True Food Kitchen, Boca Raton, FL

IMG_7215.jpg

True Food Kitchen is a restaurant chain with twenty or so locations throughout the mid to lower section of the United States. We stumbled upon this newly opened restaurant located in the Boca Raton Town Center Mall at lunchtime on a Monday. The dining room and bar were bustling with friendly, energetic denim-clad staff sporting t-shirts with positive one and two-word messages such as “Honest”, “Nurture” and “Shine On”.

The menu boasts a large and seasonal selection of fresh produce-filled dishes, cocktails, health tonics, lemonades and teas featuring freshly juiced fruits and additions such as matcha. We noticed the mixologist never seemed to stop making these beverages the whole time we were there.

The overall scene has an open-air feel to it, relaxed and casual, yet lively with the constant flow of staff carrying beautifully presented and colorful food and drinks through the dining room, which is decorated in a modern eco style with lots of fresh plants surrounding cozy tables and banquettes.

IMG_7207.jpg

The menu offers items marked vegan in almost every category. We were pleased to see a tempeh BLT and dishes featuring healthful whole food protein sources like quinoa, hemp seeds and edamame, just to name a few.

We started with the soup of the day, a simple vegetable minestrone, which we were advised was vegan without the parmesan garnish.

IMG_7212.jpg

For our lunch we shared the vegan grilled artichoke pesto pizza with almond ricotta. The crust was thin, light and crispy, topped with fresh spinach, artichokes and slices of summer squash. The pesto tasted freshly made and the creamy almond ricotta had a bright and clean flavor, with just a hint of lemon. The pizza was definitely large enough for two people to split for lunch with the cup of soup as a starter.

IMG_7213.jpg

The dessert menu offered three vegan selections on this day. Vanilla ice cream, rhubarb crumble, and banana chia pudding.

I know True Food Kitchen will become a standard in our restaurant rotation with its creative vegan dishes, refreshing made to order beverages and excellent service.

Next time we will save room for dessert!

 

Pros: Fresh, creative, vegan menu items, Friendly, energetic staff, Contemporary, spacious decor and casual atmosphere

Cons: High noise level during peak hours, Serves meat

If you don’t already know the website happycow.net, click on this link and get up to speed with the best resource for locating vegan and veg-friendly restaurants, bakeries and stores throughout the U.S.

After stumbling upon this new restaurant in my area with vegan options, I decided to become a happycow.net contributor and added True Food Kitchen. I suggest you do the same and you will be providing a great service to us all!

Vegan Pecan Bars

IMG_0385

Oh, my gosh! Scrolling through my reader the other day I came across this delicious recipe from Kaitlyn at myconsciouskitchen.com and was immediately inspired! I dropped everything and made it my mission to not only bake these sweet, nutty, layered cookie bars, but to photograph the process and post about it!

First, I preheated my oven to 325 and  gathered my ingredients for the bottom layer (the cookie part). I decided I would double up and make this part a bit thicker, kind of like a shortbread crust.

IMG_7531.jpg

Simple, simple. All stuff from the pantry. For the shortening, however, I substituted Earth Balance Buttery Stick.

IMG_7537.jpg

I mixed all the dry ingredients together with the fat, like a biscuit dough, then added the cool water, just until it was well-combined then pressed it out into an 8 x 8 inch pan, lined with a sheet of parchment paper and oiled with cooking spray. I baked it until the crust was firm and lightly browned, like a cookie, then set it aside to cool for about 20 minutes.

IMG_7534.jpg

Next, the ingredients for the filling. The flax egg takes a little forethought, but again, super-simple to put together while the crust cools.

IMG_7545.jpg

I mixed together everything with a whisk, folded in the chopped pecans, then straight in the oven.

IMG_7547.jpg

After 40 minutes, I checked it, then gave it another 5 minutes. It looked perfect. I allowed the pan to cool on a rack for a  couple of hours so I would get nice, clean slices.

IMG_7549.jpg

I ran a knife edge around the inside of the pan before carefully lifting out, then cut into servings.

IMG_0385.jpg

The verdict: Sweet and sticky and delicious! Like a combination of pecan pie and your most tender, buttery shortbread cookie. Perfect served warmed with a scoop of non-dairy vanilla, or as-is. We particularly enjoy a square straight from the freezer!

This one is definitely a keeper! Thanks so much, Kaitlyn! Find the full recipe HERE

 

Vegan Pumpkin (or Sweet Potato) Pie

IMG_0344.jpg

This is hands-down the best pumpkin pie recipe out there! The sweet, creamy filling is firm without being dry, and simple as a smoothie to put together. Perfectly spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves, this pie will be the star of your holiday table!

Vegan Pumpkin Pie

(recipe courtesy Isa Chandra Moskowitz)

Ingredients:

3 cups pumpkin or sweet potato puree ( I used sweet potato here)

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/2 cup soy or other non-dairy milk

4 tsp. canola or other vegetable oil

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. ground ginger

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

pinch ground cloves

1/4 – 1/2 tsp. salt

2 tbsp. cornstarch

1 tsp. agar powder (see note below)

Pastry for 1 single-crust pie

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.

IMG_7473.jpg

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and combine until very smooth.

IMG_7474.jpg

Spread evenly into pie shell and bake in middle of center oven rack for 60-65 minutes.

IMG_7478.jpg

IMG_7479.jpg

Let cool for at least four hours before cutting to allow filling to set. Perfect!

IMG_7491

*Note: Agar powder is a vegetarian substitute for gelatin. If you can’t find it at your local natural foods store, grab it online through amazon.com

 

 

 

 

Banana Oat Pancakes

IMG_4777.jpg

This recipe from our fellow blogger Spencer, has so much going for it!

#1 Whole Foods

#2 No oil or sugar

# Very, very little flour

# Simple mix and pour from the blender!

My pancake consumption has gone down dramatically over the years because they feel so heavy in my tummy and tend to drag down my energy. But when I read Spencer’s recipe I was intrigued, and I had to give it a try.

I’m happy to say I’m back in the pancake game! These are so light and tasty with a yummy banana flavor. They left me feeling satisfied without feeling too full. This recipe is definitely staying in the permanent rotation!

Try a handful of frozen blueberries sprinkled on right before you flip. So delicious!

 

IMG_4765.jpg

Check out the original recipe here at spencersgapyear.wordpress.com

 

David Lynch’s Quinoa With Broccoli

IMG_9287

I found myself inspired the other night by David Lynch’s short film, Quinoa, included as a special feature on his Inland Empire DVD. Filmed in black and white, in his own kitchen, the innovative filmmaker and artist leads us step-by- step through the preparation of one of his favorite dinners, quinoa with broccoli.

IMG_9273.jpg

While the dish cooks, Lynch takes a break on his porch with a glass of wine and a cigarette and tells us a story about his 1965 train ride from Yugoslavia to Italy. So random, yet so fascinating. So Lynch.

IMG_9267.jpg

Quinoa with Broccoli

from the short film, Quinoa by David Lynch

 

Ingredients:

A scant 1/2 cup quinoa, dry

Water for cooking

pinch of salt

1 small vegetable bouillon cube, cut into pieces

3/4 cup organic broccoli florets

Braggs liquid aminos, to taste

Olive oil, extra virgin, to taste

Method:

Fill a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan with about an inch of fresh water. Set it over a nice, hot flame and bring to the boil with a pinch of sea salt. Stir in the quinoa and reduce flame to low. Cover and simmer for 9 minutes.

IMG_9280.jpg

After 9 minutes, lift the lid and add the broccoli. Cover and continue to steam over low heat for another 8 minutes.

IMG_9283.jpg

Remove from heat and add the cut up bouillon cube directly into quinoa and stir until dissolved.

Taste for salt, then add liquid aminos and a splash of olive oil to taste. Serve immediately.

IMG_9291.jpg

Makes 1 large portion.

IMG_9287.jpg

 

 

Vegan Zucchini-Spice Muffins

IMG_7736.jpg

When my day in the kitchen is smooth, I often have a little energy left over to make something just for fun. Today I baked these delicious, moist muffins filled with nutritious real food like fresh zucchini, banana, applesauce, walnuts and raisins. And just in time for tea!

This recipe comes directly from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s website. She’s definitely my go-to gal for the tastiest, fool-proof vegan recipes. Click here to link directly to her site and the recipe: ZUCCHINI BANANA BREAD

IMG_7710.jpg

I made little modification, other than using whole wheat pastry flour, adding a little

chai masala for extra spiciness and baking the batter as muffins instead of in a loaf pan.

IMG_7714.jpg

They baked up in about 20 minutes. Just watch your time. You’ll know when they’re ready–nice high, lightly-browned domes and dry on top, but if you’re not sure just poke a toothpick or the blade of a thin knife through the center to make sure the batter is no longer wet.

IMG_7720.jpg

Hemp Seed Parmesan

IMG_6505.jpg

Here’s a simple three-ingredient addition to pizza, pasta, salads, veggies and anywhere else you want a  sprinkle of savory flavor.

IMG_6498.jpg

Hemp Seed Parmesan

¼ cup Hemp seeds (or hearts)
2 tbsp. Nutritional yeast
¼ tsp. Himalayan Pink Salt

 

IMG_6500.jpg

Blend all ingredients in a food processor. Store in airtight container in the fridge for up to two weeks.

IMG_6521.jpg

Restaurant-Style Marinara

IMG_6771.jpg

The secret for marinara sauce that tastes like it’s been simmering all day? Tomato paste. The savory-sweet intensity adds depth and richness without the hours of slow-cooking.

What I like best about this recipe? It’s simple and quick to prepare. Oh, and no chopping, except for a little clove of garlic, for which you can substitute 1/4 tsp of granulated garlic if you choose.

IMG_6754.jpg

Best Marinara Sauce

Ingredients:

1 teaspoon Olive oil
1 clove Garlic, minced
½ teaspoon Oregano, dried
¼ teaspoon Thyme, dried
½ teaspoon Salt
14.5 ounces diced tomatoes, in juice
1 tablespoon Tomato paste

1. Saute garlic in oil over medium-low heat about 2 minutes.

IMG_6761.jpg

Add tomatoes, tomato paste, herbs, salt and pepper all at once stirring together until tomato paste is incorporated.

IMG_6762.jpg
2. Increase the heat a bit and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring and crushing the tomatoes as you go.

IMG_6763.jpg

If you like a smoother sauce, just scoop out about half, run it through the blender then return to the pot. Easy!

Plant-Based: On The Cheap

IMG_6852.jpg

“I would try the plant-based diet, but I can’t afford it!” A phrase I have heard often. But, it’s a myth that a plant-based lifestyle has to blow your grocery budget. And it doesn’t have to include strange ingredients you’ve never heard of. A healthy, whole food diet can actually be totally the opposite. A simplification.

Keeping in mind the basic foods your body needs  makes shopping so much easier:

  1. Protein (beans, peas and lentils, nuts, nut butters). Remember that one type of bean, legume or nut choice in combination with a grain or healthful vegetables provides enough protein in a meal. There’s no need to overdo it.
  2. Complex Carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, whole grains).
  3. Fats. The health benefits of processed oils is still a controversial subject in the science of nutrition, so I will simply offer that many foods contain naturally occurring fats such as nuts, coconuts and avocado. Choose oils conscientiously and use  sparingly if you are concerned about calories.

IMG_0459.jpg

Here’s a list of healthy and inexpensive foods to get you started:

  1. Apples
  2. Bananas
  3. Brown rice
  4. Creamy natural peanut butter (multi-purpose protein for toast, sandwiches and sauces)
  5. Dried black or other beans (easier to cook than you think. Google it)
  6. Dried lentils (even easier and quicker than beans)
  7. Frozen fruit
  8. Frozen mixed vegetables
  9. Hummus (homemade tastes best and is cheaper if you sub peanut butter for tahini)
  10. Rolled Oats (they micro cook in two minutes)
  11. Russet Potatoes (let me count the ways to prepare this cheap and filling vegetable)

IMG_1724 (1).jpg

Although a constantly rotating variety of produce (eating the rainbow, as they say) is ideal, it is not within everyone’s budget. It’s okay to eat apples and bananas all week. The point is, you are eating fruit! You are getting vitamins and fiber, water and minerals. All good stuff!  It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

Sometimes you will splurge on the raspberries or juicy peaches in season. And it will actually be a treat, because your flavor palate is now accustomed to the natural sweetness of fruit sugar, as opposed to all the jacked-up laboratory produced sweeteners in processed snacks. It actually prefers it.

IMG_0852.jpgThe food industry is always coming out with new products. And that’s just what they are. Products, that are processed. Not whole and healthy foods in their natural state. There’s nothing wrong with these products as long as they are kept in perspective–as only the smallest part of our overall caloric intake.

Upcoming posts will feature recipes and ideas for simple and delicious meals that make going plant-based a sustainable choice without breaking the bank!

 

 

Hearts of Palm Cakes with Tomato-Caper Remoulade

Image Credit: Melanie daPonte

This recipe is hands-down the menu item my clients request most often! Light, but filling these vegetable cakes are actually loaded with protein in the form of quinoa flakes that help hold it all together.

With a little fresh greenery and a bit of sauce, you’ve got yourself a meal!

HEARTS OF PALM CAKES

(6 servings)

14 OZ HEARTS OF PALM, DRAINED
1 STALK CELERY
½ CUP CARROT, DICED
½ CUP ONION, RED, DICED
½ CUP BELL PEPPER, RED, DICED
2 TBSP PARSLEY, FLAT LEAF, CHOPPED
2 TSP OLD BAY SEASONING
1.5 OZ VEGANAISE
1 CUP QUINOA FLAKES

1.DRAIN HEARTS OF PALM AND LIGHTLY PULSE IN FOOD PROCESSOR, PRESERVING TEXTURE. TRANSFER TO LARGE MIXING BOWL. :

2.PULSE VEGETABLES TO CHOP AND ADD TO BOWL WITH HEARTS OF PALM. MIX IN VEGANAISE, SEASONING AND QUINOA FLAKES. LET REST, REFRIGERATED FOR AT LEAST 20 MINUTES.:

3. FORM INTO PATTIES AND BAKE ON GREASED PARCHMENT IN 400 DEGREE OVEN 15 MINUTES, THEN FLIP AND SPRAY WITH OIL, BAKING ANOTHER 15 MINUTES, UNTIL FIRM.

Tomato-Caper Remoulade

¼ cup Vegan Mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Chili sauce or ketchup
1 ½ teaspoons Mustard, Creole
1 ½ teaspoons Olive oil
¾ teaspoon Hot sauce
1 ½ teaspoons Lemon juice
¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 med Scallion, chopped
1 ½ teaspoons Parsley, flat leaf
1 ½ teaspoons Olives, green, chopped
1 ½ teaspoons Celery, chopped
¼ clove Garlic, minced
⅛ teaspoon Chili powder
¼ teaspoon Salt
⅛ teaspoon Pepper, black
¼ teaspoon Capers, minced

Mix all ingredients together by hand and allow flavors to blend for 30-60 minutes before serving.

Tofu Vindaloo

This is a spicy Indian dish I decided to prepare without any added oil. It turned out  tasty and well balanced, served with a fluffy timbale of fragrant jasmine rice.

Tofu Vindaloo

Recipe adapted from the cookbook,

“Vegan Planet” by Robin Robertson

3 garlic cloves, peeled

1/1/2 tablespoons peeled and chopped fresh ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

1/2 teaspoon cayenne

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

3 tablespoons water

One 16 oz. pkg. extra-firm tofu, drained and diced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 large yellow onion, chopped

1/2 large carrot, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4 inch-thick half-moons

1 small red bell pepper, seeded and diced

One 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes, undrained

1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed

1 cup water, or more as needed

Method:

In a blender or food processor, combine the garlic, ginger and spices with 1 tablespoon of water. Process until smooth and set aside. Very lightly spray a non-stick skillet with cooking spray and heat to medium high. Add the diced tofu and sear until nicely browned. This may take up to 10 minutes. Move the tofu around carefully to brown evenly. Remove tofu from skillet and set aside. Season with salt and pepper.  Add 2 tablespoons water to the pan and heat until bubbly. Add onions and carrot, cover, and cook until softened. About 5 minutes. Add red pepper, cover, and cook until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add the spice paste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes and juice and 1 cup water and bring to boil.

Reduce the heat to low and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Cover and simmer until vegetables are tender. Add the peas and tofu and heat through. This sauce may be served chunky or smooth. If you prefer a smooth sauce, use an immersion blender before adding the peas and tofu.

Artisan Vegan Frankfurters

IMG_7520

What can I say? I grew up like most American kids. Hot dogs were most definitely on the menu. Nowadays, they are definitely not. The conventional version anyway. Every once in awhile I get a hankering for that good old-fashioned frank on a bun experience. There are various brands of vegan dogs on the market, but I thought I would try this recipe because it is quite simple and natural and uses pantry items I have on hand.

These are quite good and easy to make, with a pleasant background flavor of cornmeal, reminiscent of corn dogs (another old favorite). We both actually like them better than any brand I’ve tried. Definitely cheaper than store-bought and you can adjust the sodium and flavorings to your liking.

Artisan Vegan Frankfurters

recipe courtesy Heather Bell and Jenny Engel of Spork Foods

as published in Veg News magazine, July-August 2017

Ingredients:

1 (12-ounce) package extra firm tofu, pressed and crumbled

1/4 cup finely ground yellow cornmeal

1/2 cup vital wheat gluten flour

1 tbsp arrowroot powder

2 tbsp safflower oil ( I used canola)

3/4 tsp liquid smoke

1 1/2 tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce

1 1/2 tbsp sugar

1 1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp smoked paprika

1/2 tsp ground mace

1/2 tsp mustard powder

IMG_7483

Method:

In large food processor add all ingredients and process until a dough forms.

IMG_7486.jpg

Cut eight 4 x 6 inch pieces or parchment paper and eight pieces of aluminum foil the same size.

IMG_7484.jpg

Roll the dough into a ball on a clean surface and flatten slightly. Cut into 8 equal pieces then form each piece into a hot dog shape.

IMG_7489.jpg

Roll each dog in parchment and twist ends. Then roll each piece in foil, twist and trim ends if necessary.

IMG_7490.jpg

IMG_7494.jpg

Place rolls in an electric steamer or a colander over a simmering pot of water on the stove to create a steamer (covered). Steam 45 minutes.

IMG_7515.jpg

Don’t forget the buns!

 

 

 

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

IMG_2390

Every once in awhile, I am moved to pull out  various appliances and put them to work, such as the waffle iron, pasta machine, ice cream maker. It’s a fun weekend endeavor, when I have time, to enjoy the satisfaction of making something “from scratch” that I usually buy.

With the convenience of every flavor under the sun available at our local Whole Foods Market, making ice cream at home may seem like quite the ambitious undertaking.

vanilla

It is actually as easy as making a smoothie or anything else you might run through the blender, if you have a quality ice cream maker. Nothing else provides that essential smooth, frozen consistency.

I always keep my freezer bowl frozen for those times when an ice cream recipe will catch my attention. This recipe from “Crazy, Sexy Kitchen” by Kris Carr looked so simple, and I had all the ingredients on hand, so I just had to give it a try.

machine

I adapted the recipe slightly by substituting four medjool dates for the agave nectar. In the end, though, I added  a squirt of agave to give it just a bit more sweetness.

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

1 can coconut milk

1/2 cup raw cashews

1 vanilla bean, scraped (or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract)

1/3 cup agave nectar (or five medjool dates, pitted and sliced)

1/2 cup water

Pinch sea salt

datesMethod:

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Cover and  refrigerate until very cold and to soak the cashews (at least four hours, overnight, if possible). Make sure your ice cream maker’s freezer bowl is completely frozen.

Pour mixture into a blender and puree until very smooth. Taste for sweetness and add more agave to suit your taste, if desired.

start

Before

Freeze mixture in ice cream maker, according to manufacturer’s instructions.

done

After

Two Bean and Bulgar Chili

chili

I came across this recipe, while sifting through a drawer. It was a page torn from one of those little paperback supermarket cookbooks at the register called “Meatless Meals”.

There is a handwritten note beside the recipe, “Steve’s favorite 2005”. This little memory jog took me right back to that year when I first met the man who would become my husband, though neither of us knew it yet.

I am really glad this recipe was Steve’s favorite back in 2005, because that was long before we  became vegan. What an evolution together, over time, to a more compassionate lifestyle, a deeper enjoyment of food and a more humble appreciation for nature.

I am ever grateful for my husband’s love and support on my personal and professional journey, and I can’t imagine a better partner with whom to share the ride.

Frame-15-05-2018-08-53-18

Two-Bean and Bulgar Chili

1 tablespoon oil

1 medium carrot, chopped

1 medium green bell pepper, chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups water

1/2 cup uncooked bulgar wheat

1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained

1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce

3 teaspoons chili powder

2 teaspoons cumin

1 (15 oz) can dark red kidney beans

1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed

Method:

Saute in oil over medium-high heat, carrot, bell pepper, onion and garlic; cook and stir 4 minutes.

veggies

Stir in remaining ingredients, except beans. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 40 minutes, until bulgar is tender and flavors are blended, stirring frequently to prevent sticking.

pot

Add drained beans and simmer 5 minutes until heated through. Serve with your favorite cornbread.

cornbread

 

Vegan Marsala Mushroom Gravy (Oil-Free)

Monday is typically my take it easy night in the kitchen. Back to work after the weekend, and I stayed up later than usual last night. Mashers are my go-to comfort food on days like this. Back in the day these would have been full of butter and milk. And gravy? I could whisk up a roux like nobody’s business.

It may seem too good to be true, but today’s dish contains only a tiny amount of fat (from the soy milk) and absolutely no animal products. And it is even more flavorful and satisfying than the traditional preparation. Continue reading

Working Lunch

The summer months are a time to rest and re-energize my mind as well as my body. A time to reflect, renew, refill my well of ideas.

I have always found inspiration through others. Even after running my chef business for almost seven years now, I always stay open to change and to inspiration. Not just in my work life, but also personally.

Working with food is personal. It’s hard to think of an area more personal than something we do every day, several times per day. We eat. For nourishment and for pleasure. This is a balance I find a constant challenge and interest. Even more so over time.

This brings me to the inspiration for today’s lunch.

Caitlin Shoemaker

I can’t say enough good things about Caitlin Shoemaker, fellow recipe developer, photographer, and chef in her own right. Her earthy, straightforward approach to vegan food and lifestyle along with maintaining a perfect balance between good food and good-for-you food is a constant source of inspiration. In short, she’s nailing it.

Have you ever just eaten a sweet potato? Just straight up bake it for an hour then cut it open and scoop it out? Sometimes this is my lunch. And sometimes I eat the peel too.

Here I have reheated a sweet potato from yesterday, drizzled it with Caitlin’s

4 Ingredient Sesame Miso Dressing  

and ground fresh pepper on top. Filling, satisfying and tasty.

 

 

 

Vegan Samosas with Mint Chutney and Sweet Tamarind Glaze

IMG_0607.jpg

A party favorite, these samosas are fun and easy to make and bake. They also freeze well, so when you’re in the mood, prep a big batch and store for whenever.

IMG_8857.jpg

Samosas with Mint Chutney and Sweet Tamarind Glaze

Ingredients:

Dough:

3 cups Flour, all purpose
1 tbsp. Curry powder
¾ tsp. Salt
½ tsp. Baking powder
¾ tsp. Water, cold
2 ounces Earth Balance, cut into small pieces
¼ cup Shortening

Filling:
2 pounds Potatoes, russet, peeled and chopped
3 tbsp. Olive Oil
1 med Onion, chopped fine
1 tbsp. Ginger, fresh grated
½ each Jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
1 tsp. Coriander, ground
¾ tsp. Garam Masala
1 tsp. Cumin seeds, toasted
2 tbsp. Water
1 tbsp. Lemon juice
1 cup Peas, frozen, thawed
3 tbsp. Cilantro, finely chopped

Sweet Tamarind Glaze:
¼ cup Apricot jam
½ tsp. Tamarind paste
1 tbsp. Cilantro, chopped

IMG_8868.jpg

Method:

1. Mix dough using biscuit method (15 min.) Wrap and chill (1 hour).
2. While dough is chilling, make filling (35 minutes). Boil potatoes until just tender. Drain immediately. Toast cumin seeds then saute onions in olive oil unti lightly browned. Add seasonings, jalapeno and ginger. Saute about 1 minute then add the water and stir until most of water is absorbed. Preheat oven to 400.
3. Finish with peas, lemon juice and cilantro. Taste for seasonings, then immediately transfer to container or sheet tray and quick-chill in freezer.
4. Form and Fill (30 minutes). Roll out dough one half at a time on lightly floured surface into a large rectangle, large enough to fold lengthwise into thirds, then cut on the folds. From the three strips, cut squares, about 2 x 2 each. Spoon about 1/2 to 1 tbsp filling into the center and fold over diagonally. Press edges with a fork to seal.
5. Make dipping sauce (5 minutes). Mix together first two ingredients on the stove to warm together. Run through a sieve or puree in bullet then add cilantro. Taste for salt.
6. Bake on parchment sheet tray for 20 minutes. Cool about 5 minutes before serving.

IMG_0634 (1)

Recipe takes 1 1/2 hours to complete. Add additional 30 minutes (roll, form and fill) for doubling and another 30 minutes for every multiple after that.

Mint Chutney

recipe courtesy foodviva.com

Throw all this stuff in your magic bullet. You won’t regret it!!

1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped

1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped

1 cloves garlic

2 green chili peppers,  seeded and chopped ( I used 1/2 of a serrano pepper)

2 tsp. fresh ginger, grated

1 tsp. lemon juice

1 tsp. sugar (optional)

1/4 tsp salt

1-2 tbsp water

IMG_0590.jpg

 

 

 

Key Lime Icebox Pie with Mango-Ginger Coulis

key lime.jpg

Here’s a little something different for you, dear readers. A delicious creamy, no-bake dessert that is sweet, but not overly so–with the tangy influence of key lime juice and a hint of ginger.

Key Lime Icebox Pie 

3 ½ cups cashews, raw, soaked
¾ cups key lime juice
¾ cups agave nectar
1 cup coconut oil
½ cup water
2 teaspoons vanilla
½ teaspoon salt
1 recipe gingersnap cookie crust

Method:

Blend all together and freeze overnight. Move to fridge for at least an hour. Serve chilled.

Gingersnap Cookie Crust

2 cups ginger snap cookies, finely crushed
1 tbsp. sugar
4 tbsp. vegan margarine, melted

Method:

Blend all together and press into 9-inch pan

Mango-Ginger Coulis

8 ounces mango puree
1 tsp. ginger, fresh, grated
1 ounce sugar, powdered, sifted
1 tbsp. non-dairy creamer, vanilla

Method:

Combine all ingredients. Refrigerate 1 day ahead.

 

 

Creamy Pasta Salad

Here’s a delicious reworking of traditional macaroni salad. Prepared with whole-grain pasta and  lots of crunchy fresh veggies, this one is  so nutritious, it can stand alone as a main dish! A refreshing change from the same old salad routine.

This dressing is creamy and mildly sweet, flavored with a blend of garlic, mustard and lemon. I will quote my husband on his first bite of this salad: “Damn, that’s good!”

Creamy Pasta Salad

2 cups dried whole grain pasta, cooked, drained and chilled

3 ribs celery, sliced

2 carrots, grated

1 small red onion, diced

1/2 cup black olives, sliced

1 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped

1/2 red bell pepper, diced (optional)

Dressing:

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup raw cashews

2 dates, pitted and sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons prepared mustard

4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Fresh ground black pepper

Method:

Combine cashews, dates and water and set aside while you prepare the vegetables. Place cashew mixture in high-powered blender with remaining dressing ingredients and process until smooth. Toss with vegetables and pasta to coat.

Recipe courtesy of Cathy Fisher:  http://www.straightupfood.com/blog/

Easy Enchilada Sauce

IMG_5699.jpg

In my experience, you can stuff a burrito with just about anything. But the sauce…now, the sauce can make it or break it for me.

Here’s one of my essential recipes. It’s quick and easy and tasty. I pour this rich, tomato-garlic-cumin sauce  over enchiladas, burritos, tacos–even drizzle it over nachos.  I hope you give it a try!

Easy Enchilada Sauce

Ingredients:

4 tbsp. Whole Wheat Pastry Flour ( all-purpose flour works fine, too)
¼ cup Canola oil
3 tbsp. Chili powder
3 tsp. Cumin, ground
1 ¼ tsp. Salt
3 cloves Garlic, minced
2 cups Hot water
14.5 ounces Tomato sauce

Pinch cayenne pepper (optional)

Method:

Brown flour in a medium saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly to prevent over-browning.  Carefully add spices and oil, stirring to avoid lumps. Slowly add water and tomato sauce. Stir until smooth. Simmer to desired consistency. Check for salt and add a bit of ground cayenne pepper if you want to make it spicy.

Yield: A whole lotta sauce, about 4 cups, so unless you’re making a big ole mess of enchiladas, you may wish to cut the ingredients in half.

IMG_5682.jpg

 

Recipe Test: Quinoa Pancakes

IMG_8175 (1).jpg

Image credit: Melanie daPonte

 

Here’s the thing about pancakes…I love the way they taste, but not so much how I feel afterward. All that doughy, sweet carbohydrate goodness seems such a decadent indulgence.

I’m always alert for a loophole–a healthier way to enjoy that sticky maple-buttery experience without feeling like I just consumed a loaf of bread in one sitting. When I came across this RECIPE (courtesy feastingonfruit.com) the immediate thought came to my mind: Quinoa=Protein. High-protein, low-carbohydrate, low-fat always feels good in my tummy. This recipe is also oil-free.

But, then, I thought…how will they taste without any gluten? Will they hold together yet not be dry and weird? Since I have quinoa flakes in my pantry anyway, I decided to see for myself.

IMG_8151.jpg

Image credit: Melanie daPonte

The recipe suggests using a blender, so I thought, since I am cutting the recipe in half I’ll just use my Magic Bullet. BAD IDEA.

I would mix this recipe in a bowl, like any other pancake batter. Otherwise, you will leave behind a lot of it, due to its thick, paste-like consistency. I also substituted apple cider vinegar for the lemon juice because it was easier and cheaper.

I transferred the whole mess into a bowl and added more milk and a bit more maple syrup to achieve a smoother, spreadable batter. I also added a pinch of salt, because the recipe didn’t call for any. Salt adds a pleasing flavor contrast to the maple syrup.

IMG_8161.jpg

Image credit: Melanie daPonte

The cooking was good. A nice, even browning without sticking to the griddle, which I  sprayed with a light coating of oil between each cake.

IMG_8169.jpg

Image credit: Melanie daPonte

The result? A very good, gluten-free, high-protein, low-fat pancake. After tasting, I decided I would have added more salt, though–beyond a pinch. Otherwise there is no flavor at all.

IMG_8185.jpg

I added a little extra Earth Balance spread and this fixed the issue. The texture is good, too. Not dry or grainy or weird. Just light and absorbent. The half-recipe made three medium-sized cakes. I ate two of them and still felt good, not bloated.

IMG_8189.jpg

My final assessment:

An excellent representation of a ‘healthier’ way to pancake, but quinoa is exorbitantly expensive. If money is of no importance, and you want to impress your friends and family at brunch, go for it.

But…there are lot of other gluten-free pancake options and much, much cheaper. I dare say, even tastier. Here’s one in particular I like, made in a blender with bananas and oats.

GLUTEN-FREE BANANA-OAT PANCAKES

What’s your favorite way to pancake??

 

I Made Tahini (And You Can, Too!)

IMG_7588.jpg

I’m free! Free from the tyranny of the ten dollar jar of organic tahini when all I need is a spoonful or two at a time! What took me so long?

This quick, easy recipe produces fresh, tasty, toasty sesame tahini for a fraction of the cost!

Easy Tahini

Ingredients:

1 cup raw sesame seeds

2 tbsp. mild flavored oil (I used sesame oil)

Method:

Toast sesame seeds lightly in a dry skillet, over medium heat, stirring slowly and constantly, just until slightly brown. Immediately transfer to a small food processor or blender.

IMG_7585.jpg

Grind until seeds resemble small crumbs. Add a tablespoon of oil and keep grinding, scraping down the sides as needed. Add another tablespoon of oil, if needed to create a creamy consistency. Keep grinding until smooth. That’s it!!

Makes about 1/2 cup of tahini. Store covered, in the fridge.

 

IMG_7587.jpg

 

 

Carrot-Coconut Soup with Fresh Ginger Root

 

Summer is coming down fast and I find myself seeking light, refreshing meals. Here’s a quick soup that is both nourishing and super easy to put together!

Carrot-Coconut Soup with Fresh Ginger Root

(recipe courtesy Kerry Ogden, MA, LPC)

Ingredients

4 medium carrots, peeled
1½-inch piece of ginger, peeled
1½ cups almond milk
1 cup coconut milk
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon sea salt
squeeze of lime

Avocado (optional)
Cilantro (optional)

Method:

1) Chop the carrots and ginger.
2) Using a high-speed blender, combine ingredients until smooth.
3) Squeeze lime, adjusting flavors to taste.

Garnish with chopped avocado and cilantro ( I used fresh mint).

 

Lentil-Walnut Loaf with Sweet Tomato Glaze

IMG_4949

This is a client favorite and a recipe I swear by, having grown up eating traditional meatloaf. This version has a firm slice without being dry or being soggy. It bakes up perfect, time after time. The glaze really makes it taste just like my mom made back in the day.

Lentil-Walnut Loaf 

adapted from a recipe by Jenna Weber (eatliverun.com)

1 cup Lentils, green or brown
3 cups Vegetable stock
1 large Onion, yellow
1 large Carrot
1 stalk Celery
2 tbsp. Olive oil
2 tsp. Minced garlic
1 cup Bread crumbs
¾ cup Walnuts
3 tbsp. Flax meal, mixed with 1/2 cup water
1 tsp. Oregano, dried
1 tsp. Salt
½ tsp. Black pepper
2 tbsp. Ketchup
1 tbsp. Maple Syrup
1 tbsp. Vinegar, balsamic
1 parchment paper

1.Heat oven to 350. In small bowl, combine flax and water. Set aside. Simmer together lentils, broth and pinch of salt for about 25 minutes or until lentils are tender and have absorbed all the broth.

2.Chop onion, grate carrot and dice celery. Saute onion and celery in olive oil over medium high heat for six minutes or until tender, not caramelized.

3.Add onion, carrot, garlic mixture on stove and stir well. Add oregano, salt and pepper, then transfer to large bowl.

4.Add breadcrumbs, flax egg and lentils and toss well. Press mixture into a greased loaf pan and set aside while you make topping.

5.Combine ketchup, maple syrup and vinegar. Spread on top of loaf. Bake for 40 minutes then invert onto plate.

 

 

 

Vegan French Toast

IMG_6396.jpg

As a lifelong  pancake girl, I never thought I’d get around to writing this post. But my husband’s a French toast guy, and last weekend I wanted to make him a special brunch treat, so here we have it.

I’ve tried vegan French toast recipes before and they just seemed too soggy or blah in the flavor department. But this recipe gets the dipping mixture right, with the addition of a bit of starch and garbanzo bean flour (besan) for a thicker consistency. The trick is a quick run through the blender to well incorporate the ingredients. Also, making sure the baguette is at least a day old helps ensure a crisp result.

Vegan French Toast

recipe courtesy Isa Chandra Moskowitz

Ingredients:

Loaf of Italian or French bread, baguette shaped, preferably stale
1/2 cup soy creamer (soy or coconut milk would make a good substitute)
1/2 cup non-dairy milk
2 tablespoons corn starch
1/4 cup chickpea flour (this is key)

Dash of vanilla extract (optional)

Pinch of cinnamon (optional)

Several tablespoons canola or vegetable oil (for frying)

Powered sugar for finishing (optional)

Method:

Slice the baguette into rounds about 1-inch thick and set aside. Combine all remaining ingredients (except oil and powdered sugar) in a blender and mix for a few seconds until fully incorporated. Pour into a shallow dish ( I use a pie plate).

IMG_6392.jpg

Heat a non-stick skillet to medium-high with a thin layer of oil. Dip rounds of bread (don’t soak, you just want the mixture to cling to the outside) and place immediately in hot skillet and brown on both sides. Serve hot with a sprinkle of powdered sugar, vegan butter and maple syrup.

IMG_6393.jpg

 

 

Muesli!!

IMG_8765.jpg

For some reason I’ve always believed Muesli was this mysteriously complicated cereal made in Europe using some super-secret old-world technique, unapproachable by the average person. Like maybe they hand-rolled the oats or something. Why else would the little box offered by that one brand perch so stoically high on the grocery shelf all by itself with its exorbitant price tag?

Turns out, Muesli is nothing but naked and un-toasted granola! This, in my mind, makes it an easier and healthier choice than granola. Why? And don’t get me wrong–I am a true granola lover from way back before it was cool–but, you know and I know even homemade granola can be full of sugar and sometimes full of fat. And sometimes, even full of sodium.

But this. This is not that. It is a bowl full of whole foods, in their natural state, completely unadorned. No sugar, no added fat or salt. Just clean, pure energy.

IMG_8742.jpg

Cooking a serving of oatmeal in the microwave takes 2-3 minutes. Putting together this cereal takes about the same amount of time and you have breakfast for the week!

IMG_8745.jpg

IMG_8748.jpg

IMG_8750.jpg

IMG_8747.jpg

IMG_8752.jpg

That’s it! No soaking, no cooking, no need to heat up the oven. This recipe is completely adjustable to your tastes, with an endless variety of nut, seed, fruit and cereal combinations.

Yield:  10 cups (that’s 10 1-cup servings or 13 3/4 cup servings). Store refrigerated.

IMG_8758.jpg

I topped my first bowl of homemade muesli with fresh chopped strawberries and non-dairy milk.

IMG_8772 (1).jpg

There is so much going on in this bowl!! So many textures and flavors. It’s crunchy and chewy, sweet and tangy from the fruit and then the little edge of cacao nib influence is a pleasant surprise against the fresh berries.

A healthy and delicious breakfast to take you through the morning feeling satisfied and energized!

 

 

 

 

 

Original Ginger (O.G) Refresher

I am inspired once again by True Food Kitchen. This gingery, bubbly, slightly sweet and sour elixir  has become my very favorite brunch (or any time of day) “mock-tail”. It’s so easy to make!

Ginger-infused water is a game-changer. I keep a jar of it in the fridge and add it to my smoothies, tonics and even to dressings and sauces that need a little kick of  fresh ginger’s distinctive heat and flavor!

Ginger-Infused Water

Ingredients:

1 cup fresh ginger root, roughly chopped (organic, if available)

4 cups filtered drinking water

Method:

Combine in a high-speed blender and process until smooth. Strain through a fine sieve or nut milk bag (that’s what I use). Keep in airtight container, refrigerated.

Note: This makes a lot of ginger water and a little goes a long way flavor-wise. If you don’t plan to use it up within a week, half the recipe.


Original Ginger (O.G.) Refresher (inspired by True Food Kitchen)

Ingredients:

1/4 cup Ginger-infused water

1-2 tablespoons liquid sweetener, to taste (agave, maple or simple syrup works best)

1/4 fresh lime for squeezing

6 ounces bubbly water of your choice (I use tonic water)

Method:

Pour the ginger water into a 16 ounce glass and with a spoon, stir in the sweetener until dissolved. Taste for sweetness and add more if you like. Squeeze in the lime juice and throw away the peel part if it is not organic, otherwise you could just let it float around and look pretty.

Add ice and stir, then finish with the bubbly water to fill the glass. One more gentle stir, then enjoy!

Note: This is not the exact recipe from TFK, but I think it tastes pretty close. I also think it would be good with fresh mint.

Cheers!!

IMG_8334

 

Vegan Gumbo with Homemade Andouille, A Passion Project

IMG_7704.jpg

Every once in awhile I find myself overwhelmed by the urge to make something I know will be complicated. And I make it. Because it’s worth the extra time and effort.

And because I know there’s nowhere else I can get it but in my own little kitchen.

So, here it is. If you have a bit of extra time on your hands I highly recommend this savory, warming, stick-to-your-ribs recipe for gumbo that tastes every bit as good as what they make down on the bayou.

Just two notes right up front: There is no okra in my gumbo. Because I don’t like it. Feel free to add as liberally as you like, though. The other thing…although I chose to make my own sausage, there are packaged versions of andouille or similar sausage you may want to pick up instead.

Vegan Gumbo

Recipe courtesy eatfigsnotpigs.com (with slight modifications)

(Servings: 4)

Ingredients:

½ cup all-purpose flour
6 tbsp. Canola oil
½  Not Beef stock cube (or veggie, if you can’t find it in your store)
¾ cup Yellow Onion, chopped
½ cup Green bell pepper, chopped
½ cup Celery, chopped
2 cloves Garlic, minced

1 1/2 tbsp. Earth Balance
2 cups Not Beef Stock (or veggie)
1 cup Stewed tomatoes
2 tbsp. Parsley, chopped

1 tsp. Thyme, dried
1 Bay leaves
1 tsp. Hot sauce
2 each Vegan andouille, sliced

1 cup white or red kidney beans
2 tsp. Cajun seasoning (I used Emeril’s Essence)
1 tsp. Gumbo File powder (ground sassafras leaves), optional
2  Scallions, sliced
3 cups Rice, Basmati, cooked

Method:

Start with your roux. Heat the oil and 1/2 bouillon cube over medium-low heat, preferably in a cast-iron dutch oven or deep skillet. Sprinkle in the flour and stir constantly until the mixture changes color from light to medium brown.  Be careful not to burn it!

IMG_7694.jpg

From this color…

IMG_7696.jpg

To this color!

Remove the roux from the pan into a heat-proof bowl and set aside.

Saute the veggies. Melting the margarine in the skillet, turn up the heat to medium-high and add the onion, celery and green peppers with a pinch of salt. Stir and cook until veggies are softened, about 8 minutes or so. Add the garlic and saute for another minute.

Now the easy part. Add the stock and tomatoes. With a rubber spatula, scrape all that lovely roux back into the pan. Over medium heat, cook and stir until well incorporated and thickened. If it gets too thick, add a bit more water or stock until the consistency is right.

Now the seasonings. Add the thyme, bay leaf, hot sauce and cajun spice and let simmer for a good 10 minutes on low. Give it a taste. Add a bit more spice or salt if you like.

Finish. Take your andouille slices and brown them off in a little oil in a separate skillet. This is an optional step, but I like the crisp outside that keeps the sausage from getting soggy too fast and the browned edges add color to the dish.

Drop the slices into your gumbo along with the kidney beans and allow to heat through while you chop up your garnishes–scallions and parsley. Add these right before serving and they will retain their color and fresh flavor.

The gumbo file powder is added after cooking, just a sprinkle for flavor. Serve over hot, cooked rice with a few more scallion slices.

IMG_7697.jpg

Notes From The Vegan Underground

IMG_1422.jpg

I’m still here, dear readers. Just focusing on work and other personal projects besides food.

Here are a few of my latest personal inspirations:

Caitlin Shoemaker, Food and Healthy Lifestyle Blogger

Unknown

This young lady has single-handedly re-inspired my cooking. That’s a big deal. She’s super-sweet and utterly obsessed with healthy lifestyle and healthful, tasty, whole food, low oil/no oil cooking.

In particular she has inspired my latest breakfast craze, the best granola recipe I’ve found so far and I’ve been eating and making granola for thirty years! There are so many more of her recipes in my queue just waiting to happen! Check her out on YouTube and her website, frommybowl.com  is pretty awesome as well!

Oat Milk

My latest discovery and I am so happy for it. I heard Michelle and Matt talking about oat milk on a recent Thug Kitchen podcast, Forked Up and I thought I would give it a try. Even the best store brand had added sugar so I decided to make my own.

A gamechanger! I first tried it with cheesecloth and then graduated to a nut milk bag which is phenomenal!

HOW TO MAKE OAT MILK from simpleveganblog.com.

Super-simple to make, just oats and water. The flavor is so pure and just works perfectly in recipes, too.

Till next time, friends!

Eat well and be well 🙂

Melanie

 

 

Deli-Style Potato Salad

 

IMG_8950

Here’s a plant-based side dish to bring to your Fourth of July get-together.  An enlightened egg-free version of a classic.

I promise no one will even suspect it’s egg-free!

Deli-Style Potato Salad

(from the official P.E.T.A. Website)

Ingredients:

6 medium potatoes, russet (if you use waxy potatoes, such as Redskin or Yukon, decrease cooking time to about 10 minutes)
½ cup vegan mayonnaise ( I prefer Hampton Creek’s Just Mayo)
¼ cup mustard, yellow
2 tbsp. vinegar (white or apple cider)
½ cup onion, white, chopped fine
½ cup celery, chopped fine
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Paprika for finishing (optional)

Method:
Cut potatoes into cubes and cook in boiling water 15-20 minutes. Drain and let cool completely. In a large bowl, combine with remaining ingredients. Sprinkle top with paprika.

 

 

The Best Plant-Based Cookbook is Waiting For You, And It’s Free!

 

IMG_8921.jpg

“Do you cook a lot?” asks the librarian behind the counter.

It’s after work, I’m in my chef jacket, stuffing a reusable shopping bag full of plant-based cookbooks I placed on hold a week or so ago.  A regular ritual for me.

“Um, yeah…I sure do. I’m a personal chef and I do a lot of recipe research here at the library!” I smile broadly as he helps me place yet one more gorgeously photographed hardback on my pile.

At home with my stack, I sit down in a comfy chair with a hot cup of tea and flip through one book at a time.

But I am not just looking at pretty pictures. I am on a mission. Seeking inspiration and also solid, no-nonsense recipes that I can modify or add to my regular repertoire.

What makes a good recipe, in my opinion?

  1. Reasonable number of ingredients. Reading a long list of stuff I need to buy/prep makes me exhausted before I even get started, so less is definitely better.
  2. Accessibility of ingredients. Can I find the items at my local grocery on a regular basis or are they seasonal or hard-to-find?
  3. Ease of preparation. Are there so many complicated recipe components that one dish takes two hours to cook? Unless it’s Christmas or I have committed my day to bread-baking or ravioli-making, that’s a deal-breaker for me.
  4. Recognition. Yes, familiarity. I have found for my clients, and for my family, we like to return to dishes and flavors again and again that are familiar to our experience. What says comfort to you?
  5. Cost. Some ingredients are just ridiculously expensive. Here is where you have to use your instinctual higher judgement. Some cookbook authors assume that money is no object on the quest for the perfect plant-based meal. Next.

Here are a couple highlights from this week’s haul:

IMG_8913.jpg

The Book of Veganish by Kathy Freston (2016)

Why? This cookbook offers simple, economical no-nonsense recipes and lots of great everyday advice on making the transition to a vegan, plant-based lifestyle. I especially appreciate the relaxed language and easy-to-read page layouts with colorful images and text boxes throughout. A great starter book.

IMG_8910.jpg

Natural Feasts by Ella Mills (2017)

Why? First, a disclaimer. When you open it up you know you are stepping into a world. It’s easy to lose your way amidst the lush, natural light, the soft-focus images of radiantly healthy women and men beaming lovingly at one another over rustically styled food and furnishings and hand-picked botanicals. You get the sense that everyone loves Ella. And by the end, you realize you want to be Ella.

But behind all the window-dressing, Ella puts out quality recipes. I enjoyed her previous and more basic “Simply Ella” cookbook because she really focuses on creative combinations of whole foods in her recipes. Most of her dishes are low in sugar and oil and include simple, easy to find and afford ingredients, like butterbeans. Yes, butterbeans!

I highly recommend exploring your local library’s inventory of cookbooks to discover the right one(s) for you. Key words really matter when researching the database. Try vegan, plant-based, whole food, vegetarian, healthy, meatless, for example. And don’t give up entirely on conventional cookbooks and magazines for recipe inspiration. There are many recipes that are incidentally plant-based (like salad dressings, barbecue and other condiments).

IMG_8917

The book business being what it is, publishers are looking to appeal to the widest audience, so don’t get hung up on labels. I have found many excellent vegan recipes hiding between the pages of lacto-ovo vegetarian cookbooks.

I have read that folks are cooking less nowadays, opting instead for grab n’ go meals, food delivery services, personal chefs (yay), restaurant dining and takeout  more often than not.

Nevertheless, for those of us who read them (and need them) as well as those of us who just like the pretty pictures, the plant-based cookbooks keep flying off the presses. And thank goodness for that!

 

 

 

 

Thai Curry in a Hurry

IMG_7381 (1).jpg
I just love when a dinner idea sparks my imagination and I happen to have everything on hand to create exactly what I envision. Inspired by my favorite Thai restaurant, I set out to make a sweet, spicy, creamy curry filled with fresh, delicious veggies.

This dish is quick and easy to prepare and works great with green or red curry pastes.  And it only takes a few minutes if you cook the rice ahead to warm at service time.

Thai Coconut Curry with Vegetables

¼ cup Thai green or red curry paste
4 ounces Mushrooms
4 ounces Carrot, sliced thinly
8 ounces Broccoli, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 Red bell pepper, cut into chunks

1/2 cup frozen peas

Note:  Substitute any vegetables for those listed.

13 ounces Coconut milk
1 tbsp. sweetener (optional, but tasty)
¾ cup Vegetable broth
2 tsp. Tamari or soy sauce

Squeeze of fresh lime juice (optional)
¼ cup Cilantro, for garnish
2 cups brown rice, cooked

Method:

Take your hard vegetables, like carrots, celery, onions, peppers, broccoli and gently simmer them in the broth until crisp-tender. Now add all the other sauce ingredients and the soft veggies like mushrooms and peas. Bring it up to a simmer. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more soy sauce for salty-ness if desired, a squeeze of lime for a mild sour influence or more sweetener, if desired. Balance the flavors. Finish with chopped cilantro.

IMG_7384 (1).jpg

Note: If you have an Asian grocery in your town, check out their curry pastes. The one on the left costs $1.49 and tasted better than the one on the right from my local Whole Foods Market at $4.00! A little spicier, but hey, I like it that way!

John Legend’s Chili, Plant-Based Version

IMG_7344.jpg

I came across this recipe for chili in Chrissy Teigen’s cookbook, “Cravings”. I decided to follow the recipe exactly (with a slight variation) just to find out what ole John is up to in the kitchen when he’s not at the piano working on another chart-topping single.

It’s super-simple if you’ve ever cooked a pot of soup. The recipe follows what I call standard procedure: saute the aromatics and vegetables, add seasonings and liquid, simmer and adjust seasonings. In this case I always save the beans for last, which I have pre-cooked, so they don’t fall apart.

I substituted Gardein meatless crumbles for the ground beef in John’s recipe and I would suggest taking it easy on the seasoning salt, depending on how much salt is in your tomato sauce. I also cut the original recipe’s measurement of 1 teaspoon ground red pepper down to 1/4 teaspoon, but you do you 🙂

IMG_7336.jpg

John Legend’s Chili

1 1/2 – 2 cups Gardein Meatless Crumbles
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
2 tbsp. seasoning salt (preferably Lawry’s)
3 tbsp. chili powder
½ tsp. ground red pepper (cayenne)
2 tbsp. garlic,minced
2 cans tomato sauce, 14.5 ounces each

2 cups water
2 cans Kidney beans, 14.5 ounces each
2 tbsp. brown sugar, light

Saute onions, mushrooms and garlic in a bit of oil or water.

Add seasonings, crumbles, tomato sauce and water. Bring to simmer until thickened.

Add beans and taste, adding more salt or spice as desired.

IMG_7342.jpg

 

 

Dixie Dharma Vegan Restaurant, Bakery and Bar, Orlando

 

IMG_7190.jpg

Breakfast at Dixie Dharma              Photo credit: Melanie daPonte

 

When traveling, we are always on the hunt for vegan eateries and this past weekend was no exception. iPhone technology has been a real game-changer in this regard and driving through the Orlando area we were able to nimbly avoid the Disney-bound traffic and score a real winner in Dixie Dharma vegan restaurant!

Market on South, which houses Dixie Dharma, is a vendor collective, located on the first floor of a small, gray two-story just off the interstate and abutting a picturesque and visibly gentrifying suburb of Orlando. The building itself seems oddly placed alongside an old barber shop with a gravel parking lot alongside, but don’t be put off by the funky surroundings. This place is not to be missed.

A small, but clean and cozy interior offers comfy, mismatched tables and chairs, a few booths and a short row of barstools at the counter, overlooking the open kitchen.

IMG_7186.jpg

Dixie Dharma interior, order counter/bakery          Photo credit: Melanie daPonte

 

We arrived early, around 8:30 a.m. on Saturday morning. The restaurant was quiet, but the bakery cases were fully stocked with goods from Valhalla  and Valkyrie vegan bakeries.

IMG_7185.jpg

Dixie Dharma/Valhalla Bakery case                Photo credit:  Melanie daPonte

 

The cashier was friendly, attentive and fast! We ordered the dirty scramble and the biscuits and gravy along with two hot cups of coffee. While waiting for our food, we perused the various offerings for sale from local artists and artisans displayed on the shelves surrounding the dining room.

Meanwhile, the back of the kitchen bustled with energy as the row of cooling racks filled with fresh-baked cakes and cookies. Every now and then a baker would emerge, producing a huge iced and decorated layer cake to place in the cold display case with a price tag marked $50.

A line of eager patrons started to form as our food was delivered. Young, fit couples, some with baby strollers, many in athletic wear, an occasional smiling grandma in tow, ordered vegan doughnuts and coffee, seating themselves in a happy, relaxed smattering about the place.

IMG_7195.jpg

Dixie Dharma Dirty Scramble

 

The food was flavorful with generous portions! The dirty scramble in particular, I think, could have fed two or even three people for breakfast! The coffee tasted smooth and fresh. All in all,  one of the best vegan breakfasts I have ever eaten on the road.

IMG_7194.jpg

Dixie Dharma Biscuits and Gravy with Maple Bourbon Sausage           Photo: Melanie daPonte

 

The vibe was so low-key and comfortable I was sure we would return for a late lunch and a few choice baked goods before we headed for home.

IMG_7197.jpg

Dixie Dharma outdoor seating in front of building         Photo credit: Melanie daPonte


 

At lunch, the place was really at peak business with a long line waiting up front, but the staff was breezy and professional as they went about taking orders and delivering food to both seated diners and takeout customers.  We shared the chili dogs with ‘tater salad at one of the large picnic tables in the back yard.

IMG_7204.jpg

Dixie Dharma Chili Dawgs             Photo credit: Melanie daPonte

 

I can see why Dixie Dharma is famous for their vegan hot dog truck! The dogs were the best vegan franks I’ve ever tasted. I swear you couldn’t tell they were meatless. And the Indian-spiced chili was hearty and wholesome–filled with beans and lentils. A truly substantial meal before our drive back to Palm Beach County.

Saving the best for last, our visit couldn’t be complete without a sampling of the beautiful bakery offerings. There were just too many choices and I had to be reasonable, breaking it down logically. I have to be careful not to lose my head in the face of such a decadent display of sweet vegan goodness!

Although there were so many treats I wanted to sample,  I only had this one shot, so here is my selection:

Bourbon Chocolate Chunk

Thick, sweet bourbon vanilla buttercream chocolate chunk cookie sandwich.

Cake Slice

I fine wedge of chocolate layer cake expertly filled and iced with vanilla buttercream

(like birthday cake)

Lemon Bar

Lemon curd on a shortbread crust with crumb topping

Chocolate Brownie

Dark chocolate brownie, dipped in more melted chocolate

IMG_7200.jpg

Dixie Dharma/Valhalla Bakery selection              Photo credit: Melanie daPonte

 

It was a tough choice. Of course we had to try the cookies, and the cake and the buttercream and the brownies. The lemon bar was a wild card and I ordered it simply because I don’t like squeezing lemons and no vegan bakery in my town makes them!

What we didn’t order (this time):  Vegan cheesecake,  fruit cobbler, cupcakes, mini-cream pies, a chocolate-coated ‘Naimo(?)’ bar–which looked amazing, vegan doughnuts, a ‘brookie’ which is chocolate chip cookie dough baked on top of a brownie!! There’s more I am forgetting to be sure.

We we got home we sampled each item and they were delicious! Over time we have learned to manage these multiple item bakery sprees by cutting each item into small portions, say, the cookie sandwich into four quarters, and freezing them on a sheet tray, then transferring to an airtight container. Weeks later (or days) later we can enjoy them again.

Dixie Dharma was a delight. Wholesome, plant-based meals, a uniquely creative menu and presentations, outrageous, professionally-baked desserts, friendly, competent staff. They open at 8:00 a.m. and close at midnight!

We plan to make this outstanding vegan restaurant, bakery and artisan marketplace a regular destination every time we are in the Orlando vicinity!

DIXIE DHARMA WEBSITE

IMG_7199

 

April 2018 Menu!

IMG_7038.jpg

I have moved to an all-in-one, meal-in-a-box format this Spring. It seems to be the best way to keep reheating as simple as possible for my clients. I used to offer the mains with choice of soups and sides, but I think it got too complicated that way–too many menu choices to make and then the assembly later– and most of my families are time-starved to begin with!

What do you think??

Coconut Chana Saag

Chickpeas, tomatoes, Lacinato kale, ginger, garlic, onions, turmeric, coconut milk, lime, cilantro, basmati rice

 

Portobello Stroganoff

Organic Portobello caps, garden peas, onions, garlic, tamari, sour cream, touch of sherry, GF pasta

 

Thai Green Curry Bowl

Coconut-roasted tofu, mixed vegetables, herbs, green curry, coconut milk, Florida organic brown rice

 

Scaloppini Marsala

Scaloppini, cremini mushrooms, onion, garlic, Marsala sauce, steamed spinach, mashed sweet potatoes

 

Adzuki Quinoa Bowl

Adzuki beans, mixed peppers, onions, garlic, chili and cumin, tri-colored quinoa, cilantro-lime chimichurri

 

Franks and Beans

Smoky, hand-crafted and steamed franks, baked beans, homemade barbecue sauce, creamy coleslaw

 

Sesame-Grilled Tofu

Organic pressed tofu, tamari, toasted sesame oil, Szechuan broccoli, red peppers, onions, black rice

 

Black Bean Burgers

Black beans, cilantro, cumin, green onions, cilantro-lime mayo, honey-mustard kale salad on side

 

Grits, Greens and Beans

Sauteed green kale, shallots, garlic, simmered black-eyed peas, tomatoes, smoky grilled polenta cakes

 

Firehouse Chili with Gluten-Free Corn Muffins

Red beans, tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, chili powder, lime sour cream, GF corn muffins

 

Mushroom Lentil Sloppy Joes

Cremini mushrooms, French lentils, onions, green peppers, rich tomato sauce, Ezekiel whole-grain buns, creamy coleslaw on the side

 

Barbecue Tempeh

Smoky oven-roasted tempeh with homemade barbecue sauce, sweet corn, zucchini, bell peppers, GF cornbread

 

Hearts of Palm Cakes

Hearts of palm, mirepoix, bell peppers, parsley, roasted sweet potatoes, Creole remoulade

Vegan Brunch Execution, Start to Finish

IMG_7981.jpg

I love to cook big breakfast on the weekend! Here’s a fairly easy menu I pulled off this morning in about two hours:

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes

Cinnamon Baked Apples

Smoky Golden Corn Grits

Tempeh Sausage Crumbles

 Roasted Redskin Potatoes with Onions

Yeah, I know it sounds like a lot, but it’s all about strategy and timing. I start with the dish that takes the longest to cook: the apples. I turn on the oven to preheat to 350 degrees fahrenheit while peeling and slicing.

IMG_7977.jpg

Rule of thumb in my kitchen: Always Be Prepping! While one thing is cooking, be working on the next thing until you have them all going at once, regulating temperature and quality to make sure everything is served hot.

If you think you are all caught up and have run out of stuff to do–think again! There are always dishes to wash and counters to clear, while setting the table, pulling out condiments, etc. I will admit, with this menu I had the advantage of tagging my husband for dish duty! That saved me some time, most definitely.

So, my apples are working in the oven while I am scrubbing and dicing my potatoes and onions, panning them up to slide right in when the apples come out. That’s when the temp will increase to 425 to get them nice and toasty. Note: the smaller you dice the potatoes the faster they cook. Seems like a no-brainer, but I sometimes forget myself, because the larger I dice the faster I am done dicing, ha ha.

IMG_7981

I do my sausage crumbles  and leave them in the iron skillet basking in the residual heat while heating my veggie stock for the grits.

IMG_7983.jpg

I get my grits working and cover them to finish, stirring with a whisk every so often to prevent sticking.

Okay, I’m free to give my full attention to the pumpkin spice pancakes, which do require babysitting as I cook them one at a time. But, I’m cool, because everything else is working or done and just staying warm.

IMG_0924.jpg

I set up a small sheet pan on the side and place each pancake there as I remove them from the griddle. I cover the pan with foil to hold in the heat.

IMG_7978.jpg

Meanwhile, the potatoes are just about done roasting. Great! I turn off the oven and everything that fits goes in there  to stay hot until the guests arrive. Don’t worry, the oven is off and the temperature is rapidly decreasing, so nothing is going to overheat. Trust me on this, not like they will if you leave them on the stovetop on low. This tends to burn the bottoms of everything!

So, into the oven with my:

 Iron skillet of tempeh sausage crumbles

Covered pot of grits

Potatoes are already in there

Apples (optional) they may be still warm from the oven anyway or you may wish to serve them at room temp

What I did leave on the stovetop: the iron pancake griddle, set to low, with the sheet tray full of pancakes resting on top, covered loosely with foil. This keeps the cakes nice and steamy hot.

Now, everything is ready and everything will be served hot, the way it was intended.

Finally, I fix myself a fresh, hot cup of coffee and sit down with my guests to enjoy the fruits of our labor!

IMG_4769.jpg

 

 

The Vegan Reuben Project

IMG_7789.jpg

I enjoy a personal culinary challenge. Especially one that results in good eats! I set out to create an old favorite from my pre-vegan days and I nailed it, if I do say so myself!

IMG_7750.jpg

This was a great opportunity to try my hand at baking my own rye bread as well as the corned “beef” recipe I’ve been meaning to try ever since I came across it in Brian McCarthy’s, “The Professional Vegan Cookbook”. The roast was easier than expected and turned out juicy and flavorful. The spices are on point!

IMG_7767.jpg

Baking my own bread is a favorite activity (when time allows) and rye was definitely a challenge. Even after three tries I don’t think I got the rise exactly as high I wanted, but it turned out delicious anyway!

IMG_7778.jpg

The thousand island dressing was a no-brainer to make, but is a crucial element in building the perfect Rueben!

IMG_7772.jpg

Vegan Corned Beef 

2 cups Vital Wheat Gluten
2 tbsp. Granulated onion
2 tbsp. Paprika
2 tbsp. Whole Fennel Seed, coarsely ground
2 tbsp. Caraway seeds, coarsely ground
1 tbsp. Salt
1 tsp. Cloves
1 tsp. Black pepper
1 cup Vegetable broth
½ cup Olive Oil
2 tbsp. Molasses
1 tbsp. Vinegar (white or ac)
Cheesecloth
String or twine

1. In a large pot, bring 1 gallon water to a simmer.
2. Whisk together dry ingredients in large bowl. Whisk together wet ingredients in separate bowl. Combine wet with the dry until well combined.

IMG_7756.jpg
3. Form into a 5-inch by 8-inch loaf that will be about 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick. Place on cheesecloth and roll up like a big flat rectangle tootsie roll (not too tight). Tie each end with a piece of string.

IMG_7760.jpg
4. Place in simmering water, cover and simmer for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Take roast out of liquid and remove cheese cloth.:

IMG_7762.jpg

Serve warm in thin slices or chill for later. I froze half of my roast to enjoy another day.

IMG_7781.jpg

IMG_7785.jpg

 

Maple-Butter Pancake Oats

IMG_7740.jpg

My favorite breakfast is pancakes. But I don’t eat them as often as I’d like–opting for a lighter, healthier choice most mornings. It strikes me as funny that I didn’t come up with this idea sooner, but the other day I got the notion that I could make my healthy, whole-food oats TASTE like pancakes. And still walk away from the table feeling like I made a smarter choice.

I thought about what makes the pancake experience for me. It’s not just the maple flavor. No, it’s the harmonious contrast of the warm, sweet syrup  against the salty, creamy butter along with a bit of cinnamon spice. Yes, that’s the balance I have created here.

Not to mention, this bowl of warm, comforting goodness comes together in less than five minutes.

What took me so long?

IMG_7739.jpg

Maple Butter Pancake Oats

Ingredients:

1/2 cup rolled oats

1 cup water

pinch salt

1 tsp. Earth Balance Non-Dairy Margarine

1 Tbsp. real maple syrup

1/4 tsp. cinnamon, pumpkin pie or apple pie spice

1/4 tsp. Maldon Sea Salt (optional)

Method:

Cook oats per package directions or microwave in a heat-proof bowl, approximately 2 minutes, 30 seconds at 50% power.

Allow the cooked oats to sit for about a minute, then stir to check for desired doneness. Add remaining ingredients and serve immediately.

IMG_7743.jpg

 

 

 

 

Vegan Andouille Sausage

IMG_7691.jpg

Here’s just the companion to my gumbo recipe, a tasty, spicy sausage to enhance the dish or slice up and fry with your morning tofu, your choice.

There are a lot of ingredients in this recipe, but trust me, the resulting flavor is well worth all the gathering! I would recommend doubling this recipe for your trouble and storing a few links in the freezer for later on.

Vegan Andouille Sausage

adapted from a recipe courtesy Isa Chandra Moskowitz

Ingredients:

1 ¼ cups Vital Wheat Gluten
¼ cup Nutritional yeast
½ cup White beans
1 cup Veg stock
4 tsp. Garlic
2 tbsp. Soy sauce
1 tbsp. Tomato paste
1 tbsp. Maple Syrup
2 tsp. Smoked paprika
1 tsp. Thyme, dried
1 tsp. Sweet paprika
1 tsp. Sage, rubbed
½ tsp. Salt
½ tsp. Liquid smoke
¼ tsp. Black pepper
¼ tsp. Cayenne pepper

Method:

  1. Mash beans with fork until smooth. Add veg broth, soy sauce, tomato paste, and all spices and mix well. With a fork, mix in nutritional yeast and vital wheat gluten until a dough forms.
    2. Knead dough for a minute or two then cut into 4 equal pieces. Stretch and roll each piece into sausage shape and wrap in foil, twisting ends. Steam for 45 minutes.

Crispy Marinated Tofu with Braised Kale

IMG_6867.jpg

I can’t emphasize enough how tasty, simple and quick this recipe is. So much flavor, from so few ingredients!

Crispy Marinated Tofu with Braised Kale

Ingredients:

1 package extra firm tofu, drained and patted dry

1 tbsp. brown sugar

1/4 cup reduced-sodium tamari or soy sauce

1 bunch green kale, torn into bite-sized pieces

1-2 tbsp. Olive oil

Method:

Prepare marinade. Mix soy sauce and brown sugar together and set aside. Slice tofu 1/2 inch thick slabs and then into squares. Place into container with marinade to cover. Marinate for  20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Heat oil in non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Salute tofu until brown and crisp, about 3 minutes on each side. Remove to plate and keep warm.

In hot skillet, add kale and saute until wilted, stirring constantly, adding remaining marinade halfway through and coating greens until mostly evaporated.

Plate and top with sautéed tofu. Serve immediately.

 

 

Vegan Creme Brûlée

 

IMG_4288.jpg

Yes, you read that right. Creme brûlée. Silky smooth and creamy sweet. And can I just mention, so easy that I memorized the recipe after the first time I made it?? Now I can just whip it up at the drop of a hat, using pantry staples. Sound to good to be true? Well, it’s true. So, check this out…

Vegan Creme Brûlée 

adapted from a recipe by Chloe Coscarelli

1 can full-fat coconut milk (14.5 oz)

1/2 cup sugar

pinch salt

1/8 tsp. ground turmeric (for color)

1/4 cup non-dairy milk, unsweetened

1/4 cup corn starch

1 tsp. vanilla

4 tsp. brown sugar (optional)

Method:

Stir together coconut milk, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally to make sure sugar is fully dissolved.

Meanwhile, whisk together in a small bowl the cornstarch and milk. When coconut milk mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat to low and slowly add the cornstarch mixture, whisking constantly until custard is thick. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.

Transfer to dessert dishes and chill at least 3 hours before serving.

If you want to dress to impress, sprinkle a coating of brown sugar on top of each serving and caramelize with a kitchen torch until a crisp shell forms on top. Enjoy!

img_4281

 

 

One Big Vegan Pancake

IMG_6725.jpg

Sometimes I am in the mood for pancakes, but dread standing over the stove babysitting the griddle until all the batter is cooked. I actually chafe at the responsibility of seeing each cake safely through the journey until I can get that one or two on my plate. Sometimes the perceived commitment is just too much.

Using the ‘pan-cookie’ theory, I decided I would half my recipe and make this fluffy, sweet, colossal cake just for me. One and done!

One Big Pancake

Ingredients:

1/2 cup flour

1/2 tbsp. baking powder

1 tbsp. sugar

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (optional)

1/2 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk

1 tbsp. oil

Oil or pan spray for griddle

Non-dairy butter and maple syrup, honey or preserves for serving

Method:

Pre-heat large greased griddle or skillet over medium low.

Mix all dry ingredients in a small bowl.

Add wet ingredients and mix gently with a spoon, just until flour is dissolved. Do not beat! If batter is too thick add a bit more milk.

IMG_6718.jpg

When a droplet of water sizzles on the griddle or skillet, the pan is ready. Pour all batter at once onto surface of pan and spread around so it cooks evenly. Turn down heat if necessary to maintain thorough baking without burning the bottom of the cake.

IMG_6719.jpg

Not quite there yet…

When there are little holes all over the top of the pancake, it’s time to turn it over. You may need two spatulas to make this happen without breaking the cake! Let it cook another 3-5 minutes, then serve immediately!

IMG_6723.jpg

I did my best 🙂

IMG_6727.jpg

 

 

 

 

Restaurant Review: Toasted, Winter Park, FL

IMG_6655.jpg

Every time we travel up near Orlando  we make a point of having a meal at our favorite vegan restaurant in that area: Ethos Vegan Kitchen. But, on this particular day it was so jammed up with folks waiting for a table, upwards of 30-40 minutes, and we were so hungry, we decided to look around.

Siri brought up the next restaurant in the list, Toasted. What? How could this be vegan? It’s a grilled cheese and burger place. But, to our pleasant surprise, Toasted offers a full selection of creative vegan grilled cheese sandwiches, burgers, salads and even rosemary truffle cheese fries! Yes, you read that right.

And here’s the thing…this is not Daiya or Follow Your Heart brand or even Chao cheese substitute. It’s something different that I have never tasted before and even in my forays into homemade cheese–I have never experienced a cheese substitute that tastes and has the mouthfeel of real melted cheese like this one. It’s a blend of pea protein and coconut milk, says the menu. And the bread is baked in-house!

I ordered the Fireball grilled cheese sandwich with sriracha and fresh tomatoes and slices of jalapeño. Boy, was it spicy and so, so good. The bread was crisp and buttery on the outside, without a hint of sogginess. The cheese, hot and melty, even better than I remember the conventional slices to be.

IMG_6654.jpg

Steve had the grilled vegetable and cheese sandwich. It was delicious, too–full of grilled, seasoned mushrooms, peppers and onions. And the rosemary truffle fries were one heck of a treat. As you can see by the photo, they look like real cheese fries and they tasted even better with the fresh herbs. Fantastic!

Oh, and the iced tea is brewed and tasted so fresh.

The service staff on this day were a group of energetic, pleasant, young adults. Ordering takes place at the front counter, you pour your own drink, the food is brought to your table when ready and they come back and clear away.

I have the feeling that next time we are in the neighborhood it may be a difficult choice between our usual vegan restaurant and our new favorite veg-friendly restaurant, Toasted.

IMG_6656.jpg

 

Kidney Bean-Quinoa Burgers with Easy Homemade Barbecue Sauce

IMG_6637.jpg

Okay, so I didn’t think about posting this recipe until I was plating it up for service. This was our dinner tonight. What I love about these burgers is that they come together so quickly and with pantry staples I always have hanging around. Bonus!

I don’t have any step-by-step process photos for this one, but I’ll throw in an extra recipe, just for fun, okay?

Kidney Bean-Quinoa Burgers

recipe courtesy Lindsay Nixon (Happy Herbivore)

 

Ingredients:

¾ cup cooked quinoa

1 14.5 ounce can kidney beans

2 tbsp. barbecue sauce

2 tbsp. ketchup

2 tbsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce (or tamari)

1 tbsp. yellow mustard

1 tsp. onion powder

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 tbsp. Italian seasoning

½ tsp. paprika

1/3 cup vital wheat gluten

 

Method:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Drain and mash beans then add remaining ingredients in the order listed. Mix together well and form into six patties. Bake on parchment-lined sheet tray for 8 minutes, then flip and bake another 5 minutes. The patties will firm up a bit more as they cool.

 

 

Easy Homemade Barbecue Sauce (no-cook)

Ingredients:

½ cup ketchup

1/4 cup molasses

2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar

2 tbsp. Dijon mustard

1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

½ tsp. garlic powder

1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

 

Method:

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Makes about 1 cup of sauce.

 

 

 

 

Vegan Apple Crisp

IMG_3343.jpg

I remember when I first became aware there was such a thing called apple crisp. And it wasn’t at home. It was in my elementary school lunchroom. This exotic dessert was warm and sweet and cinnamon-y, with this outrageously crispy topping…so way over and above apple pie. It made an impact on me!

I am sure the recipe originated in somebody’s grandma’s kitchen. Most warm apple desserts do 😉 But, I was ever after held captive by that crispy sweet crust of oats and pecans and brown sugar atop those sweet-tart warm apples.

I hope you enjoy this version, from America’s Test Kitchen, slightly modified by the substitution of vegan margarine for the butter called for in the original recipe:

Apple Crisp

Topping:

¾ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup pecans, chopped fine
¾ cup oats, rolled
½ cup brown sugar, light
¼ cup sugar
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. salt
8 tbsp. Earth Balance, non-dairy baking stick, melted and cooled

Filling:
1 ½ cups apple cider
1 tbsp. lemon juice
4 pounds apples, golden delicious, peeled, cored, halved and cut into 1/2 inch-thick wedges
⅓ cup sugar
¼ tsp. cinnamon
2 tbsp. Earth Balance, non-dairy baking stick
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees fahrenheit . Set oven rack in middle position. Mix together topping with margarine until moistened and crumbly.

IMG_4590
2.Bring cider to simmer in 12-inch skillet over medium heat and cook until reduced to 3/4 cup, about 7 minutes. Transfer to liquid measuring cup and stir in lemon juice.

IMG_4594.jpg
3.Toss apples with sugar and cinnamon in bowl. Melt butter in now-empty skillet over medium heat. Add apples and cook, stirring often, until they begin to soften and become translucent, 10 to 15 minutes. (do not fully cook apples). Off heat, gently stir in cider mixture.

IMG_4598.jpg

4.Transfer apple mixture to 13 x 9 inch casserole dish (or individual dishes as shown), sprinkle evenly with topping, breaking up any large chunks.

IMG_4601.jpg

Bake until fruit is tender and top is deep golden brown, about 20 minutes.

IMG_4607

5.Reheat in 425 degree oven until slightly warm, about 5 minutes.

Serving suggestion:  Top with vanilla non-dairy ice cream and this fantastic

vegan caramel sauce

from our fellow blogger, Larice at feedingyourbeauty.com.

IMG_4613.jpg

Oh, yeah!!!

IMG_3361.jpg

Alternative Vegan Holiday Menus

10620184_10203230990069968_8683734716864764463_o.jpg

With the holiday season fast upon us–we, as conscious beings, want to participate in the festivities and merry-making and yet, trying to imitate long-held food traditions, albeit “vegan-style” can feel, well, a little regressive in light of everything we now know.

I have nothing against Tofurkey or Gardein or various seitan roasts.  And of course there’s the “Festival of Sides” as I like to call it. The “best of” parade of veggies, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy and breads I have prepared and proudly brought to table over the years.

IMG_1823.jpg

But, if you want to try something really courageous, really unconventional– how about a theme menu? One that breaks the rules completely?

 

*Here are a few of my favorite vegan menus for alternative holiday (or anyday) celebrating:

IMG_3462.jpg

 

Soul Food Feast

Barbecue Ribz or Soy Curls

Macaroni and Cheeze

Simmered Greens

Corn Muffins

Sweet Potato Pie

 

 

Italian Feast

Antipasto Salad

Fresh Baguette or Focaccia

Big Pasta Dish: (Lasagna, Pasta Marinara with Meatballs or Sausage, Baked Ziti, etc.)

Tiramisu

 

Indian Feast

Vegetable Samosas

Big Curry Dish: (Chana Masala, Palak Paneer, Cashew Vegetable Korma)

Flat Breads

Cinnamon-Chai Rice Pudding

 

Thai Feast

Thai Sweet Potato Bisque

Cucumber Salad

Tofu Pad Thai or Red or Green Curry with Tofu and Vegetables

Mango or Coconut Ice Cream with Mango-Ginger Coulis

 

Chinese Feast

Pot Stickers

Spring Rolls

General Tso’s Tofu with Broccoli or Szechuan Stir Fry with Vegetables and Sesame GrilledTofu

Creamy Almond Pudding

 

*Stay tuned for recipes in upcoming posts for the menu items without links!!

11875120_10204969694216485_3711644754020690667_o

 

 

 

 

Doughnuts In The Dark

Doughnuts.Header.jpg

Ah, the things we take for granted. I knew we would lose power during Hurricane Irma, but I wasn’t sure when. I decided to tempt fate and make my last use of my oven count. I wanted to bake something sweet to console us during our period of hot, uncomfortable living I knew was not long away.

 

In a race with time I threw together these delicious vegan doughnuts and while they were baking stirred together a silky chocolate glaze. “Will I make it?” I thought to myself  as I worked like mad to make use of what little time remained.

Mix.jpg

We made it through the baking stage,

Bake.jpg

the cooling stage and even to the finishing stage before the lights went out. Mission accomplished!!

Light.jpg

I like this doughnut recipe from Starr, The Misfit Baker because although the doughnuts are sweet and delicious, they are not over-the-top decadent. They are more like moist little cakes, because they are baked instead of fried, the way most doughnuts are. So we save more than a few calories there.

I like Starr’s recipes overall, because she really strives to keep the ingredients natural, like making her own sour cream from tofu instead of buying the highly processed stuff. I like that.

Click here for the recipe:  Chocolate Doughnuts from The Misfit Baker

 

 

 

 

Gratitude After The Storm

IMG_6527As Palm Beach County recovers from the disastrous effects of Hurricane Irma, there are  so many still without power, so many who haven’t returned from wherever they fled to find safety. Palm Beach Gardens was spared the worst of the damage, once again dodging a devastating bullet.

In my neighborhood I’ve watched the lights come back on painstakingly slow, one street at a time…until finally came our turn, last night around 6 p.m.

I ventured out this morning for the first time after three days without electricity, television or internet.  Tree branches and debris are piled neatly along the city streets where almost all the traffic lights are back in working order. There’s a long wait at the railroad crossing, something is holding up the train. But I don’t care. I’m just happy to be here. The sun feels warm on my skin. After spending days inside a humid house, it’s a revelation.

My local Whole Foods Market is back up and running, almost fully stocked. Life feels back to normal. Almost. I pick up a few things and then stop by the library to return my books. The parking lot is packed with cars. As busy as I’ve ever seen it. Familiar faces mingle with refugees from nearby towns. A cool place to relax for awhile. I find a nice new stack of hold items ready to pick up. My usual mix of cookbooks, novels, music and movies.

Everywhere I go today the vibe is one of calm, almost reverence. People are polite, helpful. Yielding to let the other pass. At Publix the woman bagging my perfectly ripe avocado, my organic bananas, my fresh cilantro, asks me how I am doing.

“I’m feeling so grateful today.”

“Me too,” she smiles.

The cashier nods in agreement.

“Would you like to donate a dollar to the hurricane relief fund?”

“Yes! Can you make it five??”

Incredibly fortunate. Incredibly humbled.

Incredibly grateful.

 

 

Clean Out The Fridge Yakisoba

IMG_6856.jpg

In case you haven’t noticed, comfort food is the name of the game at my house this week. And carbohydrates take main stage as we inch closer and closer to that moment when hurricane Irma takes a swipe at our little corner of south Florida.

We expect a loss of electricity by tomorrow, so tonight was a good time to clean out the fridge. I rounded up all my pre-chopped salad veggies leftover from our lunch prep and put together a quick sauce to pour over the sautéed veggies and noodles for a delicous dinner that will taste great as a cold salad later when the air conditioning goes out!

No strict ingredient measurements here. It’s mostly about the method with this dish.

Yaki-Soba On The Fly

Ingredients:

Soba Noodles

Assorted veggies, chopped

2-4 Garlic cloves, chopped or sliced thinly

Crushed red pepper (optional)

Canola oil

Sesame oil (if you have it)

Yakisoba sauce (recipe follows)

Quick Yakisoba Sauce

(recipe courtesy Nami from justonecookbook.com)

 (Makes ½ cup (8 Tbsp) I halved this recipe and it was plenty for 10 oz soba noodles
  • 2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 4 tsp vegan oyster sauce (or substitute more soy sauce)
  • 4 tsp ketchup
  • 4 Tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce

IMG_6845.jpg

Method:

Heat a big pot of salted water to boiling for noodles.

Meanwhile, heat a good quantity of oil over medium-high heat until a little piece of garlic sizzles when placed in the skillet. We’re talking a good 2-3 tablespoons with about 1/3 being sesame oil if using.

Add garlic and  1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper and fry until golden. Watch this very carefully so it doesn’t burn, but you definitely want some color. Reduce heat a bit, add your vegetables and saute until almost fully cooked (about 5 minutes).

Meanwhile, get your soba noodles cooking and add about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of the starchy water  to vegetables. This water will reduce a bit and help add body and flavor to the dish. Before the water is fully reduced, drain soba noodles and add them directly into the pan, mixing them around together with the vegetables.

When the water is reduced a bit,  turn the heat down to low. Go ahead and pour the sauce over, mixing until heated through. Serve immediately.