Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Charlie was a sinner.

I have not blogged in some time, mostly because I have not had time to get creative in the kitchen lately. Lame, I know.  Today I find myself with something to write about even though I did not cook. I had a lateish flight into Philly. Couple that with a very early start in the morning and I figured it reason enough to stay in the city and not  fight morning rush hour traffic.

The hotel I am in has no restaurant facilities. Since it is a nice night I took the short walk to Charlie was a sinner, a new vegan place on South 13th Street instead of finding somewhere to deliver. And, oh thank goodness I did!

Their menu consists of three chapters: To Quench, To Savor and To Sin. I did not indulge in chapters 1 or 3 but did savor two of their small plates from chapter 2 while having a nice conversation with my server J. Christie (who just celebrated her one year veganniversary)!

I started with the Little Hot Dogs and followed that with the Maryland Style Crab Cakes.  Both soy based and great tasting.

The Little Hot Dogs reminded me of the pigs in a blanket many of us grew up with, though not overly "hot dog" spiced like some of the store-bought vegan hot dogs.  Wrapped in a flaky puff pastry and served with a spicy brown mustard they were quite good!

The crab cakes had a consistency that is similar to what I remember of crabcakes. Along with the tofu base they contain zucchini and are nicely spiced with a bit of a kick of heat.  I would have them again.

The place was pretty crowded for a Tuesday night. Great to see people coming out and supporting local, vegan establishments. I am excited to go back and test out the rest of the menu.

Since this was a bit of an impromptu decision the only camera I had was my iPhone. Next time I will bring my "real"camera so the pictures do the food justice!

Check out Charlie was a sinner on Instagram @charlie_was.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Vegetable Dumplings

This weekend my sister and family came to visit. It was a fun filled weekend. I love when our kids are together, there really are  no better friends growing up, than your cousins.

The highlight of the weekend was taking my daughter (11) and her son (9) to an indoor skate park in Philadelphia.  They had such a good time and my sister, and I had fun watching them, catching up and even getting a little shopping in (yes, the skate park is in the mall!).

A close second to the skate park adventure was being up early on Sunday morning to make dumplings with my sister.  She had requested we make them for the kids (her kids love them) and it has been a while since I have made them so we had a bit of a cooking adventure.

The result was some very tasty dumplings. And what a great way to get some extra veggies into the kids!

We served them with a soy/agave dipping sauce (not pictured) that was the perfect compliment. The recipe made about forty dumplings so there was some leftover to freeze, too. Bonus.

Vegetable Dumplings

For the dumplings:
1 package vegan wonton wrappers (read ingredients carefully, many contain egg)
2 cups finely minced shitake mushrooms
2 cloves garlic finely minced
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cups fresh spinach, finely chopped
1/2 red bell pepper finely chopped
1/2 orange bell pepper finely chopped
1 baby bok choy, steamed and finely chopped
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
2 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
2 tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
3 tbsp sesame seeds
Salt to taste
White pepper to taste
Small bowl of water

For the dipping sauce: (Note: quantities are approximations as I did not measure)
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp agave nectar
1 chopped green onion
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 small squirt sriracha sauce

In a saute pan over medium heat add the olive oil.  Saute the garlic and mushrooms until tender, seasoning with salt and pepper.

Put the chopped spinach in a large bowl and add the sauteed mushrooms and garlic while still hot (this will allow the spinach to wilt slightly.  Add all the rest of the ingredients with the exception of the wonton wrappers and mix until well incorporated.

To assemble the wontons, Place one wonton wrapper on a clean work surface and place about one teaspoon full of the filling in the center of the wrapper.  Wet the outer edges of the wonton wrapper with water, using either a small pastry brush or your finger.

Bring the sides of the wonton wrapper toward the center forming a pouch. Pinch closed around the filling and ensure air is removed from the dumpling. Alternatively, you can fold the wrappers in half over the filling forming a triangle or semi circle, depending on the shape of your wonton wrappers.

To cook, steam the dumplings for four to five minutes.

Whisk together the sauce ingredients and serve alongside the dumplings.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Cinnamon Roll Apple Pie

I have been seeing lots of posts suggesting the use of canned cinnamon rolls as the basis for an apple pie of late. What a great idea!  Super simple to do, and as far as I am concerned the more cinnamon the better!

But what's a vegan to do? Those canned cinnamon rolls in the blue tube? Nope, not gonna cut it.  Luckily, I recently discovered canned cinnamon rolls in a red tube.  They are made by the Immaculate Baking Company and they are just awesome.  The whole family loves them, we have them on Sunday mornings for breakfast on occasion and they are sticky, sweet, cinnamony goodness.  Far better than those that come in the blue tube in my opinion.

I made my pie with a premade apple pie filling. Even though most of what I read said not to use a premade filling I decided to give it a try. It worked out just fine.  I am sure it would be great with a home made filling, too. Perhaps if I am feeling a little more ambitious next time I will do that. And there will definitely be a next time!

Cinnamon Roll Apple Pie

Crumb Topping:
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup vegan butter (I used Earth Balance)

1 package vegan canned cinnamon rolls

1 jar vegan apple pie filling (I used Baker Naturals)
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Put the flour, brown sugar and butter into a bowl. Using a pastry cutter mix the ingredients until large clumps form.  Set aside.

On a lightly floured surface roll each of the cinnamon buns until they are about 1/4 inch thick. Place in a 9 or 10 inch pie plate pressing the rolls together and up the sides of the pie plate to form a crust.  You may wish to cut some of the cinnamon rolls in half prior to rolling and placing in the pie pan.

Mix the apple pie filling and cinnamon and place on top of crust. Top with the crumble mixture and bake at 375 for about one hour until the top is golden brown. Cool for at least one hour.

Prior to serving, place the cinnamon roll icing in a microwave safe dish and heat for 15 seconds or so. Drizzle over slices of pie and enjoy.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Mushroom and Fennel Phyllo Pouches

I have not been cooking much. For whatever reason, lately nothing really sounds good to me.  I don't know what it is- maybe its a way-too-much-snow-and-ice Winter time funk.  Who knows. But lately I find myself standing at the open fridge, staring at it blankly and deciding nothing looks good enough to eat.

Today, back to the fridge I went determined to select a few ingredients and actually cook something. I grabbed some mushrooms, fresh thyme, and a bulb of fennel (mostly because my daughter was requesting I cut some up for her to snack on but also because the fronds are pretty and make a nice garnish).

So, there it was, the start of this dish, which if I do say so myself, turned out wonderfully. I guess it is not that surprising as I am pretty sure you can wrap phyllo around just about anything, and it would then  automatically taste good.

This was really easy to pull together. If you have not worked with phyllo before fear not- though it seems intimidating at first it is actually quite forgiving and easy to work with, with a little bit of practice.

Mushroom and Fennel Phylly Pouches

Six sheets phyllo dough
1 1/2 cup diced shitake mushrooms
1 tbsp finely chopped fennel
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 tbsp vegan sour cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil for brushing

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a saute pan add 1tbsp olive oil over medium heat.  When warm, add the mushrooms, fennel, thyme, garlic and onion powder and salt and pepper.  Saute for a few minutes until the mushrooms are tender. Add the sour cream and stir to incorporate.  Remove from the heat and set aside.

Place the six sheets of phyllo dough on a work surface such as a large cutting board. Working quickly, brush each sheet of phyllo with olive oil and place the next sheet on top until all six have been brushed with oil and are stacked on top of one another.  Cut into six equal parts.

Spoon filling into each phyllo square using 1/6th of the filling. I used  medium size cookie scoop to do this.  Pull the phyllo over the filling squeezing the top closed to form a pouch. Gently oil the top of the pouch.

Place the pouches onto a baking sheet brushed with olive oil.

Bake at 375 until golden brown, about 15 minutes.  Check partway through cooking. If the tops are getting too browned cover loosely with aluminum foil for the rest of the cooking time.

The pouches should be crispy and the filling warmed through.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Slow Cooker Mixed Bean and Cornbread Casserole

Corbread. Something I have never liked very much.  I find it often tends to be too dry and/or too heavy. I have tried a variety of vegan cornbreads, and while others have liked some of them I just am not that big a fan.  Until today.

I found a recipe for a bean and cornbread casserole while browsing Pinterest. The recipe is quite chili-like. Chili I do like and yesterday I found myself wanting chili- it was very cold and snowing outside, and a nice bean chili sounded like a good idea so I set out to try the recipe, cornbread, and all.

What a hearty, filling dish. Nicely spiced (if you are not a big fan of spice you could easily modify this to be less spicy).  I really enjoyed this while sitting by the fire last night. Even the cornbread. No dry, crumbly cornbread here! It is moist and flavorful, without being mushy, soaking up the flavors of the chili while being steamed in the slow cooker.

This makes a lot. I think you could easily feed five or six people with this recipe.

Slow Cooker Mixed Bean and Cornbread Casserole

For the beans:
1 red bell pepper, chopped fine
1/2 cooking onion, chopped fine
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp vegetable oil
15 oz cooked light red kidney beans
15 oz cooked dark red kidney beans
15 oz cooked black beans
10 oz tomato sauce
16 oz chopped tomatoes with green chilies
15 oz can creamed style corn, halved
1 tbsp chili powder
2 tsp hot sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

For the cornbread:
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup non dairy milk (I used So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut)
1/2 can creamed style corn
1 egg replacer (I used 1 1/2 tsp Ener-G and 2 tbsp water)
1 1/2 tsp vegetable oil

In a saute pan add the tsp vegetable oil and heat over medium heat. Add the pepper, onion and garlic, season with salt and pepper and saute until they just begin to turn tender.

Spray the inside of a slow cooker with cooking spray and add the vegetable mixture to the bottom. Add the beans (note: if using canned be sure to drain and rinse the beans).  Add the tomato sauce, tomatoes and green chilies, 1/2 the can of creamed corn, chili powder, hot sauce and salt and pepper.  Cover and cook on low for an hour.

In a separate bowl mix together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, non dairy milk, the other half of the creamed corn, the egg replacer and vegetable oil to form a batter.  Open the slow cooker and pour evenly on top of the beans.  Cover and allow to cook another two hours or until the cornbread is cooked through.

Friday, January 24, 2014

White Bean Nicoise Sandwich

This is a most excellent sandwich. I don't know why I never think about beans, other than chickpeas, for a sandwich.  That's sort of silly considering Latin influenced food uses beans and tortillas together all the time- sort of the same thing, right?

I suppose this has a bit of a French flair to it- a take on a Tuna Nicoise Sandwich (Pan Bagnat) but also sort of reminds me of a Muffalatta, a New Orleans sandwich staple that includes a distinctive olive salad, usually made in advance to let the flavors develop.

A friend shared this recipe on her Facebook wall; I thought it sounded both delicious and interesting so I made my own version of it. It took no time at all to put together if you don't count the time needed to press the sandwich (anywhere from 1-24 hours).

It was insanely delicious not to mention packed with protein and fiber. The flavor if the beans, olives and citrus in this recipe combine beautifully as a sandwich base. From there you can really add just about anything you like into the mix- I chose some roasted red peppers and onion.  Even bean hating Mr. Meat and Potatoes liked this one.

This really is the perfect dish to make for a get together; you can do it the night before and simply slice and serve for your gathering. Casual and simple yet elegant in it's simplicity.

White Bean Nicoise Sandwich

1 long French baguette cut lengthwise in half
15 oz cooked cannellini beans (if using canned be sure to drain and rinse first)
1/4 cup roasted red peppers, chopped
3/4 cup kalamata olives, chopped
1/2 small onion, chopped
2 tbsp parsley, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
Juice of one lemon
1 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
Fresh basil leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil for drizzling

In a bowl add the beans, roasted red pepper, onion and kalamata olives and salt and pepper.  Using a potato masher lightly mash all ingredients together until the beans are just breaking apart.

Mix together the olive oil, lemon juice and Dijon mustard in a small dish until emulsified. Set aside.

Using your fingers remove some of the interior soft bread from the baguette halves in order to make a well for your filling.

Add the olive oil and lemon dressing to the bean and olive mixture, stir well and reseason with salt and pepper if needed.

Drizzle each baguette half with some olive oil and fill the well on one side of the baguette with the bean mixture.  Place basil leaves across the top and then top with the other slice of baguette.  Wrap in plastic and set heavy bricks, books or other objects on top to press the sandwich.

Press for an hour or overnight (if pressing overnight be sure to place in the refrigerator).

Slice and serve.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Kallari Chocolate Slow Cooker Peanut Butter Nut Clusters

The very kind folks at Kallari contacted me many months ago to ask if I would like to sample their vegan, fair trade Ecuadoran chocolate. Of course I jumped at the chance!

I kid you not, this is the BEST chocolate I have ever had. EVER. And I have eaten my share of what is considered very fine chocolate from all over the world. France, Switzerland and Germany have nothing on this chocolate!

If taste alone is not reason enough to eat this chocolate then consider that Kallari is an organic farmer owned chocolate that is grown and harvested 100% by indigenous Kichwa farmers in the Amazon of Ecuador. All profits from the sale of the chocolate are used to support sustainable development, health and education programs locally while also helping to preserve the rain forest eco-system.

Kallari is "committed to community viability and economic growth through knowledge sharing, the preservation of Kichwa cultural traditions and natural resource conservation."

What is not to love?

They sent me three chocolate bars- one each of 85, 75 and 70 percent cacao. They were all equally rich and delicious. The 70% I ate just straight up and the other two I used in a recipe for slow cooker chocolates that I found online (yes, I said slow cooker)!

Wheather on its own or used in cooking you really cannot go wrong. It is the best of both worlds- rich, decadent chocolate goodness married with charitable humanity and compassion. And the candies were enjoyed with family and friends this holiday season.

Kallari Chocolate Slow Cooker Peanut Butter Nut Clusters

12 oz vegan chocolate chips (I used Ghiradelli Semi Sweet)
2 Kallari 4 oz chocolate bars, broken into pieces (I used one 85 and one 75%)
3 cups salted peanuts
3 cups unsalted cashews
1 generous cup organic, natural peanut butter
2 tbsp agave nectar

Layer into a crock pot the cashews, peanuts, peanut butter, agave nectar, chocolate chips and the broken chocolate bars.

Place the slow cooker on low and allow it to cook covered for one hour.

Uncover and stir well. Replace lid and allow to cook another 20 minutes or so keeping a close eye as not to allow the chocolate to burn.

Scoop chocolate mixture by the spoonful onto a parchment lined baking sheet (I used a medium size cookie scoop).

Place into the refrigerator until set.

Store in a refrigerated airtight container.

Makes about 40-50 clusters.