Vegan Taco “Beef”

IMG_6132Hey, I can’t believe I haven’t shown up on the blog with this recipe until now. This one, from my home kitchen recipe box is always a big hit, whether featured in burritos, tacos, nachos, salads…the list goes on. Simple, simple ingredients, straight from the cabinet is what I like best about this tasty and quick to prepare recipe.

 

Vegan Taco “Beef”

Ingredients:

1/2 cup finely diced onion

1 tbsp. cooking oil

2 cups frozen vegan crumbles (Gardein is my favorite)

3/4 cup water

Spice blend:

2 tbsp. chili powder (mild or spicy, your call)

1/2 tsp. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. minced fresh garlic (or 1/4 tsp. garlic granules)

3/4 tsp. salt (or to taste)

Method:

Saute onion in oil over medium heat until translucent, about 7 minutes. Stir in spice blend and sauté   for 30 seconds. Add water and crumbles stirring well to combine. Cover and lower heat. Simmer on low for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally  until heated through and water is absorbed. Taste for seasoning, then serve hot. This stores well in the fridge for 2-3 days.

 

“Meaty” Grilled Tofu

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Through much trial and error over the years– I have come to a great appreciation and respect for the humble soybean curd with its versatility and its ability to absorb flavors and even change texture with the right method of preparation.

Start Here:

  1. Buy the right tofu. This seems like a no-brainer, but  it can be confusing, with all the brands and styles: silken, firm, extra-firm, etc. For this recipe, we need to start with the firmest tofu we can find, packed in water, found in the refrigerator section. If you stumble upon the Woodstock brand, extra-firm, know that you have found the holy grail of tofu. This brand is available only in select stores in my area and in limited quantity, so when I find it I buy it up!

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2. Dry, dry, dry! The secret to good texture with grilled tofu is to press out as much water as possible. Either press it with a pressing apparatus, or wrap it in paper towels and lay a cutting board on top, then add some weight to it. I have used heavy books, canned goods, even hand-weights. Let the tofu press for a good 20 minutes or so.

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3. Fabricate! Cut the tofu in the shape that fits the dish you are making. For grilling, obviously, you want nice strips that fit on the grill and not too thick, so as to absorb the flavorings. I cut the block in half lengthwise, then cut each half in half again and so on, until I have 8 planks

4. Marinate! This step is crucial. If you want flavor in your tofu, you have to apply it yourself. My go-to marinade for grilling is 3 tbsp. tamari sauce to 1 tbsp. sesame oil. Simple and delicious! When you press the tofu well, it will be thirsty for the marinade, so you won’t need to soak it too long. Twenty minutes is plenty of time for this one, although, you can marinate longer or overnight if you like.

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5. Grill! Get your grill searing hot and you will have a nice, brown sealed outside on your tofu. You can also fry in a dry non-stick skillet on medium-high heat, for a crisp, brown exterior.

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6. Optional step. Another way to alter the texture of tofu is to wrap it after pressing and freeze it until solid, then thaw it out. Press the liquid out again, then marinate and grill or pan-fry. This gives the tofu more of a chewy and porous texture. It’s worth a try. I like it both ways.

Tempeh Sausage Crumbles

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These tasty sausage crumbles are versatile, lending a satisfying umami flavor and a chewy  bite to gravy, sauces, rice or other grain dishes–even pizza!

Tempeh Sausage Crumbles

adapted from a recipe by Lindsay Nixon

Ingredients:

1 tsp fennel seeds

1 8-oz pkg tempeh

2 tbsp low-sodium soy or tamari sauce

1 tsp rubbed sage (not powdered)

1 tsp onion powder (granulated)

1 tsp garlic powder (granulated)

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp dried thyme

dash of black pepper

1/2 tbsp olive oil

Method:

Grind fennel seeds into a fine powder using mortar and pestle or electric spice grinder and set aside.

Shred tempeh using a cheese grater and mix with soy or tamari sauce and spices (add fennel last)

Heat oil in non-stick skillet over medium-high heat then add tempeh mixture to saute, stirring constantly until browned and crisp.

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Use immediately or store refrigerated in airtight container for up to 5 days.

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Note: You can adjust the seasonings, such as leaving out the sage and adding basil and a pinch of crushed red pepper for an Italian flavor. For a sweeter breakfast style sausage, add a bit of maple syrup.

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Tofu Scramble

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Tofu scramble, when I reflect on my day to day cooking, is probably the recipe I cook most often at home and for clients. It’s quick, easy and versatile. Delicious on its own, it also lends itself well to sandwiches, burritos, casseroles…you name it.

And this recipe is SO tasty and good it’s a staple on my  menus. I think you will agree this recipe is the best!

Scrambled Tofu

recipe courtesy Isa Chandra Moskowitz

Spice blend:
2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed with your fingers

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced (or more, to taste)

1 pound extra-firm tofu, drained

1/4 cup nutritional yeast
Fresh black pepper to taste

First stir the spice blend together in a small cup. Add water and mix. Set aside.

Preheat a large, heavy bottomed pan over medium high heat. Saute the garlic in olive oil for about a minute. Break the tofu apart into bite sized pieces and saute for about 10 minutes, using a spatula to stir often. Get under the tofu when you are stirring, scrape the bottom and don’t let it stick to the pan, that is where the good, crispy stuff is. Use a thin metal spatula to get the job done, a wooden or plastic one won’t really cut it. The tofu should get browned on at least one side, but you don’t need to be too precise about it. The water should cook out of it and not collect too much at the bottom of the ban. If that is happening, turn the heat up and let the water evaporate.

Add the spice blend and mix to incorporate. Add the nutritional yeast and fresh black pepper. Cook for about 5 more minutes. Serve warm.

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Vegan Brunch

 

Carrot-Ginger Bisque

If you’re ready to get back on the good foot after the holiday indulgences of the past few weeks, here’s a place to start. A nutritious, light yet satisfying soup of simmered carrots and onions, finished with ginger and coriander. And so easy to make–you probably have all the ingredients in your kitchen right now!

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Carrot Ginger Bisque

¾ tbsp. Olive oil
2 med Onion
4 cups Vegetable broth
4 large Carrots, peeled and chopped
2 tbsp. Ginger, fresh, finely grated
¾ tsp. Cinnamon
¾ tsp. Coriander

Method:

1. Saute onions about 5 minutes. Add broth and 1/2 cup of water, more or less–carrots and half of the ginger.. bring to boil, reduce & simmer, partially covered, for about 20 minutes until carrots are tender.
2.Remove pot from heat and let cool for one hour, covered. Puree with immersion blender  (or Vitamix) until smooth, adding remaining  ginger, cinnamon and coriander. Taste for salt and pepper and add more water if needed, returning to pot if necessary to heat through. Finish with parsley (optional).

Soup Magic: Spicy Black Bean

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Speaking of plant-based on the cheap: Here’s an idea, check your local thrift store for a crockpot (they run about $5.00-$10.00) instead of buying an expensive cooking device. I have two. One for meals and one for big-batch bean cooking. I like the “set it and forget it” aspect of slow-cooking and the way it fills the house with such wonderful aromas!

This soup didn’t even require any vegetable chopping! Can it get any easier?

I fired up the crockpot and added a few ingredients and let it cook on low for four hours. Dinner. Done.

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Spicy Black Bean Soup

Ingredients:

4 cups cooked black beans

3 cups vegetable broth

16 ounces of your favorite tomato salsa

2 teaspoons ground cumin

Method:

Place all ingredients in crockpot and cook, covered, on low for 4 hours. Feel free to add a cup or so of frozen corn or other vegetables near the end of the cook time. Make it your own!

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Yield: 4 – 6 servings

Vegan Pancakes 101

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A pancake recipe is meant to be simple, created from staples, easy to pull together at a moment’s notice, provided you have a mixing bowl and a hot griddle.

Have you ever searched for a basic recipe online and found every variation or so-called simple recipes calling for oddball items that send you out to the store when you had no intention of going?

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The following recipe is as basic as it gets. The best part is the ingredients are easy to substitute. Oil means any oil, flour means any flour, sugar means any sugar. Now it may require a bit of adjustment on your end. Don’t hesitate to add a bit more liquid, or to taste the batter and adjust the flavors before baking. It’s your pancake!!

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If you follow this recipe exactly, I can guarantee a fluffy, tender, whole wheat pancake that tastes great with or without toppings. Feel free to create your own custom version!

Vegan Whole Wheat Pancakes

1 cup stone-ground whole wheat flour

1 tablespoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon finely ground sea salt

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted

Method:

Whisk together dry ingredients. Stir in milk and oil and mix until blended. Add more milk if batter is too thick. With a 2/3 measuring cup, scoop out batter and pour onto an oiled, pre-heated griddle (cast-iron if possible). Bake until large bubbles appear on surface of cake. Flip gently and cook other side until golden brown. Yield: 4 large pancakes.

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The Clean 15

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The Environmental Work Group recently updated their list of the cleanest produce, which tests show the least amount of pesticide residues.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) analyzes USDA data on the chemicals found on grocery store produce. Then, the watchdog organization compiles it into an easy-to-digest list of fruits and veggies that tended to contain the most and least pesticides in the past year.

EWG’s Clean Fifteen 2019

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet Corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Sweet Peas Frozen
  5. Onions
  6. Papayas
  7. Eggplants
  8. Asparagus
  9. Kiwis
  10. Cabbage
  11. Cauliflower
  12. Cantaloupes
  13. Broccoli
  14. Mushrooms
  15. Honeydew Melons

Weekday workday lunches are a no-brainer when I take a little time out of my Sunday afternoon and pre-make salads. When Monday rolls around it’s grab and go.

I prep the same veggies pretty consistently with the protein being the variable. Beans are always an easy go-to addition. I like firm, meaty kidney beans, pintos and cannellinis. Sometimes I add chopped up chickpea patties, grilled tofu, tempeh or burgers from the night before. That’s the wild card that keeps it interesting for me.

Veggies

  1. Romaine or leaf lettuce washed, chopped and dried (I use a salad spinner)
  2. Fresh spinach leaves (optional)
  3. Cucumbers or zucchini, chopped or sliced
  4. Red cabbage, thinly sliced or shredded
  5. Carrots, shredded or diced
  6. Celery, sliced or chopped
  7. Red onion, diced or sliced

You’ll notice that most of the veggies on the list are affordable and easy to find year-round. That’s the idea. No excuses.

Often I will make homemade VINAIGRETTE which is simple, fresh and also cheap!

Knowing I am getting a healthy dose of fresh vitamins, fiber, water and antioxidants is one less thing to be concerned about during a busy period of days. And there is never a week that goes by that I am not glad I took that bit of time to set myself up for success!

 

 

 

Why Wait?

 

 

My usual lunch at home: veggie salad with black beans, miso-tahini dressing, rice cake, hot tea.

My father-in-law suffered a cardiac event right after Christmas. One of his arteries was almost fully blocked. He is not overweight, he doesn’t smoke or drink. He maintains a high level of physical activity, even wears a pedometer. But he does consume meat, almost every day.

My mother’s carotod artery is 50% blocked on both sides. Over the past two decades she has been on high blood pressure medication, and now she takes a statin pill every day. She is about 25 pounds over her healthy weight, doesn’t exercise regularly and eats meat and dairy every day.


We went to dinner at my in-laws’ home on New Year’s Day. The talk was mostly of the upcoming heart surgery. A valve replacement for Pop. My mother-in-law hands me a sheet of paper:

“I know you’ll be happy to see this…” she smiles, and waits for my reaction.

Where did you get this?” I ask incredulously.

“From the cardiologist,” She says.

I give a big whoop. “Yes!! Finally…it’s starting to make sense.”

Whether they adopt a new diet remains to be seen, but over dinner Pops asked me about how I replace meat in meals. Although they know I am a personal chef and that we have both been vegan for the past 8 years, and they always cook a pan of roasted vegetables when they invite us to dinner, they NEVER ask about what I cook. So, I see the questions as a positive sign.


There are so many important environmental and ethical reasons to adopt a plant-based diet, and I strongly support them– but my main goals are to maintain a healthy weight and to prevent chronic disease. So far it’s working. Neither of us have any health problems and neither of us take any medications. We rarely even catch a cold. And we are both over 50.

Here’s the other side:

I am very impressed with this handout. It really marks a breakthrough, I think, in de-stigmatizing veganism and helping to show that a whole food, plant-based diet is not a trend. It is a solid (and simple) healthful way of eating.

But, why wait until a health crisis forces us to shift to a more mindful way of eating? Why not start right now, where we are, in this moment–taking steps to improve our health and the way we feel today?

Black Bean Fajita Bowl with Cilantro-Lime Chimichurri

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I had an opportunity recently to work with a local vegan restaurant, helping them come up with new dishes to feature. This is one of the best-selling specials to come out of this project. The chimichurri and the crispy tortilla strips really elevate this simple, healthy dish into something extraordinarily delicious!

BLACK BEAN FAJITA BOWL

INGREDIENTS:

8 OZ BELL PEPPERS, MIX, RED, GREEN, YELLOW
2 OZ ONION, RED, JULIENNED
⅔ CUP BLACK BEANS, COOKED
2 CUPS QUINOA, COOKED
2 TBSP OLIVE OIL
2 CORN TORTILLAS, JULIENNED
½ cup CHIMICHURRI (recipe follows)
2 tbsp. CILANTRO, FRESH, CHOPPED

METHOD:
1.PREPARE CHIMICHURRI AND SET ASIDE.:
2.PREPARE BEANS AND QUINOA, KEEPING WARM FOR SERVICE.:
3.FRY JULIENNED TORTILLA STRIPS IN HOT OIL UNTIL CRISP. DRAIN AND SPRINKLE LIGHTLY WITH SALT.:
4.SAUTE/STIR-FRY BELL PEPPERS OVER MEDIUM-HIGH HEAT UNTIL COLOR BRIGHTENS AND THEY SOFTEN SLIGHTLY. ADD ONIONS AND CONTINUE TO SAUTE UNTIL TRANSLUSCENT. :
5.PLACE 1 CUP QUINOA IN A BOWL. TOP WITH FAJITA PEPPERS AND ONIONS, FOLLOWED BY BLACK BEANS.:
6.DRIZZLE DISH WITH CHIMICHURRI AND GARNISH WITH TORTILLA STRIPS AND CILANTRO.:

CILANTRO-LIME CHIMICHURRI SAUCE

½ CUP CILANTRO, FRESH
¼ CUP PARSLEY, FLAT LEAF
¼ CUP OLIVE OIL
⅛ CUP LIME JUICE
1 TSP MINCED GARLIC
1 TBSP AGAVE NECTAR
¼ TSP CUMIN
½ TSP SEA SALT
⅛ TSP BLACK PEPPER, GROUND

PUREE ALL INGREDIENTS TOGETHER. USE IMMEDIATELY OR STORE COVERED IN REFRIGERATOR.

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Spicy Red Bean and Tofu Jambalaya

IMG_3393This dish can be put together in 30 minutes or less but tastes like it’s been simmering for hours. My secret is a homemade cajun spice mix I always keep on hand for a quick kick of flavor! You can also use Emeril’s Essence right off the shelf.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups pre-cooked brown rice
  • 14 oz. package extra-firm tofu, drained and pressed
  • 2 tbsp. Cajun spice mix, homemade or store-bought (recipe follows)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 bunch scallions, sliced (reserve 1/4 cup)
  • 2 stalks celery, minced
  • 1 large green bell pepper, diced medium
  • 1 medium tomato, diced (or 3/4 cup canned, undrained)
  • 1 14-oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tbsp. Earth Balance non-dairy margarine
  • 2 tbsp. canola oil
  • Hot cayenne pepper sauce (optional)

Prepare the tofu. Cut block horizontally across to make two slabs. Sprinkle both sides liberally with 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning. Sear in a hot pan coated lightly with a bit of canola oil, about 5 minutes on each side (cast iron is ideal). Remove from pan and set aside. Cut into bite-sized cubes or strips.

Add canola oil to the pan and sauté scallions, celery and bell pepper until translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 1 minute more. Add tomato, 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning and margarine, stirring until melted. Reduce heat to medium low. Toss in the rice and beans and heat through. Lastly, add the tofu back into the pan and stir occasionally until heated through. Adjust seasoning, adding more Cajun spice as desired. Garnish with reserved scallions. Serve hot sauce on the side.

Cajun Spice Mix

2 1/2 tablespoons paprika

2 tablespoons salt

2 tablespoons garlic powder

1 tablespoon black pepper

1 tablespoon onion powder

1 tablespoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon oregano

1 tablespoon dried thyme

Mix all ingredients and store in airtight container.

Cauliflower-Kale Soup

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A tasty way to get your greens! This  creamy, satisfying soup is a client favorite and only takes about 20 minutes to prepare!

Cauliflower- Kale Soup

Source: Prevention Magazine
(4 servings)

2 tablespoons Olive oil
2 Onion, diced
2 clove Garlic
8 cups Vegetable bouillon
4 cups Cauliflower, florets
4 cups Kale, shredded
½ teaspoon Crushed red pepper (optional)

Method:

Saute onion in oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add broth and cauli, cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Add kale and cook until wilted about 4 minutes. Puree mixture until smooth. Season with crushed red pepper if desired.

John Legend’s Chili, Plant-Based Version

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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 (but you could also sub cooked lentils) 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 🙂

 

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.

 

 

 

Chana Masala

Image courtesy Chef Melanie daPonte

Image courtesy Chef Melanie daPonte

There will always be Indian food in my weekly meal rotation. Why? Because it’s delicious and nutritious, and need not be spicy to be enjoyed, although I do like a little fire myself!

This is a perfect transitional dish for those curious to try Indian flavors. It’s a simple, yet flavorful tomato sauce with chickpeas and warm Indian spices, brightened by a splash of lemon juice and fresh cilantro. What’s not to love?

Here’s the recipe generously shared by fellow blogger, Greenbeekitchen:

Chana Masala

Pasta Fagioli

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Pasta fagioli is a classic Italian soup combining hearty white beans and pasta in a savory tomato broth with fresh thyme and a hint of garlic. It makes a perfectly filling dinner and reheats well for lunch the next day.

Pasta Fagioli

Adapted from a recipe by Chloe Coscarelli

Ingredients:

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups vegetable broth
3/4 cup water
4 ounces tomato sauce (or leftover spaghetti/pizza sauce)
2 cups cooked cannellini beans
1 tbsp. fresh thyme, chopped ( or 1 tsp dried)
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 cup pasta shells or other small dried pasta, cooked and cooled

Method:

Saute onion and carrot in olive oil over medium heat until soft, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and sauté another 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add broth, water, tomato sauce and thyme. Bring to boil and simmer, uncovered for 20 minutes. Add beans and pasta and simmer until heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Senate Bean Soup

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U.S. Senate Bean Soup  is traditionally made with navy beans, ham hocks and onions. It is served in the dining room of the United States Senate every day, in a tradition that dates back to the early 20th century.

This hearty, economical soup grew in popularity during and between World Wars I and II. It was frequently served to the military.

Here, I have taken the original recipe and made it vegan, by replacing the ham hocks with vegan bacon, kicking up the flavor with a bit of veggie paste and liquid smoke. I’ve given it a creamier consistency by pureeing half of the beans and I finished the dish with crisp, fresh-baked croutons.

Senate Bean Soup

Ingredients:
1 pound dried navy beans
2 quarts  water
1-2 cups chopped vegan bacon
1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoons olive oil

1 Tbsp. vegetable broth paste, such as Better Than Bouillon (optional)
1 tsp. liquid smoke (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Soak beans overnight in water to cover, plus 2 inches to allow for swelling.

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Drain and rinse beans then add to a large pot with water to cover plus another inch or two over medium high heat. Bring to boil and skim off any foam that accumulates on the surface. These are impurities that should be removed.

Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 1 hour.

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Meanwhile, cook the onions and bacon in olive oil until lightly browned, about 10 minutes over medium heat. When the beans have been cooking for an hour, they should be tender, almost done.

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At this point, scoop out about half of the beans and puree them in a blender until smooth. You may want to remove some of the cooking water if it looks too watery. You can set it aside and add some back in later if you need it.

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Add the pureed beans back into the pot along with the bacon and onions. Add a tablespoon of vegetable broth paste and liquid smoke, if using. Stir and adjust water as necessary to make the soup the consistency you like. Simmer for another half hour or so, stirring occasionally until flavors are blended and heated through.

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Serve with crispy croutons, if desired. Enjoy!

 

 

 

Fancy Potatoes

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Okay, we’ve established potatoes are cheap plant-based eats. They are also whole and perfect in their natural state. Although I wouldn’t recommend eating them raw, they cook up in so many delicious ways.

A plain old baked potato is fine, but if you’re looking to elevate your side dish a bit, this recipe can really spice things up at the table. It’s actually easier than it looks!

Hassleback Potatoes

Ingredients:

2 medium-sized russet potatoes

1 tbsp. dairy-free butter or margarine, melted

1 tsp extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp dried thyme

1/4 tsp garlic granules or powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Method:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees fahrenheit.

Line a small baking tray with aluminum foil.

Wash and dry potatoes, then cut a series of horizontal slices about 1/8 inch wide and going only 2/3 of the way through the potato, so it holds together, but the gaps open wide enough to slip the seasoning in between.

Mix together the seasonings and the butter and oil, then rub the potatoes all over with the mixture, getting it in between the slices well.

Bake for 50 minutes to an hour, uncovered, until crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. You may wish to serve with a bit more seasoned butter, as potatoes are very absorbent.

 

 

 

Roasted Carrots with Cumin and Dill

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I admit I often overlook the humble carrot when deciding on a vegetable side dish. Let’s face it, they are cheap and always available, so I tend to take them for granted.

I forget how a simple vegetable can be so deliciously sweet and yet substantial and healthful and nourishing when gently oven-roasted with a few basic seasonings.

I found this recipe while skimming through a local Portland, OR magazine called “MIX”. It is so easy to prepare and the recipe is simple enough to remember that I know it will become a staple side in my repetoire.

Warning, though, make sure you purchase enough carrots, because I can eat half a pound of these no problem. So, I would say a standard bunch of organic California carrots such as Cal-Organic brand would provide 2-3 servings.

I hope you enjoy as much as I did.

Roasted Carrots

                                                  –From Anne Parker

2 bunches carrots, with the tops removed, sliced in half lengthwise

1-2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon sea salt (or less, depending on your taste)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 handful fresh dill, chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Arrange carrots in a large baking dish and drizzle with olive oil.

the raw

Toss to coat. Season with salt, cumin and fresh dill.

the cutBake for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until carrots are tender and beginning to brown.

IMG_9622“Be Vegan Make Peace”  Aaaah….Portland

January 2020 Menu

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Nutritious and nourishing to the body without depriving you of flavor or satisfaction, a plant-based diet supports the wellness of people and it is good for the planet. Food is sourced from eco-conscious purveyors and environmentally friendly practices are used in the kitchen.

January 2020 Menu

Choose six (6) mains and two (2) sides or desserts

Bowls

NEW! Three-Cheeze Lasagna Bowl

Organic Lasagnetti Pasta, Herb-Roasted Mushrooms, Creamy Ricotta, Parmesan and Mozz, Rich Tomato Gravy

NEW! Grain-Free Sunset Bowl

Miso-Roasted Yams and Sweet Corn, Cumin-Simmered Black Beans, Charred Peppers, Pico di Gallo

Burgers

Beefy Beyond Meat Burger with Lettuce, Tomato and Onions and Special Sauce

Beet Burgers with Horseradish Mayo

Dinner Favorites

NEW! Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Penne with White Beans and Spinach

Shiitake Mushroom Risotto with White Truffle Oil

NEW! Smoky Barbecue Sloppy Joes with Purple Slaw and Baked Beans

Portobello Stroganoff with Noodles

NEW! Sesame Tofu and Broccoli with Soba Noodles

Lemony Artichoke Spinach Pasta with Whole Grain Linguine

NEW! Scaloppini Florentine with White Wine Sunflower Cream Sauce

Spaghetti and Meatballs with Roasted Mushrooms

Chinese Stir-Fried Vegetables with Brown Rice

NEW! White Bean Etouffee with Homemade Andouille

Chana Masala with Indian Spinach

Gardein Cutlet Marsala with Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Hearts of Palm Cakes with Tomato-Caper Remoulade

Thai Red (Spicy) or Green (Mild) Coconut Curry with Tofu and Vegetables

Baked Ziti with Whole Grain Pasta and Fire-Roasted Tomato Gravy

Vegetable Flatbread Pizzas

Vegetable Pad Thai with Rice Noodles

Sides

Broccoli-Spinach Soup

Sweet Potato-Poblano Soup

Sauteed Kale with Shallots

Macaroni and Cheeze (GF, Nut-free)

Desserts

Blueberry Crumble (GF)

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Banana-Walnut Bread

Raw Cocoa-Pecan Brownies

Plant-Based: On The Cheap

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“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 needn’t 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.

 

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)
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A very decent, nutritious meal.

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.

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Top Shelf Fruits!

The 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!

 

 

Tofu Pad Thai with Rice Noodles

IMG_1381One of my favorite noodles dishes made vegan and oh so much healthier than take-out! This recipe is super-easy and is adapted from the cookbook “Big Vegan” by Robin Asbell.

Tofu Pad Thai with Rice Noodles

4 ounces Rice noodles
¼ cup Vegetable broth
¼ cup Lime Juice (or less, to taste)
¼ cup Tamari
2 tablespoons Sugar
2 teaspoons Cornstarch
1 ½ teaspoons Canola oil
7 ounces Firm tofu, drained and pressed
1/4 teaspoon Red pepper flakes
1 ½ teaspoons Ginger, fresh, minced or grated
1 cloves Minced garlic
1 ½ Scallions, Cut in 1 inch pieces
3 ounces Bean sprouts
2 tablespoons Roasted peanuts, chopped
2 tablespoons Cilantro

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. In a cup, mix together the stock, lime juice, tamari, sugar and cornstarch.

2. Heat the oil over high heat, and crumble the tofu into the pan. Add the pepper flakes and fry until the tofu is browned, stirring constantly. Add the ginger and garlic and stir for 1 minute.

3. Meanwhile, soak the noodles in the boiling water for 5-7 minutes, or until al dente. Drain them. Stir and add the stock mixture to the pan with tofu.

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4. Stir and quickly add the noodles, scallions and sprouts. Stir-fry gently until the liquids are thickened and the noodles are coated, 1 to 2 minutes. Serve immediately, topped with the peanuts and cilantro.

Servings/Yield: 2 servings

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 (look for them in the oatmeal aisle or with the gluten-free products)

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.

Vegan French Toast

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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).

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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.

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Chocolate Mousse Terrine

platedHere is a rich, elegant, special occasion dessert that is pretty easy to assemble, believe it or not. Fudgy brownie layered with creamy chocolate mousse enrobed in smooth chocolate ganache. I have garnished this slice with a chocolate-dipped strawberry and Coco-Whip non-dairy whipped topping. It’s also nice served with raspberry sauce.

Chocolate Mousse Terrine

1 recipe chocolate brownies (here’s a link)

1 recipe chocolate mousse (here’s a link)

1/2 recipe chocolate ganache (here’s a link)

Whipped topping, berries, mint (optional)

Method:

Bake brownies in a jelly-roll pan for about 20 minutes and cool completely. Line a loaf pan  with plastic wrap to extend with enough excess to cover when finished layering.

While brownies are baking, whip up the chocolate mousse and chill in the refrigerator. When brownies are completely cooled, cut into three wide strips to fit the interior of the loaf pan.

Press a layer of brownie into the loaf pan. Spread a thick layer of mousse then top with a second layer of brownie. Repeat layering, ending with brownie. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze at least 6 hours or overnight.

When ready to glaze your terrine, prepare the ganache recipe. Place a metal rack on a wax or parchment paper-lined rimmed sheet tray. Flip the frozen terrine out of the loaf pan and unwrap. Set cake right side up and place on the rack.

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Pour ganache over cake, making sure to cover  the top and sides completely. This can be best achieved by pouring quickly and from a height above the cake that allows the glaze to flow rather than just to rest on the surface. If you can, try to avoid spreading the glaze with a knife or spatula, as it creates imperfections and bubbles on the surface.

Return the cake to the freezer to allow the ganache to firm up well. Make sure the cake is on a non-stick surface such as waxed paper or parchment.

You may wish to give the cake another coat of ganache, depending on the thickness of the glaze. If so, make sure the ganache is warmed very slightly to a pourable consistency. Return cake to freezer, but do not wrap until completely frozen, if at all.

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It is easiest to plate this dessert in advance. Pull from freezer, Slice with large, sharp knife dipped in hot water and cleaned in between slicing. Garnish as desired and keep plates refrigerated until service time. Enjoy!!

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Vegan Apple Crisp

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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Oh, yeah!!!

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Dixie Dharma Vegan Restaurant, Bakery and Bar, Orlando

 

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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 lackluster 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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Easy Chocolate Ganache

ganacheA rich, creamy coating of chocolate ganache makes a grand impression on a special dessert! Here is a simple recipe for glazing cakes, dipping strawberries or truffle-making.

Chocolate Ganache

1 can (14.5 ounces) full-fat coconut milk

16 ounces non-diary chocolate, chopped (or chocolate chips)

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Method:

Place chocolate in large bowl. Heat coconut milk to almost boiling. Pour slowly over chocolate in bowl.

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Cover bowl with plastic wrap for about 5 minutes. Remove plastic and with a whisk, slowly blend chocolate and coconut milk. The idea is to get a smooth ganache and avoid bubbles.

stir

Use immediately or refrigerate, covered, for later use.

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Vegan Creme Brûlée

 

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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!

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Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies

 

This is one of those ‘I can’t believe it’s vegan’ recipes! Looking for ways to apply my new discovery, Maldon Sea Salt Flakes, I stumbled  upon this recipe: click heresalted  vegan chocolate chip cookies on Food52.com.

Turns out, these are the tastiest vegan chocolate chip cookies I have ever baked! I believe the secret is in chilling the dough overnight. Also, I decided to bump up the flavor with a teaspoon of vanilla and reduce the water by one teaspoon.

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Here’s the other thing: Unlike many, many vegan cookie recipes, this one uses no egg substitutes, no flax, or mashed banana or xanthan gum, or arrowroot powder or any  exotic ingredient that would send you digging through the shelves at the health food store.

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Just simple ingredients. The cookies taste just the real thing, because they are!! Procedurally, this recipe is fantastically simple, too. A real gift. Wet into dry. That’s it.

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The only real challenge? The wait. But I handled that. I let the dough chill for about four hours then scooped out and baked just four cookies. I had to know if they would suffer for the shorter time in the fridge.

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Turns out, they were delicious. A bit puffy, but still very, very good. Kind of like Chip’s Ahoy.

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The next day, however, I baked four more cookies from the fully chilled dough, pressing each scoop with my fingers to flatten a bit before baking. This batch turned out more like homemade Toll House cookies. The flavor was deeper, the cookie more crisp and brown-sugary. So delicious. So, was it worth the wait? Definitely.

I formed the remaining cookies and froze them on a sheet tray. Afterward I stored them in a covered container in the freezer. Now anytime I want a cookie or two I can just pop them in the oven. This recipe’s base seems to lend itself to variations as well. I look forward to creating more flavors in the future.

I hope you give this one a try.

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Carrot Cookies with Orange Icing

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One thing you may not know about me is that I have a great fondness for food nostalgia and vintage cookbooks. I like to attempt now and then to give a vegan makeover to a classic recipe from my childhood.

I chose one of my very favorite cookies my mom used to make. Whenever we saw that Tupperware canister on the counter, we knew what we would find inside. And they always went too fast.

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I substituted Earth Balance dairy-free products and flax eggs. I bumped up the health value by just a little bit, substituting whole wheat pastry flour and Sucanat for the sugar. The result is a tender, crisp little cookie cake topped with sweet orange frosting. I actually like them better than the original. Don’t tell Mom 🙂

Carrot Cookies with Orange Icing

adapted from The Betty Crocker Recipe Card Library 1971

1/2 cup dairy-free buttery stick, softened

1/2 cup vegan shortening

3/4 cup Sucanat ( or sugar)

*2 flax eggs (other other egg substitute)

1 cup mashed cooked carrots

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt, depending on whether the butter substitute contains salt

3/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

Orange icing (recipe below)

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Heat oven to 400 degrees.

*If using flax eggs, whisk together 2 tablespoons ground flax meal and 6 tablespoons water. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes while preparing remaining ingredients. This will create an egg-like consistency.

1.  Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

2.  Cream together the shortening, butter substitute and sugar until smooth. Add egg substitute then  carrots and stir until well blended.

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3.  Stir in flour mixture then fold in coconut.

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4.  Drop by teaspoonfuls about 2 inches apart onto lightly greased cookie sheet.

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5.  Bake 10-12 minutes or until no imprint remains when touched lightly. Immediately remove from baking sheet to cool. Frost with orange icing. 4 dozen cookies.

Orange Icing

3 tablespoons soft butter substitute (such as Earth Balance)

1 1/2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

2 teaspoons grated orange peel

1 tablespoon fresh squeezed orange juice

Blend butter and sugar. Stir in orange peel and juice. Beat until smooth.

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Pumpkin Spice Muffins

muffinsThese tasty muffins are standard in my seasonal recipe rotation. They are moist and richly flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and ginger.

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This is a quick and easy recipe, too, from my favorite vegan chef, Isa Chandra Moskowitz of The Post Punk Kitchen.

Pumpkin Spice Muffins

recipe courtesy Isa Chandra Moskowitz (isachandra.com)

Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup pureed pumpkin (Fresh or from a can; don’t use pie mix)
  • 1/2 cup soy milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons molasses

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly grease a twelve-muffin tin.

Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and spices. In a separate bowl, whisk together pumpkin, soy milk, oil, and molasses. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix.

Fill the muffin cups two-thirds full. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick or knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

I like to bake the muffins and let them rest for a few hours. It actually seems to more

fully develop the flavor of the spices. These also freeze very well. Enjoy!

Vegan Marsala Mushroom Gravy (Oil-Free)

Mashers are my go-to comfort food on cool days like today. Before going plant-based, 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

Gingerbread Cut-Out Cookies

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These are the best gingerbread cookies I have ever baked, vegan or not! The flavor and spices are perfectly balanced, the cookie is soft and slightly chewy, and the dough is easy to work with. Did I say the best?? Yes, absolutely. There’s still time to try this wonderful recipe and impress family and friends this holiday!

Gingerbread Cut-Out Cookies

(Recipe courtesy Isa Chandra Moskowitz)

Makes about 16 cookies (depending on the size of your cutters)

1/3 cup canola oil
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup plain soymilk

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour or all-purpose flour (or a mix of both)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

spice blend:
1/2 teaspoon each ground nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

Directions
In a large bowl whisk together oil and sugar for about 3 minutes. Add molasses and soymilk. The molasses and soymilk won’t really blend with the oil but that’s ok.

Sift in all of the other dry ingredients, mixing about half way through. When all of the dry ingredients are added, mix until a stiff dough is formed. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for an hour or up to 3 days in advance. If you chill longer than an hour you may want to let it sit for 10 minutes to warm up a bit before proceeding.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease your cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.

On a lightly floured surface roll the dough out to a little less than 1/4 inch thick. Cut out your shapes with your cookie cutters and use a thin spatula to gently place on cookie sheets. If you are using them to decorate a tree or something, remember to punch a hole in their heads (!) before baking. Bake for 8 minutes.

Remove from oven and let them cool for 2 minutes on the baking sheet then move to a cooling rack. Wait until they are completely cool before icing.

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The Benefits of Eating Hot Food

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I like salad as much as the next plant-based lifestyle devotee, but there is something to be said for that satisfied, warm tummy feeling that can only come from hot food, eaten slowly. At my house, we often make a meal out of a simple bowl of soup. Maybe a little chunk of bread, maybe not.

It’s filling, it’s nutritious and most soups are inexpensive to make and prep for the week’s menu or even as a fill-in for those moments in-between when you want a quick something hot.

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Beyond my own personal preference, I did a bit of research and found there are actually benefits to eating hot food. Who knew??

Benefits of Eating Hot Food

excerpted from the cable lifestyle blog thecable.ng

Mode of digestion

Hot meals aid proper digestion because of the time it takes to consume it. This enables the consumer to eat in adequate proportions which in turn gives less work to the organ that breaks down food.

Also, during the preparation of the meal, the chemicals in the food would have been broken down before it is served and consumed; the body easily absorbs the nutrients as they diffuse into the system, increasing the nutritional value.

Low risk of bacterial contamination

It is difficult for micro-organisms to survive in hot foods. Micro-organisms die while cooking but allowing the food get cold will reintroduce the bacteria, if not careful; which makes eating the meal in a hot state healthier.

Generates energy for consumption

Warm food restores the energy cold food saps from the body and equally stores up more energy for future use.

Regulates body temperature and weight

One key thing about ingesting hot food is that it regulates the body temperature in response to a cold climate, as it provides warmth from the hot food ingested.

Hot meals also help with body weight and fat; the suppression of appetite observed during the body’s exposure to heat causes the body weight level to drop below set-point which aids greater metabolic efficiency.

Once the body is able to rid unwanted products, the weight would be regulated.

The after-feeling

The feeling you get after taking a hot meal is an amazing one, compared to a cold meal.

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Check out my selection of delicious soup recipes HERE!


Alternative Plant-Based Holiday Menus

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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.

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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:

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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!!

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Friend or Faux: What You Need to Know About Fake Meats

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Vegan Chili Dog       Photo credit: Melanie daPonte

The Plant-based Diet is receiving a lot of press these days, due in part to recent documentaries like “What The Health” currently streaming to billions of homes through services like Netflix. It’s being heavily promoted in best-selling books like Dr. Greger’s “How Not To Die”. The idea is catching on. At least in theory.

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Photo credit:  Melanie daPonte

It is easy to understand why so many would-be vegetarians declare “I can’t afford to go plant-based!” and just keep on doing what they’re doing. No, you can’t afford to go plant-based if you are simply switching out your meats and cheeses for plant-based/vegan meats and cheeses. Because they cost three to four times more than real meats and cheeses. And the real goal is to get off the meats and cheeses and eat more plants, for real. Vegetables, fruits, legumes, potatoes, whole grains, nuts.

A food product can be labeled vegan, the ingredients all free of animal-derived components and yet be about the unhealthiest thing you could eat. Oreo cookies are a good example of vegan junk food. Oreos are plant-based!

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Plant-Based Baked Goods                   Photo credit: Melanie daPonte

The common argument for faux meats is that they are a “transitional” food for those new to meat-free eating. After conducting my own personal studies over the course of the past five years, I have come to the conclusion that they do nothing to ease the transition to a healthy, whole foods diet.

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What they actually do is become an obstacle to healthier whole-food protein choices such as beans, legumes and potatoes.  Because they taste so damned good! And as technology moves on, they just keep tasting better and better. These products are highly processed, high in fat and salt in most cases–manipulating our taste buds with artificially engineered flavors. Consequently, simple natural foods taste dull in comparison.

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If you want to improve your health, reclaim your naturally balanced weight, increase energy and focus…all of this is possible with a whole food plant-based diet. Whole food being the important factor. This means buying and consuming foods that have five ingredients or less. Yes, you read right. Check your cupboard, your fridge, your desk drawer at work. How do your plant-based food choices stack up?

There are really no shortcuts to better health. There are no super foods. Sustainable health is attained by a lifestyle balance between the foods we eat and the way we treat our bodies and minds every day.

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Should we never eat faux meats? Do I sometimes eat them? Absolutely. Most dieticians and nutritionists agree that a ratio of 80% natural, whole foods to 20% “discretionary” foods is a good balance for sustainable health. That’s what I’m shooting for. One day at a time. One meal at a time.

 

 

True Food Kitchen, Boca Raton, FL

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 Pumpkin Spice Pancakes

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It goes without saying that this time of the year begs for pumpkin spice, especially on weekend mornings. These pancakes are so moist and sweet with just the right amount of warm autumn spice. The recipe calls for pumpkin pie spice and I didn’t have any on the shelf, but not to fear, I made my own with pantry spices. The recipe follows.

Double up and keep a batch in the freezer for later!

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Vegan Pumpkin Spice Pancakes

                                                 based on a recipe from  minimalistbaker.com

Ingredients
  • 1 cup unsweetened soy milk + 1 Tbsp white vinegar
  • 1/3 cup packed pumpkin puree
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • pinch salt
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (recipe follows)
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup flour (I used white whole wheat)

Method:

Whisk together wet ingredients and set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together dry ingredients then stir into wet ingredients just until well-blended.

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Heat a cast iron griddle and cook just like any other pancake recipe. Serve with vegan butter and real maple syrup (of course).

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Serving suggestion: With a big scoop of tofu scramble!

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Pumpkin Pie Spice Blend

3 tablespoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground ginger

2 teaspoons ground nutmeg

1 ½ teaspoons ground allspice

1 ½ teaspoons ground cloves

 

 

Vegan Pecan Bars

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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.

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

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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.

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

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

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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.

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

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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

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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.

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

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

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

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*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

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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!

 

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

 

Roasted Pumpkin Mousse

 

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Here’s a little something special to spice up your next vegan feast!

Roasted Pumpkin Mousse

15 ounces PUMPKIN PUREE
1 tbsp. SUGAR,CANE
⅔ cup BROWN SUGAR, LIGHT, packed
1 tbsp. ARROWROOT POWDER
1 tsp. CINNAMON, GROUND
½ tsp. AGAR-AGAR POWDER
⅛ tsp. GINGER, GROUND
⅛ tsp. SALT, KOSHER
⅛ tsp. BLACK PEPPER, GROUND
¼ tsp. LEMON ZEST, FINE
pinch NUTMEG
pinch CLOVES
pinch CARDOMOM
15 ounces COCONUT MILK
½ tsp. VANILLA

1.Preheat oven to 325. Spread pumpkin on parchment-lined sheet tray. Sprinkle cane sugar over top and bake 15-20 minutes or until pumpkin has dried on surface and has cracked appearance.:

2.Spoon pumpkin into food processor. Let cool to room temperature.:

3.Combine brown sugar, arrowroot, cinnamon, agar-agar, ginger, salt, pepper, lemon zest, nutmeg, cloves, and cardomom in a medium saucepan and whisk to combine. Stir in the coconut milk and vanilla.:

4. Set pan over medium heat and bring to a gentle boil, whisking constantly. Cook to thicken, until the mixture is thick and gel-like, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer the mixture to bowl of food processor with pumpkin. Scoop into large bowl and chill.:

5. Serve with whipped cream and candied pecans (optional)

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David Lynch’s Quinoa With Broccoli

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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Makes 1 large portion.

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Jamaican Jerk Tempeh

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Have I ever mentioned how crazy I am for jerk? This wildly flavorful balance of hot peppers, herbs, spices, brown sugar and tangy onions is so crazy good–and I never even tried it at home until I went vegan. I like it homemade better than any other way.

With this recipe, I suggest you make it worth your while and double or even quadruple the ingredients to either freeze some marinade for later, or do what I did: roast up a ton of tempeh in the oven and store in the freezer for a quick supper or crumbled in dirty rice. Yum!

Jamaican Jerk Tempeh

8 ounces tempeh (Westsoy Brand is preferable), cut crosswise into 8 slices

Marinade: 

2 scallions, chopped

2 large cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 cup onion, chopped

2 habanero peppers, stemmed and seeded (or if you can take the heat, level up with scotch bonnets)

2 T lime juice

1 T soy sauce

1 1/2 T olive oil

2/4 T sea salt

1/2 T brown sugar

1/2 T fresh thyme leaves

1 t allspice, ground

1 t black pepper, ground

1/4 t fresh grated nutmeg

1/4 t cinnamon

Method:

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Puree all marinade ingredients in blender until smooth.

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Marinate tempeh slices overnight

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Roast in 400 degree oven on a greased, foil-lined pan  for 15 minutes. Turn over and roast another 10 minutes or so, until marinade is absorbed and exterior is crisp and dry.

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Enjoy!

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Vegan Zucchini-Spice Muffins

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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

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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.

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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.

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Easy Mozzarella Cheeze Sauce

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So, you reach a point when you stop trying to replace cheese with processed substitutes like Daiya or Follow Your Heart. Your palate can finally appreciate the pure flavors of the tomatoes, the onions, the garlic against the sprinkling of herbs simmered into the sauce.

And yet, there is that missing element. You are looking for a light, creamy counterpoint to the tangy, savory marinara in your lasagna or pasta bake or fresh vegan pizza. This quick and easy recipe is just the solution.

Made with basic pantry staples, this no-cook, tofu-based cheesy sauce comes together lickety-split, faster than the time it takes to boil pasta.

 

Easy Mozzarella Cheeze Sauce

From VegNews magazine

 

1 pkg Tofu, firm silken, 12.3 ounce (shelf-stable type, like Mori-Nu, not water-packed)
¼ cup Unsweetened Non-Dairy Milk
1 ½ tbsp. Miso, white
1 tbsp. Olive oil
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. Lemon juice
1 tsp. Cornstarch
½ tsp. Onion powder
¾ tsp. Salt

 

Puree all ingredients in a blender. Store refrigerated up to 5 days.

 

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Hemp Seed Parmesan

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

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Hemp Seed Parmesan

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

 

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

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Never-Fail Brown Rice

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I know, it seems simple, right? What could be easier than rice and water? You’d be surprised at how many ways there are to mess up rice cookery. I know, because that was me, before I found the best method outside of a rice cooker for preparing perfectly cooked brown rice.

It’s called the pasta method, and it’s just like it sounds. Fill up a big pot with salted water  like you are getting ready to boil spaghetti. When the water comes to a full rolling boil, stir in your brown rice and let it continue to boil, careful to regulate the heat so it doesn’t boil over!

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I always use my windup timer. Set for 30-35 minutes. Check a few grains after 30.

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Just like pasta, after checking for doneness, drain and use immediately or rinse with cool water and refrigerate for later use.

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So easy!! The grains are perfectly cooked, tender, separate and never sticky.

Use this method and I promise you will never over or under-cook brown rice again!

House Vinaigrette

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Sometimes I just want a simple, yet tasty vinegar and oil dressing for my salad. This is the classic recipe we were taught at culinary school. You can dress it up or keep it basic. The variations are endless.

House Vinaigrette

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

1 cup best-quality extra-virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove

1 tsp dijon mustard

Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Peel and crush garlic clove and add to vinegar. Allow to sit for 30 minutes, then remove the garlic and discard. Whisk in the mustard and then slowly whisk in the oil in a thin stream until fully incorporated. Season with salt and pepper.

Restaurant-Style Marinara

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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.

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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.

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

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

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