Tag Archives: vegan plant-based

The Great Pumpkin: Pumpkin Cheesecake Parfaits

Pumpkin Cheesecake Parfait

When he came up the story line of The Great Pumpkin I wonder if Charles Schultz knew that someday millions of people would develop a “Linus Alter-Ego”? I, along with a host of others, look forward to all things pumpkin during the harvest season.

The Great Pumpkin is a holiday figure in whom only Linus van Pelt believes. Every year, Linus sits in a pumpkin patch on Halloween night waiting for the Great Pumpkin to appear. Invariably, the Great Pumpkin fails to turn up, but a humiliated but undefeated Linus vows to wait for him again the following Halloween. I can relate.

I really look forward to this time of the year. I’m in the habit of buying a few baby pumpkins every time I go to my favorite Amish farm stand. I bake them and freeze the puree to use in baked goodies all year round. I use pumpkin puree in place of applesauce and bananas because it doesn’t impart a fruity flavor to brownies and chocolate cake. I do like pumpkin scones and, now, these Pumpkin Cheesecake Parfaits. This recipe was inspired by one that I saw on Facebook . The filling is made with pumpkin, cream cheese, whipped cream, sweetened condensed milk and frozen whipped topping; and the crust had graham crackers, butter and sugar. Yikes! It looked so creamy, spicy and decadent. How could I not try to make this work for me?

It was actually easier than I expected. For the crust I used a mixture of graham crackers and pecans. The fat from the pecans allowed the crust to clump up so that it could stick together in the bottom of a glass. No extra sugar is necessary as the graham crackers are sweet right out of the box. The filling was made with pumpkin, raw cashews, extra firm tofu, brown sugar, lemon juice/lactic acid and pumpkin pie spice. The combination of cashews and lemon juice are what I use as a cream cheese replacement and the tofu gives it a lighter feel. Lactic acid is similar to lemon juice as it adds to the tangy flavor of non-dairy foods. (The one I use is made from sugar beets. You can omit this and simply add more lemon juice.) I used brown sugar on my first go-around. My second attempt was made with dates. Both came out equally delicious, so the choice is yours to use sugar or dates. I processed the filling in a high-powered blender to get a super smooth texture. I can’t say that I would trust a regular blender or a food processor to get these same silky results. The pecan-graham crumble adds a nice textural contrast to the dreamy, creamy pumpkin filling. You can really have fun by dressing up these parfaits by sprinkling candied pecans, granola, crystallized ginger or more graham cracker crumble. It’s all good.

So, the moral of the story is to be like Linus and never give up. Adopting a plant-based diet over five years ago was certainly a challenge for a foodie like me. I’ve had a few disappointing meals and several melt-downs since. I’ve learned to walk away from those recipes that just won’t work for me and move on to ones that do. It’s what keeps me going down this path to wellness. Feed your Linus alter-ego with these Pumpkin Cheesecake Parfaits. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Parfaits

Filling:

½ cup raw cashews, soaked and drained
8 oz. extra firm tofu, pressed
1 cup pumpkin
½ cup brown sugar (3/4 cup dates)
2 teaspoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon lactic acid (optional)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
Pinch of salt

Crust:

1 sleeve of graham crackers
1 cup pecans

Place all filling ingredients in high-powered blender and process until smooth. Remove to covered container and refrigerate.

Place graham crackers and pecans in a mini-chopper or food processor. Process until the crackers and nuts are finely ground and begin to clump.

Assembly:

Place one or two tablespoons of crust into a small glass or ramekin. Press down with an espresso tamper or your fingers. Spoon or pipe the filling into the glass until the glass is full. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

 

 

 

18 Sep 2017

Saving the Best for Last: Tofu Breakfast Bowl

Tofu Breakfast Bowl

On the last day of our Vermont vacation in July we had breakfast at the August First Bakery. Looking back, I wish we would have gone there on the first day of the trip as they had a few vegan options on the menu. Not only that, they bake delicious breads and pastries in their bakery next door. They have a tofu dish on the menu that they call a scramble bowl, but it’s not a scramble at all. A tofu scramble is supposed to mimic scrambled eggs and is usually mashed up and somewhat greasy. The tofu bowl that they make had large pieces of curry-seasoned tofu, home fries, kale and tomatoes. It was very tasty and filling, yet not too greasy. I came up with my own version for this Tofu Breakfast Bowl. I cooked everything in an air fryer. (You can make it in a non-stick skillet, but you might need a little oil to prevent the tofu from sticking to the pan.) You may want to make this on the weekend as it does require some time to get it all together. I recommend seasoning the tofu and letting it sit for as long as possible, so you might want to do this step either the night before or while you’re waiting for your coffee to brew. I soaked the cut potatoes because that’s what the owner’s manual for my air fryer suggests, but you can probably skip this step. I cooked the ingredients in batches according to how long they need to cook. I started with the bell peppers and onions as they have similar cooking qualities. This also allowed some time for the potatoes to soak. Then I crisped the potatoes. I saved the tofu for last to allow it to absorb the curry seasoning for as long as possible. After the individual components were done, everything went back in the air fryer to blister the tomatoes and let all the flavors mingle. It sounds like a lot of work, but it’s well worth the effort. This method allows each ingredient to shine in its own way without the need for any oil. This dish is spicy, savory, subtly sweet and, oh, so tasty. Any leftovers can be refreshed right in the air fryer for about 5 minutes. We may have saved the best for last on our vacation, but at least it was better late than never. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Tofu Breakfast Bowl

2 potatoes cut into 1” pieces
Salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder

1 lb. extra firm tofu
Curry powder or your favorite seasoning mix
1 to 2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey (optional)

1 bell pepper, cut into ½” pieces
1 onion, cut into ½” pieces

1 cup cherry tomatoes left whole

Soak the potatoes in water for about 30 minutes. Drain well and season with salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. Set aside.

Remove the tofu from the water and pat dry. Cut into large pieces – cut into 4 slices, then cut each slice into 8 pieces. Place in bowl and sprinkle a good amount of curry powder or other seasoning. Stir gently to coat. Let the tofu sit for as long as possible.

Set an air fryer to 400F. Place the onions and bell pepper into the basket and cook until the vegetables start to soften and turn brown. Remove from air fryer and place in a large serving bowl.

Place the potatoes into the basket and cook until tender and crisp. Remove from air fryer and place in the bowl with vegetables.

Place the tofu into the basket and cook until browned. If you want a glazey exterior you can remove the tofu before completely cooked, toss with maple syrup and then return to the fryer for about 5 minutes. Remove from air fryer and place in the bowl with vegetables. Add cherry tomatoes and mix gently. Return everything to the air fryer and cook until the tomatoes get soft and their skins blister. Remove and serve immediately.

Note: to make in a non-stick skillet, simply brown each component separately then mix everything together to heat before serving.

02 Sep 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

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

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

Don’t Fast. Feast: Gumbo Burgers with Roasted Pepper Sauce

Gumbo Burger with Roasted Pepper Sauce

I’ve been trying to incorporate more vegetables into my bean burger recipes and came up with this recipe the last time I made a pot of Vegetable Gumbo. Gumbo has its roots in Louisiana’s Creole cuisine and I usually make it right around Mardi Gras time. The highlight of Mardi Gras happens on Fat Tuesday, reflecting the practice of the last chance to eat rich, fattening foods before the ritual of the Lenten fast begins. Well, if you eat healthy, low-fat plant food all year round there’s no need to fast in the first place. I still enjoy learning about and celebrating holidays and traditions, so I wanted to share this recipe for Gumbo Burgers just in time for Fat Tuesday.

To make the burgers, I start by cooking the the “holy trinity” of onions, celery and bell peppers, adding tomatoes and aromatics, then cooking out most of the liquid. The mashed beans act to hold the vegetables together and the oats help to absorb any extra liquid. The Roasted Pepper Sauce is made with a small amount of cashew cream, roasted red peppers and hot sauce. These burgers have so much going into them that you don’t need anything else going on top of them, but feel free to serve with your favorite burger toppings. We had our burgers with a side of steamed spinach with a honey-mustard-cider vinegar dressing. The recipe makes a lot of burgers, so you can wrap them individually and place in the freezer to enjoy in the weeks ahead. Why fast when you can feast all year long on these healthy, hearty Gumbo Burgers? Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Gumbo Burgers with Roasted Pepper Sauce

Makes 8 to 12 patties

2 cans red kidney, pink or pinto beans, drained
½ cup whole oats, processed into course flour
1 extra large onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 large tomato, diced
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
8 oz. okra, chopped
2 teaspoons liquid smoke
2 Tablespoons dried thyme
Cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste

Roasted Pepper Sauce (recipe follows)
Hamburger buns
Burger toppings as desired (tomato, onions, lettuce, etc.)

Place beans in a large mixing bowl and smash with a potato masher or fork. Place oat flour into bowl and set aside.

Heat a non-stick skillet on high heat. Add onions, celery, bell pepper and garlic and saute until lightly browned. Add tomato, tomato paste, okra, liquid smoke, thyme and cayenne pepper and continue cooking until all of the liquid has dried up. Add to mixing bowl and stir to combine. Season with salt and black pepper, adding more of the other seasonings as desired.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Divide mixture into even portions using either a one-third or one-half measuring cup and form into patties. Place on parchment paper and refrigerate for several hours.

When ready, heat a non-stick electric griddle on 350F. Place patties on griddle and cook until browned and burgers become firm, turning once during cooking. Serve on buns with roasted pepper sauce and your favorite toppings.

Roasted Pepper Sauce

½ cup raw cashews (soaked)
½ cup roasted red peppers
2 to 4 teaspoons hot sauce

Rinse and drain the soaked cashews. Place in container of high-speed blender and add enough water to cover about half of the cashews. Process on high until super smooth. Remove from container. This should yield about ½ cup, but you will only use ¼ cup to make the sauce.

Return ¼ cup of the cashew cream in the blender container along with the roasted peppers and hot sauce. Process on high until smooth. Place in a covered container and refrigerate before using.

Note: if you do not wish to use cashews, you can try substituting silken tofu.

28 Feb 2017

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