Saturday, May 30, 2009

Figaros – Sweet Freedom Saturday

Awhile back I had the delicious privilege of being one of Ricki’s testers for her cookbook full of treats, Sweet Freedom. So when shellyfish began her Sweet Freedom Saturdays, it was easy to decide to join in.

One of the things I love most about Ricki’s recipes is that they are so easy. Most of the ones I’ve made don’t even require an electric mixer – just bowls and spoons. Since I had tested lots of yummy treats already, I picked out a cookie I hadn’t made before. I chose Figaros, your healthified Fig Newton.

No figs on hand? No problem! I didn’t have any figs either so I used prunes, I mean dried plums. And you know what? They still tasted exactly like the Fig Newtons I remember, only better because they didn’t have sugar and chemical preservatives.

I need to say that I got a copy of Babycakes and after reading the book twice, there is still not a single recipe I want to run into the kitchen and bake. On the other hand, there are 3 Sweet Freedom cookie recipes I have bookmarked now that I can’t decide between to bake for tomorrow. But I’m leaning toward oatmeal.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Daring Bakers Apple Strudel Challenge

The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.

I had never made Apple Strudel before. It’s just so easy to throw your apples into a pie crust. The challenge in making a strudel is to roll out and stretch the dough until it is paper thin. I didn’t find this challenge too difficult, perhaps because I made a half recipe and my smaller portion of dough was more manageable. I didn’t get creative either, just followed the given recipe, substituting vegan Smart Balance for the butter.

First I made the dough so it could rest for an hour or so.

In the meantime I peeled, cored, and sliced 2 large Gala apples and sprinkled them with cinnamon and sugar.

There were also Craisins soaking in brandy to add to the mix, and toasted buttered fresh bread crumbs prepared.

When it was time to roll out the dough, I cleared off the dining room table and got to work. The dough was absolutely beautiful and I found it very easy to roll and stretch with the backs of my hands. We were told holes were okay, an indication of a good stretch.

Next the dough was buttered and sprinkled with bread crumbs. Then walnuts were placed at one end, and then the apple mixture spread over the walnuts. The first dough coverage is done by hand, then the rest of the strudel is rolled using the cloth under the dough. Kinda scary, but lots ‘o fun!

Rats, there’s a wrinkle! But I can’t fix it. I tucked the ends under and it was done. It was easy to transfer to the baking sheet. 30 minutes later…

After it cooled I wrapped it in foil and hoped the dough would stay relatively crispy until I could take it to my mom the next day. I cut it right in half for my mom and Chase to share.

Yay, it still looks nice and flaky! I only ate a pinch of pastry to make sure I had done it right. And now, relying on an old Veggie Girl method, here is my mom’s (completely unbiased) review:

The apple strudel was the best I have ever had! Little old German ladies baking strudel for the County Fair could not have baked strudel this good!!! I loved it! Chase's portion is not going to be long for this world. I cut off half of my piece to eat, then went back for the rest. I put fresh sliced peaches on top - heavenly!

So there you have it. Next time you’re in the mood to bake a pie, bake a strudel instead!

You can find the recipe here. Don’t let the lengthy directions put you off. It only took me 2 hours start to finish. A couple of tips: Increase the amount of cinnamon. Don’t skip the homemade bread crumbs. I only used 3 slices of bread, crusts removed, and cut into big 1/4-inch pieces. They soak up some good buttery flavor and help the layers of dough separate. And I’ll bet a fresh peach strudel would taste amazing.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Beans for Breakfast Cake

I made the Beans for Breakfast Cake and again it turned out so good. Since Chase wasn’t around to take it from me, I discovered that it’s even tastier the next day. I’m going to keep playing with this recipe. I think I can make hearty cookies out of it, and Chase wants me to make some for him using protein powder so he can have a super protein treat. My method is a little unconventional, but it doesn’t really matter since it has no gluten!

Beans for Breakfast Cake (gluten free)

Makes one loaf

1 T. flax or chia seeds
2 T. water
½ cup gluten free oats, ground
½ cup gluten free oats, whole flakes
½ cup gluten free flour mix (I used Bob’s Red Mill, but you could use any flour on hand)
1 t. baking powder
½ t. xantham gum (omit if you don’t have any)
pinch of salt
3 – 4 T. brown sugar (depending on the ripeness of the banana)
¾ cup white beans, pureed (I’ve used chickpeas and Great Northern)
½ of a medium very ripe banana
2 t. vanilla extract
½ cup nondairy milk (I used So Delicious coconut)
1 T. canola or vegetable oil
¼ cup chocolate chips
¼ cup raisins
¼ cup walnuts


Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the flax seeds and water and set aside.

Mix the oats, flour, baking powder, xantham gum, salt, and sugar in a large bowl and stir well to combine.

Place the beans in a food processor (I used a mini prep) and puree. Add in the banana and the flax seeds and process until smooth and incorporated. Add this mixture to the dry ingredients in the large bowl. Stir in the vanilla, milk, and oil and mix well. Stir in the chips, raisins, and nuts.

Spread the mixture into an oiled 8 x 4 inch loaf pan and bake for about 30 minutes or until it begins to pull away from the sides and the top is golden brown, dry, and puffed. Let cool completely in the pan before slicing.

Earlier this week we had Pizza Night. We had a vegan pizza delivered from Hoboken Pie and I had my first taste of Teese. The pizza was a delicious 18-inch monster of a pie.

Thin crust, perfectly topped.

I’m always telling you how much Chase eats, so I’ll tell you I had one slice of this pizza and he ate all the rest at dinner – amazing. He and his girlfriend got bad colds this weekend, but they are still awfully cute!

I’ve been eating lots of salads with fresh foods from the farmers markets and my CSA box. I’ve also made a couple of recipes from Vegan Brunch – my copy finally arrived – one success and one failure. As soon as I organize myself I’ll post all the pictures I’ve taken.

I don’t think we’ll be grilling today since the kids have to work AND they’re sick, but I’ll probably cook something to take them this evening. I took them and my mom to the IMAX yesterday to see the new Night at the Museum movie. It was fun.

It sure is nice to have a Monday holiday!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Tater Hot Picnic Salad

As if you need another potato salad recipe…. but I found this super delish accidentally vegan version that would be great for any Memorial Day parties you may be asked to bring food to this weekend. I took this salad to an Austin Food Bloggers Potluck last weekend and didn’t have any leftovers to bring home. (Pictures from the potluck are at the end of the post.) It’s a beautiful salad and just a little spicy.

Tater Hot Picnic Salad
From Sabroso! magazine

Serves 12

2 pounds small red potatoes, scrubbed and quartered (bite-size pieces)
1 t. olive oil
2 cups corn, fresh or frozen
¾ cup chopped celery
¾ cup finely chopped purple onion
¾ cup chopped red bell pepper
1 (15 oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 big jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

¼ cup olive oil
1/3 cup fresh or good quality bottled lime juice (I used a mix of both)
2 t. salt
1 t. black pepper
2 chipotle peppers, finely chopped


Put a steamer basket in a Dutch oven with 1 inch of water. Add potatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and steam for 10 to 15 minutes or until potatoes are just tender. Drain, then put into a large bowl and cool to room temperature.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet. Add corn and sauté about 5 minutes or until corn is lightly browned. Add the corn and the remaining salad ingredients to the potatoes.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lime juice, salt, and pepper. Stir in chipotles. Drizzle over salad, using only as much as you like. Cover and chill at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.

Here’s a few pictures from the Potluck.

(This picture from Boots in the Oven. Please visit her blog for gorgeous photography and writing.) On the blanket are Cookie Madness and Vegan Vanguard; in the background is me (in the chair) with the Casserole Queens, who took on Bobby Flay in a Throwdown!

The man on the stairs is our host, The Soup Peddler. He is an incredible success story and if you have time, you should visit his website. Incidentally, he told me he thinks the soup recipes in VCon are incredible.

The Casa de Luz group, Fun With Your Food, her roomie I Don't Believe In Diets, and Vegan Vanguard.

On the right, our organizer, Relish Austin, and Thai Fresh.

The last of the food. This dish with the blue spoon was my potato salad.

Some cute little cuppers!

Behind the cute cuppers are Vegan Vanguard’s most delicious Chocolate PB Cupcakes. I need to ask her for her cake recipe. It was the softest cake I’ve ever had!

Have a super terrific Memorial Day weekend!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Food on the Table

I’ve been doing lots of fun foodie things lately, but what I’m most excited about and will post tonight is that I finally got to have my son and his girlfriend over for Sunday dinner last night! These few pictures may not be beautiful to you, but it’s been a long time since I set out food on the dinner table and I was happy to be able to take them. (I don’t mean to say that I don’t sit at my table to eat by myself. I always eat at my table, but I only take my plate of food.)

I only had two hours to scour the pantry and fridge to come up with a dinner. I always have bags of salad greens and fresh broccoli on hand, so the side dishes were taken care of. The broccoli was steamed and dressed with balsamic vinegar and minced garlic. I don’t remember what I mixed up for salad dressing. But I got to set it out on the table and it felt great!

The quickest thing I could think of to make for a main dish was pasta. At first I could only find 3 partially used bags of different kinds of pasta, but then I finally found a full bag of spaghettini. A tomato sauce wouldn’t really have time to develop good flavor, so I decided on a cream sauce. I used Yellow Rose Recipes alfredo sauce recipe. I made it with coconut milk, and for my herbs used fresh parsley, dill, and oregano and it was super delicious. This is the only shot I got before the ravenous diners dug in.

I just happened to bake something that morning, so we had dessert too! This was an experiment done in one hour. It was meant to be a dozen drop style breakfast cookies. I was running short of time, so I decided to make bar cookies. But the loaf pan I put the batter in was too small, so I ended up with cake. Chase went absolutely nuts over this, especially after I told him it was full of beans! I asked him to please leave me one piece to photograph and taste test.

It is sooooo yummy! I need to bake my Beans for Breakfast Cake again and get the recipe sorted out before I can post it for you. It is gluten free, low sugar, low fat, and the best part about it is that it’s not gooey like the blondies and brownies recipes that abound now. It really is cake you can pick up with your hands and eat! If you want to experiment with baking with beans, remember that pureed beans can replace nearly all the fat in a recipe and it will still turn out beautifully.

Now I have to go find out what happened to my copy of Vegan Brunch that the post office says it delivered but I don’t have – grrrrrrrrr! I will be by to visit you all soon!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Daring Cooks Ricotta Gnocchi Challenge

The Daring Bakers has expanded and now includes Daring Cooks! This is the very first challenge - Ricotta Gnocchi.

The recipe was chosen from the cookbook by Judy Rodgers, named after her restaurant, The Zuni Café Cookbook.

You may have noticed that I rarely post meals featuring pasta. I have never been a big fan of pasta, or cheese for that matter. That fact made this challenge extra challenging, as I have never made pasta of any kind. Shoot, I have never even eaten gnocchi and I’m old! I think I can say I have now eaten gnocchi – at least what I made looked like gnocchi – but this was one of the weirdest cooking experiences I have ever had. Fun, but weird.

First I needed vegan ricotta. I’ve had the crumbled tofu ricotta before, but I decided this time I wanted to be able to eat my creation. I found an outstanding nut based, cooked ricotta from Chef Jason of Vegan Culinary Experience, February 2009 edition. This was the lightest, fluffiest, freshest tasting ricotta ever. I will make this again for pizzas and lasagnas, and I’ll give you the recipe at the end of this post so you can love it too! This was the weirdest part of the challenge, but the most rewarding. I cooked cheese! And it was so easy. I apologize that this is the only picture I have of the ricotta. It was taken when it was just done boiling and it is actually much whiter than this. (It was also on my taco salad on the previous post.)

The gnocchi recipe we were given called for beating eggs, cheese, butter, and herbs of your choice into the ricotta. Next you form the gnocchi, then coat it with flour. I think I used chickpea flour. Then the gnocchi is boiled, and then ultimately fried. I didn’t use any egg replacer or fake parm or margarine, because my ricotta was already so fluffy, but I did mix in parsley and oregano. And I would have been happy skipping the boiling step completely and going straight to the frying pan. But I did boil. Here’s the *tester*. I was unclear about the timing of this instruction, whether boiling for 3 minutes began as soon the gnocchi was dropped, or after it floated back up to the top.

I left the tester gnocchi in too long and it fell apart.

I only made six gnocchi, including the tester. (The rest of the ricotta did not go to waste!) The remaining gnocchi boiled up just fine and I was able to fry them up nicely.

I made myself a hearty veggie sauce and had a delightful dinner. I’m not such a gnocchi virgin to not know that sauce goes on top of the pasta. I merely wanted to taste the gnocchi naked. And besides, the cheese goes on top, right?

Now for that recipe!

Vegan Ricotta

½ cup raw almonds
2 cups water
3 T. lemon juice
3 T. arrowroot or cornstarch
½ t. sea salt
1 t. agave
1 T. olive oil
(I think I added in garlic powder too)

Bring the water to a boil and blanch the almonds for 1 minute. Place the almonds and the hot water in a food processor and process until very smooth. This will take a minute or two. Add the rest of the ingredients and process again. Place this mixture into a small saucepan over low heat and stir until thickened. Remove to a bowl and refrigerate until set.

I think this made about 2 cups and should be enough for a pan of lasagna. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you celebrating with your mom or your children! Chase is working today, so he and I will celebrate later this week, but I did get to spend some time with my mom. After church we went out for lunch. I had some nice grilled veggies with balsamic glaze…

… green salad …

… and a Poinsettia - cranberry juice and champagne!

Here’s a few pictures of what’s been cooking around here recently.

Isa’s Perfect Grilled Portobello. I had a Portobello the size of a dinner plate and of course needed to do something fabulous with it. Isa’s recent post seemed in order. Here it is marinating.

I grilled it outdoors the best I could on a very windy day.

I didn’t make a sandwich of it, but it was a juicy burger on its own. Perfect indeed.

I think I made three meals out of that huge thing!

I boiled and browned some Brussels sprouts, then coated them with my favorite mustard dressing and fresh dill.

My mustard dressing recipe is equal amounts of Dijon mustard and apricot allfruit, thinned with a little water, milk, or yogurt.

I fixed myself a huge taco salad for Cinco de Mayo. It was really delicious with fresh greens, cilantro, onions, salsa, black beans, homemade cheese, and tortilla chips.

I picked up another CSA box that looks pretty similar to the last one with beets, carrots, cilantro, dill, green garlic, green onions, lettuce, radishes, swiss chard, turnips, and strawberries. Last night I made mashed turnips and kohlrabi …

… and turnip greens with green garlic and green onions.

So fresh and delicious.

I hope you all had a wonderful Mother’s Day weekend.

PS - This is my 300th post!!!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Green Smoothies with a Twist and a Bean Smoothie

I made Green Smoothies, not to drink, but to eat! First up, the most delicious Green Smoothie Salad Dressing. You absolutely must make this. It’s my most favorite salad dressing ever. This is adapted from a recipe from Austin’s own nutritionist and raw foods chef, Dr. Ritamarie Loscalzo. (She has free e-recipe books you can download from her site.)

Creamy Green Smoothie Salad Dressing

Makes about 2-1/2 cups

2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
(or an apple, something for sweetness)
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 large avocado, peeled and pitted
2 cups fresh spinach leaves, chopped
¼ cup chopped cilantro (or dill or basil or herb of your choice)
juice of half a lime or lemon
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon vinegar
½ cup water

Blend altogether in a blender until smooth and creamy.

It’s so good because (a) it’s got avocado (and cilantro!), (b) it’s beautiful, and (c) the cayenne comes through just every few bites to make you go, Hey, that was nice!

I’ve been eating tons of salads using my fresh greens. One thing about beets – even though they are not my favorite veggie, I sure do love beet greens in my salads. Most of my salads have looked similar to this, using red leaf lettuce, arugula, amaranth greens, beet greens, and sunflower sprouts.

I put plenty of Green Smoothie Dressing on them.

My second green smoothie went into my ice cream maker. This is also adapted from Dr. Ritamarie’s recipe for Tropical Green Smoothie.

1 mango, peeled and chopped
1 small papaya, peeled and chopped
1 banana, peeled and chopped
1-20 ounce can crushed pineapple in its own juice
3 cups fresh spinach leaves, chopped
(I meant to add in some coconut extract and fresh ginger, but forgot.)

Blend the fruit in a blender until smooth. (Add in flavorings, if desired.) Add in the spinach a cup at a time and blend until smooth. Put into an ice cream maker following the manufacturer’s instructions.

I know these ingredients aren’t very precise, so I took a picture of what I used so you could see about how big the fruit was that I used.

This amount was a bit too much for my 1-1/2 quart Cuisinart. I would recommend removing about a cup of the blended mixture before adding it to your ice cream maker. You can enjoy it unfrozen in anticipation of the ice cream you’ll make the next day. Or you can just drink it all!

I know, I know, it looks a lot like the dressing. It was beautiful with chopped strawberries on top, but my pictures were blurry.

Greens are supposed to diminish your sweet tooth, but they don’t stop the out-of-control chocolate cravings I’ve had lately. This led me to a new pudding, since I don’t seem to tolerate the chia pudding. I made a quick personal pudding with date puree and it hit the spot.

Emergency Cocoa Date Pudding for One

2 tablespoons date puree
2 tablespoons hot water
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
stevia powder if needed to sweeten
sliced strawberries for garnish

Mix together and enjoy.

I eat lots of beans. Lots of beans every day. They are my protein since I can’t eat tofu or seitan. I have been so happy to find recipes for quiche and brownies made with pureed beans instead of tofu. In my neverending quest for new bean recipes, I happened to find a bean smoothie. I didn’t really like the original fruity recipe, so I came up with chocolaty version that’s darn tasty.

Bean Smoothie

Makes 2 servings

¾ cup white beans, any variety (half of 15-oz. can)
½ cup nondairy milk
1 banana
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 packet stevia powder (1 t?)
dash cinnamon
10 to 12 ice cubes

Mix all ingredients except ice in a blender until smooth. Add in ice cubes a few at the time and blend again.

Like the brownies, you can’t tell it’s made with beans. I’m going to do a lot more experimenting with this recipe and there is definitely a bean ice cream in my future.

What a healthy post this was! I sure hope you’ll at least try the Green Smoothie Dressing and let me know if you like it as much as I do.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

She Ate What???

I hope you all will be proud of me. I’ve been broadening my palate by eating more beets and eggplant in various salad ways. I don’t know why I feel compelled to make myself like these particular veggies. Perhaps it’s because of their beautiful color.

Last week after receiving beets in my CSA box, and expecting many more to come, I set out to find a way I could enjoy them and discovered I actually like them raw. I made a delicious raw beet dip and ate it with gluten free crackers and atop green salads. Melody left me a comment suggesting I might like shredded beets in a green wrap. So I made myself a nice little appetizer one night and took the last bit of leftover dip and wrapped it some leafy lettuce I had. A beet wrap – sounds musical.

Thanks, Melody, it was delicious!

I still had a couple of giant beets left and although I didn’t think they would go bad anytime soon, their uncertain presence was bothering me. I remembered a recipe that my CSA farm provided for sautéed gingered beets. It sounded really good, except for the beets. Then it occurred to me to make a raw version. This was so messy to make but it’s really really tasty. Here’s the recipe I came up with. Feel free to convert it back to a roasted or boiled beet version.

Gingered Beet Salad with Radishes
2 large beets, peeled and julienned
2 large radishes, thinly sliced
1 lime, juiced and zested
1 teaspoon sugar or sweetener of choice
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
2 tablespoons raisins (or Craisins)

Place the beets and radishes in a serving bowl. Mix together the lime juice and zest, sugar, vinegar, and ginger; pour over beets and radishes and mix to coat. Stir in raisins.

This next recipe for an eggplant salad comes from one of my favorite local restaurants, Aster’s Ethiopian. This salad is not on the menu but was in a local magazine. I had to adapt it a little because the recipe does not provide for cooking the eggplant. That scares me for some reason and certainly doesn’t appeal to me. It does provide for soaking the eggplant in lemon juice. Do you suppose that cooks it? Anyway, the salad is quite good. Here is my adapted version.

Eggplant and Blackeyed Pea Salad

1 medium eggplant, peeled and diced (about 1-1/2 cups)
juice of 1 small lemon
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1-1/2 cups cooked blackeyed peas
1 teaspoon agave nectar
black and red pepper to taste
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 green onions, sliced
2 tablespoons diced red bell pepper

Blanch the eggplant for 2 minutes. Drain, then cover with lemon juice and salt. Let sit for 30 minutes in the colander. Put eggplant into a serving bowl and toss with the olive oil. Stir in the blackeyed peas and agave nectar. Season with black pepper and red pepper. Garnish with cilantro, green onions, and bell pepper.

Chocolate Covered Katie, my food soul mate and adorable fellow Texan, is hosting a giveaway as part of her New Foods Challenge. She is encouraging her readers to try a new a food and then tell her about. She will then enter you in a drawing for a yummy food prize. You would think eating all these beets and eggplants would make me an automatic winner, but I actually did eat something this week I’ve never eaten before – garlic scapes. I’ve heard of them and wasn’t afraid to try them, I honestly just didn’t know how to prepare them. I got a small bunch in my CSA box. If you don’t know what they are, here’s what they look like. (The green things, not the pink things.)

After a little research I figured out which part was edible and the way they are usually eaten. (Discard the bulb and use just the tops.) I just chopped and sautéed mine in a little olive oil. I have to say I am absolutely crazy for garlic scapes! They taste like hearty green beans already seasoned with garlic – yum! Since I only had a few scapes, I added some red onion and fresh mushrooms to my little stirfry. Oh so delicious.

The only sweet treat I’ve made lately is Chocolate Chia Pudding.

I made it good and chocolaty with lots of cocoa powder. Unfortunately, a couple of tablespoons of chia seeds in one sitting is a little hard on my tummy and I won’t be enjoying this any more.

This post has been long enough already, but I have one more thing. You may have noticed that Sunday dinners are becoming rather infrequent. I know a lot of you have looked forward to seeing my family feasts, but times change and I think this blog needs to go in a new direction. Don't worry, I still see my son, just not on Sundays due to his work schedule. I thought about *retiring* but I don’t really want to quit blogging. Will you all stick around if there aren’t so many family dinners? I will try to keep up with 2 posts per week of healthy food and continue to put up pretty food pictures. And I have really been into developing recipes lately. Do you like when I provide recipes? (That may change too once all these fabulous new cookbooks come out!)

Thanks guys! As always, I can’t wait to come around and see what you’ve been cooking.