Coffee cake that is incredibly . . .

Delicious. Moist. Oil-free. Vegan. Easy. Ridiculously good.

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I don’t know where to begin.

The original creation of this vegan and aquafabulous coffee cake was completely inspired by the “Vegan Meringue – Hits and Misses” aquafaba group on Facebook. I’m using a modified vanilla cupcake recipe from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s book Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World and the oil-free streusel topping recipe that Linda Julien shared with us on Facebook (she’s part of the “Vegan Meringue…” group) from when she made her coffee cake.

This cake was so good that quickly I gave up cutting nice and pretty squares to serve on a plate and instead began eating directly out of the pan with a spoon. Brought some to work and our team loved it! They kept saying it tasted “impossibly sinful” and completely polished off the pan.

**Note for those outside of the USA: Coffee cake has no coffee in it. It’s named thus because it’s supposed to be eaten while drinking coffee. (Of course, you can easily enjoy it without coffee, too!)

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Coffee Cake, vegan and “aquafabulated”

Makes one 8″ x 8″ (or other equal square footage) sheet cake or 12 cupcakes

INGREDIENTS:

Streusel topping:

  • 1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) chopped pecans, optional

Vanilla cake:

  • 1 cup plant milk
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons aquafaba (aka canned bean juice, usually from chickpeas)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract (or more vanilla)
  • 1/3 cup canola oil (can substitute completely with unsweetened applesauce for an oil-free recipe)
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (haven’t tried with more “wheat-y” flour but I bet it’ll work)
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar

DIRECTIONS:

Mix streusel topping and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 deg F and lightly spray pan with non-stick spray.

Add the plant milk and vinegar together in a measuring cup (I usually use a single 2-cup Pyrex cup), stir and let curdle for a few minutes. Add the vanilla and almond extracts to the milk mixture. Add the oil/applesauce to the milk mixture (careful, the 2-cup Pyrex will be full!).

In a medium-sized bowl, sift in the following: flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and granulated sugar. Whisk dry ingredients to combine. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients. Mix with a fork till well combined but don’t overmix; use a spatula to scrape the bottom of the bowl to make sure all the dry ingredients are incorporated.

Pour half the batter into the prepared pan and top with half of the streusel topping. Cover with the remaining batter and top with the remaining streusel topping.

Bake for approximately 25-35 minutes until the cake tests done with a toothpick (or skewer, or fork, or…). Remove from oven and, if you have the patience, let cool on counter/cooling rack for at least 5-10 minutes.

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Parmesan cheese, vegan.

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It’s just too easy. It surprisingly tastes like parmesan cheese. It sadly doesn’t melt, but it can be used as a topping and it also browns nicely when used under a broiler.

There are two versions I use. The first by Minimalist Baker uses cashews as the primary nut but you can easily replace some or all of it with toasted sesame seeds. The second one is from Oh She Glows and it looks “prettier” because of the hemp seeds. I’ve made slight adaptions in the latter recipe for doubling it and not using olive oil.

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Vegan Parmesan Cheese

Each version makes about 1 cup, from Dana of Minimalist Baker and Angela Liddon of Oh She Glows

Version 1 – INGREDIENTS:
  • 3/4 cup raw cashews (OR toasted sesame seeds)
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt, to taste
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon garlic powder, to taste

Version 2 – INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • 2 tablespoons raw OR toasted sesame seeds
  • 4 tablespoons hulled hemp seeds
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, to taste
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon garlic powder, to taste

If using cashews, put them in a food processor and process until finely chopped. Now add in the rest of the ingredients and pulse until the mixture is combined. Add more or less salt and garlic powder to taste.

Place it in an air tight container and store in the fridge. (I’ve found that ours keeps for months on end.)

Recipe Notes:

  • If you haven’t gathered this already, the cashews and sesame seeds are easily interchangeable. I wouldn’t replace everything with the hulled hemp seeds (besides, they’re spendy!) but you can use whatever ratios of the cashews and sesame seeds if you want to experiment.
  • What can you use vegan parmesan for?  On pizza, on pasta, a bread topping, put it in meat-less-balls, in salad.  Use your imagination!

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Oven roasted tomato sauce

This is what roughly 12 pounds (I’m guessing) of various kinds of garden grown tomatoes look like:

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(I have a little kitchen scale but obviously it couldn’t weight all this at once!)

Our garden has finally exploded with tomatoes! (By the way, I used to dislike tomatoes…until I actually had a home grown tomato. I’d been totally missing out all those years!) We knew couldn’t eat all of them fresh before they would spoil, so naturally I turned to the internet for inspiration.

Canned tomatoes? No, too much time. Roasted canned tomatoes. Well… Oh–! How about roasted tomato sauce that you can freeze or can?

YES.

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I didn’t manage to get any pictures of the prep work or what it looked like while in the oven or after, but I’ve come up with a fairly straightforward adaptation of this recipe that’s been slightly modified for working with a bunch of tomatoes and with minimal to no added oil.

The original recipe calls for ONLY 2 pounds of tomatoes. Meanwhile, remember, I had about 12 pounds. (TWELVE!) So I had to adapt the recipe to deal with unknowing flavors and liquid amounts.  No worries, though, it’s now applicable to whatever amounts of tomatoes you have!

Before we get on with it, let me be clear here: homemade tomato sauce using garden-fresh tomatoes beats any store-bought canned version by a bazillion miles!

Now that that’s out of my system…

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Roasted Tomato Sauce

Makes roughly 2/3rd quart of sauce

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 pounds large tomatoes (approximately 4 very large tomatoes)
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, skinned and whole
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian herb seasoning
  • Olive oil spray (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 400 deg F. Clean tomatoes, slice in half, and lay face-up on parchment lined roasting pans (metal or glass, I used both). Tuck the garlic cloves in around the tomatoes. Lightly spray the tomatoes with olive oil then evenly sprinkle the herbs all over.

Roast for about 30-40 minutes. (For 12 pounds of tomatoes, I stuffed the oven with multiple pans and roasted everything for about 1.5 hours while rotating the pans every 30 minutes.) There may be a lot of liquid in the bottom of the pans but that’s okay, you’ll pour it off later.

When the tomatoes have appeared to have broken down and shriveled some, remove pans from the open. Using tongs, carefully transfer the tomatoes and garlic that had been topped with herbs into a blender and whizz them up into the consistency you prefer (i.e. chunky versus super smooth). When done, pour the tomatoes into a sauce pan or pot. (You can dump the extra liquid in the roasting pans.)

Add the sugar, salt, and pepper to the sauce. Bring the sauce to a simmer, taste test, and add more seasoning as needed. If you like the consistency, then you’re all done! Otherwise, you can let it further simmer another 5-15 minutes to let it reduce and reach a consistency you want. (It took about 30 minutes for my super large batch to get where I wanted it to be.)

Use right away as marinara on pasta, pizza sauce, as a dip for breadsticks, or in whatever manner you can dream up.

Recipe Notes:

  • You can use ANY kind of tomato, it truly does not matter. Although, sure, clean off the stems and any weird looking parts, but don’t even worry about skinning them or removing the seeds. (I’m all for less prep work.) This is all going into a blender so it’s okay!
  • I used a bunch of different seasonings for my huge batch. Since I was making 12 pounds (versus the original recipe of only 2 lbs), I used a total of 6 teaspoons of various Italian-like seasonings: sweet basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, and even an ambiguous Italian blend. Use whatever you have! It’ll taste perfectly fine.
  • When adding the sugar, salt, and pepper to the sauce, I also threw in some crushed red pepper. If you like a little heat, this is a fantastic addition at this step or even earlier (i.e. when you put the tomatoes into the blender, or even before roasting).
  • I have some white wine I keep on hand for cooking and decided to throw a few glugs into my very large pot filled with almost 4 quarts of sauce. The alcohol is burned off when reducing the sauce but an added dimension to the flavor remains.
  • My roughly 12 pounds of tomatoes ended up being almost 4 quarts of sauce. I filled two jars and put them in the fridge to be used in the next week or two. As for the other two quarts, I put them in separate gallon Ziploc bags and froze them flat on a baking sheet for easy freezer storage.

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Want pizza with homemade dough in 40 minutes? Done.

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I’m not even kidding. This is the quickest and easiest pizza dough recipe I’ve ever made: hardly any waiting, no proofing, none of this you-must-plan-hours-in-advance business. It takes about 20 minutes or less for the dough to be ready for the oven!  You don’t even need a fancy mixer to knead this but you can use one if you want. (Though you’ll only use it for a few minutes at most!)

There is some aquafaba involved and you can leave it out altogether if you want the usual pizza crust result. On the other hand, use it if you want guaranteed light and fluffy dough!

I made my own tomato sauce a couple of weeks ago since we have an overloaded garden. THE BEST SAUCE EVER. But you can be lazy and use any ol’ marinara sauce or plain tomato sauce that you’ve spiced up with some herbs.

While I approve of the flavor and texture of Daiya vegan cheese, it’s spendy and not convenient here. We’re happy to eat cheese-less pizza (surprisingly, you really don’t miss it) but I usually have a homemade stash of vegan parmesan in the fridge and use it when we’re feeling like free spirits. You can make a really basic version by following the recipe here from Minimalist Baker (cashews are the primary nut used, though you can sub this with toasted sesame seeds) or you can use a slightly fancied up version by following the recipe here from Oh She Glows (scroll down to see it; this one uses cashews, toasted sesame seeds, and hemp seeds). I usually double the latter recipe to make as much as the former.

As for toppings, choose what you wish! Most recently, I’ve used some combo of the following: chickpeas, olives, mushrooms, crookneck squash, kale, onions, fresh green onions on top.

Okay, let’s get right to it.

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Quick and Easy Pizza Crust

Makes one crust, adapted from Chef Rider’s recipe on allrecipes.com

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 package or 2 1/4 teaspoons of active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 teaspoon salt (see notes for more flavor additions)
  • 3 to 6 tablespoons of aquafaba (i.e. canned bean liquid, liquid from chickpeas are typically used most as aquafaba but just about any bean liquid will do)
  • 1 rough tablespoon of olive oil
  • 2 1/2 to 3 cups bread flour (can use all-purpose [AP] flour, haven’t tried whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour yet)

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat open to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). In a medium bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water. Let stand until frothy (or bubbly or creamy, your choice of descriptive words), about 10 minutes.

Stir in salt, aquafaba, olive oil, and flour until it’s a shaggy-looking kneaded mess. (I’d recommend using a wooden spoon.) Let rest for 5 minutes.

If the dough is still too sticky and hard to handle by hand after the resting period, add more flour 1 tablespoon at a time and lightly knead until it’s easy enough to work with. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and pat or roll into a round (roughly a 12″ pizza). Gently transfer your dough onto a pizza pan lightly dusted with cornmeal (see notes). Bake in pre-heated oven for 5 minutes.

Remove dough from oven, spread with desired toppings, and bake again for 15-20 minutes (I have an oven thermometer and have been happy with 15 minutes) or until the crust is starting to turn golden brown. Let pizza cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Recipe Notes:

  • You can make personal mini pizza servings if you want! This recipe is easy to double, too.
  • Sometimes, I’ve thrown in 1/2 to 1 teaspoon each of dried sweet basil, dried oregano, and garlic powder into the dough for more flavor. You can add whatever Italian-like seasoning that you want. The dough is plain without any additions but the it’s still wonderfully soft and irresistible when you use AF.
  • I’ve only used granulated sugar. Yes, I know some (not all) granulated sugar is sometimes processed with animal bone char but I personally don’t let this keep me up at night. If this isn’t for you, I’m thinking you can totally get away with a different form of sugar: maple syrup, agave nectar, etc. (Why not?)
  • Warm water: you don’t want it too cold, you don’t want it too hot.  Too cold means the yeast doesn’t activate, too hot means you might kill the yeast. I usually run our faucet until the water is definitely warm but not yet uncomfortable to the touch. (No wasting water here, I fill our electric kettle at the same time.)
  • The first time, I used 6 tablespoons of aquafaba (AF) to the originally listed flour amount of 2 1/2 cups – I had to add a lot more flour (didn’t measure it) to make the dough easier to handle (it was so sticky and loose).  Hence I’m suggesting a range of 3 to 6 tablespoons of AF and the flour amount is now a range of 2 1/2 to 3 cups.
  • The original recipe called for 2 tablespoons of olive oil. I try to use little to no added oil when possible. Thus said, I quickly pour a little swirl in but haven’t measured it. I’m thinking it’s closer to a 1/2 tablespoon. The minimal oil I used definitely doesn’t affect the dough’s overall “goodness”, in my opinion.
  • The original recipe calls for bread flour “if you want a treat”, though it says AP flour can be used successfully. I’m betting any kind of typical flour can be used with success…as long as you use the aquafaba! If you don’t want to use aquafaba, then stick to bread or AP flour for now.
  • If you don’t have a pizza pan or pizza stone, you can use the usual metal roasting pan or baking sheet. You’re welcome to “grease” it, or you can make clean up a snap (and less fatty!) if you line it with parchment paper. If you have cornmeal, throw a light layer on the pan/sheet/parchment paper, too.

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The best vegan Caesar salad EVER

I’ve never really been a fan of the limp and plain garden salad.  Because of this, in pre-vegan/pre-WFPB days, I would usually order a caesar salad if it were an option: more flavor, more cheese, more texture.

Since changing to a whole-food, plant-based (WFPB) diet, I’ve only strayed a few times to have a wee bit of caesar salad once in a while for the sake of nostalgia.  It’s one of those things my husband and I have missed in regards to salads…but didn’t really think much of until I finally ran into Angela Liddon’s recipe on Oh She Glows.
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I saw it, the hubs and I started salivating, I happened to have all the ingredients on hand, so I instantly set out making it.

It was kind of late in the evening to be eating and there was a bit of prep work and cooking time (roasting chickpeas!), but we did it anyway.  And it was so worth it.

caesar2hcaesar3h caesar4hThe dressing that Angela came up with is inspired.  The thought of getting lactino kale mixed into the greens means increased nutrition. Using roasted chickpeas as croutons is an ingenious idea. The parmesan cheese? You really don’t miss it.

This salad is a must! Even though it was close to 10 o’clock at night, we could not stop eating it. We’ve served it to omnivores who go back for seconds. And thirds.

SO GOOD.
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Crowd-Pleasing Vegan Caesar Salad

By Angela Liddon. Serves 5-6 people as a side, slight adaptations on original recipe

INGREDIENTS:

Roasted chickpea croutons:

  • 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas (or 1.5-2 cups cooked)
  • 1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil, optional
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Sprinkle of cayenne, optional (if you like it spicy)

Dressing (makes 3/4 to 1 cup):

  • 1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight (soaking unnecessary with a high speed blender like Vitamix or Blentec)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    • Less fat option #1 = 1 tbsp evoo + 1 tbsp water
    • Even less fat option #2 = 2 tbsp water + a couple dashes of guar/xanthan gum + 1/4 tsp ground flax seed
  • 1 small garlic clove (you can add another if you like it super potent)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tablespoon vegan Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons capers
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt and pepper, or to taste

Nut and seed parmesan cheese (makes 1/2 cup):

  • 1/4 cup raw cashews
  • 1 tablespoon raw sesame seeds (*if you don’t have this, you can sub with more cashews)
  • 2 tablespoons hulled hemp seeds (*if you don’t have this, you can sub with more cashews)
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Fine grain sea salt, to taste

Lettuce:

  • 1 small/medium bunch Lacinato kale, destemmed (5 cups chopped)
  • 2 small heads romaine lettuce (10 cups chopped)

DIRECTIONS:

Soak cashews in a bowl of water overnight, or for at least a few hours; drain and rinse.

Roast chickpea croutons: Preheat oven to 400 deg F. Drain (keep that aquafaba!) and rinse chickpeas. Place chickpeas in a tea towel and rub them dry. Place onto parchment paper lined (or similar) large rimmed baking sheet. If using, drizzle on oil (or lightly spray with olive oil) and roll around to coat. Sprinkle on the garlic powder and salt and toss to coat. Roast for 20 minutes at 400 degrees F, then gently roll the chickpeas around in the baking sheet, then roast for another 10-15 minutes, until lightly golden. They will firm up as they cool.

Prepare the dressing: Add the cashews and all other dressing ingredients (except salt) into a high speed blender, and blend on high until the dressing is super smooth. You can add a splash of water if necessary to get it blending. Add salt to taste and adjust other seasonings, if desired. Set aside.

Prepare the parmesan cheese: Add cashews into a food processor and process until finely chopped. Now add in the rest of the ingredients and pulse until the mixture is combined. Salt to taste.

Prepare the lettuce: De-stem the kale and then finely chop the leaves. Wash and dry in a salad spinner. Place into extra large bowl. Chop up the romaine into bite-sized pieces. Rinse and then spin dry. Place into bowl along with kale. You should have roughly 5 cups chopped kale and 10 cups chopped romaine.

Assemble: Add dressing onto lettuce and toss until fully coated. Now sprinkle on the roasted chickpeas and the Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

Recipe Notes:

  • I would caution against using highly uniform packs of romaine lettuce – you know, like that bulk pack you can get at Costco. The conventionally grown kind & mass produced kind doesn’t seem to stay very crisp and turns quite soggy after a single night in the refrigerator. (If it’s romaine from your own garden, that’s different!)
  • If I decide to use olive oil when roasting the chickpeas, it involved merely a light spray. Usually I omit it and don’t miss it at all.
  • Don’t have a salad spinner? I’ve heard of people using a net laundry bag or large towel to put the greens in, grab the ends tightly, and whirl it around real fast (think: lasso, yo-yo). Might want to do it outside in case something slips or you don’t want water drops to fly everywhere!
  • If you don’t manage to eat everything the first day, yes, it does get slightly soggy after a night in the fridge but the taste is so good that you highly likely won’t care.

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Ethiopian lentil stew: yemisir wat

Between my third and final fourth year of dental school, I decided to sign up for a dental mission trip to Ethiopia that would take place during one of our longest school breaks.  I managed to convince two other classmates to come; additionally, two dental hygiene students with a sense of adventure and that restless travel bug condition had signed up, too.

Hello to Ethiopia and it’s wonderful cuisine. (Not to mention the coffee – but I’ll save that for another time.)

yemisirwat1hAfter spending three weeks there and having experienced traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremonies, traditional food, injera bread, and wats, I realized it was a completely new culinary world I knew nothing about and was one I needed to figure out how to have again when I got home. Living in rural Montana makes it kind of hard to find an Ethiopian restaurant, but I managed to drag my husband and cousins to one in a slightly sketchy part of Atlanta, GA, and we were all blown away.

The flavors!  The spice!  (Oh, and the coffee.)

yemisirwat2vI found out that the primary seasoning ingredient used the most in Ethiopian cooking is a spice blend called berbere (say: BUR-bur-ree). You can consider berbere like the many different kinds of dry curry spice mix you kind find in stores: the specific seasoning mix really varies per person, company, or household that makes it.

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I eventually got my hands on some bulk berbere that I personally liked (you can see it here).  Most Ethiopian wats (aka stews or curries) are meat-based, but there are many dishes that can be found made with vegetables or legumes.  After searching online, I ran into a newspaper story that featured an Ethiopian vegetarian feast and immediately was inspired.

I decided to make yemisir wat (aka misir wat). In most of these pictures, I used a different kind of lentil instead of the usual red lentil.  I still prefer red lentils because they break down and turn into a lovely mash (as unappetizing as that word sounds, it works well). There’s no way to get or easily make injera bread for this wat, so a bed of warm rice it is.

We also like like to add more color to our legume meals, so you can see some of the following in the pictures: red cabbage, steamed swiss chard, green onions.yemisirwat5h

Yemisir Wat

Serves approximately 6 people as a main course with another starch

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1-1.5 onions (any type), minced
  • 2-4 garlic cloves minced
  • Thumb-sized amount of ginger, grated
  • 0.5-1 tablespoons berbere (adjust later, depends on how spicy your berbere mix is)
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 3 cups water
  • Salt/Braggs Liquid Aminos/soy sauce, to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Using a medium sized pot or skillet with a lid to be used later, saute onions till almost translucent, then add the garlic and ginger and saute another 1-2 minutes more till fragrant. Add the lentils and water to the pot and cover.  Bring to a boil, then drop the temperature so the liquid is at a simmer.  Let cook for 30 minutes or till the red lentils are broken up, whichever comes first.  Add your choice of saltiness (salt, Braggs, or soy sauce) to taste, and add more berbere as needed.

This is not as traditional, but I’ve added the following before for variety: small diced potatoes, sliced/diced mushrooms, canned coconut milk to taste.

Recipe Notes:

  • I’ve made this before without the ginger (couldn’t find it in the store!) and it tasted just fine.
  • The first kind of berbere mix was The Silk Road brand and I found it quite hot! While I normally like things spicy-hot, it was a bit much so but with not as much flavor as I preferred. My point is that every berbere mix is different and I tried to give a starting amount in the ingredient list with the tip to taste and add more later as needed!
  • I tend to use Braggs Liquid Aminos the most. When I was somewhere else and didn’t have access to it, soy sauce worked quite well. I imagine salt would work, too, but it tends to lack that final umami taste that the former two options can give to foods.
  • Again, I prefer red lentils because they break up into a nice mash. You’re welcome to try other lentils, but don’t expect them to fall apart.

Easy Spanish Rice

Over a decade ago when I was working as an x-ray technologist at a large hospital in southern California, a co-worker told me how she made Spanish rice.  I have always remembered the simple ratios for the recipe’s backbone that she told me: approximately 1 can of tomato sauce, 2 cups of rice, 4 cups of broth.

Another co-worker made Spanish rice that I tasted and I remember thinking it was *the best* I’d ever tasted before – and this is from someone who grew up in southern California and was quite familiar with the tastes of authentic Hispanic flavors.  Her particular secret?  Using chicken broth instead of water. spanishrice1h With these pieces of recipe advice in mind, I tried making Spanish rice for the first time ever myself back then.  Naturally, it took a few batches to be satisfied with the final result.  During the process, I learned:

  • You really need to brown the rice, not just think it’s a little brown
  • It’s okay to make something without exact measurements
  • I finally figured out how to not burn the bottom of the rice on the stove

Since becoming vegan at home and deciding to cook without oil or with as little as possible, my original recipe for Spanish rice has morphed a bit to accommodate our eating habits.  I used to use a lot of olive oil during the browning of the rice; now I use none at all or just the teeniest drizzle.  I used to use a vegetarian broth mix (McKay’s Chicken Seasoning) but after learning it’s not vegan (darn that milk whey), I’ve switched over to using a combination of mushroom seasoning and vegetable broth seasoning. spanishrice2vmaybe spanishrice3h Unfortunately, red is a notoriously hard color to photograph, hence these pictures don’t look that nice.  Considering that I don’t have exact measurements for the spices here, it may take a couple of tries to get the flavor to your taste.  But heck, when you do get it right, it’s an easy meal made when you also open up a can of black beans, cut up some lettuce, and eat it all mishmashed together with salsa and chips. spanishrice4h

Easy Spanish Rice

Serves 6-8 as a side dish

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups of jasmine rice (see notes)
  • Oil, optional
  • 1 medium sized onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced (OR 1/2 to 1 teaspoon garlic powder)
  • Ground cumin
  • Cayenne
  • Broth powder/seasoning
  • 1 8-ounce can of tomato sauce
  • 1 4-ounce can of mild or hot diced chilies, drained (optional)
  • 4 cups of vegetable broth (OR vegan chicken-flavored broth)

DIRECTIONS:

Using a wide pan or skillet on medium high-high heat, place the rice inside (and a small drizzle of oil, if wanted) and keep moving it around every 20-30 seconds or so until it’s uncomfortably browned.  Add in the onion, garlic; stir it into the rice so it starts the sautéing process.  Add a few light shakes of cumin, even less of cayenne, and a decent amount of extra broth powder (this is completely eyeballed) to the rice as it’s further browning the onions and garlic.  Keep stirring until the onion and garlic is sautéed. Add the tomato sauce, chilies if using, and broth to pan and mix.  Cover the pan and bring to a simmer for 20-25 minutes.

At the end of that time, peek under the lid and check if the rice appears to be done; if not, replace lid and leave on low for another 5 minutes.  After that, turn the heat off and let the pan sit covered for an additional 5 minutes before taking the lid off and fluffing the rice.  If the rice seems still a little wet, keep the lid off and leave the heat on low for another 5 minutes.  I know this is a lot of “5 minutes” but it works, promise!

Recipe Notes:

  • I grew up on jasmine rice and so I always use jasmine rice for anything that calls for “white rice.”  I’m sure you can use another white rice, as long as it’s not a “quick cooking” type (i.e. Uncle Ben’s brand).
  • I tend to only use red onions these days for the amount of antioxidants they have versus what can be found in white or yellow onions.  In my opinion, it doesn’t seem to affect the taste.
  • I’ve found that using actual liquid broth (i.e. canned or boxed vegetable broth) results in the best final flavor.  If I only have powdered broth that needs to be mixed myself, I add water in the amount of liquid called for and then also stir in broth powder that’s needed for that amount of liquid.
  • When browning the rice, keep a close eye on it – it can burn quick!  It’ll take a while for the pan to get up to the right heat, but once it does, keep moving things around until the rice is (in your opinion) uncomfortably brown.  At that point you’ll add in the spices and onions and it’ll brown even more.  Don’t be afraid of browning the rice too much – that’s where all the nutty good flavor comes from.  Of course, there is a distinct difference between browning rice and burning it altogether!

Cauliflower Fettuccine Alfredo

I know, cauliflower and fettuccine in the same title just doesn’t sound possible, let alone good.

It surprisingly is!

I can’t take any sort of credit whatsoever for this recipe.  But I love it, Angela Liddon has it posted online for free, so I want to have it here on my little blog as a reminder of what I enjoy making and eating:

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One of our staff told my husband and I how she tried making this recipe and was floored over it.  She basically had us pinkie-swear that we’d make it as soon as possible.

So we did.

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We decided to top it with simply steamed zucchini (roasted would’ve been more decadent and ideal if I had planned accordingly) and arugula with cucumbers on the side.  Also, since we’ve been on a major antioxidant and phytonutrient kick and found out that spices are an excellent source of them, we strayed from the traditional flavors a tad and sprinkled on oregano and crushed red pepper.

I know cauliflower has a very distinct and, oh, strong aroma when cooked, but you really don’t notice it or it doesn’t bother you when eating.  If you reheat this dish the next day in the microwave, you’ll get a good whiff of that cauliflower smell, but the dish still tastes as good and is as creamy as it was the day before!

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Cauliflower Fettuccine Alfredo

Slight adaptations from Angela Liddon’s recipe, serves 4 easily

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 heaping cups cauliflower florets (1 small to medium cauliflower head)
  • 2 medium to large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened and unflavored non-dairy milk
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (or 1 scant tablespoon of bottled lemon juice concentrate)
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt, to taste
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon pepper, to taste
  • Fettuccine or pasta shape of your choice (we used a 13.25 ounce box of rotini here)
  • Minced fresh parsley or other herb for garnish, optional

DIRECTIONS:

Add cauliflower florets in a large pot and cover with water, bring to a low boil. Once boiling, cook for another 3-7 minutes until fork tender then drain.  Meanwhile, use a small amount of water to sauté the minced garlic over low heat for 4-5 minutes until softened and fragrant, but not browned.

In a high speed blender (preferably Vitamix or Blentec), add the cooked and drained cauliflower, sautéed garlic, milk, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Blend until a super smooth sauce forms, don’t be afraid to let it run for while until the texture is right. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add your desired amount of pasta and boil for the time instructed on the package, then drain.  Add the cauliflower sauce into the same pot and add the drained pasta back into it. Heat over low-medium until heated enough to your liking. Salt again to taste (the pasta dilutes the flavor).  Serve with fresh minced parsley and black pepper. Feel free to add in your favorite sautéed or roasted vegetables.

Recipe Notes:

  • Sometimes we don’t even sauté the garlic, but I’ll cut the amount called for in half and throw the single garlic clove straight in the blender fresh.  As you’re aware, sometimes some garlic can be SUPER strong but (1) that’s hardly ever the case unless you’re using fresh garlic from Romania (it was spicy!) and (2) we love garlic anyway.
  • Like mentioned in the ingredients, we usually boil an entire box (13.25 ounces) of pasta and there is more than enough sauce in this recipe to cover all of it more than adequately.
  • The first time I made this, I didn’t salt it enough at the very end before serving.  It was good, but it hadn’t quite reached that peak amount of flavor due to the slight lack of salt.  Lesson learned again: always, always, always taste and season accordingly when you’re cooking.

Creamy Curried Greens and Chickpeas

Do you know what palak paneer is?  It’s an Indian curry dish consisting primarily of spinach and cheese.  SO GOOD.  But man, I never felt good after having it.  On the rare occasion I happen to have the pleasure of eating at an actual Indian restaurant (which is basically never in Montana), I give in and have a little…but always gastrointestinally regret it later.

While browsing Susan Voisin’s site, some time ago I ran across her recipe for creamy curried kale and chickpeas.  Reading through it more, I realized that the title was actually code for “vegan palak paneer.”  I had my doubts, but after making it, I was blown away: it’s a fantastic vegan version!

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As you can see, I used spinach, not kale, in the photos above.  I’ve used all spinach before, all kale, or a combination of the two.  I tend to buy the huge containers of spinach from Costco and this recipe is a great way to get through it all before it spoils!  Whatever you choose to use for the greens, the flavor is still good and it’s always packed full of antioxidants and phytonutrients.

Enough talk – go make this recipe right away!

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Creamy Curried Kale and Chickpeas

Slightly adapted from Fat Free Vegan, serves 6 easily with another filling starch like brown rice

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon ginger root, minced/grated (OR 1 teaspoon powdered ginger)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds (OR 1 scant teaspoon of ground cumin)
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 8 cups chopped kale and/or spinach, packed
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 cup unsweetened soymilk or other non-dairy milk
  • 1/4 cup raw cashews
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast, optional
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained
  • Salt to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Heat a large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  (If cooking oil-free, place a small amount of water in the pan that doesn’t completely cover the bottom and keep a cup full of water nearby for adding more as needed.)  Add onion and cook until softened and beginning to brown, 4-5 minutes, adding small splashes of water if needed to prevent sticking.  Add the garlic, ginger, and cumin and cook for 1 minute.  Add the remaining spices and cook for another minute, stirring constantly to prevent burning.

Reduce heat to medium.  Stir in the kale and/or spinach and vegetable broth.  Cover and cook until the greens are bright and tender, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While the greens are cooking, put the following in the blender and puree until smooth: milk, cashews, nutritional yeast, and tomato paste.  When the greens are done cooking, add them to the blender and blend until smooth or until the texture is to your liking.

Transfer the blended mixture back to the skillet and bring to a simmer.  Check seasonings and add more to taste.  Stir in the drained chickpeas and continue simmering for about 10 minutes.  Add salt to taste and serve over rice.

Recipe Notes:

  • I keep grated ginger on hand in the freezer.  What used to happen is that I’d buy more ginger than needed, grate and use a small portion, then completely forget about the rest of it until it’s withered and completely unrecognizable.  (On top of that, I despise grating ginger!)  Here’s my tip for you: buy a huge piece of ginger, grate it all at once, and freeze them in long and skinny pieces rolled in wax paper and stored in a freezer bag.  Now whenever I need a piece, I break off the approximate amount needed, quickly get it thawed, and/or throw in straight into the pan and start using it.
  • I hardly use vegetable broth these days.  I usually throw in the liquid amount called for using water instead and then add the amount of mushroom seasoning or powdered vegetable broth needed for that amount of liquid.
  • If you don’t have a fancy blender (i.e. Vitamix or Blendtec), get in the practice of always soaking your cashews for at least 6 hours before using them – overnight is better.  If you’re short on time, the best I can recommend is soaking them in boiling hot water for a long as you’re able.  It may take a while for the cashews to get smooth, but as long as they’re soaked enough, they will get smooth even when trying to blend them in a food processor.
  • I have so many cans of tomato paste (I keep buying them because I keep thinking I’ll use them!) but I find I tend to only need a tablespoon or two at a time.  Based on this, I’ve started to buy tubes of tomato paste (I can easily find them at Walmart) since it’s a lot easier to keep in the fridge.
  • Once I made this way ahead of time, which means the chickpeas were lightly simmering and warming in the pan for a lot longer than 10 minutes.  Because of this increased cooking time, the beans became soft and much more reminiscent of paneer in regards to texture!  If you have the time and you like the texture of paneer, I’d recommend this route and allow it to simmer/stay warm for 30 minutes before eating.

Lentils & Brown Rice, a staple dish

So, I have no photos of this dish.  It’s not exactly pretty looking on it’s own either.  It’s so good that we inhale it before we even think about taking a picture!

This is a simple dish and, though far removed from the original Lebanese staple of lentils and rice that it’s based on, it’s hearty and filling and guilt-free.

When we’re in a hurry, we eat it on tortilla chips and top with blended pickled jalapeños that I keep in a squeeze bottle and/or my creamy tomatillo dressing.  If we have more time, we add even more toppings, such as: lettuce, a sprinkle of lime juice, cilantro, olives, onions, tomatoes, salsa, avocados, etc.  If you’re really in a hurry, throw some in a bowl and scoop up with tortilla chips!

Simplified Mjeddrah (Lentils & Rice)

Serves 6 hungry people

  • 1 1/2 cup dry brown or green lentils
  • 3/4 cup brown rice
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (optional)
  • 1/2 tablespoon mushroom seasoning OR salt
  • 1 tablespoon vegan chicken OR vegetable seasoning/broth powder (use 2 tbsp if not using salt)
  • 2-3 tablespoons Braggs Liquid Aminos

Put all ingredients into crockpot and cook for 4-5 hours on high.  Add water as needed.

Recipe Notes:

  • This recipe makes a lot for a single person, even for just two people.  You can easily halve it if wanted.  You could also cook it as-is and freeze the extras in single portions for a quick meal later.  Also, if you’re starting this before you leave for work, I’d recommend cooking it on low and adding an additional half cup of water.
  • You don’t have to cook this only in a crockpot – you can use any large enough pot on the stove.  You’ll just need to add water throughout the process.
  • What’s the difference between brown and green lentils other than their color?  Green lentils fall apart less when cooked, brown ones have a tendency to become a bit more mushy.
  • I’m sure purists will say that this dish needs a specific type of onion.  We decided to simplify our life and only use red onions from now on because of their higher antioxidant content when compared to any other kind of onion! (We all need to eat more antioxidants at every meal anyway.)
  • I usually don’t use chicken or vegetable broth powder.  I tend to season this with only mushroom seasoning and Braggs – it always turns out great.