1/30/2014

berry oatmeal muffins with flaxseed

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Okay: it's January. It's 2014. Everyone and their mother has repeatedly resolved, year after year, to eat better. Though I generally try to make good choices, we all have to slip up now and again. It's normal, to be expected and, well, really, really tasty. Still, it would also be nice if there were some healthy options that were just as inviting as their full-fat, calorie-laden counterparts.


Enter these muffins. Perfect for early morning, easy enough for a weekday breakfast baking session, the oatmeal gives them a super-satisfying crunch and the flaxseed, cleverly disguised amongst the berries, is packed with omega-3's, all the good fats and tons of fiber. Happy New Year, indeed.

For this recipe, you'll need:

1 cup of whole wheat flour
2 1/4 cup of rolled oats or multigrain oat cereal
3/4 cup of brown sugar
1/3 cup of golden flaxseed meal
2 teaspoons of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup of fresh or frozen berries (any variety will do, though I went with a combination of frozen blueberries, blackberries and raspberries)



To begin, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. The rest of the process is almost too simple. Seriously. Mix up your ingredients while you brew coffee and you'll be set for a warm, comforting and satisfying breakfast in no time. In a large bowl, whisk together you flour, oatmeal, flaxseed meal, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon.


Add your egg (lightly beaten in a separate bowl), buttermilk and oil. Now, the original recipe calls for a 1/3 cup of water, which I admit I totally bypassed by complete accident. Somehow, these muffins still came out great. If you include the water, like you are apparently meant to, let me know how they come out.


Stir all your ingredients until evenly combined. Without the water, your batter may end up on the slightly thicker side, as mine did. Still, whichever way you decide to go, you can then distribute your batter into lined or greased muffin tins (OR, go the route of silicone, as suggested by a food favorite, Anna Brones) - it should make about 18-20 altogether.


Bake for 22-25 minutes or until slightly browned on top and a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool for five minutes in the tins before flipping them onto a wire rack to cool completely. I was a huge fan of these. Good texture, just sweet enough, and virtuous enough to make me feel no guilt whatsoever. That's baking I can resolve to stick with.

Though Valentine's Day will be all about chocolate. Lots and lots of chocolate.




1/26/2014

vegan pumpkin ice cream

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I got a pretty amazing present for Christmas this year. Wait wait wait. The best present, in fact: the ice-cream maker attachment for our pretty, shiny, sparkly gold KitchenAid mixer! As you can imagine, I am beyond stoked. Small batch house made ice cream, pretty much whenever I want? Or at least when I can remember to pre-freeze the bowl? Though KitchenAid suggests storing the bowl in the freezer at all times, so favorite desserts can be whipped up on your whim: OKAY.


Of course the obvious question on our minds was: what to make first? So many endless possibilities before us (not to mention that I've been dying to find the perfect coffee ice cream and have still come up short) and so many fresh ingredients available from herbs to fruits, nuts, chocolate chips. But remembering that half of our cute family is attempting to fully avoid dairy for the time being (not it), I decided to go with something we could both enjoy: a vegan version of pumpkin ice cream.

Vegan? Ice cream? I know. I KNOW. It's totally insane and totally nonsensical, and yet, all the times I've encountered such a rare treat I've thought: this is so good. Too good, almost. Good enough to make me unaware that I'm eating a bowlful of something completely cream, milk and egg-free. It can be done, people. It can be done.


The possibilities on how it can be done are surprisingly pretty varied. From coconut, nuts, rice milk, frozen bananas and even avocados, there are a number of ways to achieve a creamy "ice-cream-ish" texture without the traditional ice cream base. For this particular attempt, inspired by Post Punk Kitchen (a completely vegan blog and now cookbook 100% worth checking out) the base was rooted in puréed cashews and rice milk. For the rest of the ingredients, see below:

1 cup of raw cashews
1 cup of unsweetened rice milk
3/4 cup pumpkin purée
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon agave nectar
1 tablespoon molasses
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup of sugar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice


Note that this is a recipe best done when you've got a day to spend at home, maybe on the weekend, since there are a few steps that take a little bit of patience. To begin set a medium size pot on the stove and bring about 4 cups of water to a rolling boil. Add your cashews and allow to boil for thirty minutes. Check the water often to make sure it doesn't get to low/disappear entirely, as it did for me in about fifteen or so minutes. You also might notice a rather interesting lilac purple color develop on your cashews during their steam: don't worry. Though I initially had no idea what was happening, a quick online research session assured me that this was 1. totally normal and 2. the purple stuff would rinse right off. Which it did. Whew. Carrying on.


Drain your cashews and add them to a blender or food processor. Blend until as fine as possible, which should happen in about a minute. Add the remainder of the ingredients and blend/pulse until smooth, about three minutes. Don't stop the blender before this time is up: the mixture will appear smooth, but the cashews or sugar still take a little while to break down. Cover the base tightly and refrigerate for about an hour or until completely chilled.

Now comes the fun part. The part with the ice cream mixer attachment! Or, any ice cream maker you have will do, I think. In fact, yes, any is fine. (Isa of Post Punk Kitchen is head over heels for her Breville Smart Scoop, though I'm going to go ahead and stay partial to this guy.) If you're using the KitchenAid version too, continue to follow the recipe ahead. If not, follow the instructions included with your particular appliance and cross your fingers for spectacular results.


Get your mixer churning using the "Stir" setting. It's important to get the motion started first to avoid completely freezing your mixture before the paddle gets going. Slowly pour in your ice cream base (this will be messy, but hey, that's half the fun) and allow to churn for 20-30 minutes. Keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn't get too hard and slow down the machine. Note: not a huge issue with the vegan varieties, as the dairy-based ice creams tend to freeze up a lot faster. Still, not a bad idea to stay nearby, if for no other reason than watching the process can be pretty darn cool ... get it? I know, I hate myself, too.




Once this process is complete, and if you can stand to wait any longer, place your ice cream in a freezer safe container, seal tightly and freeze for 24 hours. TWENTY-FOUR HOURS? ISA, WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO US. Someone out there seriously has a crossed wire about my level of willpower and restraint. I made it about 45 minutes before I had a taste and ohhh my goodness. Full of flavor, super pumpkin-y and somehow, magically creamy.

Next time, maybe salted caramel pretzel ice cream. Or classic mint chocolate chip: Made it! Go here! Or coffee gelato. Vegan-schmegan. I just may go ice cream crazy.


1/20/2014

pumpkin oatmeal pancakes

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One of the best things about living in New Jersey are the diners. Usually open 24 hours, usually down to serve breakfast all day (among a million other things on the menu, a menu that's typically about five pounds heavy and six inches thick), it's hard to go wrong with a stack of diner pancakes, especially once a craving sets in to stay. Trust me: if you're ever knee-deep in diner pancake craving and you find yourself far away from the East Coast NJ eatery scene, I wish you tons and tons of luck. It's often a satisfaction even the cutest café in the world couldn't replicate.


The only downside is, well, obvious. Sugary, buttery, and often sprinkled with even more sugar of the powdered variety, pancakes from a diner or probably anywhere aren't exactly masquerading as a health food. It's cake, cooked in a pan, first thing in the morning. While I have a tough time disputing why that's not an amazing fact, I had some hope that I could create a tasty version with a little more substance.


With the Internet as my guide and a few tweaks to recipes here and there, I concluded with the following:

1 cup of whole wheat flour
1/2 cup of oatmeal or multigrain hot cereal (I used this combination of rye, barley, oats and wheat)
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup of sugar (after my first run I'd suggest cutting back the sugar to about 1/4 cup. While 1/2 isn't bad, these were sweet enough to not need maple syrup. But who wants to skip maple syrup? I have a feeling slashing that amount in half would do the trick.)
2/3 canned pumpkin purée
2 eggs
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 cup almond milk
Pinch of salt


Whisk together your dry ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Add your sugar, pumpkin, eggs, canola oil and almond milk and whisk together until evenly mixed and generally lump-free. Your batter should be runny enough that it drips freely from the spoon. This ensures that your pancakes won't be too thick to cook through to the center. If you find your batter gets thicker as it stands (while you frantically flip), add more almond milk as you go.



Heat a large pan or a skillet over low heat. Trust me on this one: whenever I start out with medium heat I always end up with black, burnt pancakes. The one things diners will always do better than me (or maybe anyone) is achieving that perfectly golden color on both sides. I'm telling you, there's something they know that we don't. The secret to ALL LIFE AND THE UNIVERSE, maybe.


Add a little butter or cooking spray to prevent your pancakes from sticking. I went with smallish pancakes, about 3-4 inches across, but make whatever you prefer. Add a few chopped nuts or chocolate chips (what the hell) to a few if you're looking to mix it up. Whole wheat, oats and other healthy grains, the vitamin A and beta-carotene from the pumpkin, you're looking at a generally beneficial (how's that?) version of a standard breakfast treat. And a damn good one at that.


1/13/2014

new year's eve @ spring & vine

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As we've done in years past, including the very first post ever on #greengirleats, on December 31st, 2013, the last day of the year, we dropped by Sprig & Vine in New Hope, PA for their vegan, six course New Year's Eve dinner.

Pardon the darkness of the images, if you will. Though mood lighting is perfect for well, mood lighting, it isn't all that kind to accurately capturing the delicately crafted plates we were presented. I digress.

I think the food gets better every year. To start, we were presented with an almost comically vibrant bowl of purple sweet potato purée (purple accuracy not quite depicted, but imagine: the most royal purple, multiplied by a billion plus infinity. Get it?) made with coconut milk, crushed peanuts, green onion and a mix of African spices. Insanely good. While I've had purple regular potatoes, I've never ventured into the purple sweet variety. Now I know what I've been missing.


Next came a salad of Pink Lady apples, frisée and smoked tofu. All these flavors mixed in with crushed pistachios, watermelon radishes (some of the prettiest I've seen to date), dried cranberries with cider and grain mustard vinaigrette.


Course three was a winter vegetable pakora, which is basically an Indian-inspired fritter. A combination of root vegetables and cauliflower, the pakora came on top of a red lentil and sweet potato hummus and was presented with a carrot-ginger chutney.


Next was (and this one was for me only) an exotic mushroom and leek risotto. Due to his mushroom aversion, cute Colin had a more basic, though still delicious, risotto. Made with a combination of farro, barley and arborio rice, the risotto came with a miso-red wine broth, fried sunchokes and a drizzle of porcini oil. Amazing.


Course five was my favorite, and I'm not just talking about this meal in particular. I mean, maybe of all time. Ever, in my entire life of food thus far. THAT is a serious statement. A cauliflower griddle cake, which was so good that my swooning and favoritism could have been decided right then and there. Still, it went on top of a serving of saffron, almond and grilled carrot quinoa (YES), a combination of braised purple kale and gold raisins (ALSO YES), a nora chile-black garlic aioli (EXACTLY) and was finished with a parsley-caper salsa verde. I'll take a dozen more platefuls of that, please.


As if we could possibly eat another bite, when our waiter asked if we wanted to take our dessert to go I believe I audibly scoffed. Dessert to go? Please. What do I look like. Not when there's almond-pear tart to be had! On a super sturdy almond crust (tasting much like a cross between a classic biscotti and almond macaroon), was a roasted pear tart, surrounded by a roasted pear purée, orange blossom pink peppercorn ice cream and coconut powder. First of all, this powder stuff was awesome. I'll take all my foods in powder form from now on. And the ice cream, almost perfumed and only mildly sweet, was the perfect counterpart to this naturally decadent tart.


As I've said in years past, it's hard to not anticipate good things to come when you ring in the new year with a meal like that. Spring & Vine does it again: Happy 2014!



1/06/2014

pierogi, kale and black bean soup

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If you need a super easy dinner that requires about 20 whole minutes of your time, this soup is for you. Perfect for a busy weeknight dinner and providing you cook the pierogis in a separate pot or pan, works great as leftovers for lunch the next day.

For this recipe, you'll need:

4 cups of vegetable broth or stock
1 medium carrot, diced
1 medium leek, diced
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or grated
1 can of crushed or diced tomatoes
1 cup of black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup of kale, chopped
Olive oil
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper
10-12 pierogis, fresh or frozen


Okay, let's start with the pierogis. Should you make your own? Probably. Did I? No. (Correction. Not THIS time. But here's where the game got changed.) Though I came this close (imagine me holding my fingers about one millimeter apart, if that's possible) when I came up empty-handed after three grocery stores (THREE) that failed to carry a cheese-less pierogi option. I know, I know: cheese-less? What am I, insane? For other reasons, yes, but my cute Colin has gone the direction of a nearly dairy-free life, and though this may be the only serious issue on which we disagree, I'm definitely down to cook according to this change. Except that the perogi-making world is not so keen on it. Though they offer gluten-free versions and soy-free versions, vegan was out of the question. Until, yes, we found buried in the Whole Foods freezer section, a potato-onion sort whose only offense was a little bit of egg to hold it all together: we went for it.

All that to say, next time: we're making these, hold the cheese, please. Weep.

Really though, a quick additional note about pierogis: if you want to pan-fry them (which you do, obviously), it works best to defrost them first. If you're going to give them a quick boil, it's totally okay to use them frozen. I did six each way, for variety's sake, of course.


Start by adding your olive oil, chopped carrot and leek to a large soup pot over medium heat. Stir for several minutes before adding your garlic, salt, pepper, bay leaf and any additional spices you might want to use. I like this stuff for soups. It's got a little bit of everything. Twenty-one things, to be exact.

Once your veggies have cooked down, add your stock and canned tomatoes. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Add your chopped kale, which will cook down almost immediately. While you let that continue to simmer, it's time to prepare your perogies in your desired fashion. Pan-frying is much quicker, providing you followed the defrosting tip. Boiling is of course less buttery and therefore a tad healthier. No judgement.


Once your pierogis are cooked, serve up your soup and top each bowl with 2-3 each. If you want to have one less dish to wash, you could totally cook them directly in the soup pot. I chose not to, however, to avoid them getting too mushy. You could always cook the exact amount you plan on using and then redo some more then following day. Either way you spin it, this soup was ultimately satisfying. Perfect for a day like tomorrow, when the high is going to be, say, 16 degrees. Weep again.