Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Cranberry-Apple Chutney

Nava Atlas' Vegkitchen.com is a brilliant plant-based website.  She is inspiring and creative.  I've made several of her reciped and have never been disappointed.

This just may be the most delicious cranberry side dish ever.  What's so great about it is not just the complex flavor, but that it is super-fast, super-simple, takes commonly-found ingredients, and is beautiful.  My suggestion is to make the recipe exactly as written with one exception.  I used cloves that I freshly ground myself just before adding to the pot and that was slightly too intense for my taste.  Pre-ground cloves will have dulled a little in flavor, so if that's you have in the spice rack, use the full amount.

Happy Thanksgiving and DO make this!

Photo from http://www.vegkitchen.com/recipes/cranberry-chutney/

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Oil-Free Sweet Lemon Tahini Salad Dressing

Greek salad.... oh how I have always loved Greek salad.  The crisp romaine, salty/fruity Kalamata olives, pungent onions, summer-ripe tomatoes and refreshing cucumbers.  I love Greek salad.   Traditional Greek salad dressing is usually extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and/or red wine vinegar, garlic and oregano.  Several months ago, I spent a good amount of time searching for a suitable oil-free vegan Greek dressing or something close.  No dice.. nada, zilch.  I couldn't find anything that even remotely interested me.  While coming up with this dressing it hit me that it would be a great dressing for a Greek salad.  This dressing is quite a departure from the traditional, but what a wonderful combination of flavors it is.  In my normal true form, I snuck in, brought my own dressing to a restaurant last weekend and ordered Greek salad, sans the feta cheese of course.  I might have had an out-of-body experience.  This was delicious!  I know the chickpeas sound a bit odd as a salad dressing ingredient.  Thanks to Healthy Girl's Kitchen and her Caesar dressing for the inspiration on this one.  Chickpeas make an incredibly creamy dressing, provide fiber and protein, while not adding unwanted fat.  The dressing does not taste like chickpeas.  The lemon and tahini are the predominant flavors.  The flavor is bright with lemon, the texture is velvety-smooth and altogether enlightening!  The nice thing about this dressing also is that, at least for me, the ingredients are all staples in my kitchen.

Now I'm going to step onto my soapbox for a moment for a word about lemons.  Is there a National Lemon Board or something?  I'd happily do a free endorsement for them because of my love of lemons.  They are by far my favorite citrus fruit.  The flavor of lemon brightens and enhances so many foods.  Lemons are not only wonderful as a predominant flavor, but also as a seasoning or flavor booster.  A squeeze of fresh lemon juice in many bean dishes, soups, stews, sauces and dressings is the crowning touch to really bring out the flavors.  Try it some time when you feel your dish just needs a little more oomph.  But please , please, please - I beg of you - DO NOT use bottled lemon juice!  There is no comparison to freshly-squeezed juice.  Just as I previously spoke about using fresh nutmeg rather than the jarred crap product, the same goes for lemons.
What a pretty picture I found when searching for free lemon images, huh?
Regarding fresh lemon zest - be careful not to grate too much off the whole lemon.  Use only the outermost part that is bright yellow.  The pith, which is the white part of the lemon rind, is bitter.   You do not want that.  The outer yellow portion is where the lemon oil is and carries most intense flavor of the lemon.  For recipes with a predominantly lemon flavor such as desserts and dressings, I almost always add the zest of the lemon also, whether the recipe calls for it or not. 
Here is the recipe:
Oil-Free Sweet Lemon Tahini Salad Dressing
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, undrained
1 tablespoon lemon zest (zest of 2 lemons)
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (juice of about 3 lemons)
6 tablespoons tahini
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
5 large pitted Medjool dates (or 8-10 small dates) - or other sweetener of choice
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
Add all ingredients to blender and process until smooth. 

I did the nutrition analysis based on a 1/4 cup serving.
That might be a little generous, but if you eat giant salads like I do, I think 1/4 is reasonable.  There really is no need to skimp on the dressing. Use as much or as little as you like!  If you are like me - pour it on!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Vegan What I Ate Wednesday #3 - Vegan Zucchini Nut Bread Smoothie

Wow… this is just might be my new favorite smoothie, but I proclaim that about once a week, so take that with a grain of salt. 
Zucchini Nut Bread Smoothie
I was all into my Pumpkin Pie Smoothies this week, but then I made this one this morning.  I’ve made it before, but for some reason this was better than the last few times.  Maybe it was the addition of freshly grated nutmeg.  We all know that spices are best used freshly-ground for best flavor, and nutmeg is one that I never use pre-ground.  There is absolutely no comparison of the taste of pre-ground nutmeg to freshly-grated.  I switched to grinding it myself when I once read somewhere that there is a high amount of sawdust in pre-ground nutmeg!  Whether that is true or not, I was incredibly disturbed. Then, once I tried it, the taste was so vibrant and bright that I was an instant convert.  I have this handy-dandy little nutmeg grater that has a hinged lid on the top where you store your whole nutmeg for future use.  It is super cheap too.  Check out this link:


Here are the ingredients:
1 cup non-dairy milk, (I use almond or soy usually)
1 medium banana, frozen
1 medium  zucchini, approximately 1 cup, ends cut off and roughly chopped
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon FRESHLY GROUND nutmeg, (I may have used more - just add more to suit your taste)
2 cups fresh spinach
Sweetener of choice (if banana is not sweet enough), to taste
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons pecans or walnuts, finely chopped
Place all ingredients except the nuts in blender and process until smooth.  Add ice if desired to thicken.  Stir in the finely chopped nuts. 
Note:  I like to stir the nuts in at the end rather than process them into the smoothie because I like a the little crunchy bits of nuts as I sip the smoothie.  Just use a wide straw so it doesn’t get clogged up. 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Fresh Cranberry Vinaigrette from Healthy Girl's Kitchen

I really wanted a chickpea flour omelet filled with hash browns, onions, mushrooms, spinach and tomatoes this morning.  So, while tearing through the freezer looking for the shredded frozen potatoes I was sure I had, I found some frozen cranberries I had forgotten about.  It was then that I remembered a cranberry vinaigrette from the blog, Healthy Girl's Kitchen.  Fresh cranberries are great to buy a good quantity of in November and December when they are plentiful and cheap and freeze them.  You don't have to prep them in any way for the freezer.  I usually transfer them to a more suitable container rather than the perforated bag they come in and freeze them.  They keep beautifully and you will have them all year.

Here is the link to the recipe:

Such beautiful vibrant pink color - even with my stinky camera!

The original recipe calls for the following ingredients:
1 1/4 cups fresh cranberries
1 Tbsp orange juice concentrate
½ cup water
¼ cup raw cashews
1 whole orange with peel removed but seeds intact
¼ cup vinegar (Wendy used Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar)
4 pitted dates
dash of salt, or not

I made the following changes:
-Increased cranberries to 1 1/2 cups (I wanted more cranberry flavor)
-Omitted the OJ concentrate because I didn't want to buy any
-Used 1 1/2 fresh oranges instead of just 1.  Instead of peeling the oranges, I cut the rind off with a  sharp knife so as to remove all of the bitter pith (white part under the skin) that I could
-Used apple cider vinegar.  Next time I will use a fruit vinegar, but I didn't have a citrus one when I made this.  The apple cider vinegar was too strong for my taste. 

Fresh Cranberry Vinaigrette atop my salad of romaine, avocado, candy onions, sweet bacon-flavored chickpeas and homemade vegan almond "parmesan."

I really like this dressing and the next time it will be even better with a different vinegar.  Maybe even no vinegar and just add more orange instead.  I love sweet fruity dressings and this one is a keeper!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Vegan What I Ate Wednesday #2 - Pasta with Vegan Creamy Mushroom-Basil Alfredo Sauce

How does this sound - creamy, intensely rich, flavorful, garlicky….  I need more adjectives for this dish.  Outstanding is the bottom line.  In true form, I made some significant changes, but all in the name of enhancing nutritional quality and  boosting flavor.  This is just so good that I really felt like I should be adding other veggies to boost the nutritional profile, but I had to keep reminding myself that the sauce IS cauliflower and not the old unhealthy, artery-clogging dairy products I’m used to.  I’ve made vegan Alfredo sauce based on cauliflower before, and really liked it, but this one is over the top with the inclusion of mushrooms and fresh basil.  I couldn’t help but take spoonful after spoonful of the sauce right from the pan before the pasta was done!  I guess the sauce could be a soup too though.  Thin it a little bit, maybe stir in fresh spinach at the end of the cooking process, garnish with some whole wheat sourdough croutons and what a nice warming winter soup.  Ok – I’ll work on that one soon!  Until then, here is what I did differently and the link to the original recipe from Baker Bettie.  The beautiful photo comes directly from her blog also.

The link to the original recipe:
The ingredients in the original recipe from Baker Bettie are:
3 lb cauliflower (about 1 large or 2 small)
2 cups milk of choice (I used almond) 
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 TBSP nutritional yeast (optional, but will give the sauce more of a cheesy flavor)
salt and pepper
1 lb pasta of choice
1 large red bell pepper
6 oz mushrooms
1 small onion
¼ cup fresh basil finely chopped
The ingredient changes I made were:
1- Increased nutritional yeast to ¼ cup.
2- Omitted red bell pepper (not because I don’t like it, but because I didn’t have one).
3- Omitted oil.
4- Increased mushrooms to 1 pound and used sliced cremini (baby bella) mushrooms.
I didn’t make a lot of changes to the preparation method.  Here is what I did do to omit the need for oil and retain more nutritional value from the cauliflower:
1- Steamed the cauliflower rather than boiling it.
2- Water sautéed the garlic with the onions and, mushrooms  until all were very soft and mushrooms released their water and it evaporated.
A final comment on pureeing the cauliflower.  I use a Vitamix.  I know that a Vitamix or other high-speed blender is not in everyone’s kitchen.  I do believe that a regular blender would do quite well with this.  A Magic Bullet will work nicely also.
Now… go get a big spoon and dig right in!


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Chocolate Cake Batter Smoothie

Let me make this clear.  I love chocolate.  I do not eat it all that often,  but when i do, it may be in any variety of ways, shapes and forms.  The really weird thing is that I never crave it.  I, quite possibly, experienced my first chocolate craving yesterday.  If I wanted to bake, I would have made this chocolate cake, because it is the real deal and healthy to boot.  But, even as healthy as it is, I really only needed a single-serving of something chocolaty, and didn't need a whole cake in the house taunting me every time I am in the kitchen. So, I created the next best thing with this Chocolate Cake Batter Smoothie.  Oh yeah... it tastes like chocolate cake batter AND it's healthy too!  I try to never make a non-green smoothie.  Is "non-green" even a word?  Well, at least I say it is!  There is no point in not adding greens to your smoothies since you cannot taste them anyway.

This is my own recipe so I do hope you enjoy!

Chocolate Cake Batter Smoothie
Serves: 1
1 cup non-dairy milk of choice
1/2  of a frozen medium-large banana
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Hershey's Special dark)
1 tablespoon natural almond butter (or any nut butter you prefer)
1 tablespoon flax or hemp seeds
Sweetener of choice, to taste
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt (really helps bring out the flavor of the cocoa)
1 good-sized handful of spinach (about 2 cups packed)
5-10 ice cubes - depends on how thick you prefer your smoothie

Place all ingredients in a blender in the order listed and blend until smooth.  Pour into a tall glass and enjoy!


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Vegan What I Ate Wednesday #1 - Gigantic: Giant Bean Stew

Wow, my first What I Ate Wednesday!  I'm only posting my lunch in keeping with the theme of this blog to review established recipes only.  I love Greek food, and this is a delicious lunch along side a crisp Romaine salad with the Caesar dressing I posted previously.  In keeping with my decision to use no added oils in my cooking, I simply omitted the oil here.  Just use a good-quality nonstick saute pan and no oil is needed!  Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Homemade Vegan No-Oil Caesar Salad Dressing from Healthy Girl's Kitchen

So this is my very first blog post ever! I hope it finds its way into many, many vegan kitchens. This is by far one of my fave salads dressings. Can you believe it truly tastes like Caesar dressing with no added oil? It fits all my requirements for any salad dressing - no added oil, creamy, thick, intensely flavorful and crave-worthy! The only change I made was to up the quantity of capers from 2 tablespoons to 3 tablespoons. This added a little more saltiness and without the traditional Parmesan cheese, a romaine salad needs a little extra umph. Enjoy getting your salad on with this wonderful creation from Wendy. She is quite an inspiration. http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-GBm3gLh0ZDQ/Tcb-J1xNYgI/AAAAAAAAA-Q/oIuW3tuXavg/s400/caesar+dressing+015.JPG