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December 31, 2009

Tempeh Hot Wings

Don't let the Chicago Bears hoodie that I am wearing today fool you. This sweatshirt is as far as my team spirit goes. (Dad, if you are reading this, I'm sorry!) Football season around here means gathering at the home of the person with the largest flat screen TV, getting rowdy, and eating greasy finger foods like potato chips with onion dip, cocktail wieners, and hot wings. My lack of team spirit may be due to the fact that flat screen TVs, getting rowdy, and wieners/wings don't much appeal to me (well, maybe I do like to get a little bit rowdy sometimes). On the other hand, you can give me a bag of peanuts and send me to a baseball game any day!

There is something about these vegan tempeh hot wings that has me feeling all sorts of team spirit today. These are just so incredibly delicious that it makes me want to go out and pick up a big flat screen TV so that people might consider coming to my house for the game.

Perhaps that would be going overboard.. just a tad.

Tempeh Hot Wings

Note: I used Louisiana style hot sauce in the sauce and the result was mild enough that people with lower tolerance to spice could handle it (tested and approved!).
8 oz package of tempeh
1/3 cup rice milk
1/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp thyme
1 tsp paprika
fresh ground pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2/3 c panko breadcrumbs (may substitute regular breadcrumbs)

4 tbsp margarine, melted
2 1/2 tbsp hot sauce
4 tbsp ketchup
2 tbsp agave nectar

In a small saucepan, boil about three cups of water. Cut the tempeh into four equal blocks, then cut those blocks into triangles, and carefully slice the triangles in half lengthwise. Put the tempeh in the boiling water and cover, for about fifteen mintes or until tempeh is softened. Pour the pan into a colander and rise with cold water. Allow the tempeh to cool enough that you can handle it.While the tempeh is cooling, make the sauce. In a large pot, combine all of the sauce ingredients and set aside. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Make your assembly line for the wings. Put your rice milk in the first bowl, your flour and spices in the second, and your panko in the third. (Note: I recommend separating half of the two dry ingredient bowls because as the assembly goes it starts to get clumpy and it is nice to switch over to a bowl of fresh dry ingredients.) At the end of the line, have a greased baking sheet waiting.

Take a tempeh triangle, and dip it in the milk, then coat in flour. Then another quick dip in the milk before thoroughly coating it in the bread crumbs and placing it on the baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the tempeh.

Spray the tops of the wings with cooking spray, and bake in the oven for ten minutes. Remove, flip over, and bake for ten more. Just before you take the wings out of the oven, heat the sauce over a medium heat until just warm. When you take the wings out, transfer them to the pot a few at a time and coat in the sauce, remove and set coated wings aside as you go. Serve immediately.

December 30, 2009

My Sweet Vegan Christmas Eve

'Twas the night before Christmas Eve
when all through the house
not a creature was stirring..
No wait, I was stirring.. stirring, blending, and baking like mad!

Well, I should not make it sound like such a ravenous affair. It was actually a nice, relaxing evening of baking. It was a great way to pass the time as I anxiously awaited the two days of festivities that would begin the next morning. It was also a great opportunity to try out some of the recipes from my shiny new copy of My Sweet Vegan by Hannah Kaminsky. The book boasts 184 gorgeous full color glossy pages of one tempting dairy-free dessert after another. I had far too many recipes bookmarked, but I managed to narrow it down to four very Christmas-party-appropriate desserts.

My first choice was the Pumpkin Pecan Pie. I love pumpkin pies, and I love pecan pies, and I've even tried a few pumpkin pecan pies and loved those too. There are several things that make this version special and different from any I have tried in the past. First, of course, it is dairy-free. This recipe utilizes vegan margarine and soy creamer, and you would never miss their dairy counterparts in the finished product.

Another unique and important part of this pie is the crust, which is made with whole wheat pastry flour. Here is where I should let you know that I am a crust girl, it has always been my favorite part of the pie. I just don't understand why some people eat the fillings from a slice of pie and leave the crust behind.. especially the rim, that is the perfect ending to a good slice of pie! All that being said, I believe that I am qualified to declare this pie crust delicious. I plan on borrowing this crust recipe and trying other fillings in the future.

Finally, the icing on the cake, so to speak, the pumpkin creme! This is the most visually enticing aspect of photo that appears in the book, displayed in small dollops around the edge of the pie. My creme did not firm up enough to pipe it around the edge, so I drizzled it instead. Not nearly as pretty, but just as delicious. The flavor is the finishing touch that really ties it all together.

Up next, and the favorite of the bunch, Five-Minute Coconut Fudge. It's no wonder this one was my personal favorite, it doesn't involve the oven, it has a short list of ingredients (which includes both shredded coconut and coconut milk!), and it comes together in no time. Based on it getting snatched up the quickest it was the favorite of everyone else as well. I am already working on a plan to justify making another batch. I could have a whole pan of fudge at home just for me, no?

I also made the Cherry Chocolate Truffles. You may notice a theme forming: no baking involved, short list of ingredients, and quick to make! And you thought that making four desserts in one evening was awfully ambitious, didn't you? I was able to make these truffles and the fudge in between the baking of the two main desserts. The truffles were a welcome addition to the lot. They were creamy, rich, and a little bit tart. I've never made truffles before, so this was a lot of fun!

So right about now you might have a toothache just looking at all of these sweet yummies. Enter: Apple Spice Cake. This cake has no added sugar, it is completely sweetened by the fruit within. This low-guilt dessert features all sorts of good things like apples, raisins, walnuts, oats, and whole wheat pastry flour. The cake is assembled with a generous helping of apple butter spread between the two layers in place of frosting. This dessert was well received at Christmas Eve dinner, and the leftovers were great at breakfast Christmas morning. I enjoyed it so much at breakfast that I am thinking about adapting this recipe into a muffin version.

Hannah came up with this cake for her Grandmother, who is diabetic, so that they could celebrate her birthday without sacrificing the dessert. (What a sweety!) I should mention, too, that in the book each recipe is preceded by a paragraph introducing it, and this is where you get to know Hannah better, and learn about the things that inspired each recipe. And since Hannah is so darn charming, naturally her cookbook is as well.

I would say that my first crack at My Sweet Vegan was a successful one. Did I mention that I've never done any vegan baking before? It is very encouraging to know that giving up dairy doesn't mean giving up tasty desserts!

Here are some of the other desserts from My Sweet Vegan that I bookmarked for future baking:
Graham Flour Fig Scones
Strawberry Love Muffins
Black and Whites
Black Bottom Blondies
Maple Pistachio Cremes
Peanut Butter Bombs
Bananas Foster Cake
Lemon-Lime Sunshine Bundt
Poppyseed Cupcakes with Lemon Curd Filling
Root Beer Float Cupcakes
Cashew Creme Pear Tart
Sesame Chews

Hope you and yours had as sweet of a Christmas as mine!

December 19, 2009

Bhindi Masala

So it's the last weekend before Christmas, and I am actually relaxing. I have worked hard over the last couple of weeks and I am pretty well caught up now. Well, caught up enough that I could grab my laptop, lean back on the couch with my feet propped up on the coffee table, and work on a post about another yummy Indian dish. So let's get right to it, I hope that you enjoy this one as much as I did!

Bhindi Masala
(adapted from Two Blue Lemons)

1 small yellow onion
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 cups okra, sliced, stems discarded

1 tsp cumin
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cayenne
Pinch of cinnamon
2 whole cloves
4 green cardamom pods

1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup water
1 can diced tomatoes or 2 large fresh tomatoes, chopped

Slice the onion into thin half moons and saute in olive oil until the onion are translucent. Add the ginger and garlic saute for a minute or two or until the garlic is fragrant. Add the okra.

Add the cumin, garam masala, turmeric, cayenne, cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom. Cook for a minute to toast the spices.

Stir in the coconut milk, water, and diced tomatoes. Simmer, uncovered, over low heat for about 20 minutes, or until the tomato and coconut has created a thick, dark curry.

Well, time to get back to my lounging, but before I go I wanted to tell you about something exciting that I've decided to take part in this January. For me, this holiday season has been a major overdose on sweets and other not so healthy foods. I was ready to throw in the towel a couple of days ago, but the big day isn't even here yet! Now, I'm not the new year resolution type, but it really does make sense to make diet changes after the holidays. So without calling it a new years resolution, I was planning on starting out the near year by cutting out dairy and sugar for a few weeks, as a sort of detox and to get myself going in the right direction for 2010.

Wouldn't you know that the day after I committed myself to doing this on my own I learned about the January Cleanse 2010 co-hosted by clinical nutritionist, Gena, of Choosing Raw. Hop on over to check out the program and take advantage of a discount for signing up before the end of December. There are three levels to choose from, based on where you are at with your current diet. Sample menus for all three levels of the program are now available here. The cleanse will be taking place Jan 18-27, be sure to let me know if you plan on joining me!

Just in case I don't have the chance to post again, I'd like to take the opportunity now to wish you a very Merry Christmas. Wishing you the very best, my friends!

December 15, 2009

Many updates and White Chili with Tomatillos and Roasted Mushrooms

We are officially at the halfway mark of the month of December and I find myself a few steps behind.  Each day I inch closer to catching up with all things Christmas, but today I had to admit to myself that my ambition exceeds my capabilities. This December has been so much more action packed than I am used to, but in a good way! Before I get to what I cooked up for dinner tonight I thought I'd take the opportunity to fill you in on the recent excitement around here, I do hope that you will indulge me.

First up, I won my first giveaway! In late November Alisa at One Frugal Foodie hosted a week of cookbook giveaways. I was lucky enough to win on the day that she was giving away her own cookbook, Go Dairy Free. I was giddy when the package arrived, and even more so when I opened it to find not just the book I expected, but also a copy of My Sweet Vegan by Hannah Kaminksy. Double score! I dove right into both books and started making plans on which recipes I would be trying first. I also made plans to write up both books in time for the holidays, but this is where the whole ambition exceeding capabilities comes in. If you are still looking for last minute gift ideas these are both great books, but regrettably I won't be able to share my experiences with them until after the holidays. Stay tuned!

Another reason that this December has been more awesome than the average December, I had the opportunity to host a weekend for these three lovely ladies from Tennessee. This is my cousin, Aunt, and Grandma bundled up in front of "The Bean" in Chicago's Millenium Park. I took them downtown for a day of shopping at Macy's, including a visit to the seventh floor for some fine dining at The Walnut Room. Despite not living far away, this is a Christmas tradition that I haven't experienced in many years.

Here are some Walnut Room shots of the famous tree in the dining room and my yummy butternut squash tortellini. 

What a special treat it was to spend the whole weekend with some of my favorite relatives from afar, but they did not come just to see me, they came for a much bigger occasion. After having lots of fun in the Chicago area on Friday and Saturday, we packed up the cars Sunday morning and headed to Valparaiso, Indiana to see my little brother, Tim, graduate from college! It was a wonderful time surrounded by family and celebrating his great accomplishments. Now he will be moving home for one short month and then it's off to Arizona, where he landed his first job! We are all so super proud of him, but I am going to miss him like crazy!

So I do hope that you will excuse my absence in posting so far this month, but I have not stopped cooking and baking. I have a backlog of goodies that I will share as soon as possible. For now, here is a super yum white chili that I had for dinner tonight, that is perfect for the 10°F nights such as these.

White Chili with Tomatillos and Roasted Mushrooms
(adapted from The Chubby Vegetarian)

3-15 oz cans of white beans, I used 2 cannellini + 1 great northern
1 large white onion, diced
2 shallots, diced
2 tablespoons cumin
2 "Not-chick'n" bouillon cubes
1/2 cup white wine
1 large yellow bell peppers, diced
6-8 tomatillos, peeled and washed
20 oz white button mushrooms, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, stem removed
1 serrano pepper, stem removed
2 tablespoons chickpea flour
olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss mushrooms with a tablespoon of olive oil and roast for 15 minutes. Set aside. In a large pot sauté onion and shallot with olive oil, cumin and bouillon cubes. Once the onion is translucent, add the peppers and deglaze the pan with the white wine. Cook until most of the wine has evaporated. Pulse tomatillos and hot peppers in the food processor until finely chopped. Add mixture to the pot along with the beans and mushrooms. Add enough water to cover and simmer for one hour. Whisk chickpea flour with some of the broth and add it all back to the pot. Cook for another 10 minutes. (This will thicken the chili.) Add salt and pepper to taste.

December 6, 2009

Matar Paneer and Aloo Tikki

After my first major success in cooking authentic tasting Indian food at home, I had in mind to show off my new skills to my boyfriend. Oh, how very rude of me, you haven't been introduced, have you? This is Steve, my most wonderful boyfriend. Everyone say, "Hi Steve!" He pretty much rules, and I am certain that you would love him.

Steve shares my love of Indian food so I was very excited to cook up something special for him. We both love all things paneer, so I thought it would be most fun and tasty to conquer a paneer dish. I returned to Lisa's Kitchen for inspiration since her Chana Masala was such a hit, and I was pleased to find many paneer recipes in her archives. With a big bag of frozen peas already in my freezer the Matar Paneer was the obvious choice. I put Steve to work measuring spices into small bowls so they would be ready for me when I needed them. He seemed to really enjoy the process of watching it all come together. We were super happy with the end result, and I definitely plan to make this dish again.

To make this an extra special feast I made Aloo Tikki as an appetizer, Indian spiced fried potato patties. I don't have any experience making fried things at home, because I shy away from recipes that involve submerging food in oil. We did not have the highest expectations for these, but were very pleasantly surprised in the end. I love it when that happens! I want to continue with my habit of not submerging my food in oil, but it will be hard not to indulge in this recipe from time to time. This would be great with some tamarind chutney on top, but we did not have any this time.

Matar Paneer

a few tablespoons of oil or butter, or a mixture of both
1 1/2 teaspoons of cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon of black mustard seeds
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 hot green chillies or jalapenos, finely minced
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 inch piece of ginger, grated or finely minced
1 generous teaspoon of ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne
1/2 teaspoon of paprika
1 teaspoon of turmeric
2 teaspoons of water
2 cups of tomatoes, finely chopped
1 - 2 teaspoons of sea salt
2 cups of paneer cheese, cubed
1 1/2 cups of frozen peas, defrosted
1/2 - 1 cup of yogurt
2 teaspoons of garam masala
1 1/2 teaspoons of kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves) - I could not find this, so I omitted
3 tablespoons of fresh parsley or coriander, chopped

In a mortar and pestle, make a paste of the garlic, ginger, cayenne, coriander, paprika, turmeric and water. Set aside.

In a large pot, heat the oil and butter over medium heat. When hot, add the cumin and black mustard seeds and stir and fry until the mustard seeds turn gray and begin to pop. Now add the onion and cook until it is translucent, stirring frequently. Add the chillies, stir and then add the ginger, garlic spice paste. Stir and fry for a minute.

Add the tomatoes and salt to the pot, increase the heat slightly and cook for about 5 - 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thickened. Reduce the heat, and add the peas, paneer, yogurt, garam masala, kasoori methi and parsley. Stir to combine and gently cook for another 5 minutes.

Serves 4.

Aloo Tikki
(adapted from VegNews)

2 russet potatoes, peeled, chopped, and boiled (apprx 1.5 - 2 cups)
3/4 cup cooked chickpeas
1 green chile, seeded and minced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1 tbsp ginger, grated
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp fine grain sea salt
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup canola oil, for frying

In a large bowl, mash potato and chickpeas (the chickpeas will remain a bit chunky which is fine). Add chile, cilantro, ginger, lemon juice, salt, pepper, coriander, cumin, flour, and cornstarch and mix well. Use your hands to shape the mixture into small, tight patties.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat oil. Add the patties and cook until both sides are golden brown, turning once. Serve hot.

December 2, 2009

Belated Thanksgiving Post

This exact time last week I was busy roasting and pureeing butternut squash, baking maple glazed pecans, and "carving" tofu turkeys to try to get ahead of the game on the dishes I was bringing to Thanksgiving dinner the next day.

This is my first Thanksgiving since I joined the food blogging community, and I found myself overwhelmed with inspiration. While I usually bring one dish to my family dinner, I brought three this year (four if you count the gravy). There was so much more that I wanted to make, it made me wish that I was hosting the meal myself.

My favorite (and obviously cutest!) was the Cider Marinated Tofu Turkeys and Cider Gravy, created by Hannah over at BitterSweet. I was particularly excited about bringing these alternative birds for more than just the obvious reasons. This was the first Thanksgiving as vegetarians for my aunt and her husband, and what a great way to celebrate their decision to not partake in the turkey! These were so tasty, that even my turkey-loving father was impressed. (Oh, and these turkeys are not actually carved, it's a cookie cutter).

I had my eye on this butternut squash lasagna for months now, but it isn't a practical dish to make for just a couple of people.  I knew Thanksgiving would be the perfect excuse to make this. Loads of roasted butternut squash puree smeared between layers of noodles, freshly shredded mozzarella and a creamy basil sauce. So delicious!

Lastly, I made this Brussels Sprout Slaw with Mustard Dressing and Maple Glazed Pecans. The word slaw has negative connotations to many, because it is usually associated with mayonnaise drenched cabbage. Well, there is no mayonnaise in this recipe. Who would have thought that brussels sprouts based salads would be so amazing? Well, I'm not the only one doing it, so don't just take my word for it!

Well Thanksgiving is over and hopefully you got lots of rest, because I don't need to remind you of what is right around the corner!

I got the tree up on Sunday, and the kitties took an immediate liking to it. They arranged themselves this way beneath the tree on their own and sat there for ages while I clicked away with the camera!

I am submitting this photo of Arnold and Evie under the tree to this month's No Croutons Required event, hosted by Jacqueline. This month they are taking a break from the normal soup and salad challenge and inviting bloggers to submit festive photos instead. What? An excuse to make people look at pictures of my kitties? Sign me up!

November 22, 2009

Silky Red Lentil and Sweet Potato Soup

I was down and out with an ugly cold for the better part of the last week. Today is the first day that I woke up feeling pretty great, with just a few pesky symptoms still lingering. It's recipes like this one that save the day on the long days spent at home waiting out the return of good health. It's a very short, yet very tasty list of ingredients, that requires very little hands on time to prepare. A piping hot bowl of this smooth comforting soup is just what the doctor ordered for my sore throat. Sick or not, this soup is definitely a keeper.

Silky Red Lentil and Sweet Potato Soup
(adapted from Vegan Feast Kitchen)

1 tbsp olive oil
2 small (or 1 medium) onions, chopped
1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ginger, minced
4 cups vegetarian broth
2 cups cubed, peeled sweet potatoes
2/3 cup red lentils, picked over and rinsed
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Garnish with paprika or smoked paprika sprinkled on each bowl

Heat oil in a medium saucepan. Add onions and ginger and saute until the onions are translucent. Stir in cumin and saute for another minute, stirring constantly. Add vegetable broth, sweet potatoes, and lentils and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes, or until the potatoes and lentils are tender. Blend soup until smooth using blender or submersion blender. Stir in lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve into soup bowls and garnish with paprika or smoked paprika.

Serves 4.

November 21, 2009

Posole Stew with Butternut Squash and Collard Greens

po⋅so⋅le /poʊˈsoʊleɪ, pɒ-; Sp. pɔˈsɔlɛ/ Show Spelled Pronuncia[poh-soh-ley, po-; Sp. paw-saw-le] –noun Mexican Cookery. a thick, stewlike soup of pork or chicken, hominy, mild chili peppers, and coriander leaves: traditionally served at Christmas and often favored as a hangover remedy. (from

My only exposure to posole was back in college. My roommate Laura had gone home for the weekend and came back with a big container of it. She talked about spending an entire day working on it with her boyfriend's Hispanic grandmother. They started out with pork, hominy, fresh tomatoes and chili peppers, and they simmered, simmered, and simmered some more. She was kind enough to share some of the leftovers, and I was instantly in love (obviously my pre-veggie days). I can still remember the complex flavors -- smokey and spicy, strewn with tasty kernels of hominy. Since then I have wanted to meet an Hispanic grandmother that could teach me how to make this traditional stew.

Fast forward six years, and I'm waist deep in food blogs when I randomly find a meatless version of this stew by The Vegan Mouse, and my tasty memories came flooding back to me. The book that she found the recipe in featured butternut squash, but she opted to use the zucchini that she had on hand. You know how much I love butternut squash so I wanted to revert back to that, but without access to the original recipe I came up with my own. I did follow in her footsteps with the addition of collard greens and red bell pepper, which rounded out this stew perfectly.

I've made this stew twice, and the first time I used 2 tbsp fresh jalapenos, but the second go around I decided to go with guajillo chiles. Guajillo chiles are very common in Mexico and are also one of the more mild of the hot chiles, so I deducted that this chile has most likely been used in many of the authentic-grandma-simmered versions of this stew. That I cannot confirm, but I can tell you that it was delicious. It is a little more work, so if you are short on time go for the jalapenos, which are also delicious. (If you decide to go with jalapenos, dice them and add them into the pot at the same time as the onion and garlic.)

Posole Stew with Butternut Squash and Collard Greens
(6-8 servings)

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced 
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 tbsp cumin
1-1/2 tbsp oregano
1-1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
2 bay leaves
4 cups butternut squash, peeled and chopped into large bite sized pieces
4 leaves of collard greens, center rib removed and chopped
3 14oz cans hominy
6 cups water
3 tbsp guajillo chile paste*
6 tbsp tomato paste
2 Not-Beef bouillon
juice of 1/2 lime
salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in large soup pot over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and bell pepper and saute for about 10 minutes, or until the onions and peppers have softened. Stir in spices and saute for another minute stirring constantly.

Next stir in squash, greens, hominy, and water and turn up heat to bring to a boil. Once boiling lower heat to medium low and stir in chile paste, tomato paste, bouillon cubes and stir until well incorporated. Simmer for 20 minutes or until the squash is just tender, or to your liking (check it often, you don't want mushy squash).

Remove bay leaves. Stir in lime juice, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with chopped cilantro.

*Start with dried guajillo chiles, and make your own paste. Great instructions can be found here.

November 19, 2009

Chana Masala

When dining out, you can usually count on my vote going to Thai or Indian food. Let's face it, American cuisine is largely not veggie friendly (or at very least mostly uninspiring), with menus often yielding only a couple of choices. So for heat-freak vegetarians like myself, veggie packed Indian and Thai curries reign supreme.

I've dabbled at home with Thai cooking with some success, but for some reason I have been reserved about cooking Indian curries. It might have (or definitely) had something to do with the inevitable long list of spices that comes with each recipe, most of which were not already in my pantry.

Well, since joining the food blogging community my pantry has changed quite a bit. This was thanks to being inspired by simpler dishes with a shorter list of spices to get me started, and also thanks to discovering a great international grocer down the road with an amazing supply of inexpensive spices. Over the last few months each time I went shopping I'd pick out one or two more spices to add to my collection, and now I am pretty well stocked.

I've had my eye on Lisa's Chana Masala for ages now, it just kept popping up everywhere! I've made this twice now in the past two weeks and my reservations about preparing Indian curries at home are quickly dissolving. If you are like I used to be, let me encourage you to start working on your pantry so that you can have Indian yummies at home, it is so very worth it!

Oh, and this is what happens when I photograph food on my bedroom floor next to my big window. Evie just wants to be near the action all the time. I do apologize if you don't find kitties and kitty paws as cute as I do, don't let that detract from this delicious dish!

Chana Masala
(from Lisa's Kitchen)

1 1/4 cups of dried chickpeas
2 - 3 tablespoons of ghee or a mixture of butter and oil (or to make vegan, just use oil)
1 teaspoon of black mustard seeds
2 teaspoons of cumin seeds
5 green or black cardamom pods
2 inch piece of cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves

1 medium sized onion, finely chopped
1/2 - 1 tablespoon of ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne
1 teaspoon of turmeric

2 - 4 finely chopped hot red and green chilies
1 large clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 - 2 inch piece of ginger, grated or finely chopped

2 medium-large tomatoes, finely diced
juice from one small lemon
1 1/2 teaspoons of sea salt
freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon of garam masala

Soak the chickpeas overnight in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1 - 2 hours or until the chickpeas are buttersoft. Drain well and set aside. (I did this a day ahead)

Heat the butter and oil in a large pot. When hot, add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, and bay leaves. Stir and fry until the mustard seeds begin to pop and the cumin seeds begin to brown.

Throw in the onions, and stir and fry until they begin to brown. Add the ground coriander, ground cumin, cayenne and turmeric to the pan and stir until the onions are well coated with the spices - about 1 minute. Then, add the fresh chilies, garlic and ginger. Stir and fry for a few minutes.

Next, add the tomatoes, half of the lemon juice and cook to thicken, about 10 minutes. Put the chickpeas into the tomato mixture, add the salt, some black pepper, half of the parsley, the remaining lemon juice and the garam masala. Cook for about 10 minutes to blend the flavors, adding a bit of water if necessary. The chickpeas should be fairly dry.

Remove the bay leaves if you are using whole ones, and the cinnamon stick. Stir in the remaining parsley and serve hot.

November 15, 2009

Lemony Quinoa with Butternut Squash

I have been taking full advantage of winter squashes since they started to appear in September, and this fall, squash of the butternut variety has been frequenting my meals more than any other. I love the smooth texture and how versatile it is. This quinoa dish is a perfect example of this squashes' versatility. It starts by roasting bite sized pieces of squash with lemon juice and ends by simmering the roasted squash pieces in the pot alongside the quinoa while it cooks. The quinoa and squash meet with the flavors of lemon, garlic, shallots, and thyme, and is finished off with a sprinkling of toasted pine nuts and chives. Simple and delicious!

Lemony Quinoa with Butternut Squash

10 ounces butternut squash (about 2 cups)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup quinoa
1/4 cup chopped shallots
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons (about 7/10 ounce) lightly toasted pine nuts (optional)
1 teaspoon minced fresh chives (optional)

Preheat oven to 400F. Cut the squash in half and scrape out the seeds and strings (using a grapefruit spoon makes this easier). Peel and cut into 1/2-inch cubes and toss with the 1 teaspoon of lemon juice. Place them on a non-stick baking sheet (or silicone mat), sprinkle with a little salt and pepper, and bake for 15 minutes, stirring halfway through.

Place the quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse it well and allow to drain. Heat a deep, non-stick pot. Add shallots and garlic and cook, stirring, until shallots soften slightly. Add the quinoa and toast it until it has dried out and begins to exude a toasty aroma. Add the squash along with the thyme and vegetable broth. Reduce the heat to low and cover. Cook, stirring once or twice, until all broth is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Stir in the lemon peel and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and add more lemon juice if needed.

Serve with toasted pine nuts and chives sprinkled on top.

Servings: 4 large side-dish servings

November 12, 2009

Roasted Beet and Garlic Soup in Acorn Squash Bowls

I am a big fan of No Croutons Required, a monthly food blogging challenge featuring vegetarian soup and salads. I am excited to finally join in with the talented cooks that have been inspiring my soups and salads for some time now.

This month Lisa's Kitchen is hosting, and the challenge is to create a soup or salad featuring root vegetables. Oh! This month's challenge called my name, er rather, the fresh beets in the bottom of my produce bin called my name. These little guys were just begging to be made into a creamy soup. While the beets take most of the credit in this soup, several of my other root-friends also made an appearance.

The inspiration came from Gourmet to put beet soup into a roasted acorn squash bowl, but this beet soup is my own. I loved the idea immediately, but rather than going the direction of very sweet soup like theirs (featuring apples and brown sugar), I decided to go more savory with mine, featuring ginger and a head of roasted garlic. A very slight sweetness was satisfied by a swirl of coconut milk stirred through just before serving. A big handful of fresh dill would have been ideal, but using the dried dill that I had on hand was also delicious.

Be sure to visit Lisa's Kitchen starting on November 20th to root for your favorite soup or salad. Although I can't imagine what will beet this soup.. Gosh, I'm sorry, I can't help myself.

Roasted Beet and Garlic Soup in Acorn Squash Bowls

2-8 acorn squash (as many as you want, but the soup will fill up to 8 squashes)
olive oil for brushing
salt for sprinkling

6 small beets (about 2 cups after roasting and chopping)
1 head of garlic
2 c potatoes, chopped into ½ inch pieces, skin on
1 rib of celery
1 carrot, chopped
1 medium onion, diced
2 tsp ginger, minced
2 tsp dried dill (or use fresh if you've got it!)
4 c water
2 not-chick’n bouillon cubes
½ c coconut milk
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp olive oil

SQUASH: Preheat oven to 375°F. Cut off the top portion of the squash about 1 inch down, and reserve. Scoop out seeds (save these to toast later if you please). Cut a thin slice off of the bottoms of the squash, as thin as possible but that will still provide a flat and stable base. Brush the insides and the squash lid with oil and sprinkle with salt. Place squash bowls and lids in shallow baking pans, bowls right-side up, and lids cut side down. Roast squash for 60-75 minutes, or until the flesh is just tender.

BEETS/GARLIC: Once you’ve got the squash going you can start prepping the beets and garlic. Wash and trim beets, wrap each beet in foil, and place into a small baking dish. Trim ¼ inch off the top of the head of garlic to expose the cloves. Set the trimmed garlic head cut side up onto a piece of foil, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and then close up the foil into a little packet. Put the garlic into the same dish as the beets and put dish into the oven to roast alongside the squash that is already underway. Take the garlic out after 30 minutes (or when the cloves are nicely browned), set aside to cool. The beets are done when they are fork tender, for my small beets they took about 45 minutes. Once the beets are done allow them to cool for a bit, then peel and chop them into 1 inch pieces.

SOUP: Heat oil over medium heat in a large soup pot. Add onion and ginger and sauté until the onion softens – 5-7 minutes. Add celery, carrots, and potatoes and sauté for another 5-7 minutes. Stir in water, dill, and bouillon cubes and bring to a boil. Simmer over medium-low heat and cover. At this time I worked on peeling and chopping my roasted beets and gently squeezing out the cloves of roasted garlic. Once complete add the beets and garlic to the pot for the last bit of simmering. In total the soup should simmer 15-20 minutes, or until the potatoes and other veggies are tender. Transfer soup in batches to the blender and blend until smooth. Transfer back to pot and stir in coconut milk and season with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle soup into acorn squash bowls and serve.

This dreamy hot pink soup paired excellently with the acorn squash, but is also a great soup all on it's own.

November 9, 2009

Curried Red-Lentil Stew with Vegetables

I'm a real sucker for curry recipes. I'm an even bigger sucker for curry recipes that I come across that I already have all of the ingredients on hand for, and this Curried-Red Lentil Stew with Vegetables was just that. I spotted this lovely over at Dana Treat one afternoon, and within a couple of hours I sat down to a big bowl of curry.

The recipe below is exactly as she listed it. I decided to add 1/2 tsp ground coriander (because I love me some coriander), and I subbed kale for the spinach. This dish has a mild level of spice which could easily be kicked up a few notches with a couple of fresh chillies (which I'm known to do), but I decided to keep this nice and mellow this go around. This stew was even tastier the next day -- hooray for great leftovers!

Curried Red-Lentil Stew with Vegetables
(from Dana Treat)
Serves 4-6
Serve this stew over basmati rice.

Vegetable oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 (2 x 1 inch) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped or grated
5 cloves of garlic, minced
5 cups water
1 1/2 tsp. curry powder
tsp. tumeric
tsp. cumin
1 cup red lentils, picked over and rinsed
3 medium carrots, quartered lengthwise, then thinly sliced crosswise
5 oz. baby spinach leaves
1 cup frozen peas, not thawed
cup chopped fresh cilantro
Heat a heavy 4-5 quart pot over moderate heat and then add just enough oil to coat the bottom. Cook the onion with a sprinkling of salt, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 8-10 minutes. Add ginger and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes more. Add spices and cook over low heat for 1 minute.
Stir in lentils and 5 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Add carrots and another sprinkling of salt and simmer covered, stirring occasionally, until carrots are tender and lentils have broken down into a coarse puree, 15-20 minutes.
Stir in spinach and peas and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until peas are tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in cilantro and season stew with salt and pepper. If necessary, add enough water to thin stew so that it can be ladled over rice.
(Stew without spinach or peas can be made and chilled, uncovered, until completely cooled, then covered for up to 5 days. Reheat over moderately low heat, thinning with water to a pourable consistency and stirring frequently, before adding remaining ingredients.)

November 8, 2009

Kale-Potato Soup with Balsamic-Roasted Garlic

I can't seem to keep up with the awesome soups that are all over my favorite blogs these days. My "to-make" file is bursting at the seams with new kinds of soup that I want to try. My attempt to keep up has resulted in a fresh pot of soup every other day or so for the past couple of weeks. The leftovers have been amazing - soup is one of the best kind of leftovers - so the roomie and I have been eating very well for lunch during the work week!

What intrigued me most about the Kale-Potato Soup with Balsamic-Roasted Garlic when I spotted it over at parsnips aplenty, was the balsamic-roasted garlic. While roasting garlic is nothing new, I had never seen it done with balsamic vinegar. The garlic is definitely the star of the soup, and the subtle flavor lent by the balsamic vinegar is lovely. Intriguing point number two, this creamy dreamy soup is vegan thanks to the use of rice milk. I have cooked with soy milk and almond milk, but never rice milk. The verdict: I'm a huge fan, and I can't wait to try making other creamy soups with rice milk. Are you a fan of rice milk? I'd love to hear your favorite uses for it.

Kale-Potato Soup with Balsamic-Roasted Garlic
(from parsnips aplenty)
serves 4-6

2 heads garlic
salt and pepper
olive oil
good balsamic vinegar. The thick stuff.
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 stalk celery, finely diced
1/2 teaspoon chopped dried rosemary
1 bunch kale, center stems removed, roughly chopped
1 1/2 pounds potatoes, skins on, roughly chopped
1 quart + 1 cup vegetable broth
2 cups rice milk
Roast garlic: preheat oven to 375F. Chop off the top of each head of garlic, exposing the cloves. Put the heads down on a piece of aluminum foil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, then drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Wrap them up in the foil to make a little packet, and put in the oven for 30 minutes or until the garlic is soft and drop-dead-gorgeous brown.
Meanwhile, make soup: In a pot over medium heat, cook onions, celery, rosemary, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil until softened, about 5 minutes. Add kale, potatoes, and vegetable broth, cover, and turn the heat up to high. When soup comes to a boil, turn heat to medium low and simmer, uncovered, until potatoes are soft and kale is cooked, about 30 minutes.
By this point, the garlic should be done. When it’s cool enough to handle, squeeze out the cloves into the soup. Give it a stir, and get out your blender. Use a slotted spoon to put the veggies in the blender – a little broth is OK, but don’t overdo it. Puree it in batches, adding enough rice milk to get it to a cream-soup consistency. Discard vegetable broth (or save it to make another soup!) and put your pureed mixture in the pot; heat until warm and serve.

November 2, 2009

Jessy's Spicy Mexi-Meatlessball Soup

I dream about meat. True story. I'm coming up on my 4-year vegetarian anniversary, and I still have dreams about eating meat. As it turns out, meat-eating dreams are not uncommon among vegetarians (or rather, I've come across 3 others, so I figure it must not be, right?). For me, no two meat dreams have been identical, but there are three things that are almost always the same: 1). It is always some kind of red meat, 2). I steal the meat from an unsuspecting civilian when their back is turned, and 3). Despite the occasional hot dog or hamburger, more times than not, the meat that comes to me in my dreams is in the form of meatballs.  I always wake up feeling guilty and confused, how could I be such a thieving meat-eater? And what's the deal with meatballs? Meatballs weren't even my thing when I did eat meat. 

Despite not ever really liking the real deal, I was tickled by the idea of making vegetarian meatballs. And let me tell you, Jessy's Spicy Mexi-Meatlessball Soup is a dream come true! In fact, she has a whole series of meatlessball posts last month featuring main ingredients such as lentils, butternut squash, and white beans. My imagination is running wild with meatlessball ideas. Hey, and you never know, if I eat enough meatlessballs maybe my meatball dreams will go away!

Jessy's Spicy Mexi-Meatlessball Soup
(adapted from happyveganface)

1 package tempeh
1 large yellow onion, finely diced, divided
28 oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 zucchini, finely diced, divided
1 small red bell pepper, finely diced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, well chopped
1-1/2 fresh jalapenos, minced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp dried oregano, divided
2 tbsp dried parsley, divided
2 tbsp ketchup
2 tbsp water (for the meatlessball mix)
1 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp cumin, divided
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
1-1/2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp sea salt, divided
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 not-chicken bouillon cube
7 cups of water
olive oil cooking spray

Steam tempeh for 15-20 minutes and then grate it, or give it a few hearty pulses in the food processor until well crumbled.
Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in the large pot. Saute 1/2 the finely diced zucchini, 1/2 the finely diced onions, and the jalapenos on medium heat until soft. Add 1 tbsp oregano, 1 tbsp parsley, 1 tsp cumin, 2 tsp chili powder, 1/2 tsp sea salt, and the paprika. Cook for another minute, remove from heat, then add in the tempeh, 2 tbsp water, cornstarch, ketchup, cilantro, tahini, and lime juice. Adjust seasonings to taste then form into small balls (16-18) and set aside.
Wipe out the pot and spray it with a little olive oil cooking spray. Heat to medium and saute the other half of the onion and zucchini along with the bell pepper until the onions begin to brown. Add the tomatoes and the remaining spices, chili flakes, and the other 1/2 tsp of sea salt - saute for a few more minutes (about 3-5).
Add water, bouillon cube, and tomato paste and bring it to a boil. Cover, lower heat, and simmer for 20 minutes.
While the soup is simmering get back to the meatlessballs. Spray cooking spray in the large skillet and heat on medium heat. Add in the meatlessballs and saute until they begin to brown, turning them every few minutes. Once browned turn off the heat and cover with the lid while the soup finishes simmering. Add in meatlessballs and simmer for 5 more minutes, then remove from heat and serve.

*Note that my photo doesn't showcase all the awesomeness going on in the broth like the onions, peppers, tomatoes, and zucchini because the bowl was too deep, but trust me they are there, and they are yummy!!

October 31, 2009

Indian-Spiced Stuffed Eggplants with Paneer

For some unknown reason I have limited success with eggplant (well, limited experience for that matter), and usually that success is with red sauce Italian dishes. I find eggplant to be the loveliest addition to Indian and Thai curry dishes, but the handful of times I've tried this at home the eggplant usually doesn't turn out right. Eggplant-dishes-gone-awry are usually due to an unappealing consistency, whether it be too soft and mushy, or the skin remaining too tough and chewy. (Anyone else out there, or is it just me?) I was so excited to try making stuffed eggplants, seemed simple enough, but then about 20 minutes into the process of making them I felt that another disappointment was on the way. I had the urge to dump these into the garbage rather than continue on. Ultimately I fought that urge, but I did start making a pot of soup on the side as a backup. 

My adaptation was inspired by The Purple Foodie, a blogger from Mumbai. Based on my much different experience I suspect that she was working with a different variety of eggplant. The first step in this recipe is to halve and bake 2 eggplants for 20 minutes, and then scoop the flesh out. I baked mine for 40 minutes and the flesh was still not scooping out easily. I resolved to slice gently around the edge and make crosswise slits (meanwhile being careful not to puncture the skin) to loosen up the flesh enough for me to scoop it out. Then after scooping she recommends mashing the flesh with a fork. This, too, wasn't cutting it, so I gave the flesh 7 or 8 pulses in the food processor, which ended up working great. I am sure that her eggplants were much smaller also because of the amount of spice used, I ended up doubling the spices and adding a few more (as listed below). My eggplants were about 9 inches in length, but I'd recommend looking for smaller ones, in the 6"-7" range.

In the end this dish was wonderful, but it didn't come without some frustration. On the upside, this was my first time working with paneer, which was exciting. I do expect that I'll be making some saag paneer soon (my fave!) to use up the leftovers.

Indian-Spiced Stuffed Eggplants
(Adapted from The Purple Foodie)

2 eggplants (about 6"-7" in length)
Olive oil (for sprinkling)
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tbsp olive oil
1-1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground red chilli powder
2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 medium ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 bay leaf
1 cup paneer, crumbled (or substitute ricotta)
1/3 cup finely grated parmesan
1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
2 vegetarian sausage patties, thawed and chopped
1 egg, beaten
Extra fresh cilantro, chopped (for sprinkling)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Halve the eggplant lengthwise. Place them in the baking dish, cut sides up. Drizzle with olive oil and season to taste. Bake for 30 minutes or until tender.
Scoop out the eggplant flesh with a spoon and mash it gently with a fork (or if it's a little tough still use the food processor like I did).
In a skillet, heat the 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. When it is hot, add the coriander, cumin, cayenne, turmeric, ginger and chopped garlic to it. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, for 2 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, bay leaf, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring often, for 3-4 minutes.
Stir in the eggplant flesh. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for 7 minutes or until the mixture is pulpy and well flavored. Discard the bay leaf.
Lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees.
Stir the paneer, parmesan, cilantro, vegetarian sausage, salt, and pepper into the eggplant mixture. Once the mixture is little cool, stir in the beaten egg. Fill the eggplant shells back with the stuffing. Reserve some of the parmesan for later.
Return the shells to the baking dish. Sprinkle with olive oil. Bake the eggplant for 30-40 minutes or until the shells are tender when pierced with a skewer. During the last 10 minutes of baking, sprinkle the reserved parmesan on top.