Hummus

I laughed at my parents when they bought a small freezer for their garage.  In fact, I thought they were silly for needing extra freezer space.  I told them to just clean out their freezer and it’ll open up lots of space for them.  Well, I ate my words recently.  I seem to eat my words often :)

Our freezer in the house was filled to its capacity, from top to bottom.  I even cleaned out the freezer and tossed out foods that we were no longer going to eat.  But it was still full.  We were shoving things into every little nook and cranny that we could find.  So much so that one of our shelves toppled over because it was weighed down so heavily with meats/seafood.  It was also getting to a point where we would have to take out all the items from one of the shelves just to find one item we needed.  It was just ridiculous.  I finally broke down.  I, too, bought a small freezer for the garage.  We moved all of our meats and seafoods to the extra freezer.  It was liberating!  We can actually see what’s in our freezer in the house, and pull things out without everything tumbling onto our toes!

I was embarrassed to tell my parents about the purchase, but sucked it up and told them.  This time they laughed at me :)

Hummus

2 15-ounce cans garbanzo beans (chickpeas), no sodium added
1/2 cups tahini sauce
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, mashed
2 1/2 lemons, juiced
1/4 cup water, plus extra if needed
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Paprika (optional)
Toasted pine nuts (optional)
Parsley, finely chopped (optional)

Drain the chickpeas and rinse under cold water. Drain excess water.

In a food processor, combine the garlic, garbanzo beans, tahini, lemon juice, water, and olive oil. Process until smooth. Add salt, starting at a half a teaspoon. Process. Adjust seasoning again with a half teaspoon of salt. Repeat until the seasoning is to your liking.  [If you like it creamier, add a little more water. If you like it more citrusy, add a little more lemon juice.]

Spoon hummus into a serving dish. Drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil on top of the hummus, and sprinkle with toasted pine nuts and chopped parsley.

Makes 3 cups.

Vegan Cornbread

Does your pup lick you incessantly?  My little boy, Shiu Mai, does.  [Yes, he is named after the pork and shrimp dumpling you find at Dim Sum restaurants.  My other pup's name is Cha Shiu Bao.  They're small, white, and so cute just like the Dim Sum treats.]  He sits on the bed, and waits for me to come out from my shower so that he can lick the lotion off my arms and hands.  In fact, he has spent the last 10 minutes licking off the lotion from my left arm as I type this post.  It’s as if I didn’t put on any lotion.  Why bother, I wonder sometimes.  But how can I get mad at him?  Just look at him.  Isn’t he a cutest little guy ever?  I’d like to think that this helps soothe any anxiety he has.  But who am I kidding?  I think it’s because he really likes the taste of lotion.  Animals and their idiosyncrasies.  I just love it.

He usually follows me to the kitchen as I get ready to cook.  He hovers around (im)patiently waiting for something to drop onto the floor.  He looks up and begs with his sweet brown eyes for me to “accidentally” drop something onto the floor.  And when he realizes that maybe there are no treats this time around, he traverses his way back to the couch and hunkers down on my pillow heartbroken.  

Vegan Cornbread (slightly adapted from Food)

2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
6 tablespoons water
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1.5 cups cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1 cup almond milk
1/2 cup canned corn, drained
1/4 cup canola oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Spray an 8- or 9-inch pie tin with cooking spray.

In a small saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add the ground flax seeds, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until the flax seed-water mixture thickens, about 3 minutes. Stir occasionally. Turn heat off and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt until well combined. Add the ground flax seed mixture, soy milk, and canola oil to the flour mixture. Beat until just smooth, but do not overbeat.

Pour into prepared baking pan, and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Allow to cool for about 5 minutes, cut into wedges, and serve.

Super Duper Vegan Chili

We’ve been having mad cravings for vegan chili as the weather is still cool for this time of the year.  The weather has actually been really wacky… lots of rain, and cold days.  The weather is usually in the 80s this time of year, but today it’s only reached a high of 65.  I’m not complaining.  At all.  Trust me.  The month of May just means the summer is around the corner, which means hot summer months.  Ugh.  Such a drag.  So as much as I would like some days in the high 70s/low 80s, I’m going to enjoy this weather now because it’s gonna get hot in herrre.  Okay, now I’m complaining.

We decided to take advantage of today’s weather to make some spicy vegan chili to satiate our cravings.  And satiate it did!  I would love to eat this chili all year around, but the thought of cooking and eating it during the summer when the temperatures can range anywhere from 100-110 degrees F seems torturous. In fact, anything involving the burners or the oven inside the house during the summer heat sounds unpleasant.

Interestingly, I enjoy this chili more than I do a hearty and meaty chili! Don’t get me wrong, I’m a total carnivore. In fact, my initial thought before I tried this chili for the first time was how vegan chili could taste better than a meaty chili? Well, let me tell you, I was completely blown away after my first bowl. The texture of the “ground meat” fooled me, and the beans, vegetables, and spices were so flavorful that I didn’t need or miss the meat.  This chili even fooled my dad who says no one can trick him with vegan meat products.  Hah!  Take that, dad!

This chili is truly the best prescription for the soul.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onions, diced
1 red bell peppers, seeded and diced
4 large garlic clovies, minced
2 large jalapeno peppers, minced
1 large serrano pepper, minced
12 ounces textured vegetable protein (aka, original Smart Ground)
1 cups water
1 cans (28 ounces each) crushed tomatoes
1 cans (15 ounces each) red kidney beans, drained
1 can (15 ounce) black beans, drained
3 medium sized fresh tomatoes, chopped
1.5 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a large dutch oven, heat the extra virgin olive oil over medium high heat. Add the garlic and onions, and saute for five minutes or until the onions are translucent.

Add the textured vegetable protein and water, cook for 5 minutes, while stirring occasionally. Add the remaining ingredients and cook for another five minutes. Reduce the heat to a medium to medium-low (depending on your burners), and let it “stew”, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes (or until the bell peppers are tender).

Remove from heat and serve with your favorite toppings!

There’s No High Fructose Corn Syrup Here!… Apricot-Mango-Strawberry Fruit Roll-Ups.

I just watched Food, Inc. yesterday, and it’s making me look at food in a whole different way.  I think my jaw was on the ground from start to end of the documentary.  I was shocked and disgusted.  I’ve never really given much thought about how food is grown, how it’s processed, and where it comes from.  I just went to the grocery store and bought what I needed with my savings card to get the best bang for my buck.  Now I’m not feeling so guilty about the $100 I spent for some groceries the other day at one of the more eco-friendly, green markets.  The movie just reinforced the need to buy from local farmers, organic products, and from eco-friendly markets.  It’s also left me feeling the need to eat more veggies, and less meat.  Ugh.

Have you seen Food, Inc. yet?  If you have, did it change the way you buy food?

Apricot-Mango-Strawberry Fruit Roll-Ups

4 apricots, diced
1 1/2 cups strawberries, diced
1 large mango, diced
2 tablespoons water
Agave Nectar

Preheat oven to 150 degrees F one hour before dehydrating the fruit roll-ups.

[Just as a side note, my oven did not have a setting for 150 degrees F. Instead, it has a "warm" setting, which I used, and worked out great. Also, as an FYI, you will be using this "dehydrating" setting for about 6 to 8 hours. It may be tempting to use a higher temperature to quicken the process, but you'll just bake the fruit roll-ups rather than dehydrate them. So patience is key with this recipe.]

In a sauce pan over medium heat, add water and diced fruit. Cook until the fruit breaks down so that it is soft and mushy. Allow the fruit mixture to thicken (the syrup should coat the back of the spoon and shouldn’t be runny or thin), almost like the consistency of a chunky applesauce. Adjust sweetness with agave nectar to your liking… I used about 1.5 tablespoons of agave nectar because the fruit was already really sweet.

Carefully pour the fruit “compote” into a food processor or blender, and puree the liquid until it is smooth in consistency.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly grease with non-flavored oil, such as corn or vegetable oil. Pour fruit mixture onto baking sheet and spread evenly across the baking sheet, about 1/4-inch thick.

Place baking sheet into oven and dehydrate for about 6 to 8 hours. The amount of dehydrating time varies depending on the thickness and the amount of sugar in the fruit mixture, so check every two hours until done. You don’t want crispy fruit roll-ups. When the fruit is dry and no longer sticky to touch, remove baking sheet from oven, and allow to cool at room temperature. If you find that the edges are a little crispy, just rehydrate by dabbing the edges with a wet paper towel.

When cool to handle, carefully peel the sheet of dehydrated fruit and lay it on a cutting board, and cut with a knife or pizza slicer into 2″ by 6″ strips, or whatever size you want. Cut wax paper or parchment paper just a little larger than the strips, and roll the strips of fruit into fruit roll-ups. Store in the pantry in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

Grilled Corn Summer Salad

I love that warm weather means an abundance of summer fruits and vegetables.  I get really excited when I start to see corn being sold at the grocery store and farmers market.  It’s my favorite vegetable during the summer months.  I love corn, especially after it’s been slightly charred on the grill.  Yum.  My favorite way to eat corn, albeit it’s not the most efficient process, is to pick off each individual kernel while I watch TV.  It’s better than a bowl of popcorn or plate of nachos.  I know it sounds tedious, and it probably is, but it’s that brainless (and slightly obsessive) process of removing each individual kernel that I enjoy.  I didn’t have time to enjoy the corn kernel by kernel, so instead I made a grilled corn summer salad.  It’s a light and refreshing salad, especially with flecks of basil and the tanginess of the vinaigrette.

What’s your favorite way of enjoying corn?

Grilled Corn Summer Salad

3 ears of white corn, shucked, husked, and cleaned
3 yellow squash, cut in half lengthwise and seeded
2 roma tomatoes, seeded, and chopped
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1/3 cup basil, chopped
3 tablespoons pomegranate vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling vegetables
1/2 teaspoon honey (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat outdoor grill to high heat and lightly coat grill grates with oil. Conversely, if you don’t have an outdoor barbecue setup, an indoor grill pan works great, too! Just heat grill pan over high heat.

Drizzle extra virgin olive on corn and squash. Place corn and squash (cut side down) on the grill. Cook until the kernels are tender and slightly charred, turning occasionally, about 20 minutes. Cook squash until slightly tender and also slightly charred, about 5 to 10 minutes, turning 30 to 45 degrees to get perfect grill marks half way during the grilling process.

While the vegetables are cooling, whisk together the pomegranate vinegar, olive oil, honey, salt and pepper in a small bowl.

When the corn is cool, cut the kernels off the cob, cutting close to the cob with a sharp knife. Cut the squash into half inch dices. Place basil, corn, and squash into a large bowl. Pour dressing over vegetables and toss to combine. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Makes 4 servings.

Reconstructed Vegan Strawberry Cheesecake

I just so happened to glance up from my computer and caught a glimpse of what Paula Deen and her son was making.  I just had to make these today.  But I wasn’t that motivated to get off the couch.  You see, I declared today a lazy day when I got off of work last night.  It was one of those days in the emergency department where I left work feeling a little demolished.  So all I wanted to do today was to cuddle with my two little boys, catch up on recorded DVR shows, and rest.  And of course, it was just my lucky day because I had all the ingredients the recipe called for, so my lazy behind didn’t need to get off the couch to make a special trip to the grocery store.  Although I had all the ingredients for the recipe, I wanted to do more to it.  Give it a little more pizazz.  Make it a little bit more healthy.  And it just clicked… vegan strawberry cheesecake with graham crackers.

These are amazing and delicious little morsels of yumminess.  Wow.  These would be EVEN better with real cream cheese.  I think these might make the perfect dish to bring to a potluck or dinner party.  In fact, these are what we will be bringing to the next potluck we are invited to.  They were really simple to make.  It probably took us less than 15 minutes to put together.

You’ll love these.

Trust me.

Yum.

Reconstructed Vegan Strawberry Cheesecake (adapted from The Deen Brothers)

20 whole large strawberries, hulled
8 ounces Tofutti cream cheese, softened
1/4 plus 2 tablespoons cup confectioners’ powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2/3 cup graham crackers, roughly chopped

Cut a thin slice from the bottom of each strawberry so the berries stand upright. Place berries, cut side down, on a serving platter. Carefully cut the berries into 4 wedges, cutting almost to, but not through, the bottoms with a criss-cross cut. Fan wedges just slightly, taking care not to break them. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat together the Tofutti cream cheese, sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla until combined but still stiff. Using a teaspoon or pastry bag with decorative tip, fill the strawberries with the cream cheese mixture. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. When ready to serve, place chopped graham crackers on top of the stuffed strawberries.

Makes 20 stuffed berries.

You Would Never Suspect These Crepes Were Eggless-cellent!

Who ever came up with a flax egg is a freaking genius! Egg substitute?! Yes, please.  I mean, this person should get an award for such a freaking brilliant and ingenious idea.  I love a good egg substitute for cooking and baking.  Don’t get wrong, I’m not an egg hater.  No, no.  I love me some eggs.   I love eggs fried, scrambled, baked, sunny side up, over-easy/medium/hard, hard-boiled, raw, pickled, poached, deviled, as a quiche, strata, fritata, a meringue, a souffle, a custard, in a dressing, and I’m sure there is many more ways to cook an egg.   But you get the point.  Eggs are egg-cellent.  Heehee, get it??   Egg-cellent, instead of excellent.  Nevermind.

Unfortunately, as I get older, my body has become less efficient at protecting me from things like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and many other ailments.  High cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes has already been encoded into my genetic makeup.  So it’s not like I can run and hide.  And actually, I did have a bit of a scare when I was in my late 20’s and learned that I was on the verge of developing high cholesterol.   I did have a total cholesterol of 215 mg/dL (the Adult Treatment Panel III guidelines state an ideal total cholesterol level of <200 mg/dL), but my LDL-C (aka, bad cholesterol) was low, my HDL-C (aka good cholesterol) was high, and my triglycerides were also low.  So my nurse practitioner wasn’t too concerned. I was given a prescription for a “lifestyle modification” and a cholesterol panel recheck in 6 months.  I left the doctor’s office feeling somewhat defeated, but it was also the best wake-up call for me.  I started getting into cycling, and modified my diet by eating out less, cooking and eating less butter/fried foods/eggs (the latter was a huge part of my daily diet).  Six months later, my cholesterol panel was flawless.  I realized that implementing some of the littlest changes resulted in the most positive impact health-wise.

Whole Wheat Vegan Crepes

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 flax egg (1 tablespoon ground flaxseed + 3 tablespoons water)
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups unsweetened, almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (for sweet crepes)
1.5 tablespoons agave syrup (for sweet crepes)

In a small bowl, combine the flaxseed and water, and mix.   Add the almond milk to the flax egg, and whisk together.   In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and salt, and then add the flax egg mixture.   Whisk until all the ingredients have combined, resulting in a smooth and runny texture.   Let the mixture sit for about 20 to 30 minutes.

Heat a nonstick 8″ pan over medium-high heat.   Coat pan with nonstick spray.   Pour 1/4 cup of batter into the center of the pan and swirl to spread evenly.  Cook the crepe for about 2 minutes, until the bottom is light brown. Loosen with a spatula, turn and cook the other side.   Cook for another 2 minutes and remove to the cutting board.  Lay them out flat so they can cool.   Continue until all batter is gone.   After they have cooled you can stack them and store in sealable plastic bags in the refrigerator for several days or in the freezer for up to two months.  When using frozen crepes, thaw on a rack before gently peeling apart.

We served these with our favorite praline butter from Le Pain Quotidien, sliced bananas, and pistachios.  Yum.

Makes 8 crepes.

Calories per crepe: 75

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