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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.

October 21, 2009

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple-Cream Cheese Frosting

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I'm not a baker. I don't really have the right tools nor have I done it enough to totally feel comfortable doing it. However, I've always enjoyed eating the sweets that other people make. My problem now is that with all of this food blogging business I see sweets I would like to eat, but the only way to make that happen is if I break down and make said sweets. The result: some sort of fierce baking binge in the last 2 weeks. I have one success and it boosts my confidence to try another and then another.. well, after all I have all of these ingredients on hand now! Then I start looking at stand mixers on amazon, and whoa, better slow down here!

It was a fun ride while it lasted, but when my hand mixer screeched and growled to a halt, I knew it was time to put the butter and sugar away. Lucky for you this was after I baked Smitten Kitchen's Pumpkin Cupcakes. It was my greatest baking success (I mean check it out, I even borrowed cake decorating tools (you should've seen the frosting rose I tried to make!))! Seriously though, I couldn't ask for more out of a baked good.. absolutely perfect! Despite calling for the use of a stand mixer, these still turned out great, and no, this recipe wasn't the one in which my hand mixer met it's demise. :-)

Pumpkin Cupcakes With Maple–Cream Cheese Frosting
(from Smitten Kitchen)

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for greasing pans
1 cup firmly packed dark-brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk mixed with 1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin
Two (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup

Make the cupcakes:
1. Preheat the oven to 350° (175°C). Line a cupcake pan with 18 liners.
2. In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugars on medium speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, salt, and pepper into a medium bowl.
3. Add the eggs 1 at a time to the mixer, scraping down the sides after each addition. Alternate adding the flour and milk mixtures, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat in the pumpkin until smooth. Scoop the batter among the cupcake liners — you’re looking to get them 3/4 full. Rap the filled pans once on the counter to release any air bubbles. Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool the cupcakes on racks completely.

Make the frosting:
In a stand mixer beat all the ingredients on medium until fluffy. To assemble the cake, frost the top of one cake, place the other cake on top. Frost the sides and top, swirling decoratively. Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes to set up frosting.

Yield: 17 to 18 cupcakes

October 20, 2009

Vegan Huevos Rancheros with Super-Easy Chipotle Enchilada Sauce & Spanish Homefries

Are you still with me after reading my title and a half for this posting..? Good!

When I tell my roommate what I'm making for dinner, sometimes I get a sideways look of skepticism -- this was definitely one of those nights. She always humors me, and 9 times out of 10 she's a fan of what I make (oh blasted for that 1 time out of 10 that ruins all my street cred). For my vegan readers, scrambled tofu in place of eggs is nothing new to you, but you should stick around for the sauce and the homefries! As for the rest of you, if you've never considered substituting tofu for eggs I encourage you to give it a try. Take it from my omnivore roommate, this was her favorite new recipe this month.

Muchas gracias to Justin for the Super-Easy Chipotle Enchilada Sauce recipe. This sauce was the inspiration for this meal and I built everything else around it.

Vegan Huevos Rancheros with Super-Easy Chipotle Enchilada Sauce

Los Huevos:
15 oz package firm or extra firm tofu
3/4 cup cooked black beans
3/4 cup diced bell peppers and onions
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin
salt and pepper to taste

Sauce (from The Chubby Vegetarian):
14 oz can fire roasted tomatoes
2 canned chipotle peppers
2 cloves of garlic, chopped

Let's start with the sauce, since it is so super-easy. Place all ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Place sauce into a pot with 1/2 tbsp olive oil and heat through. Easy, right? *Side note, I read on someone elses blog (and now I can't remember who to give them credit) about what they do with the rest of the can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (because recipes never seem to use the whole can!). This blogger blends all of the peppers plus the sauce from the can until smooth and then pours it in the separate compartments of an ice cube trays and freezes it for single servings later. 

Let's get back on track here now (don't you love how drifty my posts are when I write the recipes out myself?). To turn my block of tofu into huevos I drained the tofu, sliced it in half depth-wise, and pressed a bit of the water out of it with clean dishtowels. Place the tofu into a bowl and mash with a wisk until well crumbled.

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a skillet and add tofu. Fry tofu until any remaining water evaporates and the tofu starts to very lightly brown - 10 minutes or so. Stir in turmeric, cumin, peppers, and onions and continue to cook for another 5 minutes. (The turmeric will give your tofu an eggy yellow color!) Lastly, stir in beans and heat through.

I lightly fried corn tortillas in olive oil and then piled the huevos high on top, followed by 2 generous spoonfuls of the super-easy chipotle enchilada sauce, and finished off with avocado slices and cilantro. This amount of huevos will stuff about 8 small corn tortillas.

Spanish Homefries
(adapted from VegCooking)

3 cups red potatoes, cut into 1/2" chunks (yukons pictured above, but red better suits this recipe)
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. paprika
1/4 - 1/2 tsp. cayenne
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. parsley, chopped

In a large pot, bring water to a rapid boil, add the potatoes, and boil for 10 to 15 minutes, or until just tender. Drain and place in a large mixing bowl.
In a small bowl, combine the turmeric, paprika, cayenne, and salt. Set aside.
Pour the olive oil over the potatoes, then the spices, and toss to coat.
Pour the entire mixture into a pan heated to medium-high heat and pan-fry for 10 minutes, or until the skin is crisp.
Makes 4 side servings.

October 14, 2009

Curried Lentils and Sweet Potatoes

Well if that photo doesn't tempt you I don't know what will!! Seriously though, this was one of the hardest dishes I've ever tried to make pretty, and I pretty quickly gave up on that idea and focused on using a cool bowl and placemat. Despite the bad photo, this recipe is too good not to pass along. You can stop by Smitten Kitchen to see the photo that made me to want to actually cook this. This is a comforting and healthful single pot meal. On the spice-o-meter, this is another one full of spice and flavor, but is not fiery hot.

Curried Lentils With Sweet Potatoes and Swiss Chard
(from Smitten Kitchen)

Yields 8 to 10 side-dish servings; 6 main-course servings.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 1-inch piece fresh ginger root, peeled and grated
1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1 jalapeƱo pepper, seeded if desired, then minced
4 to 5 cups vegetable broth as needed
2 pounds orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into
1/2-inch cubes (about 4 cups)
1 1/2 cups dried lentils
1 bay leaf
1 pound Swiss chard, center ribs removed, leaves thinly sliced
1 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Finely grated zest of 1 lime
Juice of 1/2 lime
1/3 cup finely chopped tamari almonds, for garnish (optional), available in health food stores
1/4 cup chopped scallions, for garnish.

In large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and saute until translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, garam masala, curry powder and jalapeno. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Stir in 4 cups broth, sweet potatoes, lentils and bay leaf. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium, partially cover, and simmer for 25 minutes. (If lentils seem dry, add up to 1 cup stock, as needed.) Stir in chard and salt and pepper, and continue cooking until lentils are tender and chard is cooked, about 30 to 45 minutes total.

Just before serving, stir in cilantro, lime zest and juice. Spoon into a large, shallow serving dish. Garnish with almonds if desired and scallions.

October 13, 2009

Heidi's Lively Up Yourself Lentil Soup

Here is another keeper from Heidi, Lively Up Yourself Lentil Soup. How could I possibly resist a soup with that cool of a name? I have been waiting to try this soup for a long time, and the hold up was due to not being able to find black beluga lentils. She said that other types of lentils will work too, but waiting for these little guys was well worth it. I ended up finding these at Trader Joe's, in a pouch, precooked and ready to serve (still have yet to find them raw). One bag is enough to do a half recipe, and all of the other ingredients are also easy to cut in half. An added bonus to using the precooked lentils, it cuts cooking time down from about 25 minutes to 15 minutes total (you can't argue with that!).

Although Heidi mentions that she'll use either, I recommend using fire-roasted crushed tomatoes over plain crushed tomatoes. Don't forget the saffron yogurt drizzle, another extra special touch that is well worth it! I've posted the full size original recipe below, so if you go for the TJ's lentils like I did, you'll want to buy 2 bags or halve the recipe.

Heidi's Lively Up Yourself Lentil Soup
(from 101 cookbooks)

2 cups black beluga lentils (or green French lentils), picked over and rinsed
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
1 28-ounce can fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
2 cups water
3 cups of a big leafy green (chard, kale, etc), rinsed well, deveined, finely chopped

Saffron Yogurt
a pinch of saffron (30-40 threads)
1 tablespoon boiling water
two pinches of salt
1/2 cup 2% Greek Yogurt

Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan, add the lentils, and cook for about 20 minutes, or until tender. Drain and set aside.

While the lentils are cooking, make the saffron yogurt by combining the saffron threads and boiling water in a tiny cup. Let the saffron steep for a few minutes. Now stir the saffron along with the liquid into the yogurt. Mix in the salt and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a heavy soup pot over medium heat, then add the onion and salt and saute until tender, a couple minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, lentils, and water and continue cooking for a few more minutes, letting the soup come back up to a simmer. Stir in the chopped greens, and wait another minute. Taste and adjust the seasoning if need be. Ladle into bowls, and serve with a dollop of the saffron yogurt.

Serves 6 to 8.

October 11, 2009

Acorn Squash with Cranberry Apple Stuffing

It's winter squash time! I caught a sweet sale last week and brought home a 16 pound assortment of butternut, acorn, and spaghetti squashes for $4. Expect plenty of squash recipes to come your way soon. Before I went shopping that night and came home with said squashes, I actually cooked up my first two acorn squashes of the year that I had previously purchased. I had never cooked with yellow or orange acorn squash, so when I saw them I picked up one of each. Verdict was that I liked the yellow one better, but it might have just been a superior squash having nothing to do with the outside color (feel free to insert squash color comments here).

So for my first acorn squashes of the year I decided to go simple and traditional. You can't get more traditional than brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter - then add in a couple more fall favorites: apples and cranberries. Yum!

Acorn Squash with Cranberry Apple Stuffing
(adapted from

Boiling water
2 acorn squash
2 large cooking apples, peeled, cored, chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons brown sugar

Heat oven to 375. In a large baking dish, pour in about 1/4-inch of boiling water. Cut squash in half lengthwise; with a spoon, remove all pulp and seeds. Place each half cut-side down in the baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes.

Combine remaining ingredients. Remove squash from the oven; turn halves over. Stuff the center or each squash half with the apple mixture. Return to the oven for 30 to 35 minutes longer, or until apples and squash are tender. Stir each center lightly before serving.

Serves 4.

Green Smoothie

When it comes to breakfast during the work week I am a creature of habit. I go through phases of eating the same thing every day for months, and most recently it's been oatmeal. I am onto a new phase ever since I spotted the Green Smoothie over at Easy Veggie a couple of weeks ago.

What a welcome change this smoothie has been! The ingredients are almond milk, avocado, kale, and mango. I've been loving getting a big dose of fruits and veggies first thing in the morning. After a week and a half of drinking these I've found the perfect measurements of these ingredients for my taste (as listed below). Feel free to add a bit of agave nectar to taste if you like things a bit sweeter.

Green Smoothie
(adapted from Easy Veggie)

1 cup almond milk
1 cup water (or more if smoothie is too thick)
1/4 avocado
2 kale leaves
1/2 cup mango chunks
1/2 cup ice

October 6, 2009

Balsamic Dijon Dressing

What dinner could possibly follow the butter and sugar laden brunch of Pumpkin Pecan Pancakes? In my mind there was only answer, and that was to build the biggest and most veggie packed salad imaginable. This wasn't just a "I know I should" sort of thing, my body actually craved a pile of raw vegetables. I dug through the cabinets and refrigerator for every veggie possible and put myself to work chopping for about 45 minutes. My boyfriend was over for dinner and he stopped a few bites in and said, "Are there almonds in this? .. I think this might be the best salad I've ever had in my life." A few bites later he stopped, "Are there avocados in this? .. This is the best salad I've ever had in my life!" I agreed -- this salad definitely hit the spot. I'm not sure if I can recall all of the things in it, but here's what I can remember: carrots, tomatoes, zucchini, avocado, toasted almonds, black olives, bulgarian feta, beets, mushrooms, red onion, broccoli and cauliflower.

I looked in the refrigerator at the couple of packaged salad dressings I had and I was uninspired. The bottle of dijon mustard, however, grabbed my attention. A quick search for a homemade dressing of the dijon influence yielded this Balsamic Dijon Dressing. Two of my favorite dressing flavors together! This dressing was fantastic and it played a huge role in this being "the best salad I've ever made".

Balsamic Dijon Dressing
(from cdkitchen)

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic -- minced
1/2 cup olive oil

Whisk first 4 ingredients in medium bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Makes about 3/4 cup.