Friday, May 31, 2013

Ginger Pudding

It's surprisingly easy to make pudding at home. Cornstarch and the tapioca starch in Ener-G egg replacer both act as thickeners in this recipe. Use any non-dairy milk, according to your taste preference.

  • 3 cups plain non-dairy milk, divided
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger*
  • 2/3 cup vegan sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • Dash of salt
  • 3 Ener-G egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon vegan butter
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. In a saucepan, combine 2 and 1/2 cups of the milk with the ginger.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes.

2. In a large bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 cup milk, the sugar, cornstarch, salt, and Ener-G egg yolks (4 and 1/2 teaspoons powder whisked into only 3 tablespoons warm water).  Stir with a whisk until well blended.  Gradually add one-fourth of the hot milk mixture to the sugar mixture, then add the remaining hot milk mixture, stirring constantly.

3. Return the whole mixture to the saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Continue to cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until thick and creamy, stirring constantly.

4. Remove from heat and stir in the butter, lemon rind, and vanilla.

5. Spoon the pudding into a clean bowl and cover the surface with plastic wrap.  Chill.

You can serve the pudding plain, or add fresh berries as a pretty garnish. I particularly liked the ginger paired with blueberries.

*Be sure to buy crystallized ginger made with raw cane sugar. International Harvest is one good option.

Nutrition Info:
6 servings (1/2 cup), Calories 226

Tasting Notes:
The consistency is absolutely perfect, and the ginger flavor just infuses the entire dish. I did find, though, that there were too many little chunks of ginger in each spoonful, and would have preferred the same ginger taste but fewer chunks. You might be able to achieve this by using half as much crystallized ginger but adding some powdered ginger into the mix. I'd play around with combinations for texture reasons alone, but the taste was beautiful - like creamy gingerbread.


Friday, May 24, 2013

Moroccan Chickpea-and-Couscous-Stuffed Peppers

There's almost nothing more satisfying than a stuffed vegetable entree. Not only do you get to enjoy a visually-striking meal, but you get to eat the container at the end. Almost any large veggie can be stuffed (think eggplant, big beefsteak tomatoes, or zucchini), or of course smaller ones for appetizer portions. Bell peppers pair well with this Moroccan-inspired filling, but try another veggie if you prefer. Look for bell peppers that are about 8 ounces each, to hold all the filling.

  • 2 large red bell peppers
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 4 minced garlic cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 and 1/3 cups drained canned chickpeas
  • 3/4 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/3 cup uncooked couscous
  • 1/2 cup crumbled Veg Cuisine Mediterranean Herb feta
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, divided
  • 2 tablespoons mango chutney*
1. Cut the bell peppers in half lengthwise and discard the seeds and membranes.  Arrange the pepper halves in a microwave-safe pie plate.  Cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 4 to 5 minutes, until crisp tender. Drain any liquid from the pan and return the peppers to the pie plate.

2. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add the garlic; saute for 2 minutes.  Add the cumin, turmeric, and cinnamon; saute for 30 seconds.

3. Stir in the chickpeas and broth, and bring to a boil.

4. Add the couscous.  Remove the pan from heat, cover, and let stand for 5 minutes.  The liquid should be absorbed.

5. Stir in 6 tablespoons of the feta, and 1 tablespoon mint. Divide the couscous mixture evenly among the 4 bell pepper halves.

6. Top each half with an additional 1 and 1/2 teaspoons feta, 3/4 teaspoon mint, and 1 and 1/2 teaspoons chutney.

*The spiciness of your chutney is up to you, but I recommend medium or hot chutney, not mild, in this case. A good vegan brand to try is Geeta's.

Nutrition Info:
2 servings (2 pepper halves), Calories 460

Tasting Notes:
There's a whole host of flavors going on here, making this dish a delight all around. Honestly the chickpea mixture is so good that you can nix the bell pepper container if you want something simpler, with beautiful spices, fresh mint, salty chickpeas and feta, and the sweetness and heat of the mango chutney on top. I worried the garlic flavor would be too strong, but it blends in nicely under the chickpeas and couscous. The bell pepper was a tender, lightly-sweet addition, but I think I would like this even better in a hollowed out eggplant.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Wild Rice-and-Quinoa Garden Salad

This salad - featuring two nutrition-packed superstar grains, wild rice and quinoa - can be made ahead, served chilled or at room temperature, and travels well. Oh, and did I mention it feeds a crowd? Needless to say, you might want to keep it in mind for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend.

  • 3 cups water, divided
  • 1/2 cup uncooked wild rice
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped, seeded, and peeled cucumber
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
1. In a saucepan, combine 1 cup water and the wild rice.  Bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 40 minutes to 1 hour - the liquid should be all absorbed.  Set aside.

Note: I find wild rice absolutely stunning, the long dark grains so completely different from standard white rice. If you've never cooked with it, it's well worth a try, even though it takes longer to simmer than white or brown rice.

2. Meanwhile, combine the remaining 2 cups water with the quinoa in a second saucepan.  Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 18 to 20 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed.  Remove from heat and fluff with a fork.

3. Combine the rice and quinoa in a large bowl with the green onions, bell pepper, and cucumber.

4. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, balsamic, Dijon mustard, salt, thyme, rosemary, black pepper, and garlic.  Drizzle over the quinoa mixture and toss gently.

5. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours, then either serve chilled or bring back to room temperature.

Nutrition Info:
10 servings (1/2 cup), Calories 122

Tasting Notes:
The surprising element here was the rosemary. Although at first bite it felt out of place (I think of it as a winter herb), it actually gave an otherwise super-fresh salad a very earthy, woodsy undertone that was perfect with the tender wild rice, nutty quinoa, and vinaigrette. There was more olive oil in the dressing than I normally use, making this feel slightly indulgent too. Almost any veggies would be wonderful here, so play around. I'd definitely add fresh green peas and halved cherry or grape tomatoes next time. I personally preferred the salad at room temperature, so recommend removing it from the fridge about 20 to 30 minutes before serving time.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Pineapple Fool

A "fool" is an English dessert, featuring pureed stewed fruit stirred into whipped cream. If you want to make a traditional version, you'll have to seek out gooseberries, but pineapple gives this take on it a tropical flair. For the whipped cream, I recommend Soyatoo's whippable soy topping, which will hold its texture and volume unlike the vegan whipped cream from a spray can.

  • 2 cups (1-inch) cubed pineapple
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1/4 cup vegan brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 cups whipped Soyatoo whippable topping*
1. Combine the pineapple, water, and ginger in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.

2. Add the brown sugar and lemon juice.  Cook over medium-high heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until syrupy.

3. Transfer the pineapple mixture to a blender and process until smooth.  Transfer to a bowl; cover and chill.

4. Set aside 1/4 cup of the chilled pineapple mixture  Fold the whipped topping into the remaining chilled pineapple mixture, and spoon 1/2 cup of this mixture into each of 6 glasses.  Chill.

5. Just before serving, top each serving with 2 teaspoons of the reserved pineapple mixture.

*To prepare the whipped topping, beat with a hand mixer for about 3 to 4 minutes. Use 2 cups for this recipe, and set aside the remaining whipped cream for another use (vegan ice cream sundaes come to mind).

Nutrition Info:
6 servings (1/2 cup whipped cream mixture, 2 teaspoons pineapple topping), Calories 114 

Tasting Notes:
Oh my goodness, this was like eating an airy pineapple cloud. Every bite is smooth, creamy, and full of bright pineapple flavor with just a hint of ginger. It would even be better if frozen a couple hours first, to be mid-way between the consistency of whipped cream and ice cream (much as with my Frozen White Chocolate and Hazelnut Mousse), but that doesn't stop this from earning a "5." The pineapple topping tastes much like pineapple jam, only not quite as thick or sticky. The only reason this dessert earns the name "fool" is because you'd be one not to make it.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Asparagus Salad with Beans and Feta

I love highlighting asparagus as soon as spring arrives, but unfortunately it felt out of place in an otherwise to-die-for sandwich I made earlier this month. This salad seemed a better platform to let the asparagus shine.

  • 3 cups (1-inch) diagonally cut asparagus
  • 1 cup rinsed and drained canned cannellini beans
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced radishes
  • 1/2 cup crumbled vegan feta (such as Veg Cuisine)
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions
  • 2 teaspoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh mint
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1. Steam the asparagus, covered, for 2 minutes, just until crisp-tender.

Note: You want cooked asparagus to be vibrant in color and still quite crisp, not mushy or dull-colored.

2. Rinse the asparagus with cold water and drain.  Combine in a bowl with the cannellini, radishes, feta, and green onions.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, mint, olive oil, salt, and black pepper.

4. Pour the lemon juice mixture over the asparagus mixture and toss gently - be careful not to mush the soft beans and feta.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (1 cup), Calories 150

Tasting Notes:
A very nice spring salad. Unlike a white bean salad I prepared last spring, in which greens and vegan shrimp overshadowed the produce, this version allows the crisp asparagus and radishes to take center stage. The mellow flavor of the beans was a nice contrast to the salty feta. The salad is only lightly dressed, so I would increase the vinaigrette, and definitely add more mint.


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Mesclun Salad with Roasted Tofu

The prep for this salad is a little time consuming, since you have to go through various stages of pressing, roasting, and chilling the tofu, but almost all of it is hands-off time. Here's something I feel almost sheepish I didn't know until today: "Mesclun" is not a specific type of green (like arugula, say, or mizuna), but refers to a blend of young salad greens. In other words, what I've purchased all these years as "gourmet greens" or "spring greens" is also called "mesclun." If you're not a fan of this gourmet lettuce blend, however, try this salad with just romaine.

  • 12 ounces lite firm tofu
  • 2 teaspoons sherry*
  • 2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
  • 8 cups gourmet salad greens
  • 1 cup (1/4-inch thick) sliced and peeled cucumber
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions
  • 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vegan sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 minced garlic clove
1. To prepare the tofu, cut lengthwise into 4 slices, and place on several layers of paper towels.  Cover with additional paper towels and let stand for 5 minutes.

2. Cut each slice diagonally into 2 triangles (so you have 8 triangles total), and place in a shallow baking dish.

3. Whisk together the sherry, soy sauce, and sesame oil; pour over the tofu.  Refrigerate for 20 minutes.

4. Bake the tofu at 450 degrees for 25 minutes.  Let cool to room temperature (about 20 to 30 minutes), then chill for 30 minutes.

5. To prepare the salad, combine the gourmet greens, cucumber, and green onion.  In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, vinegar, sugar, salt, black pepper, and garlic clove.  Drizzle the lemon juice mixture over the greens mixture and toss to coat.

6. Arrange 2 cups salad on each of 4 plates. 

5. Top each serving with 2 tofu triangles.

Add a baguette and a bowl of minestrone soup to round out the meal. Perfect for taking the chill off a rainy spring afternoon or evening.

*Although I normally don't recommend "cooking wine" (if you wouldn't drink it, don't cook with it, is a good rule of thumb), I make an exception for sherry. That's because very few sherries are vegan, but I know that the cooking sherry from Napa Valley Naturals is. I've also put their cooking Marsala to use, as in my Mushroom and Caramelized-Shallot Strudel.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (2 cups salad, 2 tofu triangles), Calories 88

Tasting Notes:
The tofu is just fantastic, all I was hoping for. I would use it in numerous applications other than this salad, such as topping off stir-fries or pasta dishes, cutting it into cubes to toss intp other salads, serving with fresh sandwich bread like ciabatta, or just for eating plain. It had great sesame flavor, and that almost "cheesy" texture and flavor that roasted tofu develops on the bottom. The salad was light, and a nice background for the tofu, but there was too much tart lemon in the dressing. Decrease to 1 tablespoon, and offset it with a little more olive oil and vinegar. A "4" for the tofu, but a slightly lower rating for the overall dish.


As I mentioned in the intro, you can try this salad with romaine instead. As a sturdier green, I thought it might stand up to the lemon juice dressing better, so gave it a try.

My hunch was correct, making the overall flavor more pleasing, while the tofu on top stayed just as yummy:

Friday, May 17, 2013

Strawberry Soup

Last night I put strawberries to savory use in an entree salad. This sweet soup, on the other hand, can be served as a first course or -better yet - for dessert.

  • 3 and 1/2 cups halved strawberries
  • 1 and 1/4 cups pineapple juice
  • 2 tablespoons vegan sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Dash of ground cardamom
  • 1 and 1/3 cups plain non-dairy yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
1. In a blender or food processor, combine the strawberries, pineapple juice, sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom.  Process until smooth.

Note: I recommend giving the mixture a good whirl, for at least a minute if not longer, to puree the strawberry seeds as finely as possible.

2. Add the yogurt and process just until blended.  Transfer to a bowl and chill for 3 hours.

3. Just before serving, sprinkle evenly with the lemon rind.

Nutrition Info:
5 servings (1 cup), Calories 124

Tasting Notes:
Excellent strawberry flavor, but if I'm to be honest, between the yogurt and the pineapple juice, this was really like eating a thick strawberry smoothie with a spoon instead of drinking it up from a straw. For something decidedly more soup-like, I'd nix the yogurt (perhaps almond milk instead?), and strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve to remove any lingering strawberry seeds. I'd also increase the cinnamon and nutmeg just a touch. I confess I also wasn't wild about the very Pepto-Bismol pink, but don't let that stop you from giving this recipe a try. My preference was definitely to serve for dessert - a delightful finish to a warm evening.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Chicken and Strawberries over Mixed Greens

It's strawberry season! Which means I need to celebrate with at least a couple strawberry-themed recipes. Instead of serving for dessert, give strawberries an unexpected savory twist in this salad. You can cook and chop the Gardein chicken according to package directions ahead of time so this main dish salad comes together in a pinch.

  • 2 chopped and cooked Gardein Tuscan chicken breasts (without sauce)
  • 2 cups quartered small strawberries
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 2 tablespoons golden raisins*
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds**
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 cups gourmet salad greens
1. In a bowl, combine the chicken, strawberries, celery, red onion, and golden raisins.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the sesame seeds, tarragon, olive oil, vinegar, paprika, salt, and black pepper.

3. Pour the sesame mixture over the chicken mixture and toss to coat.  Cover and chill for 1 hour.

4. Place 1 cup greens on each of 4 plates, and top each serving with about 1 and 1/4 cups strawberry mixture.

I recommend rounding out the meal with a coarse sea salt-and-rosemary focaccia.

*As with every time I use golden raisins, I prefer naturally golden Hunza raisins to those treated with sulfur dioxide.

**Toast your sesame seeds in a small skillet over medium heat for just about 3 minutes, making sure to stir frequently so they don't burn.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (1 and 1/4 cups strawberry mixture, 1 cup greens), Calories 164 

Tasting Notes:
The tarragon makes this dish, the perfect flavor to bridge the savory Gardein and the sweet little strawberries. This would be the perfect salad for a summer potluck or picnic, especially since the finely chopped celery and red onion made me think of other summer sides like potato salad. I'd make two significant changes: first, I'd prepare an extra half batch of dressing to toss with the gourmet greens before plating, and secondly, I would use sunflower seeds instead of the tiny sesame seeds.


Tarragon is one of the few herbs that I don't mind using dried, since it retains both a strong flavor and scent.

So go ahead and used dried tarragon if you want to cut out a little bit of chopping, or if you want to make this dish on a night your market doesn't have good fresh tarragon, as happened to me when I craved this salad a second time around: