Monday, December 26, 2011

A Very Vegan and Delicious Holiday Week!

What a delicious week this has been . . . family, friends, cooking, and of course eating. Here's a sampling of our favorites:

For friends and neighbors, we baked: Harvest Cookies from Quick-fix Vegan -- plus my own chocolate chip cookies to which I added a little orange extract and Global Garden's Dream Dust.

For dinner:

Hearty Lentil and Mushroom Shepherd's Pie, Agave and Mustard-Glazed Green Beans and Red Wine-Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Challah Bread (made with squash instead of eggs!) from Vegan Holiday Kitchen

For dessert:

Chocolate Chai Ice Cream Pie with Gingersnap Crust and dusted with Dream Dust (ice cream and crust recipes from Lick It! Creamy Dreamy Vegan Ice Creams Your Mouth Will Love)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Nava Atlas's Red Wine Roasted Brussels Sprouts

As we count down the days until Christmas, I'm planning my holiday dinner--so I naturally turned to Nava Atlas's new cookbook: Vegan Holiday Kitchen--especially since her recipes were such a hit on Thanksgiving.

I had found some beautiful little brussels sprouts at one of my favorite local growers: Rutiz Farms last weekend so I thought I'd preview Nava's Red Wine-Roasted Brussels Sprouts. To make it more of a meal, I added some cauliflower and tofu and served it with baked butternut squash and applesauce. All I can say is WOW! The outsides of the sprouts were crispy and sweet, the insides just melted in our mouths. They were so good . . . and it wasn't just me, the kids loved them too. These will definitely be on our Christmas dinner menu!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Hot Cocoa with a twist

Tis the season for hot cocoa . . . fa la la la la la la la la

Oh yeah, the weather around here has been downright chilly and while I love my green tea, sometimes we just want something a little special to warm us up--and hot cocoa is just the thing. Lately, we've been experimenting with flavored chocolates to make a special thing, even more special. Like . . .

Orange Hot Cocoa: Add 1 tablespoon Triple Sec or 1/8 teaspoon orange extract to 1 cup cocoa.

Peppermint Hot Cocoa: Add 1 tablespoon Peppermint Schnapps or 1/8 teaspoon peppermint extract to 1 cup cocoa.

Mocha: Add 1 tablespoon Kahula or 1 teaspoon instant coffee or coffee substitute (like Pero) to 1 cup cocoa--or you can have half brewed coffee and half a cup cocoa.

It's also fun just to add a little hint of spice to your cocoa -- cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamon, or a chai spice mixture--or a little chili powder too.

One more idea for something really special is the Hot Chocolate Float from Lick It! Creamy Dreamy Vegan Ice Creams Your Mouth Will Love. Try replacing the vanilla with one of the variations above as well!

Vegan Hot Chocolate Float
Makes 4 servings
Who needs (vegan) marshmallows! Try a scoop of ice cream in your hot chocolate instead.

3 cups nondairy milk
1 cup nondairy dark or semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 scoops nondairy Vanilla Ice Cream

Place the milk and chocolate chips in a saucepan on medium-low heat. Heat, whisking occasionally, until the milk just starts to boil. Remove from the heat and whisk until smooth and foamy. Pour evenly into 4 mugs. Carefully drop a scoop of the ice cream into each mug.

So, this is what we've tried so far . . . what are your favorites?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Autumn Veggie Stew

The inspiration started when I cooked a big pot of white beans . . . and then took shape after a trip to the Farmers' Market . . . and then was finished off by homemade Thai Green Curry Sauce purchased at Rutiz Farms to create one of the best stews I've made. It's so darn good, we are eating it for snacks as well as meals . . . and I'll share the recipe with you. (Since the types and strengths of curry sauces and pastes are so different, add a little at a time until it's to the spiciness and flavor that you like--I used about a tablespoon of Ruth's Green Curry Sauce.)

Autumn Veggie Stew

olive oil
2 cups sliced leeks (white part of about 3-4 leeks)
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 stalks celery, sliced
1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 red bell pepper, cut into bite-sized pieces
1-2 anaheim chilis, minced
2 cups diced tomatoes (or 1 15-ounce can with juice)
1 quart vegetable broth
1 3/4 cups cooked white beans (or 1 15-ounce can)
6 cups chopped kale
green curry sauce or paste to taste
salt and black pepper to taste

Place a large pot over low heat. Add enough olive oil to coat the bottom. Add leeks, garlic, and celery. Cook about 5 minutes to soften. Add squash, pepper, chilis, tomatoes, and broth. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes. Add beans and kale. Cover and simmer another 15 minutes, or until squash is tender. Season with curry sauce/paste and salt and pepper, to taste.

Serves 8

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Quick-fix Vegan

Quick-Fix Vegan
by Robin Robertson

Review by Cathe Olson

I’m sure you’ll be as excited as I was to find out that Robin Robertson has a new cookbook out. Roberson’s books have long been a staple at my house, but with her new book, Quick-Fix Vegan, I think she’s outdone herself.

According to the book cover, Quick-Fix Vegan contains 150 “healthy, homestyle meals” that can be prepared in “30 minutes or less.” Unlike other “quick” cookbooks that rely heavily on jarred sauces and prepared foods, the recipes in this book are made largely from whole, unprocessed foods . . . foods I have on hand and feel good about serving my family.

The chapter of Starters and Snacks includes Moroccan Pumpkin Hummus, Super Nachos, and Easy Artichoke Puffs. I made the vegetable fritters—a mixture of shredded onions, potatoes and vegetables, held together with flour and nondairy milk—for my family and they were a huge hit. In fact, I’ve made them several times since, varying the vegetables, herbs, and flours with excellent results. The leftovers, if there are any, go great in the kids’ lunchboxes. It was a bit challenging to get the fritters all cooked in under 30 minutes, but getting several skillets cooking at once does decrease the cooking time (though adds to the cleanup time). (See more on the fritters here!)

I’m a big soup fan—especially this time of year—and Robertson includes some great ones. We loved the Creamy Greens Soup made with kale and coconut milk; and the Cream of Mushroom Soup was sublime. I haven’t had a chance to try any of the Speedy Sandwiches or Snappy Salads, but am looking forward to making the Sloppy Portobellos, Seitan and Slaw Wraps, Freeburgers, and Burmese Ginger Salad.

The selection of Stovetop Suppers and Pasta Express dinners include a variety of veganized international favorites like Tofu “Scampi” with Spinach, Jerk Seitan and Vegetable Skillet, Korean Hot Pot, and Skillet Lasagne. I made the Tofu Skillet Scramble and it was super quick and easy, and very flavorful. The book also includes recipes for condiments, gravies and chutneys, and desserts like Pear Turnovers, which I am dying to try, and Molasses Ginger Cookies with blueberries.

Every recipe I tried worked well. The instructions were clear and simple. The ingredients are ones I had on hand or could find easily. Some of the recipes do take longer than 30 minutes to prepare. For example, the baking time for the Portobellos Stuffed with Chickpeas and Chard is 25 minutes. But you still need to prep the ingredients and cook the chard for 7 minutes. So read over the recipes carefully if you really are pressed for time just to be sure.

My recommendation? This is one of the best cookbooks I’ve found in a long time. The meals are great for families—nothing too outlandish, but nothing boring either. It is definitely the first one I’ll turn to in the busy months to come.