Monday, December 29, 2014

White Bean Spinach and Sun Dried Tomato Crostini

This was a very merry Christmas, indeed.  I got to spend lots of time with family and was able to get away to spend a few days after Christmas with my in-laws in Florida. And of course, there was lots of good food, like this White Bean Spinach and Sun Dried Tomato Crostini.

Before heading out to Florida the day after Christmas, I hosted my parents for dinner on Christmas Day. I thoroughly enjoyed preparing the meal, but, the truth be told, my favorite part of any holiday meal has always been the snacks enjoyed before dinner.

My favorite dish from this year's Christmas dinner was these White Bean and Spinach Crostini hors d'oeuvres I found in a holiday issue of Fine Cooking. Not only are they very festive dressed in their Christmas red and green they are disproportionately delicious to their ease of preparation.

Dinner was quite good, too. For myself and my daughter (the only non-meat eaters in the family) I took the 'easy' route and bought a prepared gardein Holiday Roast. I paired it with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Cipollini Onions and an arugula, roasted yellow beet and radish salad.  Quite delicious, really.  The meat eaters got to eat something they really enjoyed as well, but we won't get into that here.

I hope all of you had as wonderful a holiday as I did. I, for one, feel very blessed to be able to share the holidays with those I love most.

White Bean, Spinach and Sun Dried Tomato Crostini

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
5 oz baby spinach leaves
1 15 oz can cannellini beans
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
5 oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
Crostini bread or melba toast

In a skillet over medium-high heat add the olive oil and garlic. When the garlic starts to sizzle turn the heat down to medium and allow to cook until golden.  Transfer the garlic and all but one tablespoon of the olive oil to a food processor.  Return the skillet to the heat and raise to medium high. Add the spinach and season with salt and pepper.  Cook until the spinach is wilted, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Add to the bowl of the food processor the cannellini beans and fresh thyme.  Season with salt and pepper.  Pulse until a very smooth mixture is formed.

When ready to assemble place some of the bean mixture on a crostini or melba toast, top with some of the spinach and garnish with thin slices of the sun dried tomato.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Ice Box Cake

I am told we had Ice Box cake growing up.  It consisted of Nabisco's Famous Chocolate Wafers Cookies covered in whipped cream and chilled in the refrigerator.  Apparently not just my immediate family had this dish, but my extended family, too.

When I posted a picture of my Ice Box Cake on my Facebook page I was readily informed of this fact. Two of my cousins and my sister confirmed that somehow I missed this part of my childhood:

I am actually not sure exactly where I learned about Ice Box Cake but when the nice folks at So Delicious sent me some of their new CocoWhip to try that was the first thing I thought about making.

I believe the traditional way to make this is how my cousin Angela describes above- to layer the cookies and whip into the shape of a log, cover with whipped cream and then once chilled slice on the diagonal.  I did mine in small stacks of four or five cookies alternating cookies and CocoWhip and then covering them in the CocoWhip.

I thought this was delicious; especially for a cake with a scant two ingredients.

Ice Box Cake

Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers
So Delicious CocoWhip

Layer the cookies and whip in a vertical stack of your desired size or create a horizontal log shaped row alternating the layers of cookies and whip.  Cover the stack or row entirely with CocoWhip. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Serve chilled.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Creamy Buffalo White Bean Chili

We had a bunch of friends over yesterday to watch our beloved Philadelphia Eagles. Unfortunately, the result of the Eagles game was not what we would have liked it to be, but at least, even though they lost badly, we were surrounded by good friends and good food.

I am not sure there is a more perfect food for game day than a big bowl of chili. You can put it in a crock pot early in the morning, let it cook all day and let folks serve themselves at game time.

I decided to shake it up a little bit with this chili. Instead of traditional chili spiced with chili powder and hot pepper I decided incorporate a Buffalo sauce type flavor into chili. What says football food more than Buffalo sauce anyway?

The result was excellent; met with rave reviews by all who tried it.

Creamy Buffalo White Bean Chili

2 stalks celery, diced
1 small cooking onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 tbsp olive oil
3 15 oz cans white beans, rinsed and drained
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
6 oz vegan cream cheese
2/3 cups Frank's Red Hot sauce
1/3 cup tobasco sauce
2 tbsp vegan butter
Salt and pepper to taste

In a skillet over medium heat add the olive oil. Once heated add the celery, onion and carrot. Season with salt and pepper and saute until starting to get soft.  Remove from the heat and add to a crock pot.  Turn the crock pot on low and add the rest of the ingredients.  Cover and cook for several hours, until the ingredients are heated through and the cream cheese stirs easily into the dish to form a creamy sauce.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sesame Glazed Cauliflower

When most people think of vegan "meat replacements" I think mostly tofu comes to mind. For those a little more educated on plant based eating maybe tempeh or seitan. Mostly, people don't think about cauliflower as a meat replacement but it is a  good one.

I especially like it for small bite type appetizers.  I absolutely love Buffalo Cauliflower. I like Orange Cauliflower.  This Sesame Glazed Cauliflower is pretty awesome, too.

This has a bit of an Asian flair and is a nice alternative to Sesame Glazed Wings and it could be served over rice to be eaten as a full meal.

I got this recipe from another blogger. I changed it very little, most notably to use whole wheat flour and the quantity of non dairy milk used. The result was good and my twelve year old daughter enjoyed it so much she said "Mom, this is 'blogworthy'", so here you go!

Sesame Glazed Cauliflower

For the sauce:
1/2 cup tamari sauce
1/4 cup agave nectar
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tbsp sesame oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 scallions, minced
1 tbsp sesame seeds

For the cauliflower:
1 head cauliflower cut into bite size florets
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup non dairy milk (I used So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Sesame seeds and sliced scallions for garnish

Preheat oven to 450 degrees

Mix all of the ingredients for the sauce together and set aside.

In a bowl mix the whole wheat flour, garlic powder and non dairy milk until a batter forms.  Add the cauliflower and toss to coat.

Place cauliflower on a well oiled baking sheet.  Place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes at 450 degrees.  After 15 minutes remove from the oven and pour the sauce all over the cauliflower.  Put back into the oven for five minutes and then remove, flip the florets and ensure they are well coated with the sauce. Note: some of the sauce may burn on the bottom of the pan- that's ok. Return to the oven for another five minutes.

Serve hot over rice or as a snack.  Any remaining sauce from the pan may be used for dipping.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Pumpkin Spice Sticky Buns

Yep, I have been totally sucked into pumpkin mode. I am all about pumpkin spice everything! I just can't get enough.  I am really enjoying cooking and eating all things pumpkin. Coffee, cake, cookies, pancakesdoughnuts, bread, pasta, muffinsFrench toast, and of course pie. You name it. If it's pumpkin I am probably making it, have recently made it, or am eating it right now.

I have not made sticky buns in a quite a while. The other day I decided it was time to use up the last of the bread dough in the freezer, so why not sticky buns? And why not pumpkin spice sticky buns? 'Tis the pumpkin season after all.

I followed my tried and true sticky bun recipe except that I used the So Delicious Pumpkin Spice Coconut Milk I followed my tried and true sticky bun recipe except that I used the So Delicious Pumpkin Spice Coconut Milk instead of regular nondairy milk and then added some pumpkin pie spice instead of cinnamon. I also shortened the time I let the dough rise from 12 hours overnight in the refrigerator to one hour on the kitchen counter based on the package instructions. They came out just as ooey-gooey awesome!

And, on a total side note/tangent, have you tried the Pumpkin Spice Oreo cookies yet?  Oh my, they are good, too!

Pumpkin Spice Sticky Buns

2 loaves of frozen bread dough*
1 cup chopped pecans
1 4.6 oz package vanilla cook and serve pudding mix (not instant)*
1/4 lb. (1 stick)  Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks
1 cup organic light brown sugar
2 tbsp So Delicious Pumpkin Coconut Milk
1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice

Thaw the bread dough according to package directions. Grease a 9x13 pan well with cooking oil spray. Sprinkle the bottom of the pan with the chopped pecans.  Before the dough rises break into walnut size pieces and place in an even layer on the bottom of the 9x13.  Cover with plastic wrap or foil and allow the dough to rise for about one hour. You may want to spray your plastic wrap or foil with cooking spray so the dough will not stick to the top if it rises that high.

Once the dough has risen uncover and preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Over low heat place the vegan butter in a saucepan.  Once melted add the brown sugar, pudding mix, pumpkin spice coconut milk and pumpkin pie spice and stir until smooth.  Pour over the top of the risen dough.

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.  Immediately upon removing the pan from the oven invert the sticky buns on a cooling rack and allow to cool before serving.

*Note: be sure to read package ingredients to ensure your bread dough and pudding mix are indeed vegan.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Mashed Potato Cakes with Sriracha Aioli

Whenever I make mashed potatoes I make too much.  I don't know what it is but I always make about double what I need.  What to do to use up extra mashed potatoes?  Mashed potato cakes! You can season them with whatever you like- onion, garlic, fresh herbs, etc. You get the picture.

I used some dried herbs since that was all I had in the house. My daughter and I ate them for dinner last night and we both really enjoyed them.  Reminiscent of a hash brown they are crispy on the outside and tender and creamy on the inside.  We decided to kick it up  a notch with some Sriracha aioli.  Along with a salad this is a simple, easy dish or an interesting side for a larger meal.

I tried to scale the recipe as if you were making this for a single meal.  This should make about five cakes.

Mashed Potato Cakes with Sriracha Aioli

For the mashed potato cakes:
3 red bliss potatoes, peeled 
1 tbsp vegan butter
1 tbsp non dairy milk
1 tbsp dried parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tbsp whole wheat flour
1 tbsp dried minced onion
Splash of non dairy milk
Olive oil for pan frying

For the Sriracha Aioli:
1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise
Sriracha sauce to taste

Boil the potatoes in water until fork tender. Drain and add to a bowl with the vegan butter and tablespoon of non dairy milk.  Add dried parsley, salt and pepper and mash until smooth.  Allow to cool.

When the potatoes are fully cooled add the whole wheat flour, dried minced onions and a splash of non dairy milk.  Mix well.

Heat a skillet over medium high heat and add enough olive oil to coat the pan.  When the oil is hot, using an ice cream scoop scoop out potatoes. The potatoes should be level in the scoop.  Add to the pan and allow the scoop of potato to cook for a few minutes, until the bottom starts to crisp. Using a spatula press the potato down into a pancake shape. Flip and let brown on the other side.  Remove from the pan and repeat with the rest of the potatoes.  Add oil in between each cake.

To make the aioli simply add sriracha sauce to the mayo and whisk until smooth.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

"My Pantry Project" Lemon Cranberry Scones with Lemon Glaze

I have never had a scone before so I am not quite sure what makes up a "good" scone.  All I know is that I found a five pound bag of self rising flour in my pantry (I wonder what it was that I had intended to make, anyway).

Since I am working on cooking my way through my pantry ("My Pantry Project"), I decided I should figure out how to use it; so, I did what anyone trying to figure out how use self rising flour would do. I Googled.

My search turned up a bunch of mostly non vegan cake recipes. This one for scones caught my eye because it was super simple (only three ingredients) and it used things I had on hand.

I adapted the recipe a bit, mostly with the addition of lemon zest and cranberries.  The result was quite good.  This is my sort of bakery treat. Not too sweet with a nice lemony flavor. I wonder why it took this long for me to try a scone!

Lemon Cranberry Scones with Lemon Glaze

For the scones:
2 cups self rising flour (plus more as needed)
2 tbsp sugar plus ! tsp plus more for sprinkling
1 can full fat coconut milk (reserve one tbsp)
3/4 cup dried cranberries
Zest of 1 lemon

For the glaze:
2 cups confectioners sugar
4 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a bowl mix the flour and sugar.  Add the lemon zest and dried cranberries.  Stir.  Add the coconut milk and mix (but do not overmix) until a batter forms.  Turn the batter out onto a well floured board. If the dough is sticky fold more flour in a tablespoon at a time. The dough should not stick but shoudl not be dry either.  Be careful not to overwork the dough.

Form the dough into a square about 1" thick.  Using a pizza cutter cut the dough into eight pieces much like you would a pizza. Do not separate the pieces.  Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet  and brush the top with the remaining coconut milk.  Bake for 20-30 minutes or until the tops of the scones are nicely browned and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

To prepare the glaze mix the confectioners sugar with lemon juice. The glaze should be thick but pourable. If you would like a thinner glaze add some water one teaspoon at a time until the desired consistency is reached.

Pour glaze over cooled scones.

Friday, September 26, 2014

"My Pantry Project" Pumpkin Spice Rounds with Coco Whip

Hold on to your hats.  That fluffy, creamy white goodness you see wedged in between and on top of the two pieces of Spiced Pumpkin Bread (more on that later) is Coco Whip!  Remember Cool Whip? That chemical laden, no good for you, non vegan deliciousness?  Well, Coco Whip is a viable, better for you, great tasting alternative out there and it is A-W-E-S-O-M-E. Even Mr. Meat and Potatoes really liked it (uh-oh, better hide the Coco Whip!).

The kind folks at So Delicious were nice enough to send me samples of their Coco Whip along with some other seasonal goodies, too.  They sent Pumpkin Spice, Nog and Mint Chocolate Coconut Milks which are hitting the shelves again- they are all so good! And, they spoiled me with some frozen novelty treats, too! Pumpkin Spice and Candy Corn ice cream bars (Oh my, so much yum).

As my "My Pantry Project" continues, today I thought I would see about using up some of the massive amounts of flour and sugar I have on hand.  And heck, why not incorporate some of the awesomeness the So Delicious folks sent, too?

Today you get a two for one- this recipe makes two loaves of Pumpkin Spice bread. One to eat now, and another for later.  I have made many pumpkin breads, some of which I have posted on this site. This is my favorite thus far. And, putting some Coco Whip between and atop the two slices of the Pumpkin Spice Bread? That is just the proverbial "icing on the cake".

I am slowly but surely working my way through my pantry; So Deliciously!

Pumpkin Spice Bread

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup raw (turbinado) sugar
2 tbsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1 15 oz can organic pumpkin puree
2/3 cup So Delicious Pumpkin Spice Coconut Milk (or other non dairy milk)
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup applesauce
1 tsp vanilla extract
Coco Whip for topping (optional)

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl mix the dry ingredients.  In a separate bowl mix the wet ingredients.  Form a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour the wet into the well and stir until a batter forms. Make sure the flour is mixed in well and there are no "dry" spots.

Split the mixture between two greased loaf pans. Do not overfill the pans, the bread will rise quite a bit.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Let cool and remove from the pans.

To make the rounds slice thin slices of pumpkin bread using a biscuit cutter.  Pipe or spread the Coco Whip on one of the rounds, top with another round and then top with more Coco Whip.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Apple Pie Cake

As you can probably tell by my last few posts I am embracing fall! Butternut Squash Mac n'..., Pumpkin Bread and now an Apple Pie Cake.  Apple pie reminds me of Thanksgiving. Not only would my Mother always prepare a Pumpkin Pie, we also always had an Apple Pie. The kind with a crumb topping.  I always thought the crumb topping was the best part.

So, you can imagine, when I ran across a Martha Stewart recipe for an Apple Pie Cake that uses the crumb topping as the crust, too I could not resist.

Aside from the time it takes to peel and slice five pounds of apples this is a very simple recipe. And, the cake is quite stunning once removed from the spring form pan.  It does tend to fall apart a little bit when you cut into it but who cares? It is delicious!  Tastes like the Apple Pie I grew up with, but without the hassle of scratch made pie crust.

I am not sure if I am hosting or attending Thanksgiving dinner this year,but either way, this dessert will be on the table!

On a totally separate note- I will be joining my friend JL of JL Goes Vegan on her My Pantry Project. Look for future posts of recipes created with ingredients that are currently in my pantry (which overfloweth).  I am looking forward to using up many of the things I have purchased with good intentions, things that I bought for a recipe and used once or things that have just been in there too long! Stay tuned, more to come on that.

In the meantime, enjoy some of this Apple Pie Cake!

Apple Pie Cake

5 lbs Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced thin
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon, divided
1/2 pound cold vegan butter cut into pieces
5 lbs Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced thin
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place the sliced apples in a bowl with the lemon juice and one teaspoon of cinnamon. Toss to coat. Set aside.

In a bowl mix the flour, brown sugar and the rest of the cinnamon.  Cut in the cold butter using a pastry cutter until the mixture forms pea sized crumbs.

Place 2/3 of the mixture in the bottom of a 9" spring form pan pressing to down into the bottom and 1" up the sides.

Pour off any accumulated liquid from the apples and then layer the apples into the spring form pan. Press them down a bit.  They will be slightly higher than the rim of the pan.

Top  the apples with the rest of the sugar, cinnamon and butter mixture.

Put into the oven on a foil lined baking sheet and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until golden brown on top.  Remove from the oven, run a knife around the edge of the pan and allow to cool fully.
When fully cooled release the spring and remove the ring from the spring form pan.

Dust with confectioners sugar if desired before serving.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Lime Infused Coconut Cake

I continue to work on my baking skills.  I still do not love baking but I am getting better at it. This cake is proof- I did it in one try and it came out of the pan in one piece.  And, it tasted good, too!

The cake is a variation of the Tuscan Lemon Cake from Betty Goes Vegan. I love the base cake recipe- super moist and easy to adapt for whatever flavor you want. Today, it was coconut and lime.

I baked the cake to bring to a family gathering at the Jersey shore where we will celebrate my son's sixteenth Birthday.  I am bringing a cake mostly for selfish reasons;  I want to be able to indulge while with family and celebrating with my son. Of course I hope they will enjoy it too!

Since I will be sharing this cake with those I love most I had to take out a piece to taste test before serving.  I will say, it passes with flying colors. Each of my kids tasted a bite, too and they gave it a two thumbs up.

Here's to a very happy Birthday to Max! May sixteen be your best year yet!

Coconut Lime Infused Cake

For the cake:
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegan butter, softened
1 tbsp applesauce
1 tbsp Ener-G Egg Replacer (do not mix with water)
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 can full fat coconut milk
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2 tbsp lime zest
1 tsp coconut extract
Juice of 1/2 lime

For the glaze:
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp So Delicious Lite Culinary Coconut Milk
1 1/3 cup confectioners sugar
Juice of 1/2 lime
Lime zest for garnish

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a bowl add the sugar and vegan butter. Beat with a hand mixer at high speed until smooth and creamy.  Add the applesauce and egg replacer.  Beat until well incorporated.

In a second bowl mix add the flour, baking soda and salt.  Whisk until well combined.

Add a small amount of flour to the butter/sugar mixture and continue to mix with the hand mixer. When blended add a small amount of the coconut milk and continue to beat with the hand mixer.  Continue alternation  the flour mixture and coconut milk until they are gone and you have a smooth batter. Add the shredded coconut, lime zest, juice and coconut extract and beat quickly until combined.

Spray a bundt pan with baking spray.  Add the batter and smooth the top to be sure the batter is evenly distributed.

Bake at 325 for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and poke about fifteen shallow holes using a bamboo skewer.  Set aside and allow to cool fully.

When the cake has cooled remove fro the bundt pan by turning it upside down on a serving platter or cake board.

To make the glaze whisk the confectioners sugar with the coconut milk until smooth. Add the lime juice and continue to whisk. You may adjust the consistency for a thinner glaze, if desired, by adding a more coconut milk a teaspoon at a time.  Pour over the top of the cake and garnish with lime zest.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Blossoming Lotus- Portland, Oregon

Anyone that is vegan is acutely aware that Portland, Oregon is considered something of a vegan Mecca.  I have not been to Portland since going vegan in 2009.  When a business trip presented the opportunity to go to Portland I figured I should maximize my time to frequent at least one vegan restaurant.

After inquiring with the Twitterverse and checking out the dinner menu I decided on Blossoming Lotus.  How could I not? The very first item listed on the menu was Baked Brie.  Vegan baked brie?  Oh my, I have not ever even dared to imagine such a thing!

As soon as I arrived in Portland I dropped my things at the hotel and headed out in a cab to Blossoming Lotus. While for most of Portland it was lunchtime, my East Coast stomach was telling me it was dinner time. One small problem-- when I arrived they were serving lunch and the lunch menu did not include the Baked Brie.

After letting my server know that I had traveled 2400 miles to come to the restaurant and that I had my heart set on the Baked Brie she inquired with the chef and they agreed to make it for me! And, let me tell you- It. Was. Awesome.  So creamy and smooth and topped with a fig jam; truly heavenly.  I ate the WHOLE thing!

As if that were not enough I went on to order a Trio of Tacos- Thai, Black Bean and Kimchi and Jamaican Jerk Tempeh.  Wow, they were good. Complex flavors, nicely seasoned and a bit of heat. I ate all three!

At this point you could have rolled me out of the restaurant. But, I spied on a blackboard at the counter that the Soft Serve of the day was Almond Butter.  Soft Serve? Vegan Soft Serve?  I have never had such a thing and it really did not matter how full I was I was going to try it. Oh my. So creamy and delicious. Just as good as any dairy alternative.

I have one more night left in Portland. Please let me know if you have a recommendation for another great vegan place!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Heartland Restaurant & Farm Direct Market- St. Paul, MN

First things first. Chef Lenny Russo- what will it take to bring you to Philadelphia?  As a born and bred Philly gal, I am of the firm believe Philly has the best restaurant scene, bar none. And Chef Lenny, the Executive Chef and proprietor of the Heartland Restaurant & Farm Direct Market in St Paul, belongs with the best.

While traveling in St, Paul, a quick Internet search to look for a good vegan restaurant revealed that they don't really have one. And for once, I am thankful for that, as I might not have found the Heartland Restaurant & Farm Direct Market. After coming up short on the vegan restaurant search, I simply Googled "Best Restaurant in St. Paul" and up popped Heartland.

After a glance at the menu I figured I would give it a try. When I tell you this is the BEST vegan meal I have had in a restaurant (including both vegan and non vegan) I am not kidding!  I have had some really great meals in some really great vegan places- and I have to say, this may be better than any of them.

The ingredients are all locally sourced, and other than the cheese, everything is made on site. The meal far surpassed any expectations I had.  From the architecture of the building, the attentive and friendly nature of the staff and the culinary excellence I was totally blown away.

Everything was flavorfully complex and delicious. The pickled carrot and pepper with a creamy hummus to start was divine.  The chilled summer squash soup was a delicious balance of sweet and spicy with the addition of chili oil. The cilantro and fried squash blossom were the perfect finishing touch.  The gnocchi were little pillows of heaven on a silky smooth and smoky eggplant puree.  And, the surrounding vegetables were cooked and seasoned to sheer perfection.

Tonight I am going to sleep with a belly full of some of the best food I have ever eaten.

If you find yourself in St. Paul, this is a MUST. It was good enough to plan an entire trip back around. Unless, Chef Lenny decides to come to Philly- (not so subtle) hint, hint.....

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Tuscan Lemon Cake

Apparently Betty Crocker has gone vegan. No, I am not talking about me. If you have ever read my blog you know that I don't really enjoy baking, mostly because I am not good at it. It seems following directions is not inherent to my nature. Case in point- I had to redo the flour mixture three times before I got it right.

First try, I added the egg replacer to the flour. Incorrect! Second try, I used baking POWDER instead of baking SODA. Incorrect! Third times a charm, as they say!

I did make one adjustment to the recipe as written. The batter did not taste lemony enough to me so I added a teaspoon of lemon extract.  Taste your batter and decide if you think it needs it before adding it.

This cake is super moist.  The glaze recipe is very sweet; you can adjust the sweetness by adjusting the lemon, sugar and vegan butter to your liking.

Given the sweetness of the glaze, fresh raspberries served as a nice addition for garnish on the cake.

Nice job veganizing a classic lemon cake, Betty!

Lemon Pound Cake

For the cake:
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegan butter such as Earth Balance; softened
1 tablespoon applesauce
1 tablespoon Ener-G Egg Replacer (do not mix with water)
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 can full fat coconut milk (or 1 package So Delicious Culinary Coconut Milk)
2 tbsp lemon zest
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon extract
Baking spray

For the glaze:
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup vegan butter
2 tbsp lemon zest
1/4 cup lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

In a bowl using a hand mixer cream the sugar and vegan butter together at a high speed until smooth and creamy.  Add the applesauce and egg replacer and blend until incorporated.

In a second bowl add the flour, baking soda and salt.  Whisk until ingredients are combined.

Add a small amount of flour to the butter/sugar mixture and continue to mix with the hand mixer. When blended add a small amount of the coconut milk and continue to beat with the hand mixer. Continue the alternating the flour mixture and coconut milk until they are gone and you have a smooth batter. Add the lemon zest, juice and extract (if using) and beat quickly until combined.

Spray a bundt pan or other cake pan with baking spray.  Add the cake batter and smooth the top to ensure the batter is evenly distributed.

Bake at 325 degrees for 40- 50 minutes or until a bamboo skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and poke about fifteen shallow holes with a bamboo skewer (about the depth a using a fork would create).  Allow the cake to cool entirely before removing it from the pan.

Turn the cake upside down to remove and place on a cake plate or other platter.

To make the glaze, heat the vegan butter until it is melted.  Whisk in the powdered sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice until the mixture is very smooth.  Drizzle over the cake before serving.

Garnish with raspberries if desired.

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.

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.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Chick'n and Dumplings

This year during the holidays I have had the luxury of an extended work break.  I have been blessed with a visit from my in-laws and time spent with my parents and my sister's family not to mention my children and husband. It has been wonderful.

For me, one of the great joys of time off is the luxury to be able to prepare thoughtful home cooked meals.  The other night I made Chicken and Dumplings for my omnivore husband and son, and they smelled so good cooking and seemed like such a comforting, hearty meal that I decided to try a vegan spin on it.

I have never had chicken and dumplings so I really do not have a point of reference for comparison, but these were just so delicious and were absolutely the comfort food I thought they would be.  The sauce was really thick and hearty, and the biscuits super tender with just enough chew to them. It reminded me a bit of pot pie, but even better with the broth soaked biscuits as opposed to a crisper crust.

I will absolutely make this over and over again, undoubtably changing up the vegetables as well as experimenting with the amount of liquid to use to create different textures (this would be good with a slightly less thick sauce, too).

I give this one an enthusiastic A++!

Chick'n and Dumplings

For the base:
2 faux chicken breasts, thawed and chopped (I used gardein)
2 cups vegetable stock
1 1/2 cups non dairy milk (I used So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut)
4 tbsp unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 tsp rubbed sage
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 small onion chopped fine
1 garlic clove minced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup carrot sliced
1 cup frozen peas, thawed

For the dumplings:
1 cup Bisquick
1/3 cup non dairy milk (I used So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut)
1 tsp paprika plus more for sprinkling

In a large pot add the vegetable stock and flour and whisk until smooth.  Turn the heat to medium and add the sage, garlic powder, salt, pepper, onion and fresh garlic.  Allow the broth to thicken and then add the non dairy milk, faux chicken, carrots and peas.  Bring to a low boil.

While the ingredients are heating on the stove top mix the Bisquick, non dairy milk and paprika until a soft dough forms.  Once the ingredients in the pot come to a boil drop the biscuit dough in small rounds into the pot (I used a medium sized cookie scoop to do this).  Allow to boil uncovered for ten minutes.  Cover and boil another ten minutes.

Serve sprinkled with paprika.

Recipe adapted from Exploits of a Vegan Wannabe's Chicken and Dumplings