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Balsamic Roasted Butternut Squash and Pearl Onions

One of the exciting things about going to the grocery store on black friday (Where there are no HDTV Doorbusters or consumer stampedes) is that generally unexciting cheap vegetables that were overstocked and overpriced for Thanksgiving are suddenly VERY cheap, and widely available.  Take boiling/pearl onions.    Wednesday, November 24th, 2 servings worth would have run you 4 bucks.  Two days later I picked up a pound for 57cents.  Win.  The butternut squash wasn’t a bad deal either…let me tell you.

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I really enjoy roasting vegetables…all vegetables, even the ones that shouldn’t be roasted (roasted celery looks more fun than it is) because I think they smell amazing, look delicious, and there are few things more comforting.  And when it comes to pearl onions, there are two things I really like…red wine and balsamic, and since there wasn’t any red wine in the fridge, I went balsamic.

Balsamic Roasted Squash and Onions
One large butternut squash, peeled
1 lb pearl onions, peeled and blanched
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 oil of choice. (Not olive it burns at too low a heat)
S+P
1 tbs rosemary

Directions
1. Pre-heat oven to 375F.
2. Combine squash, onions, vinegar, oil, and spices in a large glass casserole dish and toss to coat. Bake for 1 hour, tossing at least twice for even cooking.
3. Serve as desired, I had mine over some lightly dressed raw spinach, but the choice is all yours!

Now be honest, don’t you wish you got this meal on black friday?  (And I like cybe Monday better anyway…no lines, no pushing)

Selah.

Pesto Vegetable Pizza

There’s nothing quite like a pizza with pesto and sun-dried tomatoes on it…those are my favorite toppings at a Western Massachusetts Pizza place of choice, and it’s even better when I can top my own, and add lots of other goodies as well.  Corn on pizza is something you see a lot of in Israel but it isn’t terribly common in this country.  I’m a fan though…and if you use frozen it won’t burn in the oven or turn into popcorn as the pizza cooks.  (Although it could be kind of fun if popcorn starting popping off your pizza…

There aren’t many things I DIDN”T put on this pizza (with the exception of tomato sauce and cheese, because that would just be far too normal) and I was absolutely in love with the flavors, although the crust ended up being a bit too thick.  First a picture pre-oven:

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And then my first slice post-cooking…

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The entire crust was covered in homemade pesto (I combine basil, Nooch (nutritional yeast), Olive Oil, Garlic, S+P) and freezecubes for easy melt-and-use access.  And then baby spinach, halved cherry tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, corn, caramelized onions, a drizzle of white balsamic reduction, and cracked black pepper.  It went into a 450F oven for 12 minutes and came out delicious…definitely a “burn-the-roof-of-your-mouth” event.  Sometimes it’s worth it, what can I say…

Selah.

Rustic White Beans with Mushrooms and other Thanksgiving-like Delights

I’ve been cooking sides and desserts to bring home to the family Thanksgiving all weekend, and I decided to make a thing or two for myself as well come dinnertime.  I did the rustic white beans with mushrooms from Veganomicon (using canned beans and oyster mushrooms), topping with breadcrumbs and oven-baking for 25 minutes.  I also mashed some yams with earth balance, soy milk, cinnamon and a bit of salt and pepper and did a small side salad.  Finished off with my attempt at Vegan Fudge (I wasn’t a huge fan of the texture on this) and some fresh blueberries, it was like thanksgiving came a early this year…although I would’ve liked some gravy for the beans…I’m bringing the mushroom gravy I made home to my parents though.

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I can’t take too much credit…the fresh blueberries were almost unequivocally the star of this meal.  To all my American readers, Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Selah.

Mojo Seitan and Enchiladas

Mmmm enchiladas, nuff said.  As far as food goes, I’d have to say I grew up in a fusion household.  I don’t think it was intentional, but when I think back on it, my mother’s top specialties were (are) falafel (Middle Eastern), Kugel (straight up Ashkenazic Jew food), Stir Fry (Asian) and enchiladas(Mexican-ish).  Lasagna made it’s way in there every so often too…so we’ll call that Italian.

I decided to make enchiladas the other night, which was sort of a random choice, since I had no tortillas, no salsa…no beans…none of the things I normally associate with enchiladas (or Mexican food for that matter) but being as inventive as I am I figured I could  make it work…and I was right.  I called on Vive Vegan for the wheat tortilla recipe…although I’ll admit to using unbleached white flour instead of whole wheat, and made the white seitan from the book as well.  I made a riff of the red chili sauce, using onion and garlic powder instead of the real thing, replacing tomatoes with chunky tomato sauce, and adding an avocado for creaminess.  Everything went into a blender together, and that was the sauce that went over the top of the tortillas.

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I chopped one of the white seitan “sausages” and fried it up in chili oil with chopped spinach, mushrooms, onions, adobo seasoning, and S+P.  While the oven was pre-heating to 375F, I sprayed a large glass casserole dish to make it non-stick, and then started filling and rolling tortillas, nestling them into the casserole dish side by side.  Sauce went over the top, grated cheese on half for my roomate, I had some Vegan yogurt on mine.  This baked for 25 minutes before serving.

I garnished  with some parsley (not necessary, but I like some green on my food, and since my indoor parsley plant is thriving, I can garnish everything these days.  I may start adding parsley to ice cream…or not.

The mojo seitan was just a way to use up some of the white seitan still in the fridge…I added onions and spinach and served over rice…but it was nothing to write home about.

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I was hoping this would develop a nice orange glaze, but no such look…it had some decent citrus flavor, but nothing more, and overall it was a bit dry.  Oh well…they can’t all be winners.

Selah.

Tofu Banh Mi

If you’re anywhere near as Food Network obsessed as I am (and hopefully you aren’t because I’ve started having dreams about Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, and that’s a problem) you probably caught an episode or two of the Great Food Truck Race this past summer.  My favorite truck for the duration of the show was the Banh Mi truck, basically a Vietnamese sandwich full of fresh veggies, and a protein of choice.  Their tofu version made my mouth water all summer long, and when I saw a recipe for one in the Cooking Light: Way to Cook Vegetarian book, I knew it would be one of the first things I tried.

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I could not have been happier, because this was SO good.  Even my roomate who rarely eats what I cook for dinner, and when she does generally forgoes it after a few bites, cleaned her plate.  If that isn’t a positive review, I don’t know what is.  There’s nothing  terribly fancy in here, and I think that’s what makes it so GOOD.  I even baked my bread from scratch, which I think is part of what made it so special…even if the load was shaped a bit funny as compared to the perfect ones you pick up at the bakery.

I was looking for a bit of something on the bread itself…maybe a thin spread of Nayo or something along those lines, but otherwise I really couldn’t have asked for more.  I did have to switch out the shitakes called for with regular white buttons, but it worked out.  In fact all the veggies in the light pickle were great…I wish I had leftovers for another sandwich right about now…

Selah.

Potato Roti Curry with Gluten-free Apple Crisp for Dessert

The Potato Roti Curry is another test recipe from Cooking Light Way to Cook Vegetarian, and this one is actually 100% Vegan!    I couldn’t wait to try this, especially since it looked like stew and with the fist snow a week or so behind us and temperatures dipping by the day, it is officially soup season.  (And THANKSGIVING SEASON….YAY PUMPKIN PIE!)  No pumpkin in this recipe though, so let’s get back on track.  The cookbook refers to it as a mild soupy side dish, but perhaps I did something wrong, because I would call this a soup/stew.  It had plenty of liquid, and with all the squash, potato, pepper and spices, was pretty darn filling.  I can’t imagine what people are eating for their entree if this is only a side dish…

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This actually ended up so mild, I might up the seasoning a bit, but then I like my food spicy and I was expecting that from this.  A nice alternative might be to poke a couple of holes in a scotch bonnet and toss it in during the simmering process…something to keep in mind for next time.  This recipe included one of the “how-to’s” sprinkled through-out the book, in this case, “how to peel & cube acorn squash” which unfortunately in this case didn’t work out for me.  Poking holes in the squash and microwaving it for two minutes created a hot squash I couldn’t touch for awhile…but made it no easier to peel.  I ended up slicing and then peeling with a knife per usual.  One of the nice aspects of this book is the nutritional breakdown underneath every recipe…in case you were wondering, a one cup serving of this comes in at 183 calories and only 3.9 grams of fat.  Not bad…In the interest of full disclosure, I did garnish with parsley instead of cilantro (yech) but I don’t think that changes the nutrient facts much.

Desert was a REALLY quick apple “crisp”.  After apple picking this year, my roommate made several pots full of pre-cooked apple pie filling, which was jarred and filled up the freezer.  I pulled a jar out, poured the apples into a greased loaf pan, and topped with a combination of brown sugar, equal parts tapioca and rice flour, 2 tbs earth balance, and a heaping tsp of cinnamon.  This went in a 375F oven for 25 minutes just to heat through and combine.  Served up with some Chocolate tofutti…YUM.

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Gluten-free, Soy-Free, and delicious, how perfect could a dinner be?

Selah.

Skillet Baked Pasta and Veggies

I’ve done pasta frittata, I’ve done plain old pasta in sauce with veggies, but I don’t often do the oven-baked pasta “casserole” that my mother made often when I was a kid.  I didn’t want to fill this one with ricotta and cheese like those pasta casseroles of my childhood, but I did include the spinach those always had.  (No one had to convince me to eat green as a kid, that may well have been my favorite part of the pasta dish).  I decided to go totally Vegan with this, and as it turns out you don’t need eggs to hold things together, and thick roux will do just as well, although having now done it, I’m not sure I’d recommend using tapioca flour in a white sauce.  I kept adding because it didn’t seem to have any impact at first, and all of a sudden my sauce had become thicker then glue and I was working to thin it out.  This became a bit of an opportunity to use whatever was sitting around in the fridge, and while it came together nicely, I had the problem with it that I always do with white sauces:  Too rich , not enough acid.

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I used whole wheat pasta in this to give it a nutritional boost, and pretty much picked the wackiest shape I could find…just cause.  I also cooked it in my cast iron skillet, which I’m fairly certain makes everything taste better…or perhaps I’m just imagining that because I know it infuses it with iron and makes it better for me…

Ingredients
1/2 pound pasta of choice…I used chicollini (or something like that)
1 lb veggies of choice, I did baby spinach, mushrooms, potato slices, red bell pepper, onion, and peas
2 tbs earth balance
2 tbs tapioca flour
1+ cups non-dairy milk of choice. Unflavored.
2 tsp. Olive Oil
S+P
pinch nutmeg

Directions
1. Heat oil in cast iron skillet over medium heat, and preheat oven to 375F. Heat a small saucepan over medium heat and boil water for the pasta as well.
2. Add Olive oil, onions and any other veggies using (things like spinach and peas can wait) to cast iron skillet and stir to coat. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Melt butter in saucepan and once bubbling, stir in tapioca flour. Combine well before pouring in “milk” and stir continuously as sauce thickens. Season with S+P and a pinch of nutmeg if desired, I always put some in my white sauce.
4. At this point pasta should be cooking. Combine white sauce and veggies in a large bowl, and once pasta is done, drain and toss into the veggie mixture. Combine well, before pouring back into skillet and smoothing top as much as possible.
5. Bake for at least 20 minutes at 375F, until top is crispy.
6. Allow to cool for at least ten minutes before serving, or this will not hold its shape!

There’s nothing quite like a baked pasta dish on a cold night, although in the future I might mix some tomato sauce into this one…it was a bit TOO rich for me.

Selah.

Middle Eastern Chickpea Miniburgers

I promises some recipes from Cooking Light: Way to Cook Vegetarian and here’s your first one.  I also tried the fruit salad with citrus-mint dressing from the book, which was good..but all fruit salads are, I just don’t think it warranted a write up as anything different.  But moving on, last night I gave the Middle Eastern Chickpea burgers on page 315 a try, to a pretty good result flavor-wise…but I had some issues with the patties holding together.  After the first few fell apart pretty spectacularly, I added a quarter cup of flour to the mix, and with that addition the last couple held together a lot better.  I must warn you that these are not vegan as written in the book, since they do include egg whites (as a not terribly successful binding agent)  but that’s a pretty easy vegan fix…if I gave these another go, I’d probably use ground flax seeds mixed with water instead.

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Apart from the holding-together issue, the flavor on these was great, and I enjoyed these ingredients a lot as burgers.  I set them up in homemade whole wheat buns (totally Vegan except for Honey, but if that bothers you I’m sure you could swap out with Agave) with some baby spinach, sliced avocado, and a Nayo-Siraccha spread.

There will be more recipes from the book, but since I’ve spent a good bit of time flipping through it thus far, I must say there are some components I really love, and some others I’m not as excited about.  A favorite component for me is the “kitchen how-to” pages across from many of the recipes, a couple examples being “how-to prepare quinoa”, “how-to wash leeks”, and “how-to rice potatoes”  I’m also a big fan of the “Vegetarian Diet Overview” at the beginning of the book, and the Vegan distinction on certain recipes.  On the other hand, I was sad to discover how few of the recipes are actually Vegan…there is a lot of dairy in the book.  One other detractor for me (although this may be helpful for a lot of cooks) is its dependence on pre-made products in many of the recipes, whether it be “canned refrigerated breadstick dough” or “Swanson organic vegetable broth”.  I’ll admit to taking shortcuts from time to time like everyone else, but in cookbooks, I generally look for the opportunity to do it all from scratch if I so choose.

Selah.

Ho Cakes and Sauteed Chard

Eat your heart out Tara.  Anybody?  True Blood?  Every time I hear someone mention ho cakes, all I can think about is Tara in True Blood…the first time her Mother is sober and makes ho cakes, and then again this past season when Sam makes them for her the morning after…she seems to think the trick to great ho cakes is bacon grease, but I disagree.  I also tend to think ho cakes are a bit heavy…even when I had them with just syrup the next morning, I suppose I’m just a pancakes girl, oh well.   Perhaps they wouldn’t be as intense with less cornmeal and more flour…so changing up the ratios is something to consider.

I decided to go savory with my ho cakes (at least the first time around) and serve them up under a bed of heavily garlic-ed wilted swiss chard.

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I also came up with my own version of bacon grease…some Earth Balance and a couple drops of liquid smoke mixed together smells like bacon to me, although I’m not exactly an educated party when it comes to hog products…

Ingredients
1.5 cups cornmeal
1/2 cup bread flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup soy milk
Water as needed
2 tbs Earth Balance
couple drops liquid smoke

Directions
1. Combine butter and liquid smoke in a cast iron skillet over medium heat to melt and combine. Combine all other ingredients in a bowl, adding water and whisking until consistency resembles pancake batter.
2. Ladel silver dollar sized amounts of batter into the skillet, using a spatula to flatten, and flipping after about a minute on each side. You want these starting to turn golden brown or they won’t stay together.
3. Serve as desired, these are best hot and fresh, after that they get pretty hard to cut through.

So they’re good…but I’m not sure why Tara is so obsessed, I’ll still take my pancakes or cornbread any day.

Selah.

Coming off an Injury with Fava Beans and Couscous

I realize its been awhile, but I’ve got a good excuse.  I got in a serious car accident about a week and a half ago now, and broke my collarbone, so after the eight and a half hours in the emergency room, I was all wound up in this intense sling/brace combination thing, and couldn’t do much of anything useful, which unfortunately included cooking and typing faster then three words a minute.  The collar bone is still broken but it’s healing, and after yesterday’s check-in with a really good looking doctor (see I can put a positive spin on anything!) I was up/downgraded to a much simpler sling, and as long as I can beat back the pain, have been given the go-ahead to attempt moving and utilizing my arm.  IE I can hold things down to chop them and type with two hands again, things I totally took for granted two weeks ago.  Now that I’m back at it, I made dinner last night, and took a picture of one segment (Didn’t bother with the salad or “chicken” noodle soup) and I figured I would post an entry!

Before getting in the accident I made a sort of eggplant dip that I don’t remember the recipe for…along with a simple flatbread that consisted of water, flour, zataar and a pinch of yeast to give it a fluffy quality…although I probably could have reached the same result with some baking soda.

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Not a ton to write home about here, the eggplant was mediocre (I boiled instead of oven-baking—never again, and the bread was good, but standard.  Great for ripping up and dipping in hummus, I must say, mostly because I still haven’t mastered getting a pocket into pita.  Someday.

Something about which I was very excited recently, was the appearance of canned fava beans on my grocer’s shelves…I’ve been looking for fava beans a long time without much success, and this was like a birthday present staring back at me from among the kidneys and navys, just asking to be bought.  I’ve discovered in life that people feel about fava beans much the way they do about cilantro…love it or hate it.  I hate cilantro, but I land firmly in the love camp when it comes to fava.  I decided to do these up in what I’m calling “Moroccan” flavors…they aren’t at all, but it’s my recipe and my blog so I can call it whatever I wish, and as long as no one tells the Moroccans, I think I’m ok.

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Ingredients
1 15 ounce can fava beans, drained
1 tbs earth balance
1 cup tomato sauce of choice (I like chunks of tomatoes in mine)
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
1 tsp Sambal Olek
1 tsp honey
1 tsp Sumac
S+P to taste

Directions
1. Heat “butter” in a small wok or medium sized saucepan over low heat, add ginger, followed by fava beans, tossing to coat and allowing to cook for 3-5 minutes. Add sauce, sambal olek (if you’re unfamiliar, that’s an Asian red chili sauce, available at pretty much any Asian market and in the Asian aisle of most grocery stores), honey, Sumac (a sometimes hard to find Middle-Eastern spice, you can omit or replace with a sweet-ish spice of your choosing) and S+P.
2. Allow to simmer at least 8-10 minutes so that flavors can develop and fava beans soften a bit. Even canned, the outside of these are pretty chewy. Serve over grain of choice. ( I went couscous here since I was thinking Moroccan)

In other news, Tofutti sent me some coupons to pick up some of their products free awhile back, and not shockingly, I decided to go with a few different flavors of ice cream.  I’ve had the vanilla and chocolate before, but hadn’t tried the butter pecan, and that may just be my new favorite ice cream flavor EVER.  I’m not normally a huge fan of nuts in my ice cream, but this stuff is GOOD, and I’m somewhat mortified to admit to how fast I finished the stuff…and was craving more.  So a big shout out to Tofutti for giving me a chance to try out some of their products for free, and if I’ve ever given you a recommendation, listen now..GO BUY THE TOFUTTI BUTTER PECAN.  Yum.

Also in upcoming things, the day of my accident I actually received a review copy of Cooking Light: Vegetarian Cooking to try out and now that I’m(sort of ) two armed again, expect some feedback and recipes from that coming soon.

Selah.