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.