STRAWBERRY CHIA JAM

  This quick-and-easy Strawberry Chia Jam intensifies the strawberry flavor while being healthier than most of the jams on the market.  It’s one of those gorgeously-simple foods.  The texture (as written) is a cross between a jam and a sauce, making it super versatile, but it’s easily made firmer by the addition of another Tablespoon of chia seeds.  I chose to make this jam with strawberries because strawberries already have tiny seeds, but you can choose any fruit you like.  The way I made it, it can be spread on toast, spooned over vegan yogurt or cheesecake, drizzled on oatmeal, stirred into lemonade, dolloped on strawberry shortcake, etc.  I froze some  so I could preserve the flavor of Spring.

STRAWBERRY CHIA JAM

Makes enough to fill two 8-ounce jars and then some

INGREDIENTS
3 Cups chopped fruit
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice  (yes, fresh tastes better)
1/3 Cup organic sugar
1 Tablespoon chia seeds  (or 2 if you want it thicker)

DIRECTIONS
Wash and prepare fruit, cutting away any bad parts, leaves and stems.  Leave berries otherwise whole and add them to a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat about 10 minutes, until fruit breaks down and gives off syrupy liquid.  Mash the fruit with a potato masher, or if you don’t have one, the bottom of a canning jar or heavy glass tumbler.  Leave lumps, so it’s rustic and beautiful.  Stir in lemon juice and sugar.  Taste it to make sure it’s to your liking.  Stir in chia seeds.  Let it sit and cool, and try to not to eat it out of the pot.  Use within a week, or freeze.

NOTES:  This recipe is flexible, but these measurements above really hit the spot for us.  If using larger fruit, pit and chop it.  Next time, I’ll add the zest of the lemon.  The health benefits of chia are many–fully digestible and energy-boosting, they were an important food for the Incas centuries ago.  Chia adds antioxidants, fiber, protein, omega-3s and calcium to foods, while not interfering with the flavor of the main ingredient.  While this jam is not sugar-free, the chia seeds make you feel more satiated.  For another chia recipe, try my Chia Fresca.  And if you’re a real health nut, there’s also Chia Breakfast Porridge.  There is also a great Quick Freezer Jam on this site, that uses agar agar as a thickening agent.  Other related recipes include Strawberry Rhubarb Compote.

Three Bean Salad

   This classic American Three Bean Salad is lighter than many of the recipes out there, but it’s the best one I’ve had.  Filling and tangy, with plenty of protein, this salad travels well.  The fresh, raw crunch of the celery and shallot are a great contrast with the silky beans.  Three Bean Salads have supposedly been around since the 1800’s, and possibly became so popular because they needed little refrigeration, and hence were often brought to picnics and outings.  Serve with a slotted spoon so as to drain off most of the marinade.

THREE BEAN SALAD

Makes about 8 to 10 servings?

INGREDIENTS
15 oz. can kidney beans, drained and rinsed,  reserve 3 Tablespoons of bean liquid
15 oz. can green beans, drained and rinsed
15 oz. can yellow wax beans, drained and rinsed
1 medium-to-large stalk celery, diced fine
1 large shallot  chopped fine,  or 1/3 of a medium white onion
1/3 Cup white vinegar
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 Cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
pinch cayenne  (a pinch = 1/16th teaspoon)

DIRECTIONS
Take three Tablespoons of bean liquid from the can of kidney beans, and set aside.  In a large non-metal bowl and with a wooden spoon, gently mix the green beans, wax beans, celery and onion.  In a separate small bowl or glass, whisk together the bean liquid, vinegar, oil, sugar, and seasonings.  Add the rinsed-and-drained kidney beans and the vinegar dressing to the green-bean mixture.  Fold this salad gently with a wooden spoon to coat.  Cover and refrigerate for an hour or two before serving.  Stir gently with wooden spoon before serving (we are trying not to mash the kidney beans).  Serve with a slotted spoon so as to drain most of the marinade off and back into the serving bowl.

Notes:  This would also be good in a salad-in-a-jar situation.  For more salad ideas, check out the Salad category on this site.

Easy Cold Brew Coffee in A Mason Jar

img_3207     With all the Cold Brew coffee on grocery store shelves and in coffee shops, I can never find any decaf cold brew.  I also wanted something without syrups in it.  So after combining tips from several youtube videos, here’s an easy way to get smooth, delicious cold brew at home without any fancy equipment.  This quick method makes a smooth concentrate that you can dilute with water, ice or any plant milk.  I like coconut creamer in mine, and about 1/2 teaspoon of agave syrup.  This will last about a month in the fridge.  More photos below.

EASY COLD BREW COFFEE IN A MASON JAR

Makes about a quart

INGREDIENTS
3/4 Cup freshly-ground coffee beans
water

DIRECTIONS
For cold brew, we want a medium grind.  I have the simplest little old $20 Krups coffee grinder that I also use for spices.  Place the beans in the Krups and pulse 12 times for a basic medium grind, waiting about one second between each pulse.  This might look a little bit coarser than you’re used to, but don’t worry about it.

Place grinds in jar and add filtered water, filling it almost to the top, stopping when the water is about 1 inch below the jar threads.  Place lid firmly on jar and tilt/invert jar gently a couple of times to mix the grinds with water.  Place jar in fridge for at least 16 hours, up to 24 hours.

Now strain the brew a couple of times.  The first time, strain through a sieve to get out the large particles.  When straining, tip the jar gently and slowly so as to leave most of the saturated grinds sludge on the bottom of the jar.  The second straining can be done through a paper coffee filter, changing the filter once or twice when the dripping slows way down, but be warned this is a bit time consuming.  Cheesecloth might be faster but you also might wind up with some tiny fibers in the coffee, not sure.  What I do is filter it through a nylon nut-milk bag and it’s done in 15 seconds.  There are many nut milk bags to choose from on amazon.com.

Notes:  I prefer freshly-ground organic coffee for smoothest flavor.
img_3196  This Medium grind was achieved by PULSING a simple Krups coffee grinder 12 times.
img_3198  After chilling in fridge for 16 hours, there’s a thick “sludge” at the bottom.”  You will carefully strain the cold brew, while trying not to disturb this sludge.  This is about how full the jar should be.
img_3201  First strain.
img_3203  Second strain.  If you don’t have a nut milk bag, or cheesecloth, dampen a paper coffee filter and use that.  It will be slow, and you will have to change the filter once or twice.  Do other things while it’s dripping.  Unbleached coffee filters are best.

Vegan Haupia Cake

img_3068     I adapated this Vegan Haupia Cake from a recipe by Roy Yamaguchi, a famous chef from Hawaii.  Haupia (pronounced HOW-pee-ya) is something we would enjoy at luaus on Kauai, back in the day.  It’s traditionally a cool and refreshing coconut pudding, often cut into squares.  Here it’s a softer pudding that’s been infused into a sponge cake.  It’s a bit richer than the original this way, but so ono (delicious).  We’ve eliminated the animal cruelty and the cholesterol, but added a sprinkling of toasted coconut.  You could use a vegan white or yellow cake, but the original recipe uses a sponge cake, which provides great texture.   Here is the vegan sponge cake recipe I use.  I make both layers and leave one in the freezer for future use.

VEGAN HAUPIA CAKE

Makes one 9-inch cake

INGREDIENTS
a single 9-inch layer of vegan sponge cake, frozen and set to partially thaw
4 Cups unsweetened full-fat coconut milk  (two 15 oz. cans is fine)
1.5 Cups water, divided
1 Cup Sugar
1/4 Cup plus 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
2.5 teaspoons coconut extract
2 Tablespoons shredded sweetened coconut, for topping

INSTRUCTIONS
Remove the single layer of cake from the freezer to let it thaw by half.  You will slice it into two layers, and it’s easier to slice if it’s about half frozen at that time.  In a small dry skillet, stir and toast the shredded sweetened coconut over medium heat–do not walk away, it only takes a couple of minutes.

To prepare the haupia, place the coconut milk, 1 Cup of the water and the sugar in a medium saucepan and bring to a low boil, stirring a bit.  In a small bowl, whisk the cornstarch and the remaining 1/2 Cup water together to make a smooth slurry.  Add the slurry to the coconut mixture, and stir until the mixture returns to a low boil and thickens.  Remove from heat, let cool 5 minutes, and then stir in coconut extract.

Cut a thin slice off the top of the cake layer to level it flat.  Slice the cake in half horizontally to make two somewhat-even layers.  Place the bottom layer in a cake pan.  Pour the haupia over the bottom layer to a thickness of about 1/2 inch (this will save some for the top).  Place the top half of the cake layer over the haupia-soaked bottom layer, very gently pressing down.  Pour more of the haupia over the top of the cake, using a spatula or the back of a spoon to gently spread it evenly.  Refrigerate the cake for 3 to 4 hours to set the haupia.  When ready to serve, garnish with the toasted shredded coconut.
img_3064  Bottom layer back in the cake pan and soaking in haupia.

Tomato Tart with Almond Feta and Caramelized Onions

tomato-tart     This Tomato Tart with Almond Feta and Caramelized Onions is quite rich, so I serve it with a light salad.  It’s adapted from a recipe in Gourmet magazine (May 1995 issue).   I make this when I have leftover Sprouted Almond Feta, but store-bought vegan cheese could be used too (like Miyoko’s or Treeline, etc.).  I usually have a few Pate Brisee pie crusts in the freezer, so this is actually a quick dish to throw together.  Caramelizing onions takes about an hour, but you can do myriad other things while that’s happening.  This tart is also pretty when made with halved cherry tomatoes of various colors.

TOMATO TART WITH ALMOND FETA AND CARAMELIZED ONIONS

Makes 6 to 8 slices

INGREDIENTS
2 large white onions, sliced thinly  (don’t use red onions–they don’t caramelize as well)
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
Almond Feta Cheese (less than 1/2  a recipe’s worth)   (or store-bought creamy cheeze)
2 large tomatoes, or a bunch of cherry tomatoes
3-4 Kalamata or Nicoise olives,  pitted and sliced
one single pie crust  (I use this vegan Pate Brisee)

DIRECTIONS
Put rolling pin in freezer.  Add oil and salt to large non-stick skillet, and cook onions, covered, over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 20 minutes.  Remove lid and cook onions another 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, and any liquid evaporates.  Remove skillet from heat so onions can cool.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.   Put a little bench flour on counter and roll out chilled pie crust.  Line glass or ceramic pie dish or tart pan with crust.  Spread caramelized onions over the dough, and top loosely with cheese.  Arrange sliced tomatoes and olives over the cheese and season with salt and pepper.  Use a pie shield or protect pie crust edges with crumpled tin foil.  Bake tart in center of oven for one hour or until pastry is golden, and cool on rack.  Serve tart hot or warm.

Notes:  I pull my pie crust from the freezer the night before, so the dough can rest a bit.  I prefer to use glass or ceramic with tomatoes, as acidic tomatoes do react to some metals.  Onions can be caramelized the day before, which saves a lot of time the day of.  Don’t put too much cheese–you should still see some of the onions underneath after you scatter the cheese.
img_3054 Cheese on top of caramelized onions.  This might even be a little bit too much cheese.
img_3053 Caramelized onions.
img_3057  The olives can be hidden underneath too.

VEGAN KEY LIME PIE

IMG_2951     There are quite a few vegan key lime pie recipes out there, but none were ever quite perfect for me.  The no-bake ones tasted of cornstarch, or I couldn’t get the vegan pudding packets required, etc.  So after a couple of tries, here’s one that’s really delicious, with easy-to-get ingredients.  It’s got that balance of sweet-to-pucker, it’s easy, and it’s pretty.  As with many cream pies, you make it the day before, so it’s perfect for a dinner party

VEGAN KEY LIME PIE

Makes one pie, approx. 8-10 slices

INGREDIENTS
3 medium-size regular limes, organic  (enough to yield 1/2 Cup fresh lime juice)
8 oz. vegan cream cheese  (I used Trader Joe’s)
12 oz. box Mori-Nu Silken Tofu, Extra-Firm, pressed
1 Cup sugar
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons zest from the limes, plus more for grating on top
2 drops green food coloring (optional)
9-inch vegan graham cracker pie crust  (Keebler has one that’s accidentally vegan)
vegan whipped topping, such as coconut whipped cream, or So Delicious Coco Whip

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Zest the limes and reserve 1/3 of the zest for garnish on top of the pie.  Juice two of the limes and see if it comes to 1/2 Cup of lime juice.  If not, juice the third lime.  In a food processor, mix cream cheese, tofu, sugar, cornstarch, vanilla, lime juice and 2 teaspoons of the lime zest.  Mix well, add green food coloring and mix again.  Pour into crust, place on baking sheet and bake 35 minutes.  It might jiggle just a bit when you take it out of the oven–that’s okay.  Let cool on rack.  Refrigerate overnight.  Grate or sprinkle fresh lime zest over the pie, and serve with vegan whipped cream.  When you cut it, rinse or wipe your knife between slices.  It cuts even better after two days in the fridge.

Notes:  Depending on the depth of your crust, there might be about 1/3 Cup extra filling, that you can cook alongside the pie in a ramekin (for a pudding snack) if desired.  If you don’t have a food processor, a hand mixer would probably do just fine.  The color of the pie will deepen a bit upon cooking.  Do not add extra vanilla, because it will muddy the green color.  Bottled lime juice does not taste as good as fresh–I tried it.  Mori-Nu silken tofu in the box is what is called aseptic packaging, see photo below.
IMG_2875  Silken tofu in an aseptic box.

Easy Blueberry Sauce

IMG_2946     If you have a bumper crop or windfall of extra blueberries, you could freeze them for smoothies or pies, or you can make this fabulous easy blueberry sauce.  It can be used on pancakes, or vegan ice cream, stirred into vegan cream cheese for bagels, swirled into vegan cheesecake batter, etc.

EASY BLUEBERRY SAUCE

Makes about one pint

INGREDIENTS
2-1/2 Cups fresh blueberries, washed
1/3 Cup plus 3 Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
lemon zest from one lemon  (optional)
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS
Set aside 1/2 Cup of the blueberries, and the vanilla.  In a blender, add all other ingredients and blend until fairly smooth.  In a small saucepan, stirring often over medium heat, bring blueberry mixture to a boil.  Immediately turn heat down a click or two, and add reserved blueberries.  Cook at a low boil for two minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.  Stir in vanilla, let cool, and chill.  Use or freeze.

Notes:  If you let the raw blended mixture sit around without cooking it, it could clump, maybe from the pectin.  If that happens, you can re-blend or use a potato masher.
IMG_2943

Vegan Caramelized Carrot Risotto

IMG_2868     After seeing the movie The Fault in Our Stars where they eat the Dragon Carrot Risotto, I knew I had to make it.  So last Fall, I ordered organic seeds from Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply, and began planning a few dishes to make.   I found this recipe online and veganized it.  Swapping out the animal products still produced a classic, restaurant-style risotto, with a real flavor of parmesan.  Caramelizing the carrots is genius, and this is good enough for company, for a birthday, or even for Thanksgiving.  In the end, I did use a mélange of carrot cultivars to make this dish, because that day, along with the Dragon carrots, I also pulled Cosmic Purple carrots and Atomic Red carrots from the ground.   This dish makes a lot and reheats well.

VEGAN CARAMELIZED CARROT RISOTTO

Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil, divided  (not canola oil)
3 Tablespoons Earth Balance Buttery Sticks, divided
6 medium carrots, peeled and chopped as finely and evenly as possible (about 3 Cups)
(I used a food processor for the carrots)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon sugar
5 Cups vegetable broth  (I used Better Than Bouillon No Chicken Base)
1/3 Cup minced onion
1.5 Cups Arborio rice
1/2 Cup dry white wine
1/4 Cup vegan cream cheese  (I like Trader Joe’s)
1/4 Cup vegan parmesan, I like Go Veggie Vegan Grated Parmesan
1 Tablespoon finely-chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus 1 Tablespoon for garnish
1 teaspoon roughly-chopped fresh thyme
1/8 teaspoon pepper

DIRECTIONS
Heat 1 Tablespoon oil and 1 Tablespoon vegan butter over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed pot.  Add carrots and stir until well coated.  Ad 1/2 Cup water, salt and sugar, cover and cook 5 minutes, or until tender.  Uncover and cook a few minutes more, stirring occasionally until water evaporates and carrots are just starting to brown.  Reserve half of these cooked carrots.  In a blender, puree the other half with 3/4 Cup hot water.

Bring broth to a simmer and keep hot, covered, over low heat.

In same (unwashed) pot used for carrots, heat remaining oil and butter over medium heat.  Add onion and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes.  Add rice, stirring to coat rice with oil, 1 minute.  Add wine and cook, stirring until wine evaporates.  Add carrot puree and cook, stirring, until mixture no longer looks soupy.

Add 1/2 Cup hot broth, stirring often, until rice absorbs most of the liquid.  Repeat process, adding 1/2 Cup broth at a time and stirring often until each addition of broth is absorbed before adding the next, until rice is al dente (about 20 minutes).  At least 1 Cup of broth will remain.

Set aside 2 Tablespoons of the caramelized carrots.  Fold in the remaining carrots, cream cheese, parmesan, 1 Tablespoon parsley, and the thyme.  Add up to 1 Cup broth (1/4 Cup at a time) to loosen the risotto.  Season with pepper.

Garnish each bowl of risotto with the remaining parsley and reserved carrots.  Serve immediately.

Notes:  Better Than Bouillon also makes a very good Seasoned Vegetable Base that would work fine.  When reheating, add some leftover broth or water to loosen it up again.

cropped-IMG_2825.jpg  Organic carrots from my garden.

Vegan Raspberry Oat Shortbread

IMG_2593     This Vegan Raspberry Oat Shortbread is buttery, with a light crunch from the oats and almonds, and sweetness from the raspberry jam.  This is more of a delicate shortbread–amazing with tea, or any time.  Other raspberry bars on this site include Ottolenghi Raspberry Oat Bars (thicker and nuttier with a touch of caramel), and plain Raspberry Oat Bars (more of a rustic crumble bar).  Yes, it would seem I have a thing for raspberry bars. . .

VEGAN RASPBERRY OAT SHORTBREAD

Makes:  16 squares

INGREDIENTS
1 Cup all-purpose flour
1/2 Cup plus 2 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 Cup plus 1 Tablespoon cold vegan butter (Earth Balance Buttery Sticks)
3/4 Cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 Cup slivered almonds
1/4 Cup raspberry jam  (I like Dickinson’s Red Raspberry)
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/16th teaspoon almond extract

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Butter an 8-inch baking pan and put it in the fridge.  Mix the jam with the vanilla and almond extracts, stirring until it’s a somewhat smooth consistency, and then leave it out at room temperature.  In a food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar and salt.  Then add oats and pulse a few times.  Cube the vegan butter and add it, pulsing until the mixture starts to cling together in bits.  Then add almonds and pulse just until incorporated.  The idea is NOT to grind up the almonds–you just want them in pieces throughout the dough.

Set aside 1/2 Cup of the dough.  Press the rest GENTLY but evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan.  Spread the raspberry jam evenly over the dough, leaving at least a 1/4 inch-wide border (in other words, do not spread the jam all the way to the edges).  Sprinkle the reserved dough evenly over the jam.

Bake until the edges are starting to turn golden, about 20-23 minutes.  Within 5-10 minutes, run a butter knife around the edges of the pan to loosen.  You can also make your cuts after about 10 minutes, cutting straight down (do not use a sawing motion).  The end of a thin flat spatula works well for this.  The shortbread will firm as it cools.  Store in fridge, but bring to room temperature before serving.

Notes:  This recipe took me three tries to get right.  I started out adding fresh raspberries but the end result was then too gooey and wet.  I pressed the dough too firmly in the pan and it was hard to cut into squares, and a bit tough.  I also found that for best results, it kind of matters in which order you process the dough ingredients.
IMG_2588  Leave the edges of the dough bare, as the jam will spread on its own.

Lemonana

IMG_2104     We had frozen “Limonana” (Lemonana) at Dizengoff in Philadelphia recently and I was struck by the herbal flavor of it, and by how well it went with their very excellent hummus.  Lemonana is basically lemonade with a generous dose of mint, and it’s been called the national drink of Israel.  This aint your Grandma’s lemonade–it’s assertively tart with a divine herbal edge.  It can be made in a good variety of ways, but I know they make a mint syrup at Dizengoff, and they choose to serve it frozen.  I looked at a bunch of Lemonana online and developed this easy recipe, which tastes a lot like the one at Dizengoff.  I’m convinced, however, that Dizengoff uses a secret ingredient–some savory herb or something.  I’ll be trying that in future, but in the meantime, this is so good and refreshing that I’m satisfied.

LEMONANA

Serves:  2 to 3

Mint Syrup
1 Cup water
1 Cup sugar
1.5 oz. fresh mint
Combine water and sugar in a very small saucepan and simmer on medium heat, stirring frequently until sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat and wait 10 minutes for the syrup to cool slightly.  Stir in fresh mint, cover and let steep for 15-30 minutes.  Remove and discard mint leaves or strain syrup through a mesh sieve and allow to come to room temperature.  Store in a sealed glass jar or bottle in refrigerator for up to one month.

Lemonana
1/2 Cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 Cup water
2/3 Cup mint syrup
2 drops orange blossom water  (optional)
20-30 ice cubes

DIRECTIONS
To a blender, add lemon juice, water, mint syrup and orange blossom water, and stir.  Add ice and blend until frozen, adding a little more ice if necessary.  Taste.

Notes:  My ice cubes are those smaller crescent-shaped ice “cubes” that come out of an ice dispenser in my freezer.  You may need more ice than this, unless you’re using the old-fashioned, big rectangular ice cubes.  Any leftover mint syrup can also be used in iced tea, of course.  To save time, make mint syrup ahead and have it well chilled.  Two photos of Dizengoff below.  Dizengoff has a cult following for their hummus and their pita bread.
IMG_2042
IMG_2046

BAMONA, Butterflies and Moths of North America

IMG_0400     Did you know there’s a web site where you can post photos of butterflies and moths you see?  No, it’s not Instagram,  it’s BAMONA, Butterflies and Moths of North America.  With Instagram around, why would we do this?  Because it helps track our little friends, who are also very valuable pollinators.  Some think butterflies are not as effective at pollinating as bees are, but butterflies can travel longer distances, ensuring coverage of equal amounts of flowering plants in a larger area.  So, although they’re only looking for food (nectar), they actually help plants reproduce in an important way, on a larger geographic scale than bees sometimes.  Moths also pollinate and are vital.  I went over all this in episode three of the podcast by the way (the gardening episode).   Posting butterflies and moths on BAMONA is also a great activity for kids.  I caught the image above on a little Canon automatic camera in my backyard.  I realized this fritillary was larger than the tiny ones that I sometimes see, grabbed my camera and got lucky.  You can see my actual submission and another photo of this Great Spangled Fritillary here.

My latest submission to BAMONA is not a good photo–it was taken by my husband with his phone, outside a Chili’s Restaurant on a busy bypass road in Easton, Maryland.  We think he/she was drying her wings, and we didn’t want to get too close and scare her.  It was a huge Silkmoth, about the size of a coffee cup, although the photos don’t show the perspective of her size.  By the way, at Chili’s Restaurant, I got the citrus rice, black beans and sweet potato fries, in case you’re wondering, ha ha!  Anyway, outside this Chili’s, are growing several of the host plants for this gorgeous Silkmoth (the adults do not feed, but these host plants probably supported this Silkmoth when it was a caterpillar).

Caterpillar Host plants for the Cecropia silkmoth include various trees and shrubs including box elder (Acer negundo), sugar maple (Acer saccharinum), wild cherries and plums (Prunus), apples (Malus), alder and birch (Betulaceae), dogwoods (Cornus), and willows (Salix).  Luckily, outside this Chili’s Restaurant on this busy bypass, are growing some birch trees and small dogwood trees.  These are plants that were probably required by the shopping complex as part of the approved landscaping plan, and this really highlights the importance of local plantings at new developments.  We’re already destroying large swaths of habitat with these developments, so a few plantings among the sea of pavement and sidewalks are the very least we can do, and we should be doing so much more.   Anyway, a female Silkmoth laid 2 to 6 eggs on leaves of a host-plant tree or shrub, and these eggs hatched in 10-14 days, and the young caterpillars then fed on those very leaves in a perfect symphony of sustainability, especially since moths and butterflies then help to pollinate the flowers of the host plants.  Then the flowers produce berries that support bird life, and on and on.  And her work is not done, because the flight range for Silkmoths is Nova Scotia and Maine south to Florida, and/or west across Southern Canada and the Eastern United States to the Rocky Mountains.

Participating in posting and tracking butterflies and moths creates Awareness and Consciousness of caterpillars and who they become, and of the beauty around us and of how we’re all connected.  Every life is important, no matter how tiny their earthly shell!
IMG_1701   River Birch trees planted as part of the shopping complex landscaping, near the entrance to Chili’s Restaurant where we saw the above Silkmoth.   Birch are host plants for various moths and butterflies.

IMG_1703  One of two young dogwoods (host plants) outside the restaurant.

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).

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.

 

Vegan Honeydew Matcha Bubble Tea

IMG_2593     This vegan Honeydew Matcha Bubble Tea or Boba is delicious, and much healthier than anything you can buy in a mall, where they generally use fruit powders and sugar syrup.  Matcha green tea is an acquired taste for some, so if you’re not sure about it, omit it from the recipe, and then just add a pinch or two to your own individual drink.

Makes approximately 2.5 Cups,  or 2 to 3 servings

VEGAN HONEYDEW MATCHA BUBBLE TEA

INGREDIENTS
2 Cups raw honeydew melon chunks (bite-size pieces)
3/4 Cup black tapioca pearls  (boba)
1 Cup almond milk
1/2 Cup So Delicious Creamer
1 teaspoon matcha green tea powder
2 teaspoons light agave syrup  (not dark)

for Simple Syrup to store tapioca pearls in:
1/2 Cup water
1/2 Cup sugar

DIRECTIONS
For the Simple Syrup:  In smallest saucepan, bring the 1/2 Cup water just to a boil.  Add the sugar and stir to dissolve any visible sugar.  Reduce heat to a simmer and let simmer a few minutes (less than 5 minutes).  Turn off heat and set aside.

In a large pot, bring 8 Cups of water to boil.  Stir the water and slowly swirl in the tapioca pearls and stir gently to keep pearls from sinking to bottom of pot.  Reduce heat and let simmer for 15 minutes.  Remove from heat, cover and let sit for 15 more minutes.  Rinse a pearl under cool water and chew to test for softness.  In a colander, drain and rinse pearls under cold water.  Put pearls into a glass jar.  Pour the Simple Syrup over the pearls and let cool uncovered and unrefrigerated.

In a blender, puree Matcha, almond milk, creamer, melon and agave syrup, making sure to put the matcha into the blender first, so it doesn’t poof powder all over the top of the blender.  If you do not have a blender, use a food processor to puree the melon and then mix it with everything else.  Chill in refrigerator.  When ready to serve, add 2 Tablespoons cooked tapioca pearls (drained of syrup) to each glass, and top with honeydew milk tea.  A straw is nice.  I like paper straws so I serve with a long, skinny ice-tea spoon to scoop up those chewy, chewy pearls.  In Mandarin, this perfect, toothsome chewiness is called QQ.

Notes:  The tapioca pearls can tend to harden a bit in the refrigerator.  To soften, drain the pearls, cover them with water and microwave for 1 to 2 minutes, testing after one minute.   You can stretch the batch of tea a bit by adding an extra 1/2 Cup of vegan creamer.  You can freeze any leftover melon chunks for future use, if you want.  For inspiration, I visited Kitchen Simplicity.  To make it cruelty-free, I specify almond milk and agave syrup.  Upon reading the ingredients of several large boba chains, I noticed they use non-dairy creamer as a base in their bubble teas, so I have done the same.  Never heating the matcha helps minimize its natural bitterness.  I found the boba (tapioca pearls) at an oriental grocery in Salisbury, MD, but there are good sources online, and boba pearls come in various colors.

Nutrition values for the entire batch, not including boba:  Calories 328.  Fat 3.  Saturated fat 0.  Trans fat 0.  Cholesterol 0.  Sodium 214.  Potassium 150.  Carbs 64.  Fiber 2.  Sugars 59.  Protein 3.  Vitamin A 14.  Vitamin C 106.  Calcium 4.  Iron 6.  Nutrition values for 2 Tablespoons of boba:  Calories 41.  Fat 0.  Cholesterol 0.  Sodium 23.  Potassium 3.  Carbs 10.
IMG_2584IMG_2582
IMG_2587  I was able to find this locally.

Cinnamon Stick Beets or Quick Pickled Beets

IMG_2556      These Quick Pickled Beets are an easy and delicious way to preserve fresh beets for weeks in the fridge.  They bring a rare and beautiful color to salads, but my favorite way to eat them is in hummus wraps with pan-toasted almonds.  Many recipes for pickled beets call for cloves, but I found that flavor too medicinal.  After making these three times, I settled on a three-inch stick of cinnamon in each jar, for a complex hint of spice that tempers the earthiness of the beets.   For other preserving recipes, check out the Pickles category.

CINNAMON STICK BEETS  or  QUICK PICKLED BEETS

Makes about 3 pints.

INGREDIENTS
6 fresh beets of medium, uniform size  (better for slicing and fitting into jars)
1 Cup white vinegar
2 Cups water
3 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt  (not kosher salt)
small cinnamon sticks  (one 3-inch stick per jar)
whole peppercorns      (about 8 per jar)  (totally optional)
brown mustard seeds  (a pinch per jar)  (totally optional)

DIRECTIONS
Do not preheat oven.  Trim greens off beets, leaving about one inch of stems.  Wash beets very well, and wrap in tin foil.  Place foil packet in a pan and place in cold oven.  Set oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for 90 minutes.  Let beets cool a bit, and then peel, and slice however you like.  Consider thick batons, or circular slices or half circles.  If you want to make a stacked salad, whole circles are best.

In a small stock pot, heat vinegar, water, sugar and salt to a simmer, and stir to dissolve any visible salt or sugar.  Remove pot from heat and let liquid brine cool a bit, maybe 10 to 15 minutes at most.  Into each clean jar place one small cinnamon stick, and, if using, any peppercorns or mustard seeds.  Pack sliced beets into each jar.  Pour brine slowly into packed jars and let cool on counter for about 30 minutes.  Store in fridge.  Use diced into salads, drained and sliced in sandwiches, etc.

Notes.  Make sure jars and everything are very clean.  I prefer plastic jar lids because they’re non-reactive to the vinegar, and I like them to be BPA-free, but any lid is fine!   I keep my beets about a month in the fridge.  A good tip is that Vegenaise lids will often fit on small-mouth canning jars.  Using medium-size beets of uniform shape will make it easier to get them into jars, and you’ll have more whole, round slices.

You can see my post Growing Beets.  Other recipes on this site that use beets include Roasted Beet Salad and Salad in A Jar.
IMG_2487  Scrubbed beets ready to roast.
IMG_2509   The jar on the right is a recycled Vegenaise jar.

Cantaloupe Vanilla Smoothie

IMG_2542    This Cantaloupe Vanilla Smoothie is incredibly refreshing in the heat of summer.   Sweetened with dates, only a few ingredients but packing a wallop of nutrition, and it tastes like good vanilla ice cream.    It’s almost like magic.  Thanks to Gail, my lovely neighbor who delivered three monster cantaloupes from her garden yesterday.

CANTALOUPE VANILLA SMOOTHIE

Serves 2 to 3

INGREDIENTS
2 Cups frozen cantaloupe chunks
2 Medjool dates, pitted and chopped
1 Cup organic soy milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS
Scrape seeds out of cantaloupe, and cut into chunks .  Freeze chunks on dinner plates or a cookie sheet, for several hours.  Freezing the cantaloupe chunks is important so you get individual chunks of cantaloupe, not big lumps of frozen-together cantaloupe that won’t fit into the bottom of your blender.   Soak dates in hot water for 10 minutes, then discard pits and chop dates.  Put all ingredients into blender and blend just until smooth.  Enjoy one of the most refreshing shakes ever.  This makes 2 medium smoothies or three small shakes of about 3/4 Cup each.

Notes:  You can stretch this a bit by adding another half cup of cantaloupe.  You may need to add a little more liquid to finesse the blender.  If you want it less sweet, use only one date.  If using smaller dates, adjust accordingly (the Medjool dates are big).
IMG_2534  Frozen chunks of cantaloupe on cookie sheet.

Mediterranean Pasta Salad

IMG_2479    This Greek and Italian style Pasta Salad is simple to make, but deceptively complex in flavors.  It’s very versatile–you can make the basic salad and add or subtract whatever you like, or whatever you have on hand.  Perfect for a barbecue or picnic and especially good in summer.  With the beans, it’s great as a main dish too.   I make this at least once every summer, and it’s developed over the years.

MEDITERRANEAN PASTA SALAD

Serves about 6 as a main dish, or about 8 as a side.  (?)

INGREDIENTS
For the dressing:
1/4 Cup white Balsamic vinegar  (or red wine vinegar)
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, pressed or crushed and minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram (optional)
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon grainy mustard from a jar  (Dijon style, or spicy brown, etc.)
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Basic Salad
2 Cups pasta cooked  (measure before cooking)
15 oz. can Cannelini beans  (or other white beans)
1 red bell pepper, diced fine
1/4 Cup sun-dried tomatoes chopped
1/4 Cup Kalamata olives chopped
2 Tablespoons capers, chopped
1/2 Cup chopped artichoke hearts
1/4 Cup diced red onion  (I use Pickled Red Onions)
2-inch piece of preserved lemon, minced into oblivion  (optional)
(or just use the zest of a lemon)

Other possible additions:
cooked broccoli florets
fresh raw corn off the cob
raw cucumber, seeded and diced
chopped fresh parsley
chopped fresh spinach

Optional Garnishes:
1 avocado, diced
1 large garden tomato, cut up and salted
toasted pine nuts

DIRECTIONS
Make dressing and pour into a large bowl.  Drain and rinse beans and set them aside.   As you chop ingredients, add them to the dressing so they start to marinate.  Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain pasta and add to the dressing bowl.  With a wooden spoon, mix all bowl ingredients.  Fold the beans in gently.  If not serving right away, store in refrigerator.  Let salad come to room temperature before serving.  Garnish before serving, with fresh tomatoes, or avocado, toasted pine nuts, etc.

Notes:   Use smaller pastas, such as penne or fusilli, etc.  If you want to add broccoli florets (fresh or frozen), blanch them for two minutes in simmering water, and then rinse under cold water in a colander.  If you want to add fresh garden tomatoes, add just before serving (do not chill the tomatoes).  If using avocado, add just before serving (so it doesn’t turn brown).  Trader Joe’s has good artichoke hearts in a jar.  I make about a pint of Preserved Lemon once a year and then it’s on hand.

Strawberry Vanilla Date Shake

IMG_2227    My wonderful neighbor Gail stopped by on Memorial Day weekend with pounds and pounds of freshly-picked strawberries out of their impressive garden.  We ate some, but there were so many I decided to create a shake smoothie worthy of them.  Sweetened with dates, and enhanced with natural vanilla, it’s the bomb.

STRAWBERRY VANILLA DATE SHAKE

Servings:  2 to 4

INGREDIENTS
2 Cups frozen strawberries
4 dried dates, with pits removed   (chop each date into about 4 pieces)
1.5 Cups plant milk
seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean,  or  1/2 teaspoon real vanilla extract

Add all to blender and blend.  If your blender gets stuck, a good trick is to slide a long teaspoon down the sides of the blender container or give a quick stir to allow contents to settle once again.  Add a little more liquid if you need to.

Notes:   Using store-bought frozen strawberries is just fine.  To freeze fresh strawberries, rinse them with cold water just before you need them, and lay them on an old dish towel to dry.  Use an old towel in case they stain your towelHull the strawberries using a paring knife, and discard the green tops.  Freeze strawberries on dinner plates until they are frozen.  Then place frozen strawberries into a freezer container.  This method will prevent the strawberries from freezing together in a solid mass.  If you can, organic strawberries (whether fresh or frozen) are worth buying, because strawberries are in the Dirty Dozen (among the most pesticide-laden produce).  If you do not have a high-powered blender, you might want to soak the dates in almost-hot water for 15 minutes before pitting and blending.  Here are good tips for splitting and seeding a vanilla bean.   Make sure to look in the bulk section of your local health food store for vanilla beans, for cheaper prices.  If you really want to gild the lily, add a few Tablespoons of granola to this shake after it’s out of the blender.  This is great with almond milk too.  My favorite soy milk is WestSoy Organic Unsweetened.

Approx Nutrition info for the whole batch:  Calories 489.  Fat 7 gr.  Saturated Fat 1 gr.  Polyunsaturated Fat 4 gr.  Monounsaturated Fat 2 gr.  Trans Fat 0.  Cholesterol 0.  Sodium 45.  Potassium 1538.  Carbs 106.  Fiber 20.  Sugars 78.  Protein 16.  Vitamin A 4%.  Vitamin C 180%.  Calcium 14%.  Iron 27%.

Grilled Teriyaki Tofu Steaks

IMG_2133    This vegan Teriyaki is great for the grill, or you can fry it up in a pan.  You can use this Teriyaki Sauce on tofu steaks, or tempeh or vegan meats, such as a vegan burger served with a ring of grilled pineapple on top, etc.  We like the leftovers in sandwich wraps for lunch, tucked in with shredded kale or lettuce, pickled onions, Vegenaise, and grated carrots.  This is my Dad’s teriyaki sauce that we grew up with.  As a young military man, he would go to this little mom-and-pop place in Monterey, California.  He loved their teriyaki and asked the nice Japanese lady there for the recipe.  She revealed the recipe to him (he was exceedingly handsome) and luckily for us, he wrote it down all those decades ago.  To grill tofu, make sure your grill grate is clean and smooth–I rub it with a wire brush, or a steel wool pad and then rinse it clean with the hose. Once the grill is hot, take tongs and dip a wad of folded paper towel into a dish of cooking oil, and swab the grill grate before adding the tofu, and repeat when turning the tofu.  You also want to make sure there’s a little oil in your marinade.  Soak your skewers for hours, and use two skewers per piece of tofu (for stability).

GRILLED TERIYAKI TOFU STEAKS

Serves:  3 to 4

INGREDIENTS
16 oz. block of Extra-Firm tofu,  pressed and drained
 for Teriyaki Sauce
1/2 Cup soy sauce or tamari sauce
1/2 Cup sugar  (not brown sugar)
1/2 -inch piece ginger root grated
1 jigger sake or gin or whiskey  (a jigger = a shot, or 1.5 oz. or 44.3 ml)
     (I use a mini bottle from the liquor store = 50 ml)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 clove garlic pressed, or crushed and chopped
1 Tablespoon cooking oil  (not canola)  (I used peanut oil this time)

DIRECTIONS
Soak slender wooden skewers in water overnight, or for several hours.  Press and drain tofu.  Stir all sauce ingredients together until sugar is dissolved.  Slice tofu thickness in half.  Then cut each piece into two equal rectangles.  Soak tofu steaks in marinade over night, or for several hours, turning them over at least 2 or 3 times.  Before grilling, skewer each piece of tofu using two skewers, so the tips of the skewers protrude out the other end just a bit.  Make sure grill is very clean and smooth, and oil the hot grill before adding the tofu.  Grill each side.  Or, pan fry in a non-stick skillet on medium heat, until a nice caramelized sear is achieved.

Notes:  You can also marinate sliced tempeh.  I use organic Tamari sauce, but in Hawaii, Kikkoman soy sauce is the favorite, and many locals use the Kikkoman Less Sodium Soy Sauce, which is good, and my Dad is a Kikkoman man, of course.  Since the original recipe did call for “a jigger” of any of the three alcohols, I used gin this time for that juniper-berry flavor, but I think my Dad usually used sake or whiskey.  The original recipe calls for 1/4 teaspoon MSG, which I eliminated.
IMG_2130

Old Virginia Heirloom Tomato

IMG_0673    Vegan Mofo 2013.  Behold the Old Virginia heirloom tomato.  This is my first time growing this particular variety.  I’m a wicked tomato snob, and one year grew eleven varieties of organic heirlooms, which is no easy feat because if you plant one heirloom variety near another, they can easily cross-pollinate and hybridize.  I planted these seeds on April 14, here in my backyard on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  Lars told me I should have started the seeds indoors 4-8 weeks prior, which I knew, but with the new podcast, lots of things fell to the wayside this year.  Old Virginia is supposedly a mid-season tomato but I started late from seed, and my two 12-foot-long raised beds are behind the garage and don’t get maximum sunlight.  I didn’t even pinch any axil buds this year, something I always do.  Anyway, I think we must have picked the first tomato right around September 1.  And now, of course, they’re coming on like gangbusters.  I figured with a name like Old Virginia, this cultivar could take the heat of a Maryland summer, and it has.  This beautiful tomato is also crack-resistant and has fewer seeds than many varieties.  I got my seeds from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.

Saving seeds is worth it to me, but only if I’m growing heirlooms where I know they’ll reproduce true to the parent.  And it’s important to me to always get an organic seed, especially if I’m going to all the trouble to grow something from seed, and then save the seeds from harvest.  Also, I don’t want to grow GMO.  The flavor of this cultivar is good, although not the best of any heirloom.  However, heirloom tomatoes are often stingy in their production, and prone to cracking and other problems.  I’ve had summers where I have the most delicious heirlooms, but a low yield.  Of course, this beats any restaurant or supermarket tomato to Hell, and the other benefits make this a good, reliable addition to the heirloom tomato catalogue.

On the last episode of the Peaceful Table Podcast, I mentioned a few of my favorite tomato recipes.  Roasted Cream of Tomato SoupFried Green Tomatoes, and a lovely Indian salad called Timatar Ka.
IMG_0697  Fewer seeds than many other tomato varieties.

Vegan Sweet Corn Tamale Cakes

IMG_0247   If you ever enjoyed the Sweet Corn Tamale Cakes from The Cheesecake Factory, you might also like these easy, delicious, vegan versions.  I whip up some quick Romesco Sauce to go with them, which really bumps up the protein, but you could use any topping you like.  Even just some vegan sour cream with chopped cilantro would be great.  I only make these when fresh local corn is in season.

VEGAN SWEET CORN TAMALE CAKES

Makes 10

INGREDIENTS
1/2 Cup corn flour
1/2 Cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
2 teaspoons Ener-G Egg Replacer
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 Tablespoon sugar
and
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil  (I used safflower oil)
1 Cup Lite coconut milk
2 Cups grated zucchini  (about one medium-to-large zucchini, peeled)
2 Cups fresh corn, cut off the cobs  (about 5 ears of corn)
1-2 Tablespoons chopped chives  (or a chopped shallot)

DIRECTIONS
Make your sauce, and set in fridge to chill  (I made this Romesco Sauce).
In a medium bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients.
In a large bowl, mix oil, coconut milk, zucchini, corn and chives.
Add dry ingredients to wet, and stir gently but well with a wooden spoon.
Brush large, non-stick skillet with one teaspoon of oil, and set on almost-medium heat.
Using a 1/3 Cup measure for each cake,  pour out three cakes into skillet.
Cook about 5-6 minutes, until the cakes move when you shake the pan.
Carefully flip,  and cook other side.
Keep warm in 175 degrees Fahrenheit oven.
Serve with Romesco Sauce,  or vegan sour cream and chopped cilantro,  etc.

For reasons of flavor, I do not recommend using canola oil.

Easy Refrigerator Dill Pickles

Here’s one of the best Dill Pickles I’ve ever eaten.  I used organic, pristinely-fresh, full-size cucumbers, and store-bought dill seed, to make this a year-round quick pickle.  By partially peeling and then slicing the cucumbers into spears, we now have a pickle that you can begin eating the next day.  The result is a crunchy, fresh, semi-raw-tasting pickle that’s addictive.  The original recipe appeared in the Dayton Daily News on August 14, 2006, but I cannot find the link and adapted my version from an old photocopy.   It’s one of those popular refrigerator-pickle recipes that’s probably not approved by the FDA.  However, my friend Gail has been making the original recipe for three years and nobody’s gotten sick yet, despite the fact that she refrigerates them for three to six months at a time.  When you consider, for example, the crocks of sauerkraut made around the world and stored in grubby basements, I think we’ll live.  You can find many recipes for refrigerator pickles online, on sites like cooks.com and people are letting them sit in the fridge for months on end and even adding fresh veg into the jars of original brine.  Pickling is the oldest form of food preservation, but there’s a real rebirth of fermented foods going on here in the United States, as evidenced by the plethora of books published on the subject recently (just go on amazon.com and type in “fermented foods“).  The original recipe is called “Cold Pack Dill Pickles” which is a bit of a misnomer, because supposedly, Cold Pack means using a water-bath canner instead of a pressure canner, but this simple recipe uses neither.  I’ve also reduced the salt a bit, added some mustard seeds and brought the yield down from 16 pints, to two quarts, which saves a lot of time and is fine for our home consumption.  Like my Pickled Red Onions, I’ll just make another quick batch when we’re out.  Thank you, Gail, for the original recipe, and all the fabulous garden produce you folks shared with us last summer.  Vegan Mofo 2012.
********
Easy Refrigerator Dill Pickles

Makes 2 quarts.

INGREDIENTS
3 large, full-size, firm, fresh, organic cucumbers
(or four medium cukes)
3.5 Cups filtered water
1 Cup distilled white vinegar
3 Tablespoons fine sea salt
2 Tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons Dill seeds
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds (optional)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and halved

DIRECTIONS
To make brine:
In a large saucepan or small stock pot, add water, vinegar, salt, and sugar.
Heat until good and hot, stirring to dissolve salt and sugar.
Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly.
——–
Have 2 clean quart jars at the ready (or 4 pint jars).
Wash cucumbers carefully and partially peel them, leaving some green strips along the sides.  If the cucumbers are from a safe, organic garden (un-waxed cucumbers), peel them only lightly for visual appeal.
Cut the ends off each cucumber.
Cut each cucumber in half the short way, and then quarter each half into long spears.
Slice away at least half of the seeds from the length of each cucumber spear.
Rinse peeled garlic halves in hot water to make sure they’re clean, and divide the garlic between the two jars.
Add 1 teaspoon of Dill seeds to each jar.
Add 1/2 teaspoon of mustard seeds to each jar.
Place prepared cucumber spears vertically into jars, packing them in tightly.
Fill jars with the hot brine and then tighten the lids by hand.
Wipe jars dry and place them immediately into the fridge.
Supposedly, these keep in the refrigerator for 3 to 6 months.

Notes:  I always run my canning jars through the dishwasher with the other dishes to make sure they’re sterilized.  Make sure cutting board and knives are impeccably clean, etc.  The original recipe calls for chopping the garlic and adding 2 fresh dill sprigs to each jar.  It did not call for heating the brine, or peeling the cukes, and it recommended letting the completed pickles/jars sit out at room temperature for 24 hours, but I was too scared to do that, especially with the garlic in there.

Vegan Jam – Quick Freezer Jam

This is my first attempt at jam, so I decided to make a quick, freezer jam.  Like my rhubarb strawberry compote, this is the kind anyone can make and enjoy (or freeze) without the fear of botulism.  This recipe takes three pints of berries, but it makes a lot.   I got five 8-ounce jars out of this simple recipe, with a little left over.  It takes about an hour to make, including washing and slicing the berries, and you do need to be near the stove for about half an hour of that time.  A small price to pay for the sublime experience of this homemade jam.  It looks like rubies and has the saturated taste of sweet strawberries right from the garden.  Make sure to use organic strawberries, because the non-organic strawberries are seriously toxic, high on the Dirty-Dozen list, no joke.  I developed this recipe myself and this is only my second or third time using the agar agar.  Veganomicon has a good cranberry sauce that uses agar agar and making that gave me the inspiration to use it here.  Agar agar comes in various forms and is odorless, colorless and tasteless, and doesn’t harm anyone the way gelatin does.  One tip is that you can often find it WAY cheaper in Asian grocery stores (I have bought packets for around a dollar).  I’ve been told it has an indefinite shelf life, so it’s great to have on hand.

VEGAN FREEZER JAM – Quick Strawberry Jam

INGREDIENTS
3 pints organic strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 Cup organic sugar
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 Tablespoon agar agar flakes or kanten

DIRECTIONS
Place a small plate and some metal teaspoons in the freezer (you will use these to test your jam).    In a small cup, combine agar agar flakes with lemon juice.
In a large pot, combine all ingredients over low heat, stirring occasionally.
Bring heat up to a low boil and cook, stirring often, until jam has thickened, about another 20-30 minutes.    Stir in a figure-eight pattern about every minute.
The berries will get glossier looking and feel a bit thicker, you will see the change if you pay attention.    Once you feel it’s ready, put a little on one of your frozen spoons and place that spoon back in the freezer for two minutes.  Go back and tilt the frozen spoon of jam and if the jam on the spoon is thickened and not running thinly, your jam is done.  It will continue to thicken as it cools.    Cover and refrigerate.    Put your jam into individual canning jars (I like 8 ounce jars).    Refrigerate up to three weeks, or freeze up to one year.  There is also a great Strawberry Chia Jam on this site, that is even quicker to make.

Vegan Raspberry Oat Bars

These vegan Raspberry Oat Bars are delicious and easy.  Elegant enough for high tea, but (wrapped in wax paper and eaten out of hand) rustic enough for a picnic.  The flavor reminds me of the beautiful raspberry cookies we had in Amsterdam.   On this site, there is also a vegan version of the Ottolenghi Raspberry Oat Bars.

VEGAN RASPBERRY OAT BARS

INGREDIENTS
(for crust and crumb)
1.5 Cups flour (any combination of all-purpose, whole wheat pastry flour or whole wheat)
3/4 Cup brown sugar
1.25 Cups rolled oats (and/or granola)
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1.5 sticks Earth Balance Buttery Sticks

3/4 Cup seedless raspberry jam  (Dickinsons’s brand has great flavor.)

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Place vegan butter out to soften a bit.  Line an 8-9 inch square baking pan each way with parchment paper extending up the sides of the pan (this will help you lift the bars out onto a flat surface for cutting).   Or just generously grease the pan and place it in the fridge.

In a medium bowl, dry whisk all dry ingredients.  Add dry ingredients to butter, and use pastry cutter to incorporate until there is no powdery texture left.  Reserve 1.25 Cups scant of the crumbles/dough and put aside.  Press remaining dough gently into the pan with the back of a spoon, or your fingers.  Bake for 12 minutes, remove from oven and set pan on rack to cool for 7 minutes.

With a spoon, spread jam on warm crust.  Crumble the remaining crust mixture on top of the jam.  Bake 15 minutes more.  Remove from oven and cool pan on rack.  Chill and cut into squares.

Notes:  I used Whole Wheat Pastry Flour.  You can substitute in a cup of granola for the oats.  And/or mix 2-3 Tablespoons of sweetened flake coconut into the jam before spreading.  You can also add 1/16th teaspoon of almond extract to the jam, if you want to gild the lily.

McCormick Grill Mates – Grilled Portobello Mushrooms

This might seem like an odd thing to recommend on a vegan food blog, but keep reading.   McCormick Grill Mates give seitan and other vegan foods a seasoning flavor reminiscent of traditional “meaty” dishes.  I have to give credit to our friend Tim for turning me onto the Montreal Steak Seasoning.  Shortly after I went vegan, Tim and Josie invited us over to barbecue, and Tim grilled up some portobello mushrooms with the Montreal Steak Seasoning.   The grill smoke and the traditional steak seasonings on the meaty portabella mushroom reminded me of the flavors I grew up with.   Since then, I’ve used the Smokehouse Maple Seasoning when cooking Smart Bacon, and it gives it that extra little bacon flavor that’s good in BLT’s, on tofu McMuffins, etc.   I have not tried the chicken flavored one yet, but plan to try it on some vegan cutlets for sandwiches and things.  Please note that not all these seasonings are vegan.  For example, the Molasses Bacon Seasoning has actual pig fat in it.  One last note is that there are various videos for grilling portabella mushrooms on youtube.  Some say the gills are slightly bitter, and so they scoop them out.  Some leave the gills in.  Some score the tops of the mushrooms with a knife, so they get a nice pattern on them and flatten out a bit for a burger.  Either way, these take just minutes to prepare and are delicious.
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Grilled Portobello Mushrooms

INGREDIENTS
2 to 4 Portobello mushrooms
olive oil
McCormick Grill Mates, Montreal Steak seasoning

DIRECTIONS
Twist off mushroom stems.
Gently scrape out gills with a teaspoon (optional)
Quickly but gently wash mushrooms with a soft cloth or brush, under cool water, and set immediately to drain.
Brush mushrooms top and bottom with olive oil.
Sprinkle both sides with McCormick Grill Mates Montreal Steak Seasoning.
In the refrigerator, let mushrooms marinate for one hour or less, in a Ziplock bag into which you’ve sprinkled another Tablespoon of oil.
Do not marinate too long.
Grill 8 to 10 minutes per side.

Note:  If leaving the gills in, make sure to rinse well, so as to dislodge any grit or soil that may be in the folds.  Make sure to buy impeccably fresh portobellos and use them soon, because they can get funky if they get older.

Tovolo Popsicle Molds

I tried these popsicle molds for the first time this past week and am very satisfied with them.  After reading a bunch of reviews on amazon.com, I chose this Tovolo Star Ice Pop Mold.  You get six popsicle molds on a stand.  The green star on each mold acts as a drip catcher, which is kind of smart.  One thing I looked for was individual pop molds, so I could release one pop at a time.  So, if I need to run it under warm water for a few seconds, I’m only loosening one pop, and not the whole lot of them.  With all the bad stuff in popsicles now, these molds are very popular with people of all ages.  Online, I’ve seen uber-healthy pops made from things like acai juice, and homemade vegan fudgesicles, etc.   I think these would be great for teens too, or even to give as a gift, along with a cool popsicle recipe book such as Paletas by Fany Gerson (some of the recipes are vegan and some can be veganized).  These molds are also BPA free.  One tip I have is not to fill them too full, because you want to leave your little drip cup empty.   I filled mine too full, and Lars ended up eating the last bit of popsicle out of the drip cup with a fork.  So far, we’ve released two popsicles and, with a bit of warm water running on the mold for a few seconds, they both came out easily.    There are lots of vegan popsicle recipes online.  Additional photo below.

Roasted Cream of Tomato Soup

It’s Tomato Time in the garden.  I have always eschewed cardboard supermarket tomatoes and the sickly sliced tomatoes in restaurants.  Commercial tomatoes are picked green, sprayed with ethylene, and bred to withstand grueling shipping.  No wonder they’re mealy and tasteless.  We won’t even get into the horrible working conditions and slavery that goes on with tomato workers.  If you want to know more about that, here’s an NPR link.  But now the heirloom garden tomatoes are here!  I’ve already made Fried Green Tomatoes, and Bruschetta, and our favorite BLTs with fried Smart Bacon.  I adapted this vegan Roasted Cream of Tomato Soup from a recipe in an old Gourmet magazine, years ago.  It’s a soup that takes little effort to make, and it’s superlative in taste.  If you don’t have a Vitamix or other high-speed blender, you’ll want to strain this soup through a fine sieve to take out any bits of tomato skins and seeds.  This was always the only time-consuming part of this recipe.  But with the Vitamix, the need for any straining is eliminated, because the healthy tomato skins and seeds just get whirled into oblivion.  All parts of the tomato are healthy.  For example, tomato peels increase absorption of carotenoids.  And yes, even the gel and seeds are very nutritious (the seeds increase blood flow without the complications of daily aspirin).  So, this is where the Vitamix is a brilliant tool in the kitchen, but I made this soup for years with only a regular blender.  If you’ve got extra home-grown tomatoes, this soup is the ticket.  I usually make at least 6 pints to freeze, and then we enjoy them in the depths of winter.
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Vegan Roasted Cream of Tomato Soup

Serves about 8 (freezes well)

Active time: 20 min.   Start to finish: 1 3/4 hr
INGREDIENTS
4 lbs. garden-fresh tomatoes, halved lengthwise (any varieties)
6 garlic cloves, left unpeeled
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil,  or Earth Balance vegan butter
3 cups vegetable stock or vegetable broth (I used vegan Better Than Bouillon)
1/2 cup vegan creamer, such as Silk Soy Creamer, or So Delicious Creamer
DIRECTIONS
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat to 350°Fahrenheit.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or Silpat.
Arrange tomatoes, cut sides up, in one layer on baking sheet.
Add unpeeled garlic cloves to baking sheet.
Sprinkle tomatoes with salt and pepper.
Roast tomatoes and garlic 1 hour, then cool in pan.
Peel garlic.
In a large heavy pot, over medium-low heat, cook onion, oregano, and sugar in butter or oil,  stirring frequently, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes.
Add tomatoes, garlic and stock, and simmer (do not boil), covered, 15 minutes.
Let soup cool.
Puree soup in batches in a Vitamix or regular blender.
Force puree through a sieve into cleaned pot, discarding solids.  If you used a Vitamix, this soup should not need straining.
Stir in cream.
If you want to,  add a little salt and pepper to taste (I do not).
Simmer 2 minutes.
Garnish bowls of soup with a tiny oregano sprig, and/or a crouton.
Notes:  Soup can be made one day ahead.  Freezes well.
I used Better Than Bouillon,  Vegetable Flavor, to make my broth.

 

Reheat just before serving.

Vegan French Red Potato Salad


My lovely friend Chris and her husband had us over to dinner a few years ago.  It was summer and she served this potato salad; an old recipe of her Mom’s.  It was rich and creamy but had a slight tang to it.  I’ve never been a fan of potato salad but this won me over.  The recipe calls for making a separate red French dressing.  The resulting salad is a pleasing peachy color, and I’ve flecked mine with capers and my own pickled red onions.  Chris was kind enough to give me permission to share my version of it here.  So, I’m saying a big thank you to Pat (Chris’ Mom) for my religious conversion to potato salad.  If you can serve it just after you’ve mixed the dressing with the hot potatoes, it’s extra good, but it’s delicious cold too.  To save time, I wash the potatoes and make the dressing the day before.  I’ve always got the pickled onions on hand.

French Red Potato Salad

INGREDIENTS
2 lbs. potatoes (I like red potatoes, or fingerlings with thin skins, but you could also use Yukon Golds)
2-3 stalks celery, chopped fine
Small red onion, chopped fine (or I use my pickled onions)
3-4 Tablespoons sweet relish from a jar
1 to 2 Tablespoons lightly chopped capers
¼ Cup Vegenaise mayonnaise (with the green cap)

DIRECTIONS
Make your pickled onions the day before if you can, if using.
Make your French Dressing (see recipe below).

Cut well-scrubbed potatoes into bite-sized pieces, do not peel.
Place potatoes in cold water, add a teaspoon of salt, bring to a boil, and then continue at a low boil for about 8 minutes more.  Do not cook fully.  You should be able to pierce them with a fork but they shouldn’t fall apart.

Into a large bowl, put the celery, onions, chopped capers, sweet relish and Vegenaise, and mix.
Add French dressing to relish mixture and stir to combine.
Put hot potatoes into the dressing mixture and gently fold in with a wooden spoon until well mixed.
Serve immediately or chill and serve later.

Red French Dressing
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon vegan Worcestershire (I like Wizard’s brand)
4-5 drops Tabasco
1 teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon sweet basil
2 Tablespoons ketchup
2 Tablespoons white balsamic vinegar (I like Alessi brand from the supermarket, and it’s not expensive, and has different flavors)
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed or minced

DIRECTIONS FOR FRENCH DRESSING
Mix all dressing ingredients and shake well or use a cafe latte frother to emulsify dressing.  Chill until ready.
Notes:  Chris’ Mom also used radishes, which would make it even prettier.  This makes a lot, so it’s good to take somewhere.

Corn Tomato Salad with Herbs and Fresh Lime Juice

I got this recipe down on Tilghman Island at an outdoor party some years ago.  I took one bite and began asking around the crowd of strangers, “Who made the corn salad?”  Luckily, the kind woman did remember to mail me the recipe and I now have it to share with you.  I make this every summer.  It’s simple and healthy, and tastes amazing.  The lime juice is essential, and this is a great salad for company or a BBQ or buffet table because it just tastes better as it sits out.  You can also double it easily for a crowd.   This salad does justice to fresh corn in high season, and it’s also a great time to use those little cherry tomatoes and herbs from the garden.  Sauteeing the garlic and thyme mellows them out and the lime juice gives it a hint of acidity,  it’s just balanced.

Corn Tomato Salad with Herbs and Fresh Lime Juice

Serves 6

INGREDIENTS
6 ears of corn, husks and silks removed
1 Tablespoon Earth Balance vegan butter
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus another set aside
1 garlic clove, pressed or crushed and minced
1 tsp. coarsely chopped fresh thyme
1 bunch green onions, green portion only, thinly
  sliced on the diagonal
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
Juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil

DIRECTIONS
In a medium glass bowl, combine 1 Tablespoon of the oil, the lime juice, salt, pepper, sliced tomatoes, and chopped basil.  Set aside at room temperature.

Holding each ear of corn by its pointed end and steadying its stalk end in a large bowl, cut down along the ear with a sharp knife to strip off the kernels, turning the ear with each cut.
In a large nonstick saute pan over medium heat, heat the vegan butter and 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil until hot.
Add the garlic and saute, stirring constantly, 20 to 30 seconds.
Add corn and saute, stirring occasionally, just until tender, about 2 minutes.  Do not overcook the corn!
Add the thyme and green onions and saute for about 1 minute more. Transfer to a large metal or wooden (non-reactive) bowl.
Let cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes.
Add tomato mixture, and stir to combine.
Serve immediately or at room temperature.
 
You can double this if you need to.  Serve at room temperature. Good the next day too, but let it sit out a bit to warm up before serving, or zap it in the microwave for 30 seconds if you’re in a hurry.

Raw Sweet Corn and Cashew Chowder

This delectable cold soup calls for  yellow corn, but all I could find was white.  This is an Ani Phyo recipe I saw on the Food & Wine web site.  It takes 15 minutes to make, and it’s delicious and healthy.  It’s also elegant enough to serve for company.  I did make some changes.  I cut the olive oil by two thirds, because I can’t imagine having that much oil in this amount of soup.  I cut the salt in half for the same reason.  I decreased the garlic by half, and was glad I did.  One clove doesn’t sound like much, but remember this is raw garlic, and it’s a delicate soup.  Even with half of one small clove, we could still really taste the garlic in with the flavor of the fresh, raw corn.  In the end, I should have decreased the water by at least 25%, because the “chowder” is really a thin soup.  So here below, I have cut it down for next time.  I also needed at least 6 ears of corn, not 4 as per the recipe.  Even 7 ears couldn’t hurt, because the kernels of fresh, raw corn are wonderful in this cold soup.  I’m going to try heating this soup up too.  I definitely recommend soaking the cashews overnight if you want a silky, smooth soup, especially if you’re not using a “high-speed blender” like a Vitamix.  Using the Vitamix, I had smooth, silky soup in less than one minute, with absolutely no chunks or pieces, but it could just be because I soaked the nuts, I’m not sure.   In New England (or at least in New Hampshire), very old recipes for corn-on-the-cob start with “Pick the corn and run to the kitchen.”  This means that we like the corn to be as fresh as possible.  If you can find it, always go for the freshest corn, and if at a farmers market, ask when it was picked.  Once the corn is picked, the sugars begin to convert to starch immediately.  Not critical, but something to choose if you can.  And this reminds me that I wanted to re-make Corn Perfumed with Indian Spices once I had some fresh corn available again.  The corn recipe I use the most is Baked Corn on the Cob because it’s so quick and effortless, and comes out perfectly every time.  No grill, no boiling water, no fuss.

Raw Sweet Corn and Cashew Chowder

INGREDIENTS
Fresh corn kernels from 6 ears of corn (or 7)
1.5 Cups of cool water
½ Cup raw cashews that have been soaked overnight
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ of a small garlic clove with center sprout removed
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon chopped cilantro leaves
Freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS
Place cashews in water and refrigerate overnight.
Drain cashews.
In a blender (preferably a high-speed blender such as a Vitamix), combine 2-1/4 Cups of the corn with the water, cashews, olive oil, garlic and salt, and puree until smooth.
Pour soup into bowls.
Garnish with remaining corn kernels, the cilantro and a sprinkle of pepper.
Serve.

Note:  This soup can be refrigerated overnight.  Garnish just before serving.

Old Fashioned Lemonade

This recipe is from Everyday Dish TV.   At Whole foods, I found a 2 lb. bag of organic lemons for pretty cheap.  I only used 5 lemons for this recipe, and had 3 or 4 left over.    This was a snap to make with this lemon squeezer I’ve used for years with no trouble.  I know organic costs more, but when we buy organic, we are helping to create the world we want to live in.  I’ve never been one to care about having a new car (as long as it runs) but I’m passionate about buying organic, non-gmo, etc.  I’m dreaming of summer, can you tell?
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Old-Fashioned Lemonade

Serves 6

INGREDIENTS
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup boiling water
1 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (approx. 5 lemons)
About 4 cups cold water

DIRECTIONS
In a large heatproof pitcher or measuring cup, whisk together the sugar and boiling water until the sugar is completely dissolved.
Stir in the lemon juice, stirring well.
Add the cold water.
Adjust the lemonade to taste.
Serve in glasses over ice, with optional lemon slices.

Strawberry Lemonade:  Thaw frozen strawberries, and puree until smooth. I like to use a stick/hand blender or regular blender for this. Stir strawberry puree into prepared lemonade, adding to taste.

Lemonade Soda:  Top off glasses of lemonade with chilled sparkling water.

Super Simple Raspberry Sorbet

This Super Simple Fruit Sorbet only takes about five minutes to make, and the result right out of the food processor is a perfect soft texture.  Because you’re adding almost no liquid, the fruit flavor is very intense, almost undiluted.   For a dinner party, this is elegant with one crisp little cookie sticking out of it.  You can get creative with your fruits too, go seasonal.  Try to buy organic frozen fruits because otherwise they’re  pesticide-laden.  In fact, the Dirty Dozen includes peaches, strawberries, blueberries and cherries as having among the highest pesticides.  Note that you will want to change the sugar quanitity, depending upon the fruit’s tartness.

SUPER SIMPLE VEGAN RASPBERRY SORBET

Yield:  4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS
one 10 oz. bag of organic frozen raspberries (or more)
1/2 Cup soy yogurt, either plain or vanilla flavor
1/3 Cup sugar
2 Tablespoons of water or nut milk or soy creamer

DIRECTIONS
Set aside 4 or 6 pretty frozen berries for garnish (optional).
Put all other ingredients in a food processor container, and pulse.
Add a couple of tablespoons of liquid to help processor.  I used Silk Soy Creamer.
Process just until pureed and creamy, and stop a couple of times to scrape down the side of the bowl as needed.   Do not over-process or the sorbet will liquefy.
Serve immediately or freeze it for later.
If serving later, allow 20 minutes for sorbet to soften at room temperature.
Garnish each serving with a berry or a mint leaf or a little cookie.
Stand back for applause.

Corn Perfumed with Indian Spices

I adapted this recipe from Madhur Jaffrey’s “Corn With Aromatic Seasonings.”  This year, the New York Times did a big spread on Vegetarian Thanksgiving dishes, and that’s where I spotted it.  We can’t get fresh corn here right now, so I resorted to a 16 ounce bag of frozen corn.  Jaffrey’s recipe calls for two 10 oz. bags of corn, so I also adjusted amounts of spices.  This came out well enough that I’ll definitely be making it next year when the fresh corn is ready; it would be so succulent with fresh corn.  Even my picky husband liked it.  I thought this dish was perfect to use with Spectrum Organic Virgin Unrefined Coconut Oil.  In the cookbook “Skinny Bitch in The Kitch” they call a lot for cooking with coconut oil, and it turns out that the health benefits are many.  Refined coconut oil is a neutral flavor and can be used with medium-high heat.  Unrefined coconut oil does have a coconut flavor, although a very natural one, not like the strong artificial flavoring, and should be used only on medium heat.  One of the big advantages of cooking with coconut oil is that it has a higher smoking point, is less prone to oxidization than say, olive oil at certain temperatures.  It’s just a health thing in that respect but the coconut flavor of the unrefined oil lends a classic exotic taste to the Indian spices.  The start of this dish uses a common method of Indian cooking; where you heat the oil and then add the spices so they pop and release more flavor.  It makes me think of scenes in the Indian novels I like so much; where the women crack the cardamom pods between their teeth before adding them to the hot oil.  You’ll see that it’s a lovely moment; when the spices pop and sizzle and release their aromas into the air.  Now that I’ve made this particular dish, I might also add some lime zest if I had a lime in the fridge, but it’s not necessary.
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Corn Perfumed with Indian Spices 

Serves 4-6

INGREDIENTS
1 T Virgin Unrefined Coconut Oil, such as Spectrum brand
1 tsp whole brown or yellow mustard seeds
2 cardamom pods
2 whole cloves
1 one-inch cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
1/2 fresh jalapeno pepper, minced finely  (or one pinch cayenne = 1/16th teaspoon)
4-6 ears of fresh corn, cut off the cobs,  or one 16-ounce bag of frozen corn
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 C  So Delicious Coconut Milk Creamer,  Original Flavor  (plain flavor)

DIRECTIONS
Combine mustard seeds, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and bay leaf in a small cup.
Pour oil into an 8-10 inch frying pan (no larger), and set to medium heat.
When oil is hot, put in all the whole spices.  As soon as mustard seeds pop (a matter of seconds), add the ginger and green chile.
Stir once or twice, then add in corn.  Stir for 2-3 minutes.
Add the salt and cream.
Continue to stir and cook for another minute.
Turn heat to low, and cook a few more minutes, until all cream is absorbed.
Remember to pick out and discard the cardamom pods, cloves, cinnamon stick and bay leaf, before serving.

Notes:  I do not use my largest frying pan for this.  I want to give the oil a bit of depth, so it can heat and pop those spices, in the Indian way, without using more fat.

Bruschetta

From the World English Dictionary:  bruschetta:  pronounced brus-ketta.  An Italian open sandwich of toasted bread topped with olive oil and tomatoes, olives, etc.  Anyone who really knows me, knows I am a little fanatical when it comes to heirloom tomatoes.  One year I grew eleven varieties.  So, what do you do when you’ve got the season’s last tomatoes in your hot little hands?  You might make a killer bruschetta, as I did.  The movie Julie and Julia has been playing on TV lately, and so we watched it again.  The Julia movie is so visually attractive (aside from all the cut-up dead animals), thanks to Nora Ephron.  Reading the book “Heartburn” by Nora Ephron was one of my first culinary fiction experiences.  Then, when the novel “Water For Chocolate” came out, I was hooked, and now have a good collection of culinary fiction collected over the last 20 years or more.  Back to the Julia movie; the only non-violent cooking scene is when Amy Adams is making bruschetta, and boy does she go all the way with it.  Yes, she fries the bread!  I just never in a million years would have thought of frying the bread.  But since we’re not using any animal products, and these are the last tomatoes from the garden, I thought, “Okay, we can do this.”  So, I got out my vintage cast-iron skillet, put a dollop of good olive oil in the pan and pressed a mini baguette (sliced in half the long way) around in the pan on medium heat, flipping it a couple of times.  I kept the topping uber simple; just chopped up my own heirloom tomatoes (Cherokee Purple and Brandywine cultivars), minced just a small bit of onion (one or two tablespoons), and put in a couple of good cranks of coarse sea salt, and mixed it all up.  You want to let your tomato mixture sit and marinate while you do your bread.  I didn’t put any oil in the tomatoes because there was already oil on the bread from the pan frying.  And . . . the bruschetta was AMAZING.  The fried bread gives it an unctuous, golden, crispy crust, that, in contrast to the velvety, savory softness of the luscious tomatoes, is a kind of nirvana.  Lars commented on it, and said, “Good.” with his mouth full.  And I asked, “Is this like the best bruschetta you’ve ever had?”  It was.

Timatar Ka Salad (Indian Tomato Salad)

I love Indian food, and want to work on building up a repertoire of dishes to make at home.  This simple tomato salad has one major requirement, in my opinion;  use only freshly picked tomatoes from the garden or your farmers market.  I don’t eat “fresh” (raw) tomatoes in winter, because they taste like cardboard.  The tomatoes in this photo are of the Cherokee Purple variety and that’s why they’re not the traditional bright red.  If you’re like me, you’ve got a lot of late tomatoes right now and need to use them up before the bounty of summer gets hit by the first frost.  This recipe is from the cookbook Quick and Easy Indian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey.  This was a book I bought BV (before veganism) but I kept it when I was culling all my old cookbooks because many Indian recipes are either already vegan or easily adapted to be so.  Maybe some of this has to do with Hinduism which holds the principle of nonviolence (ahimsa) in very high regard.  There is a conviction that eating other sentient beings as food is detrimental for the mind and body and spiritual development.  So, if you’re looking for a vegan restaurant meal, sometimes you’ll have good luck at Indian restaurants.  The one caveat is that many Indians are ovo-lacto vegetarians and so they do consume dairy and butter (ghee) and eggs, so you must request your meal to be vegan.  But many vegans find understanding and warmth at Indian restaurants, and many modern-day Indian restaurants are vegan also!  On with the recipe:
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TIMATAR KA  SALAD

Serves 4-6

INGREDIENTS
1.5 lbs. tomatoes
fresh basil leaves (or cilantro or mint leaves)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
2 T fresh lemon juice
1 T peanut oil  and  1 T mustard oil  (or substitute grapeseed oil)
1/2 tsp cumin seeds (not ground cumin)
1/2 tsp black or yellow mustard seeds (not ground)

DIRECTIONS
-Cut tomatoes into 1/4 inch slices and arrange in slightly overlapping layers on a large plate.
-Tuck the basil (or cilantro or mint) leaves in the center.
-Sprinkle the salt, black pepper, cayenne and lemon juice over the tomatoes, avoiding the leaves.
-Put the oil in a small saucepan and set over high heat.
-When oil is hot, put in cumin and mustard seeds.
-As soon as mustard seeds being to pop (this takes a few seconds), lift the saucepan off the heat and spoon the oil and spices over the tomatoes, being careful to avoid the leaves.
-Serve immediately.

Pesto Sauce

My good friend Jan told me she plants her basil seeds at the end of June, so that the basil is ready for harvest when the tomatoes are ripe.  If you have a little patch of soil, you’d be amazed at how easy basil is to grow.  You simply scratch the seeds into the soil, and voila, come August and September, you’ll have an embarrassment of basil.  I first tried pesto only six years ago, at a little Italian place in South Kensington called Dino’s.  The food was okay at Dino’s but the pesto was a revelation to me.  So when I came home from Europe, I decided to try making pesto, did some reading and came up with a basic recipe.  It was so good that I have never bought pesto in a jar.  Now that I’m vegan, I wondered how my pesto would be this summer without the parmigiano.  I’m relieved to say, it’s wonderful!  The toasted pine nuts already have a cheesy taste to them, and then adding a bit of nutritional yeast did the trick.   Nowadays, there are lots of pesto recipes that skip the blanching.  I do it because it sets the color and because, when you’re picking basil from the garden, there will be a few tiny bugs or caterpillars in it.  One last note is that I see online recommendations to add a bit of parsley in with the basil leaves, because supposedly the chlorophyll in the parsley helps the basil from turning black.  I just haven’t found this to be a problem since I blanch the leaves, but hey, a little parsley never hurt anyone.  I made a bit too much pasta here, so your finished dish might be a bit more green in color than this, hopefully.  Either way, it’s all good.
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Vegan Pesto Sauce

INGREDIENTS
1/2 C pine nuts toasted
1/4 C Nutritional Yeast (not brewers yeast)
2-3 C packed fresh basil leaves
¼ t salt
2 garlic cloves
2 T olive oil,  plus 1T olive oil

DIRECTIONS
-Toast pine nuts under broiler, and set aside to cool
– Fill a metal sauce pan half full with water and set on medium heat
-Pick basil leaves (cut about 5 branches from the mother plant)
-Sort through basil leaves, discarding any that don’t look good
(use as many small leaves as you can)
-Enjoy the spicy cinnamon scent of fresh basil as you pluck the leaves
– Fill a small mixing bowl half full with ice water
-When water is simmering, blanch basil leaves for about 10 seconds
-Use a spider ladle or slotted spoon to lift leaves,
and scrape leaves into ice water

-Into food processor, add toasted nuts and salt and crushed garlic.
-Process about a minute.
-Gently squeeze basil leaves to remove most of water (not all).
-Add squeezed basil leaves to garlic/nut mixture, process another minute.
-Add 2 T of the olive oil and continue processing until smooth, another 2 min.
-Scrape pesto into a cereal bowl.
-Stir the nutritional yeast into the bowl, adding the last 1T of olive oil now.
-Mix well.

It’s fine to let this chill for a couple of hours or until next day, or divide and/or freeze now.

If serving now:
Boil pasta and drain, reserving a ladle or two of the hot pasta water.
Add a ladle of hot pasta water to the pesto and stir well to blend.
Gently toss hot pesto with hot pasta until well mixed.
Serve.

NOTE: You can substitute raw walnuts in equal measure for the pine nuts.

Pesto keeps, its surface covered with plastic wrap, chilled, for a few days. 

Serves:  Makes two one-third-cup measures of pesto, enough for four big plates of pesto pasta, or more smaller side dishes.  Since I’m usually cooking for two, I freeze half of the pesto for a winter’s day.  I like to use fine spaghetti, vermicelli or capellini, or even angel hair.

Baked Corn on the Cob

I got this wonderful recipe recently from a newspaper column called Everyday Cheapskate.  It seemed so incredibly simple and quick, that I cut it out and tried it.  Some things are not too good to be true!   I put a photo here so you can see that the corn in the husk looks a bit sere and withered when it comes out of the oven.  No worries, the corn inside is moist and tender!  With this being the end of summer, grab the corn by the ears (OK, horrible pun) and try this.  You don’t even have to soak it!  No heating the grill, Nada, just delicioso corn in minutes with absolutely no fuss!
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Quick Corn by Jo M., Ohio

Snip dirty silk ends off corn husks with scissors (I added this step)

Place corn in husks on cookie sheet and place in cold oven.
(no soaking is necessary)

Turn oven on to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for 30 minutes.

When it’s done, husks and silk will peel off easily.
The recipe writer makes a compound butter by adding chili powder and/or lime zest.  I just use a bit of Earth Balance and a sprinkle of Real Salt, wow.
Really good and super quick!

Fried Green Tomatoes

I’ve eaten Fried Green Tomatoes at restaurants and they’ve been hard as rocks.  I came home and read about them online and supposedly, they’re supposed to be meltingly soft.  I watched videos on youtube, and checked out blogs online.  After four tries, I found the key is using truly green, un-ripe tomatoes.  On the first go-round, I used Spelt flour and it stuck to the tomatoes really well.  Lars and I both felt that apple cider vinegar was way too strong, almost off-putting, so the third time around I used some inexpensive fig-infused white balsamic vinegar instead.  These vinegars can be found in most grocery stores, and I encourage you to try different “fancy” vinegars because the milder vinegar was so delicious.  One time I dipped the slices in rice milk before the pastry flour and that worked well too, and eliminates any vinegar flavor at all if that’s what you want.  The thick slices of firm tomato can really stand up to the slow frying, and the unique fruity flavor of the truly-green tomato comes right through the cornmeal batter and vinegar.  I’m sure you could use some gluten-free flour too.  I’m guessing the restaurant versions were hard as rocks because they were throwing them in the deep fryer instead of letting them fry slower in a pan.  There’s a photo of the finished dish at the bottom of this page.  One note is that I have cut this recipe in half below, since I’m usually only cooking for two.  Double it for four, of course.  On the side, try this remoulade dressing for vegetables, it kind of makes it.

VEGAN FRIED GREEN TOMATOES

2 large firm green un-ripe tomatoes
sea salt
1/4 cup “fancy” vinegar of some kind, white balsamic or sherry vinegar, etc.
1/4 cup safflower oil1/4 C spelt flour (or other flour)

1/2 C fine cornmeal, also known as corn flour
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne

DIRECTIONS
Have your dipping sauce ready and chilling.    With a big serrated bread knife, cut green tomatoes into slices one half inch thick.    Lay slices on baking rack and sprinkle them lightly with sea salt, on both sides.  It’s ok for them to sit for 30 minutes or more as you work.

Set oil to heat in a sauce pan with higher sides, on medium heat (no higher).    Mix together all coating/dredging ingredients.    Put vinegar in a flattish bowl, like a cereal bowl.   One at a time, dip tomato slices into vinegar and then into flour dredging bowl.  I use a spoon to coat the tomato in the dredging bowl and then gently shake off any excess flour.  Using tongs helps prevent breaking the batter too much.    Return dipped-and-coated slices to the baking rack.    Repeat until all slices are dipped and coated.  These can sit while you work.

When the oil is hot, a single drop of water will sizzle.  You can judge if the oil is too hot at this point and turn it down just a hair.    Using tongs, carefully place slices in oil, and don’t crowd.    Fry about 3 minutes per side, until golden brown, not too dark.
Drain on paper towels.    Serve immediately with sauce, or keep warm in a 200 degree
oven.

Blackberry Syrup

It’s a Blackberry Bonanza around here.  Our friend Scott has blackberry bushes in his backyard in Easton, and so far, he’s given us 8 quarts this year.  The first three quarts I made into syrup and gave him one of the jars.  So back he came yesterday morning, with five more quarts of berries.  I began making blackberry syrup last summer when Scott brought us blackberries then.  I added a tiny bit of corn starch this year, just to thicken it a bit more.  I have successfully frozen this syrup and used it throughout the year that way.  With only an electric stove, am unable to do any real canning.  But this is quick and superb.

INGREDIENTS
3 lbs. blackberries, as fresh as possible
1 C organic sugar
1 C water
1 T corn starch and 2 T cold water

DIRECTIONS
Mix corn starch into cold water and blend with a fork until dissolved, set aside.

Bring berries, sugar and water to a boil over moderately high heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved.   Reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until fruit is soft, about 30 minutes.  While stirring, make sure to gently press/crush berries against the side of the pot with your wooden spoon.

Let mixture cool to a safe temperature.   This cooling will take an hour or two at least.  Then pour mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into glass bowl, pressing gently on and then discarding all solids.  This is the time consuming part; it will take a good 10-15 minutes.

Put strained syrup back into pot, and add corn-starch water.
Bring syrup just to a boil, stirring constantly.
Turn down heat a little. Stir very often and simmer for about another five minutes.
Let cool,  and then chill to thicken a bit more.
For best flavor, serve syrup almost at room temperature.

Note:  If you’re going to freeze some, put it in thick glass jars, such as small canning jars, maybe 4 oz. or 8 oz.  Or you can put it in some of those new Ball brand plastic jars, which are BPA-free.  When freezing, make sure to leave some space at the top, as the liquid will expand when it freezes.

Yield, about 24 ounces of syrup, maybe a tad more.

This is really good to drizzle over fruit such as grilled peaches or poached pears, or soy yogurt.  Also, to sweeten iced tea, lemonade, or cocktails.  I’m going to play around with making a blackberry balsamic salad dressing/vinaigrette.  This recipe might look time consuming, but really, you can do all kinds of other things while it’s cooking.  I do dishes, and make dinner while it cooks, and then forget about it for a couple of hours while it cools.

Adapted from this recipe on epicurious.

Santa Fe Wrap Sandwiches

Now that fresh corn is in abundance, it’s time to break out this recipe.  I created it after eating a wrap of the same name at The Lily Pad Cafe, in Denton, MD.   They are not a vegan restaurant, but will work with you, and they’re right near a couple of great antique shops.  Here’s my take on it:

SANTA FE WRAP SANDWICHES

INGREDIENTS
Large tortilla wraps (larger than medium size if you can get them)
(or pita pockets are also good)
1 or 2 ripe avocados
Juice of one small lime
1/4 t chili powder
1/8 t cayenne
1/4 t salt
1 14-oz. can of organic black beans, drained and rinsed
4 ears of fresh, raw corn, cut off the cobs
approx. 10 or 11 kalamata olives, chopped  (or green olives in a pinch)
vegan mayonnaise such as Vegenaise
optional; shredded lettuceDIRECTIONS
Mix beans, spices, olives, lime juice and corn together in a medium bowl.
Brush tortillas with Vegenaise mayonnaise.
Add slices of avocado (an absolute must).  Here’s a good way to cut an avocado.
Add lettuce if you want it.
Add bean corn mixture.
Fold ends in and then roll up the wrap.
Slice wraps in half on the diagonal and serve immediately.Note:  You can gild the lily by mixing up the mayo beforehand with some extra chili powder and cayenne.   One time I added in some leftover pickled artichoke hearts, and that was good, but don’t get too crazy because the simple combination above is too good to mess with.

Grilled Corn on the Cob

I went on youtube and found this link for how to grill corn in the husk.  However, I should have looked at the youtube link BEFORE i grilled the corn, ha ha.  Although it was just about the best corn we’ve ever made, I would follow this guy’s technique for peeling back the husk next time.  Whereas I was peeling back the husk a leaf at a time, this guy smartly just ripped the husk in half and down the cob, but did not remove it.  Much easier to fold the husk back up his way.  After reading a few recipes, here’s what I did:

Snip off the gritty/dirty end of any silk protruding from the husk.  Grip corn husk with one hand on each side and pull down to end of cob, but do not separate husk totally from cob.  Pull out any silk and discard.  Rinse corn and fold husk back up in its original position.  Tear a long leaf of husk in half the long way, and use as a tie to secure husk back in place (this is optional–the guy in the video doesn’t bother with this step).  Soak these prepared ears of corn in a sink full of water, for about an hour.  Use a heavy pot or something to weight the corn down under the water.  When ready to grill, place ears of corn in the dish drainer for a minute, then place on hot grill.  If your grill has an upper rack, that would be ideal, but it’s not critical.  Close grill lid and let the corn steam for a few minutes.  Turn the corn every five minutes, just until 20 minutes go by.  Then you’re done!  A little Earth Balance vegan butter and a little sea salt, and you’re in heaven.  Grilling in the husk really does give the corn a subtle, unique flavor that just screams mid-summer.  We’re sold.