Saturday, October 29, 2011

Breaking the Rules

Rule #1 for feeding non-vegans vegan food:  Don't feed them anything that looks weird.  

Well, I just couldn't help it.  I love this dish, so I made it for a Welcome Home party for my husband and son and served it with an explanation.  Everyone brave enough to try the "weird green potato salad" loved it!  There were a few wimps who didn't taste it.  

I absolutely love pesto, so when I came across this recipe in Vegetarian Times magazine, I had to make it, adapting it a bit to fit our family.  

Spinach Pesto Potato Salad

3 cups packed baby spinach leaves
1/2 cup packed fresh basil
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup toasted walnut pieces
2 tsp lemon juice
3 tbsp olive oil

To make pesto, puree above ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until smooth.  Season with salt and pepper to taste (this Cajun girl adds cayenne).  

1 1/2 lb baby red or Yukon gold potatoes, halved
3/4 lb fresh green beans, trimmed
2 tsp olive oil
1 large shallot, thinly sliced 
3 tbsp diced sun-dried tomatoes
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
3/4 cup quartered cherry tomatoes

Cook potatoes in a large pot of boiling salted water for 10 minutes.  Add green beans and cook for an additional 5 minutes.  Drain; transfer to bowl and cover to keep warm.

Heat 2 tsp olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Saute shallots for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until caramelized.  Add sun-dried tomatoes and red pepper flakes and saute about 3 minutes.  

Toss pesto and shallots with the potatoes and green beans.  Toss in quartered cherry tomatoes and serve.  


If you are brave enough to serve it to non-vegans, reassure them there is no avocado in the dish.  That's what everyone thought at our party!  They breathed a sigh of relief when I assured them there was no scary avocado.  

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Best Pumpkin Muffins Ever!!!

Oh my goodness!  Oh my goodness!!!  When I saw this pumpkin muffin recipe on the PPK, I thought, "I'll try them.  I hope they are not dry like many muffins."  I should have known better!  This recipe was posted by Isa Chandra, one of the authors of Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, one AWESOME cupcake cookbook!  

I've had some pumpkin in the fridge for two days now, dipping into it for Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal.  But I knew that one cup of it was definitely going to be earmarked for these muffins.  Just to see.  I whipped them up in the middle of working when there was a spare second to kill.  They whipped up very quickly and I popped them in the oven in a stoneware muffin pan.  My initial thoughts were how unusual for a muffin recipe to fill my big ol' muffin cups.  Generally a recipe that is supposed to make a dozen only yields about 9 (or even fewer) muffins for me.  But this filled every one nicely.  

The only changes I made to the recipe was to use almond milk instead of soy, simply because that's what I had, and sorghum molasses instead of regular molasses.  Again, it was what was on hand.  I smelled them baking and couldn't wait to get these spicy little morsels out of the oven and into my mouth!  Twenty-three minutes later, perfection!  I pulled them out, burned my fingers loosening these beauties from their little warm snuggly muffin beds, and set them on a wire rack to cool.  Slightly.  Like, for about 32 seconds.  I couldn't wait any longer!  

They were DELICIOUS!!!  So moist and sweet and yummy and spicy!  I had planned to eat just one, but I am going back in there for another!  Please take my advice and bake these muffins.  Today.  Right now!  

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sweet Potatoes and Keen-What?

My friend found a great deal on sweet potatoes and let me in on it. I have a :::few::: lying around now and wanted to do something different with them

In Cajun Country, sweet potatoes can be found one of three ways: candied, baked, or in the holiday favorite Sweet Potato Casserole, which could double as a diabetic-coma-inducing dessert. Good, yes. Healthy? Not on your life!

I wanted my sweeties to be spicy. And roasted. Nothing new and inventive here, but they were spicy and really tasty!

Spicy Roasted Sweet Potatoes

4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" chunks
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder
1/4 heaping tsp cayenne pepper (or less if you aren't Cajun or don't like spicy stuff)
3 cloves of garlic
Salt to taste
1 tbsp olive oil

Combine in a heavy roaster or stoneware dish. Roast potatoes at 400° for 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender, stirring every 10 minutes or so.

We are also in dire need of a major grocery shopping trip so I'm scrounging in the cupboards until I can make the time. This is shaping up to be an incredibly busy week. I love quinoa and had quite a bit on hand. So it sounded like a quinoa kind of night to me.

If you've never tried quinoa (pronounced KEEN-WAH), you definitely should. It is the only grain that is a complete protein. It is very versatile and can be used in place of rice or other grains in many dishes. My favorite way to use it is in a salad, either warm or cold. I saw a recipe with apples and Gouda cheese with quinoa in a recipe. The cheese was out and it called for other ingredients I didn't have so I simply used the recipe as a jumping off place and did my own thing. The slightly sweet, crunchy notes in this salad complemented the spicy sweet potatoes very nicely. I can't wait to have the leftovers for lunch.

Fall Quinoa Salad 

1 1/2 cups quinoa
sea salt
4 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 onion, cut in half and then sliced thinly
5 tbsp red wine vinegar, divided
4 oz radish greens, thinly sliced (about 3 cups) - this was what I had from my sister-in-law's garden - kale would work well, as would arugula, but you would probably want to leave that raw
3 medium celery ribs, slice thin
1 large crisp apple (I had a big Jonagold)
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped and toasted
3/4 cups dried fruit (I used blueberries and golden raisins - cherries or cranberries would work well, too)
salt and cracked black pepper, to taste

In a bowl, rinse the quinoa with water a few times.  Quinoa has a bitter alkaloid on the outside of the grain, but it is easily washed off.  Just make sure to rinse it three or four times.  Drain and transfer to a 3 quart pot.  Add 2 1/2 cups water and about a teaspoon of salt.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes.  When the quinoa is cooked, the germ will spiral off slightly.  Unlike rice, it gives you a visual clue!  Isn't that nice of it?  When the quinoa is cooked, fluff it with a fork and put it in a bowl to cool slightly.  You don't want it to be hot for this dish.  

While the quinoa is cooking, heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a skillet and saute' the onion over medium heat until the onions become nicely caramelized.  Add 2 tbsp of the vinegar to the onions and stir it around while the vinegar cooks away.  Remove and cool slightly.  

In the same pan, without added oil, add the radish greens (or whatever greens you are using if you need them to be cooked) and toss them around just until wilted.  As you can see, my 3+ cups cooked down a lot.  I could have used more.  

Mix the remaining 3 tbsp olive oil with the remaining vinegar, a few grinds of pepper and a little salt.  Whisk together and toss with the quinoa and all the other ingredients.  Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.  

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Vegan Pasta Alfredo

Before I was vegan, one of my favorite things to eat was pasta with Alfredo sauce. Oh, the creamy goodness of it! This was one thing I just knew I'd miss being vegan.

I did find a vegan Alfredo recipe in a cookbook but it fell far short of the original. It had NUTMEG in it, for goodness sakes! Ewww! I started removing ingredients and working on it and then....

One day while reading a new VegNews, there it was. Amazing Alfredo. It looked delicious! And it was but it still had that pesky nutmeg in the ingredient list. Yuck. I love nutmeg, but never I'm a savory dish. So here is my very simple adaptation of Amazing Alfredo.

Ginger's Vegan Alfredo Sauce

1 cup raw cashews
2 tbsp raw pine nuts
1 to 1 1/4 cups water
4 cloves garlic
1 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (heaping if you're like me or reduce the amount if you're just not that brave)

In a blender, grind the nuts. Add water and garlic and blend until completely smooth. Taste and add salt and cayenne pepper. Adjust seasonings.

Pour into a small saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring almost constantly, for 7 minutes.

Cook 1 pound of pasta. I used whole wheat penne. I prefer my Alfredo sauce served with a tube shaped pasta that holds all the yummy sauce. I had also cut up about 3 cups of broccoli florets and had them waiting in the colander. When I drained the pasta over the broccoli, it cooked it just enough to be bright green but it retained some of the crunch. If you like your broccoli softer, add it to the pasta water for about 2-3 minutes before the pasta is done.

Serve with the yummy sauce. Enjoy! I have to admit I love this even more than the "real" Alfredo sauce. So does my 17-year-old daughter.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Spicy Stir-Fried Radish Greens

 My sister-in-law has put in a fall garden and it is doing WONDERFULLY well!  I'm so glad she decided to start this little venture, because I'm also getting to reap her bountiful harvest!  

One thing she planted was a ton of radishes because her dad loves them so.  However, radishes grown in the hot South Louisiana (even in fall) tend to turn out a bit spicy!  Even for the radish loving dad.  She asked me if one could eat the greens.  I didn't know, but turned to the Knower of all Knowledge - the internet!  Yes, was the answer!  I sent her a recipe and she sent me an enormous bag of radish greens!  Then I couldn't find the original recipe, but I did come upon this recipe from Kalyn's Kitchen.  

I didn't have any garlic at all, which is so unusual for this household, but I did have some Pampered Chef Garlic Oil, which worked wonderfully well.  This Cajun didn't find the greens to be especially spicy, so next time I will double the sriracha sauce.  

It took me forever to wash all the radish greens!  She sent over an enormous bag!  It took me two hours to wash all the greens, but less than two minutes to cook the recipe!  It was delicious and I didn't find the radish greens to be bitter at all!  Brooke and I devoured the recipe so fast and when I was downing the last bite I thought, "Oops!"  No picture of the finished product for the blog!  Trust me - it was good!  

One of Susie's Watermelon Radishes.  It was DELICIOUS with just enough spicy bite.  The color was GORGEOUS!!!  And this radish was enormous - larger than a chicken egg!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

I love oatmeal for breakfast. It is so warm and comforting. We are getting a bit of coolish weather (well, for Louisiana that is) and I had this lonely can of pumpkin puree in my pantry. Pumpkin pie oatmeal was just begging to be made.

1/2 cup almond milk
1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1/3 cup pumpkin puree
1/2-1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1-2 tsp maple syrup if you need it a little sweeter

Bring the almond milk to a simmer over medium heat. Add remaining ingredients and cook, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes.

If you need a little sweetener, maple syrup is perfect for this. Try to find grade B. It is so much better than grade A and, for heaven's sake, do not use pancake syrup. Bleh! Who knows what terrible things would happen!

I enjoyed my pumpkin pie oatmeal with a nice pot of Taylors of Harrogate Tea Room Blend tea. It was almost the same color as my oatmeal. It a bracing brew, perfect for a cold morning when I need a little "kick."

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Vegan Comfort Food

Oh.  My.  Goodness.  Pure deliciousness on a plate.

I read an article today talking about how difficult it is to be vegan because the food is so terrible.  And I thought to myself, "Oh, really?"  This would definitely prove them wrong!  Crispy yummy tofu, creamy mashed potatoes, and a very rich mushroom Marsala sauce made for the ultimate vegan comfort dinner.

Tofu gets such a bad wrap.  I didn't like it until after I was vegan for a few months and actually figured out how to best prepare it.  My preference is for Wildwood Sprouted Tofu.  It is higher in protein and a little easier to digest than regular tofu.  At least, it is for me.  I almost always slice it and press it to remove excess water from the 'fu.  That gives it a better texture.  Then you need to season tofu very well.  It is very bland and takes on the taste of whatever you season it/marinate it/cook it with.

Tonight's dinner definitely takes longer than most of my dinners because of marinating the tofu.  I breaded the tofu slices tonight, but will probably not do that again.  It was good, but it's an extra step that I usually don't find worth it.

Tofu with Marsala Mushrooms and Mashed Potatoes

  • 1 16-oz container of extra-firm tofu
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1 cup Marsala wine
Press the tofu between two heavy plates to squeeze out the extra water.  Slice the tofu into four slices, then each slice diagonally to make eight triangles.  

Place tofu slices in a flat baking type dish and cover with the soy sauce and Marsala.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  You could do this early in the day, though.  The longer the better.  

IF you want to bread the tofu, mix the following together in a shallow baking pan:

  • 2 cups unseasoned bread crumbs
  • 3 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tbsp fresh thyme, minced
If you don't want to bread the tofu, simply mix the seasonings together.  Set aside for when you are ready to fry the tofu slices.  

Start your potatoes.  Use whatever you have.  I love the Yukon gold potatoes and had half a package of tiny ones, just cleaned and cut in half.  It didn't look like enough for me and my mashed potato loving girls, so I also cut up four small-medium red potatoes.  I don't peel them.  I like my mashed potatoes to be kind of rustic and leave the skins on, but if you are particular about your mashed potatoes, then by all means peel them.   Cover the potatoes with water, add about 2 tsp of salt, bring to a boil, cover, and cook for about 20-30 minutes or until potatoes are tender.  

While your tofu is still marinating and your potatoes are boiling, start your Marsala mushroom sauce.  You may look at these amounts and think WOW!  She loves her gravy!  Well, I do, but it reduces down quite a bit.  You will not be sorry if you have extra sauce.  I promise.  You see the picture above?  See the small amount of mushrooms?  I forgot to take a picture and decided I'd go back and get "just one more small portion."  That's all the mushroom sauce that was left!  

  • 1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced, about 2 cups
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cups sliced mushrooms - Crimini or Baby Bellas have the perfect meaty taste for this dish, but if you can't find them, you can use white button.  Or go crazy and use a mix of wild mushrooms - I bet oyster mushrooms would be fabulous!  I'm going to try those in this dish next time - I adore oyster mushrooms!
  • 2 cups Marsala
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp pepper
  • 4 tsp herbs de Provence (or you can substitute rosemary, but the herbs de Provence are worth searching for)
  • 1 1/4 cups Silk soy creamer
Start with 1 tbsp of the olive oil (if you need a little more, add another one) and saute the onions on a medium heat until they are translucent and just beginning to caramelize.  Add the mushrooms and saute until they are browned.  Add herbs de Provence and Marsala.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook and stir until wine is reduced by at least half.  Add creamer and continue to simmer until total amount is reduced by half again.  

While your sauce is finishing, remove tofu from marinade and sprinkle with seasoning/herbs.  (If you want to bread it, do so now.)  Heat a small amount of canola oil in a skillet - just enough to barely cover the bottom.  Add tofu to the pan and fry until browned on both sides.  Remove to a plate and blot with paper towels to remove excess oil.  

Time to whip up your potatoes.  I suggest enlisting the help of your 17-year-old daughter.  Mine sure came in handy at this point.  

Drain the potatoes and to them add:  

  • 3-4 tbsp Earth Balance vegan margarine
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup of Silk soy creamer
  • 1 tsp herbs de Provence or rosemary (if you have fresh rosemary, use that and bump it up to 1 tbsp)
  • salt and pepper to taste
I use an old fashioned potato masher and do mine by hand.  I like an occasional chunk and I've already told you I leave my skins on.  Finish your potatoes in your favorite way, though.  It is comfort food, after all.  If I tell you to make them chunky and you like smooth, it won't be comforting, will it?  :::smile:::  


Spicy Lemon Pepper Pasta with Broccoli

Yesterday I was in WalMart picking up a few things and sent my 15-year-old daughter a text.  "What would you like for dinner?"  The answer?  "The broccoli pasta.  I've been craving it."  Oooookay!  So I sent my 17-year-old daughter off to get the ingredients while I remained in the pharmacy line for about 87 hours.  Okay, just 30 minutes, but it was torture the whole time.

Unfortunately, we were famished and polished off the pasta before I was able to get a picture, but I promise that LoLo's pictures on Vegan YumYum are much better than mine would have been.  Since her recipe is for one and mine was for a family, I'll post my amounts.

  • 1 pound fettuccine
  • half a bottle or more of julienne sliced sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil (I don't drain it - I use that oil for stir-frying the broccoli instead of the olive oil Lolo calls for - I find I use less oil that way and it is more flavorful.)
  • two big bunches of broccoli, florets cut into bite sized pieces
  • about 2 tsp of red pepper flakes (I don't measure this - I just dump it in.)
  • the juice of two large lemons 
  • salt (at least 1/2 tsp) and black pepper to taste
Rather than dirty two pots for  this, I simply have all my other ingredients ready and waiting for when the pasta is finished.  I drain it, then add the tomatoes in oil, broccoli, and red pepper flakes to the pasta pot and stir fry it until the broccoli is bright green in color and slightly tender, but still has a little bite to it.  Add the lemon juice, salt, and pepper, then add the pasta back to the pot and toss it all together.  Taste and adjust seasonings.