter day.

Photo and artwork courtesy of the beautiful Chandi Rose

Friday, March 4, 2011

Spicy Winter Vegetable Curry

Mom is totally on the program and this is one of her favorites. I made a few substitutions to help her ease up on the cholesterol but either way, this is a winner!

3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I've been using water to saute and it works well)
1 small vidalia onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons ground cumin
1-1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
4 teaspoons curry powder
4 teaspoons garam masala (optional)
a 1-inch piece fresh ginger root, peeled and minced
2 teaspoons salt
14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
15 oz can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained
15 oz can peas, drained (we forgot these  - and but I also recommend using fresh peas)
14 oz can coconut milk (for a lower fat/cholesterol version, we used vanilla soy milk)
Scallions to garnish

Place potatoes into a large pot and cover with salted water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until just tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and allow to steam dry for a minute or two.

Meanwhile, heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in the onion and garlic; cook and stir until the onion has softened and turned translucent, about 5 minutes. If you use water you'll have to stir more - just keep adding it until the veggies are cooked as you like.

Season with cumin, cayenne pepper, curry powder, garam masala, ginger, and salt; cook for 2 minutes more. Add the tomatoes, garbanzo beans, peas, and potatoes.

Pour in the coconut (or vanilla soy) milk, and bring to a simmer. Simmer 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with scallions for a touch of green - especially if you forgot the peas like we did!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Lavender Fudge with Vegan Vanilla Marshmallows

I'm not sure which I'm more excited about: the lavender fudge or the vegan vanilla marshmallows that make it possible!

This recipe calls for evaporated milk but I prefer condensed milk instead - both of which can be made dairy-free. Using condensed milk makes it impossible to strain the lavender but so far everyone loves it so I'm sticking with it. They turn out pretty sweet this way but you can cut the sweetness by using half light and half dark chocolate or use all semi-sweet.

I make these as a reward for getting through 30-day cycles of sneaky veganism. Definitely not the healthiest thing you'll find on this site so enjoy it in moderation. The last batch lasted us a month and that was after giving half of it away!

1 cup evaporated or condensed milk (here's a vegan recipe)
1 tablespoon dried lavender (be sure it's food grade - better yet, grow your own!)
1-1/2 cups sugar (regular or raw cane work equally well)
2 tablespoons "butter" (Earth Balance makes a good, non-hydrogenated spread)
a pinch of salt
2 cups vegan chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups marshmallows (Sweet & Sara makes yummy gelatin-free vegan marshmallows)

Heat milk in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add dried lavender and heat to simmering. Keep stirring and don't mind any caramelized bits that you scrape off the bottom. Remove from heat, cover and let sit five minutes.

Strain out lavender (unless you used condensed milk). Return to heat.

Add sugar, butter and pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and boil 5 minutes to completely decrystalize the sugar. Remove from heat.

Add marshmallows, chocolate chips and vanilla extract. Stir until thoroughly mixed. The marshmallows and chocolate chips will melt in the heated evaporated milk even though you've removed the mixture from the heat source. Mine don't when I use the condensed milk so just keep them on the fire with constant stirring.

Pour mixture into small greased baking pan. Do not bake! Instead, refrigerate the mixture overnight.

Cut into two dozen fudge pieces and enjoy!

Update: I just made these with evaporated vanilla soy milk (so I could strain the lavender) and semi-sweet chocolate chips. They turned out a little stickier than the condensed milk version with a more intense "cocoa" flavor but there is definitely still a hint of lavender. Try it both ways and let me know what you think - would be interested to know which version is more popular!

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