Saturday, August 28, 2010

Ground Cherries

My Mom had told me about a summer fruit called ground cherries that she used to enjoy at her grandmother's house when she was young.  They grew in her yard, and she used to pick them and make jelly out of them in the summer.  I had never seen them before, and didn't know what they looked like, until I came across some last week in the produce department.  They looked like mini chinese paper lanterns, pale pinkish brown colored...I was intrigued, since they were locally grown, and I am always up for trying new fruits and veggies!  So I had to buy some, thinking I would find a great use for them!  I tasted one, and it was like a very sweet tomato almost mild pineapple flavor that filled my mouth.  I decided that I would make a salad using them to preserve their freshness.  I had bought some butter lettuce and wonderful sweet candy onions that were also locally grown, and I thought they would be nice in the salad with the cherries.  I threw in some toasted pecans and goat gouda for some richness and dressed the salad in a tangy Apple Cider honey mustard vinaigrette.  It was all very delicious once it was all married together.  The sweet cherries worked well in this salad against the tart vinaigrette.  The basil and onions provided a savory note to the whole thing, and the toasted flavor of the walnuts and buttery richness of the cheese all provided a satisfying summer meal.  Lots of flavor, and meeting my every need in what I was craving... a fresh and light dinner along with some local Lady Slipper rose wine from Northern Vineyards.  This would be perfect on a warm summer night out on the patio!

Butter Lettuce and Ground Cherry Salad with Sweet Candy Onions, Goat Gouda, and Toasted Pecans

Serves 2
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp honey
1 tsp course grain honey mustard
sea salt to taste

1 head butter lettuce
1/4 cup sliced sweet candy onion
1 cup ground cherries
1/4 cup toasted pecans
1 1/2 oz goat gounda, sliced thinly or broken into pieces
8 fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
freshly ground black pepper

Whisk together dressing in a small bowl.  In a large bowl, combine lettuce, onions, ground cherries, and pecans.  Toss with dressing until well coated, then divide between 2 plates.  Scatter gouda and basil atop salads, and sprinkle over a few good grinds of fresh pepper.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Vanilla Almond Granola

Vanilla and almond are two of the most heavenly flavors when paired together...when I think of this combo spritz cookies and my Grandma's buttercream frosting come to mind.  It is comforting to smell the aroma of vanilla almond!  So I decided that I wanted to make some granola with these two flavors...a sort of non-traditional comfort food.  Why not call it a comfort food?  In my mind it is...sweet and salty and crunchy, all the things I crave! I gave it extra vanilla in the form of vanilla bean powder, and included almond extract along with the almonds to make it extra almondy.  This comfort granola I was making needed some other elements as well, so I added some coconut to make it especially heavenly and some walnuts for crunch!  I thought some dried fruit would be nice in this as well so I added my favorite dried fruits dates and cherries...better than candy!  I used honey as a sweetener this time, because honey is comforting to me as well!  After it was all mixed, and baked off...the granola turned out to be complete comfort food!  Heavenly and delicious, all the things I crave!  And the almond vanilla coconut smell whafting through the house made it all even better!  While it was cooling I made a large dent in the pile of was so good I kept going back for more!  You will too if you decide to try making it! 

Vanilla Almond Granola
Makes about 14 cups of delicious granola

6 cups old fashioned rolled oats
2 cups walnuts
2 cups whole almonds
1 cup golden flax seeds
2 cups large flake coconut
3/4 cup coconut oil
3/4 cup honey
3 Tbsp maple sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla bean powder*
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
1 Tbsp almond extract
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups dried dates, halved
2 cups dried cherries

Line a large baking sheet with non-stick foil, and spray with cooking spray. Preheat the oven to 350 and set rack at the medium position. In a large bowl, combine oats, walnuts, almonds, flax seeds, and coconut, and set aside. In another bowl, whisk together oil, honey, maple sugar, sea salt, almond and vanilla extracts until well combined, then pour over oat mixture and toss to coat until completely blended. Pour out onto prepared baking sheet, and spread out evenly. Bake for 35 minutes, stirring about every 10 minutes or so until the granola is evenly browned. Remove from oven and let cool. Stir in dates and cherries, and enjoy!

*grind extra vanilla bean pods the next time you use the seeds to make vanilla bean powder.

Crispy Eggplant with Basil Aioli

I love to eat eggplant while it is in season in the summer months...especially japanese eggplant!  So I picked up a few while I was in the produce department knowing that I would find a tasty use for them!  Last night I decided that they would be nice coated in something crispy since that is what I was craving.  So I coated them in a panko nutritional yeast mixture that ended up being rememnicent of eggplant parmesan coating but vegan.  The eggplant coins were really quite delicious on their own, but I made a basil "aioli" with some vegannaise to go alongside!  It all ended up being a fabulous small plate!  Try this out while eggplant is in frying involved!

Crispy Eggplant with Basil Aioli
Serves 2

Crispy Eggplant:
2 japanese eggplants, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds
3 Tbsp vegannaise
1 1/2 cups panko
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 tsp sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 cup vegannaise
1/4 cup fresh basil
1 garlic clove
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 450 and line a baking sheet with foil, and spray with non-stick spray. place eggplant in a bowl with 3 Tbsp vegannaise and toss to coat.  Combine panko, yeast, sea salt, pepper and olive oil in a medium bowl,  and mix well.  Take an eggplant slice, place in the panko mixture, and toss to coat.  Place on prepared baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining slices, place in the oven with the rack on the middle position and bake about 15 minutes until browned and the eggplant is tender.  Remove from oven and let cool slightly before serving.  Meanwhile, to make aioli, combine 1/2 cup vegannaise, basil, garlic clove, mustard, and sea salt and pepper in a food processor and process until well blended.  Serve eggplant with basil aioli. 

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tomatoes and Avocadoes...

I was at an upscale restaurant recently and ordered an heirloom tomato avocado salad.  The salad was very spendy...granted it was heirloom tomatoes, but I still felt that I paid too much for it.  I was certain that I could make a better tomato avocado salad at home using tomatoes from my family member's gardens.  So I created my own version of tomato avocado salad!  I added pine nuts and basil to mine along with the avocadoes and tomatoes, and dressed it in a reisling olive oil vinaigrette with just the right amount of sweet and tart.  I finished it off with pink peppercorns and fleur de sel because I love those little salty bits atop my salad!  It turned out better than the salad I had in the restaurant and the best part was it was all made with ingredients I had gotten for free and already had on hand!  This is a simple, yet delicious salad!

Summer Tomato and Avocado Salad with Toasted Pine Nuts
Serves 3

3 Tbsp reisling vinegar
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil

2 cups salad greens of your choice
2 medium, 2 small, and 2 large organic tomatoes, cut into slices
1 large just ripe avocado halved and cut into thin slices
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
about 10 fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces
fleur de sel
pink peppercorns

Whisk together reisling vinegar and olive oil and set aside.  To assemble, line up 3 plates.  Divide greens evenly between the three.  Arrange tomatoes on each of the 3 plates, putting about an equal amount of small medium and large tomato slices on each.  Top with the avocado slices, pine nuts and basil, dividing evenly between the three, then drizzle each with a bit of the oil/reisling mixture.  Sprinkle each salad with a little fleur de sel and pink peppercorns.  Serve immediately!

Monday, August 23, 2010

My Mother's Chipotle Salsa

My Mom was raving about this chipotle salsa that she had bought at the store the other I decided to taste some.  I decicided that I could make a better version!  I firmly believe that salsa made fresh is always better than any jarred stuff.  So, I convinced my Mom that we should create some salsa for her that would be similar to the chipotle stuff she had bought but better.  I had a ton of tomatoes sitting on my counter thanks to my Dad and Grandpa's gardens, so never would there be a better time to make salsa!  I wanted the salsa to have a roasted quality to it, so I tossed some tomatoes and garlic with olive oil, and roasted them until they were both charred at the edges.  Meanwhile I soaked a dried chipotle in hot water to give the salsa a kick!  Since the salsa was to suit my Mom's taste I left onions out this time since she isn't a fan (although, if this were my version of salsa I would have roasted a bunch with the tomatoes).  I added a bit of lime juice and cilantro to give the salsa a bright flavor, and some sea salt of course...altogether a very simple salsa, but amazing non the less on tortilla chips!  This salsa reminded me of some house made salsa that I had at a wonderful mexican restaurant...but even better because it was fresh from my family member's gardens!  My Mom approved, and admitted that our version of salsa was much better than the chipotle stuff from the store.  I have a feeling I will be making more batches of this very soon. 

My Mother's Chipotle Salsa
Makes about 2 1/2 cups

6 medium tomatoes, cut into wedges
6 garlic cloves
olive oil
1 dried chipotle pepper, soaked in hot water until soft
juice of one lime
1/2 cup cilantro
sea salt

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil, and spray with non-stick spray.  Spread tomatoes and garlic cloves out on the prepared pan, drizzle with a little olive oil, and roast for about 20-30 minutes until the tomatoes and garlic are charred at the edges.  Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature.  Place tomatoes, garlic, chipotle, lime juice, and cilantro in a food processor, and process until smooth, but still slightly chunky. Add sea salt to taste, and chill salsa in fridge until ready to serve.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Longan Fruit

Recently I was browsing the produce department and I saw an interesting looking fruit I had never seen was a longan fruit.  The fruits were little brown balls attatched to the sticks from which they grew off of...not the most appetizing looking fruit, but I was curious!  So I bought some, and decided that they needed to be tasted!  I read up on them a bit and found out that they were similar to the lychee fruit.  When I first attempted to eat one, I discovered that they slipped right out of the brown covering, revealing a clear white flesh with a large black seed.  They kind of looked like an eye in a way...wierd looking, but what would they taste like?  So I popped the flesh into my mouth, and what I encountered was a bit like a sweet flowery tasting cucumber flavor...sort of like a melon crossed with a cucumber.  So I decided that they would be wonderful in a salad paired with watermelon!  I made a vinaigrette with citrus and gin, since those things pair well with melon and cucumber, and sprinkled some almonds, basil and pink peppercorns over the top!  It all ended up being a wonderfully refreshing combo!  I was glad I decided to try out the foreign wierd looking fruit!  Although it doesn't seem so wierd anymore. 

Watermelon and Longan Fruit Salad with Toasted Almonds, Basil, and Pink Peppercorns
Serves 2

1 Tbsp Gin

1 Tbsp lime juice
1 tsp honey
1 Tbsp avocado oil

2 cups longan fruit, peeled, pitted and halved
2 cups watermelon, cut into 1 inch chunks
2 cups baby greens
1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds
about 6 fresh basil leaves
1/2 Tbsp pink peppercorns
fleur de sel

To make dressing, whisk all ingredients together.  To assemble salads, place the salad greens on two plates dividing evenly between the two.  Arrange the melon and longan fruit decoratively atop the greens, scatter the almonds, basil and peppercorns over, then drizzle each salad with the dressing, and top with a sprinkle of fleur de sel. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Roasted Plum and Spiced Sunflower Seed Salad

I was recently given a large bag of plums, and was trying to figure out ways to use them I came up with a salad that used the wonderful stone fruits!  I roasted them in the oven, until they were sweet, and combined them with some salad greens, and golden raisins, and tossed it with a dijon maple vinaigrette.  But it still needed something, so I was looking in the fridge to figure out what type of nuts I would like best on the salad, and came across some sweet and spiced sunflower seeds I had made previously that week.  I don't use sunflower seeds very often in a salad, but they were delicious!  Especially with all of the wonderful spices along with the sweet plums and raisins in the salad and the tangy vinaigrette!  It all ended up being a wonderful way to use up the I will have to go buy some to make it again...

Roasted Plum and Spiced Sunflower Seed Salad
Serves 2

spiced seeds:
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp maple sugar
1/2 Tbsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp chipotle
1/4 tsp sea salt

2 large or 4 small plums, cut into wedges
olive oil

1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp dried thyme
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 head butter lettuce, washed, dried well, and torn into bite sized pieces
1/2 cup golden raisins

To make spiced nuts, preheat oven to 375 degrees, line a baking sheet with foil, and spray with non-stick spray. Toss nuts with maple syrup, sugar, spices, and salt, and mix well until nuts are evenly coated.  Spread out on sheet, and roast for about 10-15 minutes until fragrant, and starting to brown.  Remove from oven and let cool.  Increase oven temperature to 475 degrees, and line another baking sheet with foil, and spray with non-stick spray.  Toss plums with just enough oil to lightly coat, and spread out on prepared sheet.  Roast until softened and starting to brown on edges, about 15-20 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature.  Meanwhile, whisk dressing ingredients together.  In a large bowl, combine lettuce, plums, and golden raisins, and pour over dressing.  Toss to coat, and divide between 2 plates.  Sprinkle a few of the nuts over the top of each (you may have extra for a snack later).

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Watermelon Gin Cooler

I love cucumber and gin is one of the most refreshing cocktail combos you can make in the summer!  So, when I was enjoying one of nature's other summer coolers, watermelon, I decided that I needed to try using it in a cocktail paired with gin!  So, I blended up some melon, and got to work creating the essence of summer refreshment in a drink!  This one is nice if you want something as refreshing as the cucumber, but sweeter as well.  I added some lemon juice to my watermelon gin combo to give it a bit of tartness along with the sweet as well as some basil since I love basil in fruity drinks!  Then I topped it off with a bit of sparkling water to give it some fizz.  The drink was just like biting into a watermelon but better, and it definately cooled me off from the inside out.  Try out this drink while melons are in season!

Watermelon Gin Cooler
Makes 1

1 cup watermelon
1 Tbsp agave nectar
4 large fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup ice cubes
3 oz gin
2 oz lemon juice
sparkling water
watermelon for garnish

Puree watermelon and agave nectar in a blender and process until liquified. In a martini shaker, muddle basil leaves with ice until crushed.  Add gin, lemon juice, and watermelon puree, place top on and shake well.  In a large tall glass, place a few ice cubes, and pour watermelon mixture over. Top off with a bit of sparkling water and garnish with a melon chunk...enjoy!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Tempeh Reuben Wraps Amy Style

When I was younger, and before I was a vegetarian, I loved the reuben sandwiches my Mom used to make...the tangy saurkraut, the salty beef, the sweet 1000 island dressing, and gooey cheese...I was on cloud 9 eating those!  But, since my eating habits have changed, and I will no longer go near corned beef, I hadn't had one in a while, except for the occasional tempeh reuben in a restaurant.  I had never attempted making one at home, but last night I had a hankering for one and decided to try my hand at it!  But of course, my tempeh reuben would be non conventional...whole grain wraps instead of toasted cabbage in balsamic I roasted in the oven instead of cooking on the stove in place of the usual green cabbage kraut.  Tofu based 1000 island dressing, not containing mayonnaise, the tempeh of course instead of the beef, and no cheese, because I wanted this meal to be vegan.  Would I miss the cheese?  Well turns out I didn't!  They were delicious, and although they were far from the original, just as wonderful! Try out this vegan version of tempeh reubens if you would like a new twist on the classic!

Tempeh Reuben Wraps Amy Style
Serves 2

1 12 oz pkg silken tofu
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup plus 2T tomato paste
2 Tbsp agave nectar
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp chipotle powder
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup pickle relish

Tempeh and Marinade:
2 Tbsp cider vinegar
1/4 cup tamari
1 Tbsp agave nectar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp peanut oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 cups red cabbage, sliced
peanut oil
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
sea salt

2 whole grain 10 inch tortillas
2 large romaine lettce leaves

To make dressing, combine all ingredients except pickle relish in a food processor, and process until smooth.  Stir in pickle relish and set aside in the fridge (this recipe makes much more than needed for the wraps, but keeps in the fridge for about 2 weeks).  To make tempeh, combine all marinade ingredients and tempeh in a large bowl with a flat bottom, and toss together.  Let marinate at room temperature for at least an hour.  Heat oven to 475 degrees, and line 2 baking sheets with foil.  On one baking sheet, place tempeh, and bake for about 7-10 minutes on each side, until starting to brown.  Toss cabbage with just enough oil to coat, and spread out onto other baking sheet, then roast for about 15-20 minutes until soft and starting to brown and crisp.  When tempeh is done baking, remove from oven and set aside until ready to assemble wraps.  When cabbage is done baking, toss with balsamic vinegar and a little sea salt. When ready to assemble wraps, spread about 2-3 Tbsp dressing on each tortilla in the upper portion.  Top with tempeh, then cabbage, and a lettuce leaf.  Roll up, and enjoy!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Blueberry Chipotle Barbeque Tempeh with Corn Blueberry Basil Salad

Tonight's dinner theme was blueberries...I had a nice package of them, and I decided that I needed to make a blueberry maple chipotle sauce for my tempeh.  You may be thinking...blueberries in a barbeque sauce?  Well, actually it is delicious!  The sweet and sour berries with balsamic, maple syrup and spicy chipotle are a great combo!  Especially with a bit of shallots and garlic added to the sauce to make it more savory!  It is wonderful on the meaty tempeh!  And what better to accompany it during the summer, than a corn salad laced with blueberries as well, with a few scallions and basil thrown in for good measure in a lemony light dressing!  It is the perfect meal for anyone living in Minnesota or the midwest right now where you can buy all of the produce locally, which was why I chose these particular ingredients.  This blueberry themed meal brought a smile to my face as I was enjoying it, and I am sure it will to yours as well if you decide to try it! 

Blueberry Chipotle Barbeque Tempeh with Corn Blueberry Basil Salad
Serves 2


2 cups fresh corn kernals
4 scallions, sliced
1 cup organic blueberries
zest and juice of one organic lemon
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp agave nectar
2 Tbsp fresh basil, cut chiffonade
sea salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Tempeh and marinade:
8 oz tempeh, cut into 8 triangles
2 Tbsp tamari
1 Tbsp agave nectar
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp peanut oil
sea salt

Barbeque sauce:
1 Tbsp peanut oil
1/4 cup minced shallots
1 clove garlic
1 cup organic blueberries
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/8- 1/4 tsp chipotle, depending on how spicy you want it
sea salt to taste
1 Tbsp arrowroot, dissolved in 1 Tbsp water

Combine all salad ingredients in a bowl, and toss well to combine.  Set aside in the fridge to chill while you make the tempeh and sauce (can be made a day ahead).  To make tempeh, combine tempeh with marinade ingredients in a shallow dish, tossing to coat.  Let marinate for at least 30 minutes, flipping a few times.  Meanwhile, to make the sauce, in a small saucepan, heat peanut oil over medium, and add shallots.  Saute until softened, a few minutes, then add garlic, and saute for about 30 seconds.  Add blueberries, maple syrup, vinegar, chipotle, and see salt, and cook until blueberries have burst, and saucy.  Slowly add arrowroot mixture while stirring, and cook until thickened, about 30 seconds.  Remove from heat and keep warm.  Preheat the oven to 475 with the rack set at the top position.  Line a baking sheet with foil, and spray with non-stick spray.  Spread tempeh out on sheet, and bake for about 5 minutes, or until starting to brown on first side, then flip and let brown on second side, about 5 minutes.  Remove tempeh from oven, and toss with sauce.  To plate, spoon salad on each of two plates, place tempeh beside it and spoon any remaining sauce over. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Basil Chard Pesto

I had some swiss chard that I wanted to incorporate into dinner tonight, but I wanted something other than the ordinary saute treatment I usually give it.  My friend, Gabrielle who works with me at the deli, and is an awesome vegetarian cook, told me that she had recently used chard in pesto!  I thought this was a great idea, so I decided to give it a try!  I had some basil as well, so I decided that it would be good with the chard to make the pesto taste more flavorful.  I combined the leaves with walnuts, instead of the classic pine nuts, because I had a bunch on hand, as well as some garlic, lemon and olive oil, which is what I would consider all "classics" in basil pesto.  However, tonight I wanted to make the dish vegan, so I decided that nutritional yeast and white miso would be added to this pesto instead of any sort of cheese.  And I did not miss the cheese at all!  In fact, this non-dairy version I liked better than the usual!  I tossed my pesto with some whole wheat fettuccini, more toasted walnuts for crunch and protein, and some fresh roma tomatoes from my Dad's garden, and I had a satisfying meal!  Chard in pesto was a great idea, and I have Gabrielle to thank for sharing it with me!  Try this summer pesto out while chard and basil are abundant! 

Whole Wheat Fettuccini with Basil and Chard Pesto, Toasted Walnuts, and Roma Tomatoes
Serves 3

1/2 cup swiss chard leaves, packed
1/2 fresh basil packed
1 cup walnuts, toasted
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 Tbsp white miso
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup olive oil
juice of one lemon
1/2 tsp sea salt, or to taste
freshly ground pepper to taste
water as needed
8 oz whole wheat fettuccini
1 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
6 roma tomatoes, diced

In a food processor, combine chard, basil, walnuts, yeast, miso, garlic, oil, lemon juice, sea salt and pepper to taste and process until smooth, adding a water to smooth out, and more if a thinner consistency is desired. Set pesto aside. Cook pasta according to package directions in a large pot of salted water, and when done cooking, reserve about 1/3 cup of pasta water, and drain pasta. Place pasta back in the pot, and combine with the pesto, walnuts, and tomatoes, along with enough water to thin out pesto to a smooth consistency on the pasta. Place on a serving plate and serve!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Tomatoes and Peaches

When tomato season hits, I try and use them in every way possible...I love them simply cut up and sprinkled with fleur de sel!  But sometimes I like to be a bit more creative with them, especially in salads!  The other day, my Dad had just given me a whole bunch of fresh tomatoes from his garden, and I had also bought some nice ripe peaches at the store, which got me to thinking, what about combining the two in a salad?  Seems like an unlikely combo, but that is what I liked about the idea!  But they wouldn't just be cut up and thrown in...I decided to roast them both to bring out the sweet flavors of the fruits!  So I drizzled them with a little olive oil and threw them in the oven!  Meanwhile, I decided that they would be nice accompanied by some toasted walnuts, Pecorino Romano, and fresh basil...not a likely combo at all for a salad, but it actually turned out quite wonderfully!  Especially after the roasted goodness was drizzled with sweet and tangy reisling vinegar, and olive oil and dusted with freshly ground pepper and fleur de sel!  Try out this scrumptious summer salad if you are looking for something a bit out of the ordinary! 

Roasted Tomato and Peach Salad with Toasted Walnuts and Pecorino Romano
Serves 3

2 large tomatoes, cut into wedges
2 large peaches, cut into wedges
olive oil

1/2 cup toasted walnuts
1 1/2 oz shaved pecorino romano cheese
3 Tbsp basil cut in chiffonade
olive oil
reisling vinegar
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 475 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil, and spray with non-stick spray.  Spread tomatoes and peaches out on the baking sheet, and drizzle with a little olive oil.  Bake for about 20-25 minutes until soft, and starting to char in places.  Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature.  Divide tomatoes and peaches evenly between 3 plates, scatter walnuts, pecorino romano, and basil over each, and drizzle each with a bit of olive oil and reisling vinegar.  Sprinkle each salad with a little sea salt and pepper and serve!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Cooling Cucumbers...

I recieved a large bag of lovely cucumbers from my Grandpa today who grows them in his garden every summer.  It was the perfect bag of goodness one could recieve on a day like today, since cucumbers are one of the best naturally cooling vegetables you could possibly enjoy!  The heat index today in Minnesota was up to 106 degrees...and the perfect day for a cocktail I decided, including the cucumbers!  I thought gin would be perfect with the cucumbers, as well as some fresh lemon and basil!  I added a bit of agave syrup to balance out the tart lemon as well.  After all was shaken, poured and tasted...I was feeling refreshed!  This was the just the remedy needed for a way too hot summer day!

Cool Cuke Cocktail
Serves 1

6 large fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup large ice cubes
6 cucumber slices
1 oz agave syrup*
3 oz Gin
1 oz fresh organic lemon juice

In a martini shaker, muddle the basil leaves with the ice, crushing them until they are in small pieces. Add the cucumbers, syrup, gin, and lemon juice, place top on shaker, and shake until well blended. Pour a chilled glass, adding and serve!

*To make agave syrup, heat 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup agave until agave is evenly dissolved in water.  Cool completly and store in the fridge.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Vanilla Maple Blueberry Granola

When I was deciding what type of granola I wanted to make tonight, I knew one thing...I definately wanted to include blueberries!  I had a large container of dried berries in my fridge, and I knew they would go wonderfully in granola!  I soon decided that this granola would contain large amounts of vanilla and maple in several forms.  I added vanilla powder which is ground up vanilla bean pods from which the seeds have been removed...a wonderful use for those leftover pods that have been sitting in your vanilla sugar for a while...they pack a large amount of flavor!  I also added a whole Tbsp of vanilla extract, the vanilla lover that I am.  Maple was to be the other flavor in this granola, in the form of syrup, sugar and extract!  I would not simply be satisfied with oats and dried fruit in my granola, nuts are a must, so this time I added walnuts and pecans, as well as some coconut...which belongs in almost every good granola as far as I am concerned!  The smell of this granola as it was baking was enough to change anyone's mood from bad to was amazing and fragrant!  Almost like oatmeal cookies but way better with the additions of the maple and coconut aromas! The first taste would be the test though if this would be as good as it smelled...I was in luck, it was better!  Vanilla and maple flavors married with chewy dried berries, and crunchy salty sweet oats and nuts...everything I crave!  Simple but wonderful, and something that you may find yourself eating more than once a day if you try making it! 

Vanilla Maple Blueberry Granola
Makes about 14 cups of delicious granola

6 cups old fashioned rolled oats
2 cups pecans
2 cups walnuts
2 cups large flake coconut
3/4 cup walnut oil
3/4 cup maple syrup
2 Tbsp maple sugar
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
1 Tbsp vanilla powder*
1 tsp maple extract
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups dried blueberries

Line a large baking sheet with non-stick foil, and spray with cooking spray. Preheat the oven to 350 and set rack at the medium position. In a large bowl, combine oats, walnuts, pecans, and coconut, and set aside. In another bowl, whisk together oil, maple syrup, maple sugar, sea salt, vanilla bean seeds, maple and vanilla extracts until well combined, then pour over oat mixture and toss to coat until completely blended. Pour out onto prepared baking sheet, and spread out evenly. Bake for 35 minutes, stirring about every 10 minutes or so until the granola is evenly browned. Remove from oven and let cool. Stir in blueberries, and enjoy!

*grind leftover vanilla bean pods to a powder and you have vanilla powder!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Cherry Almond Slaw

I felt like making coleslaw, however the traditional simple recipe seemed a bit boring to me at the time.  I opened the fridge to decide what type of coleslaw I felt like making and saw a jar of cherry jelly!  As odd as it sounds, I decided that the jelly would be good in a dressing for the fact, why not go with the cherry theme and include cherry balsamic and dried cherries as well?  I wanted the dressing to still be a bit creamy, so I used vegannaise as the base.  A bit of lemon for brightness, some honey for sweetness, and some garlic and thyme for all turned out quite good, and the flavors married well together!  My last addition to the finished slaw were some sliced almonds, since I enjoy the crunch and toasty flavor, plus they love cherries!  Give this slaw a try if you are tired of the same old picnic recipe. 

Cherry Almond Slaw
Serves 6

1 1/2 cups vegannaise
3 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp cherry balsamic vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
2 Tbsp cup honey
1/4 cup tart cherry jelly
1 tsp dried thyme
sea salt and pepper to taste

1/2 head red cabbage, thinly sliced
1/2 head green cabbage thinly sliced
3 medium carrots, cut julienne
2 cups dried cherries
2 cups sliced almonds
Whisk together dressing ingredients until well combined, and set aside. In a large bowl, combine vegetables cherries, and almonds, and toss to blend. Pour dressing over and toss well chill in the fridge until very cold, and flavors have blended for a few hours. Serve!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Vegan Mac and Cheese with Summer Squash

Tonight I had not intended to make a vegan mac and cheese, it just happened that way. I was going to make a cheese sauce, when I discovered I didn't have the right kind of cheese! So...I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to make a vegan cheese sauce, and it would be much healthier for me as well! To make the sauce I used some silken tofu and macadamia nuts to make it creamy, and some miso, and nutritional yeast to give it some flavor, as well as some garlic and dijon for that zip! Roasted pattypan squash and scallions, were added me not being one to leave veggies out of anything! This meal ended up being a big bowl of comfort that could be mistaken for something gut-busting if you didn't know what was really in it...but in reality was what comfort food should be, comforting and good for the body. The "cheese" was creamy, and flavorful and as I was eating it I was glad I didn't have the right type of cheese and made what I had!
Vegan Mac and Cheese with Summer Squash
Serves 4
"cheese" sauce:
1/4 cup toasted macadamias
12 oz silken tofu
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
3 garlic cloves
2 Tbsp light miso
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp sea salt or to taste
freshly ground black pepper
soy milk to thin if necessary

6 pattypans, cut into 1 inch pieces
olive oil
8 oz pasta
4 scallions, sliced
1/4 cup fresh basil
Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Combine all cheese sauce ingredients in the food processor and process until smooth, adding soy milk if necessary to thin. Place in the top part of a double boiler, and heat until hot. Meanwhile, toss pattypans with enough olive oil to coat and place on a foil lined baking sheet. Roast squash until just tender, and remove from oven. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions, and drain. Add pasta back to the pot, along with squash, scallions, and basil. Pour heated sauce over, and toss to coat. Serve immidiately while hot.