Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunday Afternnon Blackberry Mojitos

Sunday Afternoon Blackberry Mojitos

Looking for a yummy, refreshing cocktail? Look no further. This Blackberry Mojito is an easy, fast, and flavorful drink for those lazy Sunday's when the impending doom of your upcoming Monday drives you to drink...

Blackberry Mojitos
Serves 2

1 Lime, cut into eighths
About 24 mint leaves
10-12 Blackberries
2 oz. Simple Syrup
4 oz. White Rum
1 cup seltzer, or club soda (more if you prefer it less strong)

In a pitcher, squeeze the juice out of the lime wedges, then place the wedges into the pitcher. Add the mint, and blackberries. Muddle the lime, mint, and blackberries with a wooden spoon until the juice from the blackberries has been released, and the mint is very fragrant. Add the simple syrup, rum, soda, and mix. Pour into glasses with about 4 ice cubes each.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Revolutionary "Better For You" Eggplant Rollatini

Revolutionary "Better For You" Eggplant Rollatini

     I've recently been craving some sort of yummy ricotta cheese/red sauce/pasta-ish dinner.... Unfortunately most dishes associated with these ingredients are also associated with lots of fat, carbs, and a wicked food coma. So that got me thinking of somehow trading out the pasta for some sort of veggie... which led me to the obvious... Eggplant Rollatini!
     Traditionally, Eggplant Rollatini is first breaded, then rolled around whole milk ricotta cheese, and then covered in sauce. In my lighter version I eliminate the breading process (trust me, you won't miss it), and fill the rollatini with a creamy, flavorful, Cashew ricotta. Don't fear the Cashew ricotta! It will change your life! It's everything you love about a creamy, savory, rich, ricotta, with way less fat and calories! I served mine with a yummy salad, and a few slices of fresh baguette. So go ahead indulge in some vegan comfort food. You'll love it, plus, you won't need to unbutton your skinny jeans after dinner!

"Better For You" Eggplant Rollatini

1 Jar Marinara Sauce, or homemade if you're feeling ambitious
1 recipe Cashew Ricotta
Large handful baby spinach
2 eggplant, sliced 1/2 inch thick
About 1 cup shredded Vegan mozzarella cheese, or regular if you have to
1/4 cup vegan Parmesan, or regular if you'd like
Kosher or Sea Salt
Olive Oil Spray


Spread the eggplant out on a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Sprinkle the eggplant with salt on both sides. Let sit 10-15 minutes. This process is to get out some of the water, and also any bitterness in the eggplant. Rinse eggplant under running water and pat dry with paper towels. Preheat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Spray eggplant with olive oil spray, and cook 3-4 minutes per side, until nicely browned. Set aside on some paper towels, until ready to assemble.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Chickpeas and Greens: Chana Saag

Chickpeas and Greens: Chana Saag

     I'm always trying to find different ways to fit greens into my life. I love all kinds of greens, but I especially love kale. We eat is sauteed with garlic, steamed in salads, and we've even had it roasted in the oven! This recipe is super flavorful, easy, fast, and healthy! Don't be discouraged by the list of different spices, just find your local Indian grocer (ours is the convenience store down the street) and they won't cost you more than $6, and that gets you enough spices for the foreseeable future! While your at the Indian grocer you could also pick up some of that delicious Paneer cheese to add to this dish... yummmmm. Serve this dish with some brown Basmati rice, or other rice of your liking, or cut the carbs and have it all on it's lonesome.

Chana Saag

2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
1 small onion, diced small
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon curry powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon salt
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
2 bunches kale (or other greens of your choice), coarse stems removed, chopped finely
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

     Preheat a 4-quart pot over medium heat. Pour 1 teaspoon of oil into the pot and add the mustard seeds. Cover the pot and let the seeds pop for about a minute, or until the popping slows down, mixing once. Add the other teaspoon of oil and saute the onion for 4-7 minutes, until translucent. Add the ginger, garlic, and red pepper flakes, and saute for another minute. Add the tomatoes and mix to deglaze the pot. Let cook for about 3 minutes, then add the curry, cumin, coriander, garam masala, and salt, and mix well.
     Add the kale in batches, mixing after each addition. It may seem like a lot, but it will cook down. Cover the pot, and let simmer for a minute, lift the lid and stir. Do this a few times until the kale is completely cooked down. Simmer and cook covered for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. The greens should be very tender.
     Add the chickpeas and cook for another 5 minutes or so. Taste for salt, and serve.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Lovely Lemony Cake with Wild Blueberry Sauce

The creamed butter/sugar/eggs, the flour mixture, and the buttermilk mixture.

Wild Blueberry Sauce heating up.

Clockwise from left: Glaze, Lemon Simple Syrup, and Strained Wild Blueberry Sauce

 Lovely Lemony Cake with Blueberry Sauce

     Recently my boyfriends lovely grandmother passed. She was a woman who lived a long, and exceptional life, and was loved by many. I know that her life had a great impact on my boyfriends mother especially. They spent a lot of time together and were as close as any mother and daughter could be. We will be traveling down to Connecticut to be with his family for the burial this weekend, and I really wanted to do something nice for  his mom during this time. So naturally I started thinking of things to bake for her...
     I decided on this Lovely Lemon Cake because I thought it sounded elegant, and naturally made me think of my boyfriends grandmother. I hope that she would have liked it, and I hope it brings a smile, and a little joy to his mother during this time.

Lovely Lemony Cake

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup grated lemon zest (6 to 8 large lemons)
3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Lemon Simple Syrup:
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar

2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
3 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 2 (8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch) loaf pans. You may also line the bottom with parchment paper, if desired.

Cream the butter and 2 cups granulated sugar in a large bowl, with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, and the lemon zest.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, combine 1/4 cup lemon juice, the buttermilk, and vanilla. Fold the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Pasta night: Sun-dried Tomato, Spinach, and Sausage Pasta

Pasta Night: Sun-dried Tomato, Spinach, and Sausage Pasta

     I know that I'll have a very happy boyfriend if I announce that this pasta is what's for dinner. It's also super easy, and quick.... kind of a win-win situation for both of us. He is so in love with this pasta that he's proclaimed that if he had things his way, he would eat this pasta every day of his life.
     This is a very basic recipe, so feel free to interchange ingredients. I've used arugula instead of spinach, roasted cherry tomatoes instead of sun-dried, dried herbs instead of fresh... you get the picture. This recipe feeds an army, so make it for guests, or split it up into containers and you have lunch for the week!

Sun-dried Tomato, Spinach, and Sausage Pasta
Serves 6-8

1 Pound whole-grain penne pasta
1 package (4 links) Tofurky brand sun-dried tomato sausages, cut on 1/4 inch bias (substitute meat   sausages if you prefer)
1 Teaspoon Olive Oil
4 cloves garlic, minced, sliced, whatever shape you're into
1 Teaspoon red chili flake
1 small jar of
julienne cut sun-dried tomatoes in oil
1 pound bag frozen spinach thawed, with as much water removed as possible!
1 handful parsley, chopped
1 handful basil, chopped
1 small package fresh mozzarella, cut into chunks (optional)
Handful Kalamata olives, cut in half (optional)

Fill a large pot with water and set to boil. Cook pasta to package directions. Reserve some starchy cooking water before draining.

Meanwhile, preheat a high-walled skillet over medium heat, and spray with cooking oil spray. Add your sausage and cook 3-4 minutes on each side, until brown. Remove sausages from pan and set aside.

Add the teaspoon of olive oil to the pan, add garlic and saute for about 30 seconds, then add red chili flake, cook another 30 seconds. Add jar of sun-dried tomatoes with their oil, spinach, and sausage, and heat through. Add cooked pasta to the pan, and toss to combine. Turn off the heat, and add parsley, basil, mozzarella, and olives, toss again. If pasta looks dry add some starchy cooking water, and toss again.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Cupcake Love: Vegan Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting, and Chocolate Drizzle

Cupcake Love: Vegan Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting, and Chocolate Drizzle

     Sometimes... I go all out. Birthdays of those close to me happen to be some of those times. This weekend was my besties birthday, so I wanted to do something really special for her. She is very fond of these late night concoctions we like to call "Chocolate, Peanut Butter, Banana Surprises". Just grab a mug, throw in some banana, a few chocolate chips, and a spoonful of peanut butter, mash it all up, there's your late night dessert snack. It's pretty damn delicious, and when manifested into cupcake form.... wow. 
     These were a huge hit with everyone who tried them, so if you're looking for a cupcake that will wow a crowd, look no further. Needless to say the birthday girl loved them, and that's really all I wanted. Cupcake love success! 

Vegan Banana Cupcakes
 Makes 12 cupcakes
1/2 Cup very ripe banana, mashed well
1 1/4 Cups all-purpose flour
1/4 Teaspoon baking soda
1 Teaspoon baking powder
1/2 Teaspoon baking powder
1/2 Teaspoon salt
3/4 Cup granulated sugar
1/3 Cup canola oil
2/3 Cup rice milk
1 1/2 Teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 Teaspoon almond extract
1/4 Cup dark chocolate chunks

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin pan with paper liners.

Blend the bananas to get rid of any remaining lumps. It should be smooth

Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a large bowl and mix. In a separate,

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Terrified of Tofu?

Terrified of Tofu? -Cajun Blackened Tofu
     Are you scared of tofu? Do you cringe when you see a block of the watery, flavorless protein? Have you had a bad experience with soggy, spongy, weird tofu? I have. When people don't know how to prepare tofu, it can be a terrible experience. I used to be convinced that it was nasty stuff not to be trusted. Be scared no more! I know the way to make tofu that is delicious, flavorful, and with a great firm texture.
     The key is PRESSING the tofu! Just wrap some tofu in a clean dish cloth, or a bunch of paper towels, then put it on a plate and place a HEAVY pan (cast iron is what I use) on top, and let it sit at least 20 minutes. With all of that water seeped out, you end up with tofu that is just aching to absorb your favorite flavors. My boyfriend is pretty obsessed with any food with the word "cajun" preceding it. Cajun wings, cajun fries, cajun..... you get the picture. So when I saw this recipe in Appetite for Reduction by Isa Moskowitz, I knew it would be a winner in our house. I was right. Served with my Mom's Mac and Cheese, and some Lemony Steamed Broccoli, my dinner was bangin', and not the least bit terrifying!

Ok, ok, if you really can't stand the idea of eating tofu (scardy cat), I'm sure this rub would taste awesome on some boneless skinless chicken breast....

Cajun Blackened Tofu

Spice Blend:
2 1/2 Teaspoons sweet smoked paprika
2 Teaspoons ground cumin
1 Teaspoon dried oregano
1 Teaspoon dried thyme
1 Teaspoon sugar
1/4 Teaspoon salt
1/4 Teaspoon cayenne
Several pinches freshly ground black pepper
3 Cloves garlic, minced

Everything else:
1 Block Extra-Firm Tofu, pressed, and sliced into eighths
2 Teaspoons olive oil
1 Teaspoon soy sauce
Cooking Spray

     On a dinner plate, mix together the spice blend and set aside.
     Adjust the broiler so that the baking sheet will be around 6 inches away from the heat. Preheat the oven to broil. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Poke each slice of tofu with a fork three or four times, to let the flavors seep in.
     Drizzle the olive oil and soy sauce on the far side of the baking sheet, in a puddle. You'll be laying the tofu onto the sheet, so just make the "puddle" area off to one side. Dip each slice lightly into the sauce mixture, enough to lightly coat each side. Then dredge in the spice mixture, pressing firmly to make sure the spices will stick. Place the tofu on the baking sheet in a single layer. Spray the tops with a little cooking spray.
     Place the tofu in the broiler and broil for about 12 minutes, flipping half way through. Keep a close eye on it; broilers vary from oven to oven, and you don't want the tofu to burn! The tofu is done when it looks dark and black in some spots. You can slice it into diagonal strips for a nice presentation. Serve with your fave sides!

Lemony Steamed Broccoli

1 Pound broccoli, cut into florets
Zest of 1/2 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 Tablespoon butter, or butter substitute
Salt and pepper to taste

     Set up a steamer basket in a medium pot and fill with enough water so that it does not go over the basket. Cover, and heat on high until boiling. Once boiling place the broccoli in the steamer basket, and cover. Steam for 5 minutes, or to your preferred doneness.
     While broccoli is steaming, zest your lemon and place the zest in the bottom of a large bowl. Add the lemon juice, and butter to the zest.
     Once the broccoli has finished cooking add it to the bowl with the zest, juice, and butter. Toss to coat, and add salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Mexican Monday: Tortilla Soup

Mexican Monday- Tortilla Soup
Somebody's got a case of the Mondays.... and it's not me! I usually feel very accomplished on Mondays, and today was no exception. The best, and certainly tastiest of my Monday accomplishments was this fabulous Tortilla Soup. Again another awesome recipe from Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Appetite for Reduction, it's cheap, quick, filling, spicy, and low in fat!  Everyone should make this soup! What are you waiting for?!? Go! Now!

Tortilla Soup

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 jalepenos, seeded and sliced thinly
1 poblano pepper or green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional, if you like it extra spicy)
1 teaspoon salt
24 ounces whole tomatoes (I used "Fire Roasted Tomatoes" they added an extra somethin'-somethin')
24 ounces vegetable broth (I used a whole 32 oz. container of store bought veg. broth)
1 cup crushed baked or regular tortilla chips, plus more for garnish
1 tablespoon cumin
1 15oz. can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen corn
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus extra for garnish
Juice of 1 lime

Preheat a 4-quart pot over medium-high heat. Saute the onions, jalepenos, and poblano pepper in the oil until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Use a little nonstick cooking spray or broth if needed. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, and salt, and saute for another minute.

Break up the tomatoes with your fingers and add them to the pot, including the juice. Fill the tomato can with vegetable broth and add that to the pot. Mix in the cumin. Add the crushed chips to the pot. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat to a simmer, add the beans, corn, and cilantro, and let simmer for 5 more minutes.

Add the lime juice and taste for salt and seasoning. Ladle the soup into bowls, crumble some chips over the top, garnish with cilantro, manchego or cheddar cheese, sour cream, hot sauce.... whatever floats your tortilla soup boat.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Cozy Sunday: Big Beautiful White Pan Loaf

Still steamy!

A slice with home made Raspberry Fig Jam, made by Lauren

Cozy Sunday- Big Beautiful White Pan Loaf

A few months ago I acquired the book Amy's Bread. It's a wonderful book with tons of beautiful looking bread recipes. So, as part of our much needed quiet, low-key weekend, I decided that I would try my hand at home-made bread. I thought that mindlessly kneading bread would be somewhat therapeutic, as I find most cooking to be. Plus, I have what I like to call "bread making hands". Sturdy, and wide palmed, I've always imagined that they were just meant to knead bread.

Well, I guess on some level it was therapeutic. But ask my boyfriend and he'd be telling you that for the first 10 minutes I was running around like a mad man, taking down any innocent man, or cat, that might stand in the way of making the perfect loaf of bread. The running around was entirely my fault, I should have prepped all my ingredients instead of just jumping in head first, and measuring on the fly. Alas I was not that quick at 9 this morning. Oh well.

Thankfully my haste had no effect on the quality of the bread. It was beautiful, and it was bangin'. So if you have a day where you're just hangin' in the house this recipe does take a while, but there's tons of down time, so you can catch up on any recorded TV you missed, or if you're real productive clean house! You can guess what I did...

Big Beautiful White Pan Loaf

1/4 cup Very warm water (105-115 degrees)
1 3/4 teaspoons Active dry yeast
2 1/3 cups Unbleached bread flour
1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon Unbleached all-purpose flour
2 3/4 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 cup Cool water (75-78 degrees)
1 cup less 1 tablespoon Cool milk (75 degrees)
1 tablespoon Canola oil

1. Combine warm water and yeast in a small measuring cup and stir with a fork to dissolve the yeast. Let stand for 3 minutes.

2. Mix the flours and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Add the yeast mixture, cool water, milk, and oil. Using our fingers, mix the dough into a sticky mass.

3. When all of the flour is incorporated, move the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead for 4 minutes. The dough should be sticky and will not look smooth. If the dough feels firm or dry, knead in additional cool water a tablespoon at a time.

4. Put the dough back into the mixing bowl, cover with oiled plastic, and let rest for 20 minutes to smooth out and develop elasticity.

Lazy Friday Night

So glad it’s finally Friday! The first week back to work or school after the holidays is always super rough for me. All of that jolly spending, drinking, giving, receiving, cooking, cleaning, drinking, entertaining, wrapping, time with family, and spending really catches up with me after New Years.
Now, usually I have a pretty strict policy of not cooking on Fridays, but today I was looking at all the usual take-out haunts and couldn’t find anything that appealing. So when I remembered that I had all the ingredients for something tasty, quick, and easy in the fridge, the idea of cooking didn’t seem so bad after all.
I threw together this dish after reading the Braised Cabbage with Seitan recipe in Appetite for Reduction by, Isa Moskowitz. The only real difference is that I used the Tofurky brand Kielbasa Sausages. It’s kind of an ugly duckling dish, so try not to be discouraged by it’s looks. It’s totally delish!

Braised Cabbage with Veggie Kielbasa

1 teaspoon olive oil
2-4 links Tofurky brand Veggie Kielbasa (1 kielbasa link per person), cut  on a bias in 1/4 inch slices
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flake
2 cups vegetable broth
1 pound green cabbage, cored, and sliced into thin strips (about 4 cups)
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Preheat a large skillet with a tight fitting lid over medium heat. Saute the kielbasa until browned on both sides. Add more olive oil if needed. Add the garlic, thyme, and red pepper flakes, and saute for a minute more. Add a splash of the vegetable broth to deglaze the pan, then add the cabbage and the rest of the broth. Sprinkle with salt. Cover the pan and cook for 10 -15 minutes, stirring occasionally. The cabbage should be tender with just a bit of bite to it. Taste for salt, and serve over smashed fingerling potatoes, recipe follows.

Smashed Fingerling Potatoes

1 pound fingerling potatoes, washed
1 Tablespoon Earth balance, or butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Place the potatoes in a medium pot and cover with enough water to cover the potatoes by one inch. Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling cook for 15-20 minutes, until a fork can easily go in and out of the largest potato. Drain the potatoes and place back in the pot. Add the Earth Balance, salt, and pepper, and smash with a potato masher until chunky.