Domino Effect: Chickpea Salad Sandwich & Mock Mayo

Chickpea Salad Sandwich

There are times when my recipes take on a “domino effect.” A domino effect is the “cumulative effect produced when one event sets off a chain of similar events.” A few weeks ago I came up with a recipe for macaroni salad that’s made with my very own mock mayo, a blend of raw cashews and soy yogurt. The mock mayo is so tasty that I couldn’t stop thinking about other ways I could enjoy this creamy condiment. I decided to start by updating my Chickpea Salad Sandwich recipe. The original version uses avocado to impart a mayonnaise-like creaminess to the texture of the chickpeas. For this recipe I added a few tablespoons of mock mayo to smashed chickpeas, onions and celery. I assembled the sandwich as usual by layering the salad, pickles, tomatoes and lettuce on toasted bread. Wow! This reminded me of the classic egg salad sandwiches I used to love. If you don’t like the taste of hard-cooked eggs just omit the black salt and you’ll still have a delicious sandwich. And don’t worry about any leftover mock mayo as I have a few more tricks up my sleeve. I’ll be posting a scrumptious Chickpea Breakfast Scramble very soon. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Chickpea Salad Sandwich with Mock Mayo

Mock Mayo:

½ cup raw cashews, soaked and drained (see note)
½ cup soy yogurt
½ teaspoon black salt
¼ teaspoon ground mustard
¼ teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons white vinegar

Place cashews, yogurt, black salt, mustard and vinegar in blender container and process until creamy. Add about six tablespoons to pasta and stir using a rubber scraper. Fold in the onion, celery, carrot and bell pepper. Add more mock mayo for a creamier salad. Season the salad with salt and black pepper to taste.

Note: if you want a thicker consistency do not soak the cashews.

To make the salad:

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
½ small onion, chopped fine
1 celery stalk, chopped fine
1 teaspoon mustard of your choice
Sliced bread, lettuce, tomato, pickles

Place chickpeas in a medium bowl. Use a fork or potato masher to smash the chickpeas until they resemble chopped hard-cooked eggs. Add the onion, celery, mustard and a few tablespoons of mock mayo. Stir to combine. Add more mock mayo as desired.

To assemble sandwich, spread a layer of mashed chickpea on bread. Spread on a layer of smashed avocado, then layer on tomato, lettuce and pickles.

Makes 3 to 4 sandwiches.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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21 Jun 2018

“Bring Out the Best”: Classic Macaroni Salad

Classic Macaroni Salad

Mock Mayo

One of my favorite summer barbeque side dishes is macaroni salad. I make a distinction between “macaroni” salad and “pasta” salad. Macaroni salad is the classic side dish made with mayonnaise. Pasta salad, typically made with an oil-based dressing, started popping up at barbeques years later. People started getting very creative with pasta salads and starting tossing in ingredients like tomatoes, cheese, olives, basil, etc. I was feeling a bit nostalgic and longed for a good old-fashioned macaroni salad. The biggest obstacle, of course, is an oil-free substitute for mayonnaise. My all-time favorite mayonnaise was know for it’s slogan, “Bring Out the Best,” so I was going to do my best to bring out the best flavor in a most healthy way. Since I always have raw cashews and home-made soy yogurt on hand and have had some success making dressings using these two ingredients, these were the main ingredients for my mock mayo. I used black salt as it lends a hard-cooked egg taste to dishes. A little ground mustard, white vinegar and sugar added just enough tempered tang to the mock mayo. I added onion, celery, carrot and bell pepper for some crunch and flavor. I used six tablespoons of the mayo for 8 oz. of macaroni and will save the rest for another recipe. If you like your macaroni salad creamier, go right ahead and use it all up. I was quite pleased with the results. My macaroni salad was creamy, crunchy and tasty. Bring this classic side dish to your next barbeque and bring out the best in delicious, healthy food. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Macaroni Salad

8 oz. dry macaroni (elbows, pipette), cooked according to package directions

Mock Mayo:

½ cup raw cashews, soaked and drained (for a thicker “mayo” do not soak)
½ cup soy yogurt
½ teaspoon black salt (substitute kosher or sea salt)
¼ teaspoon ground mustard
¼ teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons white vinegar

½ small yellow onion, minced
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 carrot, grated
½ red or green bell pepper, chopped
Salt and black pepper

Drain macaroni and place in large serving bowl.

Place cashews, yogurt, black salt, mustard and vinegar in blender container and process until creamy. Add about six tablespoons to pasta and stir using a rubber scraper. Fold in the onion, celery, carrot and bell pepper. Add more mock mayo for a creamier salad. Season the salad with salt and black pepper to taste.

08 Jun 2018

Decompress: Hibiscus Sangria

Hibiscus Sangria

We started drinking hibiscus tea a few years ago after we learned that it may help lower blood pressure. Bruce drinks it straight up and hot. I like mine iced with honey, lemon and thyme .Lately, I’ve been loving a sangria recipe that’s made with rose wine, strawberries, mangoes and oranges. I hate to drink alone, so I developed this version of Sangria, sans alcohol, so that Bruce could join me for a drink on the patio at the end of the day. It comes together quite nicely with home-brewed hibiscus tea, white grape juice and fruit. I use dried hibiscus flowers, but you could use Tazo Passion tea or Red Zinger tea. Since we’re heading into berry season, it might be nice to do a batch with blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries. I dropped in a few fresh mint leaves and garnished it with a sprig of lavender from my garden. Hibiscus Sangria looks lovely and tastes refreshing. What a nice way to decompress. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Hibiscus Sangria

4 teaspoons hibiscus tea
2 cups boiling water
2 cups white grape juice
1 cup strawberries, cut into ½ inch pieces
1 mango, cut into ½ inch pieces
1 orange, cut into thin slices
Fresh mint or lavender (optional)

Steep hibiscus tea in two cups of water for 10 minutes. Let cool to room temperature and remove tea leaves.

Place fruit into large pitcher. Pour strained hibiscus tea and grape juice over fruit. Add mint or lavender.

25 May 2018

Ratatouille, Italian Style

Ratatouille & Polenta

Ratatouille Pizza

I’ve been making Ratatouille for years — even before I adopted a plant-based diet. There’s something about this melange that has always been alluring, yet it seems to fall flat for some reason. Ratatouille has its origins in Nice, France. It is made with eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, garlic and herbs d’Provence. I recently learned that Nice actually was an Italian city until 1860. Good for me as I just put an Italian spin on this dish. When I started preparing this latest batch I thought about how I could elevate this dish from flat to flavorful. I used a deep skillet instead of a Dutch oven to brown the vegetables instead of “stewing” them. The browning allows the vegetables to develop a deeper flavor by way of caramelization. I also thought about the tomatoes. Since fresh tomatoes are not in season I thought about using canned tomatoes. I remembered that I still had a container of oven roasted tomatoes from last summer in the freezer and used them. These two changes to my recipe made a world of difference. So here’s where the Italian spin comes in. The herbs d’Provence that were in my pantry were so old it would be a crime to use them so I used oregano, fennel, thyme and basil instead. I served the Ratatouille over polenta squares for dinner one night. I picked up a Sicilian tomato pie the next day and made Ratatouille Pizza. (This would make a nice appetizer as well.) I’ve also mixed Ratatouille with pasta that can be served either hot or at room temperature. This Ratatouille is so flavorful that you can simply serve it with a piece of crusty bread to soak up all that goodness.  Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Ratatouille

1 onion, sliced thin
2 garlic cloves, minced
A 3/4-pound eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 3 cups)
1 small zucchini, scrubbed, quartered lengthwise, and cut into thin slices
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
3/4 pound small ripe tomatoes, chopped coarse (I used 2 cups roasted tomatoes)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shredded fresh basil leaves

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. (You can use a small amount of olive oil if desired.) Add the red peppers and cook until they become charred. Add onions and cook until they begin to soften and turn golden. Add the garlic and stir. Add the eggplant and zucchini and cook about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the tomatoes, oregano, thyme and fennel seeds and stir. Cook, uncovered, until the vegetables are tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Mix in the basil just before serving. The ratatouille may be made 1 day in advance, kept covered and chilled, and reheated before serving.

 

17 May 2018

Small Wonders: Grilled Jamaican Jerk Tofu

Jamaican Jerk Tofu

There’s this food truck on Main Street, known simply as “Benny’s,” that serves Jamaican food. Every time we pass by the aromas coming out of that little truck are intoxicating. When I say “little,” I mean like the size of a closet. I’m amazed that Benny’s menu is so extensive. I wonder how he’s able churn out so many different dishes from such a small kitchen. Unfortunately for me, there are no plant-based items on the menu. One of these days I’ll get up the nerve to talk to him about that.

So we passed by Benny’s truck again last week and I couldn’t get the aroma out of my head. I decided to re-visit my Jamaican Jerk Tofu recipe. I looked at a the ingredients on a bottle of Jerk sauce and a few recipes online.  The ingredients common to all of them are Scotch Bonnet peppers, scallions, and a blend of spices used in Jamaican recipes. I thought it odd that many of the recipes contained soy sauce. I included it in my version, but the Scotch Bonnets are so hot that I couldn’t detect the soy sauce. (I just might omit it next time.) I like to press as much water as possible from the tofu so that the marinade doesn’t get watered down. When the sauce was done, I marinated the tofu slices for several hours then grilled them on the barbeque. Depending on your  love of (or tolerance for) hot food you can either scrape off some of the marinade or leave all of it on the tofu. Like Benny’s truck, this sauce is a small wonder. The ingredients are so intense that I used only one quarter of the sauce. I served the Jerk Tofu with Jamaican collard greens and roasted sweet potatoes seasoned with honey and Caribbean spices. The aromas that were drifting  from my kitchen throughout the day were so tempting that I couldn’t wait for dinner, yet I didn’t want the day to end. Try this Jerk Sauce and make your own small wonder. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Jamaican Jerk Tofu

Sauce:

¼ cup reduced sodium soy sauce (¼ cup no sodium + 2 Tbsp. Kikkoman)
1 medium onion
12 sprigs fresh thyme (2 teaspoons dried)
6 scallions/green onion
8 garlic cloves
2 scotch bonnet or habanero peppers
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh ginger
½ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ cup ground allspice
2 tablespoon brown sugar
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 Tablespoons lime juice

Press the excess water from the block of tofu until almost no water comes out. I like to press it for a few hours. While tofu is draining, make the sauce.

To make the sauce:

Place soy sauce, onion, thyme, scallions, garlic, peppers, and ginger in blender container. Process until smooth. Add the ground cloves, allspice, salt, sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, black pepper, lime juice and blend until combined.

Cut the tofu into 6 slices. Spoon a layer of sauce in a deep pan. Place the tofu in a single layer and flip the pieces to coat all sides. Cover the pan and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight. You will only need to use about one quarter of the sauce, so freeze the rest for future use.

To Grill:

Lightly coat the grates of barbeque grill with non-stick spray. Heat on high for 5 minutes then reduce to heat to medium. Place the marinated tofu slices onto the grates. If you like a very hot sensation leave some of the marinade on the tofu. If you like a milder flavor, simply scrape some of the jerk sauce from the tofu. Cook until grill marks develop on the tofu, then turn over and grill the second side.

Serving suggestion: Serve with sweet potatoes and collard, mustard or kale greens.

27 Apr 2018

A la mode: Super Fruit Bowl

Super Fruit Bowl

A la mode:

adjective
1. in or according to the fashion.
2. Cookery. (of pie or other dessert) served with a portion of ice cream, often as a topping: apple pie à la mode.

Food in bowls is very fashionable these days. Everywhere I go, I see people enjoying food from bowls. Burrito bowls. Poke bowls. Grain bowls. Noodle bowls. And now, Acai bowls. I’ve been seeing new businesses in the area serving super fruit bowls and wondered what the facination is all about. I checked out some their menus and was shocked to see that the average cost of an acai bowl is $10. Why?! Acai berries come from Brazil and are very perishable. You can get acai berries in the U.S. in pouches either pureed or in powder form. According to WebMD, “some studies show that acai fruit pulp is even richer in antioxidants than cranberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, or blueberries.” And then they go on to say that “acai berries have no known health benefit that’s different from similar fruits.” Sounds like a lot of over-priced hype to me. Before I even had an “official” acai bowl I sent away for a package of powdered acai thinking that would be the most affordable and more sensible form of this super fruit. I wanted to create a “knock-off” version of my own. I was excited when my package arrived. Now what do I do to magically transform a powder into something super? I decided to use the acai powder as a supplement to frozen mixed berries. As frozen berries tend to be on the tart side I sweetened the puree with a bit of honey. I used just one-half teaspoon of acai powder to one-half cup of fruit and pureed it in my Blendtec twister jar. To assemble the bowl I placed a good amount of the berry puree in the bottom of a large glass, then added some soy yogurt, bananas, mangoes and low-fat granola. You can personalize these super fruit bowls by using different fruit in the puree or as topping ingredients. You could also replace the yogurt with chia pudding. Instead of granola, you could sprinkle on muesli, seeds, chopped nuts, dried fruit or coconut. The other day Bruce treated me to an acai bowl . While it was nice getting out for a special treat it turns out that my knock-off version is more flavorful than what they’re serving in the stores. Don’t be lured by the promise that one “super” food is superior to other, more affordable food. Make this “knock-off” version of those pricey acai bowls and make a healthy fashion statement of your own. . Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Super Fruit Bowl

This recipe makes 1/2 cup of puree, so you may want to double, triple or quadruple the ingredients.

½ cup of frozen mixed berries
½ teaspoon acai powder
½ to 1 teaspoon honey, maple syrup or agave

Add all ingredients to blender and process just until smooth but still frozen. If it comes out too soft, simply place in the freezer for a few minutes.

Toppings:

Granola
Bananas
Mangoes
Berries
Coconut
Nuts
Seeds

10 Apr 2018

Never Stop Improving: Trail Mix Cookies

Trail Mix Cookies

We’re in the middle of the fourth nor’easter this month and I’m trapped at home, making it a perfect day for baking cookies. I haven’t made one of my favorites, Trail Mix Cookies, in a long time. As happens quite often in my kitchen, I was missing one ingredient — almond meal. Well, today’s a good day to improve on this recipe. In the original version I processed some of the oats into flour, then added in whole oats and almond meal. For the new, improved recipe I placed all of the dry ingredients into a food processor and pulsed it into a coarse flour. I also added some almond extract which added a subtle flavor that made a big difference. So you might wonder what’s the big improvement in these cookies. I can’t put my finger on it, but my mouth knows. They came out with a better texture than before — kind of chewy and crisp at the same time. I used a larger scoop than usual. Maybe I baked them a little longer. Maybe it’s the extra oats or how I processed them has something to do with it. What I can say for sure is that the method I used eliminated a few steps. I can also say that substituting more oats for the almond flour is certainly a cost saving. Whatever the reason, these not-so-new, yet improved, Trail Mix Cookies are definitely delicious! Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Trail Mix Cookies

Wet Ingredients

1 tablespoon ground flax + 2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup almond butter
1/4 cup pure maple syrup (or date syrup)
1 teaspoon almond extract
Zest of one orange (optional)

Dry Ingredients
2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 tsp fine grain sea salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup chopped walnuts (or other nuts)
1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
¼ cup dark chocolate chips
¼ cup dried fruit (cranberries, cherries, raisins, etc.)
6 tablespoons (total) of any type of seeds: sunflower, pumpkin, sesame, flax

Preheat oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place wet ingredients in blender container and process until smooth.

Place the oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, baking soda and baking powder in food processor. Pulse until the oats are processed into a coarse flour. Place in a large mixing bowl and add the remaining dry ingredients. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and stir well until combined. Drop by rounded spoonful (I use a #14 ice cream scoop that measures about 2 Tablespoons) onto baking sheets. Flatten slightly. Bake cookies for 15 to 18 minutes until light golden brown. Cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack until completely cool. Wrap up and store leftovers on the counter or in the freezer, if desired. Makes about 18 cookies.

21 Mar 2018

Imagine This: Chunky Monkey Waffles

Chunky Monkey Waffles

One of the first plant-based recipe books I ever bought is The Forks Over Knives Cookbook. Second to their Broccoli and Peanut Noodles recipe I’ve made their Chunky Monkey Smoothie most often. The smoothie contains almond milk, cocoa powder, peanut butter and dates. Very simple and healthy. This morning I wanted to have pancakes for breakfast but didn’t feel like making a fuss or a big mess. So I went to the freezer and got the next best thing to pancakes — a box of Trader Joe’s vegan waffles. Last week I came up with a “cheater” blueberry syrup and wondered how I could top that. It started by layering chopped bananas between the waffles. Hmmmmm . . . if there are two things that go nicely with bananas it’s chocolate and peanut butter. I mixed together pure maple syrup with chunky peanut butter and cocoa powder, warmed it in the microwave and poured it over the banana and waffle stack. (The ratio went something like this: two parts syrup, one part peanut butter and one part cocoa powder.)  I placed a strawberry on top just for fun which got me to thinking that this would be nice with strawberries in place of the bananas. What about other fruit? Pears would nice with a chocolate-almond butter sauce and sprinkled with toasted almonds. Peaches might be nice with chocolate and hazelnuts. You can switch up your sauce by using different spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice or even chili powder. So while I have no recipe to offer you today I can give you some guidance sprinkled with a spoonful of imagination. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

11 Mar 2018

Trial & Error: Banana Pancakes with Blueberry Syrup

Banana Pancakes & Blueberry Syrup

The other day I experimented with my pumpkin pancake recipe and decided to replace all of the whole wheat pastry flour with oat flour. Luckily I had already eaten breakfast because the pancakes were less than awesome. They took what seemed like forever to cook and were still gummy on the inside. I don’t know about you, but I like my pancakes on the fluffy side. It would be nice to understand how different flours perform in baked goods, but I probably need to go to culinary arts school to learn about that. For now, it’s just trial and error.

I was still on a pancake kick and went back to basics, this time with some over-ripe bananas I had hanging out the fridge. I used whole wheat pastry flour, but you can use all-purpose or whole wheat flour if you like. I’ve found that the presence of fat in baked goods improves the texture, so I used canola oil in this recipe. You can substitute it with almond butter or simply eliminate the oil altogether. If the bananas are very sweet you can even omit the sugar. Rather than adding blueberries to the batter, I made a “cheater” blueberry syrup by mixing maple syrup with Trader Joe’s Reduced Sugar Blueberry Preserves. These pancakes came out thick, light and tender and the blueberry syrup added the right amount of sweetness to the stack. Try these Banana Pancakes and you can’t go wrong. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Banana Pancakes

Makes 12 to 16 pancakes

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 Tablespoons sugar (optional)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups non-dairy milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar (optional)
2 large over-ripe bananas
2 tablespoons flax meal
1 Tablespoon almond butter or canola oil

Whisk the flour, baking soda, sugar, salt, and nutmeg together in a large mixing bowl.

Grease a non-stick griddle with canola oil and over medium heat. Alternately, heat an electric griddle on high (I don’t grease mine).

Place milk, vinegar, bananas, flax meal and almond butter or canola oil in blender and process until smooth.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix them until the batter is totally smooth.

Use a ladle to portion the batter onto your griddle. Once you see bubbles at the top of your pancakes and their edges begin to turn golden, they’re ready to flip. Flip the pancakes and allow them to cook for a few minutes on the other side.

Serve the pancakes with maple syrup or fruit topping.

“Cheater” Blueberry Syrup: for every tablespoon of blueberry preserves, use two tablespoons of maple syrup

 

03 Mar 2018

Effortless: Hummus & Greek Salad Pita

Hummus & Greek Salad Pita

I love the challenge of creating recipes that can be complicated or require exotic ingredients. In fact, I have a pot of Chana Masala on the stove as I write this post. My grandmother taught me how to cook and her style was effortless. All of her recipes were in her head and she could whip up a delicious meal with whatever she had on hand. And that’s exactly what I did for lunch today. There will be no recipe today, just a list of possibilities for this Hummus & Greek Salad Pita. It started with the last bit of hummus I had in the fridge, a pita retrieved from the depths of my freezer and some fresh salad ingredients. You can make it easy on yourself by using your favorite brand of store-bought hummus. Or, you can make it healthier by preparing your favorite hummus recipe and using the cooking liquid from the chick peas instead of olive oil. This makes a hearty meal for one or can be served as an appetizer or as Playoff and Super Bowl Sunday party food. No matter how you make it, it’s worth the effort. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Here’s how it comes together:

  1. Warm pita in oven
  2. Chop & toss together with red wine vinegar & oregano:
    1. Handful of greens
    2. Cherry (or any kind) of tomato
    3. Cucumber
    4. Bell pepper
    5. Onion
    6. Kalamata olives
  3. Spread hummus on warm pita, then pile on the salad.
  4. Cut into wedges & enjoy!

19 Jan 2018

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