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.

Monday, October 13, 2014

"Don't Be a Piggy" Quinoa and Sausage Stuffed Peppers with Tomato Fennel Sauce

I cannot even begin to tell you how good these were.  For a meal that was created out of the continued desire to cook through all of the "stuff" I have collected in my pantry and cabinets this came out just beautifully.

I used Wegman's "Don't Be a Piggy" Sausage crumbles mixed with quinoa for the and filling it was delicious. Of all the faux sausages out there I find I like Wegman's best but you could use whatever kind you like or have available to you.

The tomato fennel is sauce is awesome. Together this makes such a nice meal. Once baked with the peppers the tomato sauce gets nice and thick and has a lovely fennel flavor which compliments the peppers and sausage filling. I think the key to the sauce is using tomato paste plus vegetable stock as opposed to plain tomato sauce (check underneath the recipe for a cool tip I learned about tomato paste).

I am going to take the leftovers to lunch for a coworker and I tomorrow. That, with a salad and some of the Pumpkin Spice Sticky Buns I recently made (recipe soon) will make for a nice departure from the usual grab-and-go salad eaten at my desk while working.

Don't Be a Piggy Quinoa and Sausage Stuffed Peppers with Tomato Fennel Sauce

For the stuffed peppers:
6 sweet bell peppers halved and cleaned
1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup vegetable stock
1 1/2 tbsp tomato paste*
1/4 cooking onion, chopped
1 tsp dried minced onion
1 13.2 oz package Wegman's Don't be a Piggy Sausage Style Crumbles (or other faux sausage)
1 tbsp fennel seeds
Salt and pepper to taste

For the tomato fennel sauce:
1/4 cooking onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
4 oz tomato paste*
1 cup vegetable stock
1 tbsp ground fennel seed
1 tsp dried, minced onion
Salt and pepper to taste

Green onion for garnish (optional).
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a sauce pan add the quinoa and 1 cup vegetable stock.  Bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling reduce the heat and cover.  Simmer for 20 minutes.  Uncover and add the 1 1/2 tbsp tomato paste. Stir to incorporate.  Set aside.

Place the pepper halves in a microwave safe baking dish and microwave for about 3 minutes or until the peppers start to soften. Remove from the microwave.

In a large skillet over medium heat add the olive oil. When hot, add the onion and saute until translucent. Add the garlic and season with salt and pepper. Saute about a minute and add the sausage style crumbles, fennel seeds and dried minced onion.  Saute until warmed through.  Add the quinoa mixture and stir.  Set aside.  In the pot you made the quinoa in add 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. When hot, add the onion and saute until translucent.  Add the garlic, saute another minute and then add the tomato paste and 1 cup vegetable stock. Whisk to combine.  Add the ground fennel seed, dried minced onion and salt and pepper to taste,  Heat until starting to simmer and then transfer to a blender and pulse until very smooth.

Pour the tomato sauce in the dish you microwaved the pepers in. Stuff the peppers with the quinoa and sausage style crumble mixture and place them in the tomato fennel sauce.  Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.  Remove from the oven, garnish with green onion if desired and serve.

*I don't know about you but I often find I use a small amount of tomato paste in a recipe and end up with a nearly full can of tomato paste in my fridge. Invariably, the rest does not get used or when I go to use it it is "too late".  If you have a recipe calling for a small amount of tomato sauce open both ends of the can and push the tomato paste out onto some plastic wrap. Cut off what you need and wrap the rest and pu it in the freezer.  The next time you need tomato paste take it out of the freezer, allow it to partially thaw, cut off what you need and re-wrap it and put it back into the freezer for next time.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

"My Pantry Project" Odds n' Ends Soup

I was not going to post this My Pantry Project recipe because it is similar to other soups I have blogged about in the past. But, when I put a picture up on a couple of social media sites I got a few requests for the recipe so I figured, why not.

This was created out of the various bits of vegetables left from a weeks worth of cooking. I really hate throwing anything away plus, it was cold and rainy yesterday so soup sounded good.

This used up all my left over veggies, a couple of cans of beans and the rest of my home made vegetable stock. Time to go shopping!

Odds n' Ends Soup

2 tbsp olive oil
1 carrot, chopped
1/2 white onion, minced
1/4 yellow pepper, chopped
1/4 red pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch curly kale
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
2 cans white beans, rinsed and drained (I used Great Northern)
4 cups vegetable stock
2 tsp dried Italian seasoning herbs
2 tsp dried parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot add the olive oil and heat over medium heat.  Add the carrot and saute until starting to get soft. Season with salt and pepper.  Add the onion and peppers and continue to cook until the onion becomes translucent. Add salt and pepper.  Add the garlic, kale and thyme leaves and saute until the kale wilts and becomes bright green.  Add all but 1/2 cup of the beans. Cover with 3 1/2 cups of stock.  Add the Italian herbs and parsley. Re season with salt and pepper.  Allow to simmer for about 15 minutes.

While the soup is simmering puree the rest of the beans and remaining 1/2 cup of stock until very smooth.  Add to the soup and continue to cook about another 5 minutes.

Serve and enjoy.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

"My Pantry Project" Tater Tot Pot Pie

Tater Tot Pot Pie. Has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? I think so.  As it turns out tots make a great pot pie topping.

As you may be aware,  I have been working to reduce the amount of "stuff" in what were my overflowing kitchen cabinets and pantry.  I have made a great dent and figured it made sense to expand to the freezer as well.

I have some frozen things were due to be used and this dish is the result of making a dent in those. I served this to family this evening; they seemed to enjoy it.  My daughter told me "you need to make this more often".  I like hearing that.

This comes together easily, especially if you use frozen vegetables. Just make sure you allow enough time for the frozen items to at least partially thaw before you start preparing the dish. The mixed veggies I used contained corn, green beans, peas and carrots. Use whatever kind you like.

Tater Tot Pot Pie

1 tbsp olive oil
1 1//2 cups frozen vegetables, thawed
1/4 cup all purpose flour plus 2 tbsp (if needed)
1 tsp onion powder
2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup non dairy creamer (I used So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut)
4 gardein chick'n scallopini partially thawed and cut into cubes
3 cups frozen tater tots, thawed
1 tbsp thyme leaves
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

In a medium sauce pan over medium heat add the olive oil.  Once heated add the thawed vegetables and season with salt and pepper.  Saute for a few minutes and add whisk in the 1/4 cup flour. Add the onion powder and cook for a couple of minutes constantly stirring.  Add the vegetable stock and the gardein chunks.  Cook for two minutes and then add the coconut creamer. Re-season with salt and pepper.  Allow to come to a boil and cook until the sauce starts to thicken.  If it boils for more than three minutes and has not thickened to the consistency of a thick gravy add the additional flour one tablespoon at a time. Stir continually while the sauce thickens and the raw flour is cooked (at least a minute per tablespoon added). Pour into four quart baking dish.

In a food processor pulse the thawed tater tots and thyme leaves.  Sprinkle on top of the vegetable mixture and bake for 25 minutes at 450 degrees or until bubbly and lightly browned on top.

Allow to stand about ten minutes before serving.

Monday, September 29, 2014

"My Pantry Project" Using What You Already Have

I have been busy in my kitchen. Here I am about a week into "My Pantry Project".  In order to get through all the "stuff"in my existing pantry I have been cooking up a lot of things that probably don't warrant a recipe, but are probably worth sharing. Maybe these dishes will give you some ideas to use staples you may already have in your own pantry.  Beats running to the grocery store for the ingredients to prep your next meal, right?

This is a sampling of what The Vegan Version's household has been eating as of late:

Italian Pasta Salad

For this one just some tricolored pasta, a can of artichoke hearts, a jar of pimentos and some homemade champagne vinaigrette. In hindsight, I should have added a can of chickpeas. Nest time.

Blueberry Barley Breakfast Bowl

I cooked up a bunch of pearl barley and left it in the fridge for use in recipes.  For the breakfast bowl all I did was add some So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut Milk and heat it up. I topped it with a dollop of Blueberry Jam and sprinkled it with cinnamon.  A great breakfast!

Chickpea Salad

Truly one of my go-tos. I usually use canned chickpeas and use whatever fresh veggies and herbs I have in the house. Just add a little Vegenaise, salt and pepper and, voila! My 12-year-old vegetarian (non-chickpea lover) has discovered that she loves this and now she asks for it regularly for lunch at school. I consider that a win!

Quinoa Breakfast Bowl

While I love oatmeal for breakfast I am discovering that there are more grains than just oats to make a great breakfast (as evidenced by the Barley Bowl above). Quinoa is delicious and a good source of protein, iron and magnesium.  Plus, it is really filling and is super versatile. I have been keeping some cooked quinoa in the refrigerator so that I can quickly dress it up as a sweet breakfast or a nice lunchtime salad. For this breakfast it was a splash of coconut milk, dried cranberries, pecans, brown sugar and a drizzle of agave syrup. A new go-to quick breakfast.

Corn and Quinoa Soup

This soup was so easy. I had a box of prepared organic Corn Soup in my pantry. To dress it up I just sautéed one quarter of a white onion in a little bit of olive oil, added the soup and one cup of the quinoa in the refrigerator.  Once it was heated through I garnished with some canned corn kernels, avocado, jalapeño pepper and some cilantro. Delish!

Multi Layer Dip

For this dip I simply added a jar of pre-made black bean dip, layered it with vegan sour cream, salsa, lettuce and green onions.  Super easy and really tasty, too.

The balance of my week will be comprised of business travel and a weekend family wedding. I don't suspect there will be a lot of cooking over that time, maybe I can sneak another dish in tomorrow evening and again on Sunday, we'll see.  Even at a week in my pantry is already far more organized. I am loving it!

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.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

"My Pantry Project" Sloppy Black Bean Sliders

I continue to cook my way through my pantry as part of the "My Pantry Project"  hosted by my Author/Blogger pal JL Fields.  And while my pantry is emptying, my fridge and freezer is filling! Not a bad situation, right?

For this meal I decided to use up some canned tomato sauce, paste and green chilies and some dried black beans. If you don't have dried beans no problem. Canned would work just as well. While this is not necessarily a traditional "Sloppy" sandwich recipe it was delicious in its own right. Slightly tangy and slightly spicy, the sauce worked out really well. I liked the texture of the beans with the sauce, too.

I think this shall be my lunches for the next few days. It is supposed to be a beautiful weekend in Southeastern PA. It would ben nice to eat lunch outside!

Sloppy Black Bean Sliders

2 tbsp olive oil1/4 large white onion sliced very thin
1 celery stalk chopped fine
4 oz canned green chilies
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 cups cooked black beans (equivalent to one can)
3/4 cup tomato sauce
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp molasses
1 tsp mustard powder
1/2 tsp rubbed sage
1/2 tsp cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

In a sauce pan over medium heat add the two tablespoons of olive oil. When hot, add the onions and celery and season with salt and pepper.  Saute until very soft and lightly carmelized.  Add the green chilies and garlic and continue to saute for about two more minutes.

Add the black beans, tomato sauce and paste, red wine vinegar, sugar, molasses, mustard powder, sage and cumin.  Stir until well combined.  Lower the heat to medium low and allow to cook for about fifteen minutes.

Serve on slider rolls.

Note: if the sauce is too thick for your liking it can be thinned by adding water to achieve the desired consistency.

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.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

"My Pantry Project" Butternut Squash with Barley, White Wine and Currants

Today I am thrilled to share my second post as part of JL's My Pantry Project as featured on her blog JL Goes Vegan. Not only did this come out better than I could have ever dreamed, I did it without shopping for a single ingredient outside of my own kitchen! In fact, it may be one of my favorite recipe creations, yet. The squash came out so tender and the wine really adds to the flavor of the dish.

And, I am having so much fun with this project! If you are not yet aware of the My Pantry Project, the goal is to cook through your own pantry creating from-scratch meals using things you already have.  It is a great way to spark some creativity in the kitchen, lower your grocery bills and organize your kitchen.

You know the feeling you get when you clean out your closets or garage by donating or tossing things you no longer use or need? It's sort of like that. With the bonus of a great meal when you are finished!

I posted my first recipe yesterday.  I plan to create many more recipes in the days and weeks to come so check back every so often or follow my "My Pantry Project" board on Pinterest.

I am really looking forward to an organized pantry that I can then work on filling up with some new items!

This particular recipe finds me 1 cup of pearl barley and a 1/2 cup of currants lighter.  And that was the end of the currants so one less box in the pantry. Woo-hoo!

I would love to have you join me.  Are you game to use up the items in your pantry before buying more?

Butternut Squash with Barley, White Wine and Currants

2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
1 cup cooked and rinsed pearl barley*
3/4 cup white wine
20 oz butternut squash chunks (I used the prepackaged fresh from Wegman's)
3 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup currants
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large stock pot over medium heat add the 2 tbsp olive oil.  Add the onion and season with salt and pepper.  Saute a few minutes until the onions soften a bit and then add the garlic and thyme. Saute another minute or so.  Add the barley and white wine.  Cook for a minute or two and then add the butternut squash chunks, vegetable stock and currents.  Give it a quick stir, re-season with salt and pepper, cover and turn the heat to low.  Allow to simmer for 30 minutes or until the squash is tender.

*I chose to used precooked and rinsed barley in this recipe as I did not want a thick soup or stew. Cooking and rinsing the barley will keep it from thickening the dish.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

"My Pantry Project" Mushroom, Rice and Black Bean Porridge

My dear friend JL, The author of the blog JL Goes Vegan recently started the "My Pantry Project". When I read the details of the challenge I knew I was in.  It's pretty simple- create meals from your own pantry with a goal of trimming down what you have.  If you are anything like me- you have A LOT.

As the "Executive Chef" of my own kitchen I often find myself buying ingredients for a specific
recipe idea. I may use them once, or sometimes, even though I have the best of intentions, never use at all.

In preparation for JL's challenge I took stock of my pantry. In doing so I learned a lot about myself. For one, I have so many types of flour it is not even funny (eleven to be exact).  And I clearly overbuy when it comes to rice (eight varieties), something I admittedly do not cook often as my family are not big fans.  I also cleared out some stuff that was expired (while not proud of it, I will admit I found an item from 2002!)

There are plenty of other things to get through, too- various beans (dried and canned), a variety of grains and a bunch of sugars, too.  I did not inventory my spices specifically, but for the duration of my Pantry Challenge I have decided I will not buy any more dried herbs or spices. Instead, I will commit to using solely those in the kitchen drawer (yes I have a whole large drawer dedicated solely to spices  and yes, there are a lot of those, too!

Clearly I have my work cut out for me.  But, the reward should be some creative, delicious food, a reduced grocery bill and, hopefully a far more organized kitchen!

My first recipe creation has left me two cups of rice, two cups of black beans and three cups of packaged vegetable stock lighter. I love it!  The results were good, too.  The recipe made enough for me to enjoy a few meals while stocking some in my freezer for the cold, snowy Winter days I am anticipating.

Thanks JL for the gentle nudge. I am really excited about this challenge.

Do you have an overfilled pantry? Are you up for the challenge?

Mushroom, Rice and Black Bean Porridge*

3 carrots, diced
8 oz portabella mushrooms, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp fresh thyme
2 tbsp dried parsley
1 cup wild rice
1 cup brown rice
2 cups black beans (soaked overnight, quick soaked or canned)
1/4 cup Braggs Liquid Aminos
3 qts vegetable stock
3 bay leaves
1 dried guajillo chili, sliced open and seeds removed
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large stock pot over medium heat add the olive oil and carrot. Saute for a few minutes and then add the mushrooms. Saute the mushrooms until they release their liquid and it evaporates. Season with salt and pepper each time you add an ingredient.  Add the garlic, black beans and rice and cook a minute or two.  Add the Bragg's Liquid Aminos, the vegetable stock, thyme parsley and guajillo chili.  Turn to low heat and simmer for an hour or until the beans and rice are tender. Note: since the dish has already been salted the beans may not soften as much as if no salt were added.  You could wait to add the salt until the beans are tender. I prefer beans with a little bit of "chew" which is why I add the salt in the beginning).

*Much of the liquid will be absorbed by the rice and beans. If you prefer more of a soup to a porridge add some vegetable stock to create the consistency you prefer toward the end of the cooking process.

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.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Mac n'....

Warning! Warning! This is not low fat or low calorie!  If you are a member of the vegan police you should probably stop reading now. The dish is full of creamy, fatty, glutinous goodness and I don't feel even the least bit guilty about making it or eating it.

With fall in the air it feels like time to start cooking with squash and pumpkin. It's time to gather the family around the dinner table for meals consisting of comfort foods and this fits bill perfectly for both if you ask me.

While would be an awesome side for a larger meal; good enough for even Thanksgiving dinner it also stands on its own well. Add a small salad and you are all set.

There are lots of vegan "Mac and Cheese" recipes out there. While this may look like Mac and Cheese this really isn't Mac and Cheese and its not even trying to be Mac and Cheese. It stands on its own quite well so I am going to simply call it "Mac n'"....

I made a very large batch of the sauce and used half of it for the dish and froze the other half for another time. If you want to create just enough sauce without having leftover sauce you may halve the recipe.  Alternatively, you could double the pasta and make two, freezing one for a rainy day.

Mac n'....

40 oz butternut squash chunks (I bought 2 20 oz packages cleaned and precut from Wegman's)
1 red bliss potato, peeled and cut into chunks
3 cans full fat coconut milk
1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked in water for a few hours
4 tbsp vegan butter 
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Salt and white pepper to taste
3 cups pasta, cooked al dente

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a large pot add the coconut milk and butternut squash and potato chunks. Season liberally with salt and white pepper.  Cover and simmer for about twenty minutes until very tender.

Transfer the mixture to high powered blender. Add the cashews and vegan butter and blend until very smooth. (Note: I had to do this in two batches).

Return the mixture to the pot and add the garlic and onion powder.  Re-season with salt and white pepper as needed.  Continue to simmer for about fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally.

Prepare a casserole dish by spraying it with cooking oil.  Add the cooked pasta to the dish and half the sauce mixture. Stir well and put into the oven at 350 degrees and bake for 30 minutes.

*If desired you may top the casserole with melted vegan butter and breadcrumb mixture before baking. I chose not to do this because my kids do not care for the breadcrumb topping.

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.