Monday, February 28, 2011

Homemade Tempeh Bacon

Since working in the bakery, I have noticed that my breakfasts are becoming stranger and stranger.  At least, I am sure others would think so.  The girls I work with eat the same things I do, more lunches or dinners for breakfast.  None of us really eat any of the baked goods anymore - I don't think I will ever really appreciate them the way others do just because I am around them all of the time now.  When I came in to work on Sunday, I noticed some leftovers from lunch the day before.  I looked like burger fixings.  So I asked one of my coworkers that had worked that day what they had had for lunch.  She said they had had BLT's two days in a row for lunch.  BLT?  Yum!  It's been so long since I've had a BLT and it sounded so good.  I have definitely not had one since I've lived in ny, which is a little over three years.

Suddenly, I had to have it.  I bought a package of the tempeh fakin bacon from the store downstairs, which cost almost $6!  That's so much for like 8 oz. of seasoned tempeh.  But when I toasted in it the pan, added some fresh organic tomato and red leaf lettuce with some veganaise on a sprouted grain bread, it was heaven!  I did not remember a BLT tasting so good!  So guess what I had for breakfast three days in a row?  BLT's!  But when I finished the package of tempeh bacon, I was thinking that it was just so ridiculously expensive, and there had to be a way to make it myself, just as delicious, but cheaper!  So this was my experiment.  I found a base recipe online, but I modified it to suit what I thought would be the most delicious and marinated it for several hours - at least four.  I think it would be awesome marinated overnight as well.  I think the reason the store bought tempeh is so delicious is that it is sitting in its own marinade for weeks, months maybe and it is super-marinated.  When you think about how long its been sitting there, it's pretty gross and definitely makes me want to eat something more fresh.

Tempeh Bacon:

The Marinating Bacon!

(Will make at Least 6 sandwiches)

1 8 oz pkg. tempeh (I used the 3 grain variety)
1/3 cup shoyu or tamari
2 tablespoons agave
1 tablespoon liquid smoke
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1.  Cut the tempeh in half burger-wise.  Cut each half into strips as thin as you can, making sure they are stable. 
2.  In a medium bowl, add the shoyu, agave, liquid smoke, vinegar, sesame oil, paprika and pepper.  Whisk together until all the ingredients are well combined. 
3.  Place the sliced tempeh in a container with a lid and layer them carefully one on top of another, being sure to pour a little of the marinade over top of each layer.  Pour the remaining marinade over top, twirling around, evenly coating the tempeh slices.
4.  Allow to marinate for several hours to overnight. 
5.  You can use this in many recipes: BLT's, twice baked potatoes, crumbled on top of a spinach salad.  The best way to cook the bacon is to discard the marinade, heat a few tablespoons of oil in a saute pan and once it's hot, cook the tempeh on each side until crispy and lightly browned.  This is so delicious!



Friday, February 25, 2011

Welcome Home Hubby! ... Meal

The Hubby was in his native Dominican Republic taking care of business for several weeks and boy did I miss him!  I was thinking about what to make him for his first dinner when he came back home, and I knew it had to be something with rice (he wants it literally almost everday, probably everyday if I would actually do it!) and something mimicing meat.  While he was in DR I am sure his mother was feeding him an abundance of meat and was thinking that he was either 1) sick of eating so much meat and wanted to stay away from the analouges for a while, OR 2) became obsessed/conditioned to eating so much that he automatically wanted to eat it everyday.  Anyway, I knew I had some pepper steak in the freezer and I knew he liked that, plus it has a very "meaty" texture, which I knew he would appreciate.  I also had some leftover tempeh bacon, and after discussing with the girls at work what I should make with it, I decided to add it to some collards, which would also lend a nice meaty-ness to the dinner.

So, I ultimately decided on making rice with gravy (he doesn't like the rice plain - he says it always needs some sort of sauce), pepper steak, and bacon sauteed collards.  It was a delicious welcome home dinner if I do say so myself!  And he certainly enjoyed it, saying how much he missed and appreciated my cooking.  That always makes me smile :)  So happy he is back home!  It's time to be more excited about cooking.  When you are just cooking for yourself, it can get boring because who are you really trying to impress?  Pretty much the whole time he was gone, the meals that I would cook would be eaten for at least three days straight and I was really bored of eating.  It's fun again.  Thanks Hubby!

Rice & Gravy, Bacon Sauteed Collards, Pepper Steak:

Collards with Tempeh Bacon, Rice & Gravy, Pepper Steak

Serves 2 (with a little extra gravy, but who doesn't love gravy!)

1 cup long grain white or brown rice, rinsed and cooked with 2 cups water, kept warm

2 prepared pepper steaks, thawed out and cooked in a small amount of oil for a couple minutes on each side

2 tablespoons oilive oil
1 medium onion, small diced, about 1 cup
3 tablespoons unbleached flour
6 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon tamari/shoyu
2 cups water, or more as needed
Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Bacon Sauteed Collards:
2 tablespoons olive oil
6-8 1/2 strips homemade tempeh bacon

1/2 bunch collard greens, deveined and sliced into strips
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, minced
Sea salt and black pepper to taste

1.  Begin by blanching the collards.  Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and submerse the collards in the water for about one minute, or until they turn a vibrant green and become tender.  Drain  the pot over the sink into a colander and allow the collards to drain and cool.  (The reason I blanch my greens briefly is so that they cook more evenly and there is not a chance for them to become bitter.)
2.  Make the gravy: In a medium pot over medium heat, add the 2 tablespoons of oil.  When it is hot, add the onions and saute until cooked, not browned.  Add the flour and nutritional yeast and whisk together.  Note that there is not a lot of oil in the gravy so this will not make a roux.  The idea is to toast the flour and yeast to give them flavor.  I was thinking that there was enough fat elsewhere in the meal, so reducing it sounded good to me!
3.  Once the flour, yeast, oil mixture has toasted for about three minutes, add the shoyu/tamari and whisk together.  Add the water and whisk immediately.  If you are not quick enough about whisking once the liquid is added, you will get lumps in the gravy.  The gravy will be very thin, but keep whisking periodically and it will thicken considerably.  Season with salt and pepper.
4.  Prepare the bacon: in a medium saute pan over medium heat, add the oil  and allow it to become hot.  Once it is hot, add the bacon slices and cook for a couple minutes on each side until nicely browned and fragrant.  Drain on a plate lined with paper towel.  (Remember to keep an eye on your gravy.)  Once the tempeh bacon is cool enough to handle, chop the bacon into small pieces.
5.  After about 10 minutes of cooking and stirring, your gravy should be cooked through and nicely thickened.  Season to taste and keep over low heat to stay warm.
6.  Prepare the collards: in a medium saute pan over medium-high heat, add the tablespoon of oil.  Once it is hot, add the garlic and cook for about one minute, or until the garlic is golden and fragrant.  Add the blanched, drained collards and saute for a minute until they are hot.  Add sea salt and black pepper to taste and carefully stir in the cooked bacon.  If you stir too vigorously, the bacon will crumble.
7.  To serve, portion a mound of rice on the plate, top with desired amount of gravy, and add a side of the collards and one of the pepper steaks. 



Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Gluten Free Wednesday: Pasta with "Meatballs" and Garlic Bread

Gluten Free Wednesdays at work always seem to be a challenge for me.  I am not gluten free, but I work with a girl that is gluten free, in addition to having several other food allergies.  She is great because she is so open to trying new things.  I'll admit, most of the time I am the one getting super excited about whatever new thing I am testing, though she will always sample it and most often really likes it.  I guess I am just very vocal about my excitement.  Recently in the bakery we have all been talking about eating less gluten, and after making a few attempts at gluten free bread from my favorite gluten free blog Gluten Free Goddess, I am using the base bread recipe and making it into many different forms of bread.  This time around I formed it into a baguette.  I will post that soon.

Today in the bakery it was my turn to make the family meal.  As is usual, I was thinking about what I would be making several days in advance and was sure I was going to making moussaka.  Every time I mention out loud that I am going to be making that, it never happens.  So, next week, I want to make it and will not mention it at all.  I was intending to make that up until yesterday when L started talking about garlic bread.  That sounded equally good to me, so I started thinking about what things usually go with garlic bread - pasta with a red sauce.  That sounded a little boring, so I was thinking about making meatballs to go along with it.  Yum!  I admittedly have not had them in so long, the meat free version of course, so I didn't really know where to start.  After doing a google search, I came across a gluten free vegan blog with a meatball recipe based on rice and lentils.  I looked over the recipe and liked the base, but the rest of the recipe really didn't make sense or seem like it would work, so it was time to improvise. 

I started throwing things in the mix and ended up with a super delicious gluten free vegan mock meatball served over pasta with a red sauce (not homemade this time or I wouldn't be able to get any baking done at work!) with a delicious garlic bread on the side.  It was so good both L and I were ready for a nap afterwards, and didn't want to keep on baking.  I think this meal is definitely something that you can make for dinner to impress your guests - they will seriously not believe it is gluten free!  Or vegan!

Pasta with Meatballs and Garlic Bread

Pasta with Sauce, Meatballs, Steamed Broccoli & GF Garlic Bread!
 You will need:

gluten free pasta of choice, enough to serve 4 people, cooked according to package instructions, kept warm

1 glass jar pasta sauce, or homemade if you're feeling up to it, warmed

1 loaf gluten free bread brushed with earth balance and sprinkled with garlic powder, baked till crispy

Lentil Meatballs:

(This makes a ton, about 50, but they freeze well)

1 cup french lentils, sorted and rinsed
1 cup long grain brown rice, rinsed
4 1/2 cups stock
2/3 cup minced red onions
2/3 cup minced roasted portabella mushrooms
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3/4 teaspoon onion  powder
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 pinch cayenne pepper
3/4-1 cup gluten free breadcrumbs

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2.  In a large pot, add the lentils, rice and stock.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for about 45 minutes, or until the rice and lentils are cooked all the way through.  There should be a small amount of liquid left over.  Strain the rice and lentils in the sink in a fine mesh strainer and allow to sit for about 10 minutes, while you prepare the rest of the recipe.
3.  In a large bowl, place the minced red onions, mushrooms, garlic and all the spices: onion and garlic powder, sea salt, basil, oregano, black pepper, cayenne pepper and breadcrumbs, starting out with the smaller amount. 
4.  Once the rice and lentils have cooled slightly and most of the liquid has drained out, place the mixture into the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse the mixture in the processor until the rice and lentils begin to break down, but you can still see small pieces.  Do not let this mixture come to anything near a puree.
5.  Place the chopped rice and lentils in the bowl with the remaining ingredients.  Using your hands, thoroughly mix together the meatball ingredients.  The mixture should be very thick, yet not sticky.  Add the remaining breadcrumbs if needed.
6.  Oil a baking tray, line with parchment paper and oil again.  Scoop the meatball mixture by the tablespoon, and using your hands, roll them around until they are evenly round.  Place the meatballs onto the sheet tray with only a small amount of space separating them.
7.  Place into the oven and bake for about 35 minutes, or until the outside is slightly crispy and the inside is nice and firm.

A close-up of the delicious meatballs!
 To serve, place a portion of the cooked pasta on the plate, top with an amount of the warmed marinara sauce, up to 5 of the meatballs, additional warmed marinara sauce and vegan parm if you'd like.  Serve with the garlic bread on the side. 

L and I decided to add steamed broccoli to our plates because we felt bad about eating all the carbs.  Although admittedly, the starches we were eating were all health supportive - brown rice pasta, millet based bread and brown rice and lentil meatballs.  This was seriously so delicious!



Monday, February 21, 2011

Spinach Ricotta Stuffed Shells

The night the Hubby left for DR, I was planning on making lasagna, and I did, managing to do it from start to finish in under 45 minutes.  Let me just say that it was certainly not the best lasagna I have ever made, but being starving and having to run out the door quickly with the hubby to catch his flight, I think it was acceptable.  The same day I made the lasagna, I saw some huge shells that could be stuffed in the grocery and bought them on a whim.  I have eaten stuffed shells before, but I have never made them.  And of course when I am trying to be cooking in smaller amounts to feed just myself, I cook the entire 1 pound package of shells, then think to myself, "now what am I going to do - eat pasta for a week straight"?!  I obviously didn't think that one through completely!  Oh well, and the answer is yes, I'm going to be eating pasta for a week straight.  Good thing I like it!

I decided to make this dish with what I had on hand - I was not in the mood to go to the store for anything, so I just opened my fridge and freezer and went to work grabbing whatever sounded good, and decided on spinach ricotta shells.  Yum.  It all came together very easily because I had frozen the leftover sauce from when I made the lasagna on hand.  When I was making this dish, I decided I only wanted a small amount of the marinara over the shells- I wanted to taste the filling more than the topping, and was very happy with the end result.

Spinach Ricotta Stuffed Shells:

Stuffed Shells with Marinara Sauce, Vegan Parm and a Salad
 1/2 box x-large shells, cooked until just al dente

1 lb. firm tofu. drained and cut into 16 cubes
1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked for a few hours and drained
3 tablespoons fresh lemon  juice
2 tablespoons olive oil ( not extra virgin)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon dried basil

Veggie Filling:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, small diced, about 1 cup
1/2 cup small diced orange or red bell pepper
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 large jalapeno, minced
2 cups chopped, frozen spinach
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 pinches cayenne pepper

Marinara Sauce, as needed

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2.  First cook the shells.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the shells just until al dente, because we will continue to cook them in the oven.  Once the pasta has finished cooking, do not dump out the pasta and water into a colander in the sink - use a large slotted spoon to remove the pasta from the water - save the water for blanching the tofu.
3.  Prepare the ricotta filling:  in the same salted water that the pasta was cooking in.  Slice the tofu into large cubes and place in the boiling water.  Allow it to boil for about 5 minutes.  Whenever I use tofu in a recipe where I will not be doing a lot of cooking to the final product, I always blanch it in salted water to remove any of the bacteria that may be hanging out on it from sitting in the same water in its package for a while. 
4.  Drain the tofu, squeezing out as much water as possible by pressing the back of a wooden spoon against it.  Place it directly into the bowl of a food processor.  Add the soaked cashews, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, sea salt and basil.  Blend until mixture resembles the texture of ricotta - this will take several minutes.  You also want to be sure that there are no chunks of cashews hanging around in the mixture.  Set mixture aside until ready to use.
5.  Prepare the veggie part of the filling now.  In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion, pepper, garlic and jalapeno.  Cook just until onion softens.  Add the frozen spinach and cook just until it thaws.  Now add the sea salt, black pepper, smoked paprika and cayenne pepper.  Stir the entire mixture to coat.  Add the ricotta to this mixture and stir to coat.  Season to taste.
5.  Now is the fun part: stuffing the shells!  Prepare your baking pan - spray a little bit of oil on the bottom and sides of the pan and cover the bottom with a thin layer of sauce.  Take about 2 tablespoons of the filling and place in the center of the shell, pressing the sides together.  Place on top of the sauce in the pan.  Repeat this process with the remaining shells.  This filling will only fill about half of the full package of shells.  So you can reserve them for another stuffing event and freeze the first batch.  Then it's nice and easy to serve these shells at the last minute.
6.  Once all the shells are filled and in the pan, pour desired amount of sauce over top and bake in the oven just until heated through.
7.  Serve the shells topped with vegan Parmesan and a salad.  Nice and healthfully filling.  Not too heavy.  I like to make my own Parmesan -style topping, which gives the shells a nice salty, toasty flavor.  It keeps in the fridge for a long time.  I'll post the recipe for it one of these days.  This is seriously so good!



Friday, February 18, 2011

Rice Pasta with Seitan and Greens with a Lime Peanut Sauce

Happy Spring!  Today officially tipped the thermometer into the Spring vicinity when it reached 61 degrees.  61!  Not really healthy or normal for February, but amazing none the less.  I have not been doing much of anything this week except recovering from being sick (ugh!), and felt much better today.  I am very proud of myself too, because I have treated this cold with only natural and organic remedies, supplements and teas - no over-the-counter medicines.  And today I am at 95%.  It could also be that I am picking up the hubby from the airport tomorrow and I am beyond excited and happy.

I have done a lot around the house while he has been gone, including getting and putting together a dining room set, which was a Christmas present from my amazing mum.  Christmas, yes, you heard that right.  It came from CA and was completely ruined, was sent back, and I received a new one a couple weeks ago, which I put together myself!  So proud!  That required me to rearrange my small apartment to make it fit, and it feels so nice and homey.  I can't wait to have people come over and share in my happiness over the table.  It is the first time I have had a table and chairs since coming to the city.  Hubby and I have survived these past couple years slouching over a coffee table.  Fine for us, but not the best for company. 

Now that I am so off topic it isn't even funny, back to food!  Since today was so nice and I actually had all the windows in the apartment open to let in the nice nyc air (ha!), I felt so refreshed and wanted something not too heavy, with lots of veggies and was going through some of my cookbooks and had an idea for a veggie seitan stir-fry kind of thing, since I had just made a gigantic batch of homemade chicken-style seitan.  So, off I went, and ended up with an extremely delicious, light lunch packed with veggies.

Rice Pasta with Seitan and Greens with a Lime Peanut Sauce

Serves 4

10 oz. rice vermicelli or other shaped rice pasta
1/4 cup roasted peanuts, chopped, for garnish

3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, separated
1/2 green pepper, julienned
1/2 orange pepper, julienned
1 small onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
4 scallions chopped, green and white parts separated
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups seitan, sliced thin
3 cups kale, tough ribs removed and leaves sliced
1/2 bunch spinach, sliced
2 carrot, peeled and shredded
Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Lime Peanut Sauce
3 tablespoons creamy natural peanut butter
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons tamari/shoyu
1 1/2 tablespoons agave
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon ginger powder
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1.  Bring a large pot of water to boil.
2.  Prepare the peanut lime sauce by mixing together all the ingredients in a small bowl until emulsified and medium-thick.  Season to taste and set aside.
3.  In a wok, over high heat, place 1 1/2 tablespoons of the olive oil.  Add the seitan and cook, stirring frequently until it browns and the oil is absorbed.  Place in a bowl and set aside.
4.  Lower the heat slightly, and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil.  Add the green, orange and jalapeno peppers, onion, white part of scallions and shredded carrots.  Cook for several minutes, turning frequently with a wooden spoon.
5.  In the meantime, once the water has come to a boil, place the kale inside, pressing down with a spoon.  Blanch for 1-2 minutes or until the kale is bright green and tender.  Remove from the water with a pair of tongs and place in strainer in the sink to remove the excess water.  Bring the water back up to a boil and continue with the saute.
6.  To the sauteing vegetables, add the garlic and stir and cook just until fragrant.  Add the spinach and cook just until wilted.  Add back in the cooked seitan and blanched kale.  Sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper to taste.  Turn off the heat.
7.  Cook the pasta in the boiling water for 2-3 minutes or until tender.  Drain well, return to empty pot and drizzle a small amount of oil over top to prevent from sticking.
8.  To serve, place a mound of rice noodles in the middle of the plate, followed by a generous helping of the vegetable/seitan mixture, followed by as much of the sauce as you would like.  Garnish with the green parts of the scallion and the chopped peanuts.  Serve.



Monday, February 14, 2011

Vegan Baking Basics: Ice Cream!

The night before we were supposed to have this class, we heard warnings about how terrible the weather was going to be overnight.  We were hearing that it would snow one inch every hour, with a possibility of 12 inches.  Yuck!  I had hoped that when I left my hometown, I left the snow behind.  Not so.  It's come back this winter with a vengeance.  Anyway, when I woke up the following morning, after having packed all my supplies, including my ice cream machine, I could just tell that something was off.  I logged onto mta's website, which was of course down, so I couldn't tell if my train was running.  Then I went on the news channels and just saw pictures upon pictures people had taken of the snow, with no news about the trains.  So, I went the long way to the train and listened to what people were saying.  Sure enough, my train was not working.  So, over half an hour walk to the other nearest underground train.

Two hours later and with a pair of soaking socks and boots, and I arrived to work.  I was sure I would have to cancel the class because I was hearing that everything was running local and if my train still wasn't running by the time the class was over, I would have to walk through an unfamiliar neighborhood in the dark back home.  Ugh.  As it turned out though, by the time I finished at work, everything was running on time.  And, even though the ground was covered in snow and slush, it wasn't that cold outside and the plan was on to still make and eat vegan ice cream!

We made vanilla bean and cookies and cream ice creams:

Cookies and Creme Ice Cream Churning in Ice Cream Machine

The Finished Cookies and Creme Ice Cream!

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream:

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream Churning in the Ice Cream Machine

Yields 1 1/2 Quarts

2 cups raw cashews, soaked
2 cups young coconut flesh
1 cup coconut water
3/4 cup agave
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, deseeded
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted

1.  Prepare your ice cream machine.  It depends on what kind you have, but I have the Cuisinart where the bowl has to be frozen overnight prior to making the ice cream , so that is what I will be referring to here.
2.  Place all the ingredients except the coconut oil in the blender and process until completely smooth and no lumps remain.  This will take several minutes.  Remember to scrape down the sides of the bowl from time to time.
3.  Melt the coconut oil on the stove.  Add to the ingredients in the blender.  Quickly incorporate the coconut oil - remember that if it touches ingredients that are colder than it, it will return to its solidified state.  Blend until the coconut oil is dispersed throughout the ingredients. 
4.  Place the mixture in a bowl and place the bowl in the freezer for half an hour to an hour, or until the contents are very cold but not frozen.  Remove and set on the counter.
5.  Remove the frozen ice cream bowl from the freezer and place it on the base of the machine.  Place in the stirring stick.  Add the cold contents from the bowl and put the lid on top of the machine.  Turn the machine on and allow it to work its magic.  It will take between 10-15 minutes to freeze.  It will be somewhat like a soft serve ice cream.
6.  Remove the ice cream from the freezer bowl  and place in a clean bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill for several hours to overnight.
7.  Allow the ice cream to sit out for about 5 minutes to soften, then scoop and eat.  You can add peanuts, chocolate syrup, whipped cream, cherries - the possibilities are endless!  It was so good!



Friday, February 11, 2011

Veggies in a Curried Coconut Sauce with Roasted Portabella Mushrooms

Every Wednesday at work is my day to cook for my department, which is basically a funny way of saying that I cook for my coworker and I because it is just the two of us then.  We were really busy and even though I did not feel the least bit like cooking, it was our deal and I had to follow through.  I wanted something with a lot of veggies and also something that was very easy, so I thought of the one thing I always make at home when I'm in a hurry - veggies in a curried coconut sauce.  So quick and delicious!  So, half an hour later, lunch was served over brown rice, and was delicious and filling. Then it was back to work!

Veggies in a Curried Coconut Sauce:

Lunch at Work Served in a Cake Pan!
Serves 3
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
2 carrots, peeled and julienned
2 small red bell peppers, julienned
1 bunch broccoli and stems, cut into bite sized pieces
2-3 learge spinach leaves, sliced
1 zucchini, julienned
fresh basil, sliced, optional

1 can coconut milk
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon curry powder
3/4 teaspoon cumin
3/4 teaspoon onion powder
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4  teaspoon chili powder
1/8 - 1/4  teaspoon cayenne pepper

Roasted Portabella Mushrooms:
3 large portabella mushrooms, stems removed and cleaned
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 pinches black pepper
2 pinches garlic powder

1.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  In a small bowl, place the oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder.  Stir together and dip the portabella mushrooms in the mixture - top and bottom.  Place them on a baking tray and put in the oven.  Bake for about 10-15 minutes, turn over and bake until desired doneness - I like the edges to be nice and crispy.
2.  Prepare all the veggies - cut and clean them all.  Preheat a wok over medium-high heat.  Add the oil and allow it to heat up.  Once the oil is hot, add the firmer of the vegetables: the carrots and broccoli.  Allow the veggies to cook for about 5 minutes, stirring every so often.  Add the remaining veggies: the onion, red bell pepper, zucchini and garlic.  Cook for an additional 5 minutes, or until the veggies are cooked, but still firm.  Stir in the spinach - it will wilt as soon as it is mixed in with the rest of the ingredients.   
3.  While the vegetables are cooking, prepare the curried coconut sauce.  In a medium bowl, place the coconut milk, sea salt, black pepper, curry powder, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder and cayenne pepper, adding more or less to taste.  Whisk all the ingredients together and once the veggies are cooked, pour desired amount of sauce over veggies to coat.  Allow the sauce to come to a simmer and continue cooking for an additional 2-3 minutes, or until the sauce thickens. 
4.  Serve over rice or quinoa with the roasted portabella on the side.  Slice the mushroom for easier eating.  If desired, you can also serve this with fresh basil over top for an extra delicious addition.  This dish is very adaptable - you can use any veggies you have on hand - I just used the extra veggies the kitchen had and it turned out lovely.  Anything with broccoli and some kind of a sauce makes my belly very happy!



Monday, February 7, 2011

Breakfast at Work

I swear, the longer I am working in a bakery, the less and less I want to eat anything baked, anything made with flour and sugar.  I am very over it!  Now, all I crave is savory things.  In the mornings before the beginning of this year, we would get bagels and share them.  A bagel a day?  Definitely bad for this girl's figure!  At the beginning of the year we decided we would nix the bagels and have bread instead.  One of my coworkers is gluten free,  so eats this gf rice bread, and another coworker has been watching her gluten intake, so also eats the same bread.  I could eat gf bread, but honestly, since I don't have to and it is so expensive, I would rather eat something with absolutely no white flour and sprouted grains, which are much healthier and better for digestion. 

So that's what we've been eating.  Bread toasted in the oven with fun toppings.  I had been doing a little bit of earth balance spread on the toast with some veggies.  Or some pesto cream cheese with the veggies.  This particular breakfast idea was an idea of one of my coworkers, who suggested using a marinara the kitchen had prepared.  I personally didn't think it had a ton of flavor and found a container of pesto from the kitchen, spread it on the sprouted grain toast, topped it with daiya and popped it back in the oven until the daiya melted.  On top of that I put organic tomato slices which I sprinkled with sea salt, black pepper and tons of cayenne, then with fresh red onion slices.  It was so good and nicely filling with the sprouted grain bread.  I have been pretty much making a variation of this everyday at work now, and must say it is sufficiently filling and delicious!

Pesto Toast:

Pesto, Melted Daiya, Spicy Tomatoes and Fresh Red Onion

2 slices desired bread (I used sprouted grain)
2-3 tablespoons prepared pesto
1/4 cup shredded daiya
6 slices fresh tomato
1 slice red onion, separated into rings
sea salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper to taste

1.  Place bread on an oven safe baking tray.  Toast for about 2 minutes at 350-375 degrees.

2.  Remove from oven and spread the pesto on each slice.  Top each slice with daiya and return to the oven until melted.  Top with the tomato slices, sprinkling each slice with sea salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper. 

3.  Top with the slices of red onion and eat while hot so that the daiya is nice and melty!



Friday, February 4, 2011

Vegan Baking Basics: Gluten Free

Today was our gluten free vegan baking class.  It went very well and we had lots of fun - I actually ended up staying two hours over what I should have, and loved every moment of it.  Gluten Free is one of my specialties, so when I get to teach it to people that do not necessarily know much about it, unlike the people that usually take my classes at NGI, it's a lot of fun because they're like a blank slate.  The beginning of this class started off on a really interesting foot, because as one of my students J, was picking me up at the subway station to go back to her house to meet with her sister, she told me that she had heard that gluten free was really terrible, and was wondering if the things we would be making would also be terrible.  I had to laugh to myself, because this is a very familiar reaction I used to get when I would tell people I was vegan (this was in the beginning, when not very many people had heard of it).  They would inevitably ask me "but what do you eat?"  It's so funny, because it's not about what you don't eat, but rather what you do eat.  Ever since becoming vegetarian and then vegan, I definitely think my food choices have expanded and I am eating such a varied diet compared to what I was eating when I would eat the meat and potatoes way. 

Now that we are extremely off topic, back to the gluten free!  So, after J asked me whether or not gluten free tasted good, I began to explain that it's all about the quality of ingredients you use, just like any other kind of baking or cooking.  If you use poor refined ingredients, you will not have a good quality end result.  It will not taste fresh or be health supportive, and I personally think what's the point then?  So, we spent about four hours baking amazingly delicious vegan and gluten free desserts, breakfast items and even a vegan gf pizza!  It was so good!  Everyone was so impressed with the results and so surprised that something gluten free, which they had all heard was pretty much the worst thing ever, was actually quite good.  Everyone overall agreed that the best was the vegan gluten free pizza.  I think by the time I left, one out of the two pizzas had been entirely eaten.

Here is a list of all the amazing Vegan Gluten Free things we made:

Blueberry Muffins with Pecan Streusel:

Topped with crunchy sugar and pecans!

Pumpkin Pie Waffles with Cinnamon Maple Drizzle:

Dark Chocolate Almond Dipped Coconut Macaroons:

Half dipped in coconut, the other half in sliced almonds

Spiced Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting:

Creamy Cream Cheese Icing Yum!

Caramel Frosted Marble Cake:

This means "good" in Spanish and has become my
catchphrase evidently, or so say my students!

White and Dark Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies (see below)

Gluten Free Pizza:

Melty Daiya with Fresh Veggies

The Spread!

White and Dark Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies:

Delicious white chocolate chips - the best!

(Yield: 24 mini or 12 regular cookies)

1 cup sorghum flour
½ cup brown rice flour
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips
1/3 cup vegan white chocolate chips
½ cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons tapioca starch
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 cup turbinado sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
¼ cup flax eggs (place 1/3 cup ground flax seeds and 2/3 cup warm water into a jar and shake until thick, then measure 1/4 cup)
2 tablespoons agave
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon butterscotch extract

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place the sorghum flour, brown rice flour, chocolate chips, pecans, tapioca starch, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda and sea salt in a medium baking bowl.  Whisk well to combine.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together the sugar, canola oil, flax eggs, agave, vanilla extract and butterscotch extract.   Add the dry to the wet ingredients and mix together with a rubber spatula.  The dough may need to be finished mixing by hand. 
  4. Scoop cookie dough onto parchment lined sheet trays.  Dampen palm of hand and slightly flatten cookies.
  5. For mini cookies bake 8 minutes, for regular cookies bake for 10-12 minutes.
  6. Cool and serve.
These are so delicious!



Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Mashed Plantains with Quick Pickled Red Onions

I love Spanish food.  I love that my Hubby is Dominican.  I love that he knows about a type of food that I really know nothing about.  He is slowly but surely introducing me to Dominican food.  He is always telling me that out of everyone in his family, he is by far the worst cook, but I don't think so- I'm always excited and delighted when he prepares Dominican food for me.  One item in particular I am always interested in learning about and experimenting cooking with is plantains.  I had never had them before I met him, and since we've been together, I have insisted that me make them more frequently.  I love them!  They are so versatile and I am sure I have barely scratched the surface of what can be made with them. 

I generally use the green plantains.  I have only ever used the ripe/yellow plantains once, and that was to simply make fried sweet plantains, which were out of this world, but I am definitely open to learning more about them!  I love tostones (fried green plantains that are fried once, flattened and fried again so that the outside is crispy and the inside is soft) and mashed plantains.  I also went once to La Casa Del Mofongo in Washington Heights and was in love!  I was able to get a vegetarian mofongo and would absolutely love to make a vegan version of it for my Hubby.  I'm sure he would be surprised, because it usually contains fried pork skins (ugh I know).  I was talking to a coworker the other day that is Spanish and he was telling me that mofongo is made from green plantains that are chopped and fried, not boiled, like I thought.  Then they are mashed and all of the seasonings are added.  That is next on my list of things to try!  But for now, I made an equally delicious mashed plantain dish.

Mashed Plantains with Quick Pickled Red Onions

Mashed Seasoned Plantains with Quick Pickled Red Onions
Serves 2

Mashed Plantains:
2 green plantains, peeled and sliced
1/4 green pepper, small diced
1 large onion, small diced
1/2 jalapeno, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 teaspoons vegetable boullion powder
1/3 cup cold water
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon earth balance

Quick Pickled Red Onions:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium red onion, sliced and sliced separated into rings
2 capfuls apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1.  Place the chopped plantains in a medium pot filled with water.  Boil plantains until tender.
2.  In the meantime, prepare the ingredients for the plantains.  Chop the green and jalapeno peppers, onion and garlic.  In a separate medium pot, saute the onions, green and jalapeno pepper and garlic in the 3 tablespoons of oil until fragrant and lightly golden. 
3.  By now the plantains should be cooked.  Drain and discard the water.  Leave them in the sink to thoroughly drain. 
4.  Use the pan the plantains were cooked in and drain the oil from the cooked onions, pepper and garlic mixture into that pan.  Put the drained plantains on top of the oil.  Reserve the cooked veggies, you will be adding these to the plantains once you mash them.
5.  Mash the plantains and the flavored oil together.  They will feel hard and dry, but that's fine, we'll fix that in a minute.  Mash them until there are no longer any large chunks in them.
5.  In the meantime, place a medium sized saute pan over medium-high heat.  Toss together the ingredients for the quick pickled onions in a small bowl, being sure to separate the onion into rings.  Once the pan is hot, toss in all of the ingredients in the bowl.  It will sizzle and pop, but that's fine.  Stir and shake the pan periodically until all the liquid has evaporated and the onions are still crisp. but slightly tender.  Set aside until the plantains are finished.
6.  Go back to the plantains.  Add the cooked veggies, all the spices: the boullion powder, sea salt, black pepper, onion and garlic powder.  Add the earth balance and the cold water and mash all ingredients together until a nice consistency is achieved.  It is very important to use the cold water.  If you use hot water, the plantains will seize up and turn hard as a rock!  Season to taste. 
7.  Place the mashed plantains on a plate and mold into a mound with your hands.  Top with the pickled onions and serve more onions on the side.  Serve.  Bon appetite!