30 August 2011

Moroccan - Inspired Couscous! Vegan and Fab

Sometimes I like to try to clean out my cupboard when I make a recipe. You know how it is: you accidentally push half a box of couscous to the back of your shelf and forget all about it til you reach for the bag of pistachios in front. Then, surprise! And while you're digging around in the cupboard, you suddenly realize that you forgot about the jar of preserved lemons your friend sent you. The wheels get turning. Then, bam! You eye those golden raisins you thought you finished. And, voila, dinner is born. I find I often inadvertently push stuff to the back of the shelf when I get new groceries. Despite my efforts to not be lazy, I am always sometimes a slacker when it comes to my shelving of the new foods. Doesn't sound like you? Well, then I envy your cupboard skills. Go on, brag about it and get it over with.

So, now you know that this dinner was a cupboard cleaner. You could really customize it lots of different ways. This is just how I made it. And, I must say, it was quite scrumptious. The ingredient list looks daunting, but half of it consists of spices. Moroccan food typically has lots of spice. Feel free to add more of less of these. I found this is the perfect mix for my tastes. And, if you know me well, you'll be surprised to find this recipe contains neither onion nor garlic. Shocking, I know!

This makes enough for 3 as a main dish. Or 6 as a side. You can serve it cold or warm. I like it a little better warm, personally.
  • 1 cup Israeli (also called Pearl) couscous
  • 1 1/4 cup water
  • 1 TB dried parsley
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2-2/3 cup roughly-chopped pistachios 
  • 1 heaped cup cooked (or canned) chickpeas
  • 2 TB preserved lemon, finely minced (you could substitute fresh lemon juice, I suppose)
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • salt and pepper to your tastes
  • 1/4 tsp powdered ginger
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 scant tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp cinnamon (I used a 1/8)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  1. Bring the water and parsley to a boil with a lid on the pot so none evaporates. Then remove from the burner, stir in the couscous, and cover for 8-10 minutes. It'll be ready when the liquid is all absorbed. While you wait, start with the rest of the recipe.
  2. Whisk together your oil and vinegar and set aside. This is the dressing of sorts. 
  3. Combine the spices in a separate bowl.
  4. Your couscous should be ready by now, so go ahead and remove the lid. Add the chickpeas, raisins and pistachios and stir. Now add in the dressing and stir again. 
  5. Add the spices a little at a time, stirring and tasting as you go. 
  6. You can either serve it warm, like me. Or you can refrigerate it for an hour and serve cooled. Enjoy dudes and dudettes!

27 August 2011

Vegan Steak Tacos...Impossible?

Impossible? No way. Insanely easy and tasty to boot.

I had a craving for tacos today...what a surprise! Not. But, as much as I love tempeh, I'm kind of burnt out on tempeh tacos. A girl needs variety. I was kind of at a loss as to what sort of meat I wanted for the bundles of yum. Lightbulb! I remembered seeing Gardein had a steak substitute called Beefless Tips last time I went through the frozen aisle. I hadn't ever tried any of their other meats besides the Crispy Tenders and the Scallopinni, both of which I enjoyed, so I went ahead and grabbed a bag of the beef. I was seriously skeptical, but I needn't be; they were excellent cooked up with a little onion and taco seasoning.

I also had a ton of small, ripe cherry tomatoes from my garden, so I made my own fresh guac. I diced 2 small avocados, a handful of finely chopped red onion, halved about 15-20 small cherry tomatoes, about 1 TB of lime juice and a sprinkle of salt. Stir well, but gently, and let marinate for about 30 minutes, covered. It was delicious, especially paired with the slightly spiced beef.

The beefless tips do need to defrost about 15-20 minutes before you'll be able to cut through them. They come in chunks, so I quartered them to make them into strips of steak.

I heated a skillet over medium-high heat and gave it a light spritz of cooking spray. Once hot, I added the steak and let it cook about 3 minutes, then I added in 1/4 cup diced red onion. I added about 1 1/2 tsp of my homemade taco seasoning to give it a bit of spice. I cooked it all together, stirring occasionally, for about 8 more minutes. The steak was firmed up a bit and was beginning to crisp on some of the edges.

Stuff the taco shells with some guac and your steak and you're good to go. I ate 3 (though, I admit, the last one was a bit small) and I'm not ashamed of that.

20 August 2011

I Love Blueberries!

Holy crow. I so love blueberries. Possibly, I have eaten pounds of them this summer, so this post from Geanna comes at the perfect time :)

Please welcome back Geanna!

Blueberries are currently in season but they won't be for much longer, so I thought it would be prudent to share with you these delicious gluten-free and vegan ideas before they completely disappear from the farmers' markets.

Blueberries are not only fun to pick, but they taste delicious, and they make any dish instantly beautiful and full of color.

Breakfast Oatmeal (with 1/3 c. gluten-free oats, 1 T. agave, and 1 T. almond butter)

Blueberry Pie 

Blueberry Lemon Ice Cream (from Herbivore Dinosaur)

Fresh and Raw

Blueberry Syrup on Lavender Blueberry Pancakes

Muddled Blueberry-Infused Vodka Cocktail (with Chardonnay)

Blueberry/Green Smoothie

As you can see, blueberries are a versatile fruit. They really can go with or in savory dishes just as easily as sweet. Enjoy the last of the harvest!

19 August 2011

What an Odd Smoothie...

I decided this morning that I really needed a smoothie. It's actually been a few weeks since I made one, so I thought I'd throw some random stuff together and see how it went. WHOA. Yumm! Dudes, I shocked even myself with this one. It sounds like it would be gross, but it was excellent. And, it was my first time using hemp milk, which my grocery store just started carrying. I think I like it. We'll see though. I haven't tried it in anything else yet. Almond milk is still my favorite, though.

For all the smoothies alone, my Vita-Mix has been amazing. I make other stuff in it, too, like salad dressings and sauces and even made soft-serve style ice cream in it a few times, but it makes the most perfect smoothies. It doesn't have any trouble cutting through pineapple core or carrots or whole apples. You'll never be able to go back to a regular blender. I've heard that Blendtec is super awesome, too. I dunno know, though. I'm a Vita-Mix gal. Well, enough blathering on. Don't freak when you see the ingredients to this smoothie. They sound bizarre together, but they taste so good!

This makes 2 smaller smoothies, or 1 very large one.

  • 1 mango
  • 1 cup fresh pineapple
  • 1 small carrot
  • 1 big handful baby spinach
  • 1/3-1/2 cup hemp milk
  • 1/2 cup ice (you can add more if you like them super cold. I don't.)
  1. Do I really need to tell you how to make this? Haha.

16 August 2011

Vegan Gnocchi & Garlic Mushroom Cream Sauce

Gnocchi. Garlic. Mushrooms. You need this. It really doesn't require any chitchat. It's tasty stuff, man.

My hint:
Start cooking the potatoes before you start the sauce. Everything should come up about the same time that way.

Ingredients for gnocchi:
  • 2 large Idaho potatoes
  • 1/2 -2/3 cup flour plus a little extra for dusting your counter
  • 1 flax egg (1 TB ground flax plus 3 TB warm water, mixed well)
  • about half a tsp salt
Ingredients for the sauce:
  • 2 cups almond milk
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced, then chopped
  • 1 heaped TB of vegan cream cheese
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 1/4 cup plus about 1 tsp flour
  • pinch sage
  • pinch coriander
  • salt and pepper
Method for gnocchi:
  1. Bake the potatoes until fork tender. Ha. Kidding. Microwave them (after poking with a fork) for 4 minutes. Flip and cook another 4-5 minutes. When they are done, cut the potatoes in half and use a spoon to scoop out the insides. 
  2. Put the potato guts into a mixing bowl along with the flax egg, salt and 1/2 cup flour. Mix with a hand mixer until it forms a soft dough that looks something like this:
  3. Form the dough by hand into a big ball that isn't sticky (use more flour if needed), and knead gently for about 1 minute. Cut it into a few balls, then toss some flour on your counter. Carefully roll out into long, skinny dough logs. Then cut with a knife so it looks like this:
  4. Bring a pot of water up to a boil and add a TB of salt. Boil the gnocchi in batches until they float to the top. Skim them out, draining off the water, then and add to your cooked sauce.
Method for sauce:
  1. Heat the oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute for about 4 minutes. Then add everything except the mushrooms and cream cheese. Whisk well, and bring to a very gentle boil, stirring often and being sure to scrape the bottom of the pan. 
  2. After the sauce starts to thicken, add the mushroom and cream cheese and turn heat to medium-low. Whisk until the cream cheese is melted and taste for seasonings. Let thicken to your preference.
  3. Add your cooked gnocchi and mix well. Let the flavors come together for a few minutes before serving.

15 August 2011

Simple Strawberry Basil Jam

After my awesome success with the Blueberry Lavender Jam I made a few weeks ago, I decided to take matters into my own paws and try another jam. One of my favorite flavors of jam is strawberry basil, but I have a hard time finding it anymore, so I made an attempt on my own. This is another jam that I don't can properly, so you only have a couple weeks to eat it. I never learned to can, though I'm thinking it might be a handy skill to learn sometime. Alas, now is not that time.

You're probably thinking that strawberry and basil seem odd together, and I agree. However, they taste wonderful. Take my word for it...or not. Whatever floats your boats, amigos. I'm not here to tell you what to do. Wait! Yes, I am! Do as I say. Make the yummy jam. Use fresh sweet strawberries and fresh sweet basil for the, uh, freshest jam. And by fresh, I mean cool. Like the Fresh Prince. Don't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about. You know you watch it on re-runs.

Makes 1 half-pint jar.

  • 1 slightly heaped pint of strawberries, leaves/stems removed, chopped
  • 3 TB agave syrup
  • 1 heaped TB basil, minced
  • pinch salt
  1. Put all the ingredients in a small pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a hard boil, stirring often. Let boil about 5 minutes.
  2. Then turn heat to medium-low and low boil for about 25 minutes, or until the top keeps getting a skin. Sounds gross, but you'll know it when you see it. Be sure to stir it occasionally. Carefully taste the jam and add more agave (or sugar) or basil as to meet your tastes.
  3. Very carefully pour or scoop the jam into your jar. Let sit until it cools to room temperature then add the lid and refrigerate. 
Enjoy on toast, biscuits, or straight from the jar. You know you want it.

08 August 2011

Sweet and Spicy Baked Tempeh

I totally crave tempeh like carnivores crave burgers, or whatever other critters they eat. No, really, I do. I could eat it pretty much every single day. Totally not even joking. I have a freezer full of it. Don't believe me?
There's at least 15 blocks in there along with a few in the fridge, too. I don't mess around when it comes to tempeh.

Anyway, I've been feeling uninspired in the kitchen lately, so I've been making repeats. Tempeh tacos have been eaten at least once a week for the past few months. I've made dozens of chickpea sandwiches and baked falafels. And, as much as I love them, I needed to try making something new. Something spicy. And something that I would realize I couldn't live without. This dish did precisely that. It turned out pleasantly spicy with a tiny hint of sweetness and I just can't imagine life without it now that I've had it. To add to my tempeh's awesomeness, it's simple in flavor, insanely easy to make, and doesn't use expensive ingredients that you can't find at a normal grocery store. What's not to love?

It makes enough for 2 very hungry adults when served over brown rice.

  • 1 package tempeh, sliced into 1/3 to 1/2 inch thick slices
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp rice vinegar
  • 3 1/2 TB Thai garlic chili sauce (I used Taste of Thai brand from the Asian aisle at the market)
  • 2 TB soy sauce
  • 1 1/4 tsp sesame oil (also from the Asian aisle)
  • 1/2 to 2/3 tsp brown sugar to your tastes
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp sriracha or hot sauce if you feel the urge
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Slice the tempeh and carefully poke a couple times with a fork on each side, like this:
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients except the tempeh. Taste the marinade as you are making it and adjust as necessary.
  3. Lay the tempeh out in 2 small baking dishes, or one larger one. Pour the marinade over the tempeh slices, and use a sauce brush to cover it fully. Wait a couple minutes, then gently flip the slices. Use the excess sauce in the baking dishes to brush the other side of the tempeh. 
  4. Put the dishes in the oven, uncovered for 9 minutes. Then flip and cook another 9 minutes. Done! Serve it up over some brown basmati rice. Heaven.
You need this. Now. You can thank me later.