Thyme-Roasted Grapes and Cheese on Grilled Bread

IMG_1668     Thyme-Roasted Grapes and Cheese on Grilled Bread is one of those recipes that’s almost too good to be true.  Quick, easy, elegant and especially delicious.  The earliest origin of roasted grapes I could find online was around 2004.  Here, we’re using vegan cheese, because nobody has to die so we can have really good food.  Having a sweet, salty, creamy and crunchy appetizer is wonderful, but knowing it’s also good for your body and the planet and the animals is priceless!

THYME ROASTED GRAPES AND CHEESE ON GRILLED BREAD

Makes enough for 2 to 4 people, for appetizers

INGREDIENTS
1 lb. seedless red grapes
2 ciabatta loaves, or a baguette
1 Tablespoon olive oil
3/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
leaves from 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
spreadable vegan cheese, such as Kite Hill Cream Cheese Style Spread.  Or, Miyoko’s CreameryTreeline, etc.   Or even just Tofutti Cream Cheese (non-hydrogenated).  Any of them should work.

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit (218 Celsius).  Line baking dish with parchment paper.  In a mixing bowl, place grapes, olive oil, sea salt and thyme, and fold gently with a wooden spoon to coat the grapes.  Tip ingredients into prepared baking dish and roast for 15 minutes or so, until grapes are a bit shriveled but still juicy.  Set aside.  Also set out your vegan cheese so it can warm up a bit while you prepare the toasts.

Slice ciabatta loaves in half the long way so you wind up with two wide/flat paddles, or if using a baguette, slice into rounds.  If grilling, brush bread with olive oil on both sides.  If baking in oven, brush oil on just the cut sides.  Grill bread 1 to 2 minutes per side–do not walk away, as it can burn quickly.  If baking bread, have oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 Celsius) and bake for about 7 minutes, keeping an eye on it.  Smear bread with vegan cheese and garnish with thyme-roasted grapes.  Serve.

Notes:  If using a good nut cheese, this can easily be a main meal, especially if served with a salad.  I used the Kite Hill Cream Cheese Style Spread (made from almond milk) in the Chive flavor.

Anti-Aging Smoothie with Red Grapes and White Mulberries

IMG_1653     Right now, organic grapes are plentiful and so I bought a bunch on sale.  Froze half of them and this resveratrol-bomb smoothie was born.  It has the summery grape flavor I loved as a kid, when I would eat grape popsicles and grape slushies.  This is natural, bright grape flavor in a delicious treat that makes a healthy breakfast too.  Red grape skins contain resveratrol, and so do the white mulberries.  Maqui powder is made from berries that have the most antioxidants of any fruit ever tested to date.  The grapes are naturally sweet, but if you’ve got a sweet tooth, I threw in an optional Medjool date.

ANTI-AGING SMOOTHIE WITH RED GRAPES AND WHITE MULBERRIES

Makes 1 medium smoothie or two small smoothies

INGREDIENTS
1 Cup frozen red grapes
1/4 Cup dried white mulberries
1 teaspoon freeze-dried maqui powder
1 Medjool date, pit removed (optional)
1/2 Cup coconut water
2 two-inch pieces frozen banana
1 Cup ice

DIRECTIONS
Blend everything but the ice.  Add ice and blend again until smooth.

Notes:  This is also good with granola sprinkled on top. If you don’t have a high-speed blender, you can put the coconut water, mulberries and date in the blender and let it sit for 5 minutes, to soften the ingredients.  Don’t let it sit longer than 5 minutes, or the mulberries will thicken too much.  As with chia seeds, smoothies that contain mulberries should be consumed within an hour for the best texture.  Grapes are part of the Dirty Dozen and can have up to 50 pesticides, so organic is best.  Wash and dry your grapes and freeze them on a dinner plate before putting them in container(s).

Vegan Hollandaise using The Vegg

IMG_0420    This quick and easy vegan Hollandaise Sauce kind of blew my mind–it was so authentically good.  I put it on asparagus, and made vegan Eggs Benedict with it, but I can see where it would be good on a variety of vegetables, or just to dip toast points in.  You whip this up in the blender–so much easier than traditional Hollandaise, and cruelty free!    p.s. This is cholesterol-free too.

VEGAN HOLLANDAISE SAUCE USING THE VEGG

Makes approximately 2 Cups

INGREDIENTS
2 Tablespoons of The Vegg powder
1/4 Cup Earth Balance Buttery Sticks, melted
1/4 Cup Reduced Fat Vegenaise
3 Tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons lemon juice
1.5 Cups to 2 Cups hot water (not boiling)
1/8 teaspoon Dijon mustard
pinch cayenne, or 1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper (optional)

DIRECTIONS
Into a blender, put 1.5 Cups of the hot water and The Vegg powder and blend until smooth.  Add in all other ingredients except the vegan butter, and blend again.  Melt butter in microwave at 10-second intervals–do not overheat the butter or it might separate.  Slowly add melted butter to blender, and blend again until glossy.  Serve.

If the Hollandaise starts to set up or get too thick, add some of the remaining water, a Tablespoon at a time.  Store in fridge.  To reheat, add a little water, heat and re-blend, or whisk in saucepan.

Notes:  To make vegan Eggs Benedict, extra-firm Silken tofu is good to fry up, as it has the consistency of over-easy eggs.  The Vegg really tastes and looks like egg yolks and even has that slightly-sulfury smell.  Home cooks and chefs all over the world are doing amazing things with The Vegg.  If you don’t have The Vegg, I suppose you could substitute in nutritional yeast and a bit of kala namak (black salt), but I have not tried this yet.  This recipe is adapted from this post and this post.  As I make this in future, I’ll try cutting some fat out of it, and start by reducing 1 Tablespoon of butter and 1 Tablespoon of mayo.  Should be fine.

IMG_0414  I already put this on my Instagram, but will add it here.  I prefer thicker asparagus, but make sure to peel the bottoms of the stalks with a potato peeler to remove stringy texture.  Meaty but tender.

Guatemalan Guacamole

IMG_0398    My friend Florinda is originally from Guatemala, and she taught me how to make this smooth guacamole.  There was no written recipe, just a hands-on lesson in the kitchen.  She had brought us some guacamole one time and I couldn’t put my finger on why it was so good, so I asked her for the recipe.  Instead of writing it down, she showed up at my house with a bag of produce.  Note that there is NO lime or lemon in this recipe, because the natural acidity of the tomatillos helps keep the guacamole from turning brown.

GUATEMALAN GUACAMOLE

Makes approx. 3 Cups

INGREDIENTS
6 raw tomatillos
2 avocados,  at least medium size or a bit larger
1/2 of a small bunch of cilantro, including stems, rinsed
2 jalapenos raw and whole, but stems removed
1/3 small onion
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 Cup plus 2 Tablespoons water

DIRECTIONS
Bring a pot of water to boil.  Peel the papery skins off the tomatillos and rinse the tomatillos to remove any stickiness.   Boil the tomatillos and the jalapenos for three minutes.  Remove them from the pot and set them on a plate to cool.

Remove pits from avocados and reserve one or both pits for the guacamole bowl.  The pit will also help keep the guacamole from turning brown.  In a blender place all the avocado flesh and everything else, and blend just until smooth.  Delicioso!

Notes:  This recipe as written above is exactly how Florinda makes it for her family, including her small children.  However, for our palates, I did remove the seeds from the jalapenos (after boiling them) and I used only 3/4 teaspoon salt.  For another good guacamole recipe, try the chunky Chipotle Restaurant Guacamole also on this site in the Mexican Category.
IMG_0395  This photo is wrong, there is no lime.
IMG_0396  Put the avocado pit in your bowl.  Along with the acidic tomatillos, the pit will help keep the guacamole from turning brown.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

IMG_0384    The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up  by  Marie Kondo is a simple little book, but it can change your life.  At 224 pages, it doesn’t take long to read, and the language translated from the Japanese is easily understood.  The concepts seem deceptively simple but the impact can be great if one is open to it.    One thing that might seem unusual about Kondo’s methods is the way she acknowledges the spirit of things.  For example, she thanks her clothing when she hangs it up at end of day.  In clearing out clutter, one must hold each object to see if it “sparks joy.”  This might seem strange at first, but Kondo spent 5 years as an attendant maiden at a Shinto shrine, and this may explain the animism in her teachings.  And by holding each object, we get it out from the back of the closet or down from the shelf, and we consider why we acquired it and if we still really want it.  There are some good articles about the KonMari method, like this one in the New York Times, or this one that actually has an excerpt from the book and a little video of Marie Kondo explaining some of her organizing principles.

In America, many of us have so much STUFF that we rent storage units and we don’t know where things are anymore, so we end up buying multiples of things we already own but cannot locate.  Kondo takes exception to all this storage.  It’s one thing to store a bin or two of seasonal clothing, or holiday decorations in the attic, but the level we have taken it to is indicative of issues that need to be resolved.  And after all the clearing out, we can stop paying for things we don’t really need, stop taking care of things we don’t want, and spend more time living.  In one example, a client of Kondo’s cleared out a lot of books and realized that most of the books she had kept were about a particular subject she was passionate about, and so she changed her career.  Another little bit of magic is that supposedly, all the things you really want will fit easily into your living space.  The things that spark joy will be close at hand, respected and available to use and enjoy.

A few weeks ago, after reading Kondo’s book, I didn’t think much about it, but something in my consciousness was unlocked, and I soon got the bug.  Kondo recommends starting with your clothes, so of course I began cleaning out a large filing credenza in my office, getting rid of about 25% of the papers therein.  Then I began going through old Martha Stewart magazines (I no longer subscribe).  I cleared out 40 of them, and went into the attic and brought down the rest and stacked them all in one place.  Then I got rid of 20 more.  This was a bit time consuming, and my husband was now beginning to wonder if everything else was going to fall by the wayside as I continued on my clearing-out spree, so I put that task aside for another time, but at least the magazines are whittled down and now all in one place.  Also, I realized I had a moral obligation to recycle those magazines (not donate them), because they’re full of recipes for dead non-human animals, and so that’s what I did.  One less bin in the attic.

I’ve already returned this book to the library, but from what I can remember, Kondo recommends beginning by clearing out objects you no longer want, because this is the best way to figure out what you need.  And this involves my favorite concept from the book–amassing all like objects in one place first.  My previous method of organizing was to tackle one drawer, or one corner of a closet, etc.  However, the benefit of putting all like objects in one place is so you can SEE how much of that thing you really have.  This in turn influences how willing you will be to let go of things.  One of my best friends recently called me a minimalist.  She will now see this is not true, for I will show you an example of my most-recent lost weekend of organizing.   I decided to tackle socks.  Not my sock drawer, but socks in general, because the truth is that I sort of knew I had socks in various dresser drawers.  I would buy a pack of socks, and decide the seam was too pronounced on the toe, or that I only liked 4 of the colors in a pack of 6 pair, etc.  So, I would put the extra socks in the bottom drawer or something.  This went on for 10 years or so.  I put a clean bed sheet on top of my comforter to create a flat (and conveniently elevated) surface that would show off all the socks for the photo below.  Well, I was shocked to find I had 90 pairs of socks!  After putting some never-worn socks in the donate bag, throwing away any socks that were a bit worn or pilly, and also tossing the singles, I was left with 45 pairs of socks, and this includes footie socks, hiking socks, cotton socks, knit dress socks, etc.  I will not buy socks again for a long time and will throw them away as they wear out, bringing this number down to a more-reasonable level.  Kondo recommends using regular old cardboard shoe boxes to organize, so despite my penchant for fancy storage boxes, that’s what I did.  I also used this video to fold my underwear.  On a roll now, I next tackled all tee shirts, including tanks that I wear as undershirts in winter, and short-sleeve and long-sleeve tees.  Again, I used the handy YouTube videos for folding–this one for short sleeve, and this one for long-sleeve.  Folding is an important part of the KonMari process, you see, and I am now a Konvert.  See last photo below for tee-shirt drawer results.  Since my tee shirts had been hanging in closets, folded into drawers, and mixed in with sweaters, this process led me to organize my sweaters all into one drawer, and switch out my cold-weather clothing for warm-weather clothing.  Even Lars got into the act, and I stopped to help him organize his three big dresser drawers.  In the process of all this, I threw out things like old sachets that had lost their mojo, and 4 decrepit sports bras.  Into the donate bag went two packs of unopened panty hose (shudder) from God-knows-when.  One thing leads to another, in an inspiring way.  Where will it end?  Who knows?  I will give it some thought later, but right now, please excuse me while I go Kondo the coat closet.
IMG_0390  BEFORE
IMG_0392  AFTER, with underwear on the right
IMG_0393  ALL TEE SHIRTS, INCLUDING TANKS on left, SHORT SLEEVES AND LONG SLEEVES.

Grilled Broccolini with Pistachio, Cured Olive, and Preserved Lemon – from the Vedge cookbook

IMG_0374     This Grilled Broccolini with Pistachio, Cured Olive and Preserved Lemon is yet another simple-but-superb dish from the Vedge cookbook.  This dish looks gorgeous and tastes even better.  The slightly-bitter and slightly-crunchy broccolini, bright lemon, salty olives and toothsome, creamy toasted nuts are an amazing combination.  I always have a jar of Preserved Lemons on hand for dishes like this.  I cut the oil in half, and also cut down on the salt, and this dish was still extremely flavorful and luscious.  I just used Trader Joe’s Kalamata olives packed in olive oil, and I found organic Broccolini at Whole Foods in Annapolis.   Whole Foods was also calling it Baby Broccoli, which it is not.  The Broccolini seed was developed in Japan, around 1993, and it’s a vegetable similar to broccoli, and is also called different things in different countries–such as broccolette, broccoletti, bimi, and tenderstem broccoli, among other names.  This was my first time cooking broccolini, but now I can say I prefer it to regular broccoli.  In future, I will slice any thick stems down the middle (the long way), while leaving the florets/head intact, to help the thicker stems cook to the same level as the thinner stems and delicate florets.   This recipe is a bit time-consuming if you prepare it all at once–maybe about 45 minutes.  However, you can prepare any or all of the individual components a day ahead, and then it’s quick to throw together.  I used my Calphalon 12-inch round, nonstick grill pan on top of my electric stove and had great results, but this can also be prepared on the outdoor grill.  You can substitute broccoli rabe if you cannot find the broccolini.    p.s.  Leftovers of this dish are fabulous chopped up and tossed with hot pasta!

Ensalada de Aguacate – Avocado Salad

IMG_0348    I love to order Ensalada de Aguacate (otherwise known as Avocado Salad) at Mexican restaurants.  However, I always wish they were a bit richer in flavor, and less oily.  Keeping the simple, perfect ingredients, the main thing was to create a more-complex vinaigrette.  After a few attempts, here’s my latest obsession.

ENSALADA de AGUACATE   (Avocado Salad)

Makes enough for three or four side salads.

INGREDIENTS
1 small head iceberg lettuce
2 Hass avocados, ripe but not mushy
1/4 red onion, diced
1 medium garlic clove, pressed,  or smashed and chopped finely
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 Tablespoon cooking sherry
1/4 teaspoon smooth stone-ground mustard
1/8 teaspoon ground Cumin
1/2 teaspoon cane sugar
1/2 teaspoon scant fine sea salt  (if regular salt, use a bit less)
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
(if tomatoes are in season and really good, they can be cut into chunks and added)

DIRECTIONS
In a medium non-metal bowl, place garlic, oil, lime juice, sherry, mustard, cumin, sugar, salt and pepper.  Whisk until well blended.  Add diced onions to this vinaigrette, stir and set aside for the sugar and salt to further dissolve while you work.  The onion will do a quick “pickle” in the vinaigrette.

Wash, dry and chop enough lettuce into shreds.  Cover and protect shredded lettuce with a dish towel and set in fridge to prevent wilting.  When ready to serve, peel, pit and do a larger dice on the avocados, and immediately add them to the vinaigrette bowl (to prevent browning).  Using a wooden spoon, gently stir and fold the avocado cubes into the dressing/onion mixture.  As you stir, the dressing will become a bit creamier from the avocado.  Place a bed of shredded lettuce onto each plate and spoon the avocado and dressing over the center of each plate.  Let each person mix their own salad using their knife and fork.

Notes:  This classic and beautiful salad is popular in many Hispanic and Latin countries.  To stretch this salad a bit, add another avocado.

 

Superfood Smoothies by Julie Morris

IMG_0281    If you can’t tell by my Instagram, I’m currently a bit obsessed with Superfood Smoothies  by  Julie Morris.  To date, I’ve made eleven of the smoothies from this book and am crazy about some of them.  My favorite so far is the Pistachio Cherry,  with the Lucuma Macadamia coming in at a close second.  Sometimes we want a lighter, fruity smoothie for breakfast, and then a creamy rich smoothie for an afternoon snack.  Some of these smoothies are on the level of luscious desserts but are actually good for you, body and soul.  Superfood Smoothies has opened my eyes to a whole new world of true superfood ingredients, such as Maca, Maqui, White Mulberries, Goji Berries, Hemp Protein Powder, etc.  I started out buying one superfood per week, and found them to be cost effective in that most of them had long expiration dates–some up to two years.  And a little goes a long way on most of them.  For example, even 1/4 teaspoon of camu berry powder is effective.  Each superfood is profiled in the front, with tips on what form to buy it in, how to store it and the exact benefits.  Each recipe has a row of simple graphic symbols above it, to indicate its bonus benefits (such as a little red heart for cardiovascular health).  There’s a Smoothies by Benefit Index in the back so you can tailor the smoothies to your needs, like Bone Strength, Low Calorie, Protein, etc., and all the smoothies have multiple benefits.   Julie Morris is a firm believer that smoothies must taste good, even when incorporating vegetables like beets or broccoli.   Although I juice a couple of times a week, this gorgeous book has me excited to try new smoothies.  To see more from Julie Morris, check out her other superfood cookbooks on amazon, or check out her Youtube channel.
IMG_0285  Grapefruit Pomegranate
IMG_0329  Cacao Mocha with Soyatoo Rice Whip on top
IMG_0275Orange Goji

Quick and Easy Homemade Gochujang Paste

 

IMG_0270    I found this quick and easy recipe for Gochujang paste here, and simply reduced the amounts, and converted them into Tablespoon and Cup measurements too.  I don’t use a lot of Gochuchang, and this will supposedly last for 6 months in the refrigerator, as long as all your ingredients have that long of a shelf life.  Most authentic recipes call for letting the Kochujang ferment at room temperature for 30 days, or covering and uncovering the paste outdoors on a daily basis, which involves a lot of salt to prevent spoilage, etc.  I looked at buying some Gochujang paste, but was put off by added ingredients like corn syrup, calcium phosphate, etc.  Some store-bought pastes also contain wheat starch in the form of  isomaltooligosaccharide, which may not be good for those who are gluten free (not sure).  By making it at home, we can also use organic miso, and organic sugar.  Use Gochujang in stir-fries, sauces, dressings and marinades–anywhere you want a little spice!  On to the brilliant little 5-minute recipe.

QUICK AND EASY GOCHUJANG PASTE

INGREDIENTS
4 oz. mild white miso  (1/2 Cup)
1.75 oz. sugar  (3 Tablespoons)
2 oz. Tamari  (2 Tablespoons)
.88 oz. Korean red pepper powder  (1/4 Cup)
2 to 3 Tablespoons water

DIRECTIONS
Dry whisk the sugar into the pepper powder.  Add miso and stir until moist and blended.  Add Tamari and stir again.  In smallest saucepan, heat mixture over medium-low to melt the sugar a bit.  Add water by the Tablespoon, and stir with a wooden spoon to blend.  Cool and put in clean glass container with lid.  Supposedly will keep in fridge for up to 6 months.  This makes enough Gochujang paste for one or two recipes, but you can double or triple the first 4 ingredients and then add a little water as needed.
IMG_0262IMG_0263
A nice big bag of Korean red pepper powder was $4.99.

Coconut Bacon

IMG_0231    This fast, easy and delicious Coconut Bacon recipe takes five minutes to prep for baking.    I adapted this from the wildy-popular recipe by Fettle Vegan.  Of course, you can always buy coconut bacon from Phoney Baloney, but it’s so easy to make your own.  Wherever you get your coconut bacon, it’s great strewn over salads, and chowder, in BLTs, or eaten out of hand.  I plan to try this in an Elvis Sandwich someday.

COCONUT BACON

Makes 2 Cups

INGREDIENTS
2 Cups large flake coconut, unsweetened
1 Tablespoon Liquid Smoke
1 Tablespoon Tamari
1 Tablespoon plus one teaspoon real maple syrup
1 Tablespoon ketchup
1 teaspoon smoked paprika

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.  Set coconut aside.  In a medium mixing bowl, combine all other ingredients, whisking or stirring to blend.  Add coconut and fold gently with a wooden spoon or spatula to evenly coat the flakes.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread coconut flakes evenly onto it.  Bake 15 to 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.  BE VERY CAREFUL during the last five minutes, checking it several times to make sure it does not burn.  Coconut will crisp up as it cools.  Strew over salads, chowder, use in sandwiches or eat out of hand.  Cool completely and store in fridge for two weeks (I store mine for a month if the flaked coconut is not due to expire soon).

Notes:  Bigger coconut flakes may take longer to cook.   After cooling, if your coconut bacon is not crisp, put it back in the oven for 2 to 5 minutes, checking carefully to prevent burning.
IMG_0230