Monthly Archives: May 2016

Hot List: Light Vegetable Broth

Light Vegetable Broth

Light Vegetable Broth

This week’s Hot List topic is about vegetable broth, in particular one that mimics chicken broth. I had been using Better Than Bouillon‘s No Chicken Soup Base for a few years whenever I wanted to impart a “chicken” flavor to my recipes. The problem (and there always seems to be a problem with convenience food products) is that it contains a lot of sodium. I’ve thrown together homemade stocks before, using whatever vegetables I had on hand. The results were not consistent and not very flavorful. So I started leafing through my vegan recipe books for homemade stock recipes that had an appealing variety of ingredients. Roberto Martin’s New Vegan Cooking had just what I was looking for. (If you’re not familiar with Roberto Martin, he was the personal chef for Ellen Degeneres.) His recipe for stock has just the right mix of vegetables for a light, yet robust-tasting, vegetable stock. The recipe calls for leeks as as option, but I would definitely use them. The stock comes out very flavorful and with a nice yellowish color. There are a lot of other nice recipes in this book, so it’s worth adding to your collection. I use this stock in recipes like this Spanish rice or any other recipe that calls for chicken stock. ‘m loving this recipe and suggest doubling the recipe and freezing in pint containers. Buy the book and make it a Vegi-curious day.

 

31 May 2016

Baked Hush Puppies

Baked Hush Puppies

Baked Hush Puppies

When I started Vegi-curious almost three years ago, my intention was to share my journey and help others transition to a plant-based diet. I still refer to it as a “transition” because it’s always changing. What started out more as a vegan diet, progressed into a low-fat vegan diet and is moving towards low-salt, whole food, plant based diet. One of the biggest challenges has been to find restaurants that offer any vegan or vegetarian options, and it’s even more difficult to find one that has anything on the menu without salt or oil. This makes it almost impossible to go to dinner with our omnivore family and friends. Sure, we can just order salad and a baked potato, but I can’t help feeling that our comrades feel sorry for us. The last thing I want to do is make others feel uncomfortable so I’m always on the lookout for a restaurant where there’s truly something for everyone. Over the Memorial Day weekend, we went to Woody’s Crab House in Northeast, Maryland. It used to be one of our favorite seafood restaurants. They serve mostly seafood items with a little bit of chicken, steak and ribs on the menu.  While we don’t order their crab cakes any more we can get a steamed vegetable sack that is healthy, satisfying and something to talk about. The “sack” is cotton netting that’s stuffed with broccoli, red potatoes, onions, carrots, celery and spinach, then steamed. It weighs about 3 pounds. And if that’s not enough, it’s served with corn on the cob on the side. I guess they couldn’t fit that into the sack. We upgraded from coleslaw to a green salad. They offer butter on the side, but I just seasoned my sack with Old Bay. (Why can’t more restaurants do this?) By now you’re wondering what this story has to do with Hush Puppies. Well, I’ll get to that now. Mom had the crab cakes and ordered Hush Puppies as one of the sides. Hush Puppies are fried batter that’s made with cornmeal, flour, onions and eggs. I equate them to a savory doughnut. As I sampled one of these tasty little puppies I wondered if I could make a baked, plant-based version. I searched the web and most of the recipes had the same ingredients that are in corn muffins, just different amounts. The baked versions were made in muffin tins, but I opted to drop mine right onto a cookie sheet. I coated them with crushed corn flakes to replicate the crunchy exterior of fried Hush Puppies. I omitted the salt so everyone in the family could enjoy them. And while they came out pretty tasty and crispy, if you’re not sodium-sensitive I’d keep the salt in the mix. You could drop a few Hush Puppies into a bowl of chili, serve them as a side to succotash (recipe coming soon) or just snack on them with your favorite fruit preserve. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Baked Hush Puppies

Makes about 28 hush puppies

1 cup non-dairy milk, room temperature
1 teaspoon white vinegar
6 tablespoons aquafaba (liquid from canned chickpeas)
1 tablespoon melted coconut oil

½ cup minced onion

1 cup brown rice flour
1 cup corn meal
1 tablespoon freeze-dried corn powder
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups of corn flakes, crushed

Preheat oven to 425F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk together liquid ingredients. Whisk or sift together dry ingredients (except corn flakes), then stir in onions. Add liquid ingredients to dry and stir just to combine.

Use a small ice cream scoop and drop batter into crushed corn flakes. Gently roll to coat and place on parchment paper. Bake for 10 – 15 minutes until lightly browned. Remove and cool completely.

30 May 2016

Smoothie Operator: Tropical Blizzard

Tropical Blizzard

Tropical Blizzard

I purchased a Twister jar for my Blendtec blender a few weeks ago, primarily to help process nuts for nut butters and non-dairy cheese. (A little pricey, but after the first batch of peanut butter I knew this was a great addition to my caboodle of appliances.) The Twister jar came with a little recipe book containing a few recipes for frozen desserts. The easiest one is made with frozen banana chunks. That’s it. With the aid of a special lid that has what looks like two paddles, frozen fruit is effortlessly churned into creamy, frozen desserts. Of course, I could not leave well enough alone and decided to freeze a bunch of fruit in small portions just for this purpose. I had an open can of lite Thai coconut milk in the fridge and decided to freeze that in an ice cube tray. And one afternoon a Tropical Blizzard hit our home. What went into my tiny Twister jar as frozen pieces of pineapple, mango, banana and a few coconut cubes scooped out smooth and creamy with just the right amount of sweetness. If you want to spike it up a bit, add a splash of rum or other liqueur. The recipe is simply a guide, so feel free to mix it up with whatever you happen to have on hand. I have to go now so I can clear out a shelf in the freezer for all of my blizzard ingredients. I wonder what tomorrow’s forecast will bring. Make yourself a Tropical Blizzard and make it a Vegi-curious day.

Notes: I don’t own a Vitamix so I don’t know how this will process. If any Vitamix owners try it, please let me know. I purchased the Blendtec on-line, but got the Twister Jar at Bed Bath and Beyond so I could use the coupon. I purchased the larger Twister Jar, not the Mini Twister.

Twister Jar

Twister Jar

Tropical Blizzard

Makes one serving

½ frozen banana, sliced
1 wedge of frozen mango, sliced
6 to 8 frozen pineapple chunks
2 cubes of frozen Thai coconut milk (or other non-dairy milk)

Place all ingredients into a small blender and process on high until smooth. Serve immediately.

27 May 2016

Odd Couple: Gigante Beans & Potatoes with Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette

Gigante Beans & Potatoes

Gigante Beans & Potatoes

Prior to adopting a plant-based diet, there were some foods I would NEVER combine in one meal let alone in the same recipe. For instance, I would never have rice and potatoes my plate at the same time. Maybe at a barbeque or buffet I’d have potato salad and macaroni salad together, but that was more an exception than a rule. I would make beans with pasta or rice, but I never thought to pair beans with potatoes. Hmmmm . . . beans and potatoes . . .  they seem like an odd couple. But sometimes necessity is the mother of invention, and I needed to use up some Yukon potatoes and dried lima beans that have been lurking in the pantry. I remembered the Gigante Bean Salad from last year and figured that since I like bean salads and potato salads, this combination might actually work. So I soaked and cooked up large lima beans, steamed the potatoes and roasted cherry tomatoes and garlic for the vinaigarette. I seasoned it with the “tre fratelli” — oregano, marjoram and thyme — but you can use any herbs that tickle your fancy. I bet it would be nice with fava beans or whatever potatoes you have on hand.This dish came out surprisingly tasty and the layer of fresh arugula underneath added a nice contrast to the delicate texture and sweet-tangy flavors of the salad. Since you can serve the salad at room temperature it’s a nice dish to bring to a summer barbeque or for lunch the next day. Just another example of how opposites attract. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Gigante Bean & Potato Salad with Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette
½ pound dried Gigante beans (large lima beans)
2 cloves of garlic, left whole
1 bay leaf

1 pound Yukon potatoes, peeled and cut into 1” chunks

2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes
Fresh thyme sprigs
4 cloves of garlic, sliced
Salt (optional) and pepper

2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 Tablespoons sherry wine vinegar
Oregano, marjoram, black pepper and salt (optional) to taste

Soak beans overnight by placing beans in a large pot and cover with plenty of cold water. Drain and rinse beans, then cover with more water. Add whole garlic cloves and bay leaf to pot. Bring to boil then simmer for about 30 minutes until beans are soft, but not mushy. (Depending on the beans and how long you soak them, this could take longer. You could also make them in a pressure cooker.) When done, drain well and set aside.

While beans are cooking, steam potatoes in a double boiler or steamer basket set in a large pot until tender enough to pierce with a fork yet firm enough not to break apart. Rinse with cold water to stop cooking.

In a large, shallow serving bowl, add balsamic and sherry vinegars, oregano and marjoram. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350F. Coat a glass baking dish very lightly with olive oil (you can opt to omit the oil). Place the tomatoes, garlic, thyme and season, salt and pepper in a small baking pan and cover with foil. Bake for about 20 minutes, until tomatoes soften up. Remove foil and smash tomatoes so juice comes out. Return to oven and cook, uncovered, until tomatoes and garlic start to caramelize. Remove tomatoes from oven and add to bowl with vinegar. Add beans and potatoes and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper.

23 May 2016

Make Every Meal Count: Glorious Morning Oatmeal Bake

Glorious Oatmeal Bake

Glorious Oatmeal Bake

There is a popular belief that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I’m of the belief that every meal is the most important meal of the day. Since adopting a plant-based diet, breakfast has become the least favorite meal for me. I used to do a rotation of egg and cheese sandwiches, bagels with cream cheese or ricotta on toast. I rarely ate cold cereal and my oatmeal consumption was in the form of cookies. Since I don’t like to play favorites, I wanted to find a way to enjoy breakfast and give it the same priority as lunch or dinner. It’s no secret that I am a sweet lover and have spent much of my time in the kitchen making desserts of all kinds. If there’s any way that food will win me over, it’s sure to be in that arena. This recipe started out with oats, carrots, apples, almond milk, raisins, walnuts and maple syrup then evolved with the addition of dates and an orange. I topped it off by sweetening some almond milk yogurt (from The Gentle Chef’s Nuts About Almonds recipe collection) with maple syrup. The final version was slightly sweet, chewy, moist, crunchy around the edges and oh, so satisfying. What’s nice about this recipe is that it can easily be adapted to your taste. You can eliminate the orange, add more milk, bake it more or less, use different nuts or none at all, or use any spices you like. You can prep it the night before and bake it the next morning. The leftovers taste great at room temperature or re-heated in the microwave, making it easy to take to work if you’re running late. Make your breakfast count by starting your day with a Glorious Morning Oatmeal Bake and thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Glorious Morning Oatmeal Bake

Makes 3 to 4 servings

Non-dairy yogurt and maple syrup for serving

2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 carrot, grated
1 small apple, grated with skin
¼ cup raisins
¼ cup chopped walnuts or pecans

1 cup non-dairy milk
1 orange, zested, peeled and separated into segments
½ cup dates
1 Tablespoon flax meal
nutmeg to taste
½ cup water (or more milk)

Preheat oven to 350F.

Stir together non-dairy yogurt and maple syrup in a small bowl and set aside.

In a small baking dish stir together oats, carrots, apple, raisins and nuts. Place milk, orange zest and segments, dates, flax meal and nutmeg in blender and process on high for about 1 minute. Add water and pulse to combine. (You can prep to this point ahead of time and place the baking dish and blender container in the fridge overnight.) Pour over oats and stir to combine. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes and remove from oven. Spoon into serving bowls and add a dollop of maple-sweetened yogurt.

 

 

22 May 2016

It’s All About the Food: Farro e Fagioli

Farro e Fagioli

Farro e Fagioli

It doesn’t matter where I go or whom I’m with, the conversation always turns to food. For example, I recently returned to weekly personal training sessions with Mr. B-Fit after a long hiatus. We talked about the usual arguments that many people have against plant-based diets. There’s not enough protein in vegetables. The food is not satisfying or tasty enough. There’s not enough variety. Then there are those who simply don’t have enough cooking experience or time to prepare healthy meals. I was fortunate to have my grandmother and mother instill in me this feeling that I could do anything in the kitchen, so it’s fitting that I used a family staple, pasta fagioli as the inspiration for this fast and hearty Farro e Fagioli. Brown some garlic, saute some sundried tomatoes, add a can of cannelini beans and season with red pepper and parsley and you’re done! You can be fashionable and serve it over cooked farro; or go old-school and toss it with your favorite cut of pasta. Either way, you’ll make a meal worth talking about. This recipe is perfect for novice cooks or anyone who wants to make a small meal in a matter of minutes. Be on the lookout for an upcoming big batch version of this recipe made in an Instant Pot. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Farro e Fagioli

Makes 2 to 3 servings

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil (optional)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • Crush red pepper to taste
  • 4 sundried tomato halves, minced
  • 1 can (15 oz.) cannelini beans
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
  • Cooked farro

Note: you could serve the beans over cooked pasta, such as ditalini or small shells.

In a small pot, heat oil and garlic until garlic is lightly browned. (To eliminate the oil, heat the pot over medium heat, add garlic and brown, adding water if necessary to prevent sticking.) Add the crushed red pepper and cook one minute. Add the sundried tomatoes and continue to cook until softened. Add beans and their liquid, one-half can of water and parsley. Simmer until beans have thickened slightly, about 10 minutes. Ladle over cooked farro.

17 May 2016

Home Grown: How to Make a Five-Star Salad

Five-Star Salad

Five-Star Salad

“Vegi-curious . . .  one curious girl’s guide to plant-based living.” 

It’s all about the food, but not necessarily just about the recipes. When we started our plant-based journey almost four years ago I had no idea what I was in for. What started out as a healthy way of eating evolved into a healthy way of living. We try to make food choices that support local farmers, are compassionate to all creatures and consider their impact on the environment.  I’ve always dabbled in gardening with some successes and some disappointments. But I always keep trying. I’m moving toward long-term, edible landscaping and container gardening. (I’m finding that, unlike wine, getting from a kneeling to standing position does not improve with age.)

So, here’s what we have going on in our yard. We have two heirloom (i.e. very old) fig trees, two fairly young pear trees, three brand new plum trees, a row of blueberry bushes (hopefully a hedge some day) and four dwarf raspberry bushes. With the exception of a little pruning these plants should be bearing fruit for years to come with little effort. In my container herb garden I have basil, tarragon, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme (couldn’t resist ending the sentence like that). I planted bay laurel, sorrel and chives as they are perrenial plants. I’ve been growing arugula for many years in a partially-shaded area and I’m able to harvest it and re-plant it a few times from spring until fall. One of my Brussel sprout plants came back to life and is doing quite nicely. (I’m sorry I pulled the others out after last year’s harvest.) I’ve got a few hanging strawberry plants that are not doing so well, but I’m hoping that they’ll turn it around soon. And watercress . . . what a fun (and tasty) plant this is. Since watercress likes to grow in wet areas, I planted it in a shallow pot that’s set in a deep dish and kept filled with water. I’m sure I missed a few plants, but my intent is to encourage you to plant some of  your own seeds of change.

So the five-star salad is not a recipe but just an incentive for you to try your hand at gardening on whatever level you’re comfortable with. The orange flower is Nasturtium. The purple puffs are chive flowers. The white flowers are on the blossoms from the watercress. The rest of the salad is made from seasonal greens like baby kale, arugula and baby spinach. If the salad’s not already dressed up enough you can drizzle it with a quality balsamic or flavored vinegar.

Please take a few minutes, walk with me in my garden and thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Chives

Chives

Container Herbs

Container Herbs

Watercress

Watercress

Dwarf Raspberries

Dwarf Raspberries

Bartlett Pears

Bartlett Pears

Arugula

Arugula

Nasturtium

Nasturtium

16 May 2016

No Pork, Just Beans: BBQ Beans with Baked Polenta

BBQ Beans & Polenta

BBQ Beans & Polenta

If  you’re looking for something different for breakfast, try BBQ Beans with Baked Polenta. I had some leftover polenta rounds from last night and thought they might be nice smothered with some sweet and smoky beans. The beans were simmered in tomato paste, apple cider, barbeque seasonings, liquid smoke, maple syrup and molasses. You could replace the apple cider with water or replace all of the water with apple cider and omit the maple syrup. I used the polenta recipe from the Vegan Under Pressure cookbook and used mini tart pans to form the rounds. You can bake or broil the polenta on parchment paper, char it on an outdoor grill or brown it in a non-stick skillet. You can even use pre-made polenta logs from the store. This recipe is versatile enough to have for breakfast, lunch or dinner or just as a side dish. You can even make a big pot to bring to a summer barbeque. So, dig in and thanks for being Vegi-curious.

BBQ Beans over Polenta Rounds

makes 2 to 3 servings

  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • ½ can tomato paste
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup apple cider or juice (or water)
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons molasses
  • ½ teaspoon liquid smoke
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon dry mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 can (15 oz.) pinto beans, drained
  • several polenta rounds or squares

Heat a small saucepot over medium heat. Add onions and dry saute until lightly browned, adding water if necessary to prevent sticking. Add tomato paste, water, cider, liquid smoke, molasses, maple syrup and all spices. Bring to boil and simmer about five minutes. Add beans and continue to simmer until sauce has thickened, about 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place polenta slices on paper. Bake for about 10 minutes, until polenta starts to brown. Remove and top with beans.

10 May 2016

Italian Cult Food: Broccoli Rabe & Chickpeas in an Instant Pot

Broccoli Rabe & Chickpeas

Broccoli Rabe & Chickpeas

Broccoli rabe, again! For the past three weeks I’ve been getting a bouquet of broccoli rabe in my CSA share. That’s just fine with me since  ’tis the season for broccoli rabe and . . . Bruce is coming home from San Francisco today with a bag of sourdough bread. Does it get any better? Anyway, broccoli rabe is what I call an “Italian cult” food as we take great joy in preparing, eating and talking about broccoli rabe. It tends to have a bitter taste and that’s probably why it’s usually made with a lot of garlic that’s browned in olive oil. That aroma is just intoxicating. So I decided to make some broccoli rabe in my Instant Pot. In my somewhat limited experience with pressure cooking food, I’ve found that the process really can pound flavor into foods and you can get by with just a little oil, if any. This method is perfect for making broccoli rabe and chickpeas since they can stand up to the  pressure. The recipe is fast. Simply brown the garlic right in the pot, add red pepper, broccoli rabe, chickpeas and a little water. It only takes 3 to 4 minutes to cook and with a quick release you go from prep to plate in about 15 minutes. As I was enjoying my lunch it dawned on me that some fennel seeds would have been a nice addition. Boy, I hope this isn’t the last broccoli rabe of the season. Not only does this make a nice plated entree, but it will make a delightful sandwich with some of that sourdough bread. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Broccoli Rabe and Chickpeas in an Instant Pot

Makes 2 to 3 servings

  • ½ teaspoon olive oil (optional)
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, chopped
  • Crushed red pepper to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoons fennel seeds (optional)
  • 1 bunch of broccoli rabe
  • 1 can (15 oz.) chickpeas, drained
  • ¼ cup water or vegetable broth
  • Salt to taste

Cut off about 1” of the broccoli rabe stems and discard. Cut the remaining broccoli rabe in half. Set an instant pot to saute setting. (If using a stove-top pressure cooker, heat on medium high.) Add olive oil and garlic and saute until brown. Alternately you can dry saute the garlic, adding water if necessary to prevent sticking. Add crushed red pepper and fennel seeds and cook about 30 seconds longer. Add broccoli rabe, ¼ cup of water or broth and chickpeas to pot. Secure lid and pressure cook on high 3 to 4 minutes, then quick release pressure. If there is excess water in bottom of pot, set to saute and cook until the liquid evaporates.

06 May 2016

Sundae Breakfast: Chocolate-Date Chia Pudding

Chocolate-Date Chia Pudding

Chocolate-Date Chia Pudding

I’ll make this quick. Just as quick as this dreamy Chocolate-Date Chia Pudding Sundae. If you can make a smoothie (and who can’t?), then you can make this chia pudding. Chia seeds, cocoa powder, non-dairy milk, dates and vanilla are churned into a frenzy and then chilled. Doesn’t get much easier than that. You can enjoy it straight up out of the fridge or make yourself a breakfast sundae. I added banana chunks and cocoa coated hazelnuts for textural and visual interest. Make every day special with a Chocolate-Date Chia Pudding Sundae. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

 

Cocoa Coated Hazelnuts

Cocoa Coated Hazelnuts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chocolate-Date Chia Pudding

 Makes 1 to 2 servings

  • ¼ cup chia seeds (either black or white)*
  • 1 cup non-dairy milk
  • ¼ cup dates
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place all ingredients in high-powered blender and process on high until smooth and creamy. Pour into covered container and refrigerate until set.

*Note: If you do not have a high-powered blender (Blendtec or Vitamix) and would like a super smooth pudding, process chia seeds in a coffee grinder before adding to blender.

Cocoa Coated Hazelnuts

  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder

Place hazelnuts and syrup in a non-stick skillet. Cook over medium heat until syrup thickens to coat hazelnuts. Remove from heat, add cocoa powder and toss to coat. Remove to waxed paper to cool.

 

05 May 2016

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