Saturday, July 28, 2012

Vegan Basil Pesto is the Chicken Soup for My Summer Soul

One of the things I look forward to the most in summer (besides water, sunshine, grilling, amusement parks, and outdoor dining) is fresh basil pesto.  It is really quite the love affair.  I like to make a huge batch that J and I can nosh on fresh and then freeze the remainder of so we can taste summer in the cold months to come.  I love everything about making it.  I love the smell of the garlic as it sits patiently waiting in the processor.  I love going out to the garden and picking the basil from the plants that J has put so much time and care into.  I love how my house and my hands smell like basil for hours and hours after I have made it.  I even love writing about it.  I'm smiling right this second just thinking about the pesto I just wrapped up making.

I didn't taste basil pesto until I was in my early twenties.  I don't even know if I ever had fresh basil at all growing up.  It's not that my dad didn't cook good food.  He did.  From a young age I was obsessed with salads, wheat germ and fresh yogurt, fresh pasta with homemade sauce, breads, and various other dad specialties.  My dad was great in the kitchen.  He was creative and inspired.  He made food that had wonderful flavor and he made this food without ever consulting a recipe.  He raised me to not be afraid of any food (unless, of course, it had a beating heart before it came to my plate which was not at all his doing).  He didn't, however, use fresh herbs...ever.  That's okay though, a whole lot of people never do.  I think it makes me appreciate fresh herbs that much more as an adult having not had them as a child.

I've been waiting patiently to make my pesto.  Though we have eight basil plants in the garden this year, this drought and intense heat haven't allowed them to flourish like they have in the past.  So I waited and this week J gave me the green light!  I could make pesto!  I went out to the garden this morning and cut a bunch of basil.  I left a good amount too, in hopes that the plants can pull themselves together and produce more.  I know I'll make another batch this year and I know I'll also have several basil gimlets.  If I'm lucky, I'll have enough basil to use it in a few other concoctions throughout the summer.

This recipe makes about three and a half cups of pesto which is a whole lot.  Feel free to halve the recipe.  You can use pine nuts in place of the walnuts.  I use walnuts because they are a heckuvalot cheaper and I think they make the pesto creamier.  I really dig a creamy pesto.  If you'd like a less creamy pesto, I would decrease the amount of walnuts by about 1/4 to 1/2 a cup.  I also add a ton of garlic.  This makes it spicy and that is something that makes my stomach smile.  You won't hurt the recipe if you reduce the garlic by 5-10 cloves.


10 cups fresh basil (or a little more if you want)
1 cup walnuts
1 1/2 cups olive oil (the higher the quality, the more delicious the results)
25 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp sea salt
2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
3 tbsp lemon juice


Place basil, garlic, pepper, salt, pepper flakes, and lemon juice in food processor.  Blend on low.  Add olive oil slowly while continuing to blend.  Once it's nice and smooth, you're finished.  Enjoy it!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Black and Blue Vegan Cobbler

I had never made a cobbler before when my best friend told me that it was her favorite summer dessert. I knew then that I would be making her one on her birthday.  I always get pretty nervous when I make something for the first time and that something will be tasted by people that aren't just Jennifer and I.  It is because of this that I did a ridiculous amount of research on vegan cobblers.  Cobbler research was annoying.  Some sites called what I consider a buckle a cobbler.  One site even had the audacity to suggest that what was so obviously a crisp was really a cobbler.  This annoying research had me doubting myself and that led to more research into the exact definitions of cobblers, buckles, bettys, crisps, crumbles, grunts...and the list goes on and on.

Now that I am a fruit dessert educated woman, I feel confident in sharing with you a real, genuine vegan cobbler recipe that I adapted from a couple different recipes I found online.  I used blackberries and blueberries (my two favorite berries) but you can put whatever fruit you want in it.  It probably won't be as good though since no other berry can pull off the same amazing tricks when baked.  I also add a decent amount of sugar to this recipe.  You can be healthier (and smarter) and cut back a bit.  When I tell you to put in 1/3 cup sugar with the berries, you could probably get away with 1/4 cup.  It's up to you.  Either way I know it'll turn out great and have you singing praises to the berry Gods by the time you have finished eating it.  Happy Baking!

(Just a side note:  While I am typing this, my favorite dog that isn't my own is cuddled at my feet snoring ever so softly.  I love SebsDog and I love my life!)

2 cups blackberries
2 cups blueberries
1/3 cup sugar for berries plus 1/4 cup sugar for topping
2 Tbsp. flour for berries plus 1 1/4 cups flour for topping
2 ounces orange juice (either freshly squeezed or bottled but NOT from concentrate because that is just gross and won't taste as good...I's like using vanilla flavor instead of extract)
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup cold vegan margarine, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup coconut milk (full fat not the low fat stuff)


1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees and spray a small baking dish with oil (I used an eight inch round corningware dish and that seemed about just right.)
2.  Cook berries, sugar, flour and orange juice in a saucepan over medium heat.  Once the sugar appears to be dissolved and the berries are warm, you have cooked them long enough.
3.  Pour berries into your prepared baking dish.
4.  Mix together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar with a whisk.  Then add the margarine to the mix and use your fingers to mix it up until it becomes a bit mealy.
5.  Add the coconut milk to the flour mixture and stir it until combined.
6.  Plop spoonfuls of dough over berry mixture in whatever fashion you want.  Make it pretty, make it ugly...I don't care, just make it good.
7.  Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until top is slightly browned.
8.  Serve it up and enjoy!  In case you don't know what to serve it up with, try some vegan ice cream or coconut whipped cream or just have it warm and by itself.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Macrobiotic Mac and Cheeze or, as I like to call it, Make My Heart Smile Casserole

I will be the first person to admit that I usually think vegan macaroni and cheese is a sham.  It's not the same as the real thing and I was convinced that it never wiould be close to the same thing.  I have to say though that I was really excited when I found a recipe for Macrobiotic Mac and Cheese in the super wonderful Blissful Bites cookbook.  Christy Morgan, the author, got creative and wonderful and used steamed butternut squash as a base.

Recently I gave the recipe a try.  I loved it and I think that Jennifer loved it even more, which was really pretty surprising.  I made some adaptations along the way and the final outcome was creamy, flavorful, and the right sort of filling.  It's made with quinoa pasta which was all sorts of fantastic too!  J and I had never tried it before as the thought of gluten free pasta makes us more than just a little uneasy.  I served it up with a side of steamed kale and a perfectly wonderful dinner was born.

Macrobiotic "Mac and Cheeze"
4 cups of butternut squash, cubed and steamed until tender
1 tsp. tamari (I used shoyu)
2 8 ounce boxes quinoa pasta shells (I used Ancient Harvest brand)
2 Tbsp. white miso (I only had a mellow brown miso on hand so that is what I used)
2 Tbsp. tahini (I used three tablespoons because I love me some tahini)
1 small lemon, juiced
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 tsp. black pepper
Paprika, for garnish

Steam the squash until tender and drizzle the tamari over the squash before placing the lid on the pan.  The squash will take about 25-30 minutes to get tender.  While the squash is steaming, boil the pasta according to the instructions on the package.

When the squash is done, blend it with the rest of the ingredients except for the pasta and paprika.  It's best if you blend it in a food processor since a blender may or may not like the thickness of the sauce.

Toss the sauce with the pasta and bake it in a casserole dish for about 15 minutes at 350 degrees.  Remove the dish from the oven, sprinkle the paprika on to make it pretty and serve it up ASAP.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Vegan Corn Filled Empanadas for Christmas!

I should have known better than to start a blog right in the midst of the holiday season.  Of course I would flake out and not post for a month.  What else would I do?  It's not that I haven't been cooking.  I have.  A whole heck of a lot.  I've made so many falafels, chickpea patties, soups and stews, cookies,  and loaves of bread.  So.  Much.  Food.  But after I would make said food, I would veg out and watch Christmas movies with the best woman in the world, J.

Today though, I started a new Christmas tradition and felt that it was certainly blog worthy.  J and I have begun our Latin food Christmas tradition...the tradition I have been asking for upwards of seven years.

I made the dough for the empanadas on Christmas Eve so there would be less work for me on Christmas Day.  The morning of Christmas, J and I woke up early to open presents, eat the overnight apple french toast I fixed and then watch It's a Wonderful Life which we both fell asleep to while cuddled on the couch.  After we woke up I slowly went about preparing our dinner.  I rolled out and cut the dough (with J's help since she is much more patient than I am), I prepared the creamy corn filling (which is more like a corn porridge), I fixed up the spicy chimichurri, and I made some simple rice and beans to accompany it.  Both the empanadas and chimichurri are recipes from Terry Hope Romero's amazing Latin food cookbook Viva Vegan!.

If you love Latin food (which, of course, you do if you are a friend of mine) you will love these empanadas.  Yes, the dough takes time.  But it's totally worth it.  This recipe made us eight of them and we could only eat one a piece which leaves us with more than enough leftovers.  I encourage you to try these.  Seriously.  They are so good and so, so worth it...especially if you have a little chimichurri on the side to add some zing.

Empanada Dough:
3 cups all purpose unbleached flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking powder
6 Tbsp. chilled vegan shortening
2 Tbsp. chilled vegan margarine
3/4 ice cold water (add a little more if necessary)

In a food processor, pulse together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Add 1/2 inch chunks of the shortening and margarine to this mix and pulse until everything resembles fine, sandlike crumbs.  Think beach sand here.  Very fine.

Pour the flour mixture in to a large bowl and stream in the ice cold water while mixing with your hands.  Add enough water that you can press the mixture together to form a soft and stretchy dough.  Briefly knead a few times, divide into two balls and flatten each ball out to a circle about an inch thick.  Chill the dough for at least four hours and up to overnight.  (I highly recommend overnight so you don't literally spend a whole day making empanadas but it's totally up to you!).

After dough is chilled, tear about 10 pieces of 7 inch waxed paper and have these ready by your work station.  Lightly dust a large, stable rolling surface and a rolling pin.  Roll one of the dough rounds out to about 3/8 inch thick.  Then take a 6 inch in diameter bowl and use it to cut out 6 inch dough rounds.  Place the rounds on wax paper as you cut them out.  Once you have gotten as many 6 inch rounds from the dough as you can, wrap them up tightly and put them back in the fridge until your filling is ready.

Creamy Corn Empanada Filling:
3 Tbsp. vegan margarine
3 Tbsp. finely chopped chives or green onions
1 tsp. dried basil
5 cups frozen corn, thawed and drained
3 cloves diced garlic
1/4 cup cornstarch
2/3 cup soy creamer
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. salt
Large pinch of cayenne
Black pepper to taste
1/3 cup soy creamer for brushing the emapanada dough

Melt the margarine over medium heat and saute the chives/green onions and basil in the butter for about two minutes.  In a blender, pulse the corn kernels, garlic, corn starch, soy creamer, lemon juice, salt, cayenne, and black pepper into a thick batter.  Pour this mixture into the pot containing the chives and basil and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon until the mixture resembles a thick porridge.  Remove from the heat and adjust the seasonings to your liking.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line one or two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Take the dough out of the fridge.  Gently stretch out one round by it's edges.  Brush one side of it with soy creamer and then place about 1/3 cup of the corn filling on the center of the same side.  Spread the filling over half of the side, leaving about a 1/2 inch of space along the edge of the dough.  Fold the unfilled half over the filled half and pinch shut with your fingers.  Seal the empanada by taking a fork and pressing along the edges.  Place the empanada on the prepared baking sheet and brush with a bit of soy creamer.  Repeat this with the remaining dough rounds.

Bake the empanadas for about 24 to 26 minutes.  Let them cool for about 5 minutes out of the oven.  Then serve them up with your favorite sides and sauce and enjoy!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tempeh "Crab" Cakes (minus even a hint of crab) with Remoulade

At this point it might seem like I am regurgitating all of the amazing recipes from the PPK.  Seeing as how three of the four recipes posted are PPK recipes, I totally get why you would feel that way.  The thing is, I have been forgetting to take pictures of the food I've been making and I just so happened to remember to photograph these little gems.

Now I generally don't look at recipes that imitate something meaty.  This particular recipe piqued my interest a couple of years ago when I got the amazing book Vegan Brunch.  I had told J a million times that I would make these.  Then I helped host a baby shower with a nautical theme for one of my best gals earlier this month.  I finally decided to make these bad boys.  I loved them!  The little bits of tempeh in every bite, the crispy outside and pleasant inside, the spice of it...I was frakkin in love.  J fell in love too.  So I decided to make them again so J and I could enjoy them on the last day of our vacation.

Everyone should make these.  There is a bit of work that goes in to them but they are worth every ounce of effort.  Seriously.

For the cakes:
8 ounces tempeh
1 cup water
1 tablespoon shoyu
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 bay leaves
3 tablespoons Vegenaisse
1 tablespoon stone ground Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon hot sauce
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 cup very finely chopped red bell pepper
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspooon salt
fresh black pepper
1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs, plus extra for dredging
Oil for pan frying

For the remoulade:
2 tablespoons Vegenaise
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard  (stone ground dijon works, too)
1 tablespoon hot sauce
2 teaspoons capers (try not to get too much brine)

Crumble the tempeh into a small sauce pan in little bits. Add the water, soy sauce, oil and bay leaves. Don’t worry about the tempeh being totally submerged because it doesn’t need to be. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, let boil for 12 to 15 minutes, until most of the water has evaporated. Stir once during boiling.
Transfer contents to a mixing bowl, remove bay leaf, and mash with a fork.  You’ll want to mash it up really well to where it becomes a bit pasty but still has some small tempeh bits left in it.  It’s VERY important that you then let the tempeh mix cool for about 15 minutes.  Make sure the tempeh is barely warm before you proceed, or the cakes may fall apart when you cook them and that might make you upset if you’re anything like me. Add the Vegenaisse, mustard, hot sauce, vinegar, chopped bell pepper, spices, salt and pepper, and mix well. Add the bread crumbs and then use your hands to mix it up really well.
Once you are ready to form the cakes, preheat a thin layer of oil in a heavy bottomed non-stick skillet (cast iron is great) over medium heat. Pour some panko into a bowl. Scoop a little less than 1/4 cup batter into your hands and form into a ball. Flatten between your palms and then roll the sides gently with your hands cupped to smooth them. Press them in to the panko.  They don’t need to be thoroughly covered, just a little bit for some texture.
Fry a batch of five cakes for 4 minutes on one side and flip when dark golden brown. Fry for 2 minutes on the other side and transfer to a wire rack over a plate to drain. Do your second batch and in the meantime make your remoulade by mixing all the ingredients together in a bowl.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Fried Udon with Sesame Ginger Tempeh? Why yes, I think I will.

If we are anything in my household, we are a fried rice loving people.  Recently though, we have taken to substituting udon noodles in place of rice.  Nothing hits the spot like a bowl of udon noodles chock full of kale, broccoli, bell peppers, carrots, onions, ginger, garlic, zucchini, and Sesame Ginger Glazed tempeh.

I don’t just love eating this meal, I love the preparation.  It's easy and gives me a chance to unwind.  I love coming home from work, pouring myself a glass of wine (though there was no wine today as I am abstaining from alcohol this month), turning on some music, and then getting lost in the chopping of so many vegetables.   

Keep in mind when preparing this that you can add any of your favorite veggies to this or remove any of the ones I have listed.  If I wasn't cooking this for both J and myself I would put mushrooms in it.  J hates herself some mushrooms though (she can't get down with fungus) so I will always leave them out.

Sesame Ginger Tempeh Recipe:
3 Tbsp. fresh ginger, minced
One 8 oz. package tempeh, cut in to small cubes
2 tsp. sesame oil
2 Tbsp. shoyu (or tamari/soy sauce/Braggs)
6 cloves garlic
1 tsp. ume plum vinegar

Combine all of the ingredients in a shallow bowl/dish.  Marinate in the refrigerator for at least one hour and up to overnight.

Fried Udon Recipe:
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 small yellow onion, diced  
3 medium carrots, diced 
6 cloves of garlic, minced 
1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, minced
2 bell peppers (whatever color you desire), diced
2 cups of broccoli florets, cut into bite size pieces
1 bunch of kale (I used purple kale because it is my favorite), stem removed and torn in to bite size pieces
2 medium zucchini, diced
Sesame Ginger Tempeh
1 package udon noodles, cooked according to instructions on package
3 Tbsp. shoyu (or tamari/soy sauce/Braggs) 

Heat olive oil over medium high heat either in large skillet or wok.  Add onion and carrots to the pan.  Stir frequently for about three minutes.  Next add garlic, ginger, and bell peppers to the mix.  Continue to stir for about two more minutes (or until onion starts to appear translucent).   Add the broccoli and kale and stir for about three minutes.  Finally, add the zucchini and the Sesame Ginger Tempeh and stir until the zucchini starts to soften and the tempeh is hot.

Stir in the udon noodles and shoyu sauce.  Saute another three minutes until the noodles are heated through.  Serve it up.  You'll probably want to add more shoyu to your own plate and don't forget the Sriracha Hot Chili sauce!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Dear Mexican Chocolate Snickerdoodles, Please Marry Me.

Tonnya, a lady I find especially fun and one of J's longtime employees is moving away to St. Louis. Tonight is her going away party and J asked me to bake something up for the event. Tonnya is kind of a spicy gal so I decided whatever I baked had to be equally spicy. Enter Mexican Chocolate Snickerdoodles from Vegan Cupcakes Invade Your Cookie Jar. When I started baking these this morning, I had no friggin idea they would be so amazing. For the love of all that is good, these cookies are the IT cookies. Not even Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, my go-to perfect cookie, can compare.

I will mention here, if you are afraid of a little spice, then these aren't the cookies for you. That would be a shame though because you'd be missing out on the most delicious thing. It's up to it safe or live a little.


For the Topping:
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon

For the Awesome Cookies:
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
3 Tbsp. almond milk (or whatever non dairy milk you love most)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. chocolate extract (or more vanilla if you have no chocolate)
1 2/3 cups flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cayenne

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
Mix the topping ingredients together in a shallow bowl or on a plate and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, use a fork to vigorously mix together oil, sugar, syrup, and milk. Then mix in the extracts.
Sift in remaining ingredients, stirring as you add them. Once all ingredients are added mix until you’ve got a pliable dough.

Roll dough into walnut sized balls. Pat into the sugar topping to flatten into roughly 2 inch discs. Transfer to baking sheet, sugar side up, at least 2 inches apart (they do spread). This should be easy as the the bottom of the cookies should just stick to your fingers so you can just flip them over onto the baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes rotating the baking sheets from top to bottom halfway through. The cookies should be a bit spread and crackly on top. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.