Thursday, August 25, 2011

Chipotle-Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie

I'm making a slight transition tonight; autumnal flavors like smoky chipotle and earthy sweet potatoes are starting to tickle my taste buds, perhaps because summer is winding down (and this rainy weather is kicking in).  This dish is a fun variation on standard shepherd's pie, but if you prefer, make it with the more traditional Yukon gold or russet potatoes in the topping.

For the topping:
  • 1 (7-ounce) can chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (such as Casa Fiesta)
  • 2 and 1/4 pounds sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup plain non-dairy milk
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
For the filling:
  • 2 (14-ounce) packages Lightlife ground beef
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped carrot
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 cup frozen green peas, thawed
  • 1/2 cup crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 tablespoons steak sauce (such as Whole Foods 365)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1. Remove 1 chipotle chile from the can and coarsely chop.  Remove 2 teaspoons adobo sauce from the can; reserve the remaining chiles and adobo sauce for another use. 

Note: chipotle chiles freeze well in tupperware; just defrost before using either the chiles or adobo sauce in your next recipe that calls for them.  I use Casa Fiesta brand because it is the only one I know of that does not include potentially non-vegan sugar in the ingredient list.

2. Peel the sweet potatoes, and cut into 1-inch pieces.  Place the potatoes in a saucepan and cover with water; bring to a boil.  Continue to cook for 15 minutes, until tender.  Drain.  Place the sweet potatoes in a large bowl, along with the chopped chipotle chile, the 2 teaspoons adobo sauce, milk, salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.  Beat at medium speed until smooth.  I found a stand mixer worked better for this step than a hand mixer (which caused milk to splatter).

3. Meanwhile, cook the Lightlife beef in a large skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat until browned, breaking apart into smaller pieces with a fork as it cooks - it will take about 5 to 6 minutes.  Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels.

4. Re-coat the pan with cooking spray and add the onion, carrot, and garlic; saute for 8 minutes.  Return the beef to the pan, along with the peas, crushed tomatoes, parsley, steak sauce, tomato paste, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper.  Cook for a final 2 minutes.

5. Spoon the beef mixture into a 3-quart casserole dish, and top with the sweet potato mixture, spreading evenly to the edges.  Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. 

Nutrition Info:
8 servings (1 portion), Calories 406

Tasting Notes:
Just wonderful!  Exactly the right amount of smokiness and spice from the chipotle, without overwhelming the rest of the dish.  The sweet potatoes were a fun variation on white potatoes, and the beef filling was so savory and warming and hearty.  I would make this dish again and again.  I do recommend simmering the potatoes for about 10 minutes longer, so they are very tender and you can beat out all the lumps.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Minted Pea Soup

If you like peas, this soup is for you.  It's worth seeking out fresh peas, while they're in season, but you could make this soup in the winter with frozen peas instead.

  • 2 cups green peas
  • 1 cup chopped romaine lettuce
  • 1 cup vegan chicken broth (prepared from Not Chick'n bouillon)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup plain non-dairy milk
  • 1/2 cup vegan sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1. Combine the peas, lettuce, chicken broth, and onions in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil.  Stir in the milk, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes - make sure to simmer over fairly low heat, or you risk the milk separating a little.

2. Transfer the pea mixture to a blender and let stand for 5 minutes to cool slightly.  Process until smooth.  Transfer to a bowl and stir in the sour cream, mint, salt, and white pepper.

Note: if your grocer carries it, try the sour cream from Vegan Gourmet - it's just a bit lighter in calories than Tofutti, and keeps this soup a bit healthier.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (3/4 cup), Calories 133

Tasting Notes:
First off, I was so struck by the preparation for this soup - I've never seen whole romaine lettuce go into the body of a soup before.  It made for a fun experience, and just the right hint of romaine came through with each spoonful.  I highly recommend fresh peas if they are in season, because the flavor just came bursting through.  The soup was so creamy it was almost foamy - yum.  Next time, however, I recommend pureeing the mint with the other ingredients in the blender, as well as increasing the mint.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Peanut Butter-Banana Ice Cream

Here's one final easy ice cream recipe for the last days of summer.  Like my posts for Maple-Bourbon Ice Cream and Spicy Lemon Sorbet, this recipe starts with store-bought vegan ice cream, into which you stir the other ingredients - no ice cream machine required.

  • 4 cups low-fat vanilla non-dairy ice cream
  • 1 cup mashed ripe banana
  • 1/4 cup chunky peanut butter
1. Place a large bowl in the freezer to chill.  Meanwhile, let the ice cream stand at room temperature until softened.  I used the vanilla from Soy Delicious, and found that it was the perfect consistency after 15 minutes at room temperature. Judge accordingly, if using an ice cream that is coconut-, rice-, or almond-milk based instead.

2. Meanwhile, place the mashed banana and peanut butter in a bowl . Mash together with a fork until blended.

Note: there are lots of great peanut butters to choose from on the market now with no hydrogenated oils.  I like Earth Balance or Whole Foods 365 brand, just to name a couple.

3. Combine the softened ice cream and banana mixture in the chilled bowl, stirring together with a rubber spatula.  Cover and return to the freezer to re-freeze to desired consistency.

This ice cream will be fabulous on its own, but here are a few ideas to make it even more decadent:

Crumble a chocolate-peanut vegan candy bar over the top (try the Jokerz which is exactly like a Snickers - but vegan), for a "Packed with Peanuts" sundae.

Top with Soyatoo whipped cream.  Call this sundae "The Elvis" in honor of Elvis' favorite peanut butter-and-banana sandwiches.

Serve with a scoop of store-bought mocha vegan ice cream, for a great flavor combination.  Add a sugar cone from Edward & Sons on top.

    Nutrition Info:
    8 servings (1/2 cup), Calories 183

    Tasting Notes:
    I was so proud of how this ice cream turned out.  It froze back to the perfect consistency, and if I hadn't made it myself, I would never know it was a quick trick of stirring ingredients together.  The banana and peanut butter were a perfect 50/50 ratio of sweet and salty.  However, I'd add both more peanut butter and more banana next time, for stronger flavor.


    Vegan Extra:
    A final note on ice cream sundaes: there's no better month in the year for ice cream sundae desserts than the last hot days of August.  A couple other fun ideas to try:

    "Banana Pudding" sundae - top your favorite vegan vanilla ice cream with chopped banana, crushed vanilla wafer cookies (such as Back to Nature), and Soyatoo whipped cream.

    "Fire and Ice" sundae - sprinkle your favorite vegan vanilla with cayenne pepper.

    "Apple Pie" sundae - top your favorite vegan vanilla with pre-made apple pie filling and cooked piecrust bits.

    Friday, August 19, 2011

    Best BBQ Chicken Ever

    I couldn't let summer end without giving you a barbecue recipe, and the exuberant title of this dish says it all.  If you don't want to use Gardein chicken, try this easy barbecue sauce over tempeh or tofu.

    • 2 tablespoons vegan butter
    • 1/2 cup ketchup
    • 1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
    • 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
    • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    • 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce
    • 6 Gardein Tuscan chicken breasts (without sauce)
    • Cooking spray
    1. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat.  Add the ketchup, lemon juice, soy sauce, black pepper, and hot sauce.  Bring to a boil.  (Note: don't turn the heat up very much to boil - ketchup has a far lower boiling point than water, and you risk burning it on the bottom of the saucepan otherwise).

    2. Partially cover and continue to cook for about 15 minutes, until reduced to 2/3 cup, stirring quite often.  Set aside.

    3. Heat an outdoor grill or indoor grill pan coated with cooking spray over high heat.  Add the Gardein chicken and grill for 12 minutes.  At the 8 minute mark, turn the chicken over and baste with 1/3 cup of the reduced ketchup mixture.  Bring the remaining reduced ketchup mixture to the table for serving time.

    A couple notes on my favorite ingredients: Try ketchup from Annie's or Organicville, both certified vegan.  My favorite hot sauce is the Hot Stuff from the Wizard, also certified vegan. 

    When it comes to wine at a barbecue, my best recommendation is zinfandel.  Although normally I'm a white wine drinker in the summer, zinfandel has all the flavors of a jammy berry pie, and works great with barbecued fare.  Just head to your nearest store and see if there is a vegan and/or unfiltered zinfandel on the shelves.  Of course, you can't go wrong with a bottle of root beer, either, and I've just discovered the vegan root beer from Maine Root.  Add grilled veggies on the side to round out this meal, or for something a little more indulgent (but still healthy) try kale chips.

    Nutrition Info:
    6 servings (1 chicken breast, about 1 tablespoon sauce), Calories 157

    Tasting Notes:
    A nice and unusual bright note from the lemon juice helped lift this barbecue sauce out of the ordinary.  And in contrast, a great earthy note from the soy sauce.  Perhaps not the "best," as the title so proudly proclaims, but certainly easy and all-purpose, and a barbecue sauce that you can make again and again, whether for casual nights or for entertaining guests.  


    Wednesday, August 17, 2011

    Spicy Lemon Sorbet

    Earlier in the month, I made a gourmet dessert at home by stirring add-ins into plain old vanilla non-dairy ice cream (see post for Maple-Bourbon Ice Cream).  You can do the same thing to sorbet, in this quick recipe.  I recommend the lemon sorbet from Ciao Bella as the base.

    • 3 cups lemon sorbet
    • 2 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger*
    • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
    1. Place a large bowl in the freezer to chill.  Meanwhile, let the sorbet stand at room temperature until softened - it will take about 45 minutes.  Place the softened sorbet in the chilled bowl, along with the crystallized ginger and white pepper.  Stir with a rubber spatula to combine.

    2. Cover and return to the freezer, and re-freeze to desired consistency. 

    Note: the sorbet will turn even more watery than vegan ice cream at room temperature, but it will re-freeze better and faster than the ice cream too, so fret not.

    *If you're having trouble finding crystallized ginger sprinkled with vegan-friendly sugar, I recommend Woodstock Farms, made with raw cane sugar.

    Nutrition Info:
    6 servings (1/2 cup), Calories 124

    Tasting Notes:
    Super refreshing and zippy on the tongue - kind of like a grown-up Italian ice.  I would add more crystallized ginger next time, but the spice from the white pepper was just right.  A great palate cleanser at the end of a meal.

    Update: try topping this spicy sorbet with the Easy Fruit Compote recipe I made for this blog.  The combination of the sweet ginger and rich dried fruits makes a great pairing. Call this an "Autumn Harvest" sundae, since the flavors hint at the fall harvest just around the corner.


    Tuesday, August 16, 2011

    Easy Fruit Compote

    This dried fruit compote makes a great alternative to standard sundae toppings like strawberry sauce or chocolate syrup.  The original recipe called for one 7-ounce package of Fruit Bits by Sun-Maid.  I opted not to use that item, however, since I can't be sure the sugar is vegan.  Instead, it requires only a bit more effort (and some chopping) to recreate the mix of dried fruit at home.

    • 1 cup water
    • 3 tablespoons agave nectar
    • 3 whole cloves
    • 1 cinnamon stick
    • 1 (3-inch) lemon rind strip
    • 7 ounces mixed dried fruit bits*
    1. Combine the water, agave nectar, cloves, cinnamon, and lemon rind in a microwave safe bowl.  Microwave for 5 to 6 minutes - the water should be boiling hot, and infused with the spices.  Remove the cloves, cinnamon, and lemon rind with a slotted spoon and discard.

    2. Add the fruit bits to the water mixture, and return to the microwave for 1 and 1/2 minutes.  Cover and let stand for 20 minutes.

    You can serve the compote chilled, or at room temperature.  I particularly liked it over both the vanilla ice cream from Soy Delicious and the lemon sorbet from Ciao Bella.

    *For the fruit medley, I used 1 ounce each of: dried apples, dried plums, dried peaches, dried apricots, dried cherries, raisins, and golden raisins.  Don't forget to chop the larger items into smaller pieces.

    Nutrition Info:
    16 servings (2 tablespoons), Calories 49

    Tasting Notes:
    Quick and easy.  Over vanilla ice cream in particular, the compote tasted like pie a la mode without the crust.  I would make a few changes next time; the cinnamon and lemon flavors got lost under all that dried fruit, so rather than boil the whole cinnamon stick and whole lemon rind, I would stir in ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, and grated lemon rind or a splash of lemon juice.  I also would increase the amount of water, so that the final product is more of a syrup.  The dried fruit absorbed nearly the entire 1 cup of water called for.


    Monday, August 15, 2011

    Party Pineapple Chicken

    Here's a fun dish to try for hosting your own mini luau. Of course there's no whole roast pig at a vegan luau party; make these creative skewers of Gardein chicken the centerpiece of the meal instead.  You can decide how far in advance you want to prepare the chicken, as it can marinate anywhere from 2 hours to a full 12 hours.  If you're not a fan of Gardein, try cubed tofu or seitan for this dish.

    • 1 and 1/3 cups pineapple juice
    • 1/3 cup teriyaki sauce (such as Whole Foods 365)
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    • 6 Gardein Tuscan chicken breasts (without sauce)
    • Cooking spray
    1. Combine the pineapple juice, teriyaki sauce, salt, and black pepper in a large zip-top plastic bag.  Cut the Gardein chicken into 1-inch cubes, and add to the marinade.  Seal and marinate in the fridge anywhere from 2 to 12 hours.  I prepared the marinade about 4 hours in advance.

    2. Remove the chicken pieces from the bag, and reserve 1/2 cup marinade; discard the remaining marinade. Place the reserved marinade in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Continue to cook for 1 minute; set aside.

    3. Thread the chicken pieces evenly onto 12 skewers.  Grill on an outdoor grill or indoor grill pan coated with cooking spray for 12 minutes.  Halfway through cooking, turn the skewers over and baste with the reserved marinade.

    For a fun presentation, stick the ends of the skewers directly into a whole pineapple, and invite guests to serve themselves.

    Other noshes such as store-bought dumplings, baked mochi squares (a popular Hawaiian snack), banana chips, cubed pineapple, and coconut water rounded out the menu for my luau evening.  

    Nutrition Info:
    6 servings (2 skewers), Calories 169

    Tasting Notes:
    There was a subtle coating of pineapple and teriyaki on the crisp outside of the chicken that was quite good.  To make these even better, I wouldn't discard the leftover marinade; use half of the marinade for basting while you grill, and keep the other half as a dipping sauce for serving.  That would really enhance the sweet pineapple flavor, and make this dish jump from good to great.  Extra points though for the fun presentation involved.


    Thursday, August 11, 2011

    Shrimp and Orzo Pilaf

    This dish has great contrast: crunchy almonds and crisp veggies combined with smooth orzo and tender vegan shrimp.  Keep up the summer feel to the menu with a side dish like Raspberry-Asparagus Medley

    • 4 cups vegan chicken broth (prepared from Not Chick'n bouillon)
    • 1 pound uncooked orzo
    • 1 tablespoon vegan butter
    • 3 minced garlic cloves
    • 24 ounces Vegetarian Plus shrimp, thawed
    • 1 cup finely chopped carrot
    • 1 cup chopped red bell pepper
    • 1 cup chopped green bell pepper
    • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomato sprinkles*
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    • 1/2 cup toasted and sliced almonds, divided**
    1. Bring the chicken broth to a boil in a Dutch oven; stir in the orzo.  Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat and cover; set aside.

    2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute.  Add the shrimp; saute for 2 minutes.  Add the carrot, red bell pepper, green bell pepper, sun-dried tomato sprinkles, salt, and black pepper; cook for a final 2 minutes, stirring frequently.  Stir in 1/4 cup of the almonds.

    3. Add the shrimp mixture to the orzo, and stir to combine.  Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup almonds.

    Other great accompaniments to this pilaf are grilled fruit kebabs or a bowl of chilled soup - tonight I tried the acorn squash-mango soup from Imagine.

    *The sun-dried tomato sprinkles were key to this dish, as per my review below, so do make the effort to find them.  Although you could chop sun-dried tomatoes (packed without oil) into small pieces, the actual crushed sprinkles are what you really need to get sun-dried tomato flavor in every bite.  I couldn't for the life of me find them in any grocery store, but you can buy them online at Olive Nation.

    **Toast the almonds in a skillet over medium heat on the stovetop.  Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until lightly browned and toasty smelling.

    Nutrition info:
    8 servings (1 and 1/4 cups), Calories 381 

    Tasting Notes:
    A big pot of super comfort food.  As I mentioned in the intro to this post, the dish has great contrasting flavor and textures.  But the best part by far was the sun-dried tomato sprinkles, which infused every bite.  It was almost like eating a dish with a rich but invisible sun-dried tomato sauce - yum.  The only reason this dish doesn't get a "5" is because bell peppers aren't my favorite of veggies.  Next time I'd substitute something else in their place.


    Wednesday, August 10, 2011

    Raspberry-Asparagus Medley

    Even picky eaters will want their veggies when they see this novel side dish.  It would make an excellent side to any number of summer entrees, or you can serve the mixture over a bed of gourmet greens for an elegant salad (see photo below).  When choosing the raspberry preserves, look for a brand sweetened with fruit juice or organic sugar.

    • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
    • 2 tablespoons raspberry preserves
    • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
    • 1/8 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
    • 2 and 1/2 cups (1-inch) sliced asparagus
    • 1 and 1/2 cups fresh raspberries
    • 2 tablespoons finely chopped and toasted pecans
    1. Combine the vinegar, raspberry preserves, mustard, and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Remove from heat once boiling and stir in the lemon rind.

    2. Meanwhile, cook the asparagus in boiling water for 2 minutes.  Drain and plunge in ice water; drain again.  Combine the vinegar mixture, asparagus, and fresh raspberries in a bowl, tossing gently.  Sprinkle with the pecans.

    Note: to toast the pecans, chop them first in order to increase the surface area that you’ll be toasting, then place in a small skillet over medium heat.  Cook anywhere from 3 to 5 minutes, shaking the pan fairly constantly so the nuts don’t burn.  Rely on your sense of smell to tell you when the pecans are done.

    Tonight I served the asparagus alongside Match pork in a little balsamic vinegar, garlic, and rosemary.  

    Nutrition Info:
    6 servings (1/2 cup), Calories 65 

    Tasting Notes:
    The combination of sweet, soft raspberry and bitter crisp-tender asparagus was wonderful.  I actually thought the dish was better served over salad than when standing on its own, with the raspberry-and-vinegar mixture coating the greens in a sweet dressing.  When simply served as a side dish, the raspberry-and-vinegar mixture got left behind on the plate, and its flavor was lost.  Overall, very summery tasting, without any heavy flavor dragging down the brightness of the fresh asparagus and raspberry.


    Tuesday, August 9, 2011

    Real Texas Chili

    Purists somewhere are probably screaming at the title of this post, since my 'real' Texas chili uses Gardein's beefless tips instead of beef stew meat.  But what the title mainly refers to is the insistence that Texas chili has no beans - just the beef and a savory, seasoned broth.  This vegan version was real enough for me.

    • Cooking spray
    • 2 pounds frozen Gardein beefless tips (about 7 and 1/2 cups)
    • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
    • 3 cups chopped onion
    • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
    • 3 tablespoons finely chopped jalapeno pepper
    • 6 minced garlic cloves
    • 1 cup vegan dry red wine
    • 1/4 cup white vinegar
    • 2 tablespoons chili powder
    • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
    • 1 and 3/4 cups vegan beef broth (prepared from Not Beef bouillon)
    • 1 (12-ounce) bottle beer*
    • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
    • 1/2 cup chopped onion
    • 1/2 cup vegan sour cream
    1. Heat a Dutch oven coated with cooking spray over medium to medium-high heat.  Place the Gardein beef in a large bowl and toss with the salt and pepper.  Add half of the beef to the pan and cook for about 8 minutes, until browned. Remove from the pan and repeat with the remaining beef.  Remove from the pan.

    2. Add 3 cups onion to the pan and saute for 5 minutes.  Add the cumin seeds, jalapeno, and garlic; saute for 1 minute.  Add the red wine, scraping the pan to loosen the browned bits that have accumulated during cooking up to this point.

    3. Return the beef to the pan, along with the white vinegar, chili powder, oregano, beef broth, and beer - don't forget to pour the beer slowly so it doesn't fizz up.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 1 and 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.  Uncover and simmer a final hour, stirring occasionally.

    Note: Gardein beef actually won't need this long to cook; if you're short on time, you can simmer for as little as ten minutes.  However, I love long-simmered stews over very low heat, so all of the flavors can really blend.  Tonight was the perfect night to do so, with rainy gray skies outside my window.

    4. Stir in the cilantro just before serving.  Ladle 1 cup of chili into each of 8 bowls, and top each serving with 1 tablespoon chopped onion and 1 tablespoon sour cream.

    *Wondering what beer to choose for your "real" Texas chili?  The recipe didn't specify, so I did some Google searching; most people suggested a Mexican beer, in keeping with the geographic region.  Try a Negra Modelo or Corona, both vegan-friendly.

    Nutrition Info:
    8 servings (1 cup chili, 1 tablespoon sour cream, 1 tablespoon chopped onion), Calories 268

    Tasting Notes:
    This chili had wonderfully rich concentrated flavor - the perfect amount of spice, and just the right zip from the combination of the red wine and beer.  The only part that I didn't like was the raw onion sprinkled on top, which I would simply skip next time.  I also found that the chili was a little watery; I recommend adding only half the amount of broth called for, if you prefer a thick, chunky chili.


    Monday, August 8, 2011

    Maple-Bourbon Ice Cream

    Here is a quick way to make gourmet vegan ice cream at home, without pulling out the ice cream machine.  Start with your favorite non-dairy vanilla ice cream, and simply stir in the remaining ingredients before refreezing.  It's a perfect summer afternoon project.

    • 4 cups low-fat vanilla non-dairy ice cream
    • 1/4 cup maple syrup
    • 2 tablespoons bourbon
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1. Place a large bowl in the freezer to chill.  While the bowl chills, let the ice cream soften to room temperature.

    Note: I used the vanilla from Soy Delicious, which only needs about 20 minutes to soften.  If you are using a rice-, coconut-, or almond-milk based ice cream, they may soften faster or slower than the soy. 

    2. Place the softened ice cream in the chilled bowl.  Use a rubber spatula to stir in the maple syrup, bourbon, and cinnamon, until combined - don't worry if the mixture seems watery at this point.  In fact, because you are adding liquid to the softened ice cream, you're going to lose about a cup in volume, and wind up with 3 cups of final product instead of 4.

    3. Spoon the mixture into a freezer-safe container; cover, and re-freeze to desired consistency.  Be aware that the mixture will probably need at least 4 hours to firm up again, due to the addition of alcohol, but if you'd like to eat it sooner, it will have a consistency closer to soft serve:

    Nutrition Info:
    6 servings (1/2 cup), Calories 193

    Tasting Notes:
    Who knew - vanilla, bourbon, and maple syrup combine to taste like eggnog ice cream!  My only complaint is that the texture stayed soft even after 8 hours back in the freezer, but it firmed up overnight.  Still, delicious.

    Update: sprinkle the ice cream with a little grated lemon rind, for a "Cold Toddy" sundae that tastes like a chilled version of the hot beverage.


    Sunday, August 7, 2011

    Overnight Oatmeal Muffins

    These muffins will fit in just about anywhere in your day - grab a couple for an on-the-go breakfast, as a mid-morning snack, with a cup of tea in the afternoon, or - because they're not too sweet - in place of rolls at dinner time.  I found apple juice-sweetened dried blueberries from the company International Harvest.  If you can't find dried blueberries, use any dried fruit in their place, or skip the dried fruit all together.

    • 1 cup regular oats
    • 2 cups vegan buttermilk*
    • 1 and 2/3 cups whole wheat flour
    • 3/4 cup packed vegan brown sugar
    • 2 tablespoons canola oil
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 2 Ener-G eggs
    • 2/3 cup dried blueberries
    • Cooking spray
    1. Combine the oats and buttermilk in a large bowl.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to overnight.

    2. Lightly spoon the whole wheat flour into dry measuring cups and level with a knife.  Place the flour in the bowl of a stand mixer, along with the buttermilk mixture, brown sugar, canola oil, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and Ener-G eggs; beat at medium speed until blended.  Fold in the dried blueberries.

    3. Divide the batter evenly among 24 muffin cups coated with cooking spray - it will work out to a little less than 1/4 cup batter per muffin.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes - the muffins should spring back when touched lightly in the center.

    4. Transfer the muffins immediately to a wire rack to cool.

    *To make the vegan buttermilk, place 2 tablespoons lemon juice in a liquid measuring cup.  Fill with plain non-dairy milk to equal 2 cups.  Let stand about 5 minutes to let the mixture clabber (sour), then proceed with the recipe directions.

    Nutrition Info:
    24 servings (1 muffin), Calories 105 

    Tasting Notes:
    As I said in my intro, a great all-purpose muffin.  You could definitely taste the "healthy" flavors of whole wheat and oats.  I was actually surprised at the dry texture of the muffins, since the whole reason to soak the oats in the vegan buttermilk is to wind up with a creamy texture.  Since I only soaked the oats for 8 hours, I would give them longer next time.  Using fresh blueberries might also make the muffins moister, but with that said, I enjoyed the concentrated flavor of the small dried blueberries.


    Friday, August 5, 2011

    Gardener's Ratatouille

    Ratatouille is the quintessential vegetable dish from the south of France, and perfect for fresh summer produce.  Originally from the area around Nice, the dish consists of tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, and fresh herbs.  As a side note, canned ratatouille (available in any French grocery store) was a life saver for me as a vegan when I lived in France in 2006, so the dish has a special place in my heart.  Needless to say, preparing your own batch fresh in the summer is even better than the canned version - bonus points if you grow any of the following in your own garden (and hence the title of the recipe).

    • 2 teaspoons olive oil
    • 1 cup chopped onion
    • 3 cups chopped plum tomato
    • 2 cups peeled and chopped eggplant
    • 1 and 1/2 cups chopped zucchini
    • 1 cup chopped green bell pepper
    • 1 minced garlic clove
    • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
    • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
    • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and saute for 3 minutes.  Add the tomato, eggplant, zucchini, bell pepper, and garlic.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

    Note: the simmering is a product of the liquid rendered from the vegetables themselves, so don't be surprised by this step, given the fact that no liquid is added into this recipe.  You can see the difference between the vegetables at the beginning and end based on my two photos in this post.

    2. Stir in the oregano, basil, parsley, salt, and black pepper.  Cook, uncovered, for a final 5 minutes, until the liquid is nearly all evaporated.

    Ratatouille is traditionally served as a side dish, but also makes a great centerpiece for a vegan meal.  Add a hearty bread like rosemary focaccia on the side.

    Nutrition Info:
    4 servings (about 3/4 cup), Calories 91

    Tasting Notes:
    Delicious fresh vegetables, but I found the spices and herbs sadly lacking in this version.  I recommend being liberal with the oregano, basil, and parsley, rather than sticking to the quantities above.  You might even consider tying together a bouquet garni and leaving it in the skillet during the whole simmering process, rather than adding the herbs so close to the end.  


    Thursday, August 4, 2011

    Chicken-Arugula Focaccia Sandwiches

    This sandwich is a great way to use up leftover Mediterranean Grilled Chicken.

    The ingredient that posed a vegan challenge was the rosemary focaccia bread, since many commercially sold brands contain butter or milk.  I struck gold while wandering the freezer aisle at Whole Foods - gluten-free and vegan rosemary focaccia from Aunt Gussie's brand, sold in individual, 2-ounce serving portions.  If your local bakery happens to make their focaccia without milk, that's another option; just buy an 8 ounce loaf for this recipe and slice the loaf into quarters after assembling the sandwich according to directions below.  Another option is to order the herb focaccia online from Bread Alone.

    • 3 tablespoons plain non-dairy yogurt
    • 1 tablespoon Rosemary-Garlic Rub
    • 2 Mediterranean Grilled Chicken breasts
    • 1 teaspoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
    • 1 teaspoon olive oil
    • 1/8 teaspoon salt
    • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
    • 3 cups trimmed arugula
    • 8 ounces rosemary focaccia
    • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
    • 1/4 cup pitted and chopped kalamata olives
    1. Combine the yogurt and rosemary rub in a bowl; set aside.

    2. Cut the chicken into thin slices; set aside.  In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and black pepper.  Drizzle over the arugula and toss to coat.

    3. Cut the focaccia in half horizontally, and toast the bread.  (Note: my favorite simple toasting method is under the broiler for about 2 minutes on each side).  Spread the yogurt mixture over the cut sides of the bread.  Arrange the arugula mixture, chicken, red onion, and olives on the bottom half of the loaf, and cover with the top half of the loaf.

    I recommend serving the sandwich with your favorite potato chips and some plump grapes to round out the meal.

    Nutrition Info:
    4 servings (1 sandwich), Calories 328 

    Tasting Notes:
    Great flavor of arugula, kalamata, and rosemary chicken in between the loaves of focaccia.  I actually thought the sandwich was a little dry, and would increase the yogurt mixture for a nice creaminess to each bite.  All in all, this sandwich was yummy, but I think would be even better after a quick warm-up in the oven or microwave.


    Tuesday, August 2, 2011

    Mediterranean Grilled Chicken

    As promised, here's a recipe putting last night's Rosemary-Garlic Rub to good use.

    • 6 Gardein Tuscan chicken breasts (without sauce)
    • 3 tablespoons Rosemary-Garlic Rub
    • 6 fresh rosemary sprigs
    • 6 fresh thyme sprigs
    • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
    • Cooking spray
    1. Cut a slit in each chicken piece.  Rub the chicken evenly with the rosemary rub.  Insert 1 rosemary sprig and 1 thyme sprig into the slit in each chicken piece; cover and chill for 4 hours.

    2. Heat an outdoor grill or indoor grill pan coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat.  Sprinkle the chicken with the black pepper and place on the grill; cook for 25 minutes, turning occasionally.

    To round out my Mediterranean meal, I served a deconstructed version of Provence's iconic ratatouille - thread eggplant, tomato, onion, bell pepper, and zucchini pieces onto skewers.  Brush with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt, and add to the grill while you cook the chicken.  Cook for about 6 minutes, turning over halfway through.  Add a glass of (vegan) rose wine from Provence to round out the meal.

    Note: set aside 2 of the chicken breasts from tonight's recipe - I'm planning a sandwich recipe that's the perfect way to use up leftovers for a brown bag lunch.

    Nutrition Info:
    6 servings (1 chicken breast), Calories 167 

    Tasting Notes:
    I was pleased with how well the rosemary and garlic flavors of the rub came through after marinating.  The Gardein chicken was a little dry after 25 minutes grilling, so I recommend basting occasionally either with additional rosemary rub or with olive oil during cooking.  Other than that, this is an easy recipe to keep in mind for nights when you want a summer supper quick off the grill.


    Monday, August 1, 2011

    Rosemary-Garlic Rub

    This rub is incredibly versatile - you could stir it into your favorite vegan mayo or plain non-dairy yogurt for a sandwich spread (great fillings include roasted bell peppers, grilled eggplant, or portobello mushrooms), or rub it directly onto vegan meats.  Look for a couple more posts that make use of this rub in the next few days - it will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days so make a double batch now and use as needed in the nights to come.

    • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
    • 2 tablespoons plain non-dairy yogurt
    • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
    • 1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
    • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 3 crushed garlic cloves
    1. Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

    I particularly liked this rub over Match pork, before cooking the pork in a skillet.  

    Nutrition Info:
    12 servings (1 teaspoon), Calories 3 

    Tasting Notes:
    Taste aside, this rub makes your kitchen smell amazing, when the rosemary and lemon combine. The palate was full of bright rosemary and lemon, and a stronger garlic kick than I expected.  All in all, simple and all-purpose, and I look forward to testing it in fancier recipes soon.