Saturday, November 26, 2011

Green Bean Salad

This crisp green bean salad is easy, delicious, and healthy. That's my triple threat for recipe favorites ;-)

  • ~1 lb fresh string green beans, ends trimmed 
  • ~1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 avocado, sliced into bite-sized pieces
  • Sea salt to taste
  1. Heat the olive oil in a pan. Add the green beans and ~ 1 Tbsp of water and cover. Steam for about 2-3 minutes. You want the beans to still be a little crisp.
  2. Allow green beans to cool. Add the walnuts, cranberries, and sea salt. Chill in fridge and just prior to serving add the avocado.

For a warm version, you could sub the avocado for sauteed apple pieces. Or try adding pomegranete seeds or golden raisins instead of the cranberries. Easy-peasy!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Chocolate Cherry Cookies

These delicious chocolatey cookies are like digging into a pint of Cherry Garcia ice cream, but healthier, vegan, and better for sharing because you don't have to fight over the good stuff. They're perfect with a glass of red wine too! The chocolate cookie is like a fudge brownie, and the cherry center is... ummm... the cherry on top ;-)

If you aren't a fan of cherries, these would also be good with a raspberry filling. See my notes at the end for more on that.

Recipe from the Tolerant Vegan (altered slightly)
  • 1/2 cup Earth Balance buttery spread
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 small-medium banana, ripe and mashed
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 and 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • Dark morello cherries in syrup (you'll need about 24)
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips 
  • 1/2 cup non-dairy vanilla milk
  • 1 to 1 1/2 tsp of the syrup from cherry jar

  1. Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl.
  2. Add in the mashed banana and vanilla.
  3. In a separate bowl mix together the flour, baking soda and powder, salt, and cocoa powder. 
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix well; the batter will be fairly thick.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 F. 
  6. Scoop out the batter into small balls and slightly flatten. Place on cookie sheet and press a small circle into the center of each cookie using your thumb or forefinger. Add a cherry to each center.
  7. In a small saucepan, place the chocolate chips and milk. Melt over low heat, constantly stirring with a whisk. Remove from heat and add 1-3 tsp of juice from cherry jar (amount depending on how sweet you want the sauce).
  8. Scoop about a tsp of the melted chocolate over the cherries in the center of each cookie.
  9. Bake for 10-12 minutes. After removing from the oven, add another tsp of melted chocolate to cover the top of each cookie and allow to cool.

I'm actually not much of a chocolate person, but did really like these cookies. I did have about a 1/4 cup of the chocolate sauce leftover though, so if you don't want that hanging around your fridge, I'd cut back the sauce ingredients to 3/4 cup chocolate chips and a little over 1/4 cup milk. I also cut back the syrup used in the sauce from the original recipe since I thought it would be too sweet with any more, but feel free to add up to 3 tsp depending on your preference.

If you can't find Morello cherries, try another tart dark cherry (the Morello ones taste better though!). The first time I made these I used organic, low sugar maraschino cherries, which worked fine, but might have been a tad sweet. Whatever you do, DON'T use those really fake sugary maraschinos that seem to be fluorescent pink-  they might be good in a cocktail, but you don't want that fake taste overwhelming the cookies.

As mentioned, a good variation of these would be raspberry chocolate cookies. Simply add about a teaspoon of the raspberry sauce from this recipe to the center of each cookie instead of the cherry. Actually, there are plenty of options to fill the center of these: caramel, white chocolate, more chocolate (death by chocolate cookie?!)...

These go really well with red wine ;-)

Time for a girls night?!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Vegan Spinach Quiches

I loved the look & idea of these mini-quiches I saw on Finding Vegan. These little quiches came out great- a delicious quinoa crust and a hearty filling. Yum all around. They are easy to make, and relatively quick - about 30 minutes of prep time and 30 minutes in the oven. These are also good for lunches or storing in the freezer for an easy meal later in the week.

Adapted from this recipe from the Healthy Hipster.

  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 2 Tbsp ground flax seeds (I used whole flax seeds and ground them in a food processor for a few minutes)
  • 2 Tbsp ground oats/oat flour, or flour
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 Tbsp Spike or other seasoning
  • 1 10 oz package of frozen spinach
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp tumeric
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 heaping Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 package extra firm tofu
For the crust:
  1. Cook the quinoa according to package instructions (will take about 10-15 minutes). Add the seasoning to the cooked quinoa, along with sea salt to taste.
  2. Add about 1/2 cup (enough to cover the flax seeds) of water to a small bowl with the ground flax seeds. Allow the seeds to soak in the water for 5-10 minutes to thicken. 
  3. Grind the oats in a food processor, or use whole wheat flour or ground oats instead, and add to the cooked quinoa. (I actually added about a spoonful of extra whole oats as well, just for a little additional texture, which I think came out well). After the flax seeds have soaked, add those as well and mix. 
  4. Grease a muffin pan well, and add a large spoonful of the quinoa mix to each of the 12 muffin spots. Press along the outside of the muffin mold to form a crust. (The quinoa mix will be a little sticky, so it's easiest to use a spoon).
For the filling:
  1. Drain the tofu well, pressing out any excess water. Slice and put into food processor along with the spices and all other filling ingredients besides the spinach. Mix until smooth.
  2. Allow the spinach to thaw (or cook in microwave for a few minutes). Press out as much liquid as you can, making sure the spinach is not watery. Add the spinach to the food processor and briefly blend.
  3. Add about 1/4 cup of the filling to each crust.

Cook at 350 F for about 30-35 minutes. Allow the mini-quiches to cool for about 5 minutes prior to removing from the pan. Serve warm & enjoy!

Notes: Based on this recipe, I just might start adding flax seeds to my quinoa dishes now. Is it weird that I like the smell of flax seeds??! In any case, I really liked the resulting flavor of the crust. Speaking of flavor, as with most recipes calling for it, I cut down the nutritional yeast in these quite a bit (from 1/4 cup to 2 Tbsp) - and this worked perfectly for me, as someone who doesn't like overwhelming nutritional yeast taste. I think 2 Tbsp is my limit... any more, and it would have been too much for me. 

A word on filling the quiches: make sure you press the filling into the crust- how you put it in is pretty much how it will come out, so you want the filling and the crust neatly pressed against the muffin mold. I didn't do this so well, which wasn't a big deal - it still tasted good! But if you are serving for others, you want to aim for a neat little pie. 

Additions & substitutions: Next time, I'm definitely adding some thinly sliced mushrooms to these- I think they would be a perfect addition here. I also think broccoli would go really well in these - there are so many variations here that would work well - tomatoes, asparagus, peppers (if you like 'em), artichoke hearts.... vegify the quiches to your heart's desire!

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Smart Cookie Remake Attempt

Recently I had a cookie made by The Cookie Department - "The Smart Cookie." It is made with sweet potato, cranberries, oatmeal, and molasses, and sprinkled with a little bit of sea salt. It's big, sort of flat, and soooo chewy. It is AMAZING. And they sell it at the coffee bar across the street from me. This could be trouble.

Check it out here.

Oh yeah, and it's vegan.

I decided I had to attempt to make it myself. Anything that good, I wanted in my recipe arsenal.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Mac and Not-cheese

Ok, so I had some issues with my last vegan "mac & cheese" dish. But I still wanted to attempt another. When my husband was out of town for work, I made my move on this recipe (recommended by a reader- thank you!) from the well-known and well-loved blog Oh She Glows. She said it was "husband approved," but as my husband takes serious offense to cheese substitutes, I thought I'd give it a go on my own.

First, I have to say- I have yet to taste a vegan "cheese" pasta dish that tastes anything remotely like real cheese (let's be honest here). Furthermore, I don't really want something that makes you go, "Oh yeah, that pretty much tastes like cheese." Which leads me to the decision that these dishes should really not be called mac & cheese dishes. Or even cheez, cheeze, or "cheese." Please.

I'm not saying they're bad. To the contrary. But I think they'd have more success with non-veggers if we all just gave up on trying to call them cheese. The sauce in these pasta dishes is something else entirely. This dish was very good, with a hearty, smooth sauce that definitely looked like mac & cheese cheese. But it didn't taste like it. Which is fine- because it tasted like a sort of creamy squash sauce, and I love squash. But I guess mac & squash sauce just doesn't sound the same...

Cheesey looking...

Here's the recipe, adapted from Oh She Glows:
  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 1 Tbsp Earth Balance
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened unflavored almond milk
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • 1.5 Tbsp nutritional yeast (I cut back from 6! - because I can't stand the flavor)
  • 2.5 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Package vegan pasta (such as brown rice, quinoa, or kamut)
  • Optional mix-ins: peas, kale, spinach (any or all!) 
  1. Cook the squash - (I sliced in half and placed face down in pan with about an in of water in oven at ~ 425 for maybe 40 minutes, until tender when pierced with a fork; but you can also cut it and cook it as described here.)
  2. In a small saucepan, melt the Earth Balance over low heat. Meanwhile, mix the milk & flour in a small bowl and add them to the melted butter. Stir in the Dijon, nutritional yeast, garlic powder and salt & pepper and whisk over low heat for about 5-7 min, until thickened.
  3. When the squash is done, scoop out 1 cup of cooked squash and place in a blender. Add in the sauce from the saucepan and blend well.
  4. Cook pasta according to package instructions. If using, steam your mix ins.
  5. Mix it all together & enjoy!
A nice warm meal!

I really enjoyed this dish. It's easy to make, healthy, and totally satisfying. Like I said, it didn't taste at all like cheese, but it did taste good. Just like a tofu scramble doesn't taste like scrambled eggs, but is still a good breakfast. I know some people might say if I used all the nutritional yeast, it would taste like cheese, but trust me, I've done that, and nope, it doesn't. The taste of nutritional yeast is not the taste of tangy or nutty cheese. But some people like it, and it does have nutritional benefits, so I use it in moderation.

Now, back to thinking of alternate names for vegan cheese-substitute sauces made from squash.... squeeze? squauce? Lookslikecheesebutisactuallymadefromsquash sauce? Might be a bit long.... ;-)