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.