Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Alternate transportation

I am feeling less than inspired at the moment. There is work to do, and one day folds into the next, but no ideas for cooking anything new. I am a bit in a lull. Well, at least Chanelle is not, while he is enjoying his alternate mode of transportation….. now if I could only have him sit in the market basket of my bike we would be in business…

cat in a wheel barrel

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Tomato Basil Feta Muffins

I love savory muffins, and these take advantage of the summer harvest: tomatoes and fresh basil! (there is a fall version with butternut squash feta and spinach). They are a great snack with a glass of white wine on those longer summer evenings, or a side to a salad for lunch, or go well to the picnic on the beach.
  • 1 TB butter for 12-hole muffin pan
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup quinoa flour
  • 4 ts baking powder
  • 1/2 ts seasalt
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 ts grainy mustard
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • 100 g feta, cut into small dice
  • 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes
  • handful basil leaves, chiffonade
  • about 12 springs of thyme, chopped
  • 4-6 kale leaves, chopped
Preheat oven to 405F / 200C, with rack in the top third. Use the butter to grease a 12-hole muffin pan and set aside.

Quarter the cherry tomatoes, and arrange on a foil covered baking sheet. Sprinkle with olive oil and some salt and pepper, and bake for 15 minutes until slightly wilted and caramelized, but not completely cooked. Set aside to cool.

Transfer the baked cherry tomatoes to a large mixing bowl along with the sliced basil, chopped thyme, chopped kale, toasted pine nuts, and the feta. Gently fold together. In a separate bowl beat the eggs, milk and mustard together and add to the tomato mix. Mix the flour, baking powder and salt, and sift onto the tomato mix, top with a generous dose of freshly ground black pepper and fold together just until the batter comes together, be careful not to over mix. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan, filling each hole 3/4 full. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the tops and sides of the muffins are golden, and the muffins have set up completely. Let cool for a couple minutes then turn out onto a cooling rack.

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Friday, June 24, 2011

Kale (Stem) Blueberry Smoothie

Most recipes for kale dishes (beside smoothies)  include using only the leaves, not the stems (“too fiberous”). I used to throw them away, but after making kale chips a few times, and a whole pile of stems available, I simply made a smoothie with them. They taste just as good and have all the nutrients.

Kale (stem) blueberry smoothie (vegan, clean):

  • stems from 1 bunch of curly kale
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1 cup unflavored almond milk
  • liquid stevia (if desired)
  • 1 cup ice cube
  • goji berries

Mix all the ingredients (besides the goji berries) in a blender and mix. Pour into a glass and add some goji berries. Enjoy!

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Zucchini Spaghetti with Mint

After all this chatting, back to food! This is a wonderful summer recipe, which can be eaten warm, cold or at room temperature, taken to picnics, eaten at the beach, or simply be a dinner. It has few ingredients, but needs special equipment, a julienne peeler or grater, to slice the zucchini into paperthin strands.

Zucchini Spaghetti with Mint (single large serving):

  • 2 oz spaghetti
  • 2 medium-sized zucchini, washed
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • salt, pepper
  • 3 TB white wine (like chardonnay)
  • 3 TB water or vegetable broth
  • fresh mint

Cook the spaghetti al dente according to instructions. Use the julienne peeler, and slice the zucchini into thin strands. Once you are done, prepare a skillet with the olive oil, and add the zucchini. Make sure to separate the strands by hand. Saute for about 2-3 min before the zucchini start browning, and add the water and white wine. The zucchini basically should cook and soften in the water/wine mix on medium-low heat for about 5-7min. Add the salt and pepper, and the grated garlic. Once the spaghetti is cooked, drain and add to the zucchini, and mix gently. Serve with some fresh mint! (you can also add some fresh mint to the mix).

zucchini spaghett

A pint of peanut butter banana ice cream

Yesterday, I was lounging around enjoying the nice weather and was in the mood for something different. I had read Julie’s peanut butter recipes on the Shape magazine site and was instantly inspired to make a peanut butter banana smoothie, the vegan way. I mixed pieces of a frozen banana, a generous tablespoon of peanut butter, a cup of almond milk, 2 TB chia seeds, some stevia and about 1 1/2 cups of ice cubes. It all went into the vitamix and the result was not a smoothie but a slushy thanks to the generous amount of ice cubes! I poured it into a Weck glass and there I had it: a whole pint of instant peanut butter banana ice cream! And, yes, I ate the whole thing.

peanut butter banana icecream

Monday, June 20, 2011

A word on B-12

Last fall I started with ‘clean eating’, which in my case means mostly plant-based food, mostly vegetables, some grains, hummus, apples,  wholegrain bread, and the occasional seafood. For protein I started to add Sun Warrior protein powder and recently tofu. I feel great but I also looked at people running marathons and half marathons and thought I’d never have enough energy to do something like that. This summer it started to bug me that I have a relatively low level of energy, and stumbled upon an article that said that vegans would be good off to take a B-12 supplement. Pills don’t work well, because the B-12is not absorbed well through the digestive tract and shots would be best. Shots? Seeing a doc? Needles? No. So, I started with 2 liquid supplements, one from NOW and one from GNC, and I basically drip it underneath my tongue for direct absorption (the GNC cherry flavored one definitely tastes better!). After a week of using the supplement, I must say my energy levels have increased. I have more energy through out the day, and recover from exercise quickly. Still don’t feel like running a marathon, but I definitely feel energized again. So, vegans, take your vitamin B-12! Or eat your beef liver and nutritional yeast (bah!).



Saturday, June 18, 2011

Spicy Kale Chips

Love the kale chips I made a few days ago, but I also came up with a new, spicy version using real (vegan) sour cream, garlic, chili flakes, and toasted sesame oil. They are to die for! Caution: seriously addictive!

Spicy Asian Kale Chips:

  • 2 TB grapeseed oil (or canolo oil)
  • 1/4 cup vegan sour cream
  • 1 TB bragg amino acids
  • 1 ts toasted sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup filtered water
  • 1 TB apple cider vinegar
  • 2 garlic gloves, peeled
  • 1 ts grated ginger
  • 2 TB nutritional yeast based chipotle parmesan (or nutritional yeast)
  • chili flakes
  • 1 bunch of curly kale or tuscan, washed

Blend all the ingredients (besides the kale) in a blender to a real smooth, but slightly liquidity consistency. Destem each kale leaf, and rip the leaf in ‘chip’-sized pieces. Placel the kale pieces in a large mixing bowl and pour the marinade over the them, and mix the marinade into the kale pile using both hands (yes, it is slightly messy). Make sure to massage the marinade into each leaf. Distributed the kale chips on the sheets of the dehydrator; avoid overlapping leaves because they take longer to dry and crisp up. One bunch of kale filled exactly one dehydrator with 5 trays to the brim. Dry on 105F for ca 12h. Store in an airtight container.

spicy kale chips

Friday, June 17, 2011

Pop over, popover

Today was a well-deserved break from work. I packed up my mountain bike and headed to Acadia National Park. The ride took me from Eagle lake to Jordan Pond using the carriage roads, and this time the Jordan Pond House lawn was open, and I enjoyed my first popover with strawberry jam and a cranberry pecan salad with marvelous goat cheese. Properly fueled by a popover I biked back and took a short (shopping) round through Bar Harbor. Vacation day at home!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Chipotle Parmesan Kale Chips

Yesterday I received my new dehydrator by UPS, and the first thing to make was kale chips. I used one of the common raw kale chips recipes, which is based on a ‘cashew cheez’ sauce; that tastes really good but they are like regular potato chips – pretty high in calories, 80kcals for a small serving. So, I will be looking for a more low-cal recipe because who can stop eating chips after the first chip?!!

I also found a new way to ‘recycle’ the kale stems: they make a perfect vegan kale smoothie if you have a blender that pulverizes them well so you will never taste the difference. 

Chipotle Parmesan Kale Chips:
  • 1 cup cashew nuts (soaked in filtered water for 2h)
  • 1/4-/1/3 cup filtered water
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 TB apple cider vinegar
  • 2 garlic gloves, peeled
  • 2 TB nutritional yeast based chipotle parmesan (or nutritional yeast)
  • 1 hot pepper, dried or fresh
  • 1 bunch of curly kale, washed
Soak the nuts for about 2 hours (I only did one 1 hour because I was too impatient, but it worked, too). Place the soaked cashews in the blender, add about 1/4 – 1/3 cup of water (I used the soaking water), add the lime juice, apple cider vinegar, garlic, chipotle parmesan, and hot pepper. The vegan parmesan has salt in it, so I did not use any extra salt, you can, of course, if you like it more salty. Blend the ingredients to a smooth, silky consistency. It should not be too runny nor too thick, more like a creamy cheese pasta sauce.
Destem the kale by ripping chips sized pieces of the kale leaves and discard (or save) the stems (for a smoothie). Place the raw kale pieces in a large bowl, pour the sauce on top and get massaging. Massage the ‘cheez’ mix into the heap of kale and rubbing the sauce into the  individual leaves to that all of them are covered fairly well.
Distributed the kale chips on the sheets of the dehydrator; avoid overlapping leaves because they take longer to dry and crisp up. One bunch of kale filled exactly one dehydrator with 5 trays to the brim. Dry on 105F for ca 12h, and get munching on tasty, crunchy kale chips!
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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Vegan sandwich with the trimmings

After providing the lilac bush with a long overdue trim this afternoon, I was really hungry so this called for a sandwich! A vegan sandwich with all the trimmings: home-made dark pumpernickel bread (King Arthur Flour), 3 layer hummus (Trader Joes), mixed salad greens from the farmers market, mini tomatoes, marinated baked light tofu and low-fat veganaise. Can I say “yum”?


Kale Cat on the move

You might remember Cooking Cat. With the change of the seasons, her interest has changed from cooking adventures to garden adventures, especially making sure the kale is growing well. I wish I could say that but Baby Cat (her real name) has no interest in the well-being of kale but thinks the raised bed is a fabulous place to take a sunbath or eat the tastiest grass that peeks out. She generously throws herself on the warm kale bed feeling oh so good and flattening a few baby kale plants in the process. I suspect she sees all that attention of mine trying to shssssh her off the kale bed as great playtime, which needs to be rewarded with instant repeat. Cats.
kale cat 1 kale kale cat 3

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Mini vegan chocolate cupcakes

This morning I had to rack my brains: I was at the end of my wits of how to deal with the miserable, cold, dreary, rainy weather with a positive attitude. I had tried it all, a cozy day in front of the tv with the computer, running away and going shopping, ignoring the gray or staying insanely busy. I felt I had run out of options and today was more like the day of a prisoner rattling at her door: let me out of here! Full on protest. 

First thing I did this morning was finally baking mini chocolate vegan cupcakes. The first batch was a hit and miss; I had a nice recipe, decided to half it, but forgot to half some of the ingredients. The cupcakes rose and then… deflated. They did taste insanely sweet (sugar was one of the things I forgot to half). So, in my general gritty mood I threw them out and started over. This time paying more attention to the recipe and using a true and tried recipe (at least by the originator), vegan cupcakes by Chef Chloe, the vegan chef who won the Cupcakes Wars on Food TV last year. The cupcakes came out well, but needed something, i.e. frosting. It was the first time ever that I made frosting. I used coconut oil, and it adds wonderful flavor. Since my frostening abilities are in the infancy stage I leave you with the original picture by Chef Chloe. 

1/2 + 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/6 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup grapeseed or canola oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder

Preheat oven to 350 F and line 2 12-cup mini cupcake pans with paper liners. Sift and then whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt into a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the coconut milk, oil, vinegar, vanilla, and espresso powder until smooth. Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and mix with a small whisk. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared cupcake liners until each cup is 2/3 full. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. 

1 cup hulled and sliced fresh strawberries
Confectioners’ sugar, for garnish

mini cup cakes mini cupcakes dough mini cupcakes baked
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, preferably organic
2 TB refined coconut oil at room temperature
1 ts vanilla extract
1-2 TB water

Combine the confectioners’ sugar, the coconut oil, and vanilla extract in a bowl and whisk with a hand mixer. Beat on medium-high speed until combined. With the mixer running, add 1 tablespoon of water at a time, until the desired buttercream consistency. (I just needed 1 TB). 

Assembly: Once the cupcakes are completely cooled, slice off the top 1/3 of each cupcake and slather with frosting and sliced strawberries. Place the top of the cupcake back on top and add an additional bit of frosting and sliced strawberries. Dust with confectioners’ sugar.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Bay leaf palooza

I tasted them for the first time in the south of France: a 4 ft bay leaf bush in a garden delivered fragrant aromatic fresh bay leaves for stews and soups, and I fell in love with them. Later that year I found a small bay leaf plant in one my favorite nurseries, and after that I think the trend caught on: now they are available on the farmers market every year. So, naturally (since I could not resist, and there is also the chance of me of ruining one) I have 2 plants. In the winter, they are indoors, sparsely watered, not too warm, but once outside in the early summer, they get very happy with the rain and sunshine and start to have twice the leaves. The leaves mature over the summer, and there are no new leaves until the next spring. So, at the moment it is bay leaf palooza !
new bay leaves bay leaf plants bay leaf plant at FM

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Pasta with Morels and Artichokes

Doh. After 2 weeks of summerly weather the weather converted back to temperatures in the 50s today, overcast, rain. The tazo passion tea is served hot again instead of ice-cubed, and my appetite converted back to a preference for heated foods. 

A few days ago, I finally picked up some morels at Whole Foods. Admittedly, I never had morels before but Mark Bittman preparing them on “The Minimalist” got me interested. The price of morels is outrageous ($39.99 for a pound) so I just bought just a few fresh ones. I fried them in olive oil with salt and pepper, and added a few (previously frozen) artichoke hearts, cooked spaghetti, garlic and vegan sour cream. Overall it was delicious but the ingredients slightly overpowered the taste of the morels.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Vegan chocolate cupcakes

Today, the trip to the farmer market brought sweet treats. I am not really big on sweets, but decided I want to support the newly opened vegan and gluten-free bakery stand with the adorable name Irish Daisy on the farmers market, which popped up this spring. First of all the cupcakes look just adorable, second they are VEGAN and third, the samples say “incredible baking”. Currently, I am a bit at a loss as of what to buy at the farmers market, because eggs, fish and chicken as well as goat cheese are kind of out of the question, and there is not much green stuff beside seedlings and radishes yet. So, I arrived to the FM with the purpose of finally buying a vegan cupcake. Of course, I had to sample the vegan whoopie pies. So good!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

(Super) Creamy vegan polenta

Melissa D’ Arabian was cheerfully chattering on as usual on foodtv (I think of her as a non-tired, blond mommy Rachel Ray) and got my attention when she divulged that she had perfected this polenta for over a year and had actually asked the chef of the restaurant she first had it for his polenta secret. I had started to make more polenta when I went vegan last fall and love it. So, a new secret on how to make insanely creamy polenta… that was something to follow up on. 

The trick to the super creamy polenta is twofold: 1) the ratio between liquid to cornmeal is 7:1 (so a lot more liquid than usual recipes ask for), and 2) cooking it much, much longer, like hours, than usual recipes say. Genius Melissa simply cooked it in the slow cooker because she had no time to babysit the polenta for 2 hours (who has?). Sounded all convincing enough for me to try it out, but I also wanted to veganize it. I replaced milk and half and half and butter with unsweetened, unflavored almond milk and some coconut milk, and the polenta was so creamy and perfect that it did not need any more vegan butter or sour cream.  You gotta try this!
creamy vegan polenta (makes about 2 servings):
  • 1/4 cup coarse corn meal
  • 1 1/2 cups unflavored unsweetened almond milk (like Silk, or Whole Foods brand)
  • 1/2 cup unflavored coconut milk (not the thick one from the can, but the drinking kind)
  • a bit of sea salt
  • a few grates of nutmeg
On a stove, heat the almond milk and coconut milk and whisk in the cornmeal. Whisk continuously until the milk is heated and the cornmeal slightly thickens. Turn off the heat, and transfer the polenta to a sprayed small slow cooker. Set to low, put the lid on and cook for 2h, stirring occasionally. Add the salt and nutmeg to taste, and serve.
Here, I serve it with stove-top grilled asparagus, mushrooms, red onions and fresh corn, and a drizzle of Stonewall Kitchen’s Vidalia Onion and Fig Sauce.
creamy vegan polenta

Supersized smoothie

Now that the temperatures are up I make my smoothies with ice and they increase significantly in volume. To make them more portable I got the biggest reusable tumbler at Starbucks, and it works just fine!

Vegan Strawberry Rhubarb Smoothie
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • liquid stevia (E.g. NuNaturals)
  • 1 cup fresh strawberries, hulled and cut into pieces
  • 1/2 cup fresh rhubarb, cut into pieces
  • at least 1 cup ice cubes
All in the blender and ready to go!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Lazy man’s salsa

Or rather lazy woman’s salsa. The weather is nice, sunny, not too warm, and friends could drop in for a glass of wine, a hello, and some baked tortilla chips and salsa this afternoon. Salsa never lasts in my house, because I just love it too much. So, I don’t buy it as a staple from the store, but it is easy enough to make with a few ingredients in the pantry: a can no-salt added fire roasted tomatoes (Trader Joes, only one that are fire-roasted and no salt!), a fresh hot pepper, a few pickled jalapenos, red onion, fresh lime juice and fresh cilantro from the herb garden. Chop up the ingredients, mix, add salt and pepper, and enjoy the sun will awaiting the friends.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Single-serve multigrain vegan foccaccia

I don’’t think it was the fact that Kath ate delicious looking sandwiches all week (or opened her Great Harvest Bakery today!), but walking by the grocery isle where a package of Instabake was looking at me, promising crunchy fresh breads, made in a heartbeat. I used to make them quite a lot a few years ago, but then started making ‘real’ bread in my breadmachine. But, today I was in the mood for fresh warm bread, and a sandwich including hummus, romaine, tomato and grilled marinated tofu.
Basic dough (single bread):
  • 2 TB whole-grain Instabake mix
    1 TB ground flax seeds
  • 1/4 ts baking powder
    2 TB unflavored almond milk
Variations: For each of the variations add the mentioned ingredients to the basic dough:
Kalamata Walnut bread:
  • 1 TB chopped, toasted walnuts
  • 4-5 marinated kalamata olives, sliced
Herbs des Provence Bread:
  • 1/2 TB  Herbs de provence
  • 1/2 ts garlic powder
  • 1 ts roasted salted pumpkin seeds (peppinos)
Sundried tomato bread:
  • 4-5 sundried tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 ts garlic powder
  • 1/2 TB roasted red pepper spread (e.g. Trader Joes)

Mix all ingredients, and pour into a sprayed,  small (ca. 4 inch) metal baking pan(*), and bake at 400F for 20min.
Note: I found these single-serve metal pans at Target stores. Each bread has ca. 80kcal (walnut kalamata has more).
single-serve-bread raw single serve bread baked

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Grilled Vegetables and…. Grilled Strawberries

Yesterday, after an evening of tornado warnings for most of Maine (hello?! tornadoes in Maine?), the weather was back to much colder and overcast this morning. Goodbye first taste of summer. When the sun peeked out in the afternoon with bright blue skies (for about 30min) I cranked up the BBQ for a late lunch. Inspired by Kath’s Strawberry Pecan Pesto Pasta salad, I added the remaining strawberries to today’s batch of grilled vegetables. Having restocked on infused olive oils I had more choices today but stuck with Meyer Lemon olive oil to brush the grill pan on the BBQ, and added summer squash, button mushroom, a tomato strawberries, red onion and a few slices of pressed marinated tofu.
strawberries on the BBQ
The grilled vegetable plate was rounded out by arugula salad and Trader Joe’s ranch dressing, home-made onion chutney, and a dash of BBQ sauce. Grilled strawberries taste like an in-between fresh ones and baked warm, sweet ones. Delicious!
grilled vegetables with strawberry

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Scallops with Poblano and Grilled Corn

Today, I scoured the isles of my local Wholefood Market wannabie for new finds. Next to the tofu based cream cheese I found vegan sour cream. My eyes lit up: this opens up possibilities! I love to add creme fraiche to creamy pasta sauces, dips, and to intensify the taste of vegan soups. Now I have a vegan option. Must try!
For lunch I tried a tablespoon of vegan sour cream in a saute of fresh poblano pepper and grilled corn with some caramelized scallops. So good!
The sour cream from the same company that makes Vegenaise: