Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Summery Citrus Black Bean Salad!

Summery Citrus Black Bean Salad!    

I've come to the conclusion that here in New England the weather is finicky and unpredictable. That's why on this day in May it is rainy and cool, even though my mind and body is telling me that it should be sunny and at least 65, if not 70.... alas there are things in this life I can not control, and the weather is most certainly one of them.
    But I can try my best to convince myself that it's almost summer with this Summery Citrus Black Bean Salad. I make a lot of variations on this salad depending on what I've got in the fridge. Don't have scallions? No worries, try some red onion! Hate cilantro? Try some parsley! This is a great dish, because it's so versatile. You can have it stuffed into a pita, as an accompaniment to some tortilla chips, as a side with a burger, or simply by it's lonesome with a spoon.
    This is a tasty tex-mex inspired salad full of texture, and flavor. It's got some freshness from the lime, and cilantro, sweetness from the orange, spicy from the jalepeno,  smokeyness from the roasted corn, and all around deliciousness from the avocado. Not to mention that it's full of protein, and iron from the yummy black beans, and lots of fiber from the veggies.
    Get goin' and make some of this yummy salad, wether you just want to pretend it's summer, or you're looking for a light meal to get ready for those summer clothes, it's tasty no matter what.

Summery Citrus Black Bean Salad

2 cans Black Beans, rinsed and drained well
1 red bell pepper, diced small
2 carrots, peeled and diced small
4 scallions, chopped thinly on a bias
1 cup Trader Joe's Roasted Corn, thawed (plain corn is fine as well)
1 jalepeno, seeds and ribs removed, chopped fine
1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 avocado, cut in chunks

1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)
1/4 cup fresh orange juice (about 1/2 of 1 orange)
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
a few dashes hot sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Place the black beans, red bell pepper, carrots, scallions, corn, jalepeno, and cilantro in a large bowl. Mix lightly to combine. Set aside

In a 2 cup glass liquid measuring cup, add the lime juice, orange juice, red wine vinegar, dijon, hot sauce, salt, and pepper, whisk to combine. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while whisking, to combine.

Add about half of the vinaigrette to the black bean mixture. Stir to combine. Add the avocado, stir carefully so that you don't break up the avocado pieces. Taste to see if you'd like to add more vinaigrette. I think I added an extra 1/4 cup. About 3/4 cup of dressing total. But see what you like!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Vegan Lemongrass-Lemon Bars, with Coconut Shortbread Crust!

Vegan Lemongrass-Lemon Bars, with Coconut Shortbread Crust!

    This weekend I had the pleasure of hosting dinner for my besties parents on their very first visit to the fine state of Massachusetts. I have spent many a night an their house back home in Long Island, enjoying lots of yummy eats, and drinking plenty of wine. I knew that our night at my place would be no different.
    I was informed that I was to be the chef of the night (naturally), and they would be providing the ingredients for a wonderful dinner. Of course I felt the need to put my touch on the meal by making some sort of bangin' dessert. So while my bestie and her boyfriend took the parents on a scenic drive of the north shore of Massachusetts, I set out to devise the perfect dessert.
    I wanted something unique, not too heavy, not super rich, not too weird, and not messy. Then I remembered that I had seen a recipe in Bon Appetite for Lemongrass Bars with Coconut Shortbread Crust, and I knew that I had found my recipe!
    Now here's where it gets complicated. The recipe in Bon Appetite was for a traditional egg based filling, and my bud is quite put off by eggs in her food. So I began the challenge of veganizing a recipe that relies very much on eggs.
    Luckily I have made the vegan Lemon Bars recipe from Isa Moskowitz's book Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, so I knew that a vegan lemon topping was possible, and very yummy! My recipe is based on her recipe with a few subtle differences, plus the delicious, and unique addition of lemongrass.
    Anyways, a delicious dinner of fresh swordfish, scallops (or scollops as the New England natives say), haddock, grilled veggies, and mashed sweet potatoes was enjoyed by all. It was washed down with a healthy six bottles of wine, and ended with these totally delicious Lemongrass-Lemon Bars with Coconut Shortbread Crust! A wonderful night indeed!
Vegan Lemongrass-Lemon Bars, with Coconut Shortbread Crust

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons vegan butter (such as Earth Balance)

3 Tablespoons agar agar flakes
1 1/3 cups water
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 4 lemons)
3 tablespoons arrowroot powder
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 lemongrass stalks, bottom 4 inches only, tough outer layer removed, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 cup soy milk

     Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 13x9-inch baking pan.
     Using an electric mixer, beat flour, coconut, powdered sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl until well blended, 30 seconds. Add butter, beat on low speed until moist clumps form. Press dough onto bottom of the prepared baking pan, with slightly raised sides to hold the filling. Bake crust until golden, about 25 minutes. Remove, and let cool completely.
     In a sauce pot, soak the agar agar in the water for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, squeeze your lemon juice. Mix the arrowroot powder into the lemon juice to dissolve.
     Meanwhile, pour the sugar, and lemongrass into a food processor and pulse until the lemongrass is finely ground, about 1 minute. Set aside.
     When the agar agar has been soaking for 15 minutes, turn the heat up and bring to a boil. Boil for about 10 minutes, or until the agar agar is completely dissolved. Add the sugar/lemongrass mixture, and the turmeric and boil until sugar is dissolved, about 3 minutes. Lower the heat to medium and add the arrowroot powder mixture, then add the soy milk. Stir constantly until the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. It should not be rapidly boiling, but a low bubbling is okay.
     Pour the mixture into the prepared crust, let it cool for 20 minutes, and then refrigerate for at least 3 hours, until the filling is only slightly jiggly and set. Slice into squares. Use a sifter, or fine mesh strainer to sprinkle the bars with powdered sugar just before serving. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Time to eat your veggies! Lemon Tahini Dressing

Time to eat your veggies! Lemon Tahini Dressing   

    As we all have noticed, summer is nearing... it might not feel that close yet, but trust me it will be here before we all know it. With the glorious warmth of summer also comes the impending doom of looking cute in summer clothes. Pretty sun dresses, short shorts, skimpy tanks, bathing suits, flippy floppys, they are all on their way my friends. As usual, the race to loose that extra winter "padding" is on in my house. Even my boyfriend is in on the weight loss bandwagon, though I'm sure he's not trying to fit into any skimpy tank tops.... at least I hope not.
    As I've tried every diet out there, it's time for something new; the raw diet. Starting Monday, I have been eating raw vegan for breakfast, lunch, and snacks, then eat my normal dinner (though I'm trying to keep light on the starches). My bestie has been doing raw until dinner for a little bit, and is loving the way she feels, and I think her skin looks great; so I figured why not?
    Anyways, she came over for a little dinner the other day and brought this yummy tahini dressing. The original recipe was lacking a little freshness, so I boosted it up by adding more lemon juice, and a little parsley. It is a middle eastern tasting dressing with a nice silky consistency that would go good on anything from falafel, to a basic salad. We had it drizzled over a nice home made veggie burger, and side salad. So go ahead and start lightening up your life and get ready for summer, this dressing will make you want to eat your veggies.

Lemon Tahini Dressing

Small handful fresh parsley
1/2 cup roasted, or raw tahini
1/2 cup filtered water
3-4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
1 teaspoon ground cumin

Place all ingredients in a blender. Blend until everything is combined, garlic is broken down, and parsley is in small flecks.

Monday, April 4, 2011

I'm back! Quinoa and Spring Vegetable Pilaf

I'm back! Quinoa and Spring Vegetable Pilaf
     Yeah, I know, it's been a while.... Please don't be mad, the month of March was just so busy! On a whim my boyfriend and I decided to treat ourselves to a trip to San Francisco, California. We went for about a week, and ate our way around the city... but more on that in a blogpost to come. Unfortunately for my blog, and my readers, this one week trip affected my blogging/eating habits for roughly three weeks.
    You see, I spent the week prior to the trip trying to haphazardly put together meals out of the randomness that was the contents of my refrigerator. Because we all know there's nothing worse than coming home to a fridge full of moldy, rotted food.
    The week of the trip was spent eating every meal out, which I have a love/hate relationship with doing. I love eating delicious food at new places, but kind of hate the way my body feels after eating a lot of restaurant food. Plus when I'm on vacation, I'm not really thinking too hard about the calories/fiber/fat/sugar/protein I'm putting into my body, so I obviously get the most delicious thing I can find on the menu. Regardless I took many, many photos (roughly 800), and will soon be posting about my experience eating my way around San Francisco.
    The week following the trip was spent being exhausted, and wanting nothing but sleep. As far as I was concerned cooking could go to hell, I just wanted PJ's, a couch, and a TV remote. The jet lag killed me, and I was seriously pooped.
    Now I am BACK. I feel good, the weather is getting better, and I'm ready for some fresh produce, and a maybe a new camera soon (I love you Dad!).

    OK, now that that's been said, on to the food! This Quinoa and Spring Vegetable Pilaf is a lovely little dish if you're into all things green like me. I will give a disclaimer though, it is not a dish everyone I served it to loved... coughmyboyfriendhateditcoughsneeze. But hey, you win some, you loose some, and I liked it so this dish is cool with me.
     This is a dish from the "Fresh, Easy, Fast" section in this months Bon Appetite. In case you haven't tried quinoa before, it's a grain with a similar texture to couscous. It is also a "complete protein", which is not too easy to come by in the vegetarian diet, and "complete proteins" can be almost impossible to come by when eating vegan. This dish also takes advantage of the yummy spring vegetables becoming more available day by day up here in New England. So if you're trying to get out of your winter funk, lighten up your food choices, and take advantage of spring, try this dish out, you might be pleasantly surprised.

Quinoa and Spring Vegetable Pilaf
4 Servings
461 Calories
14g Fat
22g Fiber

1 1/2 cups quinoa, well rinsed
1 cup vegetable broth
2 cups frozen petite peas, thawed, divided
5 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves, divided
1 clove garlic, peeled
 3 tablespoons, butter
1 large leek (white and pale green parts only), halved, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
3/4 cup shallots
8 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, thickly sliced
1 14oz. bunch asparagus, trimmed, cut on diagonal into 1-inch pieces

     Bring 2 1/2 cups water to boil in small saucepan. Add quinoa and 1 teaspoon salt; return to boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until quinoa is tender and water is absorbed, 15-17 minutes. Drain if necessary.
     Puree broth, 1 cup peas, 4 tablespoons mint, and garlic in blender until smooth.
     Melt butter in large high walled nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add leek and shallots; saute until soft and light brown, about 4 minutes. Stir in mushrooms, then asparagus; saute until mushrooms are tender and asparagus is crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Mix in puree and 1 cup peas; stir until heated through, about 2 minutes. Add quinoa; stir to coat.
     Divide pilaf among bowls; sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon mint and serve.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Best Tofu Sandwich EVER! Smoky Miso Tofu Sammiches!

Best Tofu Sandwich EVER! Smoky Miso Tofu Sammiches!

     Seriously. These are the best vegetarian sandwiches ever. For reals. The marinade is to die for, and has all my favorite flavor combinations; smoky, sweet, savory, salty, what more could you ask for? Oh yeah, GREAT texture! Pressing the tofu gets rid of all that unnecessary water, makes room to soak up all that delicious marinade, and makes the tofu nice and firm! I also slice the tofu fairly thin, which really allows the marinade to get IN the tofu. Notice the color of the tofu? That's the marinade in there! No spongy, flavorless tofu here!
     I had a few of my fabulous omnivorous friends over for a simple dinner of this Smoky Miso Tofu, on some lovely toasted Sourdough bread, with thinly sliced tomato, avocado, and peppery wild arugula. On the side we had baked kale chips (will definitely be doing a post on those soon, because hunnie they were a HIT), and some store bought Terra chips, and homemade Tzatziki. All that plus a giant bottle of wine, and a wonderful night of good eatin' and drinkin' was had by all. As a bonus I made a double batch of the tofu and had extras to make sammy's for a few day's to come. HECK YES. Thank you VeganYumYum for this amazing tofu!

Smoky Miso Tofu

1 Block extra-firm tofu, drained and pressed
3 Tablespoons red miso
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
3 Tablespoons sugar
3 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 Tablespoon nutritional yeast
1/4 teaspoon Liquid Smoke

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Wrap your drained tofu in a bunch of paper towels, and place something heavy, like a cast-iron skillet or a plate with some cans on top, for 20-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large casserole dish, or similar large shallow dish,  whisk together the miso, lemon juice, sugar, soy sauce, yeast, and liquid smoke to make the marinade.

Unwrap the tofu and cut many thin, width-wise slices with a large knife (about 20 slices per block).

Place the tofu in the marinade, making sure to get marinade on both sides of each slice. Let marinate about 10-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with some parchment paper (I've tried with aluminum foil, but had some sticking).

When ready to bake, place the slices on the parchment lined baking sheet in one layer. Brush the tops with any leftover marinade. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let the slices cool on the sheet. The tofu should be darkened around the edges, but not burned.

To make a sandwich using the tofu slices, use whatever ingredients you like. I liked sourdough bread, arugula, tomato, avocado, and some mayo....

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

"Better For You" Kids Classic: Tempeh Helper

"Better For You" Kid's Classic: Tempeh Helper

     I love a man who loves to eat junk. Without me he would eat frozen chicken nuggets, shoestring french fries, and cheeseburgers all day, every day. As much as he wants junk all the time, he is a champ as a vegetarians boyfriend. He willingly, and happily eats whatever veggie, fake meat, fake cheese concoction I throw at him. So when he asks for a classically junky meal like Hamburger Helper, or Sloppy Joe's, I try my best to appease him. Plus every once in a while I need to feel like I'm getting away with eating something really bad for me.

     This Tempeh Helper recipe from Appetite for Reduction lets you feel like your getting away with something, while actually being light in calories. I don't know how experienced you are with tempeh, but I am a tempeh novice, I think this is only my second time working with it. I wasn't super impressed by it the first time, but it's been quite a while since that first experience, and I wanted to give it another shot. I'm pretty happy that I did. It's nutty and slightly chewy.... try it, you might like it! It breaks up pretty small in this recipe, kind of the way ground meat does in regular Hamburger Helper, so it work's pretty nicely. I might try it with some Boca brand Burger Crumbles next time for something a little more authentic. So no longer do you have to stir in the mysterious "spice packet", you can make your own. Go ahead make yourself some home made "helper", you'll love it!

Tempeh Helper
Serves 2-4
1/4 recipe has 310 Calories

1 recipe Easy Breezy Cheezy Sauce (recipe follows)
1 teaspoon olive oil
8 ounces tempeh
3 cups water
1 cup small shell whole wheat pasta
1/4 cup frozen peas

Seasoning Mix:
2 teaspoons onion flakes
1 teaspoon garlic
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons broth powder (Use Frontier chicken-style broth, I found it in the bulk spices section of my Whole Foods)
2 teaspoons cornstarch
Salt to taste

Preheat a large skillet (that has a lid) over medium heat.

Drizzle the oil in the pan, tear the tempeh into bite size pieces, adding them to the pan. Saute for about 5 minutes, until the tempeh is lightly browned. Use cooking spray as needed. In the meantime, mix the seasonings together in a mixing bowl.

Add a few tablespoons of water to the tempeh to deglaze the pan. Add the 3 ups of water and the seasoning mixture, giving a good stir to get it all mixd in. Add the pasta nad cover. Bring up the heat to a boil. Once the water is boiling, you can lower the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring once. Remove the lid, add the peas, and cook until the sauce is reduced and thickened to your liking, usually about 3 minutes. Taste for salt and serve with Cheezy Sauce.

Easy Breezy Cheezy Sauce
Makes 2 cups, 8- 1/4 cup servings
45 calories per serving

3/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons granulated garlic
2 teaspoons onion flakes
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
2 tablespoons broth powder (Use Frontier chicken-style broth, I found it in the bulk spices section of my Whole Foods)
2 cups water
1 teaspoon prepared yellow mustard

Place the nutritional yeast, flour, garlic, onion flakes, salt, turmeric, and broth powder in a bowl and mix together. Add the water and use a fork to mix and beat out any big lumps. Once relatively smooth, pour into a 2-quart sauce pot. Turn up the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring often for about 5 minutes. Once it comes to a boil, bring down the heat to a simmer. The sauce should start bubbling and thickening. Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring almost constantly, until it has a thick, smooth, melted cheese consistency.
Mix in the mustard and taste for salt. Serve hot or warm over the Tempeh Helper, or even steamed broccoli.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Lentil Eggplant Chili Mole, with Roasted Corn Scallion Corn Bread

Eggplant Lentil Chili Mole, with Roasted Corn Scallion Corn Bread

Lookin' for a warm comforting dinner, without all the guilt? This is the chili for you! The use of eggplant in here really adds substance, and meatiness, without adding any heaviness. The cocoa powder adds complexity and a great lusciousness I haven't experienced in chili before. Genius! Why haven't I done this before?!? I think I might start putting cocoa powder in everything.... or not. But maybe...You might want to up the flavor punch with some adding additional chili powder, and cocoa powder, I found that I needed some extra somethin' somethin'.
     The Roasted Corn Scallion Corn bread is darn tasty as well. Super easy to throw together, and has no refined sugar. AWESOME. Feel free to substitute corn off the cob if it's in season, or just plain thawed frozen corn. Another solid recipe from Appetite for Reduction.

Lentil Eggplant Chili Mole

Serves 6
220 calories per serving

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 small onion, cut into medium dice
1 red bell pepper, cut into medium dice
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons coriander
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup dried green lentils, washed
4 cups vegetable broth
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 pounds eggplant, cut int 3/4 inch cubes
2 teaspoons agave nectar
Sour cream, chives, scallions, cilantro for garnish

     Preheat a heavy bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Saute the onions and bell pepper in the oil until translucent, 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for another minute, using nonstick cooking spray or a splash of water if it's sticking. Mix in the chili powder, cumin, coriander, oregano, cinnamon, and salt. Add 1/2 cup of the veggie broth and the cocoa powder, and cook for about 1 more minute while stirring to dissolve the cocoa.
     Add the lentils, remaining veggie broth, diced tomatoes, and eggplant. Mix to combine. Cover the pot and bring the mixture to a boil. Once it's boiling, lower the heat to a simmer and cook for about 40 minutes, until the lentils are tender and the eggplant is soft. Mix in the agave. Taste for salt and seasoning, you might want to add some more chili powder, and cocoa powder for some extra punch.
     Let the chili sit for 10 minutes or so for maximum flavor.

Roasted Corn and Scallion Corn Bread
Serves 8
160 calories per serving

1 cup soy milk, or other nondairy milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 cup fine ground cornmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons agave syrup, or pure maple syrup
1 cup frozen roasted corn, thawed (I use Trader Joe's Brand)
1/2 cup finely chopped scallions

     Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly spray an 8-inch square metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.
     In a measuring cup, whisk together the milk and the vinegar, and set aside.
     In a large bowl, sift together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt. Create a well in the center and add the almond milk, agave, and oil. Mix just until combined. Fold in the corn and scallions.
     Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and bake for 28-32 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Slice and serve warm, or store in an airtight container.