Fudgy Vegan Brownie for My Valentine and a Pre-Valentine’s Day Dinner Bust

Sigh.  Our pre-Valentine’s Day dinner was a complete bust this year.  We wanted to have an intimate VD dinner a little earlier because we had plans for a double dinner date on the actual day.  So we got all dressed up and headed to our favorite “special occasions” restaurant.

The food and service was exceptional as always.  However, after the 3rd course of our 5-course prix fixe menu, I started to get clammy, diaphoretic (sweating perfusely), tachycardic (heart racing), dizzy, lightheaded, vision/hearing was fading.  I started to get anxious because I didn’t want to make a scene in a busy, full house restaurant.  So I decided to excuse myself from the table to get some fresh air.  Well, the next thing I remember was waking up on the floor of the dining room asking everyone hovered over me , “what happened?” to which they replied with, “you passed out.”  So much for not making a scene in a busy restaurant, right?

I was brought to the ED [while protesting the whole way there when my partner drove me], and ended up being admitted into the hospital.  I spent my entire weekend holed up on a hospital bed watching a marathon rerun of Law and Order: SVU (which I love!), waiting for more exams and exam results.  I was finally discharged yesterday, and have this new found appreciation for my bed, couch, and being able to shower whenever I want.

My partner stayed with me the entire time I was in the ED.  Before all this happened, she was planning to paint at her artist studio, but those plans were foiled when I just had to pass out in the middle of a restaurant.  She was extremely patient when I was being difficult, brought me things from home to keep me occupied, clean clothes to change into, and food so that I wouldn’t have to eat the hospital food.  As a way to show her how much I appreciate her, I baked her a vegan brownie for Valentine’s Day.  This may not seem like such a huge gesture, but let me just preface this by saying that I am, by no means, a baker.

Fudgy Vegan Brownie for My Valentine

1 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened applesauce
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
1/2 cup hot water
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon powder
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8-inch round pan with vegan butter or canola oil spray.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the applesauce, sugar, vanilla extract, and 1/4 cup of the hot water.

In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the ground flaxseed with the remaining 1/4 cup of hot water. Add the flax egg to the large mixing bowl, and combine until well incorporated. Add the remaining ingredients, and stir to combine.

Pour the batter into the greased pan and bake for about 30-35 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean (for the most part, since this is supposed to be fudgy). Remove from oven and cool slightly before serving.

Makes 8 servings.

Roasted Sweet Potato and Beets Salad with a Lemon-Truffle Vinaigrette

We had a small tasting of a similar dish at a backyard wedding we recently attended.  The original was made with red and yellow beets, and butternut squash with a lemony vinaigrette with a hint of truffle oil.  The salad was very tasty, but a little mushy from the butternut squash.   So while I was consuming my large plate of food [It was, in fact, a very large plate of food… my eyes were bigger than my stomach.  But what’s new?], a light bulb came on… roasted sweet potatoes.  It would be the perfect substitution flavor- and texture-wise.  And so what did I do two days after the wedding?  Well, I recreated this dish, of course, and it was perfect.

Inspiration.  It such a lovely thing.

What inspires you in the kitchen?

Roasted Sweet Potato and Beets Salad with a Lemon-Truffle Vinaigrette

4 large beets
3 large sweet potatoes, skinned and diced into 1 inch cubes
1 small shallot, finely diced
Juice of 1 lemon
4 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoon truffle oil, plus extra for drizzling
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
3 tablespoons chives, chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Wrap each beet tightly in foil. [I usually like to double wrap mine in foil.] Drizzle the sweet potatoes with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the sweet potatoes in a singe layer on the baking sheet. Place the foil-wrapped beets on the same baking sheet. Roast for about 30 minutes, or until tender, but slightly crispy in the outside. Stir the sweet potatoes once or twice during roasting. [Watch the sweet potatoes closely, because they can go from perfectly roasted to imperfectly burnt.] Roast the beets for about an hour (or once you can poke a knife all the way through).

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the shallots, lemon, olive oil, and truffle oil. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Set aside.

Remove the sweet potatoes firstly from oven, followed by the beets when they have cooked through, and allow to cool just enough to be easily handled. Once cooled, peel “skin” off the beets. [They’ll come off easily with just your hands… no need for a paring knife.] Slice beets into 1 inch cubes.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the beets, sweet potatoes, and vinaigrette. Gently toss to combine all the ingredients. Divide onto small plates, sprinkle with chives, and drizzle with a little truffle oil, and enjoy!

Makes 4 to 6 small salad servings.

Are you sitting down for this??… Grilled barbecue potato “chips” with creamy chive dip!

Remember when I said my new favorite guilty pleasure was the grilled salt and vinegar potato chips?  Well, those were so last week.  Outta style, outta mind.  My newest favorite guilty pleasure is the grilled barbecue potato “chips” that I made tonight.  After we consumed a large bowl of the grilled salt and vinegar potato “chips” last week, my partner suggested doing a barbecue-flavored one.  It was a brilliant idea.  So here is my latest and greatest creation…

Warning: these are highly addictive!

Grilled barbecue potato “chips” with creamy chive dip

1 pound yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
2 cups water
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon bacon salt
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne powder
1/8 teaspoon ground mustard
2 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup plain, non-fat Greek yogurt
4 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt

Bring potatoes to a boil in a medium saucepan (water should cover potatoes; add more water if necessary). Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer potatoes until just fork tender, about 5 minutes. Drain well, and gently toss with oil.

Combine the greek yogurt, chives, lemon juice, and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.

Preheat grill to medium-high. Grill potatoes in a single layer until browned on both sides and cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Dust with barbecue-flavored seasoning before serving, and toss to coat.

Serve grilled barbecue potato “chips” with the prepared creamy chive dip, or on its own.

Makes 4 servings.

Grilled Salt and Vinegar Potato “Chips”

This has to be my new guilty pleasure!  OMG, it’s such a burst of salt and vinegar flavor in my mouth.  I’ve always LOVED salt and vinegar potato chips, but I haven’t had a bag of chips in so long.  So when I came across this recipe, I just knew I had to make them soon.  Well, I’ve made these twice and with every bite I take, I mouth out how “these are the best things ever!”  Martha Stewart is a genius.

Grilled Salt and Vinegar Potato “Chips” (slightly adapted from Martha Stewart)

1 pound yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
2 cups white vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt, plus more for sprinkling
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Bring potatoes and vinegar to a boil in a medium saucepan (vinegar should cover potatoes; add more vinegar if necessary).  Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer potatoes until just fork tender, about 5 minutes. Let potatoes cool in vinegar for 15 minutes (original recipe calls for 30 minutes, but we found it to be way too vinegary).  Drain well, and gently toss with oil, salt, and pepper.

Preheat grill to medium-high.  Grill potatoes in a single layer until browned on both sides and cooked through, about 5 minutes per side.  Sprinkle with salt before serving.

Makes 4 servings.

Mixed Veggie Korma

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We just came back from a week of pure gluttony.  OMG.  We went to Guerneville (aka, Wine Country) last week for a little R&R.  It was the perfect vacation which involved lots of wine wine tasting, kayaking, shopping, and eating.  We really outdid ourselves on this vacation with the amounts of food that we consumed.  We ate like we were eating for eight people.  It was ridiculous… ridiculously good!  Our diets just went straight out the window as we drove to our destination.  In fact, it was as if our diet never existed.

When we settled back into reality, we decided to weigh ourselves to see the damage that was done.  It wasn’t pretty.  We were mortified by the numbers.  We were hoping it was just water weight, but to our dismay, we really did put on the lbs.  Eek!  So our goal for the next two weeks is to detox and lose the weight to get back on track with our weight loss plan with vegan/vegetarian foods.

So to kick off our goal, I decided to make a healthy, low-fat Indian fare.

Mixed Veggie Korma

3 carrots, peeled and sliced
1/2 medium head cauliflower, cut into 1 1/2-inch-wide florets
2 cups fresh sugar snap peas, cut in halves
1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 small yellow onion, peeled and diced
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon tumeric
2 small roma tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup coconut milk
3 tablespoons plain soy yogurt
1 cup roasted cashews
1/2 cup golden raisins

Heat water in a large stockpot over high heat. Once water starts to boil, place carrots, sugar snap peas, and cauliflower into the pot and cook for about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Mash the ginger, garlic, and 3 tablespoons water with a mortar and pestle until it is relatively smooth and incorporated.

Heat vegetable oil in a wide saute pan over high heat. When the oil starts to smoke, saute the raisins and cashews for one minute, then add the onion and cumin seeds. Saute the onions and cumin seeds for about 3 minutes or until the onion starts to brown.  Pour in the garlic/ginger paste, garam masala, tumeric, ground coriander, and ground cumin, and saute for another minute. Put in the chopped tomatoes plus tomato sauce and cook for about two minutes.

Add the cayenne, coconut milk, and salt. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and cook until the sauce thickens. Stir occasionally. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Add the vegetables and soy yogurt, and simmer for another 5 to 7 minutes or until thickened.

Serve with basmati rice and naan.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Chocolate Banana Cream Pie… you wouldn’t even know it was vegan!

My partner LOVES bananas and desserts involving bananas.  I wanted to make her something special to celebrate her completing an intense, four week summer arts workshop.  She was so immersed in her workshop that we saw very little of one another.  I’d leave for work while she was still sleeping, and she’d come home while I was sleeping.  It was the most backward schedule that we have ever had.  The week before she finished her program, we made a deal to have a “just us” weekend.  And to start off our weekend, I was originally going to surprise her with her favorite ice cream, roasted banana ice cream, but I couldn’t find the recipe I bookmarked and was too inpatient to find it while grocery shopping.  So instead, I made the next best banana dessert… vegan chocolate banana cream pie.

This was an amazing dessert that set up very nicely.  It reminded me of exactly what the real stuff tasted like, but only better and healthier and lighter!  What was also great about this recipe was that we were barely able to taste the silken tofu, unlike other silken tofu recipes that I’ve made before.  I can almost guarantee that non-vegans will like this recipe, too!

Vegan Chocolate Banana Cream Pie (adapted from Dairy Free Cooking)

1 (14 ounce) box of silken tofu, drained
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons coconut oil
3 very ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup raw cashews, finely ground
Your favorite vegan prepared pie crust or graham cracker crust

Prepare the vegan pie crust of your choice according to the recipe. Fit into a 9″ pie plate and bake according to the recipe’s instructions. Allow crust to cool completely on a wire cooling rack.

In a blender or food processor, process the silken tofu until creamy. Add the sugar, salt, lemon juice, vanilla extract, and coconut oil and process until well combined and very creamy. Add the mashed bananas and finely ground cashews and process until smooth. Pour into the prepared pie crust and chill for at least 2 hours or until set.

Vegan Chocolate Ganache

16 ounces good quality dark dairy-free chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 (15-ounce) can coconut milk (not light version)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place the coarsely chopped dark chocolate in a medium-sized bowl. Set aside.

In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, heat the coconut milk until bubbles just begin to appear around the edges and steam rises from the surface. Pour the hot coconut milk over the chopped chocolate and let stand without stirring for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, stir the chocolate-coconut milk mixture until glossy and smooth (this will take about 2 minutes of gentle stirring). Add the vanilla extract and stir until incorporated. Use warm or slightly cooled.

To finish the pie:

Prepare the Vegan Dark Chocolate Ganache according to the recipe. Pour immediately onto the set banana filling and allow to cool completely until set. Chill for at least 1 hour before serving. Serve cold.

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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