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Oh fennel how we love thee!

11 Jun

I’ll start of by saying, and risking massive amounts of hate-mail, that I hate, no, despise, rye. My dislike of rye is so intense, that I have spent countless hours avoiding any seed even remotely resembling rye in shape or smell. To this day, I refuse to eat or even allow past my doorstep, the cumin seed, although I sprinkle cumin into practically every Mexican and Indian dish. Fennel has been another offender by shape and even smell. I didn’t even give it a try. I went as far as alienating myself from all “anise” scented concoctions including, ouzo and licorice.

Then I met C. C. loves fennel. One day she made her roasted root vegetable salad with beets, apples, and … fennel bulb. I didn’t want to be rude, so out of courtesy I tried it.

And I was enlightened. Fennel bulb is delicious! When roasted, it becomes soft, but not slimy like onion can tend to become. It’s slightly nutty and sweet, and the smell is beautiful and fresh, not overpowering and nauseating like many anise scents. I admit, I was wrong. And the following will demonstrate how much I have grown since then…

I bought an organic fennel bulb yesterday. I wish I had taken a picture of it. It was beautiful. I wish I could have bottled it’s scent and shared it with you, dear readers, because it was so sweet and exotic and fresh. Instead, I diced it up with some ‘taters, tossed it with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted it. Yes, I roasted something at 400F while it’s 100F outside. Call me crazy. I prefer ‘inspired’.

The resulting meal was fabulous. I ate it up with my first attempt at BBQ tempeh. The BBQ sauce was fantastic, but the tempeh wasn’t quite right. I won’t post it yet, as I think the recipe needs some revising.  I’m thinking I should bake it rather than fry it on the skillet. Any ideas?

Hope you guys enjoy this totally Tucson weather inappropriate meal :).

Peace,

Mags

Roasted Fennel and Potato Salad

1 fennel bulb, cut into bite size chunks

2 large potatoes, cubed (not peeled – “that’s where all the vitamins live!”)

a nice drizzle of olive oil to coat the potatoes and fennel

salt and pepper to taste

fennel greens (look like dill) – to taste, I added about 1/2 Tbsp

Preheat over to 400F.

Toss fennel and potatoes in olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss into oven. Cook until potatoes are soft, rotating a couple times to make sure the sides are evenly browned.

Throw into a bowl, toss with chopped fennel greens and serve immediately. It’s also good cold.

Salsa Verde

20 May

Cinqo de Mayo came and went but my hankering for Mexican food has lingered on. Maybe it’s the steadily climbing temperatures or the brightly shining sun. Maybe it’s the Rick Bayless marathon that made me want to whip out my new Magic Bullet blender my mom got me for Christmas. Or maybe it’s D and mine first garden together beginning to bear us fruit but I am in the mood for FRESH.

The farmers markets are calling, fruit is IN season and the thought of having anything heavy, baked or oily seems sacrilegious somehow. So what am I in the mood for?

SALSA!!!!

Yummy, cool, refreshing, cilantro-e, lime-y, avocado-e salsa.

I got the idea for this salsa from watching Rick Bayless the Saturday before Cinqo de Mayo. I’ve been making it almost once a week since D. and I can’t seem to get enough of it.

I like it best on tacos. Hard shell tacos, soft corn or flour tortillas or in burritos. Drizzled in Cally-style breakfast tacos with home-fries and scrambled tofu. Stuffed into tacos with refried beans, lettuce, Dayia Cheese, and soy-crumbles or “chicken” strips. Or just served as chips and salsa. This salsa verde will make you feel like summer is just around the corner (and if you’re in Arizona, you’re not going to care!)

Enjoy!

– Mags

SALSA VERDE

4 tomatillos – peeled from their papery husks and quartered

1 large or 1-1/2 medium ripe avocados

1 Tbs (or more if you like it hot) finely chopped jalapeno pepper (remove the seeds and veins if you don’t like the heat)

juice of two limes

2 green onions chopped OR 1 small onion (and I mean small – ping-pong size. If you can’t get these, 1/3 regular onion) finely chopped

handful cilantro chopped roughly

1 tsp salt

Toss tomatillo, avocado and jalapeno in blender and mix into uniform mass. Pour out into bowl. Add in chopped onion, lime juice, salt and cilantro. Stir to mix. Serve chilled.

A Southwestern take on a very French dish

4 Mar

The French may balk at my attempts (and my successes) at veganising their cuisine – the crepes, the quiches, but those of you who may cry out in despair at the mere thought of never again tasting a quiche or indulging in crepes for breakfast (or dinner) fear not, for you have a friend in me! Today I wish to present you with an amazingly tasty twist on the quiche. I had fully intended to make this quiche spinach and mushroom, or bell pepper and mushroom or asparagus, as is traditional in vegetarian quiches, but upon opening my refrigerator discovered that I had neither mushrooms or asparagus at my disposal. Instead, I decided to use what was available to me, which was the remnants of a roll of soy chorizo, a bunch of scallions, a red bell pepper and a bag of frozen corn. Behold the Quiche “Arizona”! And for those of you who are gluten-free (or watching their waist-lines?) this quiche is crust-less.

Quiche “Arizona”

Quiche Base

1 container firm tofu (the kind packaged in water) drained and crumbled

1/4 C unsweetened soy milk

1/2 C nutritional yeast

2 Tbs tahini

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

1-1/2 tsp corn starch

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

Vegetables

1 red bell pepper, diced

1/2 bunch scallions, diced

1/6 container soy chorizo (about 2″ of tube)

1C frozen corn

1 Tbs oil

2 tsp cumin

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350F. Heat oil in large skillet and saute bell pepper, scallions, soy chorizo and corn. Season and cook until bell pepper is soft. Set aside.

Blend all quiche base ingredients in blender or food processor until smooth. Pour into large bowl and combine evenly with sauted vegetables.

Coat pie tin with non-stick spray or wipe with oil and pour in quiche batter spreading evenly into pan.

Place in oven and bake for 45 to an hour until edges and top are nicely golden brown and a bamboo skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Soul food Polish-style

7 Jan

One of my favorite foods in the world are potato pancakes or placki ziemnaczane. My earliest memories include my babcia (grandmother) grating the young golden potatoes, mixing up the batter and frying them up to a crispy goldenness and sliding them onto my plate fresh off the frying pan. I would gobble them up, in heaven as the little apartment filled up with the sweet and savory smell of frying potatoes. Hmm. To this day, potato pancakes remain my favorite food and a food in which I take extreme comfort, from the preparation to the final moment of feasting.

Becoming vegan raised the question of whether I would be able to continue enjoying this comfort food, as you need an egg to bind my babcia’s recipe. I have experimented and discovered, that flax meal works wonders and adds a slightest touch of nuttiness, which works great when fried, while apple sauce adds a touch of sweet. Today I share with you my vegan potato pancake recipe. These taste just as good (of course, nothing beats babcia’s, sure you understand). You can grate them finely almost to a mush, if you want a more pancake-y effect; this will make the grated potato give off more water, and you will need to add more flour. This time, I grated the potatoes coarsely with the effect of a more hashbrown-y pancake. The taste, is fantastic either way!

Potato Pancakes with Mushroom-Thyme Gravy, Tempeh-Mushroom Crumble and steamed green-beans

Potato Pancakes Polish Style

4 medium potatoes (grated to 3 C)

½ C Trader Joe’s Gluten Free pancake mix (or ½ C regular flour if you aren’t gluten free)

1 Tbs flax meal mixed with 3 Tbs warm water (option – 1/3 C unsweetened apple sauce)

1 tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper

Grate potatoes.  Add flax meal and mix thoroughly. Add flour. Season with salt and pepper.

(Note: If you end up grating the potatoes finely, you will end up having to add more flour. You want the effect of American pancakes, not runny like for crepes – a bit clumpy and thick but wet enough to pour into a pancake shape. The thickly grated pancakes will result in a much clumpier batter and you will have to shape them on the griddle.)

Heat griddle or skillet. Spray with cooking spray or pour in enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan (olive oil is not the best choice here – try canola, corn or vegetable oil). The cooking spray works just fine, but the more oil, the crispier the pancake will be.  Pour in batter into palm-size pancakes. Cook until golden brown and flip. Serve immediately.

To serve, sprinkle with sugar (I know it sounds weird, but if you can eat sugar (which I do not), it’s very tasty.), spread yogurt or sour cream (or the vegan alternative) or throw your favorite sauce on them. This time, I served them up with Mushroom-Thyme Gravy, Tempeh-Mushroom Crumble (Tempeh and diced mushrooms sauteed in Earth Balance with salt, pepper and a sprig of fresh thyme for the herby flavor.) with a side of steamed green beans.

Enjoy!

– Mags

The secret to mag-nificent vegan ricotta

5 Jan

1) Cook with a friend in her totally rad pad!

2) Use a food processor – honest to goodness, it helps.

3) Cashews

Yesterday being the first day after my two week vacation of being back at work, I didn’t particularly feel like cooking, but knew that the extra effort on my part, would make the transition back to the hum-drum 8-5 life-style a tad less painful. The decision was sealed when C called, also not in the mood to cook. Two tired and cranky vegans make one awesome delicious meal – don’t ask me how it works – we defy the laws of physics.  I cooked up a most delightful, aromatic and oooooh so yummy ratatouille with the eggplant, teeny baby zucchini, yellow summer squash, mushrooms, onions, bell pepper, roma tomatoes and fresh thyme that I had been hoarding in my fridge. (Recipe to come, I promise!) I packed it in my handy reusable cloth bag and walked (yes – you heard me, walked!) over to C’s apartment. (C. is now my neighbor and it fills me with glee, despite the fact that the reasons for her being my neighbor are bittersweet, with a heavy dose of bitter.)

C has a new gadget – a fine specimen of a food processor. My does this make a huge difference! Blenders, being by nature oblong and wielding a puny (by comparison) blade, tend to get clogged when prepping thicker pate-like substances. Food processors are like a blender on spinach! Yay! In any case, I have recently discovered the secret to successful “cheesy” and “creamy” vegan sauces, cheeses, etc. – CASHEWS! I came upon them while experimenting with mac’n’cheezy, but only recently attempted them in several recipes (also coming soon – I need to remake them and take pictures!) Ricotta is another recipe made phenomenal through the help of that humble little cashew.

On a side note, did you know that cashews are not a nut? They’re not! Cashews are little pods that hang off the bottom of apple-like tropical evergreen plants. They are encased in a shell that is abrasive to us people, much like poison ivy, and so they need to be processed mechanically to remove them, before they are safe to eat by us! But once we get them, boy oh boy are they tasty!

Anyway, C and I used cashew to make our ricotta, and the texture and taste was spot on! Mixed with the flavorful ratatouille, it was fantastic! Hope you give it a shot! (Oh and by the by, I am sure that you can totally use a blender. I don’t own a food processor, so most of my work gets done in the blender. The effect might be a tad more creamy, that’s all. It’ll still taste ah-mazing!)

Mag-nificent Ricotta

1 package Trader Joe’s Tofu (the high protein firm kind)

1/2 C raw cashews (you could even go to 3/4 C)

juice of 1/2 lemon

1 Tbs olive oil

2 Tbs nutritional yeast

1 tsp lemon garlic salt

a dash of chili flakes (less than 1/8 tsp)

1/4 tsp black pepper

Throw the ingredients in a food processor (or blender) and mix until the consistency is a big grainy but creamy, like ricotta! Serve with your favorite veggies, ratatouille or sauce on pasta, spread on a lasagna, stuff into manicotti or try something new!

Cheers to all and a Happy New Year!

– Mags

The search for the ultimate vegan mac’n’cheese continues

4 Nov

As you all know, part of the premises of this blog are that vegan foods can be just as good if not better than non-veggie meals. Also, that you can make vegan foods that taste and/or eerily resemble “the real thing”. There are some foods, however, which probably will never even come close to the real thing. Mac’n’cheese is one of those. Being the stubborn human that I am,  I refuse to accept this fact and have embarked on an odyssey in search of the (ta-tee-ta-da) ultimate vegan mac’n’cheese. I will admit to you, dear readers, right now, that THIS is not it. However, it is creamy, rich, flavorful and SMELLS like the real thing, so, HEY we’re getting there! And as far as taste goes, it definitely hits the spot. So there you have it, cheap, quick and sort of cheesy, definitely mushroomy and moderately goulashy vegan mac’n’cheese.

Peace

– Mags

The Goulashy aka vegan mac’n’cheese

CIMG1073

The Goulashy

Ingredients:

1/2 bag Gluten Free Shells pasta (if you are not GF, regular pasta works as well, of course)

1-1/2C unsweetened soy milk

1 Tbs corn starch

1/2 C nutritional yeast flakes

1/2 C plain soy yogurt

1 tsp dijon mustard

1 tsp peanut butter

1 tsp miso

salt and pepper (to taste)

1/2 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp chili powder

1/4 tsp turmeric

1/2 container cremini mushrooms

2 cloves garlic minced

1 Tbs olive oil

Preparation:

Boil pasta according to instructions to al dente.

In the meantime, heat up olive oil and saute sliced mushrooms. After they have coated in oil and started to change color, season with salt and pepper. This makes them aromatic. Add garlic at the end until just starts to get golden. Set aside.

After pasta is al dente, drain it and prepare the cheese sauce in the pot:

Heat up soymilk and whisk in corn starch. When the milk begins to thicken, add the nutritional yeast and whisk in. Add the “wet flavorings” ie. the peanut butter, miso, dijon mustard and yogurt and whisk in . Add the dry seasonings and whisk. Fold in the pasta and coat thoroughly with cheese sauce. Add mushrooms and garlic and serve.

Is also great reheated the next day.

CIMG1073

It looks and smells like mac'n'cheese - but does it taste like it? Only YOU can find out!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ideas for future endeavors:

* use almond or cashew butter or tahini – almond butter will add a mildly sweet taste and add more texture, cashew butter will make it much more creamy and tahini will make it creamy, thick and almost swiis cheese flavored (slightly bitter after taste)

* shred in vegan cheese in block form for more cheesy texture

If you have any ideas or experiences with vegan mac’n’cheese please share!! We’d love to hear from you!

Eggplant Lasagna

21 Oct

Hello hello hello! It’s Vegan MoFo (still) and although I don’t possess either the time, stomach capacity or financial means to try something new every day of this month, I am trying to post something new every week. Here is what came into my head yesterday. I was initially planning to just do a ratatouille, but then decided that I haven’t done a baked dish in a long time, and it being all autumn-like in the Old Pueblo of late, I decided to make a lasagna. That and the fact that vegan ricotta is fantastic!! Trust me. If you don’t believe me, try this recipe. I believe ricotta was meant to be made with tofu – and this coming from a person who used to eat ricotta straight out of the container!!

What makes this lasagna special, is that it’s also gluten-free! Although technically, it’s more of a layered pasta bake, than a lasagna in terms of construction, it stills hit’s the same spot, is delicious and healthy.

Enjoy!

– Mags

Eggplant Lasagna

Eggplant lasagna

Eggplant lasagna

Ingredients:

1 eggplant, sliced into 1/4 slices

4 Tbs rice or soy flour

4 Tbs flax meal

1/2 tsp salt + more for “sweating” eggplant

1/4 tsp pepper

1/4 tsp paprika

1/8 tsp cayenne

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp oregano

1/4 C unsweetened soymilk

2 Tbs olive oil

***

1 package firm tofu, pressed

2 tsp white wine vinegar

2 tsp olive oil

1 clove garlic minced

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 C nutritional yeast

15 fresh basil leaves

black pepper to taste

(Recipe for Vegan Basil Ricotta adapted from recipe posted by Isa on www.theppk.com. Thank you!)

***

1/4 package Brown rice pasta, cooked al dente

***

tomato sauce for serving (I used D’s Delightful Tomato Sauce.)

Preparation:

Sprinkle the eggplant slices with salt and them sit until you notice beads of moisture on their surface. Pat the moisture off with a paper towel, flip over to the other side and repeat the process. If you let the eggplant “sweat” around 30 minutes total, the cooked slices will be soft and almost sweet. This is great, especially when using larger eggplant, as they can be rather bitter. After you have patted off all the “sweated” juice, rinse the eggplant slices on each side with water, to remove excess salt. If you forget to do this, the end result might not be palatable.

While you are waiting for the eggplant slices to do their thing, prepare the “breading”. I have found it very difficult to “bread” things in a vegan and gluten-free fashion as, from my experience, the most successful breadings happen with the use of a beaten egg and/or milk and bread crumbs/flour. Since all of those things are omitted in my diet, I have suffered through many a soggy or detached breading.  The one I have used in this recipe had fantastic results, and the flax meal adds a nutty and rich flavor that greatly compliments the eggplant.

The preparations of the breading is simple – simply place all the dry ingredients (soy/rice flour, flax meal, spices) in a Ziploc baggie and shake – in the style of good old fashioned shake’n’bake. Pour the soymilk into a saucer or into a bowl. Dip the eggplant slice first in the soymilk to coat, then shake it around in the Ziploc breading baggie until it’s coated. Set aside and continue until all the pieces are covered.

Heat a cast-iron skillet with 2 Tbs of olive oil. Saute the eggplant on each side until nicely browned. Set aside.

Prepare the tofu ricotta. Crumble the pressed firm tofu into a bowl. Add the vinegar, olive oil, nutritional yeast, garlic, basil and spices and mix.

Fold in the drained al dente brown rice pasta.

Assemble the lasagna, by layering the bottom on a square casserole dish with eggplant. Cover than with the tofu ricotta and pasta filling and cover with another layer of eggplant. If you have enough eggplant slices, do another layer of eggplant in the middle.

Bake at 350F for 30 minutes.

Serve with tomato sauce on top.

*** Note: In the future, I would like to try to bake the lasagna with the tomato sauce inside and to try using gluten-free lasagna noodles. But no worries – I will be sure to post the results!!!