Friday, July 22, 2011

Vegan Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

A couple days ago I found myself with some leftover silken tofu (from the cauliflower mac and "cheese") and a crazy chocolate craving. My first thought was to turn my predicament into cooookies, (the quickest baking chocolate vessels!) but I'd never made some with tofu before. I thought it might work well in place of the oil so I gave it a shot. First time for everything, right?

Since I was in cookies pronto (!!!) mode I wasn't thinking fancy, just soft, comforting chocolaty goodness and that's exactly what I got. I had intended to bring these into the office but Austin and I made them disappear embarrassingly quickly (ok  ok, I might have had a few more than he did). Such is life. I ate my share dunked in almond milk but I think they'd be even more delicious with some ice cream sandwiched in between them.

Vegan Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies
Makes about 20 cookies (more if you don't snack on the batter)
  • 2/3 cup rolled oats 
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup silken tofu
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 3 tablespoons cranberry juice (orange juice would work well too)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract 
1.  Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease or line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Add the rolled oats to the food processor and pulse until they're pulverized. Transfer them to a large mixing bowl. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt into the bowl with the oats.

2.  Add the tofu, sugar, maple syrup, cranberry juice and vanilla extract to the food processor and whiz until smooth. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ones and mix until just combined. Using a pair of spoons, place a walnut sized ball of dough onto the baking sheet and flatten it slightly. Repeat for the rest of the cookies. Bake for 10 minutes if you'd like soft cookies, 12-14 minutes (making sure the cookies don't burn) if you'd like crunchier ones.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Creamy Vegan Cauliflower Mac and "Cheese"

People are usually shocked when I say I've never had Kraft Mac and Cheese. It's not exactly a staple in Spain, and I guess the blue box and I never really crossed paths once I moved to the US. I have, however, had a few homemade versions of the classic which I thought were quite good, especially the baked ones. I mean, what's there not to like about pasta drenched in savory cheese sauce with a crunchy topping?

Well, most mac and cheese has a lot of dairy fat, you know, the kind that clogs your arteries and feels heavy in your belly. But it doesn't need to be that way, as I learned from Mark Bittman's recipe I read in the New York Times a couple weeks ago. By adding pureed cauliflower to the sauce he increases the amount of vegetables in the dish and makes it creamy with only 3/4 cup of cheese. Genius, as always.

Since Bittman's recipe sounded pretty tasty and was almost vegan I only had to make a couple changes. To give the sauce a fermented tangy taste, somewhat reminiscent of cheese, I used some miso and a few tablespoons of nutritional yeast. (An aside, if you've never cooked with nutritional yeast please make the extra trip to the specialty grocery store and get yourself some -- it's worth it). To make the sauce even creamier and increase the protein punch I blended some silken tofu along with the cauliflower. Lastly, since I'm not a huge fan of beige food I added some chopped kale for color and an extra serving of vegetables.

It was DE-LI-CIOUS (and I don't use hyphenated all caps lightly). I know it's not really summery food and that it requires turning on the oven in this sweltering heat (hopefully it's cooler wherever you are than it is in NC!) but you need to make this soon. Like yesterday. I promise you'll be surprised something so healthy can taste so good.

Creamy Vegan Cauliflower Mac and "Cheese"
Veganized and otherwise adapted from Mark Bittman's recipe
Makes 4 generous servings
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil plus extra for greasing the baking dish
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 whole cauliflower, cored and roughly chopped into large florettes
  • 8 oz / 225 g short pasta such as elbow macaroni, penne or rotini (I used a mix of the last two), preferably whole wheat
  • 8 oz / 225 g silken tofu
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3 teaspoons miso
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 2 cups stemmed and chopped kale
  • 1/2 cup panko or conventional breadcrumbs
1.  Preheat the oven to 400 F / 205 C. Grease your baking dish with some olive oil and set aside. I used a 7 by 11 inch pan and Bittman recommends a 9 inch square pan, but really just use what you've got. Place the stock in a small saucepan with the bay leaves and heat until just before it boils. Remove from the heat and set aside. Fill about 2/3 of a large pot with water and bring it to a boil. Salt the water generously, add the cauliflower, cover the pot and cook the cauliflower until very tender, about 25 minutes. Remove it from the water with a slotted spoon and place it in the food processor. Fish the bay leaves out of the broth and add it to the food processor as well, along with the tofu, nutmeg, miso, salt, pepper and 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast. Process the mixture until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

2.  Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook for about half of the time the package specifies (in my case this meant cooking my penne and rotini for about 5 minutes). If you bite a piece of pasta in half the inside should still be chalky. Drain the pasta and add it to a medium mixing bowl along with the kale. Pour in the pureed cauliflower mixture and toss until everything is evenly mixed. Empty the contents of the mixing bowl into your greased baking dish, smoothing the top with a spatula or a spoon. As Bittman points out, you could make the dish ahead up to this point and then refrigerate it. Take the casserole out of the fridge about 30 minutes before you're ready to bake it and proceed with the recipe. Mix together the remaining 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast and the breadcrumbs and sprinkle over the top of the casserole.

3.  Bake for 18-22 minutes or until the sauce is bubbly and the breadcrumbs have browned. Serve hot, with a few dashes of hot sauce if you'd like.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Thai Green Curry

I love Thai green curry. I always -- yes always -- choose it over the red and yellow curries available at most Thai restaurants. So, if I love it so much then why haven't I made it before? Laziness, really. "But Sara", you say, "you've posted some pretty time consuming dishes. How can you be put off by some curry?" Well, I don't know what to tell ya. I claimed to be lazy, not logical. Fact is, this weak I bit the bullet and tried my hand at my favorite Thai dish.

To be honest, I kind of winged it here. I threw a bunch of stuff in the pot that I thought should be in delicious Thai green curry, crossed my fingers and just hoped for the best. Well, the result was really really good but not as good as my favorite green curry (from Twisted Noodles, for those of you in the Triangle), probably because I missed some secret ingredient. Will I stop ordering from Twisted Noodles now that I can make a pretty good curry for far less than $10 per serving? Absolutely not. These two green curries will have to learn to peacefully share my and Austin's curry cravings.

Thai Green Curry
Makes 4 servings
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 16 oz firm or extra firm tofu, pressed and cut into about 3/4 inch / 2 cm cubes
  • 1 onion, halved and sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 2 jalapeños or Thai green chilies, seeded if you'd like and finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons Thai green curry paste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 medium new potatoes, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 green bell pepper, sliced into strips
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4 inch / 1/2 cm thick half moons
  • 1 2/3 cups / 400 ml coconut milk (I used the light kind but the full fat stuff would be even more delicious)
  • 1 2/3 cups / 400 ml vegetable broth
  • 2/3 cups chopped cilantro
1.  In a medium skillet, heat 1/3 cup of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the tofu cubes and fry, flipping occasionally, for about 25 minutes or until the tofu has browned on all sides. Remove from the oil using a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel to drain.

2.  While the tofu is frying, pour the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Toss in the garlic, ginger and chilies and cook for another 3 minutes. Stir in the curry paste. Add in the coconut milk, vegetable broth, salt and potatoes. Cover the pot and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the bell pepper and the zucchini and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the tofu and simmer for 5 more minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

3.  Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the cilantro. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve the curry hot, over rice or as a soup.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Miso Curry Zucchini, Potatoes, Tempeh and Kale

A couple days this week it was over 100 F (with the heat index) here in Durham, NC. In addition to making hell jealous with its temperatures, the air was so thick and humid you could practically swim laps through it. Let me tell you how fun it was to bike about about 10 pounds of veggies home (why, oh why did I order a gigantic cantaloupe from the CSA?) in that lovely weather. Ok, you probably get the picture so I'll spare you the details.

So after swearing up a storm at the heat all day long, what did I do when I got home? Well I cranked the oven up to 400 F of course! You're probably asking yourself why, pray tell, would you do such a thing? Because nothing stands between me and some roasted veggies. Nothing. Especially when they're savory, slightly spicy and overall delicious.

Miso-Curry Zuchini, Potatoes and Tempeh
Adapted from Super Natural Every Day, by Heidi Swanson
Makes 4 servings
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white miso paste (you could use red or yellow miso as well)
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of red Thai curry paste (available in the International foods section of most grocery stores)
  • 12 oz / 340 g zucchini, summer squash, a combination or any other squash. I used zucchini and summer squash cut into 1/3 inch / 1 cm thick half moons but if you're using another type of squash you may want to cut it into 1/3 inch / 1 cm cubes.
  • 1 lb new potatoes, scrubbed and cut into bite size pieces
  • 8 oz tempeh, cut into 1/3 inch / 1 cm strips and then into bite size pieces
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cup destemmed and chopped kale
  • 1/3 cup roasted pepitas or pumkin seeds
  • 2/3 cup cilantro 
1.  Preheat your oven to 400 F / 205 C. Whisk together the olive oil, miso and curry. Place the potatoes, zucchini and squash, and tempeh into a large bowl and toss them with about 1/3 cup of the miso mixture until they're evenly coated. Turn the bowl onto a baking pan, lined with foil if you'd like, and cook for about 25-30 minutes, tossing once or twice along the way, or until the vegetables have browned. Make sure to watch the veggies and tempeh closely the last few minutes because they can burn pretty quickly.

2.  While the veggies are cooking, whisk the lemon juice into the remaining miso mixture. You can use the same bowl you used to toss the veggies in (holla for fewer dishes!). Toss in the kale and work the dressing into it vigorously with your hands. After a few minutes of doing so you should see the kale slightly wilt; that's when you know you're massaging it properly.

3.  Once the veggies are done, toss them in with the kale. Add the pepitas and the cilantro and give everything one last toss. We ate this warm but I suspect it would be great at room temperature too.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

No Fat Added Mango Banana Scones

When I was a kid, we had a Marks and Spencer in our town which carried some pretty exotic (at least to me at the time) British treats. I remember my mom bringing home crumpets, shortbread cookies and, my favorites, scones. Deliciously buttery, doughy and only slightly sweet, they were tea time (and breakfast) perfection.

I'm sure part of what made those scones so tasty was an generous amount of butter. Now, if I could, I'd eat a (non-dairy) fat laden scone every time I craved one, but then I'd have to replace my whole wardrobe which would be an expensive proposition. When the need for scones strikes, I could whip up a batch of these oatmeal scones with strawberries. They're made with a modest amount of fat, some whole wheat flour, fruit and oatmeal so they're sort of healthy, right? Well since it's bathing suit season, but I still don't want to give up treats, I tried to get away with using no fat at all.

The result was pretty fantastic. While they're not nearly as decadent as the ones I remember from Marks & Spencer, they definitely hit the spot. They go stale pretty quickly though, like most fat-free baked goods. Fear not though, you don't have to eat all eight scones in one go (although you might want to). Give them a 15-30 second zap in the microwave or slowly warm them up the toaster oven and they'll be almost as good as freshly baked. If you're one of those people that has diet drinks with rich meals, you might want to to slather some Earth Balance onto these fat free goodies. Some preserves would lovely be on them too if you'd like to keep it light. If you're a true scone lover like me, though, you might want to eat them straight up, so as not to mess with their deliciousness.

No Fat Added Mango Banana Scones
Makes 8 scones
  • 3 1/4 cups all purpose flour plus a little extra for dusting
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 medium banana (make sure to use one that's on the greener side and has been in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to an hour), coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla non-dairy milk (if using unflavored milk add 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract)
  • Zest of 1 medium lemon
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 cup chopped mango (or any other fruit you'd like)
  • Optional: Confectioners sugar for dusting 
1.  Preheat your oven to 350 F / 175 C. In the bowl of your food processor, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Pulse a few times to mix. Add the banana and pulse until you can see about pea sized pieces of banana in the flour mixture.

2.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the non-dairy milk, lemon zest, juice and vanilla if using. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix with a few strokes of a spatula. Add the mango and mix the dough until just combined. Try not to overmix the dough or you'll end up with tough scones. The dough will be pretty sticky, but don't worry, it will work out in the end.

3.  With lightly floured hands, form a ball with an eighth of the dough. Place the ball on a parchment lined or greased baking sheet and flatten it slightly. Repeat for the remaining seven scones. Bake in the middle rack of your oven for 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into one of them comes out clean and the bottoms are golden brown. For some extra sweetness and a pretty touch, dust the scones with some confectioners sugar. Server warm, with some non-dairy butter and/or preserves if you'd like.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Squash and Israeli Couscous Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

Last Sunday, Austin and I had attended a pre-Independence celebration at one of his coworker's houses on Lake Gaston. About an hour before we were supposed to leave, we still hadn't made anything and our fridge was looking pretty barren. 'Twas make-it-work time. In less than half an hour I took all the veggies we had left, some basil, and a few pantry items, threw them together and voilá, a couscous salad emerged. We both tried it and deemed potluck worthy, but I wasn't sure how well it would go over with the burger-loving guests. 

The other vegetarian party goers totally approved of the salad, which I had kind of expected. After all, they probably thought they'd be the only ones bringing plant-based food. I was shocked though when another guest, who I'm pretty sure isn't big into salads or couscous, started raving about the salad. He became my salad's PR rep, making rounds and telling everyone "Hey, have you tried the couscous salad? You have to, man, it's delicious!!". It was hilarious and, of course, really flattering.

Sorry I didn't share this with you all in time for the 4th, but I hopefully you'll be able to come up with an excuse to make it soon.

Squash and Israeli Couscous Salad with Basil Vinaigrette 
Makes 6 servings
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat (or regular) Israeli couscous
  • Scant 1 3/4 cups vegetable broth (you can use water in a pinch, but broth gives the couscous better flavor)
  • 1 cup packed basil
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 medium summer squash, spiralized into ribbons or cut into strips using a vegetable peeler
  • 1 small zucchini, spiralized into ribbons or cut into strips using a vegetable peeler
  • 2 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1 medium red onion, quartered and thinly sliced (I just realized I have a pretty thick slice of onion in the picture. Oh well, do as I suggest, not as I do.)
  • 1 15 oz / 425 g can great northern, canellini, or pinto beans
  • Optional: Torn basil for garish
1.  Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add the couscous and cook, stirring occasionally, until it's toasted which should take 5-7 minutes. Pour in the vegetable broth or water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and cook for 6 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and let rest covered for about 10 minutes. Whatever Israeli couscous you buy may need more or less liquid and its cooking time may vary from what I've indicated, so make sure you follow the instructions on the package.

2.  While the couscous is cooking, prep your veggies and make the dressing. In a mini food processor (or a regular one, if that's all you've got) combine the the remaining olive oil, basil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper and process until smooth. Combine the squash, zucchini, tomatoes, onion and beans in a large mixing or salad bowl. Fluff up the couscous with a fork and add it to the bowl. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat evenly. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Serve warm or at room temperature, garnished with torn basil if you'd like.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Morrocan Chickpeas and Zucchini

At the end of last week, while other food bloggers were busy listing their most Independence Day worthy recipes I let my blog go dark and skipped from barbecue to barbecue. Blogger fail. Sorry. Something blogworthy did come out of this weekend though: I made an amazing couscous salad I'll share with you later this week, so stay tuned.

The downside of attending several early celebrations is that by the time July 4th proper actually rolled around, Austin and I had eaten enough festive fare. We wanted anything but more grilled tempeh, cold salads and watermelon. It was also pouring like crazy in Durham, and that kind of weather always makes me want warm food, even if it's still in the 70s. So stew it was. I went with a Moskowitz creation and, as usual, it didn't disappoint. This stew packs some serious flavor, and takes under an hour to make (most of that time is inactive). We served it over Israeli couscous, seasoned with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. It was the perfect antidote to a weekend of not-so-perfect eating.

Morrocan Chickpeas and Zucchini
Adapted from Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Appetite for Reduction
Makes 6 servings
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated or minced ginger
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cup vegetable broth
  • 3 medium carrots, quartered lengthwise then chopped into 2 in / 5 cm pieces
  • 2 zucchini, sliced into 1/4 in / 1/2 cm thick half moons
  • 1 28 oz / 795 g whole tomatoes, roughly broken into pieces with your hands
  • 2 15 oz / 425 g cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • Optional: 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1.  In a medium to large pot or deep pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent, or about 5 minutes. Toss in the garlic, ginger and red pepper, cooking for another 2 minutes. Mix in the rest of the spices and the salt and cook for about a minute.

2.  Pour in the vegetable broth and add the carrots. Cover the pot and bring the stew to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the zucchini and the broken up tomatoes with their juice. Cover the pot again, and gently boil for 15 more minutes. Mix in the chickpeas, partially cover the pot and cook for another 10 minutes. If using the mint, stir it in right before removing the pot from the heat. Serve hot over couscous or rice.