Monday, June 30, 2008

Vegetable Pasta

Ahhh vegetable pasta... the go to meal in my house. Whenever we don't know what to have, the answer is "vegetable pasta??" Great for cleaning out the fridge and using up bits of pasta in the pantry, this meal is versatile, light, comforting, and yummy. It makes great leftovers, and is always a little different. This is what I put in the vegetable pasta tonight, but really, whatever you have is super. This is more of a method, or an idea, than a recipe.

1/2 lbs whole wheat linguine
1 small zucchini, cut into strips
1 medium yellow squash, cut into strips
1 small red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 Asian eggplant, cut into strips
1 broccoli crown, cut into small florettes
5 canned artichoke hearts
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 handful each of fresh parsley and basil
Salt & Pepper to taste

1. Cook the noodles according to package directions, then drain

2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the broccoli and peppers and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes.

3. Add the rest of the vegetables and the garlic. Add a few tbsp of water to the pan and cover. Cook for about another 5 minutes until all the veggies are tender-crisp.

4. Toss the veggies with the cooked pasta. Add in the fresh herbs. Salt and pepper to taste. My bowl, featured above, is also topped with a few quartered pitted Kalamata olives for an extra bit of zing.

Pina Colada Banana Bread

I love bananas when they're solid yellow with a bit of green at the top. I tolerate them when they are all yellow with a few brown spots. Much beyond there all hope is lost for eating outright and their fate is muffins or quickbread. This weekend I was staring at the brown bananas on the counter, and next to it was a container of coconut and a bottle of coconut extract gifted from a friend. I thought "Hmm... if I just had some pineapple I could make pina colada bread..." so when I grocery shopped a got a can, and this is the result! It definitely has a coconutty flavor, and the little pineapple bits are a nice surprise! This is sort of way adapted from the Veganomicon recipe that merged with my Nana's banana bread recipe that merged with my brain.

Pina Colada Banana Bread

2 large super ripe bananas, well mashed
1 8oz can crushed pineapple
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp coconut extract
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground allspice
2 cups flour *
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, mix together the mashed bananas, pineapple, oil, sugar, and extracts.

3. Stir in the dry ingredients until just mixed.

4. Fold in the coconut.

5. Pour batter into a greased loaf pan, smooth the top, and bake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

*I used half white whole wheat and half spelt and it's a wee bit dry. I might go with half something white next time to lighten it a bit.

Dining In/Out

I went to visit my parents and go to a few concerts and celebrate my dad's birthday, so I was out of town for half of June. I was cooking during that time, for parties and family dinners and things, but didn't get too many pictures. I did get a pictures of the meals the boy and I got at Blossom Cafe, a vegan restaurant in NYC. We ordered takeout, and it was really really yummy!!

So here is some food that someone else cooked...

My lunch - "Portabello Panini - Grilled portobello mushroom, zucchini, peppers, and v-soy cheese with spinach walnut pesto on foccacia bread" This was so delicious. The pesto was awesome. I had it with a side of sweet potato fries. My only criticism was that panini is supposed to be PRESSED and it wasn't at all.

The boy's lunch = "Soy Bacon Cheeseburger - Grilled soy burger topped with caramelized onions, v-soy cheese, v-soy bacon, lettuce, and chipotle aioli" He had a side of herbed potato salad. His main criticism was that the description (as above) mentioned neither mushrooms, nor tomatoes, both of which he dislikes. Once picked off, he said it was one of the best burgers he's eaten (and he's an omni! *gasp*)

The dessert! The boy had already taken a bite when I said "NOO! Take a picture first!!" This is a piece of vegan cheesecake. It had the texture more of a Ricotta cheesecake -- obviously from the tofu, but a nice lemony zing and it was SO delicious! It really has me motivated to try and make a vegan cheesecake! Stay tuned...

This wasn't part of my lunch, but Michael Stipe sends his regards. I got to see him both in the pouring rain at Jones Beach and at Madison Square Garden.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Almond Ice Cream with Mixed Berries

The June issue of Vegetarian Times included recipes for "no-cream ice cream" - that is, three recipes for vegan ice cream. I've tried before to modify dairy ice cream recipes to non-dairy, but they never freeze right. I realize there are entire books devoted to this, but I have a limited budget. Last summer I made a lot of sorbets, many of which are vegan to begin with, but when I saw these recipes I got really excited. This recipe is actually a modification on the Peanut Butter Coconut Ice Cream recipe from the magazine (which we also made, and it was delicious). Instead, this is an almond ice cream that I served with mixed berries. It's delicious plain, but the almond flavor is really quite strong, and the sweet/tart berry flavor offsets it beautifully. Though coconut milk is used in this recipe, you don't notice it at all because the almond flavor is so strong. I use a Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker to freeze my ice creams, so freezing times may vary based on your ice cream maker.

Almond Ice Cream with Mixed Berries
1 13.5 oz can light coconut milk (1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup almond butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 cup soy creamer
Mixed berries -- I used strawberries, blueberries, pitted cherries, and raspberries

1. In a blender, puree all the ingredients. Chill the pureed mixture in the fridge until very, very cold.

2. Freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions. For the Cuisinart, it takes about 25-30 minutes to get as firm as it's going to get. Serve immediately, or put it in the freezer for 2 hrs to let it get firmer. Serve with fresh berries.

Vegetable Phyllo Roll

I really enjoy phyllo dough. Once you get used to working with these paper thin sheets of dough, it isn't that scary. I find an olive oil mister is very useful to spray the sheets as I layer them, but a pastry brush and some oil in a bowl will accomplish the same thing.

This recipe works out well around our house because I put in different veggies for the boy and me, he gets the onions, I get the mushrooms. This time I also threw in a small Japanese eggplant, because I had one. The veggies here are flexible, just try to cut them all in the same julienne. A light marinara sauce pairs well for dipping, and they're even good left over, though the dough will lose it's flakiness. When I make these, I like making a few small rolls to put in my lunchboxes for the week. This is another mystery recipe. I wrote it down from somewhere and I don't know where. Yields 4 rolls.

Vegetable Phyllo Rolls
1 cup thinly sliced onions
1 cup julienned carrots (about 2 carrots)
1 cup thinly sliced red and/or yellow bell pepper (about 1 medium)
1 cup julienned yellow squash and/or zucchini (one small)
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1/4 tsp dried tarragon
1 tbsp chopped fresh basil or 1 tsp dry
salt and pepper to taste
1 box phyllo dough
1 cup bread crumbs
2 tbsp sesame seeds, crushed or run in the food processor a bit + extra whole ones for sprinkling
2 cloves of garlic, pressed
Olive oil as needed for moistening phyllo

1. Sautee the onions over medium heat until soft. Add the carrots, cover and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the peppers and squash, cover and cook another minute. Add the mushrooms, tarragon, and basil, and cook until the mushrooms cook down. Drain any excess liquid off the veggies, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

2. Combine the bread crumbs, garlic, and 2 tbsp of crushed or otherwise broken up sesame seeds

3. Assemble the rolls by laying out 3 sheets of phyllo dough, lightly mist or brush with oil, sprinkle with bread crumbs, and repeat 3 times so you have a total of 12 sheets of phyllo layered.

4. Spread vegetables evenly on the phyllo within 1 inch of all 4 sides. Fold the long edges in, roll up, and lay seam side down on baking sheet (silpat is great here). Brush or mist with more oil, and sprinkle with whole sesame seeds. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes until golden brown.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Gingerbread Cookies

I've been a bad blogger. I started a new job that is sucking my will to live via boredom from the lack of diverse tasks and at the end of the day I just collapse. I have a bunch of things to upload off of my camera, but in the meantime in celebration of summer...


Christmas in June maybe? Ok, gingerbread is not the summeriest food around, but I love it so much, especially REAL honest to goodness gingerbread and not some brown sugar cookie with a bit of cinnamon in it. This gingerbread is full of blackstrap molasses, ground ginger and spices. It's a magic cookie, I think, because when they come out of the oven they are crunchy, but then they sit around for a day and they become soft and chewy. Here they're featured with a maple-cinnamon glaze -- which is just powdered sugar with cinnamon, thinned with maple syrup and rice milk. A nice lemon glaze would make them more summary, if you need an excuse to make Gingerbread in June. This recipe originally came off the internet somewhere and I haven't ever been able to locate it again so I don't have a better source than that.

Gingerbread Cookies
3 cups flour
3/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
12 tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) margarine, slightly soft, cut into 12 pieces
3/4 cup blackstrap molasses
2 tbsp rice milk

[The original recipe recommends doing this either in a food processor or with a stand mixer. I use my stand mixer cause I don't have a food processor... though I'm sure a hand mixer would work just as well. ]

Combine the dry ingredients. Add the margarine and mix/process until it resembles a fine meal (like a pie crust looks before you add the water). Gradually add in the molasses and milk, and mix until thoroughly combined. Split the dough into two pieces and refrigerate 2 hrs or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll the dough out to 1/4" thickness and cut out desired shapes with cookie cutters. Bake for 8-11 minutes until set in center and cookie barely retains imprint with gently touched with fingertip. Let them cool on the cookies sheets for a few minutes before moving them to a wire rack.

Allow the cookies to cool completely before you ice them.