Tag Archives: vegan

Quick, Easy Zucchini, Spinach & Tomato Pasta

16 Aug

I was in no mood for a laborious, time-consuming dinner tonight. I found the solution sitting on my kitchen counter. I’ve been making an effort to buy much of the produce we love locally. There’s a small farm stand across the street from the library that I frequent and they have amazing heirloom beefsteak tomatoes. We also go to the farmer’s market at City Park on Sundays ($.25 jalapenos? awesome.), where we also get to pick up our share of the ELA Family Farms fruit CSA that we are a part of. ELA Family Farms is located in Hotchkiss, CO (about 240 miles away from Denver) and grow a variety of organic fruits and vegetables. We picked up our first share this past Sunday consisting of a bag of heirloom tomatoes, a bag of peaches and applesauce made from their own apples! As the season progresses, we will be expecting different varieties of tomatoes, peaches, plums, pears, apples and CIDER! For the entire month of October, we will receive a half gallon of cider every week. I love fall and cider and pumpkins and apples and orchards! If there’s one thing I miss about Michigan, it’s the sunny, brisk Fall days spent apple picking and devouring freshly made donuts at a cider mill.

With little inspiration or motivation toward making a grand meal tonight, I whipped up an easy, flavorful vegetable pasta dish that took about 20 minutes. The dry sherry used really helped bring the dish together and mellow the balsamic vinegar. This can be thrown together using pretty much any vegetables you have on hand, though I highly recommend some fresh, juicy beefsteak tomatoes as the main ingredient.

Quick, Easy Zucchini, Spinach & Tomato Pasta

  • 3 Fresh beefsteak tomatoes (also threw in a couple of romas we had on hand)
  • Half a zucchini squash, sliced and then cut in half
  • Fresh baby spinach leaves
  • Garlic powder
  • Salt/pepper to taste
  • About 1/4 cup of dry sherry
  • a few splashes of balsamic vinegar
  • 2 servings of whole wheat pasta

pretty pyrex :)

Boil water! Cook pasta! Meanwhile…in a large skillet over medium heat, add olive oil and minced garlic (since I didn’t have any on hand, I just threw in some garlic powder later on). Wilt the spinach leaves by covering the pan for a few minutes. Add zucchini and beefsteak tomatoes, stir and let simmer for 5 minutes. Add spices to taste (basil would be a great addition). Add sherry and balsamic vinegar and simmer for about 5 more minutes until the sherry flavor has mellowed a bit. Taste and make sure it is savory and everything you hoped and dreamed for. Throw on top of the cooked pasta and, if you have any, garnish with fresh basil leaves.

 

I was super excited to see the tea towels I ordered from Etsy seller Zen Threads waiting for me in the mail today. I love functional, vintage-looking tea towels and these are super high quality. Look out for them in upcoming food pictures :)

I’m loving these cool summer nights…Autumn is in the air! My favorite season. Can’t wait for the Aspens to start changing colors because you know what that means…WINTER IS COMING! I’m already itching to slap my skis on and tear down the mountains. But it’s still August. And it’s still in the 90s during the day. Reality check.

Three Bite Brownies with a Peanut Butter Cookie Middle

15 Aug

CHOCOLATE! One of my major weaknesses. Don’t get between me and a chocolate bar. I will fight you for it. For some reason I had a craving for some chocolatey, peanut buttery goodness this weekend and needed to find a unique way to combine the two. I came up with a brownie with a peanut butter cookie in the middle…but haven’t thought of a better name. These are only three bite brownies if you have a large mouth and like to just dive in and devour your food. I didn’t want something overwhelmingly sugary and really hate using refined, white sugar. I used the glorious and versatile maple syrup to sweeten this treat up. Also, applesauce replaced butter, reducing the fat and contributing to the sweet moistness of the brownies.

Brownie Recipe (adapted from here)

  • ¼ cup Applesauce
  • ¾ cup Maple Syrup (or try honey, agave nectar, stevia, etc)
  • Egg replacement equivalent to 1 Egg (1 tbsp flaxseed ground with 3 tbsp water = 1 egg!)
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla (I ran out of vanilla, but they still tasted great without!)
  • ½ cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 tsp. Baking powder
  • ½ tsp. Salt
  • 4 tbsp. Cocoa
  • ½ cup Chopped nuts (optional)

Thoroughly mix all wet ingredients first. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa. Slowly add to wet ingredients, but do not overmix. Slowly fold in nuts, if using. Time to make the cookie dough!

Peanut Butter Cookies (adapted from here)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup peanut butter (I used a mix of crunchy and smooth…mainly because I ran out of crunchy.)
  • 3/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup almond milk

Mix wet ingredients and dry ingredients separately. Then dump into one bowl! Dough will be thick and pretty dry. You will definitely have some leftover, so make them into cookies! Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll about a tablespoon of dough in your hand and flatten with a cup. With a wet fork, make criss-cross marks. Sprinkle some sugar on top and pop into the oven for about 11 minutes.

To assemble the brownie/cookie things: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray/grease a muffin tin. Spoon about a tablespoon of brownie batter into each muffin groove. Take about a tablespoon (or slightly less) of the peanut butter cookie dough, roll into a ball and flatten in your hand. I made mine slightly smaller than the muffin circle so that the brownie part could encompass the peanut butter cookie completely, hiding it from the world! Place the peanut butter cookie onto the already spooned brownie batter, then cover with another 1.5 tbsp of brownie batter (or however much you want!) Just make sure the cookie is completely covered in the brownie goop. Bake for about 25-30 minutes. It’s a little hard to tell if they’re done, but really, you can’t go wrong because there’s no egg! No worries! :) If you really have a sweet tooth, sprinkle some powdered cane sugar on top. Now, go find someone who doesn’t know what you were concocting in your kitchen and surprise them with a bite!

This was a great dessert that didn’t make me feel too guilty to indulge in! The maple syrup was a “barely-there” flavor and didn’t make you feel like you had just stuck your tongue into a bag sugar. Of course, this might not be appealing to everyone, but I enjoyed the light sweetness and didn’t feel like I had to go take a nap after eating. Applesauce kept these moist and they’re still moist even a day later! Just remember to wrap them up or store them in a bag. Great additions to these would be some chocolate chips, carob chips, or some broken pretzels (salty+sweet=amazing).

Aloo Gobi & Sada Paratha

15 Aug

Indian food truly is a vegetarian’s best friend. It has distinctive, flavorful dishes, many of which are already veggie-friendly or are easily made so! If you’ve never experienced any sort of Indian food, this dish is a great way to get your feet wet and see what you think.  Aloo Gobi, or Spiced Cauliflower and Potatoes, is one of my favorites and I had to try and remake my Indian restaurant staple. The recipe comes out of the great cookbook “Entice with Spice – Easy Indian Recipes for Busy People” by Shubhra Ramineni. I highly recommend this cookbook because it explains a lot about Indian cuisine and the methods behind their preparation. The author brings in personal experience from growing up surrounded by the food and breaks down a seemingly complex dish into feasible steps. I’ve always been somewhat intimidated by preparing Indian food, but with the right spices, it’s pretty simple! I grabbed this book off the shelf at the library :)

As a side to this dish, I quickly made some Flaky Wheat Breads (or, Sada Paratha). So easy! Basically, they’re just pan-fried flatbreads that are great to balance the spiciness of Indian food. Though, naan is far superior, but I don’t have a wood oven to make them in…yet…

Since I can’t post the recipe from the book I used, I recommend this Aloo Gobi recipe from Food.com. Pretty similar to the one I followed, but I did add whole garlic cloves, used FRESH heirloom beefsteak tomatoes (amazing) and ginger powder. To cut down on cooking time, I recommend boiling the potatoes a bit before throwing them in the skillet with everything else. It takes much longer for them to cook in the skillet. Also, fresh coriander = CILANTRO! Yum.

My next move into Indian cuisine will be Chana Saag! I had some at the Blues & Brews Festival this weekend and oh, it was soooo goooooood. A mixture of spicy, creamy spinach and garbanzo beans! Might have to make some chapati too…I’m hungry again.

French Bread / Grilled Vegetable & Pesto Paninis

11 Aug

Ah, the beloved crusty french bread. A seemingly difficult task to recreate this fluffy/crispy dichotomy, it turns out to be a rather simple recipe with a few basic ingredients. When I stumbled across this recipe at “Gourmet Mom On the Go”, I immediately knew I had to try it. Such an easy approach to making something I would typically buy in the store. I pretty much followed her recipe exactly, except I made it even easier…by utilizing by bread maker. Lazy lazy, I know, but it got the job done without me worrying if I had killed the yeast! I also didn’t roll the dough out like she did…I just kind of blobbed it together until it was a nice shape. Sidenote: shape it into a boule and you have an AWESOME breadbowl for a hearty soup! Might have to try this in the winter… This bread was perfect for what I had in mind for dinner: PANINIS!

We’re getting to that awkward point in the week where it’s too soon to go to the grocery, yet you have to use some creativity to figure something out for dinner. Zucchini squash, heirloom beefsteak tomatoes, bell peppers, and a quick spinach pesto make these hearty paninis. The squash and bell peppers were tossed in some olive oil + salt/pepper and grilled for a few minutes. I whipped up the spinach pesto using a couple handfuls of fresh baby spinach (feel free to sub some fresh basil in there), walnuts, garlic, salt+pepper, and olive oil. Whizzed it in the VitaMix until pasty and spread it on the sliced french bread. I bought a couple heirloom beefsteak tomatoes the other day from a little farm that’s across the street from the library I work at…in the middle of the neighborhood! Such a neat little farm. The tomatoes tasted SO good fresh, no need to grill or prepare them any other way. Layered the grilled vegetables on top of everything and whipped out the panini press. It’s always nice to kind of feel like you’re justifying having a ridiculous amount of kitchen gadgets by actually using them. If you don’t have a panini press, just make them like you would a grilled cheese. Or even throw them on the grill if you’re looking for those authentic grill lines. Quick and easy dinner using ingredients I already had. Love it.

The bulk of my day tomorrow will play out as such: up early to go to a couple intriguing estate sales to scope out some Pyrex, whip together a fruit salad for a pot luck at work tomorrow, work, rejoice at being one day closer to having the children out of the library and back at school, and finally, come home. Relax. Possibly do something with the butternut squash that’s been sitting on the counter. Perhaps. But now? TO BED!

Seitan (Carne) Asada & Spanish Rice

10 Aug

I always forget to put an apron on. I have a perfectly awesome apron that my mother made just for me! BUT I ALWAYS FORGET TO WEAR IT. My vigorous stirring of Arborio rice left me with tomato splatter all over my shirt. The things I do for good food!

Seitan is definitely my favorite out of all the meat-alternatives out there. It’s chewy and flavorful, but isn’t soggy and strangely textured like some of those “others” out there (*ahem* tofu). I’ve made it a few times before, but always find it to be an annoying process even though there’s only a few steps involved. There are so many different ways to prepare it and I decided to use the Bible of all the vegan cookbooks: Veganomicon. It’s a basic seitan recipe that you can shape to your own tastes or to match whatever recipe you’ll be using it for. Definitely better than store-bought!

Seitan Recipe (in Veganomicon & The PPK)

The only changes I made to the recipe were spices, in order to complement the carna asada marinade that I would be using for the seitan. I added lots of garlic powder, ketchup, worcestershire sauce, and omitted the lemon juice. Prepared as the recipes states, except I just left my hunk of gluten in one blob instead of dividing into two.  I wanted something that I could make slices out of and felt this was a good approach.

Carne Asada Marinade

Seeing that I was missing quite a few vital ingredients to the carne asada marinade and didn’t feel like meandering to the grocery store, I winged it. I combined elements from recipes on AllRecipes and Simply Recipes to come up with a quasi-carne asada marinade. If you have a reliable and authentic recipe, use that. The marinade I whipped up was great, but needed a bit more spice to it (jalapenos would have solved this problem). Also, I was only able to marinade the seitan, zucchini and bell peppers for an hour. The longer the better! Two very essential ingredients to the marinade (in my humble opinion): fresh garlic cloves and fresh cilantro!

Slice the seitan into long strips and place in non-reactive bowl with sliced zucchini and bell peppers. Pour marinade over and let sit for at least a couple of hours. Fire up the ol’ grill and cook until desired crunchiness in vegetables. Roll in a whole wheat tortilla, drizzle with some leftover marinade and serve with fresh avocado, pico de gallo or spanish rice!

Spanish Rice

When I learned that one of the best ways to prepare rice is to saute it in some garlic and oil before adding water, rice became a whole lot more exciting. For spanish rice, I prepared some arborio rice (the stuff you use for risotto) using a can of unsalted diced tomatoes and low sodium vegetable stock. Towards the end I stirred in more garlic powder, onion powder, cumin and chili powder. Easy! Not particularly authentic, but delicious.

 

Wednesday already? Hard to believe that my classes start in 12 days…and I’m running the Warrior Dash in 11 days…eek! This also means that the kids that incessantly loiter at the library will also be back in school very soon…yeeeeeessssss…! Happy Hump Day, everyone! :) The weekend will be here soon!

Creamy Mushroom Stroganoff with Whole Wheat Noodles

9 Aug


I’ve been meaning to make this dish for about a week now, ever since I bought the mushrooms…last week. These were just on the brink of being too far gone (let’s face it, they probably were past their prime, but we should all take a risk in the name of food every now and then, right?) and I had a hankering for something savory! If you ever make stroganoff or any variation of it, TWO ingredients are truly vital and make this recipe deelish: dry sherry and worcestershire sauce (took way too many tries to spell that right). I was able to whip this dish up in under an hour, which is pretty surprising considering I also made the noodles and cashew cream homemade! I guess it helped that I had another pair of hands helping out :)

This is not a hard recipe, just something that got thrown into a pan, so the measurements aren’t exact! Taste as you go :)

Creamy Mushroom Stroganoff

  • 2 tbsp Canola Oil
  • 2 cups Chopped Baby Bella Mushrooms
  • Whole cloves of garlic (I used about 5, but I adore garlic!)
  • 1/2 cup Chopped Onions (omit if you detest)
  • 2 tbsp All-Purpose Flour
  • 1.5-2 cups of Vegetable Stock (depending on how thick/thin you want your sauce)
  • At least 2 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce (again, taste and repeat)
  • ~1/4 cup Dry Sherry (I just kept dumping more in. Love it.)
  • Salt/pepper to taste
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup of Cashew Cream (recipe below)
  • Parsley for garnish

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat and add garlic cloves (chopped, pressed, whole, whatever you prefer). Add onions and let cook until translucent. Stir in mushrooms, lower the heat and let cook until they’ve softened and smell wonderful. Stir in the all-purpose flour, add vegetable stock and bring to a low boil. Reduce heat and let simmer so all the flavors can begin blending. Add worcestershire sauce and dry sherry. Keep simmering! At this time, I would recommend getting your noodles all boiled and ready! The longer the sauce simmers, the better it tastes and the thicker it will be. Feel free to add other spices of your choosing in, such as onion powder, garlic powder, rosemary, etc. Slowly stir in cashew cream. Taste again, as I decided to add more worcestershire sauce and sherry to the mix after this. Heat thoroughly and pour over pasta noodles! Enjoy!

Cashew Cream

This really isn’t cream, it’s just a thicker version of cashew milk. Soak your raw cashews for a couple hours before making this! You will have some leftover.

  • 1 cup raw cashews, soaked
  • ~3/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 tsp your favorite sweetener (maple syrup, agave, honey, etc)
  • Dash of salt

Place all ingredients into a high quality blender. Start with a little water only, working your way to the desired thickness of the cream that you want. Blend on high for a couple of minutes until very smooth. Cashew cream! Easy.

Notes:

delightful homemade noodles!

  • I think I should try making this with Seitan cutlets or meatballs…or somehow turned this into a baked dish. Intriguing.
  • Seriously. Sherry is a wonderful thing. Once you start cooking with it, you will find ways to work it into other dishes…cooking with (any) wine really adds depth!
  • Any noodle works for this recipe. I just whipped up some half whole wheat/half semolina noodles that I cut into thick strips. Not quite the egg noodle you would typically find with this sort of dish, but still good.

I think I’ve scoped out some very appealing Estate Sales to go to on Friday morning…one of which has vintage Pyrex! Eek! Need to control myself and not start throwing money at people. I love sifting through what other people may see as junk and see what can be found. Treasure is everywhere. It doesn’t help that I just watched a few episodes of “American Pickers”. Those guys find the most bizarre and interesting stuff!  I, too, hope to one day be an eccentric old woman, waving a broomstick, and yelling at people to “get offa mah property” which is covered with antiques. I’m aiming high, that’s for sure. ;)

Grilled Zucchini with Rosemary Risotto & Balsamic Reduction

8 Aug

Late night blogging! I’m much too good at procrastinating. I’m currently lounging on our couch, half-watching the movie Sideways and listening to our ice cream maker churn some coconut milk ice cream. Delightful Monday night, no? Since I get off work so late on Mondays and Wednesdays, I always feel so crunched for time when making dinner, so I try to just whip things up quickly (or if all else fails, LEFTOVERS!)

Tonight’s dinner involved a little to much slaving over a hot stove, but was quite worth it. Arborio rice turned into creamy risotto is one of my favorite sides. I made this with some vegetable stock, cooking sherry (very important!) and rosemary stirred in at the end. A patron at the library came in and gave us a large stash of her homegrown zucchini squash, so I cut them in diagonal, 1/2″ slices, tossed in canola oil + salt + pepper and grilled them for a few minutes each side. Finally, the balsamic reduction. I must admit, I adore balsamic vinegar and always try to find a way to work it into a dish. I’ve never actually made a reduction, but it was easy enough. The only problem? I reduced mine too much! It turned into the texture of taffy. Tasty tasty balsamic taffy. Ah well, live and learn! The reduction was just some balsamic vinegar + maple syrup + onion powder + garlic powder + salt/pepper over medium heat for like 20 minutes. So many sweet, tangy flavors mixed into one dish. Now to find other things to make a balsamic reduction for…

I wandered into the thrift store about two blocks away from I work today and really had to use all my self-control to not buy more Pyrex dishes. I found a bunch of mixing bowls in various patterns (Homestead, Old Orchard and Snowflake patterns). I’m hoping they will still be there on a 50% off day! :)

Oooh, I think it might be time to stir the chocolate chips in to the ice cream…yum!

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