Chocolate Chickpea Spread

Ok, folks. So, I took a few days off from the blog for the holiday. You can't blame me because I'm betting you did the same! I've been cooking and baking and eating, eating, eating so I feel like I have a lot of catching up to do here. Let's go!

Today is Meatless Monday, so I will be sharing with you what my dear omnivore Lee is having for lunch and dinner, but I'll do that in another post later this evening. For now, I want to share with you a simple-yet-surprising little treat that should absolutely find its way into your holiday agenda: Chocolate Chickpea Spread. Pack the spread into small jars to use as hostess gifts, or work it into a dessert you're bringing to a potluck holiday party. Or, just spread it on a crusty baguette and have yourself a festive little snack.



I first read Hannah Kaminsky's recipe for Chocolate Chickpea Spread when she posted it on her blog BitterSweet back in October. I was a complete skeptic. I just kept thinking "chocolate hummus, chocolate hummus" and talking myself out of trying it for myself. Now that I've made it, I have no idea what I was thinking. So, if you think this spread will even remotely resemble hummus, wipe that dirty thought from your mind right now and grab your food processor!

Hannah's recipe is so simple and perfect that I didn't alter a thing when I made the spread, and I couldn't be happier with the result. It's dark and cocoa-y, smooth, slightly nutty, and flat-out delicious.

Chocolate Chickpea Spread (from BitterSweet)
Yield: About 2 cups

1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 Tbsp natural no-stir peanut butter
3 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup cocoa powder (Dutch)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp instant coffee (I used Medaglia D' Oro Instant Espresso)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
2 – 4 Tbsp water (I ended up using about 3 Tbsp)

Combine everything except the water in a food processor and pulse until a thick dough-y texture is reached. With the motor on, drizzle in water a little at a time until the desired consistency. I went with a thick, dense texture at 3 Tbsp but could have added the remaining tablespoon to achieve a silkier texture.

Hannah's original post doesn't suggest a storage method for this spread, and I imagine that's because it's not likely to hang around long enough to need a storage solution. However, my best guess says to store this spread in the fridge and consume within 2 weeks. Given that we're eyeball deep in the season of eating, I doubt that'll be a challenge for any of you.

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Leftover Gourmet: Mock Tuna Salad, Parsnip-Carrot Soup, Ginger-Agave Carrots and Dressed Butterleaf

It's dinner time. You're beyond starving, and somehow there's no meal planned for the evening. What to do?! I'll admit readily that this scenario happens a LOT in our house and more often than note, our "go to" meal is spaghetti with red sauce. However, that gets old pretty fast and we've been determined to break ourselves of that fallback habit.

So, what's Plan B? Raid the leftovers and get creative! I'm notorious for saving "just a little bit" of a dish just because I hate to see prepared food go to waste. The result is that, about once a week, the fridge contains a plethora of seemingly mismatched dishes and none of them are enough for a meal on their own. This is where Leftover Gourmet comes in!

Here are some of the things I spotted when I looked in the fridge:
1 cup cooked basmati rice
1 square tempeh (approx 1 worth)
2 carrots
Handful of butterleaf lettuce
Bok choy
Parsnip-carrot puree (yanked from the freezer earlier)

Doesn't look like much of a meal to you? It certainly does to me! Hang in there, follow along, and you'll see how easy it can be to transform mish-mash leftovers into a gourmet meal!

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Mock tuna salad in bok choy boats

1 cup cooked basmati rice
1 square tempeh, crumbled
2 Tbsp Nasoya Nayonaise or other vegan mayo
1 Tbsp dijon mustard
1 Tbsp pickle relish (or more, if desired)
1 tsp granulated garlic
2 tsp tumeric
3-4 drops Liquid Smoke
Sea salt and pepper to taste
3-4 sliced dried tomatoes, crushed (or sun-dried tomatoes, drained of oil)
4-5 basil leaves, chopped (or 1 tsp dried basil)
2 large pieces of boy choy

Mix all ingredients in a bowl with a fork. Don't mash! Just stir until you get a uniform mixture. With a spoon, pile your tempeh mix into the wide "bowl" of the boy choy and serve it up!

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Ginger-Agave Carrots

2 large carrots, scrubbed and sliced
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup water
sea salt
2 tsp minced ginger
2-3 Tbsp agave nectar
Pinch cayenne pepper

Heat oil in a medium sauce pan and add carrots. Sautee about 3 minutes, stirring to coat carrots in oil. Add water, salt and ginger and cover for about 10 minutes. When carrots are fork tender, add agave and cayenne and cook for a few minutes uncovered, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Serve these carrots on their own as a side dish or add them to any warm salad you make!

Dressed Butterleaf Greens
This is a versatile dressing you can use for any greens, fresh or cooked. Make up a batch and keep it in a squeeze bottle in your fridge for up to 2 weeks! This recipe makes enough dressing for about 8 servings. For my Leftover Gourmet dinner, I used about 1 Tbsp of the finished dressing for my large handful of lettuce leaves.

3 Tbsp agave nectar
1 1/2 Tbsp yellow mustard
6 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Place all ingredients in a bowl and whisk with a fork. Or, pour them all in a squeeze bottle and, with the nozzle covered, shake vigorously. Serve!

Parsnip-Carrot Soup with Soy

2 cups parsnip-carrot puree (See Note below)
1 cup water
Sea salt and pepper
Soy sauce to finish

Combine puree, water, salt and pepper in a saucepan over low heat. Stir until water is completely mixed in and soup is warmed through. Serve in small bowls and drizzle soy sauce liberally on top. (This soup could be made even more excellent with the addition of some dried wild mushrooms!)

Note: I prepared and froze this parsnip-carrot puree a few weeks ago, and there's plenty left in the freezer for more soup throughout the winter! I chopped parsnips and carrots, drizzled them sparingly with olive oil and roasted them on a baking sheet 400°F. After allowing them to cool, I pureed them in batches in my food processor. I packaged the puree in quart-size freezer bags, which makes it super easy to defrost quickly and whip up slow roasted soups and other dishes all winter long!

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I hope you've enjoyed this edition of the Leftover Gourmet, and perhaps you'll be able to look at your leftovers in a whole new way! I'm always curious about the creative ways people use/reuse their leftovers, so what's your favorite meal revamp idea?

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3 Way Applesauce!

This year marks the first time ever in my life that I've undertaken the process of making applesauce. I love applesauce in many forms and applications and I've been a slave to expensive commercially jarred organic sauce for too long! When the first wave of this season's apples showed up, they were delicious Fuji apples but they had some spots on the skins and weren't too appetizing for out-of-hand eating. Plus, there were just so damn many of them!

I investigated several traditional methods of making applesauce. As far as canning applesauce, I'm particularly fond of the process on PickYourOwn.org, because the methods they describe seem to take all the best and none of the worst from other instructions I've read. However, that method does require a large sieve or food mill of some kind and I don't have one. Yet. Lucky for me, the same site offers an alternate method that doesn't require any "special" equipment and looks quite easy.

So, why am I not talking much about my actual applesauce-making experience? Well, friends, it's because I didn't use either of the methods I linked you to above. I just wanted you to be aware that they exist, in case you decide to set off on your own saucy adventure. But now that I've done that, I can get down to the real nitty-gritty and tell you what really happened.

I copped out!

We recently acquired a second-hand slow cooker, with intent to prepare well-planned meals in advance for dinner and leftover lunches. We've done some of that, and we'll do some more, but in the meanwhile, I've been using our slow cooker to do all the tedious work of making applesauce.

Ok, maybe not ALL of the work. I'm still responsible for peeling, coring and chopping up the apples and dumping them into the slow cooker. But from there, man, that little machine takes over and my applesauce is worry-free!

I found the basic instructions for slow cooker applesauce on Erin's Food Files and I developed 3 different recipes that you just HAVE to try. Really!

Here's the method I used for all 3 batches:

Peel, core and chop/crumble apples. Toss with lemon juice (see recipes) and add herbs and spices. Cover and set slow cooker on "low" for 6-7 hours (or overnight). Remove citrus peels and drain off liquid for later use. Mash/food process. Jar. Eat. Freeze. Can. Love!

THE CLASSIC
This is a no-fuss applesauce that really allows the flavors of your apples to shine. This recipe would be great to use as a baking substitute or for snacking anytime.

10-12 Fuji, Jazz, Honeycrisp or other similar red/sweet/crisp apple variety, peeled, cored and chopped/crumbled
1 Granny Smith apple
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
2 large pieces of orange peel

Place apples in slow cooker with lemon juice and toss to coat. Add all other ingredients and give it another toss to combine. Cook and store according to the instructions above.

SPICY APPLESAUCE
This batch has a nice kick to it, and I'm willing to bet it would be FANTASTIC as a topping for chocolate cake. I also like to put this one in my oatmeal.

12 apples (see previous recipe for note on variety), peeled, cored and chopped
2 Tbsp lemon juice or fresh orange juice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp minced ginger
1/8 tsp ground cardamom
1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
Fresh ground black pepper
2 large pieces of orange peel

Toss apples with juice, then stir in rest of ingredients. Cook and store according to the instructions above.

MORE THAN APPLESAUCE
Technically, this is closer to compote than applesauce. But who needs to get technical, anyway? This one's great on waffles, with soy yogurt or as a pastry filling.

12 apples (see above)
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 cup chopped dates
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup dried cranberries
2 large pieces of orange peel

Toss apples with lemon juice and stir in other ingredients. Cook and store according to the original instructions!

So, there you have it, folks. Applesauce 3 ways, applesauce for all occasions! Don't be afraid to experiment with your sauces, and keep in mind this little tip:

If you don't want one huge batch of a flavored or spiced applesauce, just start off by making The Classic. After 5 hours of slow cooking, transfer 1/2 or 1/4 of your apples to a large saucepan and add the corresponding amount of spices (cut by half or down to 1/4) to the saucepan. Simmer on low for an hour, covered, and then continue as you would normally with the draining and jarring!

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Tofu Benedict with Vegan Hollandaise Sauce

I'm a huge fan of breakfast food and I see nothing wrong with consuming it at any hour of the day or night. There, I said it. It's out there.

My weekly menu typically includes at least one "breakfast for dinner" night and I often find myself up to my eyeballs in suppertime waffles, tofu scramble evenings and even late night cereal snacks. The flip side of this is also true. I've eaten lasagna for breakfast on more than a few occasions. But that's not what I came here today to tell you about.

Over the weekend, I decided to actually make brunch... at brunchtime! I was inspired by Vegan Brunch, the latest and greatest from Isa Chandra Moskowitz, queen of all things vegan and yummy. I've never had "real" Hollandaise sauce before but it's always intrigued me, so I knew that Isa's "Tofu Benny" had to be the first recipe I'd try from her newest book.

The dish takes a little work, like marinating your tofu ahead of time. I remembered to set mine up the night before and let it marinate overnight in the fridge. In the morning, I got down to the business of making vegan Hollandaise sauce. I've had trouble with sauces at times in the past, so I can't say I did this without trepidation. But, let me tell you, folks. Any monkey with a whisk could make Isa's sauces!

And so I did.

If you're interested in making your own Tofu Benny, head to your nearest library or bookstore and grab hold of a copy of Vegan Brunch. For now, I'll share with you my tweaked version of Isa's Hollandaise Sauce. I had to make a few alterations out of necessity, and my sauce turned out spec-freaking-tacular so this is the recipe I'll use the next time I make it... and the time after that and the time after that.

Vegan Hollandaise Sauce
(Adapted from the original recipe in Vegan Brunch)
Yield: 1 cup

1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp minced shallots
3/4 cup unsweetened plain soy milk
1 Tbsp plus 1/2 tsp cornstarch
1/4 cup water
1-1/2 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
1/8 tsp turmeric
1 Tbsp vegetable broth powder
1 Tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
1/2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/8 tsp sea salt

Heat oil in a small sauce pan on medium heat. Add shallots and cook about 3 minutes or until soft. While the shallots are cooking, mix soy milk and cornstarch in a measuring cup. Stir with a fork until the cornstarch is mostly dissolved. Set aside.

Add the water and vinegar to the shallots. Turn the heat up and bring to a boil. Cook for about 5 minutes or until the liquid has reduced to about 2 Tbsp. While it's reducing, add turmeric and vegetable broth powder to the milk mixture.

When the liquid has reduced, add the milk mixture and lower the heat to medium. Whisk semi-furiously for 5-7 minutes or until sauce is thick to eliminate lumps. Mix in the nutritional yeast flakes, lemon juice and salt. Once combined, remove from heat and allow to cool about 20 minutes. This is a good time to cook your tofu and assemble your Tofu Benny towers!

Pair this up one of the beverages in Vegan Brunch), like Isa's version of a Bloody Mary, which she calls a Bloody Moskowitz, and all your brunch diners will be purring like kittens and asking for seconds!

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Meatless Monday: Classic Vegan Lasagna

Today is my dear Lee's second week of the Meatless Monday pledge, and I'm happy to report that he's still on board! (I never doubted him. Really.)

It's not much of a struggle to find non-meat dishes for Lee to enjoy and this Monday is no exception. Last week, my mind was swimming with baked pasta dishes (I blame the cold snap!) so I made my classic vegan lasagna. I love baked dishes not only because they are warm and comforting and satisfying, but also because they yield copious amounts of leftovers that make great Monday lunches after a busy weekend.

Plus, it occurred to me that I haven't yet shared this particular lasagna recipe with you yet, dear readers, and it'd be a crying shame if you lived another day without learning about it. I mean that sincerely.



Classic Vegan Lasagna
Yield: 6 servings (but easily adaptable to make more!)

6 no-boil lasagna noodles
1-1/2 cups tofu ricotta
1-10 oz pkg frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp granulated garlic
2 cups tomato sauce (homemade, I hope, but store-bought will suffice. Canned crushed tomatoes will also work.)
6 oz non-dairy mozzarella (almond is my favorite, soy is permissible), shredded

Preheat oven to 375°F. Spoon 3-4 Tbsp of tomato sauce into a 7x9 inch baking dish and spread to coat the bottom. Place two noodles in the baking dish, overlapping them slightly.

In a medium bowl and using a fork, stir about two-thirds of your squeezed-out spinach into the tofu ricotta along with the salt and garlic. Just break up the spinach as much as possible, but don't worry too much about uniformity. Lasagna is supposed to have character.

Speaking of character, most lasagna recipes give very specific instructions on how to layer your dish, how much of each filling to add and when, and I'm not going to do that. I'll tell you how I constructed this particular lasagna and I'll even confess a little kitcheneering faux pas, but I'm also going to urge you strongly to remember that every lasagna dish can and (I think) should be different. I never build my layers the same way twice.

Here's what I did this time:

Layer 1: Lasagna noodles (already done, above, and yes, you should always start with sauce and then noodles)
Layer 2: About one-third of the spinach-ricotta mixture
Layer 3: About half of the shredded cheese
Layer 4: 3/4 cup tomato sauce
Layer 5: Two lasagna noodles
Layer 6: Another third of spinach-ricotta mixture
Layer 7: 3/4 cup tomato sauce
Layer 8: Last two lasagna noodles
Layer 9: Final third of spinach ricotta
Layer 10:Reserved spinach (about one-third of the package, remember?)
Layer 11: Remaining tomato sauce, being sure to cover every inch of noodle
Layer 12: Final half of shredded cheese

Cover with foil and bake at 375°F for 40 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 10 minutes or until your top layer of noodles is fully cooked. Allow to cool at least 10 minutes before cutting into 6 squares and serving with a side of something green, like steamed broccoli. Voila!

Ok, so what about that faux pas I promised to confess? If you peeked closely at the photo above, you noticed something kind of funky going on with the top layer of lasagna noodles. You probably noticed that it's not lasagna noodles at all there on top, but ditalini instead. Ditalini are small, short tubes of pasta that I typically think are delicious in soups and with heavy sauces. What the heck are they doing in my lasagna?

Here's the confession: Despite your suspicions, I do not keep the most organized pantry and I am not capable of staying on top of my inventory much of the time. Thus, when the mood struck me to whip up a quick lasagna dish, I found myself in possession of only 4, count 'em, four lasagna noodles. I almost panicked, it's true, but then I remembered that I had some precooked and dehydrated ditalini in the back of my pantry, which I had made for backpacking meals. As fate would have it, there was just enough ditalini hanging out in there to sprinkle on that layer where the last two lasagna noodles shoulda-coulda been. Since the pasta was precooked, just like the lasagna noodles, it rehydrated beautifully and we were happy campers!

Let this be a lesson to you, though. Either pay more attention to your pantry stock when you're making that grocery list, or try looking at your pantry items in different ways. If I hadn't had that dried ditalini on hand, I might have ventured as far as to spread a healthy layer of couscous instead, or perhaps even a couple of pieces of toast. Think I'm crazy? Maybe. But remember this the next time you run into what looks like a culinary roadblock!

There you have it, folks. My omnivore's second Meatless Monday, a spectacular classic lasagna dish, and a deep dark secret. I hope you've enjoyed it all!

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Moosewood Desserts: Double Pear Crisp and Sweet Spiced Nuts

Happy Friday, folks! Around here, we like to finish off our week like we finish off a great meal - with dessert! This will also be the final post (well, for now) about recipes from the Moosewood Restaurant Farm Fresh Meals Deck. Because I know how much you all adore dessert as well, I'm sharing the recipes today! So as not to confuse you and me both, I've colored my notes in green throughout the recipes.

Autumn Dessert: Double Pear Crisp

Dried pears, cooked in pear juice, jumbled up with fresh pears-- wait, isn't that triple pear? The whole sticky pear-y concoction is topped with a not-too-sweet oat and brown sugar mixture and baked until the pears are all soft and tender. This is a great light dessert, topped with a bit of Soy Whip and (in my opinion) necessary chocolate chips. However, the leftovers also make a respectably nutritious addition to your breakfast routine!

Double Pear Crisp
Yield: 6-8 servings (more like 10!)

6 oz dried pears
1 cup pear juice (apricot or white grape are nice substitutes as well)
4-5 medium pears, chopped (about 4 cups) (I used 3 Bosc pears and 2 Asian pears)
1/4 lb (1 stick) butter (Moosewood calls for butter. I used Earth Balance vegan buttery sticks.)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar or 1/3 cup maple syrup
2 cups rolled oats
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Cut out and discard any stems and hard cores from the dried pears. Chop the dried pears into 1/2-inch pieces. In a small saucepan, bring to a boil the dried pear pieces and the pear juice. Reduce the heat and simmer until the pears are tender, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, core the fresh pears and chop into bite-sized pieces. Spread the chopped pears in an unoiled 2-quart baking dish.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter (substitute). Add the brown sugar or maple syrup, oats, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir to evenly coat the oats and set aside. When the dried pears are tender, pour them and their cooking liquid over the fresh pears in the baking dish. Spoon the oat mixture evenly over the top and bake, uncovered, for 35-45 minutes or until the topping is browned and crisp.

Serve warm or cool, plain or topped with ice cream or fresh whipped cream (non-dairy substitutes, of course, will work fine).

The verdict? A really decent pear crisp, and LOTS of it. I'm not sure that I see the benefit of adding the dried pears, and if I used this recipe again, I would not add the dried pear cooking liquid to the baking dish. My fresh pears created quite a bit of liquid on their own and I do prefer a "less wet" crisp. Also, it's important to note that the leftovers are REALLY good with a few vegan chocolate chips sprinkled on top before reheating.

Winter Dessert: Sweet Spiced Nuts

Walnuts, pecans and almonds are coated in a spicy sugar syrup and baked until toasty. These are a great snack-y dessert on their own, but also wonderful atop salads and even soups. Sealed into small glass jars, these nuts could become a classy holiday gift for coworkers or that ever-present holiday gift exchange.

Sweet Spiced Nuts
Yield: 3 cups

1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
3 cups shelled nuts (pecans, almonds, walnuts, peanuts, cashews) I used about 1 cup each almonds, pecans and walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350°F and generously oil a baking sheet. I knew this was going to be a sticky mess, so I lined a baking sheet with foil and then oiled the foil.

In a saucepan on medium high heat, stir together the sugar, water, salt and spices. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and stir constantly for a minute until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and add the nuts and mix well to evenly coat them with the syrup. This may take a while. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the coated nuts to the prepared baking sheet and spread them out.

Bake until browned, 10-15 minutes, stirring once after 5 or 6 minutes. After you've taken them out of the oven, stir again to break apart any clusters. Allow the nuts to cool before serving.

The verdict? Yum! Think chai meets crunch, and you're pretty much there. These nuts are tasty on their own, but would make beautiful additions to winter salads, atop frosty desserts, or even on pizza. I added two pinches of cayenne and still wished for a spicier result, so I'll be a little more aggressive on the next batch. The sugary syrup really tempers the heat here, so it's necessary!

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Become a fan of Verdant Eats on Facebook!

We interrupt our regularly scheduled delicious programming to bring you a bit of shameless self-promotion. If this were an actual commercial, this message would be followed by a dancing chorus line of bipedal fruits and veggies.

You can now "Become a Fan" of Verdant Eats on Facebook! As a fan, you'll see new blog posts in your news feed as they go public and you'll also have special access to giveaways and more opportunities for reader interaction. This means we will no longer be using the Networked Blogs application, so please "Become a Fan" today by clicking the image below!

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Soy-Citrus Stir Fry with Tofu and Bok Choy

Earlier this week, I shared what my dear omnivore ate on his first Meatless Monday and I promised to share my recipe for Soy-Citrus Stir Fry with Tofu and Bok Choy. I like to think of myself as someone who keeps her promises, so here it is!


Soy-Citrus Stir Fry with Tofu and Bok Choy
Yield: 2 dinner servings

About 4oz large rice stick noodles
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 small yellow onion, sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp minced ginger
1 carrot, sliced diagonally
3-4 fingerling potatoes, sliced very thinly
1/2-3/4 cup vegetable broth
1 orange, juiced
2-3 Tbsp soy sauce
4oz extra firm tofu, in 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 tsp dried sage
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp tumeric
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 small bunch baby bok choy, chopped into large pieces
5-6 fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 roma tomato, halved and then sliced

Cook rice noodles according to package instructions. If you really wanted to, you can substitute rice for the noodles in this dish.

In a large skillet (or an electric wok, like I use), heat oil over medium heat and add onions, garlic, carrots and potatoes. Stir to coat in oil and allow to cook, uncovered, for a few minutes. Add about half of the vegetable broth, stir and cover. Allow to cook on medium heat for 5-7 minutes, until carrots and potatoes are mostly cooked.

Add half of the orange juice, all of the soy sauce, tofu and herbs. Stir to combine and cook 2-3 minutes. Pile bok choy and tomato on top of the veggies and sprinkle basil on top. Do not stir yet! Cover with lid and steam for 5 minutes. Stir in rice noodles, the reserved orange juice an vegetable broth and, if needed, a little more soy sauce.



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Biscuits, baby!

In my not-so-humble opinion, everyone should know how to make biscuits from scratch. Mostly, I believe that because it's so stinkin' easy that anyone can do it. But I also just adore biscuits and I'm always trying to spread the love. So, there you go.

My biscuit recipe is so easy that I can usually mix the batter in less time than it takes my oven to preheat. It can be adapted to be sweet or savory, or just left as "plain ol' biscuits" which is the favorite in our house. A couple of our plain ol' biscuits are shown here on the right slathered with blackberry preserves and, that's right, a big ol' pile of grits. We're from the South, ok?

The best reason to keeping the batter plain is that biscuits freeze beautifully. You can bake up a whole batch and save your leftover biscuits for other meals. My tips? Defrost a frozen biscuit in the microwave and turn it into: a quick breakfast sandwich, a dinnertime soup-soaker-upper, or low-guilt dessert when smeared with melted dark chocolate and drizzled with pureed berries!

Basic Biscuit Batter

Yield: 14-15 biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbsp butter-flavored shortening (Did you know it could be accidentally vegan?)
1 cup non-dairy milk (plain/unsweetened soy or almond milk are best)

Preheat oven to 450°F  and oil a baking sheet. I use olive oil spray and think you should too.

In a medium bowl, stir dry ingredients thoroughly with a fork. Cut in shortening until the mix is consistently crumbly. Add milk and stir with fork until all of the flour is wet.

Drop batter onto baking sheet. How much? You can make biscuits in almost size, but I'd go with something between 2 Tbsp and 1/4 cup, otherwise they may not bake properly.

Bake 12-14 minutes or until golden brown and delicious!

Some variations:
If you don't want to make plain ol' biscuits, try some of these alternatives.

For a sweet biscuit, add 1 Tbsp sugar when you mix in the shortening.
For a savory biscuit, add 1/2 tsp dried thyme, 1/2 tsp dried sage and 1/4 tsp dried rosemary to the dry ingredients.
For a biscuit with a kick, add a pinch or more of cayenne pepper to the dry ingredients and a few drops of Liquid Smoke when you add the milk.

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Moosewood Redo: Delicata Crimini Lasagna

Pumpkin Mushroom Lasagna is one of the main dishes in the "Autumn" section of the Moosewood Restaurant Farm Fresh Meals Deck that I reviewed last week. The original recipe calls for canned pumpkin, which doesn't exit in my house, and lots of ricotta and parmesan cheeses. I veganized the Moosewood recipe by using tofu ricotta a la Isa (see below). Instead of pumpkin, I used roasted delicata squash simply because it was already in the house. The result was exceptional, and has become a new favorite for us!

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Delicata Crimini Lasagna
Yields: 4 big servings or 6 medium servings

6 no-boil lasagna noodles
2 delicata squashes
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups chopped onions
3 cups chopped crimini mushrooms
2 tsp dried rubbed sage
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 Ener-g Egg Replacer egg
1 1/2 cups tofu ricotta (see recipe below)
pinch ground black pepper
pinch ground nutmeg (fresh, please!)
1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs

Halve, seed and roast squashes, skin up, on a baking sheet for 25 minutes at 400°F.

In a large skillet, heat oil on medium low and add onions. Cook onions for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add mushrooms and saute an additional 5 minutes. Add sage, half of the salt and the vegetable broth. Simmer on low heat for 5 minutes and then remove from heat and set aside.

In a large bowl,scoop out the roasted flesh from the squash skins and mash it with a fork. Discard the skins. Stir in Ener-g egg, tofu ricotta, pepper, nutmeg, and remaining salt. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375°F and lightly spray a 7x9 or 8x8 glass baking dish with olive oil.

Dip out about 1/4 cup of the liquid from the mushroom pan and pour into the prepared baking dish. Place two lasagna noodles in the bottom of the dish and then spread on half of the squash-tofu mixture. Spoon on a third of the mushrooms. Add a second layer of noodles, followed by the remaining squash-tofu mixture, another third of the mushrooms. Finish with a layer of noodles, thoroughly soaked by the last of the mushrooms. Sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs.

Cover with foil and bake for 50 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 10 minutes until the lasagna is bubbly. Allow to rest about 10 minutes before cutting, unless you want a sloppy mess on your hands! This lasagna begs to be served alongside a crisp green salad. Ours was topped with sliced Asian pear and a honey mustard dressing, making for a perfect Autumn meal.

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Tofu Ricotta from Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz
Yield: 1-1/2 cups

8 oz extra firm tofu, pressed and crumbled by hand
1 tsp lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
4-5 handful fresh basil leaves, chopped fine
pinch tsp salt
dash fresh black pepper
1 tsp olive oil
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast flakes

In a small bowl and using your hands as weapons of tofu destruction, crumble tofu and mix with lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper and basil. This should take about 2-5 minutes. Add olive oil and stir in with a fork. Add nutritional yeast and stir (also with the fork). Tofu ricotta can be used immediately, or covered and refrigerated for later use.

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Meatless Monday & Moosewood Meals

Hi, everyone. My name is Cat and I have a confession to make. I live with an omnivore and I actually let him cook meat in our house. Even bacon!

Everyone wants to know: "How does it work? How do you pull it off?" Well, it's actually pretty simple. Our refrigerator has a special "meat drawer" where Lee stores his carcasses, and a dedicated "meat pan" to cook them in. Our house also contains milk from real cows, eggs and butter. Some vegan, you're thinking, right? Well, I don't touch the stuff but Lee's an adult and perfectly capable of making his own decisions about his diet. He does eat organic, locally grown animal products whenever possible and he chows down on my veggie dishes every day as well.

Yes, it's difficult sometimes for me to watch as he preps a bird for roasting, or when he unwraps a particularly drippy steak. For the most part, I just try to stay out of the way when that's happening. However, our different diets don't present any "real" problems for us and we both get to eat what we like and we try to be as socially and environmentally responsible as possible while doing so.

So, finally she gets to the point! Have you heard about Meatless Monday? It's a campaign to help reduce meat consumption by 15% (one day a week) in order to better the health of the planet. The movement's website offers creative recipes to help you design your meatless meals, as well as a guide to seasonal produce. When I talked with Lee about the idea, there was no arm-twisting involved. He cares about our earth and about future generations, so he went for it and took the pledge.

Today is Lee's first Meatless Monday, so we both wanted to share what this particular omnivore had on his plate. He's not much of a breakfast guy but you can get some breakfast ideas in the recipe section of the Meatless Monday site.

Lunch Menu

Both of these recipes are from the Moosewood Restaurant Farm Fresh Meals Deck that I reviewed on Friday. We made these dishes over the weekend, so lunch was composed of leftovers. It seems like a no-brainer, but that tip saves us both time and money - and who couldn't use a little extra of those two things??

[caption id="attachment_200" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Green and White Bean Gratin"][/caption]

This gratin has layers of green beans, white bean puree, soy cheese, and whole white beans. It's topped with a crunchy breadcrumb crust and baked in the oven for a warm, creamy, satisfying dish that makes plenty of leftovers! You'll find this recipe in the "Winter" section of the Farm Fresh Meals Deck.

[caption id="attachment_201" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Cranberry Bulgur Pilaf "][/caption]

This pilaf is a side dish with a lot of personality. It's made with bulgur wheat, which is a high-fiber and high-protein food. Fresh-squeezed orange juice and zest bring sweetness, dried cranberries balance with a little tartness, and the dish is finished off with soy sauce, which helps provide an earthy dimension to this sweet-savory dish. This recipe is in the "Autumn" section of the meals deck.

Dinner Menu

I whipped up dinner using one of our favorite appliances: an electric wok. I boiled rice noodles separately on the stove before draining and adding them to the rest of the stir fry just before the veggies were done. This dish gets most of its flavor from soy sauce and fresh squeezed orange juice, but there's a lot going on so your palette won't get bored! I *do* plan to share my recipe with you later this week so stay tuned!

[caption id="attachment_203" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Soy-Citrus Stir Fry with Tofu and Bok Choy"][/caption]

Whether you're already vegan or vegetarian, or you're an omnivore interested in trying something new, I encourage you to learn more about the Meatless Monday challenge and--if you dare--take the pledge!

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Review: Moosewood Restaurant Farm Fresh Meals Deck

I am SO excited to review the new Moosewood Restaurant Farm Fresh Meals Deck: 50 Delicious Recipes for Every Season that I BARELY know where to begin. For lack of a better idea, why don't I just start at the beginning and stop at the end? Works for you? Good, here goes!

Moosewood DeckThe Moosewood Collective is a nineteen person-owned collective based in New York state. You may have heard about the Moosewood Restaurant, in downtown Ithaca, which opened in 1973 and has been serving up delicious vegetarian meals ever since. The folks at Moosewood didn't stop there, though. Oh no! Running a globally-acclaimed natural foods restaurant wasn't enough, so those darn Moosewood foodies started publishing cookbooks (12 of them now) AND a line of refrigerated soups and sauces as well. Whew!

I've been familiar with and been a fan of the Moosewood cookbooks for quite some time--10 years or more, I'd estimate. When I learned about their newest recipe collection--Moosewood Restaurant Farm Fresh Meals Deck: 50 Delicious Recipes for Every Season--I nearly leapt out of my chair in anticipation. Think I'm nuts? Let me explain.

The Farm Fresh Meals Deck is a collection of 50 recipes from previously published Moosewood cookbooks. That means I probably already own at least some of these recipes in another book. What makes this okay is that this deck features each recipe on its own tabbed recipe card, divided into each of the four seasons and labeled MD (main dish), SD (side dish) or D (dessert). All of the recipes are vegetarian and many are also vegan by accident. They are designed with seasonal produce in mind, and it's SO easy to pick out your recipes and tuck those recipe cards into your reusable shopping bag when you head out to your local farmers' market, produce stand or grocery store.

Even though I'm not really a "cookbooker" or "recipe follower" or "color inside the lines at all" kind of gal, I'm still tickled by this approach to sharing recipes. For anyone who has trouble getting organized, doesn't have the time or desire to rewrite ingredients from a cookbook, or who just needs a little help in the grocery store, this meals deck would be a GREAT holiday gift. Best of all, since it includes recipes from all four seasons, it's like a gift that keeps on giving!

Now, here in the Pacific Northwest, autumn came late and winter is desperately trying to sneak in early. When I flipped through the deck a third and fourth time, reading recipes and trying to figure out what I had a taste for, I realized how easy it is to deal with this straddling of seasons. I simply selected a few dishes from both the "Autumn" and "Winter" tabs, took a quick inventory of my pantry, and off to the store I went! So awesome.

Which recipes did I decide to test? Well, over the course of the next week, I'll be sharing photos of the following dishes from the Moosewood Restaurant Farm Fresh Meals Deck, and I may even post the recipe for one or two of them, if you're good:

Autumn Main Dish: Pumpkin Mushroom Lasagna
Autumn Side Dish: Cranberry Bulgar Pilaf
Autumn Dessert: Double Pear Crisp
Winter Main Dish: Green & White Bean Gratin
Winter Dessert: Sweet Spiced Nuts

Stay tuned for photos of Moosewood dishes from my kitchen!

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More quick pickles!

Recently, I got a hold of the sweetest little mini cucumbers you ever did see. They're a special European variety, grown organically here in the States. I don't usually make a big deal out of food being cute, but COME ON. See how small and cute they are?

IMG_4298

In my mind, tiny little cukes like this are just begging to be pickled. Who am I to argue? I also had a few radishes lying around in the fridge, so I decided to pickle those too. (That's right -- I said "a few radishes," not a few bunches of radishes. Don't ask.) I grabbed a couple of jars and made up a double batch of my special quick cucumber pickling liquid.

Both cukes and radishes received a quick bath and a light scrub to clear off any garden dirt that might have been lingering. Some of the cucumbers had started to go soft at the ends and others were a little too long for the not-so-tall quart jar I planned to use, so I gave them a little trim job and sliced them in half lengthwise. You could leave them whole if you wanted, but I like to see that white pickled flesh in the center! I also put a thin slice on the radishes before stuffing them into their own 8oz jar.

When my pickling liquid was ready, I poured it ever so slooooowly into both jars until the veggies were just covered. Pickle trick: Before slapping the lid on the jars, I always take a chopstick and "stir" it around the jar a little to make sure there are no air bubbles trapped inside the liquid. When it comes to quick pickles, air is not your friend!

IMG_4303

Lidded and refrigerated, the radishes and cucumbers will be pickled in about 24 hours and should be eaten within a week. They rarely last that long in our house!

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GOOD FOOD movie premieres on PBS!

If you love verdant eats, you know that we can't have them without healthy farms and sustainable food and farming practices. But, what does that mean here in the Pacific Northwest? Find your answers tonight November 12 at 10pm when the 1-hour documentary film GOOD FOOD: Sustainable Food and Farming in the Pacific Northwest, produced by Melissa Young and Mark Dworkin premieres on PBS KCTS Channel 9.



For more information on the film or to obtain a copy, visit the GOOD FOOD movie website.

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In the Dryer: Green Bell Peppers

Green bell peppers have invaded our humble abode this week, and the numbers are staggering! We're big fans of stir fry and stuffed peppers - but since there's no way we could possibly consume this bounty before it goes south, it's time to break out the dehydrator!

In the Dryer: Green Bell Peppers




These beautiful peppers are mostly small and funny-shaped. In fact, I've seen a few that seemed to try to grow in the shapes of the alphabet, like L and P and even an S or too. To me, this screams "dehydrator fodder" because it would be difficult to stuff most of these peppers or cut them into beautiful long strips for stir frying. Luckily, the best way to prepare bell peppers for the dehydrator is to chop them into less-than-bite-sized squares. Pepper skins don't rehydrate easily, so smaller pieces are definitely the way to go.

Once your peppers are seeded and chopped, spread them on your dehydrator trays (lined with parchment paper, right?) skin side up. Juicy peppers, like the ones I have today, will take 24-36 hours to dry on 125°F.

After your pepper pieces are dry, allow them to cool completely before storing in zip-top freezer bags or glass jars.  Store them in your pantry or any cool, dark place for the winter. Dried peppers are great additions to soup, chili, salad and even pizza!

Past editions of In the Dryer:
Persimmons and Apples
Roma tomatoes

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Vegan Holiday Meal Planning Made Easy

The holidays are coming, the holidays are coming! Are you ready? Of course not, but after a little reading, you'll be ready to take on all those potlucks, cocktail parties, office celebrations and family dinners!

Appetizers
On Healthy. Happy. Life., Kathy offers tips for Thanksgiving appetizers that will work for any holiday gathering. Her collection includes several easy and creative dips -- including ranch and butternut squash -- as well as several bite-size treats that are sure conversation-starters. Her mango-green pepper bruschetta is definitely an appetizer I'd like to try:

[caption id="attachment_165" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Photo by Kathy @ Healthy. Happy. Life."]mango-bruschetta-12400[/caption]

 



Mains, Sides and Sauces

On the International Vegetarian Union (IVU) site, you'll find a collection of tried-and-true vegan recipes for holiday dishes. Also check out the "sauces" section for a super vegan gravy and the "desserts" section for an easy vegan pumpkin pie!

VegWeb has a list of vegan stuffing recipes ranging from cornbread to rice to apples!

 



Dessert

Bryanna Clark Grogan at the Vegan Feast Kitchen shares recipes for vegan holiday desserts, including a tofu-free pumpkin pie.

Vegan Dad shares a Canadian butter-less butter tart recipe for the holidays.

Not to be outdone, Isa at Post Punk Kitchen offers a chocoholic dream in her Rich Chocolate Cake recipe.



 

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Sad Onion, Happy Soup

The weather outside is getting downright frightful, and around here that translates directly to: "Soup's on!"

IMG_4296

Onion-Potato Soup
(Yield: 4 servings)

1 large yellow or Spanish onion, diced
1 large shallot, minced
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp olive oil
pinch sea salt
1-1 1/2 lbs russet potatoes, scrubbed and diced (skins on or off, your choice)
1 cup mushroom stock or vegetable broth
3 cups water
1 Tbsp dried Italian herb mix (basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary)
1 tsp dark mushroom soy sauce
Fresh ground black pepper

In a large cast iron dutch oven, heat olive oil on low and add onions, shallots, garlic and salt. Stir to coat with oil and cover. Cook on low for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft and translucent.

Add potatoes, mushroom broth, water and dried herbs. Increase to high heat and bring to a boil. Boil until potatoes are cooked through (about 20-25 minutes). Remove pot from heat and, using a potato masher, break up the potatoes and onions until you reach your desired consistency. If you prefer a smoother soup, this would be a great time to break out the immersion (stick) blender and go to town!

After your mash job, add soy sauce and pepper and stir to combine. Serve immediately, preferably topped with garlic croutons.

If you've got a taste for onions and soup's just not your thing, check out one of my favorite blogs, TahiniToo, for an awesome onion-y pilaf.

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