Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Vegan Sun dried Tomato and Olive Pesto Braided Bread

I used to be so intimidated when it came to baking.  I mean, all of those precise measurements!  When it comes to cooking, I never use exact measurements.  I always just do what I think would be correct.  But no no...not when it comes to baking!  Though, once you have a good and trustworthy bread recipe memorized, it is time to have some fun!

I have made other variations of this Russian Braided Bread pre-blog days and remembered it turning out simply amazing!  The outside is brilliantly crusty, while the inside is like a soft doughy, heavenly pillow.  This baby was simply baked to perfection.  After making it again today, with my variation of a sun dried tomato and olive pesto, I thought to myself, why aren't bakeries selling something like this???  This is seriously the BEST bread that has ever touched my taste buds!

One thing to remember when dealing breads or pastries is that the dough can become sticky, messy and frustrating.  Something I have learned along the way to minimize doughy, sticky fingers is to always coat your hands with flour.  This will prevent gooey fingers and countless attempts to wash off the dough.

Vegan Sundried Tomato and Olive Pesto Braided Bread 


for the bread dough:

3 - 3 1/2 c all purpose flour (plus more flour if needed)
1 package of active instant yeast
2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 c water
1/4 vegetable oil
1 tbsp vinegar
for the Sun dried Tomato and Olive Pesto:

1/2 c sun dried tomatoes
1/4 c kalamato olives
1/4 c green olives
1-2 tbsp evoo


Combine all dry ingredients in a food processor, using the dough attachment.  In a separate bowl, combine all the wet ingredients and slowly pour into the food processor.  Mix the dough until a ball is formed.  Remove from food processor.  Lightly oil a bowl, place dough in bowl and cover with a wet cloth and let dough rise for about an hour.

Preheat oven to 400.

In the meantime,  start making your pesto.  Simply combine all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.  Set aside.

After an hour, knead dough with hands for about 5 minutes.  With a rolling pin, roll the dough into a rectangle, about 1/2 in thick.  With a spoon, evenly spread the sun dried tomato pesto over the entire dough.  Cut the dough in half, lengthwise and place the two halves in an "X" form.  Now braid the two pieces together by, left over right.  Pinch each ends together, then roll into a giant snail shell.  Place bread onto baking sheet and bake on 400 for about 10 minutes, then turn down to 375 and bake an additional 20 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.


Sunday, March 1, 2015

Vegan Baked Samosa Cake with Mint and Tamarind Chutney

One of my favorite things to do is to take a traditional recipe and play around with it and reconfigure into something else (if you are a regular reader, you will know this).  There is nothing crazy or spectacular about this samosa transformation other than that is tastes spectacular!  By including the every so flavorful and mouthwatering chutneys are just a bonus....a bonus that you will want over and over again!  I am not kidding, you will want to eat the mint chutney with a fork and simply just drink the tamarind chutney.  Yes, they are simply that delicious!

By taking away the pastry element of the ever so popular Indian appetizer, and making it into a patty makes this a terrific main dish!  All you really do is hand mash the potatoes, add in flax eggs and veggies, season to perfection, then form into a patty with your hands.  Keep in mind, if you nail the spices, you have nailed the recipe!

 Vegan Baked Samosa Cake with Mint and Tamarind Chutney

Ingredients/Directions for SAMOSA CAKES:

1 Idaho potato
1 tbsp evoo
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
1/2 c frozen peas, thawed
1-2 green chilies, seeded and minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp smoked paprika
s+p to taste
2-3 tbsp chickpea flour (or flour of choice)

Preheat oven 400.
Peel and cut potato into cubes and boil in lightly salted water until potato is soft enough to cut through easily.  Drain potatoes and mash the potatoes by hand, using evoo if need be to moisten the potatoes.
In a saute pan, heat evoo on medium-high heat.  Add in onion, garlic, ginger, carrot and green chiles.  Saute for 3-5 minutes, or until carrots are soft.  Toss in peas and the seasonings.  Transfer to the bowl of mashed potatoes and mix until everything is combined.  Add in chickpea flour to make the consistency more firm and easier to combine patties. 
With your hands, combine about 1/3 cup of the mixture into patties.  Repeat until mixture is done.
Bake in oven for roughly 20 minutes, flipping once, halfway through.

Ingredients/Directions for the MINT CHUTNEY:

1 c mint leaves
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 green onions, chopped
1-2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp sugar
1 green chili, chopped and seeds removed
salt to taste

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.  Add a bit of water if need be to blend more smoothly.

Ingredients/Directions for the TAMARIND CHUTNEY

1 tbsp evoo
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp tamarind concentrate

 Heat evoo in small pot.  Saute cumin seeds and fennel seeds for about 2 minutes.  Add in remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.  Add in more sugar if need be.  Remove from heat, transfer to bowl and cool in refrigerator until ready to serve.

    Thursday, February 26, 2015

    Vegan Citrus-Soy Winter Root Vegetable Stir Fry!

    It seems like this is going to be an everlasting winter.  Even though we still have at least one more month of winter, I am sure glad it will be March in a few days!  If I hear or read the words "February Freeze" one more time, I may lose my marbles!

    With all this wintry weather talk, I figured I should take advantage of the abundance of root vegetables! While of course you have many root vegetables to choose from, I chose to go with purple fingerling potatoes, celery root, parsnips, turnips, carrots and lotus root.  All of these are fairly easy to find at most grocery stores, except for maybe the lotus root.  I found this crunchy, starchy root veg already sliced and packaged at my favorite Asian Market here in Chicago.

    Unlike the typical stir fry that just uses a bit of oil and soy sauce, I wanted to spruce things up a bit.  By adding in fresh orange juice, orange zest and a touch of agave nectar creates a slightly sweet and beautifully bright flavor, making it a perfect match to the hearty root veggies!

    Vegan Citrus-Soy Winter Root Vegetable Stir Fry!       

    Ingredients:  (yields 4 servings)

    1 celery root, peeled and cut into cubes
    1 turnip, peeled and cut into cubes
    2-3 parsnips, peeled and chopped
    2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
    8 slices of lotus root
    1 garlic clove, minced
    1/2 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
    2 scallions, chopped (green part only)
    1/4 c tamari or soy sauce
    1 orange, juiced
    1 tbsp orange zest
    1/2 tbsp agave nectar
    1/2 tbsp sesame oil
    1/2 tbsp chili oil
    1 tbsp sesame seeds
    handful of pea shoot for garnish (optional)


    After all your prep is done,  whisk together tamari or soy sauce, orange juice and zest, and the agave nectar.  Set aside.

    Heat oil on medium-high in a wok or large saute pan.  Add in minced garlic and ginger and saute for about 1-2 minutes.  Add in all the root vegetables, except for the lotus root and saute for about 6-8 minutes, or until you can cut the vegetables easily.  You may need to add in a splash or two of water during this process.  Add in lotus root and stir in the citrus soy, stirring frequently.  Add more soy sauce or orange juice if necessary!  Toss in sesame seeds and serve!

    Wednesday, February 18, 2015

    Vegan Sweet Potato and Edamame Gyoza

    What do you get when you mix pureed sweet potatoes, chopped edamame and some Asian spices folded in wonton wrappers and cooked to perfection?  Um, you get perfection!  If some restaurant out there does not carry some sort of variation of these gyozas, they need to do some menu changes!

    Appetizers are always my favorite.  That, or tapas.  Mainly because I never want to order an entree.  I prefer enjoying an array of bites to taste and share.  It makes it a more intimate setting to share with loved ones.  Dim sum is the perfect way to create that setting.

    The perfect way to cook these are to steam them or quickly pan fry them, then add water, cover and steam.  I chose the ladder option because I prefer the slightly crisp texture they get from pan frying.

    Sweet Potato and Edamame Gyoza

    Ingredients: (makes roughly 20-25 dumplings)
    1 sweet potato, peeled
    1 tbsp evoo
    1 cup shelled frozen edamame
    1-2 garlic cloves, minced
    1 tbsp chopped fresh ginger
    1 tbsp sesame oil
    2 tbsp tamari or soy sauce
    1 tbsp garlic chili sauce
    20-25 wonton wrappers
    2 tbsp vegetable oil
    1 flax seed egg, mixed with 3 tbsp water (or  your choice of vegan egg replacer)

    Heat oven to 400.  Peel your sweet potato first, then with a fork, poke a few holes around the sweet potato.  Lightly brush with evoo and lightly salt.  Cover with foil and bake for about 45-50 minutes.   

    In the meantime, boil water and cook edamame for about 4-5 minutes.  Drain and transfer to a cutting board.  Chop edamame into small pieces and set aside.  With a small saute pan, heat evoo and saute garlic and ginger for about 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and add to the chopped edamame.

    Once the sweet potato is done baking, cut into a few pieces and transfer to a blender.  Add in sesame oil, tamari and chili sauce and blend until smooth.  Mix the chopped edamame to the sweet potato mixture.

    Mix together your flax seed egg with water and place out the wonton wrappers on a lightly floured surface.  With a brush, brush the sides of the wonton wrapper with the "egg".  Spoon in about 1 tbsp of the mixture into each wonton and and seal tightly with fingers.

    In a large saute pan, heat vegetable oil over medium heat and saute wontons for 2 minutes on each sides.  Then add in 2-3 tbsp of water, cover and cook for about 5 minutes.  The final result should look shiny.

    Enjoy with your favorite dipping sauce!


    Tuesday, February 3, 2015

    Low(er) Carb Arancini....Vegan Cauliflower Arancini!

    Yes, this is what you want to eat tonight!  Trust me!  Sure, I have already done a more traditional style vegan arancini, but this one has ditched the rice for a more healthy approach to the indulgent, Italian comfort food.

    If you have followed my blog in the past, this is not the first time I have used grated cauliflower in place of rice.  I think manipulated vegetables and fruits to resemble other items is one of my favorite things to do.  Not only does this make your menu a bit healthier, but it also has your creative juices flowing.

    So here's the thing with making your own arancini;  You can really add in whatever you want to the center of the "rice" ball!  When you cut it open, there is a nice, little tasty surprise waiting for your taste buds.  Some of my favorite fillings are arugula pesto, vegan cheese, or a sundried tomato pesto. 

    Vegan Cauliflower Arancini

    1 head cauliflower
    1 garlic clove, minced
    s+p to taste
    1 tbsp milled flax seed, mixed with 3 tbsp water (or your choice of egg replacer)
    vegan mozzarella cheese (optional)
    1/2 c panko bread crumbs
    2 tsp dried oregano
    2 tsp dried basil
    1 tbsp evoo

    Preheat oven to 400.
    With a cheese grater, grate your cauliflower into "rice kernels".  In a saute pan, heat evoo over med-high and saute garlic and grated cauliflower for about 5-7 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside to cool.
    Whisk together the flax egg mixture in a small bowl.  In a separate bowl, mix together panko crumbs, oregano and basil. With your hands, form a small ball with the cauliflower rice, roll into the flax egg mixture and then roll in the panko crumbs.  With your finger, create a hole through each ball and add in vegan cheese and pesto (or whatever filling you desire).  Place arancini balls on a baking sheet, and bake for roughly 20 minutes.  Serve with your favorite tomato sauce.

    Thursday, January 29, 2015

    So healthy, it should never be considered Foribdden!.......Vegan Deconstructed Forbidden Rice Sushi Bowl

    Back from Nicaragua and back to the kitchen!  We had the most amazing and beautiful vacation, well, up until the last 2 days of horrific food poisoning.  We are still feeling the effects of "Montezuma's Revenge" days after we have returned.  I don't think I can ever look at papaya ever again.

    With that said, I am super sick of super toasted toast, and am ready to get back into some real meals!  Tons of protein, fiber and vegetables!  Lean and mean! 

     Initially I planned on making sushi rolls with squash, truffled mushrooms and avocado.  But, my rolling skills were lacking greatly today and my patience got the better of me.  So, instead I made a deconstructed sushi bowl, which somewhat resembles a Buddha bowl.

    Ever since I made the Citrus-Soy Marinated King Oyster "Scallops" with Forbidden Black Rice Stir Fry, I have been obsessed with forbidden black rice!  I know the phrase super food, is a bit overused and at this point, just annoying, but it really is!  High in protein and fiber!  Plus, the additional of tofu gives you a great meal packed with even more protein!

    Vegan Deconstructed Forbidden Rice Sushi Bowl

    1 c black rice
    2 c vegetable broth
    1/2 block tofu, cubed
    1/2 c sliced mushrooms, marinated in soy sauce/truffle oil
    1 avocado, cut into cubes
    1/2 c spinach or kale
    2-3 scallions, chopped
    1 tbsp sesame seeds

    for the dressing:
    1/3 c soy sauce
    1/2 orange, juiced
    1 tbsp. agave nectar
    1/2 tbsp sriracha
    1 tbsp sesame oil

    In a pot, bring broth and rice to a boil, cover and simmer for about 25-30 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed.  Set aside and allow to cool for 10 minutes.  

    In a small bowl, whisk together all the ingredients for the dressing.

    In a large bowl, mix the rice, marinated mushrooms, tofu, spinach/kale and scallions together. Toss with the dressing and top with sliced avocado and sesame seeds.  


    Tuesday, January 6, 2015

    It is winter and you really, really want this!.....Vegan Spelt and Kale Minestrone

    There is something so great about making your own vegetable broth.  I seriously never buy premade broth anymore.  It is just not the same!  There is something special about taking your time to do this.  I don't know if it is the love and passion that I have for cooking, or that gorgeous, fresh aroma of the carrots, celery, onions, tomato and garlic blowing steam into the kitchen.  Or even better, straining the cooked vegetables, and pressing them to remove any excess liquid and then snacking on the remaining cooked veggies.  Either way, it will always be better and healthier for you to make it yourself!

    Now I like to play around with soups....A LOT!  I wanted to do something a little bit different with the traditional minestrone, so while meandering around Whole Food's bulk aisle, I chose to go with adding spelt instead of a pasta.  Now, if you have yet to cook with spelt, you may want to think twice about it!  This is pretty much another super food that is overlooked because of the quinoa craze!  In fact, there are many grains that are high in nutrients, fiber and protein other than the ever so popular quinoa.  No, I am not hating on quinoa, I am just letting you know that we have many other options!!!!  So lets change things up!

    So here is the low down on spelt....It is a wheat, so if you are gluten intolerant, stay away!  Otherwise, have at it!  It has more protein and fiber than quinoa and will most definitely fill you up without feeling guilty!  And, it is a great, hearty addition to a veggie filled soup!

    Vegan Spelt and Kale Minestone
    1 c spelt, soaked overnight
    5-6 c homemade vegetable broth
    1 can crushed tomatoes
    3 garlic cloves, minced
    1 onion, chopped
    2 celery stalks, chopped
    2 carrots, peeled and chopped
    1 zucchini, sliced into quarters
    2 cup chopped kale, stems removed
    1 tsp dried oregano
    1 tsp dried basil
    1 tbsp evoo
    s+p to taste

    Drain and rinse soaked spelt and set aside.  In a large bowl, heat evoo over medium-high heat and saute minced garlic, onion, cellery and carrots for about 5 minutes.  Pour in crushed tomatoes, vegetable broth, zucchini and spelt.  Bring to a boil and simmer for about 30 minutes.  After the 30 minutes, toss in the kale and seasonings, stir and cover and let simmer for another 10 minutes.  Thats i!  Pour in a bowl and warm up with your spelt and kale minestrone1