Saturday, December 31, 2011

Gingerbread Squares

Here's the perfect sweet treat to offer your host or hostess as you ring in the New Year.  These tasty gingerbread squares make the perfect gift packed in a parchment-lined cookie tin.  Although cut into very small (1 and 3/4-inch) squares to feed a crowd, you could also cut larger squares for a quick snack-time treat at home.

  • 1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup vegan sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegan buttermilk*
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/3 cup melted vegan butter
  • 1 Ener-G egg
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 tablespoon vegan powdered sugar
1. Lightly spoon the flour into dry measuring cups and level with a knife.  Combine the flour in a bowl with the ginger, cinnamon, and baking soda; set aside.

2. In a large bowl, combine the sugar, buttermilk, molasses, butter, and Ener-G egg, whisking until smooth.  Add the flour mixture and stir to combine.

3. Spoon the batter into a 9-inch square baking pan coated with cooking spray and bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes; a wooden pick inserted in the center should come out clean (you may need to bake a couple minutes longer).  Cool in the pan on a wire rack before sprinkling evenly with the powdered sugar.  Cut into 25 small squares. 

*To prepare the buttermilk, place 1 and 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice in a liquid measuring cup, and fill with plain non-dairy milk to equal 1/2 cup.  Let stand for 5 minutes to clabber (sour) before adding to the recipe as directed.

Nutrition Info:
25 servings (1 square), Calories 84 

Tasting Notes:
Deep, dark molasses taste - almost chocolate-y.  These yummy little squares had a very old-fashioned feel and flavor, and were closer to brownies than cookies.  My complaint is that they were more molasses squares than gingerbread squares; I'd increase the spices next time. Although I wondered about the small portion sizes, a little really goes a long way with these tasty bites, since the flavor is rich and intense.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

BBQ Chicken Pizza

I've had my eye on this recipe for a while, but wanted to hold off until a British vegan product was once more available here in the states - the white cheddar vegan cheese from Cheezly.  Snap yours up now at  I recommend the pre-made pizza crust from Whole Foods for this easy pizza supper, but you can make your own dough and top as follows, if desired.  If you want a quicker dinner, you could also use store-bought tomato chutney in a pinch; just verify with any brand you buy that they use non-bone char sugar.

For the tomato chutney:
  • 2 cups diced plum tomato
  • 3 tablespoons vegan brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1/8 teaspoon Jamaican jerk seasoning
  • 1 minced garlic clove
For the pizza:
  • 1 pre-made thin pizza crust (such as Whole Foods)
  • 3/4 cup tomato chutney
  • 2 cups chopped and cooked Gardein Tuscan chicken breast (without sauce)*
  • 2/3 cup diced plum tomato
  • 3/4 cup shredded Cheezly white cheddar
  • 1/3 cup chopped green onions
1. To prepare the chutney, combine 2 cups plum tomato in a saucepan with the brown sugar, cider vinegar, jerk seasoning, and garlic; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium and cook until thickened - about 20 to 25 minutes.  Let cool.

2. To prepare the pizza, place the pizza crust on a baking sheet or pizza pan and bake at 450 degrees for 3 minutes.  Remove from the oven and spread with 3/4 cup tomato chutney (whether homemade or store-bought), leaving a 1/2-inch border.  Top evenly with the cooked chicken, and sprinkle with 2/3 cup plum tomato, the cheese, and the green onions.

3. Bake at 450 degrees for 9 minutes.  Cut into 6 wedges to serve.

I served a couple barbecue-themed side dishes to round out the meal: corn on the cob and a super quick coleslaw, To make the coleslaw, whisk together 2 tablespoons white vinegar, 3 tablespoons vegan mayonnaise, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, and 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper in a large bowl.  Add 10 ounces shredded green cabbage and toss to coat.

For even quicker convenience, look for pre-shredded cabbage (usually labeled "angel hair slaw") in the bagged greens section of your supermarket.  Although sacrilegious in the summer, I actually quite enjoyed the frozen ears of corn from Whole Foods 365 line tonight, making for fresh tasting corn even in early winter.  To wash it all down, I paired with a hefeweizen-style German beer.

*Cook the chicken ahead of time according to the oven directions on the package.  Chop and refrigerate until ready to use.

Nutrition Info:
6 servings (1 wedge), Calories 300

Tasting Notes:
Disappointingly, after my extra effort, I found the homemade chutney to be much too sweet.  I recommend decreasing the amount of brown sugar to only 1 tablespoon.  Next time I'd go the savory route, and use a store-bought pizza sauce, or canned diced tomatoes.  The chicken-and-cheese topping was yummy, but also surprisingly bland.  In keeping with the barbecue theme, I would marinate the chopped Gardein in a little barbecue sauce, or add spices on top.  


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Spiced Shrimp Skewers with Clementine Salsa

Who doesn't love clementines?  I had to laugh the other day when, arriving at my sister's house, I noticed several boxes of clementines.  "They sell out so fast as soon as they hit the grocery stores," she lamented, and I nodded knowingly.  Get 'em while you can, because the boxes of this mini member of the citrus family won't last long.  The easiest way to enjoy a clementine, of course, is simply to peel and eat, but here's a slightly more intricate suggestion: a fancy clementine salsa paired with vegan shrimp.

For the shrimp:
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • Dash of ground nutmeg
  • 36 Vegetarian Plus shrimp, thawed
  • Cooking spray
For the salsa:
  • 6 peeled and sectioned clementines (about 3 and 1/2 cups)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups peeled and chopped jicama
  • 1 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 seeded and finely chopped serrano chiles*
1. Combine all the ingredients for the shrimp except the cooking spray in a bowl, and toss to coat.  Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours.

2. Thread 3 shrimp on to each of 12 (6-inch) skewers.  Grill on an outdoor grill or indoor grill pan coated with cooking spray for 3 minutes on each side.

3. Meanwhile, prepare the salsa: combine all of the salsa ingredients, stirring well to combine.  Serve with the shrimp.

I recommend serving with hot cooked rice as a cooling contrast to the heat of the spices. 

*If you prefer an even more fiery salsa, leave the seeds in the serranos.

Nutrition Info:
6 servings (2 shrimp skewers, about 2/3 cup salsa), Calories 135

Tasting Notes:
There is a lot of flavor going on in this dish.  Starting with the shrimp: great toasty, earthy spices, verging on too hot but just right.  Definitely mellowed when served over rice.  The serranos in the salsa were spicy, but tempered nicely by the sweet, fruity burst of clementine.  I didn't like the red onion in the salsa and would leave it out, but enjoyed the water chestnut-like crunch of the jicama.

What I'm not sure about is that the shrimp and salsa were good compliments to each other.  Both had such intense flavor that the overall effect was actually decreased when combined.  I would serve the shrimp over rice for dinner one night, and enjoy the salsa in a separate application - a yummy light lunch with a salad and bread comes to mind.

And in the meantime, I'll be peeling and eating clementines as a snack.


Monday, December 26, 2011

Arugula, Fennel, and Cheese Salad

I find green salads to be troubling in the winter.  On the one hand, I know I need to eat my daily dose of greens, but the last thing I'm craving in cold weather is uncooked, cold vegetables.  The trick to winter salads is to use greens and veggies with enough body to stand up to that cold weather, even when raw.  The peppery bite of arugula and the licorice hints of raw fennel are two such veggies, hence this winter salad.  You can do most of your prep work in advance, such as whisking together the dressing, and slicing the veggies, but combine all of the separate components just before serving. 

  • 3 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons vegan sugar
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 cups thinly sliced fennel bulb
  • 1 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 8 cups trimmed arugula
  • 1/2 cup shaved vegan cheese*
1. Whisk together the lemon juice, sugar, olive oil, salt, and black pepper in a small bowl.  Set aside.

2. Combine the fennel and red onion in a large bowl, and drizzle with the lemon juice mixture, tossing to coat.

3. Arrange 1 cup arugula on each of 8 salad plates.  Top each serving with about 3/4 cup fennel mixture and 1 tablespoon of the shaved cheese.

Try serving with a rice pilaf and warm bread rolls to add a little warmth to your winter plate.

*You need a vegan cheese that shaves well with a vegetable peeler, and for that, I recommend Sheese.  Tonight I used their Strong Cheddar flavor, but you can try this salad with any of their varieties shaved on top.  With a similar texture to a hard aged cheese like Romano or Parmesan, Sheese is the perfect candidate for this application.

Nutrition Info:
8 servings (1 cup arugula, 3/4 cup fennel mixture, 1 tablespoon cheese), Calories 62 

Tasting Notes:
This salad actually exceeded my expectations.  The contrast between the sweet fennel and bite of the red onion tasted great.  The dressing, which I worried would be too tart, was mellowed by the sugar.  The creaminess of the cheese was also a great foil for the peppery arugula.  Very refreshing and pleasing overall.  Consider sprinkling with chopped nuts to amp it up just a bit.


Friday, December 23, 2011

Penne with Zucchini and Feta

Just a quick post tonight, for a dinner that comes together in minutes.  If you prefer, use yellow squash in place of the zucchini, or a mix of the two.  Also feel free to swap whatever short pasta shape you have in your pantry for the penne.  I'll be taking a few nights away from the kitchen for the holidays, so wishing everyone an early Merry Christmas!

  • 8 ounces uncooked penne pasta
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 2 crushed garlic cloves
  • 3/4 cup vegan chicken broth (prepared from Not Chick'n bouillon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2/3 cup crumbled vegan feta (such as Sunergia)
1. Cook the penne according to package directions; drain and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise and thinly slice.  Add to the skillet, along with the oregano and crushed garlic; saute for 3 minutes.  Stir in the chicken broth, lemon rind, lemon juice, and black pepper.  Add the pasta and feta, and toss to coat.

The pasta will be best served immediately.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (1 and 1/2 cups), Calories 260

Tasting Notes:
A fresh and simple but delicious blend of ingredients.  The tender zucchini and salty feta paired perfectly.  Nothing fancy or complicated, but definitely a tasty and quick pasta to incorporate into your rotation.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Pepper-Crusted Beef with Kumquat Marmalade

Although kumquats are technically available all year round now, winter is when they're in peak season.  Contrary to other citrus, it's the skin of the kumquat that is sweet, and the pulp that is tart. As a result, kumquats lend themselves perfectly to being pickled, candied, or preserved.  In this recipe, kumquats become part of a zesty marmalade to serve with dinner.  If you don't have Match beef on hand, try with pepper-crusted seitan, Gardein chicken, Match pork, or tofu steaks instead.

  • 1 and 1/2 cups vertically sliced onion
  • 1/2 cup halved, seeded, and vertically sliced kumquats
  • 1/2 cup carrot juice*
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons freshly ground peppercorns**
  • 12 ounces thawed Match beef
  • Fresh chives (optional for garnish)
1. Combine the onion, kumquat, carrot juice, mustard, 1/4 teaspoon salt, thyme sprigs, and bay leaf in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until the liquid is almost all evaporated.  Remove from heat and discard the thyme and bay leaf.  Stir in the rice vinegar and let cool.

2. To prepare the beef, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Place the ground peppercorns in a shallow dish.  Divide the Match beef into 4 portions, shaping each into a 3/4-inch thick patty.  Dredge in the peppercorns and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt.

3. Add the beef to the pan and cook for 3 minutes on each side.  Serve with the marmalade and garnish with chives for a pretty pop of contrasting color if desired.

*If you prefer, you can substitute orange juice for a more citrus-y marmalade; however, I highly recommend the carrot juice for the vivid orange color it imparts.  For another fun use for carrot juice, see my post for Ginger Shrimp with Carrot Couscous.

**You can use all black peppercorns, but I recommend a mix of different colored peppercorns.  I ground up a blend of black, white, green, and pink peppercorns.  If you really like the taste of pepper-crusted food, increase the amount to 2 tablespoons.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (1 steak, about 1/4 cup marmalade), Calories 211 

Tasting Notes:
The "marmalade" was certainly not like a marmalade you'd buy in the jam aisle of the grocery store; a zesty blend of flavors, from bright citrus, to mild onion, to spicy mustard, it was almost creamy from the carrot juice.  I was very proud of the pepper crusting on the beef.  Pepper-crusted food can swiftly dip from just right to too much (I'm reminded of one unfortunate incident involving my husband, Valentine's Day, and an overly-pepper-crusted seitan steak...) so I was worried that there would be too much peppercorn, but the beef was crusted in exactly the right amount.  The combination of spicy peppercorns and cooling marmalade engaged every single taste bud on the spectrum.


Monday, December 19, 2011

Sweet Potato-Streusel Quick Bread

Talk about quick: not only does this batter bread need no rising time, but you can make a few components in the microwave for even speedier preparation.  It's a deliciously impressive loaf; make as a hostess gift, or keep on hand for a quick lunch after a morning of holiday shopping. 

  • 1 (12-ounce) sweet potato
  • 2 teaspoons vegan butter
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 tablespoons vegan brown sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup packed vegan brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2/3 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 Ener-G egg 
  • Cooking spray
1. Pierce the potato several times with a fork and place on paper towels in the microwave.  Microwave for 6 to 7 minutes, turning over halfway through, until soft.  Wrap in a paper towel and let stand for 5 minutes, then carefully peel (use caution - it will still be hot); mash to equal 1 cup.

2. To make the streusel topping, place the butter in a microwave-safe dish and microwave for 20 seconds.  Stir in the pecans and 2 tablespoons brown sugar; set aside.

3. Lightly spoon the flours into dry measuring cups and level with a knife.  Combine the flours in a bowl with 3/4 cup brown sugar, the baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg.  Add the mashed sweet potato, orange juice, canola oil, and Ener-G egg, stirring until well blended.

Note: The batter smells amazing as you stir - one whiff and I swear my past slammed into me, with the scent of the Hermit Cookies from Freihofer that I used to love eating in middle school.  How nice to know I can recreate some of that taste and scent with this batter (and thanks to my mom for helping me remember the name of the cookies).

4. Spoon into an 8x4-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray.  Drop the pecan mixture by spoonfuls over the top of the loaf, and press into the batter with the back of a spoon - make sure to press firmly, or you risk losing the pecan mixture when you slice the bread after baking.

5. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour - a wooden pick inserted in the center should come out clean.  Cool the loaf for 5 minutes in the pan on a wire rack.  Remove from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

I particularly liked pairing the bread with the Chicken-Apple Crunch Salad on this blog for a light lunch.

Note: A quick trick for slicing this bread; if you think electric knives are only for meat-eaters, think again.  The electric knife from Cuisinart comes with two blades, one specifically designed for making the cleanest slices of homemade bread.  Because of the crumbly streusel topping, this is an excellent opportunity to put it to work.

Nutrition Info:
16 servings (1 slice), Calories 174

Tasting Notes:
Yum yum - all the tastes and scents of a sweet potato pie, in a texture very close to banana bread.  The streusel topping was wonderfully sweet (the batter itself only lightly so), but I didn't love how easily it crumbled off of the top.  Next time, I would spoon half the batter into the pan, fill with the streusel mixture, and top with the remaining batter, so that the sugary swirl would be in the center of the loaf.  I was slightly disappointed to find that - while the center was perfect after 1 hour of baking - the edges were a little too crispy and browned.  If you don't want to eat the slightly-burnt outer edge, I recommend simply trimming it off.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Vietnamese Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce

Try this fun appetizer if you're hosting any event at all this holiday season. It was my first time working with rice paper, but I found the process enjoyable and not too difficult.

For the sauce:
  • 1/2 cup organic seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1/4 agave nectar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped roasted peanuts
For the rolls:
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil
  • 4 teaspoons minced and peeled fresh ginger
  • 4 minced garlic cloves
  • 3 cups Gardein chick'n strips
  • 1/3 cup hoisin sauce (such as Whole Foods 365)
  • 1 teaspoon hot chile sauce (such as Thai Kitchen)
  • 12 (8-inch) sheets round rice paper
  • 3 cups thinly sliced romaine lettuce
  • 36 (2-inch) slices julienne-cut, seeded, and peeled cucumber
  • 36 (2-inch) slices julienne-cut red bell pepper
  • 36 mint leaves
1. To make the sauce, whisk together the rice vinegar, agave, and salt.  Stir in the peanuts.  Set aside.

2. Heat the peanut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the ginger, garlic, and chicken; saute for 5 minutes.  Combine the chicken mixture in a bowl with the hoisin sauce and hot chile sauce.  Chill up to a few hours before putting together the rest of the rolls.

Note: if you can't find Gardein chick'n strips, buy any variety of the company's chicken breasts and cut 3 chicken breasts into 1/4-inch wide strips, omitting the accompanying sauce.

3. To prepare the rolls, fill a large shallow dish with hot water to a depth of 1 inch.  Place 1 rice paper sheet in the dish and let stand just until soft - about 15 to 30 seconds.

Note: be careful, because if you let the rice paper soak too long it will fold up on itself...but don't worry if you need a practice round or two, since there will be more rice paper sold per package than you need for this recipe.  Don't forget to keep the remaining rice paper covered over with a dish towel as you work, otherwise the sheet on top will curl up.

4. Place the softened rice paper on a flat surface.  Top half of the sheet with 1/4 cup romaine, 1/4 cup chicken mixture, 3 cucumber strips, 3 bell pepper strips, and 3 mint leaves, leaving a 1-inch border from all edges.

Note: I recommend having all of your ingredients prepped and lined up, so you can work quickly at this stage.

5. Fold in the sides of the sheet over the filling, and roll up starting from the filled side, jelly-roll fashion.  Press the seam to seal.  Place the roll, seam side down, on a platter.  Cover with a dish towel to prevent from drying out while you repeat the procedure with the remaining rice paper and ingredients.  As mentioned previously, this was my first time working with rice paper, but I marveled at how forgivable it is (unlike, say, phyllo dough), so don't worry about tearing it as you roll up.

6. Slice the rolls in half diagonally and serve with the dipping sauce.  You'll want to serve soon after rolling, or the rice paper will dry out.

Pair this appetizer with other noshes such as black bean dip, crackers, vegan cheese (especially the feta from Sunergia), or vegan shrimp cocktail.

Nutrition Info:
12 servings (1 roll, about 1 and 1/2 tablespoons sauce), Calories 176 

Tasting Notes:
So much going on in these rolls, where to begin? Delicious hoisin-smothered Gardein chicken, and the perfect crisp, fresh balance from the veggies - especially the mint leaves.  The dipping sauce had a nice balance between tangy vinegar and sweet agave.  I didn't love the peanuts floating in the sauce, and would wrap chopped peanuts up in the rolls themselves, next time.  As a personal preference, I also wasn't a huge fan of the texture of the rice paper - a little chewy and gelatinous.  I might serve the same ingredients in lettuce wraps next time.  But the flavors combined beautifully, making this a delicious appetizer nonetheless.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Spanish Buns

This is just about the easiest recipe for a yeast bread you'll ever come across.  Although not a quick bread - it still needs about an hour of rising time - there's no kneading required.  Serve these yummy bread squares with tea or coffee for a sweet afternoon treat.  The buns are based on a traditional Pennsylvania Dutch recipe, and referred to as "Spanish" because they in turn derived it from a recipe for a Latin American cake.  See my post for Pennsylvania Dutch Tea Rolls for more adventures in sweet bread making.

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 3/4 cup vegan sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh grated whole nutmeg*
  • 1 package dry yeast (about 2 and 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1 cup warm non-dairy milk (between 100 and 110 degrees)
  • 1/2 cup melted vegan butter
  • 4 Ener-G eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 tablespoon vegan powdered sugar
1. Lightly spoon the flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife.  Combine 2 cups of the flour in a large bowl with the sugar, salt, nutmeg, and yeast.  Add the warm milk and butter, stirring with a wooden spoon until smooth.  The mixture smells amazing the moment the warm milk hits it - a burst of nutmeg and butter in your kitchen.

2. Add the Ener-G eggs and beat with a hand mixer until combined.  Stir in the vanilla extract.  Add the final 1 cup flour and stir until smooth.

3. Scrape the batter into a 13x9-inch metal baking pan coated with cooking spray.  Coat the dough with cooking spray.  Cover and let rise for 1 hour; the dough should be doubled in size, and bubbly on the surface.  I like to let dough rise in an unheated oven, where it will be warm and free from drafts.

4. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes - the buns should be golden brown, and a toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean.  Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack before dusting evenly with the powdered sugar. Cut into squares to serve. 

*I loved using fresh grated nutmeg for this recipe, but if you prefer, substitute the same amount of ground nutmeg.

Nutrition Info:
16 servings (1 square), Calories 203 

Tasting Notes:
A sweet little tea time snack!  Wonderfully chewy and moist on the interior, and absolutely redolent with the fresh nutmeg.  Although the recipe suggests using less nutmeg if you prefer a more subtle taste, or substituting ground nutmeg for the fresh,  I recommend neither - the fresh nutmeg was what made these little buns stand out.  Definitely more cake-like, than bread-like.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Rice Pudding with Pomegranate Syrup

Pomegranates are in season, and if ever there was a food deserving of the adjective "seductive," it's this heavy, globe-shaped fruit.  Not only do the seeds of the fruit play a role in the Greek myth of Persephone, but there has to be a thrilling side to a food that lent its name to a weapon (from the French word for pomegranate, grenade).  Here, a deep-red pomegranate sauce lends a special touch to otherwise ordinary rice pudding.

For the pudding:
  • 3 and 1/2 cups plain non-dairy milk, divided
  • 1/2 cup uncooked Arborio rice
  • 1/3 cup vegan sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vegan butter
  • 1 Ener-G egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the syrup:
  • 2 large pomegranates
  • 1/4 cup vegan sugar
  • 6 tablespoons pomegranate seeds*
1. To prepare the pudding, combine 3 cups of the milk in a saucepan with the rice, 1/3 cup sugar, and butter.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Whisk together the remaining 1/2 cup milk and the Ener-G egg in a large bowl.  Gradually add one-fourth of the rice mixture to the Ener-G mixture.  Return the whole mixture back to the saucepan and simmer, uncovered, for 30 to 40 minutes - the rice should be tender and the pudding thick by the end. You only need to stir occasionally, but be careful not to let a skin form.  Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract.

3. Meanwhile, prepare the sauce: cut the pomegranates in half, and squeeze out the juice.  The two pomegranates should yield 1 cup juice.  I relied on my good old-fashioned citrus reamer, although if you have one of those fancy modern juicers, you'll probably get your 1 cup of liquid much faster, so by all means put it to work.

4. Combine the pomegranate juice in a small saucepan with 1/4 cup sugar.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, until reduced to 1/3 cup, stirring frequently.

Place 1/2 cup pudding in each of 6 dessert bowls; drizzle each serving with about 1 tablespoon syrup and sprinkle each serving with 1 tablespoon pomegranate seeds. 

You can serve the rice pudding warm from the stovetop or make in advance and serve chilled. A note of caution if serving chilled, however; I recommend plating mere moments before serving, otherwise the pomegranate syrup mixes with the bright white rice mixture and turns it a muddy purplish-brown. This recipe does, therefore, lose some points for presentation; I had to work fast to get a few good photos.

*Don't forget to buy an extra pomegranate to use for the seeds sprinkled on top.  You'll have completely crushed the seeds in the other 2 pomegranates to extract their juice.  Another option is to buy a small container of pre-seeded pomegranate seeds, usually available in the produce section with other cut-up fruit.

Nutrition Info:
6 servings (1/2 cup pudding, 1 tablespoon syrup, 1 tablespoon seeds), Calories 296 

Tasting Notes:
A great, creamy rice pudding with wonderful hints of vanilla.  I loved the pomegranate sauce, which tasted midway between a fruity maple syrup and a thick cranberry juice cocktail.   My least favorite part of this dessert was actually the pomegranate sprinkled on top; I didn't like the sharp crunch of the seeds in contrast to the creamy rice pudding, so next time I would stick with just the sauce. 


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tofurky Picadillo

If you have a leftover Tofurky Roast sitting in your freezer and you don't want to leave it until next Thanksgiving, here's a fun idea for Tofurky "leftovers."  Cuban picadillo differs from the other versions that abound across Latin America by the inclusion of raisins and capers - both of which make an appearance in this recipe. 

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 1 cup chopped tomato
  • 2 tablespoons canned chopped green chiles
  • 1 tablespoon vegan brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons golden raisins
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon dry sherry (such as Alvear's Fino en Rama)
  • 2 cups chopped and cooked Tofurky Roast, without stuffing*
  • 8 (6-inch) corn tortillas
1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic; cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the tomato and green chiles; cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently.  Add the brown sugar, cinnamon, cumin, black pepper and salt, and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly.

2. Reduce heat to low and add the raisins, capers, red wine vinegar, and sherry.  Cook for a final 3 minutes, still stirring often.  Add the chopped Tofurky and stir to combine.

3. Meanwhile, warm the tortillas according to package directions.  Spoon 1/3 cup Tofurky mixture over each tortilla, and fold the tortillas in half.

Serve with baked tortilla chips to round out the meal.  

*Ahead of time, cook the roast according to package directions, then shave off the Tofurky from around the stuffing and chop to equal 2 cups (discard the stuffing or save for another use).

There's plenty of 'meat' surrounding the stuffing to yield the 2 cups needed for the picadillo.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (2 filled tortillas), Calories 258 

Tasting Notes:
Love love loved the picadillo - the most surprising bursts of sweetness from the raisins, a salty pop from the capers, and the perfect blend of savory and sweet spices.  What a shame, then, that I served this in corn tortillas.  It was absolutely not the right presentation for this dish, detracting from the flavor.  Next time, I would serve closer to authentic Cuban style; ladle the picadillo over rice and have black beans on the side.  My rating below, then, reflects the overall presentation and taste of the dish as written, but the picadillo itself would rate at least a "4."