Full Plate Generation

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

Dropping Acid: Orange Fennel Smoothie

Orange Fennel Smoothie

Orange Fennel Smoothie

Orange Fennel Smoothie

It’s 15 degrees where I live. The last thing on my mind should be making a smoothie on a day like today. (A hot rum toddy is probably more appropriate.) Any way, this post was prompted by two events. The first was the latest kitchen accessory that I got for Christmas, the Blendtec Go attachment for my blender. It’s pretty cool in that you can make a smoothie and take it to go right in it’s own container. What’s even cooler is that you can insert a 16 oz. plastic Solo cup into the jar and have a smaller smoothie to go.The other inspiration was my wanting to include more-alkaline and less-acid promoting foods into my diet. This desire was triggered by the disheartening results of a recent bone density test I recently received. There’s quite a bit of research about how high levels of acid in the body can be linked to cancer and kidney problems, but also osteoporosis. Don’t trust me, do the research yourself and do what feels right for you.

So, in the middle of baking some brownies and pumpkin scones today I was cutting up a fennel bulb to have with lunch. I was just about ready to toss the fennel fronds when I got this idea. Why not include them in a smoothie? Not really a green smoothie, so I’ll call it a “Clean Smoothie.” The thought the sweetness of oranges, pineapple juice and honey would blend nicely with the zesty licorice flavor of the fennel. The result was a light green smoothie with a bright taste. Now, that’s a healthy (and legal) way to drop some acid. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Orange Fennel Smoothie

1 cup crushed ice
2 large oranges
½ cup chopped fennel fronds
1 cup pineapple juice
1 to 2 tablespoons honey or agave

Zest the oranges, then peel and separate into segments. Discard the peel. Place all ingredients, including the zest, into a high-powered blender in the order according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Process until smooth.

10 Jan 2018

Think Outside the Can: “Roasted” Tomato Soup

 

Roasted Tomato Soup

I’ve often wondered what’s the appeal of tomato soup. After all, isn’t just like a can of tomato sauce? Maybe the appeal is that it’s a light accompaniment to a sandwich. “How about some soup and a sandwich for lunch” sounds appealing. I just hadn’t come around to liking tomato soup until now. It all started with a large basket of plum tomatoes that I picked up for a song at my favorite Amish farm stand. I decided to roast the tomatoes with a small amount of olive oil, garlic and herbs. It sounds like a lot of effort, but most of the time is spent waiting for them to come out of the oven. I froze the roasted tomatoes in plastic pint-sized containers to use throughout the winter to make my Pasta with Roasted TomatoesThis got me thinking about making homemade tomato soup using roasted tomatoes. Now that sounds like something I could go for. I wanted to simplify the recipe and opted to replicate the flavor of roasted tomatoes by cooking canned tomatoes on the stove top. (Actually, I didn’t want to risk those beautifully roasted tomatoes on a potential flop nor did I want to spend the extra money on a can of fire-roasted tomatoes.) I cooked onions and garlic until golden, added drained tomatoes and cooked them on high heat to get everything to caramelize. I added a potato to impart a little creaminess and body to the soup. This soup is light enough to enjoy with a sandwich and substantial enough to fill the gap that a salad so often leaves you with. You could ladle the soup into a cup for an afternoon snack or serve it as a first course when company comes for dinner. Mmmm, Mmmmm, Good! Try this Roasted Tomato Soup and start thinking outside the can. Thanks for being Vegi-curious. 

Roasted Tomato Soup

1 yellow onion, chopped
3 to 4 garlic cloves, chopped
28 oz. can of diced tomatoes
3 cups vegetable broth
1 teaspoon sugar
1 small potato, chopped (about ¾ cup)

For the Croutons:

1 whole wheat or multi-grain bagel, cubed
2 Tablespoons yellow mustard
1 Tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon dried thyme or other herb

Drain tomatoes and reserve the juice. Set aside.

Heat a sauce pot over medium high heat. Add onions and cook until they start to soften and turn golden. Add garlic and cook another minute. Add the drained tomatoes and sugar. Cook on high until the tomatoes start to brown and the bottom of the pot develops spots of caramelization. Add the tomato juice, vegetable broth and potato. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Pour contents into a blender container and puree until smooth. You could also use a hand-held immersion blender and puree directly in the pot. Return to stove to heat. Garnish with croutons or air-fried zucchini. You can also stir in a spoonful of soy yogurt or cashew cream.

To make croutons:

Mix the mustard, nutritional yeast and dried herb in a large bowl. Add the bagel cubes and toss to coat evenly. Place the cubes into the basket of an air fryer set to 250F. Fry until the cubes are crisp throughout. Remove from basket and let cool. If you don’t have an air fryer you can bake them in the oven at 250F until the croutons are crisp and lightly browned.

05 Nov 2017

Kitchen Kids: Breakfast Quinoa Pudding Bowl

Breakfast Quinoa Bowl

Like many first-born children, my oldest brother, Tom, was very independent. I remember Mom telling the story of waking up one morning to find him making breakfast on the stove. He was about five years old. Luckily there was no harm done. I remember during my brief stint as a high school Home Economics teacher having my students make pancakes. It was a mess. After that experience, I’m not so sure I’d trust a five-year old in the kitchen. All kidding aside, there are some recipes that children can tackle under the watchful eye of Mom or Dad. My Breakfast Quinoa Pudding Bowl is one of them.

I was in the mood for rice pudding this morning. What I like about rice pudding is that it’s creamy, sweet and sultry all at the same time. I also woke up very hungry today and didn’t want to wait for a pot of rice to cook. I happened to make a batch of quinoa for dinner last night that was idling in the fridge. This was starting to sound interesting . . . creamy, sweet, sultry and . . . nutty. Why not? I added some quinoa, soy milk, sugar, arrowroot, vanilla and cinnamon into a ramekin and cooked it in the microwave for about 1-1/2 minutes. I added the arrowroot to help thicken the milk and give it that “pudding” mouthfeel. I had some cooked apples and raisins in the fridge and decided to spoon that over the pudding just before serving.  Some chopped banana or mango would be a nice addition as well. This was so simple to make that I just might trust a five-year old to make this. (Place the bowl on a plate before putting in the microwave and make sure they use oven mitts when removing it.) It is also so tasty that I trust your family will enjoy it. The nice thing is that it comes together so easily that you can make it as a quick weekday breakfast, a last-minute dessert or even a late-night snack. Make a few Breakfast Quinoa Pudding Bowls this morning and make it a Vegi-curious day!

Breakfast Quinoa Pudding

¼ cup cooked quinoa
2 Tablespoons non-dairy milk (see note)
½ teaspoon arrowroot or cornstarch
1 teaspoon sugar
Few drops of vanilla extract
Cinnamon
Favorite fruit for topping

Place all ingredients in a one-cup ramekin or bowl. Microwave on high for one minute. Remove and serve with chopped fruit.

Note: You can use more milk as desired. For every 2 tablespoons of milk, use ½ teaspoon of arrowroot and adjust sugar as you like.

09 Oct 2017

Turning into Fall: Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes & “Fried” Zucchini

Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes & “Fried” Zucchini

I love this time of the year because there’s still a lot of fresh produce at the farm and with cooler temperatures creeping in I get to turn on my oven. It’s like I’m turning a corner and I still get to enjoy the good things about where I’ve been and where I’m going. I picked up some beautiful plum tomatoes and zucchini earlier in the week and put together this Pasta with Roasted Tomato and “Fried” Zucchini recipe. It’s quite simple. Just roast plum tomatoes with garlic and herbs, either air- or oven-“fry” thin slices of zucchini and toss with your favorite pasta. This recipe is what I like to call a “have-it-your-way” recipe because you can easily adapt it to your liking. I used a combination of fresh oregano and marjoram, but you can use any fresh or dried herbs you like. I used one-half pound of Barilla’s campanelle, which is a cut pasta that looks like a curled lasagna. You could probably get away with using more pasta. If you’re thinking about using this recipe as a side dish you might use a small cut of pasta, like orzo, and chop up the zucchini after it’s “fried.” This dish is fancy enough to serve on a special occasion and simple enough for a quiet family dinner. Any way you choose, you’ll have a fresh, delicious and healthy meal. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes & “Fried” Zucchini

8 very ripe plum tomatoes
olive oil to coat the pan
3 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
fresh or dried oregano and marjoram (or any herb you like)
salt and freshly cracked pepper

2 small zucchini

8 oz. dry pasta, cooked according to package directions

Preheat the oven to 325ºF (165ºC.)

  1. Lightly coat a large baking pan with olive oil. (Use one that’s just large enough for a single layer of tomatoes.)
  2. Cut the tomatoes in half horizontally then use a sharp knife to remove the stems. Lay them cut side down in the pan, then distribute the garlic, herbs and seasonings on top. Bake the tomatoes for two hours, or until they are completely softened and wilted and start to wrinkle. Remove from oven. Use a fork and a knive to break up the tomatoes to make a chunky sauce.
  3. Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise. Place the cut side down on a cutting board and thinly slice on a diagonal. Place the zucchini in a bowl, add one-half to one teaspoon of olive oil and toss to coat. Set an air fryer to 400F and cook the zucchini until they start to soften and get spots of brown. (See note on how to make the zucchini in a oven.) Remove and add to the pan with the roasted tomatoes.
  4. When pasta is cooked, add to the pan with the tomatoes and zucchini. Toss gently and serve.

Note: To cook the zucchini in the oven, raise the temperature to 400F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange the zucchini slices in a single layer. Bake until they start to soften and turn brown.

 

02 Oct 2017

Sin-lessy Decadent: Hazelnut-Date Truffles

Hazelnut-Date Truffles

I love getting out of bed on Sunday mornings before anyone else wakes up. It’s my time for making lists, planning my week or simply clearing my head. This morning I’m sitting on our front porch enjoying some solitude and a lovely hydrangea whose blooms are turning to rust. And a cup of coffee. (Note to self: make it a point to spend more time out here.) It’s also the perfect time for me to share my recipe for these Hazelnut-Date Truffles that I made last week. I was in the mood for a decadent, chocolate treat that was easy to make using items I had in my pantry. I also wanted to keep the refined ingredients to a minimum to make these truffles as guilt-free as possible. Since my favorite chocolate candy is Perugina’s Baci (“little kisses” made with milk chocolate and hazelnuts) I decided to go with those flavors in mind. The truffle centers are made with hazelnuts, dates, cocoa powder and hazelnut liqueur. (I use my Blendtec Twister Jar in order to get a super silky texture.) I melted some dark chocolate with coconut cream for a glossy chocolate coating and rolled a few in cocoa powder. All I can say is WOW! The result was part truffle, part caramel, total decadence and no remorse. I paired the truffles with a glass of Frangelico liqueur, but a glass of red wine or port would also be nice. Treat yourself to these Hazelnut-Date Truffles and make it a Vegi-curious day.

Hazelnut-Date Truffles

½ cup dates
½ cup hazelnuts
2 Tbsp. regular or dark cocoa powder
1 Tbsp. Frangelico liqueur

2 oz. non-dairy dark chocolate
1 Tbsp. coconut cream or full fat coconut milk

Place dates, nuts, cocoa powder and liqueur in food processor or high-powered blender. Process until smooth. Remove and portion out into 1” balls. Place on parchment paper. Set aside

Melt the dark chocolate and coconut cream over low heat. Dip the truffles in the melted chocolate and place on parchment paper. (See note below.) Refrigerate until cooled.

Note: You could also roll the truffles in cocoa powder.

24 Sep 2017

Something About Cauliflower: Cauliflower & Farro

Cauliflower & Farro

There’s something about cauliflower that makes me buy it even though it’s one of my least favorite vegetables. Maybe it’s the fond and tasty memories of my grandmother’s cauliflower dishes. She would make cauliflower fritters that were dipped in an egg-based batter, then fried until they were crisp and brown. The other, somewhat healthier way she made cauliflower was with oil, garlic and pasta. Both were delicious and comforting, but these recipes don’t cut it if you’re following a low-fat, plant-based diet. I wanted to stir up those memories of my grandmother’s cauliflower with all of the flavor and none of the guilt. For this recipe I used an instant pot to cook the cauliflower. The first batch came out mushy, so I cut the cauliflower into larger florets and adjusted the cooking time and temperature. You can make adjustments based on your experience using a pressure cooker. I’m also providing instructions for making the cauliflower on the stove top if you prefer that cooking method. The garlicky flavor and creamy texture of the cauliflower is a nice contrast to the nutty bite of the farro. There’s something about this cauliflower that’s comforting, familiar, current . . . and tasty. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Cauliflower and Farro

6 garlic cloves, chopped
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 head of cauliflower, cut into large florets
¼ cup water

1 cup farro, cooked according to package directions

Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add a few tablespoons of water and the garlic. (You can use a light coating of olive oil if desired.) Cook until the garlic begins to brown. Add the fennel, red pepper, cauliflower and more water. Cover the pot and lower the heat to medium. Cook until the cauliflower is tender, adding more water if necessary. The idea is to use just enough water to prevent sticking yet having a little garlicky liquid to flavor the farro. Place the cooked farro and cauliflower into a large bowl. Mix well, breaking the florets into smaller pieces if desired. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Instructions for Instant Pot:

Set the instant pot to saute. Add garlic and a little bit of water or olive oil and cook until browned. Add fennel seeds and red pepper and cook another 30 seconds. Add water. Change the setting to pressure cook on low. Cover and cook for 4 minutes. Quick release pressure and when safe, remove cover. Place the cooked farro and cauliflower into a large bowl. Mix well, breaking the florets into smaller pieces if desired. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

 

23 Aug 2017

Freedom from Oil: Grilled Summer Squash

Grilled Summer Squash

Over the weekend Bruce and I visited a vegan cafe that we came across in the early days of our plant-based journey. I recalled that we were pleased with the food so we decided to fuel up there before a wine-tasting adventure in southern New Jersey. I figured the roasted vegetable wrap would be a good choice. It wasn’t. As soon as I unwrapped the wrap it was like the flood gates opened up on my plate — and the flood was mostly oil. I picked at the vegetables hoping to rescue them from the oil spill that left them tasteless and greasy. From the time we left the cafe to our arrival at the first winery our conversation turned to America’s dependence on oil. Olive oil to be specific. It’s everywhere; in restaurant food, in family recipes, on cooking shows. We’ve been brainwashed to believe that it’s a “good” oil. Olive oil is one of the most calorie-dense foods and, contrary to popular belief, it may not be “good” for your heart as we once thought. But don’t take my word for it. This article and video from Forks Over Knives is an excellent (and brief) explanation. Some people feel that oil is needed to help brown food, like roasted vegetables. I can tell you that those “roasted” vegetables in my wrap were not brown at all. I’ve been preparing whole food, plant based food for five years now and I’ve learned to brown vegetables without the use of oil. Just the day before our outing I grilled eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash that came out flavorful and browned — and the only oil I used was a coating of non-stick spray on the grill grates. (I guess that’s what I had in mind when I ordered my wrap.) If you feel that grilled vegetables need a little something, try some fresh garlic, balsamic vinegar and herbs. I made a light dressing for the zucchini and yellow squash that lets their delicate flavor shine through. You can serve grilled vegetables as an appetizer, as an add-in to a salad, in a sandwich or over your favorite grain. Treat yourself to a good non-stick skillet and try using a few tablespoons of water or broth when you want to brown vegetables. If you’re not ready to eliminate oil completely you can re-train yourself by first measuring the oil then spreading with a paper towel. Pretty soon you’ll be on your way to reducing your dependence on oil. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Grilled Summer Squash

a few zucchini and yellow squash, cut into 3/8″ thick slices

Heat an outdoor grill on high heat. Lightly coat the grates with non-stick spray. Place the zucchini slices directly on the grates. Close the cover and grill until the squash is browned, then turn over and brown the second side. Cooking time will vary depending on how hot your grill is. It may be necessary to reduce the heat to medium if the vegetables are browning too fast. Remove from grill and arrange squash on a serving plate, drizzling the dressing on each layer. Serve hot, at room temperature or cold.

Honey Summer Savory Dressing

½ cup white wine vinegar
1 garlic cloves, pressed
1 Tbsp. honey or agave
fresh summer savory to taste

Whisk all ingredients together. Drizzle over grilled vegetables. Season with salt and pepper.

 

 

10 Aug 2017

Summer Camp: Broccoli & Quinoa Salad

Broccoli & Quinoa Salad with Peanut Dressing

Where did July go? Between a visit from family, vacation and tending to my exploding gardens, I had some time away from Vegi-curious. It was like being away at summer camp. And speaking of camps . . . there are two of them when it comes to soaking grains — the soakers and the non-soakers. I have always been on the side of the non-soakers. I really never gave much thought to it until recently. I read somewhere that Basmati rice comes out much better when soaked. I decided to do a test and cooked both soaked and un-soaked Basmati rice. I couldn’t tell the difference in taste or texture. My mother’s physical therapist is from India, so I figured he could shed some light on the subject. He said that in India they soak all grains because it makes them easier to digest. Since I don’t have a problem digesting grains and soaking requires advanced planning, I’m staying in the non-soaker camp . . . except when it comes to quinoa. Quinoa has a bitter coating that protects this grain from getting eaten by birds. Many recipes recommend to rinse the quinoa before cooking. Even with rinsing I hadn’t taken a liking to the taste of quinoa. I wondered if soaking the quinoa would help. I soaked the quinoa for 30 minutes then cooked it in my rice cooker. I couldn’t believe that the once bitter-tasting quinoa now had a mellow, nutty flavor to it. I was so excited and couldn’t wait to try out some quinoa recipes. I came up with this recipe for Broccoli & Quinoa Salad out of my need to make a meal early in the day that could be re-heated in the microwave or served at room temperature. I mixed the quinoa with steamed broccoli and raw carrots. It would have been nice to add some chopped scallions. I dressed it with an Asian-inspired peanut dressing, but a simple vinaigrette or mustard-based dressing would also be nice. Simple and tasty.I can’t say how good the leftovers were because we ate the whole thing that night.

Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Broccoli & Quinoa Salad with Peanut Dressing

1 cup quinoa, soaked for 30 minutes
1 large head of broccoli cut into small florets
1 large carrot, grated
Chopped Thai basil
Peanut dressing, below

Rinse and drain quinoa. Cook according to package directions.

Steam broccoli for 4 to 5 minutes and rinse under cold water. Place in large mixing bowl with carrots. Add the cooked quinoa to the bowl. Add the dressing and stir well. Garnish with Thai basil. Serve immediately.

Dressing:

¼ cup peanut butter
3 Tbsp. reduced sodium soy sauce
1 Tbsp. maple syrup
1 Tbsp. minced ginger root
1 garlic clove, minced
Juice from ½ lime
Crushed red pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in blender and process until smooth. You can choose to simply whisk the ingredients in a bowl if you like. Set aside.

03 Aug 2017

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

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