Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Spicy Puttanesca Sauce

Confession time: I'm more than a little uncomfortable with self-promotion.

I know it's a big thing in blogging, especially food blogging, but I feel a little strange going on and on about the latest and greatest vegan recipe I've concocted.

I know what I'm making is good. Some of it is really good. But it's an exercise in futility to try and persuade readers that my recipes are to better than the scores of other vegan options out there.

Ideally, I'd invite everyone reading over for dinner and just let you try my recipes. That way the food speaks for itself and I don't have to re-use words like "amazing" and "delicious" for the billionth time.

Regardless of my concerns, I hope you'll indulge my ego and trust me: this puttanesca sauce is hands-down one of the greatest tomato sauces I've ever had.

A bold statement, I know, but it's true. This is the real deal.

I've actually never made proper tomato sauce on my own before. It's a little labour-intensive, but the results are so unbelievably good that it's worth every single moment of prep.

This sauce is so fantastically versatile; you can keep it chunky for a rustic pasta sauce or a bruschetta mix, pulse it a bit in a food processor to make a smoother pasta sauce, or even blend it right down for pizza sauce.

If you've never tried anything from The Essential Vegan, I urge you to start with this sauce.

You won't be disappointed!

Spicy Puttanesca Sauce

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes

Ingredients:

2 cups tomatoes, chopped
4 cloves garlic, pressed
1 cup onion, chopped
1/4 cup kalmata olives, chopped
3 Tbsp. capers
2 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
1 Tbsp. fresh curly parsley, chopped
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. safflower oil
1 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. sea salt

Directions:

1. Heat oil on medium in a cast iron skillet or a medium-sized pot
2. Cook onion for 4-5 minutes or until golden, stirring occasionally
3. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook another two minutes
4. Toss in everything else, then partially cover and simmer for 20 minutes
5. Stir every 5-7 minutes, breaking down larger pieces of tomato
6. Uncover and simmer another 5 minutes
7. Pulse mixture in a food processor to achieve desired consistency*

*I blended the sauce for about 1 minute to get a thick, slightly chunky pasta sauce.


Inspired by: Vegan Cooking for Carnivores

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

The 9.3 Cupcakes

Okay, let's cut to the chase: I made some spectacular cupcakes yesterday.

They are not just a dessert, but an indulgence.

I normally look for vegan sweets that Dave can enjoy with less sugar and oil, but this time I just threw everything out the window and created some of the sweetest, most over-the-top calorie bombs imaginable.

These are not healthy-so-I-can-have-two cupcakes, but they are, apparently, quite phenomenal.

I say "apparently" because I haven't tried them. Nope, I'm sticking to my no-sugar policy, and wow, was that hard to do while making this recipe. I had to stop myself from licking my fingers on no less than four occasions, and that was before I got my hands covered in frosting while taking pictures.

It's okay, though, because I stay headache-free and Dave gets to enjoy some pretty unbelievable cupcakes.

First up was the taste test.

Dave stood chewing his first bite for quite a while. The suspense was killing me. I honestly had absolutely no idea if they would be amazing or absolutely terrible.

Then he looked at me with wide eyes and said "Oh my god, 9.3".

Allow me to explain: Dave likes to judge food based on a scale of one to ten, so 9.3 was pretty mind-blowing. His all-time favourite store-bought dessert are milk chocolate chunk cookies from Mmmuffins, which he ranks a 9.7, so this recipe was not far behind!

Now that says something.

So yes, this recipe probably has lots of calories and fat and definitely has lots of peanut butter, sugar, oil and chocolate, but that's not really the point.

They're totally vegan, and my transitioning partner will gladly choose them over processed, pre-packaged cookies or boxed mixes made with eggs and milk. That is a huge victory for me.

The recipe makes enough batter for twelve cupcakes, but these became twelve of the biggest, heaviest cupcakes I've ever seen. Make them huge if you want or divide the batter into two batches and make 24 regular sized cupcakes. Either way, they're moist, decadent, and super rich.

Give one of these to anyone who says, "Vegan desserts are boring" or "They could never compare to real desserts", and watch them literally eat their words.

Baby steps. Chocolate peanut butter baby steps.


The 9.3 Cupcakes 

Prep time: 10 minutes

Bake time: 22-25 minutes

Makes 12 enormous cupcakes or 24 regular cupcakes, depending on your level of indulgence


Cupcake Ingredients:

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup unsweetened hemp milk (Hemp Bliss)
1 cup agave syrup
1 1/2 cups dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup natural crunchy peanut butter (or smooth, as desired)
1/2 canola oil
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
2 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

Cupcake Directions:

1. Combine flours, chocolate chips, baking powder, soda and salt in a large mixing bowl
2. Combine agave, hemp milk, peanut butter, apple cider vinegar and vanilla in a small mixing bowl; use a whisk to ensure everything is nice and smooth
3. Add the wet to the dry and stir until evenly mixed
4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly oil a muffin tin
5. Scoop spoonfuls of batter into each cup and bake 22-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean
6. Allow cupcakes to cool completely before frosting



Frosting Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup margarine (Earth Balance Natural Buttery Spread), room temperature
1/4 cup unsweetened hemp milk (Hemp Bliss)
1 tsp. vanilla


Frosting Directions:

1. Combine everything in a medium mixing bowl and blend with an electric mixer until smooth
2. Top cooled cupcakes with frosting and refrigerate until ready to eat

Inspired by Big Vegan

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Adobo Black Bean Dip

Let me introduce you to a friend named Mr. Adobo.

Adobo is a Spanish marinade made with vinegar, garlic, salt, paprika and oregano and it's absolutely delicious.

It's sometimes used as a marinade on meat, but is more commonly used to preserve ripe jalapeno peppers. These beauties are called chipotles and they come swimming in a spicy, smoky, vinegary concoction a billion times better than any bottled barbeque sauce. Is that enough mouth-watering adjectives?

I love chipotles in adobo!

Unfortunately chipotles in adobo are most often sold in a little metal can. I try to avoid canned goods but I make an exception so I can enjoy a little adobo from time to time.

The most common brands are San Marcos and La Costena and they're usually sold in the 'Mexican' food section at grocery stores. I have yet to find an organic and/or jarred version, but am hoping to put together my own recipe for chipotles in adobo in the near future.

Anyway, I found a can in my pantry and had just made a big pot of black beans, so the combination just seemed obvious. This recipe has five ingredients and it's ready in less than five minutes.

So easy, and so addictive. After taking a few pictures for this post I ate almost the entire bowl. With my fingers.

Domo arigato, Mr. Adobo.


Adobo Black Bean Dip

Prep time: 5 minutes

Makes about 1/2 cup



Ingredients:

3-4 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1 cup cooked black beans (How to Cook...Beans!)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1/4 cup chopped chipotles in adobo*
1 Tbsp. lime juice


*I prefer to chop up two peppers in a coffee cup using kitchen shears, then add the bits to a 1/4 cup and top it with as much of the delicious sauce as possible*


Directions:

1. Add everything to a blender and puree, scraping down the sides as required

Inspired by Big Vegan

Monday, 29 July 2013

The 'Dave Ate Mushrooms!' Burger

I'll willingly admit to a little cooking trickery from time to time, especially with my husband.

Dave is much less picky now than when we first met, but he still has strong responses to a few foods; so much so that he refuses to touch some dishes if they come in contact with particular ingredients.

He reacts with horrified disgust to things like ketchup, mustard, raw onions, olives, and particularly, above all else, mushrooms.

Dave hates mushrooms the way I hate...well, nothing. I don't think any of my food aversions can even come close to competing with his hatred of mushrooms.

Anyway, every once in a while I try to throw one or more of these ingredients into a recipe just to see how Dave responds.

A few days ago I offered to put together a meatless burger recipe for a weekend meal, and muttered "with lots of mushrooms" under my breath.

I put the recipe together, grilled up a patty on our little sandwich press and tried to look nonchalant as Dave took his first bite. "Whoa...these are amazing!" he exclaimed.

My Cheshire cat smile was obviously a little too telling. There was panic in his eyes as he asked, "Wait, what did you put in them?" "Are there mushrooms in here?!"

Oh yes, Dave, there are mushrooms. Lots and lots of mushrooms. But they're ground up into the patty mixture with other delicious ingredients, and the mushroom taste is absolutely imperceptible to mushroom-phobes.

This is an all-around great burger. It's well-spiced but not too spicy, stays together when grilled, and has a nice, crispy crust with a satisfying, burger-esque texture.

If I can get Dave to not only eat but love these burgers, I have no doubt even the most staunch mushroom haters will fall in love at first bite.


The 'Dave Ate Mushrooms!' Burger 

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 8-10 minutes

Makes 6 burgers

Ingredients:

1 pkg. extra-firm tofu, pressed
1 1/2 cup rolled oats, ground
1 cup onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup cremini mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup red pepper, sliced
3 Tbsp. brown rice miso paste
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
2 tsp. dried basil
1 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried savory
1 tsp. safflower oil
1/2 dried rosemary
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
Fresh cracked pepper


Directions:

1. Heat oil in a cast-iron skillet on medium-high and cook onions for 5-6 minutes
2. Add garlic and cook for a minute, then mushrooms and peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, for another 5-6 minutes
3. Remove mixture from heat and allow to cool
4. Meanwhile, combine tofu, miso, tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, mustard, spices, salt and pepper to a food processor and mix for 2-3 minutes, scraping down the sides every minute or so
5. Add rolled oats and process for about 30 seconds
6. Scrape everything into a large mixing bowl and add onion mixture
7. Get right in there with your hands and smoosh, smoosh, smoosh!
8. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use (I kept my bowl in for about 4 hours)
9. When ready to cook, heat a sandwich press, grill or skillet on medium-high
10. Shape the dough into six equal patties and brush the tops and sides with a bit of safflower oil
11. Cook each side for about 4-5 minutes, or until there's a nice, crispy brown crust and the middle is set


Dave topped his burger with lettuce, tomato, his phenomenal Ranch Sauce and a sliced Thai chili pepper.

What an amazing lunch!


Inspired by Let Them Eat Vegan!

Thursday, 25 July 2013

The Happy Accident

Yesterday I accomplished a few goals:

1. I used the bike rack on the front of a city bus. That might sound like a weird accomplishment, but it's been on my to-do list for months. I was worried I'd try to pull the metal contraption open and it would fall off, or my bike would roll off into oncoming traffic, or I wouldn't be able to hoist the bike into place and it would fall on me...the list of ridiculous ways it could have gone wrong was endless. 

Thankfully Dave was interested in taking a little bike trip and offered to give me a hand. We trekked downtown then Dave helped me load the bikes in properly. Voila! Easy peasy.

2. I spent some quality time with one of my best buds, Brent, and his beautiful daughter. She's turning one today! Happy birthday, sweet child.

3. I went to Bulk Barn (cue heavenly choir) and stocked up on all kinds of goodies: nuts, dried fruit, nut butters, beans, rice, spices. It's a wonderful, magical place for strange folks like me.

4. I biked down one of the escarpment paths that lead downtown. This is something I've wanted to do since I was a kid, but there was absolutely no way I would have done it back then. One of my friends took a mighty spill down this same road when we were teens and I have fond memories of waiting in the emergency room to get her wounds patched. Anyway, I digress. It was so much fun to fly down the path and look out across the city on a beautiful, sunny day. I'm excited to try some of the other roads next.

5. I came home and found myself absolutely starving. I was definitely in the mood for a smoothie. I'd just biked halfway around my city and was craving something creamy and satiating. I threw together some standby ingredients including a giant handful of some local, organic kale...then added a splash of vanilla. 

I was expecting to taste something similar to The Linda (which, by the way, has now become my best friend's go-to breakfast...woo!), but was completely taken aback when I tried this smoothie.

What was different? The taste was sweeter, but in a way I couldn't place. I went back and checked my ingredients only to find that I'd used almond extract instead of vanilla. The taste difference was like night and day. 

If you've never tried almond extract in a smoothie (and honestly, have many people done this? Maybe there are hundreds of almond extract smoothie recipes out there...) I strongly encourage you to try this recipe. It's really pretty amazing.


The Happy Accident 

Proof that sometimes making a mistake yields delicious results.


Prep time: 5 minutes

Makes about 10 ounces


Ingredients:

3/4 cup almond milk
3/4 cup frozen banana
1/2 cup frozen mango
1/4 cup frozen mixed berries
1/4 cup rolled oats
1 giant handful of kale, stems removed*
1 Tbsp. chia seeds
1 tsp. almond extract

*I try to add as much kale as I can before the taste becomes too prominent. Kale is so unbelievably healthy but I'm not a salad eater so I make up some of the difference here. Feel free to use as much or little kale as you'd like, but ideally at least 1 cup.


Directions:

1. Add everything to your blender and let it do its thing. This is a thick smoothie and may take a few minutes to fully blend, so scrape down the sides once or twice and check for consistency.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Sweet Curried Cauliflower & Chickpeas

Simple, sweet and spicy. Three of my favourite adjectives.

This tasty little dish more than satisfies all of these requirements, and is really easy to put together. 

The smell as it cooks is intoxicating, and the flavour is subtle, yet satisfying. 

Pair a scoop of this chunky curry with a nice bowl of basmati rice and you have yourself quite a fantastic weeknight meal. 

Oh, and leftovers are definitely something to look forward to. The spice will deepen and compliment the sweetness of the raisins even more the next day. 

What's not to love?!


Sweet Curried Cauliflower & Chickpeas

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Cooking Time: 40 minutes 

Makes: enough for 4-6



Ingredients:

4 cups spinach, roughly chopped
2 cups cauliflower, broken into small florets
1 cup water
1 cup cooked basmati rice
1 cup cooked chickpeas (How to Cook...Beans!)
1 cup onion, diced
1/4 cup raisins
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. garlic, grated
1 Tbsp. garam masala
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. sunflower oil
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp. salt
Fresh cracked black pepper


Directions:

1. Heat the oil on medium in a cast iron pan or large skillet
2. Cook the onions for 5-6 minutes or until golden
3. Add the garlic, ginger, spices, salt and pepper and stir for another minute
4. Add the balsamic vinegar and stir to combine
5. Add the cauliflower, chickpeas, water then cover and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally
6. Pile the spinach on top then cover and steam for 5 minutes
7. Remove pan from the heat, uncover and stir in the raisins then serve with rice

Enjoy!


Friday, 5 July 2013

The Linda

Aaaaand...I'm back!


The initial planting and weeding of our garden is basically complete, so now I have a bit more time to sit back and enjoy the fruits of my labour. Well, not literally...I don't think I'll get much of a show out of my fruit and/or vegetables this year, but regardless, the insane rush is over.

I spent every free moment from mid-May through the end of June outside. It was wonderful, but I'm ready to take a break.

I finally got back into the kitchen after weeks and weeks of avoidance, and lo and behold, I can still put together a tasty concoction!

This phenomenal smoothie recipe came together at just the perfect time.

Why, you ask? There are five reasons:


1. Today is July 5, which also happens to be my mother-in-law's birthday! I've known Linda for more than ten years and in that time we've grown from strangers to allies, friends and family. She's such an amazing woman.

2. Linda has a particular affection for mango, as do I. I'm pretty sure I ate the equivalent of my body weight in mango in the Philippines. Just thinking about mango makes my mouth water. Mango, mango, mango! It's the perfect summer fruit.

3. Last month I made the decision to eliminate all forms of sugar except from fruit. It's been *really* hard at times, but soooo worth it. I no longer have headaches, drastic mood swings or irritability. Unfortunately sugar is in absolutely everything these days, so it's also been quite a challenge. Anyway, Linda is a big dessert fan, so this smoothie is a great example of how delicious sweet food can be without added sugar.

4. It's a great confidence booster to throw together a few simple ingredients and come out with a fantastic new recipe. I was feeling a little low for a while; I didn't have the time or energy to put together recipes after 10 hour days at my regular job plus time in the garden. This lovely, simple smoothie has helped me appreciate my skills and encourages me to nurture them whenever possible.

5. I have to thank Linda for giving me the push I so desperately needed to get back into the kitchen. A week ago she sent me a message saying, "Are you still posting blog info because I have not seen any for maybe a couple of weeks?" That woke me from my gardening-fueled daze and I realized just how long it's been since I shared anything! A birthday sounds like a great time to start again, doesn't it?

Happy birthday, Linda!!

The Linda


Prep time: 5 minutes

Makes about 8 ounces


Ingredients:

3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
3/4 cup frozen banana
3/4 cup baby kale (Earthbound Farm Organic Mixed Baby Kales)
1/2 cup frozen mango
1/4 cup frozen mixed berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries & blackberries)
1 Tbsp. hemp seeds
1 tsp. vanilla


Directions:

1. Blend and sing "Happy Birthday, dear Linda" five times, or until completely smooth.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Serenity Now

I've discovered...GARDENING!!

My husband and I bought our first house in June of 2012: a slightly dilapidated two storey house from the early 20th century with a jungle of a backyard.

What it lacks in modernity it makes up in personality.

Or at least that's what I tell myself.

I spent much of last summer just trying to tame the massive tangle of weeds that choked every inch of space. It was a long, grueling effort, but it was worth it - I started off this year with a relatively blank slate.

April was spent planning, sketching, researching and making list after list of possible plant combinations.

Once the weather changed in early May we hit up garden stores, spent several hundred dollars and came home with a carload of flowers, bushes and trees.

I have barely been back inside my house since.

I spend almost every free moment out in the garden, puttering around like a little old lady. I can easily while away an entire afternoon up to my elbows in dirt, digging up dandelions and I absolutely love it!

I have no idea what I'm doing, and will likely kill at least half of the plants I've just purchased, but I don't care. It's so utterly satisfying being outside and creating a beautiful, living piece of art in my own space.

To celebrate my new-found love of gardening, and because I was spending so much time outside I often forgot meals, I created this simple, filling smoothie.

I can throw it together in just a few minutes, and then drink it while meandering around the backyard.

It's bliss in a glass.


Serenity Now

Prep time: 5 minutes

Makes one 10 ounce smoothie
 Ingredients:

3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk (Almond Breeze)
3/4 cup frozen strawberries
1 frozen banana
1/4 cup rolled oats
2-3 purple kale leaves, torn
1 Tbsp. maple syrup
1 Tbsp. hemp seeds
1 tsp. vanilla


Directions:

1. Blend, then stop and smell the flowers.



Friday, 17 May 2013

Guest Post: Dave's Chikout Pita & Ranch Sauce

Today's guest post comes courtesy of my favourite meat eater, my husband Dave. As I've mentioned before, Dave is teeter-tottering between being vegan and omnivore and he sometimes struggles to find vegan food that satisfies his cravings. He made this transitional meal several times and always raved about the results. The original version had cow's milk cheese and a bottled Ranch sauce, but with a switch to Daiya and a super easy home-made sauce, the whole thing became vegan and infinitely more delicious.

Here's his story:


When my wife, The Essential Vegan (it says that on our marriage license) first became vegan, I fully supported her…with my words. I had nothing against vegans, I found that their idea of food was just boring and bland. Their hearts were in the right place, but I felt that they were ignoring their taste buds, and were basically force-feeding themselves gruel while attempting to force a smile and say, without gagging, “this vegan dish is really tasty.”

Yes, I’m embellishing – but not by much. I had a recent experience that further supported my overly generalized bias. There was a vegan food truck where I live that my wife was ecstatic to go and try at a food truck festival, which was the ONLY vegan option. My wife bought a quinoa salad and coconut key lime pie. They looked good enough and the price suggested that these dishes were oozing with quality and flavour. They absolutely sucked. They sucked so bad it was literally upsetting. How many potential vegans have abandoned this lifestyle choice because they have had ultimately inferior food? That’s where I want to come in for other meat eaters, and introduce a vegan dish that taste like, dare I say, a ‘regular’ dish.

That was my primary plight for a good year before ‘mostly’ going vegan – it wasn’t so much the flavour that was lacking (spices can take care of anything), but the consistency and texture of the meat replacement was downright shameful. Companies are finally getting it right and realizing that all you have to do is trick the mind into thinking it feels like meat in your mouth, and BAM – you’re impregnated with veganism. What a strange comparison.

This is called the Chikout Pita. Why Chikout? Well, it's pretty simple, there's no chicken in here - as I've taken it out. See how clever that is?

'Chikout' Pita

Ingredients and how to make this delicious and easy (not to mention highly ‘influential’) meal:

-preheat toaster oven to 400 degrees
-cook 2-3 Gardein Chipotle Lime Chickenless Fingers for 24 minutes, flipping halfway through
-cook naan bread from from frozen for 5-7 minutes, and if your toaster oven has room you can cook the two at the same time to save energy
-place the chikout fingers on the naan bread and sprinkle with:
-1/3 cup Daiya grated soy cheese
-¼ Thai chili pepper, sliced or cut very thin and include the seeds
-¼ clove garlic, sliced or cut very thin
-put the naan bread all loaded up back in the oven and bake open-faced for 4 more minutes
-garnish with your favourite hot sauce and the ranch sauce (recipe included) as well as lettuce, peppers and whatever other veggies tickle your fancy
-fold/roll the naan up, eat and have your mind blown



Ranch Sauce
-combine the following in a blender until smooth (this will definitely take more than a minute):
          -1/2 cup raw cashews
          -2 tablespoons lemon juice
          -2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
          -1 and 1/2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
          -1 tablespoon olive oil
          -1 tablespoon tahini paste
          -2 teaspoons chopped green onions (green parts)
          -1/4 teaspoon onion powder
          -1 teaspoon garlic powder
          -1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
          -1/2 teaspoon sea salt
          -1/8 teaspoon black pepper
          -2 teaspoon agave nectar
          -1/4 cup almond/soy milk




Ranch inspiration from Let Them Eat Vegan

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Jambalaya with Andouille Tempeh

It just wouldn't be right to start this post without paying homage to Newman and the Soup Nazi:


"Jambalayaaaaaa..."

I'm continuing with my faux friends theme after a really successful (and faux!) eggless salad recipe for the Virtual Vegan Potluck. It was so fun to join in with 170 other vegan food bloggers and share lots of great food!

Today I'm taking on tempeh. I'll be honest - I haven't had much success with tempeh in the past. Tempeh has a much stronger taste than tofu, and the texture is nutty and crumbly. I've had it in a few great restaurant sandwiches, but I've found it difficult to create something at home that my favourite meat eater will actually enjoy.

I thought I'd try my hand combining tempeh with some New Orleans-style spices to create my own version of Andouille sausage. And what works wonderfully with vegan Andouille sausage? Jambalaya!

Jambalaya is one of the most quintessential foods from the southern United States. There are two basic types of jambalaya - Creole and Cajun. Creole jambalaya combines meat, peppers, onions, celery, tomatoes, seasonings, stock and rice, while Cajun jambalaya omits the tomatoes. Both methods use a simple, basic recipe of cheap (but good quality!) ingredients mixed with lots of flavourful spices.

This is food that sticks to your ribs and gives you a spicy slap in the face just for fun. The tempeh will blow your socks off if you try to eat it alone, but add it to the jambalaya and it all melds together in a beautiful synergy. I've always wanted to use that word.

Synergy.


Andouille Tempeh

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 12 minutes

Makes: 1 cup


Ingredients:

1 250 gram block tempeh (Henry's Gourmet Tempeh)
1/2 cup low-salt vegetable stock
3 cloves garlic, pressed
2 tsp. safflower oil
2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp. liquid smoke
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. thyme
1/4 tsp. bay leaf, crushed
1/4 tsp. sage
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. salt

Directions:

1. Crumble tempeh into a large bowl and add garlic, liquid smoke and spices
2. Toss all ingredients together with your hands then refrigerate until ready to use
3. Heat oil in a large skillet on medium heat
4. Cook tempeh mixture for 5-7 minutes or until browned
5. Add vegetable stock and simmer for 5 minutes or until liquid is absorbed


Jambalaya

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 45 minutes

Serves 4


Ingredients:

1 cup rice
1 cup water
2 cups low-salt vegetable stock
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup green pepper, thinly sliced
3/4 cup red pepper, thinly sliced
1 cup onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, sliced
2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 bay leaf
1 Tbsp. Cajun seasoning*
1 tsp. safflower oil
1/4 tsp. salt

*DIY Cajun seasoning!*

2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 1/2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. cayenne powder
1 1/4 tsp. oregano
1 1/4 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper

Directions:

1. Heat oil in a large soup pot on medium heat
2. Add onion & cook for 4 minutes or until softened
3. Add garlic, bay leaf and spices and stir for another minute
4. Add water, stock and tomatoes, raise to a boil then reduce to low
5. Cover and simmer 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed
6. Fold in andouille tempeh just before serving


You will not walk away from the table feeling hungry. Giddy-up!


Friday, 10 May 2013

Virtual Vegan Potluck: Eggless Salad Sandwiches!

Welcome to The Essential Vegan and the third Virtual Vegan Potluck!

The Virtual Vegan Potluck is held twice a year - May and November - and this round brings together 170 fantastic vegan foodies from across the globe.

We all link our websites to allow readers easy access to a virtual encyclopedia's worth of recipes, cooking tips and personal experiences from the all around the vegan world.

Let's get started!

My contribution to this daisy chain of amazing vegan food is a spin on the classic egg salad sandwich.

Perfect for family picnics and lazy weekend days, my eggless salad is a cinch to put together. It has all the wonderfully creamy, eggy texture your heart desires thanks to extra-firm tofu and a zippy eggless mayo dressing.

Most vegan egg salad recipes use prepared vegan mayonnaise, but there's really no need because home-made is healthier and way more delicious. Plus it's ready in ten minutes. How much easier can it be?

I was never a mayo fan, but this stuff is addictive. I had to stop myself from eating it just to take a few pictures! This would be fantastic thinned out as a dip for veggies or as a sandwich spread.

One final word about the eggless mayo's oil content - four tablespoons of oil may seem like a lot, but it's necessary to achieve the creamy consistency of mayonnaise.

Safflower oil is one of the healthier oils available and gives your body a good dose of polyunsaturated fats. A little healthy fat is a good thing!


Eggless Mayo


Prep time: 10 minutes

Makes about 3/4 cup

Ingredients:

1 cup extra-firm tofu, drained & pressed
1/4 cup cashews, finely ground
4 Tbsp. safflower oil
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. agave syrup
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp. salt

Directions:

1. Combine all ingredients except oil in a blender & pulse to combine
2. Add 2 Tablespoons of oil and blend, then repeat and blend until completely smooth
3. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use



Eggless Salad


Prep time: 15 minutes


Makes about 1 cup


Ingredients:

1 cup tofu, drained & pressed
1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp. Eggless Mayo
2 stalks celery, diced
1 green onion, diced (light green parts)
2 Tbsp. water
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. maple syrup
1 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. celery seed
1/4 tsp. cracked black pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

Directions:

1. Whisk together Eggless Mayo, Dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar, water, maple syrup and spices in a small bowl
2. Crumble tofu into a large bowl and mix in dressing, using a fork to break up tofu
3. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve

Serve on some lovely nutty bread, stuffed into a pita, or as an appetizer on crackers.

So yummy!




Thanks for visiting The Essential Vegan!

Enjoy the rest of the Virtual Vegan Potluck, and I hope you'll check in with me again soon.



Go back to The Split Plate:



Go forward to The Joyful Pantry:



Thanks so much to An Unrefined Vegan, Vedged Out and Jason and the Veganauts for creating the Virtual Vegan Potluck and Vegan Bloggers Unite! for hosting!

Eggless Mayo inspired by 500 Vegan Recipes

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Shawarma Tofu & Sriracha Tahini Sauce

I've always been a big fan of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food.

Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan...that area of the world inspires foods with simple, fresh flavours and lots of great spice blends.

Before going vegan my husband and I ate at our local Mediterranean restaurant quite frequently. Since the change, though, I've found my food options a little disappointing. Ninety percent of the menu is heavy on meat and/or cheese, so my choices were lentil soup or falafel. Don't get me wrong - I love lentil soup and falafel, but after a few ho-hum visits I decided I could make some delicious alternatives at home.

I created this recipe as much for my husband as myself. Dave has been inching closer to veganism over the last few months, and I like encouraging him by experimenting with familiar (yet new!) tastes and textures in a non-threatening way. Sometimes wild and crazy vegan gourmet isn't what wins people over. Simple is good.

One of Dave's favourite Mediterranean dishes is chicken shawarma. I thought I'd try my hand at combining a bunch of yummy spices with crumbled extra-firm tofu, and it turned out pretty darn tasty.

A word about the moisture factor: tofu will never have the inherent "juicy-ness" of a slab 'o meat. Pressing the tofu removes all the excess moisture, which also tends to make it a little on the dry side.

To compensate for this, I kept the tofu crumbles larger (I'd make them even bigger next time!) and topped it with a Sriracha tahini sauce that pulls all the flavours together and adds a little creamy kick.

Shawarma Tofu


Prep time: 2 hours (tofu prep & marinade)
Cook time: 30 minutes

Serves: 3-4


Ingredients:

1 block tofu (Soyganic Extra Firm Tofu)*
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. safflower oil
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. allspice
3/4 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cracked black pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

*Pressed tofu:

1. Remove tofu from package and squeeze out excess water
2. Layer tofu and a tea towel on a plate with a heavy bowl to press for one hour


Directions:

1. Cut tofu into ten slices lengthwise, then crumble into a medium sized bowl
2. Mix in oil, garlic, lemon juice and spices, stir to coat and refrigerate for one hour
3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees; spread tofu on a baking tray with a silicone sheet
4. Bake for 20 minutes, stir and bake another 10 minutes



Sriracha Tahini Sauce


Prep time: 5 minutes

Makes about 1/2 cup


Ingredients:

1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup water
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. Sriracha
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. salt


Directions:

1. Add all ingredients to a small bowl and whisk to combine


Serve Shawarma Tofu stuffed into a pita or naan bread with your favourite greens and a healthy dose  of the Sriracha Tahini Sauce.

Welcome to Flavour Town.


Spice mix inspiration from The Shiksa.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Sir Mix-A-Lot

I'd like to start with a few words about the bean so many people love to hate - soy!

Tofu and soy products get a bad wrap. That's not to say it's completely undeserved, but some people avoid soy like the plague.

But soy is not the enemy! The blame lies with how big agricultural conglomerates like Monsanto (boo, hiss!) have genetically altered the soybean plant.

Soybeans have been a staple in Asian diets for literally thousands of years. Japanese, Korean and Chinese cultures use a wide variety of soy products - miso, edamame, silken tofu, firm tofu, soy milk, tamari - on a daily basis. Soy is high in protein, calcium, vitamin C and potassium, and the sheer variety of products on the market means we can easily incorporate it into our diets.

Unfortunately, the soybean originally cultivated in Asia has been mutated and genetically modified into a biotech crop, one of the many Monsanto 'Roundup Ready' products designed to resist the company's own pesticides. The huge influx of genetically modified soy into the North American agricultural market is absolutely mind-blowing. In 1997, 8% of soy was genetically modified, but by 2010 it had jumped to 93%. Ninety-three percent!

Before I get off on too much of a tangent, I'd like to boil this down to my essential point. Soy is not the devil. Minimally processed soy products like edamame are very healthy and can be consumed with abandon. Tofu is more heavily processed, but limited amounts can still be included without cause for concern.

But! There are two crucial rules when purchasing and eating soy.

One - it must be organic

and

Two - it must be labelled as "Non-GMO"

If the package does not include the "Non-GMO" label, it's safe to assume it is GMO and should be avoided at all costs. Personally, I'm not willing to be Monsanto's science experiment, so my tofu absolutely must be non-GMO.

The Non-GMO Project has a fantastic website designed to help consumers find and purchase verified products - check it out here!

Okay, so back to the recipe. I know some people aren't super keen about green smoothies. I love them, but they're not for everyone.

If you're looking to significantly bump up the nutritional value of a fruit smoothie without spinach, kale or the like, silken tofu makes a great alternative. It's very similar to custard - it's light and creamy, and gives a bit of a Greek yogurt-esque tang to a smoothie.

Here's a super simple silken tofu smoothie (say that three times fast!) that'll start your day off with a bang - this baby's got back!

Sir Mix-A-Lot


Prep time: 5 minutes

Makes one large smoothie (16 oz) or two small smoothies (8 oz)


Ingredients:

1/2 cup silken tofu (Morinaga Silken Soft Tofu)
2/3 cup almond milk (or non-GMO soy milk)
1 frozen banana
2/3 cup frozen mixed berries (strawberries, blueberries & raspberries)
1 Tbsp. hemp seeds
1 tsp. maple syrup


Directions:

1. You know the drill. Blend, sip and love.


Mmmm...melty.


Friday, 3 May 2013

The Faux Friends

Many vegans, especially those new to the meat-free world, can admit to the occasional desire for a meal with a little heft.

It's not that the abundance of vegetables, fruit, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds in vegan diets is somehow insufficient. A well-planned vegan diet satisfies every single nutritional need without batting an eye, but sometimes vegans look for foods with a more substantial texture.

Let's call it a craving for meaty-ness, without the collateral damage.

It's here that the three Faux Friends enter the picture. Tofu, seitan and tempeh can provide some much-needed oomph to meals, and are especially useful when veganizing a traditionally meat-based dish. They add bulk, substance and texture to meals, and are often used to imitate meat products like chicken, beef or pork.

Some vegans shy away from consuming the Faux Friends on a regular basis because they all require some form of processing, but that doesn't necessarily mean they should be avoided.

Knowing how to make, use and consume the Faux Friends can open up a world of delicious meal possibilities.

Tofu 

Love it or hate it, we can't overlook tofu. It's cheap, plentiful and easily adaptable to a wide variety of recipes. The process for making commercially prepared tofu is similar to cheese. The soybeans are soaked, ground, boiled and strained to make soy milk. The milk is mixed with a coagulant (from salt, acid or enzymes) and curdled to create soy curds. The curds are then processed based on the desired consistency. Soft tofu is pressed directly into its plastic package, whereas firmer tofu requires pressing before distribution.

Format: large, white cakes
Consistency: soft to firm
Usage: smoothies & desserts (soft), stir frys, curries (firm & extra-firm)
Taste: neutral


Tempeh 


Until recently tempeh was a relatively obscure product outside of vegetarian restaurants and some ethnic cuisines, particularly Indonesian, but it's now becoming easier to find. Partially cooked soybeans are mixed with vinegar and active bacterial cultures, then spread thin and left to ferment for 24-36 hours in a warm space. Since the soybeans are left whole, tempeh contains more protein, vitamins and fiber than tofu.

Format: small, rectangular cakes
Consistency: firm
Usage: stir frys, soups, sandwiches & curries
Taste: nutty, earthy & chewy


Seitan

Seitan is also a relatively new product in Western markets, but it's been used in Asian cultures for centuries. Seitan is made using vital wheat gluten; washing wheat flour separates the wheat gluten from the starch. The process of separating vital wheat gluten from wheat flour used to be arduous and time consuming, but it's now possible to buy vital wheat gluten in bulk stores and Asian markets.

Format: flour
Consistency: firm
Usage: soups, stews, kebabs, salads & stir frys
Taste: dense, meaty & chewy


Coming up next...recipes galore!

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Cinco de Mayo Bean Soup

I thought I'd round out my bean recipes with a Mexican bean soup; something perfect for an easy dinner this Cinco de Mayo.

The Cinco de Mayo Bean Soup is very similar to a chili, particularly my "This Is Vegan?!" Chili, but I find chili gets a bit heavy once the weather begins to warm. This recipe is a great summer soup; it's not too heavy but has a spicy kick and lots of beans and vegetables.

The basis for most Mexican bean soups is red kidney beans and turtle beans, plus tomatoes, onion, garlic, stock and a hot pepper. Beyond that there's lots of room for flexibility. Feel free to add or omit any of the vegetables I've listed below; they all add colour, texture and substance to the soup, but are by no means requirements.

Mexican food is fantastic for its versatility and focus on simple, fresh flavours. Delicioso!

Cinco de Mayo Bean Soup

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

Serves 4-5


Ingredients:

1 tsp. safflower oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1 green pepper, diced
1 red pepper, diced
3 tomatoes, chopped
1 cup frozen corn
1 avocado, peeled & diced
1 Thai chili pepper*
2 cups cooked red kidney beans
1 cup cooked turtle beans
2 cups low salt vegetable stock
2 cups water
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1-2 Tbsp. lime juice
2-3 Tbsp. cilantro, roughly chopped

*I prefer Thai chili peppers, but feel free to use a jalapeno for a more authentic Mexican soup*

Directions:

1. Heat the oil in a large soup pot on medium high
2. Cook onions for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally
3. Add garlic and hot pepper and stir for one minute, then add spices and stir
4. Add tomatoes, corn, beans, water and stock and bring soup to a boil
5. Lower to medium and simmer, partially covered, for 15 minutes
6. Add green and red peppers and lime juice, stir and simmer for 5 minutes*
7. Remove from heat, let sit for a few minutes then serve sprinkled with cilantro

*I like my peppers cooked but crunchy; continue cooking a few extra minutes for softer peppers*




Friday, 26 April 2013

The Superhero

Swiss chard is a bit of an unsung superhero in the vegetable world, but it's a star in my books.

For starters, it's a nutritional dynamo - just look at these Daily Nutritional Value (DRV) percentages found in 175 grams:

vitamin K = 716%
vitamin A = 214%
vitamin C = 53%

There aren't many vegetables that can make those claims. Plus, Swiss chard comes in a rainbow variety of colours - red, yellow, orange, white, even pink!

Unfortunately, Swiss chard has a few things working against it.

First of all, the stalks are sometimes enormous and unwieldy. Young, small chard leaves can be eaten whole, but the stems of larger chard can be tough so I prefer to separate them from the leaves before eating.

Also, Swiss chard is slightly bitter compared to milder greens like spinach. Some people are turned off by the taste of raw chard in salads, and most recipes use chard as a cooking green.

I prefer to buck the trend. I used raw Swiss chard in this smoothie to show that even stronger flavoured greens can be delicious when mixed with the right combination of ingredients.

The Superhero is aptly named not only because of the Swiss chard, but also because of the mega energy boost you'll feel after drinking one.

Almond milk, peanut butter, banana, maple syrup and rolled oats, plus the goodness of chard will keep you feeling fueled and satiated for hours.

What's not to love?


The Superhero

Prep time: 5 minutes

Makes 1 large (14 oz) smoothie or two small (7 oz) smoothies


Ingredients:

3/4 c. almond milk
1/4 c. rolled oats
1 tsp. maple syrup
1 Tbsp. peanut butter
1 frozen banana
3 ice cubes
1 c. Swiss chard leaves (approx. 3 stalks)


Directions:

1. Add all ingredients to a blender and mix.

The Superhero will prevail!

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

I'm still relatively new to the world of cooking, and am constantly working on feeling more comfortable in the kitchen.

Some days are glorious: I have all of the ingredients in my house, the recipe comes together well and tastes fantastic.

Other days are just horrific: my poor husband Dave is sent out to the grocery store (again!) because I forgot yet another ingredient, the recipe completely falls apart and tastes terrible.

Yesterday was a glorious day.

First I did a final test of my spiced red lentil stew and it tasted wonderful. I asked Dave to give it a taste, and he proclaimed it "Amazing." Great start!

I've also been toying with another green smoothie over the last week. After a couple of unfortunate mishaps, I had the idea of making a tropical fruit smoothie - something to celebrate the first few (and long overdue) hints of spring. It was a beautiful, sunny day with clear blue skies, so thoughts of warm summer afternoons no longer seemed so far-fetched!

I combined frozen banana, mango and a healthy dose of orange juice. This alone could make a really nice fruit smoothie, but I added a giant handful of spinach and some chia seeds to really bump up the nutritional value.

As I mentioned in my post about iron, combining high iron foods with high vitamin C foods increases iron absorption. Plus, chia seeds are high in omega-3, omega-6, vitamin B, fiber and protein. Superfoods indeed!

Spinach, orange juice, mango and chia all compliment each other so nicely and make this smoothie a nutritional powerhouse.

I called this sneaky smoothie The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing because it's bright green and chock-full of spinach, but tastes like a tropical fruit explosion!

So which is the wolf - the spinach or the fruit? I'm not sure, but it's deceptively delicious.


The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

Prep time: 5 minutes

Makes 1 large smoothie (16 oz) or two small smoothies (8 oz)


Ingredients:

1 1/4 cup orange juice
1 frozen banana
1/2 cup frozen mango chunks
1 Tbsp. chia seeds
1 cup spinach


Instructions:

1. Add everything to a blender and process until smooth.*

*This smoothie is less like sorbet and more like really cold, mildly frozen juice. You can add ice cubes and/or freeze it for a thicker consistency.*

Sunny days...


Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Quick & Easy Spiced Red Lentil Stew

Last week I featured an overview of my six favorite beans: chickpeas, red kidney beans, white kidney beans, turtle beans, green lentils and red lentils. I'm now past the half-way point for the matching recipes - three down, three to go!

The bean recipe box now includes healthy baked falafel, an herbed lentil salad and my all-time favourite white bean dip. Yumm-o!

Next up: an incredibly simple and flavourful red lentil stew.

This little gem makes a warm, filling lunch or dinner. I love a bowl with a hunk of crusty bread and a green salad. Quick, easy meal perfection!

Quick & Easy Spiced Red Lentil Stew


Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes

Serves 4


Ingredients:

1 cup dried red lentils, rinsed
1 cup onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
1 tsp. safflower oil
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. coriander
1/2 tsp. cumin
2 cups low-salt vegetable stock
1 cup water
2 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped
3 medium carrots, peeled & diced


Directions:

1. Heat safflower oil in a large soup pot on medium-high
2. Cook onion for 3 minutes, then garlic for one minute
3. Add ginger and spices and stir for one minute
4. Toss in tomatoes, carrots, lentils, stock and water and bring to a boil
5. Lower heat to medium and simmer, partially covered, for 35 minutes*
6. Remove pot from heat; blend 1/2 cup of soup in a food processor for 30 seconds
7. Mix soup puree back into pot, then serve and enjoy!

*My previous post about beans listed the simmer time for red lentils at 15 minutes. The time has been extended in this recipe to give the tomatoes enough time to break down. Since red lentils lose their shape while cooking the extra time here won't affect the taste or texture.*

Inspiration: Soup

Monday, 22 April 2013

Warm Spiced Cashew Lentil Salad

Oh lentils, you are incredible. You're super-filling, delicious and oh-so-healthy - one cooked cup provides 18 grams of protein, 16 grams of fiber and 37% of my daily iron requirement. You're also amazingly versatile - you pair effortlessly with different vegetables, grains and sauces without either overpowering or disappearing among other tastes and textures.

Lentils...my not-so-secret love.

This recipe is based on one I ripped out of a Vegetarian Times from 2012 featuring Yotam Ottolenghi, an Israeli-born British chef and restauranteur. The picture was of a beautiful platter full of lentils, cashews and greens topped with copious amounts of fresh herbs. Unfortunately (as per most of my scavenged recipes), I put it into my giant binder and promptly forgot about it for about eight months.

My version of this salad incorporates way more greens and a much lighter dressing. I've drastically reduced the amount of oil but kept all the fresh herbs and subbed in maple syrup for a touch of vegan sweetness.

This salad has such a wonderful, unexpected combination of flavours. Dill, parsley, basil, maple syrup, red pepper flakes and turmeric are not ingredients I'd normally consider pairing, but somehow it works. It may look complicated, but it comes together beautifully and is worth any extra effort.

I've divided the recipe into two parts: the spiced cashews and the lentil salad. The spiced cashews may seem a little frou-frou, but they add a great little crunch and the spicy red pepper flakes really round out the dish.


Warm Spiced Cashew Lentil Salad

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

Serves 4-5


Spiced Cashew Ingredients:

1/2 cup unsalted, dry-roasted cashews (whole or pieces)
1 1/2 Tbsp. maple syrup
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. salt
1-2 tsp. water

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees
2. Combine maple syrup, pepper flakes, turmeric and salt in a small bowl
3. Add enough water to make a slightly runny sauce
4. Toss cashews in mixture & coat evenly
5. Spread cashews and sauce on a baking sheet with a silicone mat
6. Bake for 20 minutes, then allow cashew coating to cool on top of the stove




Lentil Salad Ingredients:

2 1/2-3 cups cooked green lentils*
1 cup spinach, chopped
1/2 cup swiss chard, chopped
1/2 cup fresh curly parsley, chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 tsp. maple syrup

*One cup dried lentils = approximately 3 cups cooked lentils*

Directions:

1. Combine spinach, chard, parsley, basil and dill in a large serving bowl
2. Mix together olive oil, vinegar and maple syrup in a small glass
3. Add warm lentils and vinaigrette to serving bowl and toss to coat
4. Allow lentils to soften the greens for a few minutes, turning occasionally
5. Add cashews and toss one last time before serving*

*Don't add cashews too early; they will absorb the vinaigrette and lose their crunch. Alternatively, add cashews to individual servings and refrigerate leftover salad without nuts.*


Inspiration: April/May 2012

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Baked Falafel with Cucumber-Dill Sauce

Last weekend I put together a Middle Eastern dinner for a few of my girlfriends - falafel, hummus, tabbouleh, pitas, the whole nine yards. While chowing down, we got to talking about where falafel comes from. My first thought was "the Middle East!" with vague ideas about connections to Morocco or Turkey. Well, I was close...

Falafel, the deliciously seasoned chickpea patty found in Middle Eastern restaurants everywhere, actually has a fairly murky history. Theories put its origins in Egypt or possibly the area historically known as Levant, which includes modern-day Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Cyprus, parts of southern Turkey and western Iraq. Falafel are enjoyed by Muslims during Ramadan, Coptic Christians during Lent, and also by the masses in sandwiches, pitas and salads.

Falafel are wildly popular in Arabic countries and around the world because they are easy to make, filling and oh-so-tasty. My only beef (ha!) with falafel is that they are traditionally deep-fried in oil. Here I've found a way to make falafel almost oil-free without compromising the taste or texture.

This recipe can be adapted to make large or small falafel patties (my husband thought the small ones looked like cookies, so he dubbed them 'falookies'). I prefer the small patties - they are thinner and easier to bake, and they maintain a nice, creamy texture in the middle.

Baked Falafel

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes

Makes 12-14 small patties


Ingredients:

1 cup onion, chopped
5-6 garlic cloves, cut in half
1 cup parsley, roughly chopped
2 cups cooked chickpeas
1/2 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour*
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. coriander
1/2 tsp. salt
Cracked black pepper, to taste

*I tried making these with chickpea flour, but they were super dry. Definitely not recommended!*

Directions:

1. Chop onion, garlic and parsley in a food processor for 10-15 seconds
2. Add all other ingredients and process into a thick, cookie batter-like mixture
3. Refrigerate until ready to use (10 minutes or longer)
4. Preheat oven to 425 degrees
5. Brush 1 tsp. safflower oil onto a baking sheet with a silicone mat
6. Using a tablespoon, scoop cookie-sized balls of falafel onto mat
7. Bake 15 minutes, then flip and press falafel down and bake another 10 minutes


























Cucumber-Dill Sauce


Prep time: 5 minutes

Makes about 1/2 cup


Ingredients:

1/3 cup silken tofu
1/2 cup cucumber, sliced
1 Tbsp. fresh dill, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. salt

1. Mix all ingredients in a food processor until smooth and creamy

Enjoy both falafel and sauce with a salad of mixed greens or stuffed into a pita with lettuce and tomato. Simple and amazing!

Inspiration: Big Vegan

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Sriracha White Bean Dip

So let's imagine you've read through my previous post about cooking dried beans (I hope you have!) and you went ahead and made a big ol' pot of white kidney beans.

Now you're looking at it and wondering "What am I going to do with all these beans?".

Well, funny you should ask...

This is a fantastic five minute bean dip that pairs perfectly with raw vegetables, pitas, crackers, tortilla chips and burgers. It's supremely flavourful thanks to sriracha sauce, sesame, garlic and lime.

For anyone unfamiliar with sriracha, it is a low to medium spicy chili sauce used primarily in Thai and Vietnamese cuisine. Its Scoville ranking is between 1,000 and 2,500, which puts sriracha sauce somewhere spicier than a banana pepper but not as spicy as a jalapeno pepper. The most popular North American variety is made by a Chinese-Vietnamese company called Huy Fong. You may recognize it by its distinctively large squeeze bottle and green cap, and is also known as rooster sauce based on the company logo.

I love sriracha sauce, and I'm obviously not alone. It is an unwritten rule in my house to double or triple this recipe, and even with such a huge quantity the dip never lasts very long. I've often found myself digging right in with a spoon, and whenever I cook white beans my husband's eyes light up and he asks, "Are you making the spicy bean dip?!"

That's a pretty clear indication of a winning recipe.


Sriracha White Bean Dip

Prep time: 5 minutes

Makes about 2 cups


Ingredients:

2 cups white kidney beans
1-2 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. soy sauce (Bragg's Liquid Aminos)
2 Tbsp. hot sauce (Sriracha)
1/2 tsp. curry powder
1 Tbsp. lime juice


Directions:

1. Add everything into a food processor and blend until smooth

This is really amazing stuff.


P.S. A quickie post about home-made sriracha will be available soon!


Inspiration: White on Rice Couple

Monday, 15 April 2013

How to Cook...Beans!

I recently wrote that I prefer to cook my beans from dry, so I thought I'd give a little overview of my favourites: chickpeas, red and white kidney beans, turtle beans, plus red and green lentils. These six legumes are definitely huge staples in my diet. At least one is present in most of my dinners - they're filling and delicious, plus they refrigerate and freeze well.

I've mentioned before that I stay away from canned beans because of Bisphenol-A (BPA) - a chemical used to make more durable plastics (water bottles) and epoxy resins (can linings). The long-term effects of BPA on the human body are largely unknown, but governments and regulatory bodies are obviously concerned.

The European Union, Canada and the U.S. have now banned BPA in baby bottles, and the FDA has labeled it a hazard to unborn and young children. In 2010, Canada became the first country to declare BPA a toxic substance, but then flip-flopped in 2012, saying "it is not expected to pose a health risk to the general population".

BPA has become such a ubiquitous part of our lives. In addition to bottles and cans, it's also in cash register receipts, CDs and DVDs, and sports equipment. Studies from the CDC have shown that, in representative samples of American people, 93% have detectable levels of BPA in their urine.

Until there is more concrete information about exactly how BPA is affecting my body, future children and the environment, I'm going to cut out as much exposure as possible.

Anyway, let's get back to beans. Dried beans are awesome, but I think a lot of people avoid them because they're unsure of how to cook them.

All of these legumes can be cooked in plain old water. If you're looking to add a little more flavour, try using vegetable stock as a cooking liquid, or throw a bay leaf, minced garlic, cumin, chili powder, paprika or a thinly sliced hot pepper into the mix.




Let's start with the chickpeas, kidney and turtle beans.

~Rinse 1 cup and soak overnight in a stock pot with 4 cups cold water
~Drain and rinse, then add back to the pot with cooking liquid
~Boil then simmer (partially covered), keeping cooking liquid above beans
~Stir occasionally and check for consistency
~Drain and rinse, then cool and enjoy!


Chickpeas

A.K.A.: garbanzo beans, ceci beans or chana
Cooking liquid: 4 cups
Simmer: 90 minutes
Consistency: slightly soft with skins intact
Yield: 3 cups


Kidney beans, red

A.K.A.: kidney beans or red beans
Cooking liquid: 3 cups
Simmer: 65-70 minutes
Consistency: slightly soft with skins intact
Yield: 2.75 cups


Kidney beans, white

A.K.A.: cannelli beans or white beans*
Cooking liquid: 3 cups
Simmer: 45-50 minutes
Consistency: slightly soft with skins intact
Yield: 2.75 cups

*White kidney beans are not the same as navy beans and Great Northern beans, but they cook similarly and are relatively interchangeable.*


Turtle beans

A.K.A.: black beans or black turtle beans
Cooking liquid: 3 cups
Simmer: 90 minutes
Consistency: slightly soft with skins intact
Yield: 3 cups



Lentils are a little different than other beans. They don't need to soak, and cook much more quickly.

~Rinse 1 cup then add to a medium sauce pan with cooking liquid
~Boil then simmer (partially covered), keeping cooking liquid above lentils
~Stir occasionally and check for consistency
~Drain and rinse, then cool and enjoy! (green lentils only)


Lentils, green

A.K.A.: Indian lentils, German lentils or brown lentils*
Cooking liquid: 2 cups
Simmer: 20-25 minutes
Consistency: slightly firm but not hard or crunchy
Yield: 3 cups

*That's not a typo - these army-green coloured lentils can be labelled as green or brown lentils, depending on where you buy them.*


Lentils, red*

A.K.A.: masoor dal or Red Chief lentils
Cooking liquid: 2 cups
Simmer: 15 minutes
Consistency: soft and mushy
Yield: 3 cups

*Red lentils break down into a fantastic soupy mash when cooked, so draining and rinsing are definitely off the table.*


References: Home Grown Organic Foods & The Cook's Thesaurus