Friday, February 26, 2010

Citrusy sweet potato-carrot soup

This winter, I became mildly obsessed with soup. I’ve cooked more of it than I can possibly post on here; plus, most of it has been extremely simple—random amounts of a dozen or two different vegetables, simmered for an hour in a huge pot of veggie broth and then puréed. I bought Anna Thomas’ book Love Soup to break out of what I perceived as a soup rut, and I totally fell for her homey, cozy recipes. This one’s a gem—it’s warmly spiced, yet sweet, and it even got me to set aside my aversion to oranges/orange juice.

1 large sweet potato
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sea salt, plus more to taste
12 oz. carrots, peeled
6 oz. parsnips, peeled
4 oz. celery root, trimmed and peeled
1 Tbsp agave nectar (or honey)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp coriander seeds, lightly toasted and ground
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
Pinch of cayenne pepper (or hot paprika)
4 cups vegetable broth (OR 4 cups water + 4 tsp homemade vegetable bouillon)
Grated zest of 1 orange
3 Tbsp fresh orange juice
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice, plus more to taste
Chile oil (or fruity olive oil), for serving (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Wash the sweet potato, pierce it a few times with a fork, and roast it on a foil-lined baking sheet until completely soft, about 45 minutes (longer if it’s very large). Allow to cool slightly, then peel.

While the sweet potato is roasting, sauté the onion in the olive oil with a pinch of salt over medium-low heat, stirring often, until it’s softened and browned, at least 20 minutes (longer if needed). Don’t rush it!

Slice the carrots, parsnips, and celery root and combine them in a large soup pot with about 3 cups water, the salt, the agave nectar, and the spices. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce heat to low and simmer the vegetables, covered, until they are completely tender, about 30 minutes. Add the roasted sweet potato and the sautéed onion as soon as they are ready, along with the vegetable broth (or water + bouillon), orange zest, and citrus juices.

Puree the soup in batches in a blender, or with an immersion blender, until completely smooth.
Oh, you haven’t met my Vitamix! Best Christmas present ever. I’ve used it in some way nearly every day since I got it.

Return the soup to the (cleaned) pot, bring it back to a simmer, and taste it. Correct the seasoning with more salt or a little more lemon juice if needed.

Serve with a drizzle of hot chile oil (or fruity olive oil) on top, and perhaps some crusty bread alongside. This soup is so fragrant and flavorful, it made me temporarily not mind that this winter seems to be going on forever.

Yield: 4-6 servings. Per serving (4): 216 calories, 7.4g fat (1g sat), 37.1g carbs, 7g fiber, 3g protein.
Per serving (6): 144 calories, 4.9g fat (.5g sat), 24.7g carbs, 4g fiber, 2g protein.

If you like this, you might also like…
Spiced red lentil soup
Creamy chickpea soup
White bean garlic soup

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Homemade vegetable bouillon

Like many other members of the food blog community, it had never once occurred to me to make homemade vegetable bouillon until I read Heidi’s post about it. Freedom from buying expensive, sodium-packed little cubes (or heavy, wasteful cans) containing unknown ingredients? Brilliant! I only made half a batch, but even this much is going to last me for months.

3.5 oz. / 100g carrots, peeled and chopped
3.5 oz. / 100g fennel bulb, chopped
2.5 oz. / 75g leeks, sliced and well-washed
1.75 oz. / 50g celery root (celeriac), peeled and chopped
1.75 oz. / 50g celery, chopped
1.75 oz. / 50g shallots, peeled
.5 oz. / 15g sun-dried tomatoes
2 garlic cloves
3.5 oz. / 100g fine grain sea salt
1 oz. / 30g cilantro, loosely chopped
.75 oz. / 20 g flat-leaf parsley, loosely chopped

Combine the first eight ingredients (through garlic) in a food processor.

Pulse about twenty times. Add the salt and pulse a few more times. Then add the cilantro and parsley...

...pulse to combine, and then process to a moist paste.

Transfer to a freezer-safe container. You can keep it in the fridge for a few days, then move it to the freezer. To use, mix one teaspoon of the bouillon with 1 cup water, and presto, instant homemade vegetable broth! It doesn’t solidify, so you can use it straight from the freezer. Simple, fresh, economical, and all-natural—you can’t go wrong.

Be sure and come back on Friday to see a delicious soup in which you can put this bouillon to perfect use!

Yield: about 1 3/4 cups. Per 1-tsp. serving: 3 calories, 0g fat (0g sat), .7g carbs, 0g fiber, .1g protein.

Use this in...
Moroccan harira stew
Chickpea lentil slow-cooker stew
White bean garlic soup

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Nutty carob chip cookies

I realize I’ve had a lot of chocolate desserts on this blog lately. This is slightly out of the ordinary, since I wouldn’t even really consider myself "a chocolate person," but I chalk (choc?) it up to the fact that I’m dating a chocolate-lover. Thankfully, said chocolate-lover is also open-minded when it comes to my nuttier (to others) forays into cooking and baking with natural ingredients, so he’s welcomed such sweets as these carob chip cookies from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar.

1/3 cup soymilk
2 Tbsp ground flaxseed
1/2 cup canola oil
1 1/4 cups Sucanat (or other natural sugar)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup roasted carob powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup carob chips
3/4 cup roasted peanuts, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine soymilk, flaxseed, canola oil, Sucanat, and vanilla; whisk until smooth.

Sift in the flour, carob powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

Stir to combine, but don't overmix. Fold in the carob chips and peanuts.

Drop dough in 2-Tbsp balls onto the parchment-lined baking sheets, about two inches apart. Bake 8-10 minutes, remove from the oven, let cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, and then move to a wire rack to cool completely.

I’d never experimented with carob before, and I’m happy to report that I liked it! I found the carob flavor to be very pleasant, and I loved the crackled tops and crunchy nuts. You’re not going to fool anyone into believing these are chocolate, but if you think of them as a separate taste and enjoy them for what they are, I think they’re great. Even my chocolate-lover approved!

Yield: 24 cookies. Per cookie: 167 calories, 9.1g fat (2g sat), 20.3g carbs, 2g fiber, 2.8g protein.

If you like this, you might also like…
Chocolate peanut butter cookies
Choc-oat banana walnut cookies
Chocolate chip cookies

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tofu-veggie breakfast scramble

I admit, this is one of those all-vegan-food-blogs-have-one recipes, but everyone needs a good scrambled tofu in their repertoire. The only way I ever liked eggs was scrambled, but considering I’m a tofu fiend, I find scrambled tofu to be even tastier. There’s also something incomparably satisfying to me about a savory breakfast (I think I eat too much cereal), so this really hit the spot after a hard morning workout.

2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small (or 1/2 medium) onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1/2 celery stalk, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup frozen edamame
1/4 cup frozen corn
5-6 white button mushrooms, sliced
1 pkg. (12-14 oz.) extra-firm tofu
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
Black pepper to taste

Combine the cumin, thyme, turmeric, and salt in a small bowl. Add 3 Tbsp water, mix, and set aside. Heat the oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté for 3 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Add all remaining vegetables...

...and stir to combine.

Break the tofu apart into bite-size pieces, add to the pan, and sauté for about 10 minutes, stirring often. You want to make sure the tofu doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan. It should be at least partially browned, but you don’t need to be too precise about it. Add splashes of water if it does start to stick.

Add the reserved spice mixture and stir to combine. Add the nutritional yeast and pepper. Cook and stir for about 5 more minutes, then serve while still warm.

The spices in this really sing to me (I looove cumin), but you can change them up if you’d like. Same with the veggies; choose your own adventure. Scrambled tofu is a vegan classic; you have to try it at least once!

Yield: 4 servings. Per serving: 175 calories, 9.6g fat (1g sat), 12.5g carbs, 4g fiber, 13.2g protein.

If you like this, you might also like…
Overnight steel-cut oatmeal
Roasted potatoes w/garlic-cumin aioli
Vegan biscuits and gravy

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Nutella-stuffed peanut butter cookies

I love Nutella. I am obsessed with peanut butter. Put them together (or, rather, one inside the other), and what do you get? Hand-held perfection. Truly, there is nothing more I can say. The pictures speak for themselves.

For the cookies:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp ground flaxseed
1/2 cup (1 stick) Earth Balance, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla

For the filling:
1/4 cup Nutella
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
3 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp powdered sugar
1/2 tsp salt

In a small bowl, sift together the flours, baking soda, and salt. In a measuring cup or small bowl, whisk the flaxseed with 3 Tbsp warm water. In a large mixing bowl, combine the margarine and sugars.

Beat at medium speed for 2-3 minutes. Add the flax mixture and beat until well combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat in the peanut butter and vanilla.

Add the flour mixture a little bit at a time, beating until all the flour streaks are gone (do not overmix).

Cover and refrigerate while you make the filling.

Combine all filling ingredients in a large bowl and beat well.

You should be able to easily roll the filling into balls. If it’s too sticky, add more powdered sugar. Set aside until ready to use.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease two baking sheets or line with parchment paper. Divide the chilled cookie dough into 1-Tbsp portions and roll into balls.

Flatten out two balls of dough at a time. Roll about 1 tsp of the Nutella dough into a smaller ball, flatten, and place on top of one round of dough.

Cover with the other round of dough, pinch edges to seal, and roll gingerly into a ball again. Repeat with all dough (you may have some filling left over) and place balls onto the baking sheet.

Gently press down on the cookies to flatten slightly. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or just until the edges are golden. Let cool for 2 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

WONDERFUL. Please do yourself a favor and make make MAKE these!

Yield: 20 cookies. Per cookie: 203 calories, 10.7g fat (3g sat), 23.6g carbs, 2g fiber, 3.5g protein.

If you like this, you might also like...
No-bake PB-choc-oat cookies
Chocolate peanut butter cookies
Peanut butter bliss cake

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Vegan Italian Valentine feast

Here's a peek at the dinner I made for my Valentine...

Spaghetti with vodka marinara sauce (which I will remake and blog about at some point), steamed broccoli, from-scratch garlic flatbread, and a Piemonte Barbera red wine. Pretty perfect.

Hannah Kaminsky (a.k.a. Bittersweet)'s famous Mocha Devastation Cake. Absolute fattiest and most caloric thing I have ever made in my life. Needless to say, it was a hit.

Mocha Devastation Cake = two layers of dense chocolate cake sandwiching a rich coffee buttercream frosting, enrobed in a thick dark chocolate ganache and ringed with crushed chocolate-covered espresso beans. Life is good.

Happy V-Day, everyone!

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Monday, February 8, 2010

Cauliflower-chickpea tagine

Among the recent proliferation of vegan food bloggers’ cookbooks, my favorite is that of Urban Vegan Dynise Balcavage. I’ve already made eight of her recipes since getting the book a few weeks ago, and I have a couple dozen more marked down to try. Both her writing style and her ethnic food sensibilities are reminiscient of my own, so it’s been a joy to read her cookbook like a novel (I tend to do that). This is my adaptation of Dynise’s cauliflower-chickpea tagine, a simple but elegant Moroccan dish perfect for a cold winter weeknight.

(As the tagine simmers, be sure to cook up some whole wheat couscous to serve with it. Bring 1 1/4 cups water to a boil with a pinch of salt and a dash of olive oil. Remove from the heat, add 1 cup couscous, cover the pan, and set aside for 5 minutes. Uncover, fluff with a fork, and serve.)

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 large head cauliflower, broken into florets
1/2 cup white button mushrooms, thinly sliced
3 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 stalk celery, diced
15-oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
15-oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 cup vegetable broth
1/4 cup golden raisins
1 cinnamon stick
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp harissa (optional)
1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds

In a large pot, sauté the onion in the olive oil over medium heat until translucent. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute. If necessary, add a pinch of salt to slow down the cooking.

Add all remaining ingredients except the almonds...

...and stir to combine.

Bring to a boil, then turn heat to low and simmer, covered, for about an hour, or until vegetables are tender.

Serve with cooked whole wheat couscous and top with almonds before eating. The cauliflower breaks down and absorbs the aromatic spices, and the golden raisins and hint of cinnamon are a sweet complement to the more piquant flavors of the dish. It manages to be both exotic and homey at the same time. I loved it!

Yield: 5 servings. Per serving (without couscous): 253 calories, 6.5g fat (.5g sat), 43.9g carbs, 11g fiber, 9.5g protein.

If you like this, you might also like…
Moroccan harira stew
Chickpea lentil slow-cooker stew
5-minute chickpea couscous

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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Chocolate banana bread

No wordy intro for this one, folks. This sweet bread is another holdover from before Europe, and its entire raison d'être was simply that I was craving chocolate + bananas at the time. I modified the recipe from Veganomicon to produce this lighter, lower-fat loaf that’s perfect for breakfast, snacktime, or dessert.

2 large ripe bananas, well mashed
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup sugar
2T molasses
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp instant coffee granules
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9x5-inch loaf pan. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the mashed bananas, applesauce, oil, sugar, and molasses.

Sift in the flour, cocoa, coffee, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.

Use a wooden spoon to fold the wet and dry ingredients together until just combined (do not overmix), then gently fold in the chocolate chips. You can use semisweet, milk, white, swirled, or just about any type of chip you please.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan...

...and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Invert onto a cooling rack, then flip the bread right side up and let cool completely before slicing. I like to cut it into bite-size pieces for easy snacking. I must say, I still like my peanut butter banana bread better, but if you’re seeking the classic combo of chocolate + banana, this quick bread hits the spot.

Yield: 1 loaf (12 slices). Per slice: 205 calories, 7.3g fat (2g sat), 35g carbs, 3g fiber, 2.7g protein.

If you like this, you might also like…
PB–banana "Elvis" cupcakes
Choc-oat banana walnut cookies
Peanut butter banana bread

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Monday, February 1, 2010

Overnight steel-cut oatmeal

I’m going to step away from my blogging backlog for a moment and present to you something not from last year, but from last night. I want to post this while there’s still plenty of cold-weather time left in the winter, so that you can enjoy this on a few upcoming chilly mornings.

Oatmeal! What could be simpler, right? Well, unless you have 30+ minutes free to prepare breakfast on weekday mornings (and if so, lucky you), you probably don’t get to enjoy steel-cut oatmeal very often, if at all. Steel-cut oats are toasted oat groats (the inner part of the oat kernel) that have been removed from the husk and cut by steel into two or three pieces, rather than being rolled. This means they are less processed than old-fashioned or quick oats, which is beneficial in a number of ways. The texture is better, for one—steel-cut oats are chewier and nuttier than rolled oats. As such, they are heartier and more substantial, thanks to the higher concentration of complex carbs (which are soluble-fiber-ful and therefore heart-healthy!). Not only will they keep you fuller longer, but they have a lower glycemic index than regular oats (42 vs. 66, respectively), so your blood sugar will stay steady.

The only bad part? They take forever to cook. This is easily remedied, though, with a slow cooker and a little advanced preparation. Substitute any nuts or dried fruits you want; I just used what I had in my pantry.

2 cups steel-cut oats
7 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup soymilk (vanilla or plain)
1/4 cup maple syrup
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup pecans, chopped
1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/4 cup dried cherries, chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup dried blueberries
1/4 cup golden raisins
2 Tbsp ground flaxseed

The night before, gather your ingredients. Chop the pecans, apricots, and cherries. Set everything aside for the next morning.

Line a 5-6 quart slow cooker with a plastic liner (highly recommended!) and spray the inside generously with cooking spray. (Alternatively, just spray the slow cooker bowl itself very very well with cooking spray.) Add the oats, water, soymilk, maple syrup, and salt. Stir to combine.

Cover and cook on low for 8 hours overnight. My slow cooker automatically switches to warm after a set number of hours, but if yours doesn’t, it won’t hurt if you cook it a little beyond the 8 hours.

The next morning, uncover and add all remaining ingredients.

Stir to combine, re-cover, and cook on low for another 10-20 minutes.

I enjoyed mine this morning with an additional splash of vanilla soymilk and an extra glug of maple syrup. Again, customize to your heart’s content—use agave nectar or brown sugar in place of maple syrup, include diced apples and ground cinnamon instead of the dried fruit, or pump it up even further with a scoop of protein powder. This is an energizing, stick-to-your-ribs, power-packed breakfast if there ever was one!

Yield: 8 servings. Per serving: 274 calories, 6g fat (.5g sat), 53.1g carbs, 6g fiber, 7.6g protein.

If you like this, you might also like…
Blueberry cornbread muffins
Very berry "green" smoothie
Oat crumble jam bars

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