4/25/2016

simple vegan white bean chili

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Chili is usually a dead-of-winter kind of meal. Something that stews and simmers over a low heat for an hour or more. Which is probably not something you want to do once the temperature starts to spike, though I have gone on a number of baking sprees in mid-July. The heart wants what it wants.

Something I'm adjusting to in Colorado's version of spring are the super warm days (hello, sun!) that cool down to sometimes half (or more) of what the high was. Did that make sense? So when it comes time to think about dinner, a bowlful of a super simple chili could be just the ticket. Pair it with some fresh, warm vegan cornbread and you'll find me at the table.


For this recipe, you'll need:

1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1/2 red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoon all-purpose seasoning**
1 15-ounce can navy beans, rinsed (or whatever your favorite is)
1/4-1/2 cup vegetable stock
Salt & pepper
Olive oil
1 avocado, optional

**This one is my favorite lately. It's not just for pizza anymore!


Start by heating a good bit of olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Cook your onions until they start to wilt down, about five minutes. Season with salt and pepper, add your garlic, and cook for one minute more. At this time, you might start to notice your onions and garlic sticking a bit, so you can use some of your stock to loosen them up. Add a few tablespoons to scrape the bottom of the pot.

Add your carrot and pepper and the rest of your vegetable stock. Allow this to simmer gently for a few minutes or until your added vegetables begin to soften (5-ish minutes a good timeframe).


At this time, add in your seasoning and more salt and pepper. Add your canned tomatoes, stir well. Stir in your beans, well rinsed, and reduce the heat to low. Allow to simmer for about thirty minutes, until heated through and slightly thickened. Serve with sliced avocado on top (a great alternative to cheese!) and cornbread on the side.***

How easy was that?

***Um, it kind of blows my mind that I don't have a vegan cornbread recipe up. I've made one about a million-trillion times but just realized I never shared it. Ball dropped! I'll get on that soon, but in the meantime, here's a good one.


Some other simple uses for (white) beans:




4/18/2016

vegan baklava sticky buns

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One of my favorite things on earth is baklava. No, not just one of my favorite desserts and yes, all of earth. The whole thing. I love everything about it from the flaky, crispy dough to the honey-rosewater-pistachio layers. Sadly, this perfect trifecta an underused combo outside of traditional Mediterranean dessert world. Why? I can't see any reason why these ingredients wouldn't translate well to a cake, pie, or even a bowl of morning oatmeal. Which got me thinking: how can I get away with having baklava for breakfast?

Aside from just digging into a super sweet piece before 9AM (not above it), I tried to translate these familiar flavors into a more traditional breakfast pastry: the sticky bun. Even though there might not be much more nutritional virtue in one of these rolls than just going for the dessert, they signify something special, an exciting day ahead (maybe first started by a sugar-induced nap). Bake them up for special occasions, holidays and family gatherings, or as the perfect way to wake up. Who can say no to the smell of toasting pistachios?


For this recipe you'll need:

For the dough

1 cup unsweetened almond milk (any non-dairy variety will do)
3 tablespoons vegan butter
1 packet rapid rise yeast
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2-3 cups of all purpose flour

For the filling

1/2 cup vegan butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup Bee Free Honee**
1/4 cup pistachios, chopped
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon rosewater (optional)

For the glaze 

1/2 cup vegan butter, melted
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup pistachios, chopped
Splash of rosewater (still optional)

**If you can't find this or don't want to use it, substitute for another 1/4 cup brown sugar. If you aren't worried about keeping it vegan, you can also use real honey for the most authentic baklava flavor.


In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, heat the almond milk and 3 tablespoons vegan butter until warm and melted but not boiling. Remove from heat and let cool to 110 degrees - if it's too hot, it will kill the yeast which will result in flat sticky buns - bummer.

Transfer mixture to the large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Sprinkle in your yeast and allow to activate for 10 minutes. It should start to look foamy and bubbly. Next, add your tablespoon of sugar and the salt and whisk together.


Switch to the dough hook attachment and begin to add in flour 1/2 cup increments, stirring as you go. When the dough comes together and is too thick to stir, transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead for a minute or so until it forms a loose ball, adding more flour as you go. Coat a large bowl lightly with oil (grapeseed or olive will do) and place your dough in the center of the bowl. Roll around to coat all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size.


While you wait, prepare your pan (a 9-inch square or round will do). Whisk together your melted vegan butter and brown sugar (and rosewater, if using) until smooth. Spread across the bottom of the pan and sprinkle the chopped pistachios in an even layer. Set aside.

Once the dough has just about doubled in size, on a lightly floured surface, roll it out into a rectangle that's about 1/8 inch thick. Brush with 1/4 cup melted vegan butter and top with brown sugar and Bee Free Honee (or all brown sugar). Sprinkle with cinnamon and rosewater (again, if using). Top with remaining pistachios and roll up your dough, starting with the shorter side.  


Using a serrated knife (trust me here), cut into 1 1/2 to 2 inch rolls. Place in your prepared pan. Cover with plastic wrap and set on top of the oven to let it briefly rise again while you preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until slightly golden. Cool for about 5 minutes before inverting the pan and serve immediately.

Hi, I heard you were looking for some other vegan breakfast options:


4/11/2016

vegan pineapple coconut granola bars

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I'm always looking for ways to keep food in boxes out of my kitchen. It's not always easy because things like toaster pastries exist and sometimes a girl just needs something simple. But food that comes in a box, even if it is frosted cherry-pomegranate, is never going to be as good as food that, well, doesn't. Case in point, granola bars. Sure, a lot of them taste good, and there are even a lot of varieties out there that follow all the rules I'm down with and don't have a lot of ingredients that my brain can't comprehend. But even still, a lot of them often have extra binders or oils or added flavors that aren't exactly natural.


So after I've read a bunch of nutritional information, so much that my eyes are ready to fall out and the kid stocking the cereal aisle probably thinks I'm insane (he is right), I often ask myself: is this something I can live without? Well, probably, but granola bars sure are convenient. They have their own wrapper, they fit easily in a purse or a backpack, they have kept me from slapping an unsuspecting stranger when a sudden bought of hangry-ness strikes. They tend to have a good balance of protein and fiber, sometimes the occasional chocolate chip. We could probably all live without them, but who would want to?


Instead, let's make them better. Raisins and peanuts, you say? Girl, please. Pass the dried pineapple (no sugars or sulfites added, please!), let's toast some coconut and make the best granola bar you've ever had.***

***I'm actually zero percent hating on raisins and peanuts. The good thing about granola bars is they're so damn adaptable. Don't have something? Don't like something? We accept substitutions! The only thing you probably shouldn't mess with is the oats, unless you have a different grain in mind, or the nut butter/bee-free honee ratio. Otherwise, go nuts! Literally.


For this recipe, you'll need:

1 3/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup whole almonds, roasted
1/4 cup dried pineapple, chopped
1/2 cup creamy almond butter
1/2 cup bee-free honee or maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. On a large baking sheet, spread out your oats into an even, single layer. Toast for about 10 minutes, tossing slightly and rotating halfway through. After ten minutes, add your sliced almonds and coconut and toast for 3-5 minutes more.


While you're waiting, add your honee (or maple syrup) and almond butter to a small bowl. Microwave for about 30 seconds so they are slightly warmed. Whisk together until evenly combined. Add your vanilla extract and whisk once more.

When the oat-coconut-almond combo comes out of the oven, immediately transfer to a large bowl (if you don't, the ingredients will continue to toast and can possibly burn, specifically the coconut). Add your cinnamon and salt to the bowl and toss together. Fold in your whole almonds and pineapple chunks. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl and fold together (a rubber spatula works best) until everything is evenly coated.


Line a square pan (9"x 9" or 8"x 8" will work) with parchment paper. Lightly spray the parchment with some nonstick coconut oil spray. Add the mixture to the pan and press down until evenly spread to all corners of the pan. If works best if you slightly dampen your fingers and work quickly to the edges.


Transfer back to the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes or until slightly browned at the edges. You don't want to wait until the bars are very browned or hardened as that will result in a reeeally crunchy granola bar once they cool. You know, the non-tooth-friendly kind.

So what do you think? Did you keep the recipe as is or did you swap something out? Cashews for almonds? Dried apricots for the pineapple? There's an endless number of combination possibilities if you're not the tropical type. And even if you are, try another kind next time!


More breakfast (and snack and food) type things, please.



4/04/2016

vegan kofta coconut curry

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Let me start by saying that I totally skipped last Monday's regular post. I skipped it knowingly and even though I let myself feel guilty and terrible about it, sometimes a human girl just needs a break. Make sure you remember that and don't apologize for it. Onward!

Every once in awhile I get in a dinner rut. It's not that I'm tired of the foods that I'm making, it's just that I'm not putting a whole lot of new thought into what's happening on the stove or in the oven. Cooking just becomes another thing that you do. Chop this, stir that, set timer, dig in.


Don't get me wrong, you need a few recipes that you know well enough to do them with your eyes closed. Busy weeknights thrive on the tried and true. In fact, I recently read about a couple who intentionally prepare the same meals every. single. week. Seem boring? To some, sure, but then again, think about who never has to sit down and make a shopping list. Or who never has to answer the dreaded "What's for dinner?" question? Because they already know.


Still, it's a level of genius I can't quite commit to. So when I find myself in a rice bowl-pasta with herb pesto-monster salad rut, I turn to one of the greats, one of the superheroes of innovative vegan cooking. Enter Isa Chandra, the only cook I know who could transform a traditional Middle Eastern meatball into a meatless masterpiece.

All you need is some zucchini, chickpeas, a dash of cumin and the urge to change dinner forever.


For this recipe, you'll need:

For the kofta:

3/4 cup chickpeas, drained and well rinsed
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
8 ounces zucchini, finely shredded (this will be about 1/2 a medium zucchini)
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup whole wheat bread crumbs

For the curry sauce:

1 cup cashews, soaked overnight
2 cups vegetable broth
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1 tablespoon mild curry powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 can coconut milk (light works here because of the added fattiness of the cashews)
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh or frozen peas, optional (but delightful!)


In a medium bowl, mash your chickpeas with the back of a spoon (or a pastry cutter, of course) until smashed but not quite liquified.

Preheat a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Toast your almonds for about 5-7 minutes, tossing frequently to avoid burning. Transfer them to the bowl with the chickpeas. In the same pan, toast your cumin seeds until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer those to your mixture bowl as well.

Next, add your zucchini, ginger, garlic, salt and pepper. Mix well and until combined. Add your bread crumbs and mix until it holds together - the best way to do this is to get your hands in there and go to town. Cover well with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.***


While you wait, you can get started on your sauce. Drain your cashews and add them to a high-power blender. Blend until very smooth which, if you own a Vitamix, takes about half of one second. Those things are not kidding around. In a medium pot over medium heat, add your coconut oil. Sauté your onion for about 3-4 minutes or until it starts to go translucent. Add your ginger, garlic and spices, tossing together. Add your coconut milk, tomato paste, cashews and salt. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes on low. When it's just about done, add your peas (if using) and cook for a few more minutes, allowing the sauce to thicken.


Preheat your same cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add some coconut oil, making sure to coat the entire pan. Add your kofta (pre-shaped, please!) and fry for about 2 minutes on each side, making sure they brown evenly.

You can serve these doused in sauce, over rice, over rise with said sauce dousing. There really aren't any hard and fast rules.

***How to make this recipe more Monday friendly, you ask? Well, it certainly helps to remember to soak your cashews, even though a 2 hours minimum will still do the trick. Also, the kofta mixture can be made a day in advance. Just refrigerate (well covered, of course) until you're ready to shape and cook.


Some other unsolicited advice when it comes to escaping your recipe-ruts: invest in a few good cookbooks. I don't know what "good" means, but I'd say any cookbook that makes you say, "Ooh, I want to make that. And that!" every few pages (or every page) is a good rule of thumb. Sure, every recipe and food idea ever is available online (clearly I'm not dissing food blogs, friends) but there's something nice about holding a hefty, lived-in hardback book, its folded pages stained with saucy fingerprints and jumbled with notes on how to halve a portion, etc. Maybe it's just me.

How do you plan out your meals each week?