Monday, March 30, 2009

(Overdue) February leftovers

Here's a heavily procrastinated post about some restaurant meals and random foods I enjoyed last month. First off, I made my homestyle blueberry cobbler in my favorite variation: using blackberries instead.

It turned out lovely, as always. The recipe truly seems to be foolproof. I still haven't tried making it with coconut oil, as was suggested to me, but I hope to test that out this summer.

Here's a simple, delicious pasta from Zio's: whole wheat penne with marinara and broccoli.

Next, I ate at my favorite restaurant ever, Genghis Khan. I can't believe I hadn't been there since the day of my marathon. It's practically a crime to go that long without my Mongolian barbecued awesomeness.

Nick even ate vegan there too.

After an 8-mile run on a Friday night, I savored this hummus plate at Daily Dose, a nearby coffee shop/bar/hangout.

On Valentine's Day, I went out with my friends Brian and Brandon to Fortune Wok. We shared this ridiculously huge fruity drink (soy sauce shown for scale) made of pineapple juice and several different liquors. You can't see it in the picture, but the center of the thing even had a little fire lit in it.

I got the tofu and mixed vegetables in something-or-other sauce, and it did not disappoint.

Several friends and I ate at Paradise India, a newer Indian restaurant in the area. Here's my aloo gobi (at the bottom), along with Henry's chana masala and Tyler's dal makhani, plus fluffy basmati rice and a nice big basket of pillowy naan. Drool.

Speaking of naan, I always make sure to take at least half of one home with me for breakfast the next day. Breakfast, you say? Yes indeed, thanks to Cosmic Café in Dallas, I was introduced to the wonders of naan as a palette for sweet ingredients. My simpler variation of the Cosmic Café dessert is to slather the naan with peanut butter (cinnamon raisin is great here), top with sliced bananas, and drizzle with honey or agave nectar. I call it a naanwich. It makes a fantastic sweet-and-salty breakfast on the run.

Past leftovers...

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Indian spice hummus

Can you believe that for all the chickpea adoration and hummus exaltation this blog is packed with, I have never posted a recipe for hummus? Me neither. Clearly it’s time.

Needless to say, there are practically an infinite number of ways to prepare hummus. Not only can the base ingredients be altered a bit, but you can make it any flavor under the sun. Plain, garlic, olive, roasted red pepper, sun-dried tomato, chile pepper, the list goes on. You can also craft hummus with the essences of many different regions’ cuisines—Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, Greek, Egyptian, Spanish, Moroccan, you name it. This is my favorite type to make, a vibrant golden hummus infused with the opulent spices of India.

1 can chickpeas, drained
2-3 cloves garlic
2T lemon juice
3T tahini
1T curry powder
1 tsp cumin seed, or 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper, optional
Salt to taste

Put the chickpeas, garlic, and lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor.

Pulse to combine. Turn on the food processor, stream in 1/4 cup cold water, and blend until semi-smooth. Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add the tahini and all the spices (but no salt). If you’ve never tried it, I recommend picking up some Madras curry powder. It’s so much more aromatic and deeply flavored than supermarket varieties.

Pulse together. Turn the processor back on and stream in another 1/4 cup or so of cold water as it’s running. Stop and scrape down the sides again, then turn back on and purée for at least 3 minutes. Yes, it’s a long time, but trust me. After that, give it a taste, then add salt to your liking (I usually put in about a teaspoon) and purée for another 30 seconds.

Transfer the hummus to a bowl or container and refrigerate for at least one hour, or overnight. The longer it sits, the more intense the flavors become—and that's a good thing. The fragrant spices are enhanced by the punch of garlic and the mellow tahini in the background. Garnish it with a sprinkle of paprika and a drizzle of olive oil if you like. This may be the first hummus recipe I've posted, but it will not be the last.

Yield: about 2 cups. Per 1/4 cup: 96 calories, 4g fat (trace sat), 13g carbs, 3g fiber, 4g protein.

If you like this, you might also like...
Tuscan white bean dip

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Dal makhani: a refresher

As you may or may not remember, my friend Henry and I took a vegetarian Indian cooking class last October, where we learned to make vegetable kofta curry, palak paneer, mango chutney, and one of our favorite Indian dishes ever, dal makhani. In December, we revisited those recipes and made kofta curry and dal makhani for ourselves and Tyler. Recently, I made dal makhani myself at home, and (as is my tendency) I made the recipe healthier and a bit more accessible. Since, as you know, I don’t mind having tons of leftovers, I made a biiig batch, with a full pound of lentils. Don’t be dismayed by its large size, though—it keeps extremely well, and it tastes even better the next day.

1 lb lentils
2T corn or canola oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1T minced garlic, or garlic paste
1T minced ginger, or ginger paste
1 large onion, diced
1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
10-oz. can diced tomatoes w/green chiles (like Ro-Tel)
8-oz. can tomato sauce
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp coriander
Salt to taste
Cilantro, chopped

Rinse the lentils and pick out any bad ones. In an extra-large saucepan, submerge them in 8 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring regularly. Drain in a colander when done. While the lentils are working, cook yourself some rice. I like brown basmati with homemade Indian food, but feel free to use whatever you have.

In another large saucepan (or just wait until the lentils are done and use the same one), heat the oil over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds, garlic, and ginger, and cook and stir for 30 seconds. Add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes, until translucent. Add the diced tomatoes, with their juice, and cook and stir for 5 more minutes.

Add the tomato sauce, then the garam masala, chili powder, turmeric, and coriander.

Gently stir in the kidney beans, then the lentils.

Add water until it reaches a thick but saucy consistency. Season with salt to taste. If you want to make it a little richer, you can mix in 2-4T of Earth Balance (or ghee, if you're so inclined) at the end. "Makhani" does mean "butter," after all, but I find it’s just as good without it.

Spoon up some rice, top it with a nice big scoop of the dal, and crown it with a sprinkle of cilantro. It’s super thick and hearty, with a robust balance of spices. I’m not a fan of traditional comfort food, so I prefer to say farewell to winter with something still warm and soothing, but a little more exotic—this fits the bill perfectly.

Yield: 8 servings. Per serving, without rice: 300 calories, 5g fat (trace sat), 48g carbs, 21g fiber, 18g protein.

If you like this, you might also like...
Tofu makhani curry
A vegan taste of India
Indian curried lentils

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Cookies ’n cream cupcakes, take 2

As promised, here is part two of my Oreo cupcake saga. Chocoholics may rejoice, as these are the dark counterpoint to last week’s vanilla-y version. I found the recipe here, but it’s actually from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World (which I don’t have; sadness). This batch is much fluffier and cakier than the last, so if you’re looking for typical cupcake texture, these are the cakes for you. As an added bonus, thanks to some simple modification, they’re also nutritionally lighter than the first batch.

1 cup vanilla soymilk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar
Heaping 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1T canola oil
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
8 Oreos/Hydrox/Newman O’s, crushed

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners (they are necessary with this batch). In a large bowl, combine the soymilk and vinegar and set aside for a few minutes to curdle. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add the sugar, applesauce, oil, and vanilla to the soymilk...

...and mix at low speed until the sugar is dissolved. With the mixer still on low, add the flour mixture in batches until just combined. Stir in the crushed cookies.

Fill the muffin cups 2/3 full.

Bake for 18 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Let cool in the pan for a few minutes, then cool completely on a wire rack. Frost as desired.

These cupcakes could not be more different, texturally, from the batch before. Where the first ones were crumbly-but-creamy, these are pillowy and lightly moist. The chocolate flavor is very present, but not overwhelming. You can’t taste the Oreo as much as you can in the first batch since the cake itself is chocolate, but you can coax it out a little more by topping them with some vanilla frosting, homemade or storebought, with more crushed Oreos mixed in. In my experience, lighter-consistency cakes are somehow the worst for you, but the stats on these are unexpectedly low. In this cookies ‘n cream cupcake showdown, these babies emerge the winners.

Yield: 12 cupcakes. Per cupcake: 162 calories, 4g fat (1g sat), 31g carbs, 3g fiber, 3g protein.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Cookies 'n cream cupcakes, take 1

I’ve had "Oreo cupcakes" written on my to-bake list for quite awhile. I’d been eyeing this recipe on Baking Bites that looked pretty straightforward to veganize, and I finally made them last week. For a couple reasons, though, I made another batch this week, using a different recipe. First of all, I still had most of a package of Hydrox left (hell yeah, Hydrox! How old school am I?) and wanted to prevent myself from snacking on them. Secondly, there was something about the cupcakes in this first batch that wasn’t, well, cupcakey. The batter was super-thick, and they came out dense and almost muffin-like in texture. Don’t get me wrong—they were absolutely delicious, and the Oreo/Hydrox flavor came through brilliantly, giving them a kind of creamy mouthfeel—but I wanted try a more cupcakey recipe. The second batch tasted so different from this one that it deserves its own post (so stay tuned!), but both versions are definitely worth sharing, and making.

1 cup + 2T whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) Earth Balance
1 tsp vanilla
1 Ener-G egg
1/4 cup + 2T soymilk
8 Oreos/Hydrox/Newman O’s

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 10 cups of a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners (or just grease with cooking spray—I found out this recipe doesn’t really require the paper cups). In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, cream together the sugar and the Earth Balance until light and fluffy.

Beat in the vanilla, then beat in the Ener-G egg. Working in 4 or 5 batches, alternately add the flour mixture and the soymilk to the sugar mixture, keeping the mixer on low speed, until just combined.

Put the Oreos/Hydrox/Newman O’s in a small ziploc bag and crush with a rolling pin. (Some of these types of cookies are vegan, some aren’t quite, so seek out the fully vegan ones if it’s important to you.) It’s ok if there are some medium-sized chunks left, but you want most of it to be crumbly.

Stir the crushed cookies into the batter.

Spoon the batter evenly into the muffin tin, filling each about 2/3 full. This batter was so thick that I actually used an ice cream scoop to spoon it in. It was not enough for 12 cupcakes, as I had expected, so I only made 10. If I were to do it again, though, I’d make just 8, because even the 10 were very small. But oh well, it’s not like portion control is a bad thing.

(Does that not look like little scoops of cookies 'n cream ice cream?) Bake for 15-18 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean besides maybe a few chocolate cookie crumbs.

Let cool in the pan for a few minutes, then cool completely on a wire rack.

The muffiny texture of these cupcakes actually serves them well. They’re sweet enough that they don’t really need frosting; a simple glaze (with some finely crushed Oreos mixed in) will do. The filling from the cookies dissolves into the cakes as they bake, but stays very detectable, rendering each bite melt-in-your-mouth creamy. The puzzling consistency of these cupcakes is actually the most enjoyable part, and it puts them in a class all their own.

Yield: 10 cupcakes. Per cupcake: 200 calories, 7g fat (2g sat), 33g carbs, 2g fiber, 3g protein.

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Monday, March 9, 2009

Whole wheat beer bread

To celebrate the birthday I mentioned in the last entry, my friends and I rented a party bus the Saturday before last. After feasting on the cake (it was a hit!), 20+ people set out and spent the night riding around town in a big old school bus with half a liquor store’s worth of alcohol. We all know what happens when folks get intoxicated (well, one thing)—they get hungry. I planned ahead for this. I wanted something that was portable and carby. Bread requires no utensils and can be eaten out-of-hand with little mess, and it’s about as carby as it gets. But I wasn’t going to make just any bread—I was going to make the bread most fitting for the occasion and setting.

BEER BREAD! I fell in love with this stuff at the various holiday fairs my mom and I attend in the winter, where you go around to different booths with people selling their wares. The food booths are the best, of course, and at almost all of the dip booths, they have cubed beer bread sitting out to dip with. I was rather shocked to like it so much, since I detest beer. What’s great about it, though, is that the alcohol and beeriness (not a word, I know) cooks out and what’s left behind is the magnificent flavor and aroma of yeast—and in a quick bread! It’s so simple to make, and it makes your house smell superb. Although you can technically use any kind of beer you like (a lot of people like it with Guinness), I think that wheat beers are the tastiest choice.

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3T sugar
4 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
12-oz. bottle of beer
2T Earth Balance, melted, or olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9x5-inch loaf pan. Combine the flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Slowly pour in the beer...

...because it’ll bubble up and fizz like crazy.

Fold the mixture together with a spatula until just combined.

Plop the dough into the loaf pan, and bake for 50-60 minutes, until golden brown.

Brush the melted Earth Balance or olive oil all over the top of the loaf. This is probably the only time you will ever hear me say this, but I’d recommend EB over olive oil. There’s just something about this bread that cries out for a sweet, buttery finish. You could also mix together 1T EB with 1T olive oil; that’s actually what I did this time and it worked great.

Transfer to a wire rack after a few minutes, and allow to cool completely. Use a bread knife to slice it up. The top will have a great crunch, and the inside will be crumbly and soft.

The slices are wonderful toasted and slathered with Earth Balance or peanut butter, or just eaten as-is. Since I was feeding a crowd, I cut the slices into bite-size pieces. This is also great if you plan to serve it with a dip of some sort. I’m thinking it would make a killer stuffing or savory bread pudding, too. I bet you could even make croutons out of it, or a very unique panzanella salad. Sandwich people could probably also come up with some great uses. Let me know if you try it, and how you ate it!

Yield: 12 slices. Per slice: 145 calories, 3g fat (1g sat), 26g carbs, 4g fiber, 4g protein.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Crème-filled German chocolate upside-down cake

Yes, I realize I just did an upside-down cake, but while that one is classic and traditional, this is a very unconventional take on a well-known and -loved cake. German chocolate may not have anything to do with Germany (it was named after a Mr. Samuel German), but it can’t be a coincidence that my family is a GCC-loving clan. For just a few moments, though, suspend your preconceived notions of German chocolate cake, and try my interpretation on for size. The recipe is one I found a long time ago in Taste of Home. It’s unique, unexpected, and it veganizes surprisingly easily.

This is one of my three favorite cakes of all time (you’ll find out in due time what the other two are) and while it’s one of the most caloric desserts I’ve got on here, it’s well worth a splurge. You can use the excuse that I did, and make it for a friend’s birthday.

1 1/3 cups sweetened flaked coconut
1 cup chopped pecans
1 pkg German chocolate cake mix
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1T canola oil
1 Ener-G egg
1/2 block firm silken tofu, like Mori-Nu
1 pkg vegan cream cheese, like Tofutti, softened
1/2 cup Earth Balance, softened
4 cups powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle the coconut and pecans evenly into a greased and floured 13x9-inch baking pan.

In a blender, combine 2/3 of the tofu with the applesauce, canola oil, Ener-G egg, and however much water your cake mix calls for (probably 1 1/4 cup) and process until completely smooth. At this point, my blender was already dirty, so I decided to try something weird and make the whole cake in there. It worked! So, you can transfer the mixture to a large bowl and break out a whisk or hand mixer, or you can just dump the cake mix right into the blender.

Blend for about 2 minutes, then carefully pour the batter over the coconut and pecan mixture in the pan.

Set that aside, and clean out your blender (take this opportunity to taste the batter, ohh it’s good). Set the blender back up and process together the cream cheese and Earth Balance. (I have a good feeling coconut oil could work here as well.) Add the remainder of the tofu and blend again.

Add the sugar a cup at a time, blending until completely smooth. Carefully drizzle the mixture evenly over the batter in the pan

Make sure it goes all the way to the edges. You’re probably wondering why we’re putting frosting on the bottom of an upside-down cake, but just you wait.

Bake for 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Check out what happens in the oven—the rich, weighty frosting sinks halfway down into the cake, et voilà, instant crème filling!

Cool the cake for 10-15 minutes, then invert onto a serving plate or, in my case, a parchment-lined baking sheet. Before you say anything, yes, I admit I nibbled on one of the corners as the cake cooled. I just couldn’t wait. Only when I flipped the cake did I realize I couldn’t hide it in the picture, heh. Sorry.

Is that beautiful/amazing/mouthwatering/insert-yummy-adjective here, or what?! The coconut and pecans toast all on their own against the bottom of the pan, and lend the cake a pleasant crunch and chew. The cake part is kept super-moist by the applesauce and tofu, and the filling—oh, that filling! Super-sweet and rich, but with just the right amount of tang from the cream cheese. With every bite you sink your fork into, that gorgeous crème will ooze out to greet you. When you combine it all in your mouth, you'll experience the gustatory fireworks that only a treat as hedonistic and indulgent as this can bring.

I really wish this last picture weren’t blurry, but maybe that’s a sign that you need to just go bake this cake yourself. Because you do. Oh, you do.

Yield: 20 slices. Per slice: 337 calories, 14.4g fat (4.8g sat), 50.8g carbs, 2g fiber, 2.2g protein.

If you like this, you might also like...
Deep chocolate bundt cake
Peanut butter bliss cake

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