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