Tag Archives: Vegetarian

Making Friends out of Former Enemies

 

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Have you ever hated a certain food only to find you like it later? That’s been my case with things like mushrooms, raw tomatoes, and red wine.

I really feel that in order to say you don’t like something, you must try it in a variety of different preparations and flavor combinations before making a judgment. This has led me to conclusions that I just don’t like raw broccoli, but I loved it steamed, roasted or grilled! I love fresh mushrooms sauteed in butter, but not served out of a can. I like cucumber in gazpacho, but not chopped up in a salad or in tabbouleh. Or celery diced fine and stewed slowly in soup or dressing, but never, ever served raw!

Which leads me to this recipe I found in my most recent issue of Z-Life (a magazine I receive as a member of the Zumba Instructor Network).

Beet and Apple Salad.

First, I will share with you my first former enemy.

Beets.

Omg.

I have tried so many times to love beets. But every time it just tastes like I’m eating dirt. Red beets, golden beets, roasted, pickled (ew), doesn’t matter. Dirt.

But every time I prepare them I find I sort of like them even more. I can’t say that I love them, but they have found a place in my life. I will continue to prepare them in different ways and find, every time, that I like them a little more. This recipe is one of those that makes me like beets even more. Perhaps one day I’ll be a beet-a-holic?! That will be the day I make borscht.

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Beet and Apple Salad with Creamy Ginger Vinaigrette
Adapted from Z-Life
Serves 2-4

3 small beets (I used golden)
Oregano
1 apple (I used fuji. Ignore the fact that there are two apples in the pic. Unless you want more apple—then go for it!)
1/4 cup shelled pistachios
Creamy Ginger Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

 

First, peel the beets. I used a paring knife, and because I used golden beet instead of red, I didn’t look like a murder victim from CSI. But if red suits you, go for it.

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Then, slice the beets into half-moon slices. Wrap up in parchment paper (I used this method) with a sprinkle of oregano and roast for 20-30 minutes or until tender (I just shove a toothpick through the parchment and gauge the texture from there).

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Very quickly dump the beets into a bowl of water and ice and leave there for about 30 seconds. Some people call this “shocking” and it’s typically used to halt cooking and preventing green things from turning brown. I did it because I wanted my beets chilled when I mixed them with the apples. If you want warm beets with cool apples, omit this “shocking” step (hurr hurr).

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Slice apple into thin half-moon-ish slices. I use this manner of slicing.

Mix beets with apples. Then gently mix in the pistachios and the dressing. Serve and enjoy!

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This brings us to the second previously-hated item.

Mustard.

I have for many years proclaimed my disdain for mustard. My friends and I even have a year-long joke currently running where they will hide small packets of mustard in our house after we made the proclamation last year that we “are not a mustard family.” My disfavor came from the awful stench of mustard and the radioactive yellow shade of the French’s style I was exposed to growing up. However, to be frank, I’d never actually eaten it. But lately as I was reading over the ingredients on the bottle of my favorite store-bought dressing (Brianna’s Creamy Balsamic Vinaigrette), I realized that what made this dressing “creamy” and gave it a certain depth of flavor that couldn’t be found in regular oil + vinegar concoctions was the mustard. After doing much soul-searching, I bought a small bottle of Grey Poupon and vowed to start with baby steps. And that first baby step, this dressing, is a major success!

Creamy Ginger Vinaigrette

1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1/2 tbsp honey
1/4 tsp ground ginger (I used World Market brand, which amazingly tastes exactly like a real root of ginger! Not many powdered varieties capture that sweet-spicy-citrusy taste)
salt + pepper

Combine all ingredients in a small jar or bowl and whisk well.

 

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Are there any foods you hated growing up that you now love?

Aztec Brownies

Living in Texas, Christmas often makes me think of…Mexican food. Yep. Not ham. Not green bean casserole. Not sweet potato pie. Mexican food.

Growing up it was not unusual to go to a Christmas party and be served tamales. I know many people who opt for a Mexican feast on Christmas day, rather than ham, dressing, and all the fixin’s. And no, these people are not of hispanic descent!

It’s a regional thing. Mexican cuisine is a major contributor to the overall Texan culture. And this love of comforting Southwestern cuisine is what led me to Kakawa, an artisan chocolate house, this past August in Santa Fe. And while I was there I tasted and was entranced by the “Aztec Brownie,” which is a gluten free variety that included spices, chilies, and a combination of authentic Mesoamerican flours. I thought the combination of whole food ingredients they used was very creative and inspired me to make a variety of mine own!

Well let me tell you, there is something of a trick to making something really good with a just a few quality ingredients. Technique is key. And technique is the reason I’m posting this week’s 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies & Sweets edition so late. I kept failing on this! Then I realized it was my technique that was all wrong. So several trials, tribulations, and trips to the grocery store later, I finally have a really amazing recipe for you all.

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What you get from this recipe is a dense, fudge-like, rich brownie that isn’t too ridiculously sweet, but leaves you with a lingering tickle of chile and spice on your tongue. No, it is not “hot” and it is gentle on even sensitive palettes. The combination of spice and heat work very well mixed with this deep chocolate. Just try it!

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Aztec Brownie
Inspired by Kakawa

Makes 8-12 brownies

4 ounces butter
8 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate, coarsely chopped
8 ounces agave nectar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 ounces almond milk
1.5 ounces almond meal/flour *
1 ounce blue corn meal
1/2 ounce quinoa flour **
1/2 ounce millet flour ***
1/2 ounce amaranth flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground ancho chile powder ****
1/2 tsp ground arbol chile powder
4 tbsp cocoa nibs, divided (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

In a double-broiler (or a glass bowl sitting on top of a pot of simmering water), melt butter over medium heat. Once melted (don’t rush this), add the chocolate pieces and stir until just melted. Do NOT turn up the heat. Allow it to take as much time as it needs. Once melted, take the chocolate off the heat and add in the agave nectar, eggs, vanilla, and almond milk.

In a separate, medium sized bowl, combine the flours, cinnamon, allspice, and chile powders together and mix thoroughly.

Pour the dry ingredients into the bowl of wet ingredients and stir well. Fold in half the cocoa nibs.

Pour the batter into a baking pan (11×7 or 10×10 may work best). Sprinkle the remaining cocoa nibs on top of the batter and lightly press them in. Bake for about 20-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.

Allow to cool completely. Then cut into 2-inch square servings.

Tastes amazing served with cold homemade almond milk. Smile

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* I like to make my own almond milk, and I repurpose the leftover grounds into almond meal/flour by dehydrating them in the oven for several hours at the lowest temp possible with the oven door ajar and quickly grinding them finer in a coffee grinder. Worked like a charm in this recipe!

** I grind quinoa in my coffee grinder, as I cannot find quinoa flour within an hour of my house. Plus, it’s cheaper.

*** You may use any combination of flours you have on hand, as long as you substitute one-for-one BY WEIGHT. The original Kakawa recipe contained mesquite flour, which I do not own, so I omitted it and used more of a different flour. I ground my quinoa, millet, and amaranth in my coffee grinder I dedicate exclusively to spices, grains, and chilies.

**** I’m sure somewhere you can find distinct “ancho chile powder,” but I actually buy dry ancho chilies, roast them a few minutes in a hot oven, pour out the seeds, and grind them in my coffee grinder. Same for arbol chilies. And for the love of all that is holy, do NOT use “chili powder!” That stuff has onions, garlic, and mystery ingredients in there that you do not want in your brownies!

Also, check out the other great recipes for this week’s blog hop!

Vegan Baking Adventures

Next week my office is hosting a going-away brunch for a fellow coworker who is leaving to go work in the Metroplex, and we’ve all been asked to bring a dish to share. I love baking quick-breads, and I recently found out that another coworker is vegan. I love vegan baking! I consider it some sort of challenge and an art form in itself. It defies conventional logic and pushes my thinking out of the box.

I decided to test out a muffin to share.

I started out with the idea of almond butter muffins. Then I found a recipe that included bananas. What a great idea! I have overripe bananas, and they contribute a good amount of moisture and natural sweetness while cutting down on excessive fat! Plus that gives it an upscale Elvis feel, y’know. Almond butter and bananas?

Anyway. I knew that I was entirely out of sucanat and had no desire to run to the store, so I figured a liquid sweetener would suffice. I got half-way through decrystallizing my honey when I realized—duh—honey isn’t vegan. I’m all out of agave (figures), so the next best option was grade B maple syrup. Yes, I knew almond butter and maple syrup go together beautifully. I’m sure most foodies have discovered Justin’s maple almond butter packets in the grocery store, but grade B maple doesn’t normally have a very subtle flavor! But it totally worked in these and did not overpower at all.

 

Here’s what you need!

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Whole wheat pastry flour is the secret to successful 100% whole wheat muffins that everyone will love. The texture is very, very close to that of regular white flour. I use it in practically everything. In fact, I’ve only found two recipes where it didn’t really work out as well as white flour. But that’s another post.

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Conventional baking recipes use milk/yogurt and eggs. I used soy milk (but I plan on using rice milk next week) and a “flax egg.” I love using flax eggs because it’s cheaper than actual eggs, plus it keeps me from using my expensive local, pastured eggs in recipes I can’t even taste them in.

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The beauty of quickbread recipes is that the instructions are simple. Combine all the dry ingredients in one bowl, all the wet ingredients in another bowl, and then combine the contents of both bowls until gently combined (but don’t over-stir!). Sometimes you can get away with using just one bowl—combining all your dry, then adding your wet ingredients individually and then mixing, but since this recipe involves some chunky and sticky wet ingredients in all different textures and viscosities, I don’t recommend the one-bowl route.

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And if you’re feelin’ frisky, you can add some non-dairy chocolate chips!

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Has anyone else used these chlorine-free baking liners? I had some issues with my foil liners back in January with them pulling apart from my cupcakes. I never have that issue with muffins, so I don’t know if it’s the quality of the tin or the recipes themselves. I decided to pick these up when I saw them at Sun Harvest Sprouts last week. Any ideas on how to keep my liners from pulling apart from my cupcakes?!

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Anyway.

If there’s one baking supply you absolutely MUST HAVE in your kitchen, it’s this rounded bowl scraper. I got this as a graduation gift from my aunt. It came from the Container Store and it’s pretty nifty with conversion charts on both sides of it. I know Walmart sells cheaper, simpler varieties. But like I said, it’s an absolute must. If you don’t have one, I beseech you to go out and get one now! There’s a whole world of raw batter to be discovered! And whether that batter ends up in your muffin tins or in your mouth is entirely not my business.

But even if you did eat this batter raw, it’s okay! No eggs! Winking smile

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Where was I? Oh yeah!

 

Fill your muffins with about 2 ounces of batter. I used a nifty one-ounce disher, but most-the-way full is about right.

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Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until edges brown, clean toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, gentle tap on the top shows muffin to be reasonably firm, the weather radar in your trick knee goes off, or the cows come home. Whatever works for you.

Allow muffins to cool entirely on a cooling rack before consuming.

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These muffins are subtle in flavor and in sweetness with a mild and slightly complexed banana flavor, like somewhere between banana bread and the feeling you get after eating an almond-butter-banana sandwich. And another thing, they’re not too sweet! One of my biggest pet peeves is muffins that taste like frosting-less cupcakes. Called me old-fashioned but I don’t think cake is an appropriate breakfast food.

So enjoy!

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Vegan Almond Butter-Banana Muffins

Adapted from CC Recipe
Makes 6-8 muffins

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp melted coconut oil
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup natural almond butter
1 large overripe banana, mashed
1 tbsp ground flaxseed
1/2 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
1/2 cup non-dairy milk
~1/4 cup non-dairy chocolate chips (optional)

First, in a small bowl, combine ground flax with 3 tbsp hot water. Stir and allow to sit for 10 minutes so it can congeal.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon together in a medium bowl.

In another bowl, combine coconut oil, maple syrup, almon butter, banana, “flax egg”, vanilla, and non-dairy milk togther and stir until well-combined.

Add the wet ingredients to the bowl of dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Do not overmix!

Fold in chocolate chips.

Dish out about 2 oz of batter per muffin into a muffin pan filled with liners.

Bake 15-20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in muffin comes out clean.

Mexican Black Bean Lasagna

I conjured this up last night and oooooohhh myyyyy gossssh. It’s good. High in sodium for a single dish, but like anything else, everything in moderation, right?

  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 4 large cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 cup chopped bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn kernels
  • ~4 cups spinach leaves, roughly torn
  • 1 cup black beans, DRAINED AND RINSED
  • 1 tbsp dried (Mexican!) oregano
  • 6 oz whole wheat ready-to-use lasagna noodles (or tortillas. I had both, but chose to use the last of my lasagna noodles, which definitely made it lean more toward lasagna in flavor. I’m sure the tortillas would make it taste more like enchiladas)
  • 2 cups prepared enchilada sauce
  • 2 cups reduced fat Mexican-style cheese blend

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium-large nonstick pan set over medium heat, sweat onions and garlic until mostly translucent. Sprinkle with salt if needed to draw out moisture. Then add corn, bell peppers, black beans, spinach leaves, and oregano. Saute until everything is heated through.

In a medium casserole dish, spoon a few tablespoons of the enchilada sauce into the bottom just to cover the bottom. Layer like so:

1. 1/3 of noodles
2. 1/3 of remaining sauce
3. 1/3 of veggies mixture
4. 1/3 of cheese
5. 1/3 of noodles
6. 1/3 of sauce
7. 1/3 of veggies
8. 1/3 of cheese
9. 1/3 of noodles
10. 1/3 of sauce
11. 1/3 of veggies
12. 1/3 of cheese

Cover and place in oven for approximately 30-40 minutes, or until pasta is cooked through and cheese and sauce are bubbly.

Serves 4-6

(Nutrition based on recipe divided four ways)

10 WW points/463 calories, 15 grams fat, 1077 mg sodium, 56 grams carbohydrates, 11 grams fiber, 3 grams sugar, 23 grams protein

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