September 30, 2012

Pine Nut Polenta with Cherry Sauce - Another Way to Get Your Grains

In preparation for the big VegFest weekend, I purchased a cookbook by each chef I'd be working with so I could have them ready to sign for my collection.  I didn't get Robin Asbell's cookbook in time so I purchased one at the VegFest which she graciously signed for me.  I bought The Big Vegan at the festival and her Sweet & Easy Vegan just came in the mail yesterday. I opened the book and chose the first recipe I saw:  Pine Nut Polenta with Cherry Sauce.  A warm whole grain treat made with coarse corn meal and teff that can be eaten for breakfast or dessert.  I had just about everything the recipe called for except for a little teff.  I took some cherries out of the freezer to thaw, picked up some more teff and whipped it together Saturday afternoon.  I chilled it overnight and grilled it for a delightful Sunday breakfast. Oh yeah, did I mention this is an Easy recipe?  The cherry sauce is very simple.  I just did something similar with raspberries for the thumbprint cookies.  Any berries will work for this recipe.

Pine Nut Polenta with Cherry Sauce
    Robin Asbell, Sweet & Easy Vegan, page 47


1 Cup coarse cornmeal/polenta
3 Cups filtered water
1 Cup amaranth or teff or 1 cup additional cornmeal
1 Cup vanilla non-dairy milk
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts

The grains can be substituted with other grains and cashews or other nuts can be substituted for the pine nuts.

Cherry Sauce

10 oz. frozen dark cherries (your favorite berries)
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup apple juice
1 TB corn starch

Lightly oil a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.

To make the polenta:

Put the cornmeal in a medium saucepan, then add the water gradually while whisking continuously.  Whisk in the amaranth or teff.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, then cook, whisking continuously until thick, about 5 minutes.  Stir in half the pine nuts.

Scrape the polenta into the prepared pan and spread it in an even layer.  Sprinkle the remaining pine nuts on the top and press to adhere.  Cover tightly and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, until firm.

To make the sauce:

In a small saucepan, combine the cherries and maple syrup.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Lower the heat to maintain a simmer.  In a cup or small bowl, whisk the apple juice and cornstarch together until smooth, then stir the mixture into the cherries.  cook until shiny and thickened, about 5 minutes.

Slice the polenta and either fry it in a lightly oiled, well-seasoned cast-iron skillet or bake it on an oiled baking sheet at 400º for 10 to 15 minutes, until heated through and browned.  Serve topped with the warm sauce, reheating it, if need be.  Stored in separate airtight containers, the polenta and cherry sauce will keep for about 1 week.

Looking forward to breakfast again tomorrow. Yum!

September 29, 2012

Nutty Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies

This weekend at the Portland VegFest I had the pleasure of organizing the prep kitchen.  Scott & I packed up the kitchen and had two wonderful days of playing with our food.  We assisted seven vegan chefs from around the country for nine chef demos.  We learned a lot, especially about working together.  I have a lot more confidence Scott & I can work as a team whichever way this vegan cooking adventure takes us.

The first chef we got to work with was Chef Del Sroufe, author of the Forks Over Knives cookbook.  I opened it at work Wednesday and chose the first recipe I saw for my "plan review" treats, Nutty Raspberry Jam Thumbprints.  They look easy and made with the oat flour, they're gluten free. Today is just a little bit tense having the budget reviewed by our superiors.  I like to break the ice with some vegan treats.  If nothing else goes well, and it will, the cookies usually cause a little smiling.

I had most the ingredients in the recipe, except some nuts.  I stopped by the grocery store after the garden last night and picked up some nice pecans.  I didn't have any applesauce handy, but an apple in the Blendtec worked out just fine.  Yesterday morning before I went to work I took some raspberries out of the freezer to thaw.  I made a little jam with some pure maple syrup and Agar and let it cool.  You can use a good pre-made jam.

My Quick Jam

About 2 cups fresh or frozen berries
3 TB pure maple syrup
1 TB Agar
1 Cup boiling water
1/4 tsp cinnamon, optional
1/4 tsp nutmeg, optional

Heat the berries with the maple syrup until they come to a gentl boil.  Add the Agar to the boiling water and dissolve.  Add the Agar mixture to the hot berry mixture, mix well, add cinnamon and nutmeg.  Bring it to a gentle boil again, remove it from the heat and let cool.  It will thicken as it cools.

Nutty Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies
     Forks Over Knives Cookbook, page 271

Makes 18 cookies

1/2 Cup unsweetened applesauce,
1/4 Cup almond butter
1/2 Cup dry sweetener:  raw cane sugar, coconut sugar, sucanat, etc.
1 TB ground flaxseeds
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups oat flour (If you're not concerned with gluten, unbleached wheat or spelt, flour will work fine)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts, (I used pecans)
1/2 cup raspberry jam, or to taste

Preheat oven to 350º.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat baking mat.

In a large mixing bowl use a  strong fork to mix the applesauce, almond butter, sweetener, and flax seeds.  Once relatively smooth, mix in vanilla.

Add the flour, baking soda, and salt and mix well.  Fold in the oats and walnuts.

Roll about 2 tablespoons of batter into a ball and place on the prepared baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining batter until you have 18 balls.  They can fit into once cookie sheet because they don't spread much at all during baking.  Moisten you thumb (or index finger) and make a deep indent in the center of each cookie.  Place about 1/2 teaspoon of jam in each indent.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the bottoms of the cookie are golden brown. 

Remove the cookies from the oven and let them cool on the sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

I sprinkled them with a bit of powdered sugar, that's optional.

September 16, 2012

Quick and Easy ~ Lively Mexican Vegan Hash

We've got some beautiful little red and purple potatoes coming out of the garden now.  I was looking for a quick and easy meal the other day.  I thought about potato hash.  I had some tempeh in the fridge and thought it would make a nice addition.  I sliced some into little cubes and gave them a quick marinade of tamari, lemon juice, and a little garlic chili flax oil. I let them sit in the marinade for about 15 minutes.

I browned the cubes and set them aside. Then sauteed some fresh onions, shallots, red bell pepper, and fresh red potato slices in a little water. While the potatoes cooked, I added a little mexican spice blend: cumin, chili powder, oregano, cinnamon, and garlic powder. I put the tempeh back to the mixture and about a  half cup of filtered water and simmered it all until the potatoes were tender. Added a handful of chopped Italian Parsley and topped it off with some vegan chipotle cream sauce and avocado.

Chipotle Cream Sauce: 1/2 cup veganaise, 1 tsp chipotle chili powder, dash cumin, (or favorite spice), 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice, dash salt, (optional). Whisk it all together until blended.

One of the spice blends I like to keep on hand is a mexican blend.  It's handy to have around to change up the flavor of a stir fry or bean dish. 

Mexican Spice Blend
     Makes 7 tablespoons

1/4 cup chili powder
2 TB cumin powder
2 tsp oregano, dried
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Place all ingredients in a small mixing bowl and mix well.  Store in a glass jar.

Add to casseroles, beans, vegetable stir-fry or any recipe you'd like to liven up.

September 15, 2012

Vegan Manicotti

My husband noticed some very large pasta shells and mentioned he'd like to try them.  I picked them up and made a homemade manicotti with them.  It was pretty easy and really didn't take much work at all.  It was a great, easy meal during the week.

I made a vegan ricotta with some soaked cashews, about 2 cups, blended until smooth with 1/2 cup organic soy yogurt, a little filter water, probably only a quarter cup, and a dash of sea salt.  I covered the mixture and set it in a cool dark corner of the kitchen for about 48 hours.  This ferments the cashews a bit and produces a cheezy flavor.  I chopped up some fresh red bell pepper, a couple cloves of garlic, fresh Italian parsley, and fresh basil and combined them with the cheese mixture.

I poured a little of my homemade marinara sauce in the bottom of a 9x13" baking dish and stuffed the shells.

I cooked the pasta shells according to the directions, about 9-11 minutes, until they were al dente.  Then I stopped the cooking by running cold water over them.  I let them cool so I could handle, then stuffed a couple tablespoons of the vegan ricotta I made.

I topped the shells with a little more marinara and sprinkled a little Daiya Mozzarella cheese on top.  Baked at 375º for about 20 minutes just to warm it thoroughly and melt the Daiya cheese a little.

Mixed Roots Roasted in an Oversized Summer Squash

Late summer and early fall are great time of year for fresh vegetables.  A couple times a week I can stop by our garden on the way home from work and pick up some groceries.  This week I took a couple boxes home and dropped off a box to my granddaughter's house too. Except for fruit, I haven't had the need to go to the grocery store for a couple weeks now.  I do stop in at the farmer's market for fresh goodies.  We don't grow enough cucumbers and greens to keep up with the amount we like to eat.  There's always trading with other gardener's too.  EZ meal choices!

My son's friend recently gave me two very large yellow squash.  I think they were each about a foot and a half long.  My first thought was to stuff it.  I had just been out to the garden and pulled up a nice load of fresh root vegetables.

This was a simple dish.  I choped the veggies: golden beets, carrots, parsnips, red & purple potatoes, red onions, and white Onions. I tossed it all with a little garlic chili oil and Italian herbs. I roasted it for about an hour. The veggies were still crunchy. The moisture from the vegetables made a nice broth on the bottom of the squash.  The big squash which looked like it would be too tough and woody was very tender.  We enjoyed this for dinner and lunch the next day.

To  add to our already colorful meal, I marinated some fresh locally made tempeh in a little tamari, lemon juice, and toasted sesame oil.  Then I browned the marinated tempeh strips and set them aside while I made a simple vegan mushroom and onion gravy. 

September 3, 2012

Labor Day Vacation and 70 pounds of Tomatoes

A lovely week, busy, but lovely.  I began Wednesday afternoon stopping by the grocery store one last time and then home to prepare for my second plant based cooking class at Country Village.  I should say I started Tuesday night as I got to go out to Ruth & Mike's organic farm and help pick the produce I needed for my class.  I started working at home Wednesday about 4:00 p.m. getting fresh kale in the dehydrator, sauces prepared ahead, three chocolate cakes baked, and various spices and supplies marked and ready to go.  I finally stopped about 11:45. Up early frosting chocolate gluten free cake, shredding zucchini, and making cauliflower rice.  I had 38 people signed up for the class and I'm already learning that means I'll have about 24 people, so I prepared for 30.  It's nice to have some samples for the store employees too.  It's a lot of work, but I really enjoyed it.  Took it slow, taking a few tea breaks along the way and just getting it done.  I smiled to myself a couple times when I remembered I was "working at home" which is the long term goal.

 The class was a whole lot of fun.  Twenty three people attended to learn some tips about plant based cooking along with some nutritional information.  It went very smoothly, didn't seem like we forgot anything important. There were some great discussions. A couple people even came in from the store, curious about what was going on, paid and sat in on the class. I learned that I should find a way to cook in the fall.  Based on the comments I requested, many people would like to know more about cooked vegan cuisine.  I've purchased a couple induction burners.  I am hoping they'll work for the class.  It would be fun to do some cooked root dishes in the fall.  We might schedule an all-day class on a Saturday, we'll see.  The most important thing is that we all had a good time and I'm welcome to do another class. Woo Who!

Sharing Some Fresh Garden Stevia

Friday came with some oral surgery and sleep through most of the day.

Saturday we enjoyed a leisure morning and picked up our Kaylee for a day of fun.  We stopped by the garden for some weeding and watering and then off to Sauve Island to enjoy the Blackberry & Bluegrass Festival and giant corn maze.  They had given us tickets when we bought the peaches so we thought it a good way to spend a sunny day with Kaylee.

 A little fine face painting.

It was a good family fun event.  Lots of space, not too crowded,  and vegan and vegetarian choices at the food trucks too.  We enjoyed a roasted eggplant gyro and a felafel gyro.  The corn maze was pretty fun, but it was way too big for me.  It spanned 2 and a half miles and wasn't as easy as I thought it would be.  Kaylee thought grandma and grandpa were giving up because we finally went out the entrance.  We were in there quite awhile and based on the checkpoints we saw, we traveled quite a bit.  I did feel like an older grandma after a bit.  That doesn't happen very often.

We stopped by Proper Eats on the way home for a bowl of broccoli bisque and I was feeling quite winded.  I think it was probably too much fun after my Friday adventure at the dentist.  Sunday I took it easy, read, napped, and relaxed in the sun.

After a full day of rest, I was ready to tackle the 70 lb of tomatoes I had gathered over the weekend from our garden, 50 lb organic heirlooms from Willow Grove Gardens, and 20 lb of beautiful big heirlooms I picked up at Bella Organic Farm.  I packed the big heirlooms with fresh rosemary and lemon juice.  30 lb of the small organic red heirlooms I roasted with onions and garlic, then removed their skins and simmered them all with some fresh oregano and rosemary until thickened for a nice tomato sauce.  I got about 12 jars of the sauce.  Then I canned some of the nice big red ones and dehydrated about 10 lb of the smaller ones.  It sounds like a lot of work, but I went at it very slow, systematically, and I was done by 5:15 p.m.  I even found time to put together a black bean enchilada casserole.  I still have time to do this blog and relax before bed. Nice Monday!

Vegan Black Bean Casserole with Homemade Cashew Cheddar Cheeze

It's been a full and productive week.  I'm feel rested and ready to head back to work where we'll be "ramping it up" with the month end work, then the planning fun ahead.