Baba Ghanoush

We just finished a 30 day pescatarian diet with no dairy, carbohydrates, or sugar.  Oh.  My.  Word.  That was an incredibly hard challenge.  It was harder than our 30 day vegan challenge!  The no dairy thing wasn’t the issue.  It was the no carbohydrates or sugar that I had a hard time with.  We used fruit as a way to satiate our cravings for an after-dinner dessert, but that only lasted for a little while.  By the end of the second week, I was jonesing for bread and butter, frozen yogurt, cookies, and chocolate.  And do you know what was the worst tease?  My work place had a Strawberry Day event with all things strawberry desserts, and a few going away parties with the best cake from my favorite bakery, and I couldn’t have a lick of it.  Ugh.  I think I was drooling as I watched my coworkers eat cake, pies, tortes, strawberry punch, and cookies.  Such a tease.  Sigh.  The diet was worth it, I guess :)

To celebrate our first day of eating carbohydrates, I decided on a Middle Eastern and Greek meal centered around a filthy amount of pita bread.  Yes.  I said it.  I am a glutton for pita bread.  Okay.  So, honestly, we only ate one pita bread for the vegan seitan gyro sandwich, alongside a few wedges of pita dipped in some baba ghanoush.  But nonetheless, I still heart carbohydrates.

Baba Ghanoush

3 medium globe eggplants, cut lengthwise (about 2 pounds)
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons tahini
2 cloves garlic, mashed into a paste
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus more to your liking
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Brush cut side of eggplants with extra virgin olive oil. Place eggplants cut-side down on baking sheet and roast until until very tender, about 40 minutes.

Scoop the eggplant flesh into a large bowl, and discard skin. Mash the eggplant with a fork until it is smooth, but still has some texture. Stir in the olive oil, tahini, lemon juice, paprika, cayenne, and cumin. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve with pita, pita chips, vegetables, or however you fancy baby ghanoush :)

Vegan Yukon Gold Potato Poppers for the Big Game Day!

We were invited to the big game day on Sunday and wanted to bring some vegan party food since we didn’t know if there would be vegan options for us.  When I think of party food, I immediately think of bacon in/on jalapeno poppers, pizza, potato skins, chicken wings, and nachos.  It was easy to rule out the chicken, pizza, and nachos.  So that left us with the options of bringing either jalapeno poppers or potato skins, and the latter just sounded tastier.

So as I got to making these, the potato skins morphed into twice-baked potato poppers.  They are a bit painful to make because the skins of a yukon gold potato is more delicate than that of a russet potato, but the outcomes are certainly worth it!   And ya know, it tastes just like the “real” thing, but better!

Vegan Yukon Gold Potato Poppers

14 small yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed and dried
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to season
4 slices of vegan bacon
3 tablespoons unsweetened almond milk
1/4 cup plus vegan sour cream
1 tablespoon vegan butter, melted
2 stalks green onion, chopped
1/3 cup vegan shredded cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Toss potatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place potatoes on a baking sheet, and roast for about 45 minutes, or until a fork can be inserted into the potato easily. Remove from heat, and allow them to cool for about 15 minutes.

While the potatoes are cooling, heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Spray the pan with a little cooking spray, and “brown” the vegan bacon until it has crisped. Remove from heat and set aside. Once cool enough to handle, crumble the bacon into small bacon bits with your hands.

When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, slice potatoes in half lengthwise. Carefully scoop out the flesh and place into a small bowl. [Be careful not to break the skins especially since the skins are more delicate on yukon golds.] Place the skins back onto the roasting pan.

To the innards, add the almond milk, sour cream, butter, cheddar cheese, green onion, and season with salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly using a fork, while mashing the potatoes. Spoon the mixture back into the potato skins, and bake for an additional 10 minutes. [You might be wondering why I didn't add the bacon bits to this mixture. I did this on purpose because I don't like my "bacon" soggy. I've always liked crunchy bacon for its taste and texture. Feel free to add the bacon bits to the mixture if you'd like.]

Remove the baking sheet from the oven. Top the potato poppers with bacon bits and green onion. Arrange on platter, and serve immediately by itself or with vegan ranch dressing.

Vegan Ranch Dressing

1 cup vegan mayonaise
1/4 cup vegan buttermilk, plus more if needed (1 cup of unsweetened almond milk + 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar)
1/2 teaspoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh chopped chives
Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl using a whisk. If the dressing is too thick, add a little more vegan buttermilk to desired consistency. Cover and refrigerate. Use as necessary and enjoy!

Long overdue blog post, and homemade pomegranate jelly.

My apologies to my dear Hungry Foodies Pharmacy readers for it has been over a month since my last post. New life changes have kept me away from my kitchen. But I am now back in effect! I’m finished with my travels to Wisconsin for training, and I’m settling into my new job, new schedule, and new life.

I started my new job and I am loving every minute of it. I haven’t had an ounce of regret leaving my last job. Things have been extremely hectic with this new job because I was traveling to Wisconsin for three separate, week-long training classes every other week. This job requires that I become certified, which entails three exams and two projects that I must pass/complete before I can really delve into any major projects. So, I’ve been busily studying and working on projects for the last six weeks. I can happily report that I’ve passed two out of the three exams, and I am almost finished with my last project. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

One of the first things I wanted to make this weekend [that I had neglecting to do] was to remove the pomegranate arils from all the pomegranates off of our tree.  Our pomegranate tree did amazing this year!  In fact, it was almost a little overwhelming how many pomegranates we got this year.

What I was left with after removing all the arils, was bowls and bowls and b… you get the idea… of pomegranate arils.  But there also was what resembled a bloody murder scene with red pomegranate juice sprayed across the walls, window, countertop, and the floor.  It wasn’t pretty.

So I thought pomegranate jelly would be a great way to use/preserve the majority of our pomegranates. And not to toot my own horn… oh who am I kidding?  Of course I’m going to toot my own horn to say that this pomegranate jelly is to die for.  I’m just sayin’.

Stay tuned for a few other pomegranate recipes in the works!

Pomegranate Jelly

5 1/4 cups fresh pomegranate juice
1 packet plus 3 tablespoons less or no-sugar needed powdered pectin
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 cups sugar

Put a few small ceramic dish into the freezer.

In a non-reactive saucepan, heat pomegranate juice and lemon juice over high heat. Bring to a boil. Skim any of the white foam/impurities from the top. Reduce heat to medium-high, and add the powdered pectin. Whisk until all of the pectin has dissolved.  Add the sugar, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil while whisking until the sugar has dissolved.  [I prefer my jam/jelly a little more tart than sweet, so adjust the sweetness or tartness to your liking.]  Let it continue to boil for an additional two minutes.

Take out one of the ceramic dishes from the freezer.  Ladle a small teaspoonful of the jelly onto the cold dish and put it back into the freezer for one minute.  Remove the dish from the freezer and draw your finger through the jelly.  If the jelly does not close up the channel, then it’s ready.  [If you prefer your jelly a little more firmer, add a little more pectin.]

If processing, pour hot preserves mixture into a hot, sterile 1/2-pint glass canning jars, filling jar to within 1/4-inch from top; wipe rim and seal jar with lid. Put jar in water-bath canner or on rack set in a deep kettle and cover with hot water by 1 to 2 inches. Boil at 180 to 185 degrees F, and process, covered, 10 minutes. Transfer jar to a rack using tongs and let cool completely. Store in a cool, dark place, up to one year.

Makes five 1/2 pint jars.

Mango chutney with a hint of spicy… lather that onto something yummy!

I made mango chutney a while ago, and let it sit in the refrigerator.  In fact, it’s still there, but I’m afraid to eat it now that it’s been sitting there for a while.  We didn’t even get to use it!  I know.  Such a tragedy.  And such a waste, too!  Sigh.  I’m still kicking myself for it.  When I realized that we hadn’t touched the chutney, I had an epiphany that I was lacking skills in the food preservation area.  But I’ve been too afraid to learn with the numerous online instructions because the last thing I want is to misread the instructions (which I often do a lot of), and then die from botulism.

Luckily, a friend from work was talking about how he made a strawberry balsamic peppercorn jam (yum, right??) during his weekend off.  I immediately hugged him and said that I would pay him if he could teach me how to can.  We made a date, and I learned how to can just a few days ago!  It was a jammin’ (no pun intended; okay, maybe just a little) party.  It was such an exciting, yet somewhat scary process.  All I could think about while learning to can was botulism, botulism, and botulism.  Ugh.   But as the studious learner that I am, I took plenty of notes and transcribed them onto the computer as soon as I got home.

I was determined to can something the next day.  So as I peered into my refrigerator, I immediately took notice of the mango chutney that had been sitting in the refrigerator.  Unfortunately, guilt overtook my happy emotions as I poured the old chutney into the trash can.  So, in honor of my first batch of mango chutney, I decided to make it again, this time to preserve it so that we can use it at the pace we want without having any pressure of eating it right away!

And it couldn’t have been anymore perfect the second time around…

Mango chutney with a hint of spicy (adapted from Simply Recipes)

6 cups ripe mangoes (about 4 large mangoes), peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
2.5 cups sugar
1 cup white distilled vinegar
1 medium onion, finely diced (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup crystallized ginger, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
4 whole small dried red chilis (optional)
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes (optional)
1 cinnamon stick
4 whole cloves
2 cardamom pods, cracked

Using a piece of thin muslin cloth, tie up the cinnamon stick, whole cloves, and cardamom pods into a bundle.

In a medium-sized stockpot over high heat, combine sugar and vinegar. Bring to a boil, while stirring occasionally.

Add mangoes, onions, raisins, crystallized ginger, garlic, whole red chiles, and the muslin-tied spices to the vinegar-sugar solution. Reduce the heat to medium-high heat and cook, uncovered, until syrupy and slightly thickened, about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Pour into sterilized, hot jars leaving 1/2-inch headspace; close jars. Process in a water bath for 15 minutes.

Makes 5 (1/2 pint) jars.

Baked Falafels Drizzled with Lemon-Tahini Sauce

My partner has been on a quest to find the best falafels in town.  She’ll compare the falafels to this little Greek restaurant on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland, CA, that she just loved.  But it all seems to disappoint in comparison.  I’ve found several recipes for homemade falafels, and all of them involve deep frying.  And although I know that’s how it should be done, I just can’t bring myself to deep fry at home.  I just don’t want the smell of fried oil lingering around our house for days, but also because I’m on a quest to continue keeping us on a healthy eating track.   So I was extremely happy when I came across this recipe, and had to give it a try!  Not only was it super easy to make, it was also a delicious healthy alternative.  My partner really enjoyed these baked falafels thoroughly, and said it was definitely a close second to the real thing :)

Baked Falafels Drizzled with Lemon-Tahini Sauce (adapted from Can You Stay For Dinner?)

2 15-ounce cans garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
4 tablespoons whole wheat flour
6 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 teaspoons ground cumin
3 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until well blended. Taste the falafel mixture, and adjust seasoning to your liking. Scoop the bean mixture into a bowl and shape into 16 equal sized patties. Place on a greased baking sheet, brush each with olive oil and bake for 25, or until browned and crispy on the outside.

Serve as an appetizer, over a salad, or in a pita wrap with the lemon tahini sauce drizzled over the falafels.

Makes 16 falafels.

Calories per falafel: 35

Lemon Tahini Sauce

3 tablespoon tahini
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons water
1 garlic clove, mashed into a paste

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the tahini, lemon juice, salt, water, and garlic paste. Adjust seasoning with salt and/or lemon juice.

Makes about a 1/3 cup.

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