Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Vegan Tomato Sauce

Delicious. All purpose. Perfectly right for pasta, pizza, bread stick dipping, you name it.

I like to make a fairly large batch then freeze it in 1 cup portions for later use.

I find it ultra handy when I'm exhausted, yet dinner still calls.

It's best with heirloom tomatoes, but you could use organic on the vine toms as well.

'Nuff said...

1-2 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 white onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
4 medium heirloom tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 can organic tomato sauce
1 tablespoon dried basil leaves
1 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon pepper (or more to taste)
10-12 fresh basil leaves, julienned then finely chopped
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Heat a cast iron pot to med/high heat and add a little olive oil.

Add onion and garlic to the pot and saute until just soft. About 2-3 minutes.

To that, add your tomatoes and cook on med/high until very soft, about 3-5 minutes.

Add tomato sauce, basil, salt and pepper. Stir then cover and reduce heat to low.

Let cook at least 45 minutes but 1 hr plus is better. Stir intermittenly.

Add fresh basil leaves to the pot. Stir then, using a hand blender, blend sauce to eliminate most of the lumps. You can leave some for texture. Alternately you could also transfer half to a blender or vitamix, blend then return to your pot.

Add balsamic vinegar then stir and let sit for a minute so flavors can incorporate. Taste and add more salt and pepper as needed.

At this point your sauce is ready. If you are going to serve, off you go.

If you are going to freeze, allow sauce to fully cool. This will take a while. If you don't have time for that, transfer it to several smaller dishes to cool. Transfer about 1 cup portions to quart sized freezer bags then double bag. You could also use another freezer safe container.

Freeze on its side and defrost when you need it!


Monday, August 29, 2011

Quinoa Bean Potato Salad

Potato salad is alright. I mean, if you like mushy potatoes swimming in too much mayonnaise and maybe some egg or something. And maybe I'm biased because I was raised in a virtually mayonnaise free household but I think traditional pot salad is rather icky and uninspiring. I also think pot salad gets a bad wrap and I blame it on mayonnaise.

The good news is, pot salad can change. It can easily be pushed outside of its mayonnaisey box into a whole new world of citrus, tang and enthusiastic eatability.

And there's no better time to come up with a new and interesting bowl of potato salad than the dog days of summer. These perfect lazy sunny days right before school starts, chock full of barbecues with friends, sunshine, music, tee ball and anticipation.

I am currently loving this potato salad because it's light, tangy and delicious, boasting fresh lemon juice and zest paired with delicious dill and of course, garlic.

I also decided to go ahead and push the bounds of traditional carbohydrated potato salad by including a little protein in the form of quinoa and fresh veg by way of green beans, carrot and kohlrabi. Remember that pickled kohlrabi? Here's another use for it!

Not only is it very tasty, it's really pretty too. And there is something to be said about bright colorful salads laid out on a barbecue table for the eating. Especially because summer is coming to a close people; and like white shoes, potato salad just isn't the same after Labor Day.

3/4 cup dry quinoa

1 1/2 cup water
About 20 fingerling potatoes, cut into bite-size pieces
About 6-8 baby red potatoes, cut into bite-size pieces
2 lemons, zested
2 lemons, juiced (note: use the same lemons for juice and zest :))
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons agave nectar
2 Tablespoons spicy brown mustard
1 Tablespoon dill
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Pinch red pepper flakes
About 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion, diced
3/4 cup carrot, shredded
3/4 to 1 cup pickled kohlrabi, chopped
About 50 green beans, de-ended

Combine water and quinoa in a pot. Add a bit of salt and boil. Once boiling, reduce heat and cover. Cook, gradually reducing heat as the water is absorbed. Once fully absorbed, turn heat off, fluff then let cool.

In a large pot, combine fingerling and baby red potatoes then cover with water. Boil until just tender. Do not over cook. Once done, drain and run cold water over top to stop the cooking process.

While your quinoa and potatoes are cooking, zest lemon onto a plate and set aside.

In a jar, combine lemon juice, garlic, agave nectar, mustard, dill, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and olive oil. Seal and shake until emmulsified. Set aside.

In another pot, combine green beans, water and a bit of salt. Bring to a boil and cook beans until just barely al-dente. Note: you want them to be a bit crunchy.

Have a bowl of ice and water ready. When beans are crunch al-dente, use tongs to transfer beans only into the bowl of ice and water. This will stop the cooking process and maintain the bean's bright green color.

When cool, slice beans into bite sized pieces, about 1/2 inch. Put them into a large bowl and add red onion, shredded carrot and pickled kohlrabi.

When potatoes and quinoa are cooled, add them to the bowl along with most of the lemon zest. Reserve a bit for garnish. Gently (gently) stir to combine. You want to be gentle as to not mush the potatoes too much.

Give your dressing another good shake then pour on top. Gently fold everything together to ensure even dressing coverage.

Cover and chill in the refrigerator at least 20 minutes to allow flavors to fully marry. Before serving, give the salad another gentle toss, garnish with remaining zest and you're ready to serve.

This salad is amazing on its own and you don't even have to feel guilty because it's not just carbs. It is also packed with protein and veg.

It's also great alongside any type of barbecue food which makes it friendly for everyone. Even the carnivores.


Friday, August 26, 2011

Vegan Brie

I dedicate this post to the beautiful and amazing lady with whom I had a fantastic impromptu hour-long conversation in the pretty darn wee hours of the morning. xoxo

I think it's safe to say one of the most difficult things for someone (at least this someone) to 'give up' when taking on an alternative eating lifestyle is cheese. Oh cheese. Rich and delicious. Beautiful. Enticing. Cracker's soulmate.

Who are we odd eaters to break up such a beautiful and perfect match made in heaven, cheese and crackers.

Except if you think about it, cheese is kind of icky. And it has a tendency to give you an ache in your stomach.

And Cracker? Well Cracker has done a little growing up. A little soul searching. A little maturing. And Cracker thinks now that it should be destined for more than just cheese. Something better.

Cracker has realized that it has options. Lots of options because Cracker is basically awesome. Cracker knows now it shouldn't settle. Cracker knows it doesn't have to settle.

I mean, the options out there are basically endless: Hummus, versatile and ethnic. Black bean dip, spicy and dedicated. Veggie dip, like confetti; surprising. Almond cheese, 'cheese' of a more compatible nature. Brie. Wait. What?

Yes, brie. Vegan brie. Different yet delicious in its own unique way. Also waistline friendly and that is very important.

Cracker is liking its options. So many. No need to settle. Now's the time to sample all the possibilities.

Adapted from a recipe reviewed by Vegalicious ... a-mazing!

Just a bit of extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoon wheat germ
3 Tablespoons agar agar flakes
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 Tablespoons tahini
1-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
About 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup chopped raw cashews
1/2 cup silken tofu, crumbled
About 1/4 cup fresh chives, finely chopped (optional)

Lightly oil two small tart pans or other shallow mold, pie plate, or something of that nature. Dust it with a light sprinkle of wheat germ, ensuring it is as evenly distributed as possible. Set aside.

Combine So Delicious coconut milk and agar agar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring often, until dissolved, about 5-10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and let cool.

In another small bowl, combine nutritional yeast, lemon, tahini, garlic and salt. Using a fork, whip ingredients together until smooth and lump free. Set aside.

In a food processor, add cashews and pulse/blend until they are almost the consistency of a fine meal.

To your cashews, add tofu, agar agar mixture and nutritional yeast mixture. Pulse/blend until smooth.

Add fresh chopped chives and pulse until just combined. Taste and add salt as needed.

Transfer 'cheese' into prepared containers, pressing mixture down very firmly and into the corners. Let sit about 30 minutes then cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 5-6 hours but overnight is best.

Invert each mold onto a large plate or tray.  

Serve with crackers. Ask Cracker if it would also like to invite fresh cucumber and carrot to the party since Cucumber and Carrot are currently examining their options as well.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Vegan Tomato Pesto Soup with Pesto Grilled Cheese Croutons

And a hint of coconut. Because I am still currently obsessed with my two favorite products.

The other day summer decided to take a little holiday. And when summer isn't around it rains. And when it rains, all I want to do is stay home, play games in front of the fire with Noodle Nose and bake.

And I usually want to have soup for dinner. Tomato soup. And grilled cheese.

Because let's be honest; is there anyone out there that doesn't agree that tomato soup and grilled cheese is the best, most perfect alltime ever comforting warm and fuzzy food?

And even though summer was on holiday and tomato soup and grilled cheese just seemed right, I still wanted to make a soup that is as 'summer' as summer itself.

So I present to you the best summery tomato soup ever known to mankind. And I'm not exaggerating.

Fresh heirloom tomatoes, pesto made from fresh basil and just an eensy hint of coconut. 

And then I did it one better and topped this amazing soup with a little something I call Pesto Grilled Cheese Croutons. Essentially they are tiny squares of grilled cheese. Cheese being 'cheese', of course.  

After making this soup and offering it to my panel of judges, I was informed, as if my tastebuds hadn't already confirmed, that this soup is amazing.

The fresh bright flavor of heirloom tomatoes paired with the rich flavor of fresh pesto is truly fantastic. And the tiny pesto grilled cheese croutons add a bit of extra cruch and texture. Not to mention flavor.

Also, if it's a hot day, serve it chilled! I guarantee it will be just as tasty and refreshing. Also, if for some reason you don't like the 'hint of coconut' idea, simply use plain soy milk and regular Earth Balance spread.

'This is awesome. You need to can this sh*t', is a direct quote from my very own personal Joe Bastianich.

1/2 white onion, diced
2 cloves fresh garlic, finely diced
3 large heirloom tomatoes, chopped
1 regular can tomato sauce
1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
1 teaspoon sea salt (more to taste)
1 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper (more to taste)
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 to 1/2 cup fresh pesto
1 cup So Delicious coconut milk, unsweetened

For the Pesto Grilled Cheese Croutons:
1 loaf artisan bread... make sure it's vegan, if you care
About 1 to 2 Tablespoons Earth Balance coconut spread
About 1/4 to 1/2 cup fresh pesto
Daiya cheese, mozzarella style

In a soup pot, melt coconut spread over med/high heat. Add onion and garlic. Cook until just translucent, about 2-3 minutes.

Reduce heat just a bit and add tomatoes to the pot. Stir and allow to cook about 2-3 minutes until the tomatoes are very soft and their juices release.

Add tomato sauce, dried basil leaves, salt and pepper and reduce heat to low. Stir to combine then cover and let cook anywhere from 15 to 35 minutes, depending on how much time you have. Make sure you stir it every few minutes.

While your soup is 'marinating', prepare your pesto if you haven't already and make your croutons.

To make the croutons: Preheat oven to 325.

Slice bread fairly thin and spread pesto evenly on both sides. Sprinkle a little Daiya cheese on one side then close the sandwich. Note: don't go overboard on the cheese.

Spread coconut spread on both outsides of the sandwich. Grill on a flat pan or use a panini press until both sides are golden brown. Remove and cut into about 3/4 inch cubes.

Spread cubes evenly onto a baking sheet and bake about 3 minutes on each side, until they are crispy, like a crouton. Remove and let cool. Note: they won't be fully crispy because of the cheese.

Back to the soup: Remove lid and stir. Using an immersion blender, blend soup until it is smooth and there are no large chunks.

Add balsamic vinegar, fresh pesto and So Delicious coconut milk to your soup and stir. At this point you are ready to serve. You can also leave it on low heat until you are ready to serve.

Ladle into a bowl and top with several croutons.

Warm and comforting. All the flavors of tomato soup like your mom used to make... but with a twist.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Vegan Pesto

Although this pesto was initially a mere ingredient in a amazing meal that is coming soon, it turned out so deliciously delicious that I had to give it its very own post. That and basil is growing rampant right now so I'm hoping it will be useful.

Thanks to our good old CSA not only do we have gads of weekly vegetables, I am also not breaking my already broken back in our garden. At first I was a little disappointed at not having my own garden this year. I even thought about planting one anyway.

I at least wanted to, for sure, take Neighbor Jim up on his gracious offer of some his extra tomato plants. And I would have had I been able to finish the garden upgrade to get the plants in. Oh, and also be able to bend over for more that one half second. That's always helpful when gardening.

It all works out though because this CSA is keeping me perfectly busy. Enter last week's basket. Probably my favorite basket thus far.

In it? ....
The ingredients for amazing basil... and the upcoming post

Basil, ah sweet basil. So much to do with you yet all I want to do with you is grind you up into pesto.

Freezable, rich, flavorful pesto. And always make enough to freeze so you can pull a cube or two out in the dead of winter and be reminded of the sweet basil of summer.

So essentially the pesto is ridiculously easy to make. Traditionally pesto has cheese. I suppose that's fine but I think the basil and garlic shine all by themselves. Especially when you use a really great extra virgin olive oil. Why funk it with cheese?

And now's the time people. The basil is a-ripe for the pickin' and that pesto isn't going to make itself. Off you go.

1/2 cup raw cashews
4-5 cloves garlic (5-6 cloves if you're using fresh garlic)
4 cups fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
1/2 cup plus a bit more extra virgin olive oil

In a food processor, combine cashews and garlic. Pulse until ground into a fine meal.

Add basil, sea salt, fresh cracked pepper and about 1/4 cup olive oil. Turn on food processor and while it's going, stream in another 1/4 cup olive oil. If you feel it needs it, add up to 1/4 cup more, in small increments.

Process until smooth then taste. Add salt and pepper as needed.

There are so many things to do with pesto. So many. Pasta, sandwiches, side dishes, the list goes on.

As I mentioned, you can also freeze it. I use ice cube trays. Simply fill them up about 3/4 of the way full, cover with plastic wrap, or those neat little ice cube tray cover things. Once fully frozen, pop them out and store in a freezer bag. To use, take out as many as you need. It's as fantastical as that.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Vegan Coconut Raspberry Bars

My mom gave me a new frilly apron for my birthday. The apron is so frilly and fun that I just had to put it on and bake something.

I had to. I had to bake something despite my valliant attempts to 'watch what I eat' since I am currently not 'allowed' to run. Not running means I have to be twice as careful about what I eat.

Oddly enough, my attempts have been successful. I was pleased to see that two pounds got lost somewhere between boot camp and home. However, much to my dismay, those pounds apparently have a great sense of direction because they made their way back to me.

I am at least forty-two percent sure it had nothing to do with these coconut raspberry bars. Or at least that's what I keep telling myself.

So for this recipe, I was really pleased to be able to use freshly picked raspberries. Most of the raspberry bars I have seen use jam. Good enough but the fresh aspect does two things: 1. it cuts down on the sugar content and 2. they just taste fresh.

I also had the opportunity to work with Earth Balance Coconut Spread for this recipe and I am happy to confirm that I am still in lurve with it! As I have mentioned before, my only problem with it is that I have to travel to Whole Foods in Bellevue to get it. Repeat: Bring it to La Ham.

These little experimental bars are my new easy treat. They aren't overly sweet which is nice, and the slightly crunchy texture paired with the amazing fresh taste of raspberries is addicting.

About 3/4 cup fresh raspberries
3 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 cup Earth Balance coconut spread
3/4 cup lightly packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup coconut flakes
1/4 cup shaved almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare baking pan by lightly spreading a bit more Earth Balance coconut spread.

In a medium bowl, lightly smash raspberries using the back of a large spoon or a potato masher. When raspberries are mostly crushed, add cornstarch and stir to combine, ensuring there aren't any cornstarch lumps. Set aside.

In a Kitchenaid or bowl with mixer, combine Earth Balance coconut spread, brown sugar and vanilla. Beat until smooth.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, oats, coconut flakes and almonds. Mix well to combine then gradually add to your sugar mixture, mixing until everything is fully incorporated.

Spread mixture (reserving about 1/2 cup) evenly onto the bottom of your pan. Press it down firm and make sure the corners are pressed and sturdy, creating a nice crust.

Now spread your fresh, crushed raspberries evenly on top of your crust. Top that with the leftover crust mix you set aside. Make sure when you sprinkle it on you are getting it as even as possible.

Note: spreading it once it is on top of the raspberries will be a bit more difficult.

Gently press down on the topping, to compress everything together.

Bake for 26 - 28 minutes then remove and let cool before cutting.

Cut into about 2 to 3 inch cubes and serve all by themselves or with some irresistible So Delicious coconut ice cream. So good!


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Coconut Chickpeas and Curried Beet Greens

I am currently riding the coconut train and loving every minute of it.

Getting creative with all the veg from our CSA has been quite the adventure for me so when I received the awesome Cooking with Coconut recipe booklet from Earth Balance, I immediately tagged several recipes that feature their new fantastic coconut products while simultaneously helping me creatively cook all this wonderful veg we get weekly.

And now I am currently riding the coconut train. And loving every minute of it.

Remember the Twice Baked Ginger Lime Sweet Potatoes from a while back? This is the coconutty side dish I paired with them. And oh, what a pair they make.

The toasty coconut chickpea combination is a perfect pair to the curry and coconut braised greens. Bursting with flavor and vitamins, and pretty darn easy to make. I substituted kale for beet greens... because that's what I had, but I simply lurve kale and I know the recipe would be delicious in its original state as well as this one.

Earth Balance's coconut spread is easy to use, versatile, tasty and just plain better for you. My only complaint is that I have to drive all the way to Whole Foods in Seattle to get it! Bring it to La Ham please... I promise it will go over big.

Adapted from Earth Balance's Cooking with Coconut booklet

3 Tablespoons plus 2 Tablespoons Earth Balance coconut spread
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed well
4 Tablespoons shredded coconut (do medium or fine shred)
1 small onion, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
2 Tablespoons ginger, minced
1 bunch beet greens, chopped into bite sized pieces (about 3  cups)
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 Tablespoon curry powder

Preheat oven to 350.

In a medium bowl, combine 3 Tablespoons melted coconut spread, chickpeas and coconut. Toss to combine and ensure even coverage.

Spread on baking sheet and bake about 8-10 minutes. Open oven and give the pan a shake, to move chickpeas around then bake another 8-10 minutes until lightly toasty. Turn oven off, remove chickpeas and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat remaining 2 Tablespoons coconut spread on med/high heat and add onion and garlic. Cook about 1-2 minutes then add ginger and cook another minute.

Reduce heat to low/medium and add beet greens and cook another 1-2 minutes, while stirring.

Reduce heat to low and add coconut milk, curry powder and a little salt and pepper. Stir to combine then cover and cook another 3-4 minutes until beet greens are just tender.

Alongside the delicious Twice Baked Ginger Lime Sweet Potatoes or your favorite main. This would also be great as a main dish, with a little brown rice and fresh green salad.


Monday, August 15, 2011

Vegan Guacamole Bacon Burger

Rarely do I crave a burger but something about the delicious combination of guacamole plus bacon plus burger just sounded right to me.

And when it comes to 'alternative' burgers, I'm always on the hunt for new and interesting ingredients and ways to get vegetables to stick together and sit on a bun. Enter teff. My mom gave me a package of teff because she is always finding interesting, albeit random things for me to try.

Turns out teff is gluten free, high in protein and fiber and delicious. And it makes a mean veggie burger. It's one of my new favorite things.

These burgers are super delicious and very good for you. The combination of teff and fresh veg is a flavor and textural win. These burgers would also be great cooked and served in lettuce wraps or tortillas, if you're watching your carb intake. I would even venture to pop them on the grill because they are that sturdy.

And what makes a burger better? Guacamole. And bacon. Smart Bacon that is. I love Lightlife's Smart Bacon. For a burger, for breakfast, for a snack. I also found that the bacon is super delicious when dipped in the guacamole. As you're cooking your burgers. Just a hint.

Yield: about 8-10 burgers, depending on size

3 cups vegetable or mushroom broth
1 cup teff
1 teaspoon plus 1 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3 cloves garlic
1 small walla walla sweet onion
about 1/2 cup crimini mushrooms, chopped fine
about 1 cup broccoli, chopped fine
4 fresh sage leaves
1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper, or more or less depending on your taste
about 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or more or less depending on your taste
About 3/4 cup baby spinach leaves, chopped fine
About 1 1/2 cups panko breading
Hummus - optional... this is for the bun
Fresh tomato, sliced
Rocket or green leaf lettuce
Vegan mini buns... or big buns

Bring the broth to a boil then add teff, 1 tsp curry, salt and pepper, stir and cover. Simmer with the lid on, stirring intermittenly, until the teff has soaked up all the liquid.

In a large skillet, heat a little olive oil on med/high heat and saute garlic and onion for about 2 minutes. Add mushrooms, stir and continue to cook another 2-3 minutes.

To your skillet, add broccoli, 1 teaspoon curry powder, sage, salt and pepper. Reduce heat a bit, stir to combine well then cover and let cook for another 3-5 minutes.

Once broccoli has had a chance to 'sweat', add spinach, stir and cover again then reduce heat to low. At this point, taste your veg mix and add more salt and/or pepper as needed.

When spinach is just wilted, turn off heat and let rest.

When teff is done, transfer it to the skillet with the veg and stir well to combine and ensure everything is evenly distributed. Add about 1/2 cup panko to your mix and combine. Add panko in 1/4 cup increments until you have a good firm mixture. Reserve about 1/2 cup panko for your patties.

Form about 1/4 cup scoops of the mix into a ball then press it into a patty. Roll the patty in panko. Repeat for all mix.

In your skillet or on a flat pan, heat a bit of olive oil or Earth Balance on medium heat. Place patties on hot pan and cook until brown. Flip and repeat.

Note: the patty mix should be fairly firm, allowing you to make easy patties and cook without falling apart.

While your burgers are cooking, use a flat pan and medium heat to cook the Smart Bacon.

When your patties are done you're ready to start building your burgers!

Start with the bottom bun: spread a little delicious hummus on the bottom bun and top with rocket or green leaf lettuce. Put burger patty on top then tomato on top of that. Top tomato with a good spread of delicious guacamole and top that with the Smart Bacon. Spread a little more hummus on the top bun and you're ready to go.

Open faced, for presentation, if you like. Otherwise top that burger and get to work!

Goes great with a fresh green salad or slightly al dente green beans.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Twice Baked Ginger Lime Sweet Potatoes

Yesterday Fall decided to give itself a test run. Um, hello fall... my sundresses still have a thin layer of dust and more importantly, I have yet to hit up the Nordstrom sale. Oh. Not to mention the fact that Summer has definitely not worn out her welcome.

Above all though, I am a good hostess and I didn't want to be rude to Fall so I prepared a little meal in honour of Fall and courtesy of Earth Balance.

A while back, Earth Balance sent me some coupons to try several of their new coconut products. I was really excited because Earth Balance is one of my favorite 'alternative' brands and I am loving the whole 'coconut movement'. I was also pleased to see they sent a little booklet of fun recipes. And I like fun recipes.

One of those little recipes were the Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes with Ginger-Lime Peanut Sauce. Well. I love sweet potatoes and mushrooms and I am currently very 'in to' the whole ginger, lime, sesame oil thing. I did make a few small changes, as per usual...

I featured the sweet potatoes as our main dish and served them with another dish from Earth Balance's tiny booklet of delicious recipes. You could also serve these as a side dish or pair it with a salad and another side.

They are very filling and bursting with the natural deliciousness of the sweet potato, earthy, full flavor of shitake mushrooms and tangy ginger lime dressing. The variation of texture is also fun, breaking up the monotony of just plain sweet potato.

Adapted from Earth Balance 'Cooking with Coconut' pamphlet

4 medium sweet potatoes
3 teaspoons Earth Balance coconut spread, melted
For the filling:
1 Tablespoon Earth Balance coconut spread
1/2 large red onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
4 cloves garlic, minced
About 10-12 shitake mushrooms, sliced (about 1/2 cup)
3 cups baby spinach leaves
1/2 cup mushroom broth
For the sauce:
2 Tablespoons toasted sesame oil
3 Tablespoons tamari
2 Tablespoons Bragg's liquid aminos
1 Tablespoon agave nectar
2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
About 1/2 cup green onions, chopped

Preheat oven to 400.

Slice potatoes in half lengthwise and brush with melted Earth Balance coconut spread. Place cut side down on a lined baking sheet and bake about 25-30 minutes, until very tender. Test them with a fork.

Remove potatoes from oven and set aside to cool. You can leave the oven on or turn it off and then turn it on in a bit.

In a pan, melt additional Tablespoon of Earth Balance coconut spread on med/high heat. Add onions and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes until barely tender. Add mushrooms, stir and continue to cook until mushrooms are tender, about 4-5 minutes.

Reduce heat to low and add spinach leaves and mushroom broth. Stir to combine then cover and let cook for about 4-5 minutes until spinach is soft. Turn off stove and set aside.

While your mix is cooking, prepare sauce: In a jar, combine sesame oil, tamari, Bragg's, lime juice, ginger and agave nectar. Seal and shake. Set aside.

Using a spoon, gently scoop 'meat' out of sweet potato skins and add it to your spinach/mushroom combination. Pour about half your dressing on top then stir well to combine and ensure ingredients are evenly distributed.

If you turned the oven off, turn it back on now. Scoop sweet potato mixture back into skins, packing it down and piling it on top.

Place sweet potatoes back on baking sheet and bake for another 15-20 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes. Transfer to plate and top with green onion. Serve with delicious curried chickpeas and greens (recipe coming) or a big fresh green salad, or both.


Monday, August 8, 2011

Chocolate Hummus

I came to the conclusion yesterday that I am, like my cat, addicted to carbohydrates. No. Like, really.

I was finishing up the weight loss portion of my current module for school and there it was: the Official Carbohydrate Addiction Quiz. I scored in the 'severely addicted' category. Ouch.

So to console myself I decided I needed some chocolate carbs. But I didn't want to completely blow my 'diet type thing' so I veered toward the good kind. Chickpeas. Because I have been toying with the idea of chocolate hummus and it just seemed like the right thing to do.

Now, you may be wondering how on earth it is possible to make something chocolate and 'desserty' out of a legume. It is possible folks, it is. This chocolate hummus is proof. Another great example is the black bean brownies I made a while back.

The hummus is thick, rich and chocolatey without being overly sweet. The cinnamon lends not only a nice spicy twist, it's also a great spice for weight loss. And on top of that your base is chickpeas. A lovely complex carb packed with protein and essential vitamins. Score.

I paired my hummus with chocolate tortilla chips by Food Should Taste Good. Yes, you heard it right: chocolate tortilla chips, a.k.a. every carbohydrate addict's dream food.

Chocolate hummus plus chocolate tortilla chips equal a match made in heaven. So when you're craving something sweet but don't want to bust your anti-carb diet, this is your healthy alternative.

So I ask you this: Why not have your sweet and eat your beans too?

1 15oz can chickpeas (garbanzo beans) drained and rinsed very well
2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch salt
2 Tablespoons pure vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon water (plus a little more, only if needed)

Simply combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until well combined and mostly smooth.

If hummus is too thick, add just a bit more water.

I arranged mine in a bowl encircled with the amazing chocolate tortilla chips by Food Should Taste Good.

Best enjoyed with friends and a gorgeous bottle of red vino.


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Pickled Kohlrabi

The theme of the day is 'farm day'. Farm day because the 'veg of the hour' is kohlrabi from our CSA. Farm day because I'm using it in a recipe from one of my new favorite sites: Farm Folly. And farm day because we are going on a field trip! 

I have been a wee bit lazy with our 'Adventure Wednesday' adventures so I'm turning this week's adventure into Adventure Thursday. And a challenge. A challenge to see how many times I can fit the word 'adventure' into one paragraph.

This morning we are heading to the country to visit Terra Verde, our CSA garden. I have been itching to take Noodle Nose (and myself!) out there because he is so intrigued by our magical CSA.

I'm pretty sure he thinks our veggies fall from the sky and that 'CSA' simply stands for 'giant basket of veg that falls from the sky'. And yes, though this is partially true, I thought it would be an interesting educational lesson for him to see the hard work and dedication it takes to produce the magical veg that falls from the sky into our basket.

So continuing with our theme of the day, last week when I picked up our CSA I was greeted by two kohlrabi. Two kohlrabi as big as my head. Each. And I'm not exaggerating.

Now, in my opinion, kohlrabi isn't the most 'versatile' vegetable, even in normal person size. It is a lovely veg though. Before now I haven't had much experience with it, so when greeted by two kohlrabi as big as my head, what did I do? I pickled it.

On its own I would describe kohlrabi as tasting like a watered down radish. It is actually quite lovely simply raw, as I learned whilst cutting it into spears to pickle. It's crisp, crunchy and light with a slightly peppery flavor.

It would be lovely diced up in a salad or, as Amy from Terra Verde suggested, shredded then pickled and added to a salad or slaw. Play around. It's actually a pretty delicious little veg. Not to mention just plain neat looking.

So upon deciding I wanted to pickle it, I referred to my friend Google, who introduced me to a new site that I am loving: Farm Folly. When you have a chance, check it out, it's just fun and packed with great info. She used a recipe from The Joy of Pickling when it came to her kohlrabi. It was simple enough so I went with that. Except I changed it just a bit.

The pickled version of this crunchy little veg is just fun. Tangy, garlicky, gingery, delicious. And slightly addicting. Just yesterday I almost finished off the jar.

I am looking forward to trying the shredded, pickled version. And by the way, do you have any good kohlrabi suggestions? If so, comment! I'd love to give them a try.

1 1/2 - 2 lbs kohlrabi, peeled and cut into spears
2 cups rice wine vinegar
1 cup water
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 lemon, 'zested' in strips
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon black peppercorn
6 thin ginger slices
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Pack kohlrabi spears upright in jar(s).

In a pot, combine remaining ingredients: rice wine vinegar, water, garlic, lemon zest strips, sugar, black pepper corn, ginger and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil then turn off stove.

Pour liquid into jars (divide equally if you have two jars, as I did). Top jars off with more water, if needed.

Cover jars, let cool then store in refrigerator.

Kohlrabi will be ready in 2-3 days and will last for up to 3 weeks.

By itself it makes a fantastic, filling and low calorie crunchy snack. You could also cut it up and add it to a salad. Cool, tangy, slightly spicy and fully addicting.


Oh, and I'll tell you all about our farm visit too!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Vegan Raspberry Protein Muffins

Raspberries are all over the place right now and I am lucky enough to have virtually endless supplies via the ranch and the hen house.

In my pre-school years I must have been a budding chef because with summer raspberries I used to make a truly amazing raspberry beverage. Ok, it was a juice pitcher of raspberries and sugar, smashed into a pulp. Everyone starts somewhere. Mmmm. Delicious.

So this weekend I had a gaggle of freshy picked raspberries that were in jeopardy of taking a eternal trip to the compost pile.

Instead, I decided to branch out of my traditional 'juice pulp smoothie' thing and brave the hot oven to bake the raspberries into some deliciously semi-sweet muffins. Voila: breakfast of champions.

Not too sweet and bursting with fresh raspberry flavor, I got to use a bit of protein powder and two of my favorite things: So Delicious coconut milk and Vegan Proteins protein powder. I felt really good feeding these little morsels to Noodle and his friends. And myself.

1 cup So Delicious coconut milk, vanilla or original
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 cup white unbleached flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup Vegan proteins vanilla protein powder
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup fresh raspberries (can use frozen too)

Preheat oven to 375 and line muffin tins with muffin/cupcake liners.

In a small bowl, combine So Delicious coconut milk and apple cider vinegar. Stir then let sit 5 minutes.

In a Kitchenaid or large bowl, combine both flours, protein powder, baking soda and salt then mix.

In a medium bowl, combine brown sugar, applesauce and vanilla extract. Mix to fully combine then add soy milk/apple cider vinegar mixture and mix again.

With Kitchenaid on low, add bowl of wet ingredients to dry and mix until just combined.

Add raspberries and use a spatula to fold together.

Spoon into muffin liners and bake for 15-17 minutes. Remove and let cool.

These little semi-sweet muffins are great for breakfast! They also make a great lunchbox snack or dessert, with a delicious scoop of So Delicious coconut ice cream. Soooo Delicious!



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