Entertaining

Still Smokin’: Pasta Carbonara

Pasta Carbonara

This is a follow-up to my post on Smoked Shitake Mushrooms. The flavor of the smoked shitakes are so intense that a little goes a long way, so I’m still trying to come up with some recipes to use them up. I like to use cashew cream as a base for creamy pasta sauces and the smoked shitakes made me think of Pasta Carbonara. For this recipe I made a creamy sauce with raw cashews, tahini, lemon juice, garlic and a few smoked shitakes. (If you don’t want to smoke the shitakes, you can use liquid smoke.) I had about a half pound of cooked rigatoni pasta in the fridge that I “re-boiled” for 1 minute then added a cup of peas. I reserved some of the pasta water to thin out the sauce if needed. I stirred a few spoonfuls of the sauce into the pasta and peas. You can use as much or as little of the sauce as you like and add a few extra slivered smoked shitakes if you want a more smoky taste and some “meaty” texture. This dish came out creamy, smoky and oh, so yummy. It’s rich tasting, yet won’t weigh you down. This makes a nice meal to serve for a special occasion or you can make the sauce ahead of time and enjoy a decadent meal any night of the week. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Smoky Creamy Cashew Sauce

½ cup raw cashews, soaked and drained
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons tahini
1 Tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 garlic clove
A few slices of smoked shitake mushrooms
water

Process all ingredients in blender, adding more water to achieve desired consistency.

Use on potatoes, broccoli or other vegetables. Thin out and toss with cooked pasta.

08 Jul 2017

Magnifique: Mushrooms in the Style of Bourguignon

Mushrooms Bourguignon

I picked up a bag of baby portobello mushroom caps the other day not knowing what I was going to do with them. At two bucks a bag, I figured I’ll find something to make with them. These baby portobellos were about 3″ in diameter and had a nice thickness to them. It’s interesting how inspiration comes about, but the word “medallions” came to mind as I was gazing so lovingly at them. I wanted to make something hearty and meaty and thought of Beef Bourguinon. I used Ina Garten’s recipe as a guide for this recipe. I sauteed onions and garlic, browned the mushroom caps then cooked them in cognac and red wine. The mushrooms had a rich taste and meaty texture. The onions added a subtle, sweet contrast to the deep flavor of the mushrooms. Magnifique! I served the mushrooms with baked potatoes and mesclun salad, but they would also pair well with mashed potatoes and sauteed green beans. The next day, I made a Bourguignon slider with the leftovers and a small dinner roll. These would also make a nice addition to a buffet or cocktail hour. Make these Mushrooms Bourguinon and make something magnifique for dinner. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Bourguignon Slider

Mushrooms in the Style of Bourguignon

¼ cup dry red wine
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
About 1-1/4 pound small Portobello mushrooms (3” diameter)
Olive oil (optional)
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, sliced
1 Tablespoon brandy
Dried thyme, salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together red wine and tomato paste in a small bowl and set aside.

Remove stems from mushrooms and reserve for another use.

Coat a large non-stick skillet with a small amount of olive oil. (You can omit the oil and use a few tablespoons of water.) Saute the onions over medium heat until they start to brown slightly. Add garlic and continue cooking until golden. Remove the onions and garlic to a plate.

Recoat the skillet with oil if desired. Place the mushroom caps top side down and cook until they start to brown. Turn mushrooms over and continue to cook until they brown and start to soften. Arrange the onion slices on top of the mushrooms. Add the brandy to de-glaze the pan, then add the red wine mixture thyme, salt and pepper. Cover skillet and cook on low heat until the sauce thickens and turns dark brown. Remove from heat and serve with baked or mashed potatoes and a green vegetable.

06 Jun 2017

Ole! Chipotle Sweet Potatoes & Taco Kale

Chipotle Sweet Potatoes

I like to get the most out of my food, so I try to come up with recipes that can be used in a variety of ways. I’ve been thinking about some type of empanada to make for Cinco de Mayo. I wanted it to be easy and definitely not fried. The “easy” parts were baking sweet potatoes, sauteeing kale and defrosting black beans. What’s nice about these recipes is that they can be enjoyed in so many ways. We had the sweet potatoes, kale and black beans plated for dinner one night and I used the left overs to make the empanadas a few days later. The empanadas can be filled a day before you plan to bake them, so this makes them perfect when planning a party. You could also use them to fill burritos or enchiladas. I’m hungry, how about you? Let’s enjoy our dinner tonight and come back for some empanadas later in the week. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Chipotle Sweet Potatoes

Note: As long as I’m putting on the oven, I usually make a large quantity of sweet potatoes to have for other meals during the week.

About four large sweet potatoes
1 chipotle in adobo sauce (from a can)

Preheat oven to 350F. Place a few potatoes on a baking sheet and bake until very soft and the juices start to ooze out of the potatoes. Remove from oven and cool enough to handle. Remove the skins, measure out two cups and place in a small bowl. Add one canned chipotle pepper and mash to combine.

Serve as a side dish or as a component in burritos or empanadas.

Kale with Taco Seasoning

1 lb. kale, de-ribbed and chopped
6 large garlic cloves, minced
4 teaspoons taco seasoning

Set an instant pot to saute setting. Add garlic and cook until lightly browned. Add ¼ cup of water and taco seasoning, then place kale on top. Set instant pot to cook on high pressure for 3 minutes. Quick release and remove cover when safe. To cook on stove top, saute garlic in a large non-stick skillet, add water and kale. Cover and cook until wilted, then remove cover to allow liquid to evaporate.

30 Apr 2017

Irish & Italians: Corned Beets & Cabbage Dinner

Corned Beets & Cabbage with Chive Potatoes

St. Patrick’s Day was never one of my favorite holidays, but I did enjoy the corned beef and cabbage dinner my parents would make for the occasion. (Actually, I’d take a St. Joseph’s zeppole over corned beef and cabbage any day, but that’s another story.) I don’t remember them having it any other time of the year, so it was a really special treat for us. I remember one St. Patrick’s Day when Dad had a seizure and spent the day in the emergency room and Mom had to leave the dinner partially cooked on the stove. I think Dad, the trooper that he was, was more upset about the ruined dinner than about being in the hospital. Or the time, shortly after she moved in with us, when Mom passed out and hit her head on the kitchen floor for yet another St. Patrick’s Day emergency room visit. I guess the luck of the Irish doesn’t cover the Italians. So I wanted to pay homage to St. Patrick Day (and my parents), and came up with this Corned Beets & Cabbage Dinner. The cabbage, beets, carrots, onions and garlic are braised with vegetable stock, vinegar and pickling spices. I used red cabbage since I new everything would turn purple from the beets. Even the carrots take on a different color. The potatoes are made in an instant pot, but you can use baked potatoes or your favorite steamed or roasted potato recipe. I struggle to find cabbage recipes that we both really enjoy, but I have to say that this recipe came out very tasty. The aroma of the corning spices bring back memories of the corned beef and cabbage simmering for hours in my parents’ kitchen. Remembering all of the happy St. Patrick’s Days spent with my parents, here’s an Irish toast from an Italian girl:

“To all the days here and after
May they be filled with fond memories, happiness, and laughter.”

Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Corned Beets and Cabbage

Braising Ingredients:

3 Tbsp. brown sugar
½ tsp. mustard seeds
8 whole allspice berries
4 whole cloves
2 small bay leaves
½ tsp. black peppercorns
12 whole juniper berries
½ tsp. onion powder
½ tsp. ground celery seeds
2 whole garlic cloves
¼ cup vinegar
2 cups hearty vegetable broth

1 lb. beets, sliced into ¼” thick x ½” wide strips
8 oz. carrots, sliced into strips ¼” thick x ½” wide strips
1 small head of red cabbage

Place all braising ingredients in a deep saute pan. Bring to a boil. Add beets to liquid and place remaining vegetables on top. Lower heat to a simmer, cover and and cook until vegetables are soft and liquid has evaporated. This could take 30 minutes or longer depending on how soft you like your vegetables.

Herbed Potatoes in an Instant Pot

2 lbs. “creamer” potatoes, cut in half (about 1-1/2” chunks)
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons nutritional yeast
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon dry mustard
Salt to taste (optional)

Place all ingredients in Instant Pot insert. Add ½ cup water. Pressure cook on high for 6 minutes, then quick release pressure.

Variation: omit rosemary and thyme and add 1 tablespoon dried chives

14 Mar 2017

Spinach-topia: Greek Spinach Pockets

Greek Spinach Pocket

Spanakopita is a popular Greek pie made with a spinach, onions and feta cheese filling and typically layered with sheets of phyllo. Even before I adopted a plant-based diet, I would eat Spanakopita on the rare occasion if someone else made it. A traditional recipe calls for cooking the spinach with olive oil then stirring in feta and eggs. Then the filling gets layered between sheets of phyllo that are brushed with butter. I really enjoyed it, but I certainly wouldn’t want a whole pan of it within easy reach. Lately, I’ve been on a Mediterranean food kick. I thought it would be nice to have a healthy, plant-based version of this tempting Greek specialty that doesn’t call for the use of phyllo. I made the filling by cooking spinach with onion, black salt (for an “eggy” taste), nutmeg and dill. I had some home-made almond milk ricotta on hand and mixed it with Kalamata olives to mimic the tang that’s characteristic of feta cheese. I opted to make individual servings by using frozen Roti. (Roti are Indian flat breads that can be found in the freezer section of an ethnic market. I’ve used Roti to make Jamaican Mushroom Patties , Broccoli Calzones and Samosadillas. They also make a nice accompaniment to Indian curry and dal recipes.) The end result? Well, let’s say I’m in “Spinach-topia.”  They came out nice and crisp on the outside and creamy and savory on the inside. We had them with a Greek-style tossed salad of Romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, Kalamata olives, oregano and red wine vinegar. You could also make smaller versions to serve as an appetizer or for a cocktail party. You can make and bake them ahead of time and re-crisp in the oven the next day. Grab a Greek Spinach Pocket and grab a little piece of heaven. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Greek Spinach Pockets

Makes about 8 to 10 pockets

Olive oil (optional)
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
20 oz. frozen chopped or cut spinach (do not defrost)
¼ tsp. black or regular salt
¼ tsp. nutmeg
1 Tablespoon dried dill

1 cup almond milk ricotta (or tofu-cashew ricotta)
¼ cup chopped Kalamata olives

Frozen Roti as needed

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. (You may lightly coat the skillet with olive oil before heating.) Add onions and saute until they start to brown, adding water if needed to prevent sticking. Add frozen spinach and cook, uncovered, for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. The goal is to not allow the spinach to get watery. Add salt, nutmeg and dill and remove from heat. Let cool.

Add ricotta and olives to skillet and gently fold the ingredients together. Adjust seasonings as desired.

To assemble:

Preheat oven to 500F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment.

Heat a non-stick electric griddle on high.* Place Roti on griddle and cook on one side. (The aim is to cook, but not brown the one side so the sufrace of the roti doesn’t get soggy when filled.) Place cooked side up onto baking sheet.** Spoon filling onto one half and fold the other side over, pressing edges together. Bake until crust has browned, flipping half way through baking. Remove and let cook about 5 minutes before serving.

*If you don’t have an electric griddle, you could heat a non-stick skillet on medium-high heat.

**For appetizer-sized pockets, cut the roti in half after cooking one side, fill and fold over to form a triangular-shaped pocket.

07 Mar 2017

Stay-at-home Romantic: Moroccan Eggplant Spread

Zalouk

When Valentine’s Day falls on a weekday and instead of making reservations you would rather make your own quiet celebration at home, you just might be a “stay-at-home” romantic. With a little advanced planning, you can enjoy this make-ahead, Mediterranean-inspired meal that will still taste fresh with a minimal amount of time spent cooking on Valentine’s Day. Today’s recipe is for Zalouk, a delectable spread made with eggplant, tomatoes and exotic Moroccan seasonings. I was introduced to Zalouk a few weeks ago at a nearby restaurant. Their version is tasty, but it contains quite a bit of olive oil. I wanted to come up with a version that is virtually fat free. I put a light coating of olive oil in a non-stick skillet before adding the eggplant and tomatoes, but you can add more olive oil if desired. You can serve it warm or at room temperature. My recommendation for an effortless Valentine’s Day meal that looks and tastes like you were cooking all day is to make the Zalouk and my Turkish Lentil Soup a few days ahead of time. Prepare this refreshing Fennel Salad right before dinner and round out the meal with warm pita wedges or a loaf of crusty Italian bread. Even if you don’t leave room for dessert, these miniature Pistachio Date Nests and a glass of bubbly are a sweet way to wind down your evening. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Morrocan Eggplant Spread (Zaalouk)

(makes about 2 cups)

Olive oil (optional)
1 large eggplant, skinned and diced
2 large tomatoes chopped
2 garlic gloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground coriander
Fresh lemon juice

Heat a non-stick skillet on medium-high heat. (You may lightly coat the skillet with olive oil.) Add eggplant, tomatoes, garlic, paprika, cumin, salt and coriander. Cook until eggplant and tomatoes are mushy and thickened, adding water if necessary to prevent sticking. Stir in desired amount of lemon juice. Serve warm or cold, as a side, a dip or a spread.

12 Feb 2017

Oh, My Darlings: Pistachio-Date Nests

Pistachio-Date Nest

I wanted to come up with a dessert recipe to go along with a Mediterranean-inspired Valentine’s Day dinner and the first thing that came to mind was Baklava. Baklava is made by layering phyllo leaves, brushing the layers with butter, sprinkling them with walnuts (Greek style) or pistachios (Turkish style) and pouring honey over everything when it comes out of the oven. I didn’t think a vegan version would do this iconic dessert much justice, so I incorporated some beneficial ingredients (pistachios and dates), left out the “taboo” ones (butter and honey), added some chocolate (hey, it’s Valentine’s Day) and named them “Pistachio-Date Nests.” I used Athen’s Mini Fillo Shells because they’re ready to fill and are very cute. The filling is made by processing dates, pistachios and lemon or orange zest into a paste. A thin layer of dark chocolate adorns the top. They’re crispy, chewy, chocolately . . .  and cute. Be a darling and share some Pistachio-Date Nests with someone you love. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Pistachio Date Nests

15 mini phyllo cups (Athens fully baked, fill & serve)
½ cup raw, shelled pistachios
½ cup dates, chopped
Zest of one lemon or ½ orange
2 oz. melted dark chocolate (non-dairy)
15 pistachios for decorating

Place pistachios and dates in mini chopper and process until a chunky paste is formed. Fold in lemon zest. Lightly press the filling into the phyllo cups. Spread the melted chocolate on surface of filling and place one pistachio on top. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

11 Feb 2017

Whole Latte Love: Chia Latte Pudding

Chia Latte Pudding

Valentine’s Day originated as a saint day honoring one or more saints named Valentine. Through the centuries it has turned into a celebration of romantic, or “courtly”, love. We have romantic dinners, drink champagne and indulge in all things chocolate. I wanted to come up with a decadent-tasting dessert that you could enjoy even if you didn’t leave room for it. I think I pulled it off with this Chia Latte Pudding. The base is a chocolate chia pudding that’s sweetened with dates and maple syrup. The chocolate flavor is deepened by the addition of instant espresso. The light and creamy topping is made with silken tofu, dates and bananas. Keep it cozy by serving the pudding in an old-fashioned glass; or make an elegant presentation in a vintage champagne coupe. This Latte Chia Pudding looks elegant, tastes decadent and is simple and healthy enough to enjoy on a regular basis. Why wait until February 14th when you can celebrate love and dessert every day of the year? Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Latte Chia Pudding

Latte Topping:

12 oz. soft silken tofu
6 dates
1 ripe banana
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mocha Pudding:

2 cups almond milk
½ cup chia seeds, processed into powder
12 dates
½ cup cocoa powder (extra dark, if possible)
¼ cup maple syrup
1 Tablespoon instant coffee (if using instant expresso, use less)

shaved non-dairy chocolate and cinnamon for garnish

Place silken tofu, 6 dates, banana and vanilla into blender container. Process on high until super smooth. Pour into a 3-cup container, cover and refrigerate until set.

Measure chia seeds into coffee grinder and process until finely ground. Place ground chia, milk, dates, cocoa powder, maple syrup and espresso powder in blender container. Blend until smooth. Pour into a 4-cup container, cover and refrigerate until set.

To assemble:

Spoon mocha pudding into a parfait glass or other dessert cup. Top with a dollop of latte topping, then sprinkle with cinnamon and shaved chocolate. The ratio should be about two parts of mocha pudding to one part of the latte topping.

04 Feb 2017

Fugeddaboutit: Broccoli Calzones

Broccoli Calzone with Pizza Dough

Broccoli Calzone with Roti

Once you leave Brooklyn it’s hard to find good pizza and calzones. And, once you give up eating cheese made from cows milk . . .  well, you might as well fuhgeddaboutit. Until now. These broccoli calzones are made with non-dairy ricotta and broccoli that’s been sauteed with lots of garlic. Since I like to give you plenty of options, you can either make your own pizza dough, use store-bought dough or use frozen Roti flatbread that can be found in the freezer section of an Indian grocery. I used the almond milk ricotta from the Gentle Chef’s Nuts About Almonds e-book, but you could also use my soy-cashew ricotta. These are really easy and fun to make — and eat. These Broccoli Calzones make a neat little lunch, snack or appetizer. I even like them at room temperature, so they are perfect for a cocktail party or game day spread. I bet you could even substitute spinach for the broccoli. How about sauteed mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes? You could even eat these for breakfast. Are you hungry yet? Fugeddaboutit! Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Broccoli Calzone

1 large head of broccoli
3 garlic cloves, minced
Olive oil (optional)

2 cups non-dairy ricotta
Salt & pepper to taste

Pizza dough or frozen Roti

Preheat oven to 500F. If using Roti, line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment. If using pizza dough, place baking stone on middle rack. If you don’t have a baking stone, sprinkle corn meal on a flat baking sheet.

Remove stems from broccoli and chop florets into big pieces. Lightly coat a pot with oil. Add garlic and saute until lightly browned. Add broccoli and about ¼ cup of water. Cover and let cook on medium-high heat until broccoli is tender and starts to stick to bottom of pan. Remove from heat and let cool. Add ricotta, salt and pepper and stir to combine.

Roll out pizza dough into desired size and spoon enough filling on one half of the dough. Fold the other side over and press edges together to form a semi-circle. Place on prepared sheet or slide onto baking stone and bake until crust has browned. Remove and let cool about 5 minutes before cutting.

For Roti, heat a non-stick electric griddle on high. Place frozen Roti on griddle and cook on one side. Place cooked side up onto baking sheet. Spoon filling onto one half and fold the other side over, pressing edges together. Bake until crust has browned, flipping half way through baking. Remove and let cook about 5 minutes before serving.

22 Jan 2017

Any Given Sunday: Burritos & Much More

Black Bean Burrito

In the late 1990’s there was a movie titled, “Any Given Sunday” that was about football. The title was derived from a line in the movie said by the team’s coach that any team could win or lose “on any given Sunday.” That term has a different meaning for me. Through the years, on any given Sunday, my family would be gathered in the kitchen, some of us cooking and others amusing us with stories. Any given Sunday was both a big deal and just a regular day in our home. Nobody went to work and the stores were all closed. We had nothing to do except cook a big meal and enjoy the company of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. After dinner, the men would play pinochle and the ladies and kids would play Pokeno. Now, on any given Sunday, you can still find me in the kitchen working on a new recipe or just getting a head start on some meal preparation for the week. Even though our Sunday’s don’t revolve around football, I thought today’s meal would make a fun game-day spread. I set up my electric rice cooker with some brown rice. While the rice was cooking, I worked on the peppers and black beans. I sauteed three bell peppers and two large onions in a non-stick skillet without any oil. There are a few ways to do the black beans. You can just use them straight from the can, make these smoky black beans ahead of time, or pull something (maybe 3-bean chili) out of the freezer that you squirreled away for an occasion like this. If you want to throw together something fast, you can just add some liquid smoke, cumin powder, salsa and cilantro to a few cans of beans. When everything is cooked, your guests can build their own burritos by layering whatever they like on a flour tortilla and top it off with guacamole and salsa. Not in the mood for Mexican? You can use the peppers and onions to make Philly Steak Sandwiches instead. All you have to do is grill some portobello mushrooms, layer with the peppers and onions on a roll, then top it off with a few slices of non-dairy cheese, like Daiya or Follow Your Heart. (I make my own cheddar using a recipe from The Non-Dairy Evolution cookbook.) If you have any peppers and onions left over, you can add them to a tofu scramble for breakfast or add some soy sauce and serve over rice for lunch the next day. On any given Sunday, your team may win or lose, but you’ll always come out ahead sharing healthy and tasty food with your family and friends. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Philly Steak Sandwich

Peppers & Onions

Easy Black Beans

17 Jan 2017

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