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

Don’t Fear the Fava: Asparagus & Fava Bean Salad

Asparagus & Fava Bean Salad with Quinoa

Ever since I saw “The Silence of the Lambs” many years ago, I’ve shied away from eating fava beans. It probably has something to do with Hannibal Lechter’s famous line that’s too gruesome to repeat on a food blog. A few months ago I mustered up the courage to buy a bag of dried, unpeeled fava beans. After soaking, peeling, boiling and then incorporating them into a recipe, I was left wondering what the fascination with fava beans was all about. This week’s CSA share included a bag of fresh fava beans. I peeled away the thick, spongy pod to reveal less than a cup of bright green beans. I boiled the beans for two minutes before peeling away the tough skin. A cup of fava beans is not enough to stand by themselves as the focal point of a meal, so I decided to use them in a salad with asparagus, green onions and a lemon-thyme dressing. The salad looked bright and pretty and tasted delicious. Yet, it didn’t look like it would make a substantial meal on its own. I wanted to add one other element that would round out the plate but not over-shadow the salad. My first thought was to add a grain. Farro has a nice texture and a nutty flavor, so I loaded up the steamer and waited. While the farro was cooking I thought that quinoa would make a nice pairing. As soon as the farro was finished, I steamed some quinoa. Both grains complemented the salad perfectly. I might also try serving the salad over fresh baby lettuce, arugula, spinach as an appetizer or side dish. I look forward to seeing more fava beans in my future. And If I don’t, I’ll just use fresh peas or lima beans instead. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Asparagus & Fava Bean Salad

Note: if fresh fava beans are not available, substitute cooked lima beans, green peas or additional asparagus.

1 lb. asparagus
1 cup fresh fava beans
4 green onions, thinly sliced
Lemon Thyme Dressing (recipe below)

Trim the tough bottoms from the asparagus. Cut into one-half inch pieces. Place in steamer basket set over water and steam for about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and rinse under cold water. Drain and place in shallow serving bowl.

Bring a small pot of water to boil. Add unpeeled fava beans and boil for two minutes. Remove from heat, rinse under cold water and drain. Remove and discard the skins. Place the peeled fava beans in the bowl with the asparagus. Add the green onions and lemon-thyme dressing to the bowl. Stir to combine. Adjust seasonings. Let marinate if time allows. Can be served cold or at room temperature.

Serve over greens, farro or quinoa.

Lemon Thyme Dressing

¼ cup fresh lemon juice
2 Tablespoons honey or brown rice syrup
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 small garlic clove, pressed
½ teaspoon dried thyme
Black pepper and salt to taste

Place all ingredients in glass measuring cup and whisk to combine.

 

31 May 2017

My Inconvenient Truth: ELT (Eggplant, Tomato & Lettuce)

Egglant, Lettuce & Tomato Sandwich

I think about the cost of convenience every day. Whether it’s preparing a healthy plant-based meal at home or eating at a vegan restaurant, the cost of convenience is apparent. I could use frozen vegetables to make meal preparation easier and less expensive, but I prefer to use fresh vegetables because they have a better taste and texture. While going out to eat is convenient, there is a price to pay in the form of limited choices and the presence of added oil and salt. I was reminded of this “inconvenient truth” last weekend as Bruce and I had lunch at a  “destination” vegan restaurant. (I use the term “destination” when we plan an entire outing around a restaurant.) Since we traveled about an hour to get there I wanted to make the most of our trip and decided to sample a few things on the menu. We ordered jackfruit stuffed mushrooms and oyster mushrooms in scampi sauce for appetizers. I had a French dip portobello mushroom sandwich and Bruce had an ELT (eggplant, lettuce and tomato sandwich). Each stuffed mushroom had a healthy dollop of vegan tartar sauce which I could tell contained oil. The scampi sauce was made with oil and/or vegan butter. The French dip had melted vegan mozzarella (oil), the ELT had fried eggplant and vegan mayo (more oil) and both sandwiches were served with a side of fries. The truth is we don’t eat oil anymore, and when we do it doesn’t sit right with us. I guess that’s the price we pay for the convenience of eating out. Anyway, the ELT was quite tasty and I was impelled to come up with an oil-free version at home. I made the eggplant by dipping the slices in aquafaba (the liquid from canned chickpeas), coating them with bread crumbs, then baking in the oven. Instead of vegan mayonnaise I mashed up an avocado with some lemon juice and a pinch of black salt. Wanting to keep it as close to a traditional BLT, I built the sandwich by spreading a layer of avocado “mayo” on toasted white bread then loading it up with the breaded eggplant, juicy tomato slices and crisp lettuce. The crispy coating on the eggplant gives the sandwich a crunchy mouth-feel that’s similar to bacon and the avocado lends a mayo-like creaminess — without the use of oil. (A few days later I re-crisped the left over eggplant in an air fryer which gave them more of a bacon mouth feel.) Well worth the effort. The truth is that, at times, it may be inconvenient to follow a plant-based diet, but it’s a price I’m willing to pay for tasty food that’s wholesome and healthy. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

ELT (Eggplant, Lettuce & Tomato Sandwiches)

Eggplant:

1 small eggplant (about 1 lb.), cut into 1/4 inch slices
½ cup bread crumbs
1 Tablespoon smoked paprika
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
salt & pepper to taste
½ cup or more of aquafaba (liquid from canned chick peas)

Preheat oven to 400F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine bread crumbs, paprika, brown sugar, salt and pepper in shallow dish. Place aquafaba in a bowl. Dip eggplant slices in aquafaba, then coat with bread crumbs. Place eggplant slices in a single layer on baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes until browned, turning occasionally. Remove from oven and serve immediately.

To make eggplant in an air fryer:

Place about 8 slices of eggplant in basket of air fryer, alternating each layer to allow more even browning and to prevent them from sticking together. Fry at 350F for 20 to 25 minutes. About half way through cooking, gingerly rearrange the slices and continue cooking until browned.
For the Avocado “Mayo”:

1 ripe avocado
½ teaspoon lemon juice
Pinch of black salt (or regular table salt)

For the Sandwiches:

Your favorite sandwich bread
Sliced tomatoes
Lettuce

Toast two slices of bread. Spread some avocado “mayo” on one slice, then arrange four slices of eggplant, two or three slices of tomatoes and some lettuce.

23 May 2017

Remodeling: Mushroom Gyro Wrap

Mushroom Gyro Wrap

Long before adopting a plant-based diet one of my favorite sandwiches was a Greek Gyro. I started out ordering them with the “mystery” meat that’s sliced from a slab of lamb (and who knows what else) spinning around on a rotisserie. I migrated to Gyros made with grilled chicken breast thinking that was a healthier choice. Some time ago I remodeled my Gyro with this Greek mushroom and chickpea version of the “mystery” meat which is very tasty, but requires a small amount of effort. I wanted to come up with a newer model that was scaled back in terms of prep time and calories. My latest remodeled Gyro recipe has two key aspects that I wanted to replicate, one being the distinct flavor of marjoram, rosemary and garlic and the other being the creamy tang of Tzatzki sauce. I decided to grill some cremini mushrooms (I would have used portabellos if I had them) and seasoned them with garlic powder, marjoram and rosemary.  For the Tzatziki sauce I used a combination of raw cashews (for creaminess) and soy yogurt (for tanginess). I make my own since I don’t like what’s available in the stores near me, but you can use store-bought vegan sour cream or just plain soy yogurt to keep it simple. After grilling and seasoning the mushrooms, mixing up the Tzatziki, and slicing up the tomato, lettuce and onion, I took a pocket-less pita out of the freezer only to find that it was dried out and lost it’s ability to bend without breaking. Luckily, I had some fresh (and supple) flour tortillas on hand, which made for a lighter and neater wrap. With its Greek-inspired seasonings, mushroom “meatiness”, creamy Tzatziki sauce, onions, lettuce and tomatoes this wrap has everything I want in a Gyro. Start remodeling your life today by building yourself this healthy and delicious Mushroom Gyro Wrap. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Mushroom Gyro Wraps

Makes 6 to 8 wraps

Olive oil (optional)
1 lb. mushrooms, sliced (cremini or portabellos recommended)
dried marjoram, to taste
dried ground rosemary, to taste
garlic powder, to taste
Salt and black pepper to taste

Tzatziki Sauce (recipe follows)
Flour tortillas
Lettuce, chopped
Sliced tomatoes and onions

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. (You can coat the skillet if desired.) Add mushrooms and cook until brown and most of liquid has evaporated. Season the mushrooms with marjoram, rosemary, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Remove from heat.

Tzatziki Sauce

1 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight
1 cup plain, non-dairy yogurt
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and minced
Salt to taste
4 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

Drain cashews and place in container of high-powered blender. Add just enough water to cover and process until smooth. Place into a small mixing bowl along with remaining ingredients and stir. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

To assemble Gyros:

Place a tortilla on piece of aluminum foil. Layer the lettuce, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms and Tzatziki sauce on tortilla. Roll up forming a conical-shaped wrap and secure with aluminum foil.

Mushroom Gyro

16 May 2017

Impulse Buying: Air-Fried Zucchini Sticks

Zucchini Sticks

I know I have a problem when it comes to kitchen equipment, so I really try to avoid “impulse purchases”. I consider how much I will use it, how much space it will take up and if it will just end up on the Island of Misfit Toys (i.e. my basement). Once I decide to add another appliance to my arsenal, I usually read as many reviews and compare costs to make sure I’m getting the best one to suit my needs. I happened to be shopping for waste baskets at Bed, Bath and Beyond and thought I’d just “check out” what they had in the way of air fryers. Right on the top shelf was one made by Phillips.What really made it stand out was the face of Gordon Ramsey plastered on the box. He usually wears a scowl, so I figured this must be a good piece of equipment if he’s smiling about it. The air fryer already had a hefty markdown, and combined with my 20% coupon and Chef Ramsey’s endorsement I decided to bring this baby home. I’m happy I did. So far, I’ve made French fries, sweet potato fries, glazed tofu and these Breaded Zucchini Sticks — all without one drop of oil. The air fryer is so easy to use and clean. Just load up whatever you’re “frying” into the basket then set the temperature and timer. The only other thing you need to do is shake up the basket half way through. That’s it! For this recipe, I simply dipped the zucchini sticks in aquafaba (the liquid from canned chick peas) then coated them with seasoned bread crumbs. I “fryed” them at 350F for 25 minutes. To my surprise the coating did not fall off the surface and “fryed” up nice and crisp. If you don’t have or want to buy an air fryer, you can bake the zucchini in the oven. I served the zucchini sticks with some left-over red pepper sauce I had in the fridge, but I would probably just use some marinara sauce the next time I make these. The only impulse I have now is to create more recipes to make in my air fryer. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Breaded Zucchini Sticks

1 zucchini squash (about 1 lb.), cut into ½” thick sticks
½ cup bread crumbs
1 teaspoon oregano or other herb
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon tomato powder (optional)
Aquafaba (liquid from canned chick peas)

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine bread crumbs, oregano, garlic powder and tomato powder in shallow dish. Place aquafaba in a bowl. Dip zucchini sticks in aquafaba, then coat with bread crumbs. Place zucchini sticks in a single layer on baking sheet.

To cook in an air fryer:

Place zucchini sticks in basket of air fryer, alternating each layer to allow more even browning and to prevent them from sticking together. Fry at 350F for 20 to 25 minutes. About half way through cooking, gingerly rearrange the zucchini sticks and continue cooking.

To bake in an oven:

Preheat oven to 400F. Bake for about 20 minutes until browned, turning occasionally. Remove from oven and serve immediately.

08 May 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

Mother of Invention: Red Bean & Jamaican Collard Green Burgers

Jamaican Red Bean & Collard Greens Burger

“Necessity is the mother of invention.” When it comes to plant-based meals, necessity has become the mother of recipes. One of my biggest frustrations with following a plant-based diet is eating out. When we find a new restaurant that has even just one vegan offering we make it a point to try it out and hopefully become regular patrons. This is the case with a restaurant in our downtown area. When they first opened up, I was delighted to see that they serve black bean burgers. The appearance of a black bean burger on a menu isn’t anything special because it’s been my experience that most vegan options are either a grilled vegetable sandwich, a hummus wrap or . . .  a black bean burger. In any case, we’re happy that there’s something for us. On a recent visit to our go-to place for black bean burgers I was somewhat disappointed. The beans were barely smashed, the flavor was flat and the burger fell apart and out of the bun. Even a healthy pour of barbeque sauce couldn’t rescue my lunch. As so often happens, Bruce was subjected to my usual frustrating and somewhat rant-like questions. “How hard is it to have a bean burger on the menu?” or  “You would think they could come up with something other than a black bean burger. After all there are so many types of beans.” Sheesh! And then I start to rattle off all the different burgers I make. Gumbo Burger. Mushroom Burger. Frank n’ Burger. Jamaican Red Bean Burger. Corned Beet Reuben Burger. Chic Filet Burger. Hoppin’ John Burger. Mushroom Barley Burger. Sounds like a scene from the movie Forest Gump. On the way home I thought about my next burger recipe. I knew I had some leftover Jamaican collard greens and baked sweet potatoes in the fridge and a few cans of red beans in the pantry. I pulsed these ingredients in my food processor and added oatmeal to absorb any excess liquid and keep the burgers together. I kicked it up a notch by adding more Jamaican curry powder. I let them “firm up” in the fridge, then cooked them on a non-stick electric griddle. Since I still had more of the collard greens left, I used them to top off the burgers. (I recommend making the collard greens ahead of time and using the leftovers to make the burgers.) These burgers are so flavorful (and stay inside the bun) that they just might be my favorite burger recipe so far. Or it might be a close second to my Frank n’ Burger. Oh, but what about that Chic-filet Burger? One thing I know for sure — there will be more bean burger recipes being invented in my kitchen. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Red Bean & Jamaican Collard Green Burgers

2 cans red kidney beans, drained
1 cup Jamaican collard greens, drained of any liquid (see below)
1 cup cooked sweet potato
½ cup old-fashioned oats, processed into a coarse flour
1 teaspoon Jamaican curry powder

additional Jamaican collard greens for topping

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Place all ingredients in food processor and pulse until beans are smashed and all ingredients are mixed together. Form into patties and place on parchment paper. (A one-half cup measure makes a large burger to fit a Kaiser bun. One-third cup will fit a standard hamburger bun. Refrigerate a few hours to firm up.

When ready to cook, preheat oven to 350F. Place baking sheet in oven and bake about 20 minutes, flipping once halfway through baking. Alternately, you can use a non-stick electric griddle to grill the burgers.

Jamaican Collard Greens

1 lb. collard greens, thinly sliced or chopped
1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tomato, chopped
½ to 1 Scotch Bonnet or Habanero pepper, seeds intact (see note)
1 teaspoon Jamaican curry powder
2 cups water (see notes for cooking in instant pot)
½ cup coconut milk (canned)

Note: depending on your tolerance for hot peppers, use your judgement as to how much of the pepper you want to use and whether or not to scrape the seeds out before cooking.

Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic and saute until lightly browned. Add tomatoes, collard greens, Scotch Bonnet, curry powder and water. Reduce to simmer, cover and cook until very tender (about 1 hour). Add coconut milk, uncover and continue cooking until most of liquid has evaporated.

Instant Pot:

Turn setting to saute. Cook onions until lightly browned. Add garlic and cook one minute, then add ¾ cup water, chopped tomato, curry powder and whole pepper. Place collards on top. Cover and pressure cook on low for 10 minutes. Quick release pressure. Set control to saute setting, then add coconut milk. Continue cooking until coconut milk gets absorbed and any excess liquid is evaporated. Remove pepper.

 

18 Apr 2017

Flexibility: Eggplant Puttanesca

Eggplant Puttanesca & CameBOSH

I like recipes that are flexible. They can be flexible from the standpoint of not needing exact measurements with ingredients that can be easily substituted. Flexible also means that the dish can be served either hot or cold, as an entree or appetizer, and can be served at the table or easily transported to work or a family gathering. One of my favorite eggplant recipes is for Baingan Bhartha, an Indian dish made with grilled eggplant, tomatoes, onions, garlic and ginger. Some time ago I changed it up and made an Italian-influenced Giambotta. Another one of my favorite meals is Pasta Puttanescaa spicy dish made with tomatoes, olives and capers. I took bits and pieces of these dishes and came up with this recipe for Eggplant Puttanesca. I grilled eggplant slices then simmered them with tomatoes, Kalamata olives, capers, garlic and crushed red pepper. It’s a versatile dish that can be enjoyed on its own, with a side of pesto-scented orzo or Italian bread for dunking. It reheats nicely and can be eaten at room temperature which makes for a tasty, make-ahead appetizer. Toss it with a small cut pasta to pack for a workday lunch or to share at an outdoor gathering. I had the leftovers for lunch today with CameBOSH, a warm cheese-like spread from Bosh TV. I still have a little leftover and I’m already dreaming up my next meal. Add a little flexibility to your meal plan with this Eggplant Puttanesca. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

EggplantPuttanesca

Eggplant Puttanesca

8 plum tomatoes (or 1 can Italian plum tomatoes)
1 large eggplant (about 2 pounds)
4 large garlic cloves, minced
2 Tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
¼ cup Kalamata olives, sliced in half
2 teaspoons dried marjoram or oregano
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Salt and pepper to taste

Cooked pasta (a small cut like orzo)

If you’re using canned tomatoes, skip this step. Bring a medium pot of water to boil. Using a knife, score an “x” into the blossom end of the tomatoes. Place tomatoes in water long enough for skin to soften and peel away from the flesh of the tomatoes. Place in a colander and when cool enough to handle, remove skins. Place tomatoes in food processor and process until chunky.

Slice eggplants crosswise into 1” thick slices. Preheat outdoor grill on medium heat. (It’s not necessary to coat the grates with oil, but you may do so if you like.) Place eggplants on grill and cook until grill marks appear on both sides. Remove to cutting board and cut slices into quarters or sixths. Set aside.

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. (You can use a small amount of olive oil to coat the skillet if desired.) Add garlic and saute until it starts to brown, adding water 2 tablespoons at a time to prevent sticking. Add tomatoes, capers, olives, marjoram and red pepper. Cook until the sauce starts to thicken. Add eggplant and continue to cook until desired tenderness (about 10 minutes). Season with salt and pepper. Serve with cooked pasta or crusty Italian bread.

12 Apr 2017

Madness to My Method: Mint-Chocolate Smoothie

Mint Chocolate Smoothie

Mint Chocolate Smoothie

There’s a saying that goes “there’s a method to my madness” which means that there is purpose in what one is doing, even though it seems to be crazy. Today’s post is a peek into how my mind works, which I like to think of as the “madness to my method.” A recipe for a mint chocolate chip smoothie popped up on one of my Facebook groups a few weeks ago and it stirred up memories from when I was making my own dairy ice cream. Mint chocolate chip was one of my favorite flavors. Boy, could I go for some right now. So, the recipe that inspired my latest obsession contained fresh mint for flavor and a handful of spinach for color. I don’t know about you, but milk and spinach doesn’t do it for me. One of the first things I discovered about home-made mint ice cream, unlike most commercial ones, is that it’s not green. My approach was to create a smoothie that had a hint of mint and an ice cream-like feeling. I tried a version using frozen peas for what I thought would add a creamy thickness. (Yuk!) I tried using sweet rice as a thickener. I had to soak the rice overnight and steam it the next day, which proved to be too much advance planning for a smoothie. This also resulted in a more “gooey” and less creamy consistency. The chocolate chips were another problem. If I blended them with the other ingredients, they disappeared. When I added them in during the last few seconds they sunk to the bottom of the glass.The flavor of the fresh mint fell flat, so I sent away for a bottle of pure mint extract and put the testing on hold for a few days. While waiting for my shipment to arrive I couldn’t stop thinking about this recipe. What if . . . I just added the mint extract to my go-to cinnamon bun smoothie? What if . . .  I used brown rice instead of sweet rice? What if . . .  I just start from scratch? And the chocolate . . . what if I shave it and stir it in when ready to serve? By the time the extract arrived, I had it sorted out: almond milk, banana, dates, brown rice, oatmeal, mint extract and chocolate shavings. I tend to over-blend my smoothies to get them extra creamy, but that also makes them warm. I find that refrigerating them for a few hours allows the milk to absorb the starch from the oats and rice making for a thicker smoothie. A thicker smoothie helps the chocolate shavings maintain their buoyancy. All of this obsessing paid off with a Mad Good Mint Chocolate Smoothie that’s smooth, creamy, slightly sweet with a tinge of mint and specked with chocolate. Mix up your own batch of blissful madness today. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Mint Chocolate Smoothie

Makes one or two servings

1-½ cups almond milk
1 large frozen banana, sliced
¼ cup old fashioned oats
¼ cup cooked brown rice
4 pitted dates
1/8 teaspoon mint extract
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
Shaved chocolate

Combine all of the ingredients, except the shaved chocolate, in a high-speed blender and process until smooth. Pour into a glass and stir in shaved chocolate. If you would like a thicker smoothie you can place in the refrigerator for a few hours.

05 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

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