Monday, February 28, 2011

Black Quinoa and Root Vegetable Stew with Tofu

I came across some black quinoa recently and decided to buy it thinking something interesting could be made with it!  My favorite way to use quinoa would have to be in a tabouli, but since I enjoy tabouli more in the warm months I decided to use the quinoa in a little different way than I normally would.  My friend Gabrielle, who cooks wonderful vegetarian dishes, and who I work with at the deli had told me about using quinoa in a soup she had recently made, and I loved the idea so I decided to borrow it!  I thought the black quinoa would be a nice change from the usual grains used in soups and stews. 

I was in craving Asian flavors so I decided to make my stew with a miso and mirin laced broth, and throw in some delicious roasted root vegetables.  I finished the stew off with some mustard greens and baked tofu I had made and although it wasn't the prettiest to look at it was amazing to eat!   I was sharing it with my Mom who was skeptical about how tasty it would be, her not being a fan of root vegetables, but she loved it!  It was one of those things where you taste it and go this is good.  Take another bite and go this is really good, and finally this is awesome!  The savory flavors of the broth combined with the nutty quinoa, chewy tofu and sweet root vegetables is a perfectly composed symphony of a stew!  It is warming and comforting, and dare I say it comfort food!  Without being unhealthy of course.  Here is the recipe if you would like to enjoy it for yourself! 

Black Quinoa and Root Vegetable Stew with Tofu
Serves 2

1 10 oz block firm tofu, cut into small triangles
1/4 cup vegan worchestershire sauce
1/4 cup tamari
1 tsp minced garlic

1 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup black quinoa

1 1/2 cups sliced rutabagas
1 1/2 cups carrots, sliced on the diagonal
peanut oil

1 Tbsp peanut oil
2 shallots, sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried rosemary
1/4 cup mirin
4 cups vegetable stock
2 Tbsp tamari
2 Tbsp white miso
a few large leaves mustard greens or kale
sea salt to taste

Preheat oven to 475 degrees.  Line 3 sheet pans with foil, and spray with non-stick spray.  Toss tofu with worchesetershire sauce, tamari, and garlic until well coated, then spread out on one of the sheet pans.  Place in the oven and bake until crispy and starting to brown at edges, about 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and set aside. 
Meanwhile, to prepare the quinoa, place quinoa and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until all the water is absorbed about 15 minutes, or when all the grains have turned from white to transparent, and the spiral-like germ has separated. Drain, and set aside. 
To prepare roasted veggies, toss rutabagas and carrots with peanut oil, then spread out on 2 remaining sheet pans.  Roast for 15-20 minutes until starting to brown at edges and tender.  Remove from oven and set aside. 
Meanwhile, heat 1 Tbsp peanut oil in a large stockpot.  Add shallots, and saute until softened, about 5 minutes, then add the garlic, thyme and rosemary and saute until fragrant about 1 minute more.  Add mirin, stock, and tamari, and bring to a simmer. Add root vegetables and cook for about 15 minutes to allow flavors to develop.  Add cooked quinoa, tofu, and mustard greens along with sea salt to to taste.  Cook until tofu and quinoa are heated through and mustard greens have wilted.  Serve hot!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Tempeh Bacon Kale with Fire Roasted Tomatoes over Soft Polenta

Yesterday I was pretty wiped out when I got home from work.  I didn't feel like cooking anything that took a significant amount of time, but going out wasn't something I wanted to do either because dining in my PJs sounded marvelous.  I didn't have much to work with.  Just a bunch of kale, garlic and onions for veggies.  I could make pasta I thought...but no, I didn't feel like pasta either.  Polenta!  That was perfect, some smooth comfort food that cooked up quickly!  I also had some tempeh bacon in the fridge that I had opened earlier in the week and needed to use up, so I thought I could combine it with the kale, some canned fire roasted tomatoes I had and the garlic and onions to create a delicious saucy saute to go over the polenta.  Perfect!  Just the thought of it was making my mouth water because I was pretty hungry at that point.  It was delicious!  The sauce had almost a smokey quality with the fire roasted tomatoes and bacon, and it paired perfectly with the smooth creamy polenta!  I was feeling much more relaxed and happy after I had enjoyed every last bit of it!  It was a wonderful hearty meal with minimal effort!  Here is the recipe if you would like to try some!

Tempeh Bacon Kale with Fire Roasted Tomatoes over Soft Polenta
Serves 2

4 cups water
3/4 cup polenta
1 tsp sea salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup vegan parmesan cheese

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 8 oz pkg tempeh bacon
2 large shallots, sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 15 oz cans fire roasted tomatoes
sea salt
2 good sized bunches kale, washed and torn into pieces

Heat olive oil in a large non-stick skillet, and add tempeh bacon strips.  Cook about 3 minutes on each side until browned.  Remove from skillet, and cut into pieces, then set aside.  Add shallots to the pan, and cook for 5 minutes until softened, then add garlic, and saute for 30 seconds until fragrant.  Add red pepper flakes, tomatoes, and sea salt to taste.  Lower the heat to a simmer, and cook for about 15-20 minutes to allow flavor to develop.  Meanwhile, place 4 cups water in a large pot, and bring to a boil.  Add polenta, salt and pepper, and whisk constantly to prevent sticking and lumps.  Cook at a medium heat until polenta thickens to the consistnecy of porridge, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in parmesan and keep warm until ready to serve.   Once polenta is done cooking, add kale and bacon to tomato mixture, and cook until kale is heated through.  To serve, spoon polenta onto each plate, then top with kale mixture.  Serve! 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Fried Egg and Tempeh Bacon Sandwich with Avocado Chipotle Mayo

When I was about 10 during the summer I would go over to my Grandparent's house for the day.  When I arrived there in the morning, Grandma was usually cooking.  Much of the time I was greated with the aroma of smokey bacon which being fried on the stove for breakfast.  Then came the eggs, which were later made into a denver sandwhich with the bacon and some onions on toasted bread.  I loved the sandwich...the crunchy salty bacon, smooth eggs and savory onions.  Grandma was always such a good cook, and I always enjoyed watching her while she prepared meals.  I have since become a vegetarian, so no more pork bacon for me. I do however still crave the flavor once in a while, so I am glad there are options such as tempeh bacon!  Tonight I decided that an egg and bacon sandwich sounded delicious, so I got to work making one.  Not that it was much work, it was a quick meal to throw together! 

I could have simply scrambled my eggs, but I decided to fry them instead.  There is something I enjoy about seeing that sunny yellow yolk staring up at me that I enjoy.  Plus I like the way  the silky yolk runs when you cut into it and soaks into the toast!  I had an avocado sitting on my counter, so I decided to make an avocado chipotle "mayo" to spread on my sandwich as well!  I also added some greens for color, and sauteed onions to make the sandwich even more delicious!  It was wonderful with all of the different flavors and textures!  The smooth avocado mayo, the crispy salty tempeh bacon, the silky eggs, and the crunchy toast!  It was the flavors of that denver sandwich my Grandma made, but with my own twist on it!  Here is the recipe if you would like something quick, but delicious for dinner, or even brunch:

Fried Egg and Tempeh Bacon Sandwich with Avocado Chipotle Mayo
Serves 1

1 small avocado
1 clove garlic
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 tsp agave nectar
1/8 tsp ground chipotle powder

3 strips tempeh bacon
1 small shallot, sliced
2 organic eggs
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 pieces toasted whole wheat bread
a small handful salad greens

Buzz all mayo ingredients together in a food processor and set aside.  Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a small non-stick skillet, and cook tempeh bacon until browned, about 3 minutes on each side.  Remove bacon from the pan, and add shallot.  Saute until very soft, and almost caramelized, then remove from pan.  Add a little more olive oil to the pan and crack one of the eggs into it.  Cover and cook for a couple minutes until the yolk is set (or at desired doneness.  If you prefer over easy, flip it and cook the other side).  Remove from pan and keep warm.  Repeat with other egg.  Sprinkle eggs with sea salt and pepper.  To assemble sandwich, spread one piece of toast with avocado mayo.  Top with greens, tempeh bacon, eggs, then onions.  Place other piece of bread on top and enjoy!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Vanilla and Beets

Whenever I encounter the lovely scent of vanilla it makes me happy.  This is why I often dab on a bit of vanilla essential oil in the morning so I can enjoy the scent throughout the day!  Afterall vanilla is the base of many delicioius things such as sugar cookies, cakes, or ice cream.  But it is actually quite good in savory applications as well!  Such as in a vanilla squash risotto, or in pureed rutabaga with a little coconut oil, or with beets in a salad!  I had a few beets last night and I decided to combine them with something vanilla laced. 

I roasted up some beets and rutabegas, and combined them with some dried tart cherries and salty sweet pecans in a salad, then whisked together a vanilla citrus vinaigrette and tossed it all together.  It was wonderful!  The vanilla gave the dressing a wonderful light scent and flavor to the salad without overwhelming it.  I suppose it was a little dessert like, but savory as well, and so delicious for the little amount of time it took to prepare!  Here is the recipe if you would like to try vanilla in a little different way than the usual! 

Roasted  Beet and Rutabaga Salad with Toasted Pecans and Dried Cherries with Vanilla Citrus Dressing
Serves 3

3 medium beets, thinly sliced
3 small rutabagas, thinly sliced on the diagonal
olive oil
sea salt

1/2 cup pecans
1 Tbsp agave nectar
1 Tbsp maple sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp ground chipotle powder

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp orange juice
1 Tbsp riesling vinegar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
seeds of one vanilla bean
1 Tbsp agave nectar
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

5 cups mixed flavorful greens such as arugula, mizuna and dandilion
1/4 cup thinly sliced shallots
1/2 cup dried cherries

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Line three baking sheets with foil, and spray with nonstick spray. Toss beets and rutabagas with just enough olive oil to coat, and spread out on sheet pans.  Roast until starting to brown at edges and tender, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven, sprinkle with sea salt, and let cool to room temp. Decrease the oven temperature to 375 degrees. Toss pecans with agave nectar, maple sugar and sea salt and spread out on one of the sheets. Roast in the oven until fragrant and starting to brown, about 7-10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. Meanwhile, whisk dressing ingredients together in a small bowl. Combine greens, shallots, and roasted veggies, in a large bowl, pour dressing over, and toss with hands to coat. Divide salad between 3 plates and top with toasted nuts and cherries.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Single Lady Martini

It is Valentine's Day, but I am not drinking red wine, the usual drink of the holiday, but my latest favorite cocktail. It all started with the Rio Star pink grapefruits coming into season about a month and a half ago and me wanting to make a martini out of them using something other than vodka.  Bourbon and whisky have always been around at my house in the winter for hot toddies, and since they pair well with lemon, I thought grapefruit would be even better!  So I laced some grapefruit juice with some Crown Royal and I was hooked.  The slight tartness of the grapefruit as well as the sweetness are wonderful with the smooth whisky.  Although it was wonderful just like that, I decided to add some of my bourbon soaked cherries and their liquid one day as well as a splash of a little fresh orange juice I had left over from another recipe.  That combination was perfection, and it has since become my favorite winter drink.  I hadn't yet named it though.  That is until today... I decided on the "Single Lady" because this drink would be wonderful for any single lady to sip on Valentine's Day as I am while I work on dinner.  That said, ANY lady would enjoy this drink single or not...and guys, I have a feeling you wouldn't pass it up either!  It is seriously refreshing as well as comforting, and perfect for winter!  Set aside some time for yourself and mix one up, kick back and relax!

Single Lady Martini
Makes 1

4-6 large ice cubes
3 oz Crown Royal
1 oz cherry soaking liquid*
4 oz Fresh Rio Star Grapefruit juice
2 Tbsp fresh orange juice
4-5 bourbon soaked cherries*

orange or grapefruit slice or zest for garnish

In a martini shaker add the ice, Crown Royal, cherry liquid, grapefruit juice, orange juice, and place top on shaker. Shake until well blended. Place about 4-5 bourbon soaked cherries onto a skewer, and place in a chilled large martini glass. Pour drink through a strainer into glass, and serve with a citrus garnish!
Bourbon Soaked Cherries:
In a glass jar, cover 1 cup dried bing cherries with enough bourbon to cover.  Place lid on jar, and let sit at least overnight before using.  Store in the fridge. 

Friday, February 11, 2011

Walnut Apricot Wheatberry Salad

When I hear the word "wheatberry" it conjures up thoughts of health food...not in a good way unfortunately. Flavorless healthy food that you would have to force yourself to eat and remind yoursef that it is good for you and that is why you are eating it. This is most likely because when I first became a vegetarian, about 8 years ago, I had been in a health food store and decided to buy some, figuring I would cook them up and serve them like rice.  I wasn't the greatest cook at that point, and I undercooked them.  They were too chewy and flavorless, and being that I wasn't very experienced with grains at that point, I did not know how to fix them and make them tasty.  So I have pretty much avoided them ever since, which is unfortunate and immature of me.  When I was in the bulk department of the store the other day (where I work in the deli), there they sat in front of me in a bin...almost like they were calling to me.  All the bad memories I had of them were overridden by my compulsion to buy them and try making them into something delicious.  It might be a challenge, but I was up for it!  This time I soaked them to speed the cooking process.  Once they were cooked off, properly this time of course so the texture was to my liking, I decided that they wiould make a wonderful grain salad.  I combined them with toasted walnuts and sweet apricots and tossed them with a light citrusy dressing laced with curry powder.  It was delcious and flavorful!  Very hearty for a salad, and the leftovers made for a perfect lunch the next day!  I am happy to report I have since forgotten about my grudge with wheatberries, and I will have to experiment with them some more!  Here is the recipe if you would like to try it! 

Walnut Apricot Wheatberry Salad
Serves 2

3/4 cup wheatberries, soaked in water overnight
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
1 cup baby spinach
1 small shallot, minced

1/4 cup fresh orange juice, and 1 Tbsp zest
2 Tbsp lemon juice and 1 tsp zest
1 Tbsp agave nectar
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp mild curry powder
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a medium stockpot, cover wheatberries with water until it covers them by at least 2 inches.  Bring to a boil, and lower to a simmer.  Cook about 45 minutes, or until tender.  Drain, and let cool.  Place in a bowl, and add walnuts, apricots, spinach, and shallot.  Whisk dressing ingredients together, and toss with salad to coat.  Serve!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Amy's Buccatini All' Amatriciana

A few years back, for my Mom's Birthday we went to an Italian restaurant in the Twin Cities that was supposed to be the best.  The food was expensive, but I was not impressed.  I ordered the vegetarian special, and it was as if the person who made it did not know what they were doing, or how to cook vegetarian food.  It was flavorless...that is except for the garlic powder they had sprinkled on top of it before broiling it.  I wasn't going to say anything, but my Mom complained and we got it for free.  She loved her food on the other hand.  She had ordered a dish called Bucatini all' amatriciana, a spicy pasta with a red sauce laced with red pepper flakes and guanciale (bacon).  She kept begging me to go back to the restaurant with her so she could order this dish, but I would never go back there after my bad experience with their food.  Afterall, if you mess up vegetarian food, you really don't know how to cook in my opinion.  So, I felt bad, and I told her I would try and recreate the dish.  I nailed it spot on, and I never had to go back to the restaurant with her since she liked my version better.  It has been a few years, and I have made her the dish quite a few times, since she likes to request it.  I decided I wanted to try it...minus the guanciale of course.  I wanted to see what all the fuss was about!  So I made it exactly the same with tempeh bacon.  I have to admit, it was pretty darn good for a simple pasta dish!  The light spicyness in the bright tomato sauce, the smokyness of the bacon and textural bite to the bucatini that you don't get from other pasta, it was delicious! It was funny, she told me it was even better with the tempeh bacon than the real stuff!  I will be making this often now for myself now that I know how delcious it is, and easy to make!  Here is the recipe if you would like some!

Amy's Bucatini All' Amatriciana 
Serves 3-4

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 8 oz pkg tempeh bacon
2 shallots, minced
2 tsp (or more if desired) crushed red pepper flakes
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp red wine (good quality, what you drink) or balsamic vinegar
1 15 oz can crushed organic tomatoes
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp dried basil
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp fennel seeds
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

sea salt
8 oz dried bucatini pasta

vegan parmesan to serve, optional

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. 
To make sauce, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large non-stick pan.  Place tempeh bacon in pan, and brown, about 3-4 minutes on each side.  Remove from pan, and let cool slightly, then cut into small pieces.  Add shallots to the pan and saute until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add red pepper flakes and garlic and saute until fragrant 1 minute.  Add wine to deglaze, then tomatoes, paste, herbs, and sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.  Let simmer about 15 minutes to let flavor develop.  Meanwhile, add pasta to salted water and cook according to package directions. When pasta is finished cooking, add it to the sauce, along with tempeh bacon and cook a few minutes until bacon is heated through and pasta is coated in sauce.  Serve, along with some vegan parmesan!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Avocado and Roasted Carrot Ravioli with Toasted Almonds

I had grabbed a couple avocadoes while I was at the store last weekend hoping to do something wonderful with them some time this week.  They were on sale so I figured it was a good idea, knowing I would need to use them in the next couple days before they got to mushy.  But they got mushy faster than I expected, and I wasn't in a guacamole sort of mood (although I suppose that is why they were on sale due to it being superbowl weekend), so I had to come up with another use.  It wasn't hard to figure something out, I love avocadoes, they are like nature's butter, so silky when they hit the tongue.  So I thought why not use them in a way that would showcase their smoothness.  I was in the mood for ravioli, so I thought why not incorporate them into the filling?  It may sound wierd, but really it is not.  They add the richness that a cheese filling usually would provide.  I paired them with pureed roasted carrots and almonds and garlic in my filling, and it was rich and delicious but heart healthy at the same time!  This may have been the most unusual ravioli I have ever made, but it was amazing!  Not wanting to distract from the delicate flavor of the filling, I decided a red sauce was not an appropriate accompaniment to this pasta.  I instead used a simple combination of olive oil and orange scented with a little basil and garlic.  I added some more roasted carrots, spinach, and shallots for color, as well as some additional toasted almonds for crunch.  It was a colorful, beautiful dish, and a creative use for the avocadoes!  Here is the recipe if you would like to try some!

Avocado and Roasted Carrot Ravioli with Toasted Almonds
Serves 3-4

3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp sea salt
1 egg
1-2 Tbsp water

1 cup roasted carrot puree*
1 medium avocado, pureed
1/2 cup sliced toasted almonds
1 Tbsp orange zest
1 tsp dried basil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 large carrot sliced on the diagonal
olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 shallot, sliced
juice of one small orange
2 cups baby spinach greens
A few fresh basil leaves, chopped
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds
To make pasta, mix together flour and sea salt in a bowl.  Make a well in the center, and crack the egg into it.  Add 1 Tbsp water, and start slowly mixing in flour and incorporating it into the wet ingredients.  Mix until all flour is incorporated and a soft but not sticky smooth dough is formed (if you need to add more water if dough is too dry).  Divide dough into 2 pieces, and flatten each slightly.  Lightly flour each, then send through a pasta maker until the dough is a very long thin sheet.  (alternatively, roll each out until very thin with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface).  Cover with plastic, and set aside. 
To make filling, combine all ingredients in a food processor until smooth.  To fill pasta, lay out one sheet, and drop filling onto sheet with at least a 3/4 inch boarder around the filling.  Cover with the other pasta sheet and press down around each filling mound to seal the filling in.  Cut into squares (in about a 1 inch boarder around each filling mound) using a pizza cutter.  Discard extra scraps (or you can attempt to re-roll them, but it doesn't always work so well).  Set raviolis aside.  Preheat the oven to 475 degrees, line a baking sheet with foil, and spray with non-stick spray.  Toss carrots with just enough oil to coat, and spread out on sheet.  Roast for about 15-20 minutes or until starting to brown at edges. 
Meanwhile, place a large pot of salted water on the stove and bring to a boil (for pasta).  When boiling, add ravioli and cook until it floats to the surface, about 2-3 minutes.  
To finish, heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large pan, and add shallots.  Saute until softened and caramelized, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic.  Cook for a minute until garlic is fragrant, then add another 2 Tbsp olive oil, ravioli, roasted carrots, orange juice, basil, spinach, sea salt, and freshly per ground pepper to taste and almonds.  Mix well until heated through, then transfer to plates and serve!
*To make roasted carrot puree, cut about 1 1/2 cups carrots into slices, toss them with olive oil, and roast them on a sheet pan for about 15 minutes at 475 degrees until starting to brown at the edges.  Let cool, and puree until smooth. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Stuffed Celery

It was a Lyons family tradition.  Every year at family gatherings or holidays my Grandma Lyons would have stuffed celery somewhere included in the spread.  She would sometimes even just make it special if she knew you were coming to dinner, as it was one of the favorites!  I don't know of anyone in my family who didn't like it, everyone in fact loved it, and the last piece was often fought over!  My Grandma has since passed away, and sadly I have not had any stuffed celery in over 5 years, because she was the only person I knew who made it. 

But that all changed  last weekend, because I had leftover tofutti cream cheese from a dessert I had made, and I decided that stuffed celery sounded awfully good!  I don't have Grandma's recipe, so I put my own twist on this Lyons family classic.  I made it vegan, since I was starting off with tofutti cream cheese.   Grandma used to use Miracle Whip, but I used vegannaise to make the stuffing creamy, and swapped out her dried onion for fresh garlic.  She used to sprinkle her stuffed celery with sweet paprika, but I decided to give mine a kick and use chipotle powder.  

The stuffed celery turned out awesome, and I think grandma would be long as I didn't tell her it was vegan, since she never quite understood me being vegetarian!  It was just as good as hers, but I could call it my own!  It was nice to enjoy this tradition in my family's food that I haven't expirienced for a while.  Here is my recipe if you would like to try it for yourself to see what all the fuss in my family is about!

Vegan Stuffed Celery
Makes about 30

10 medium stalks celery cut into 3 inch sections
8 oz tofutti cream cheese
1/4 cup vegannaise
1 garlic clove, minced
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
ground smoked paprika or chipotle powder

Beat together cream cheese, vegannaise, garlic, sea salt and black pepper to taste in a bowl with an electric mixer until very smooth.  Place in a pastry bag, and pipe decoratively into the middle of the celery pieces.  Sprinkle with smoked paprika or chipotle powder (if you like a little spice).  Serve!