Friday, September 18, 2015

Lychees are not just for dessert!.....Vegan Coconut-Lychee Curry!

I have been a bad bad blogger lately.  For the last few months, my focus has shifted to mommy mode and nesting.  Unfortunately, this put my cooking creativity on the back burner.   Now that we are well into the third trimester, I am ready for my precious to arrive!  I'm little Ms. Antsy-Pantsy over here!  Clearly I need to keep busy these next 5-6 weeks or I may lose it!

People don't lie when they say pregnant women get heartburn.  And, this heartburn does NOT mess around!  My new remedy for the most nauseating heartburn is raw apple cider vinegar.  Without it, I would not be able to enjoy this delectable lychee-coconut curry!  Not to say that this dish is overly is actually quite mild for my taste buds.  Though, sadly enough, my esophagus does not agree!!!  That is definitely one thing that I will not miss after the arrival of my baby girl!

With all of that said, my taste has shifted a bit over the course of my pregnancy.  While typically I am a savory person, the sweet side has arisen and spoken with a vengeance.  It has been unseasonable cool here for the last few days, so I thought to run with it and make a nice, warming curry.

 I have had this over-sized can of lychees taking up prime real estate in my cupboard that just stares at me every time I reach for something else.  I thought, we wouldn't lychees and a bit of lychee juice work in a coconut curry?  Heck, pineapple is added all the time!  And, guess what?  It was fan-flipping-tastic!  Add in some veggie protein and a bunch of veggies, and you are all set!

 Now, what makes this recipe easy (or much easier than most of my curries) is that I am using a blend of dried spices for the curry, instead of making my own curry paste.  This is a great option if you are pressed on time or do not have access to international markets to grab specific items!

Vegan Coconut-Lychee Curry! 
1 can coconut milk
3-4 c vegetable broth or vegan chicken broth
1 can lychee, drained and sliced (reserving the liquid)
1 block tofu, cubed
1 red bell pepper, cut into chunks
1 handful snow peas
1 jalapeno, seeds removed and sliced
1/2 c sliced mushrooms
1/2 tbsp minced galangal or ginger
1 garlic clove minced
1 tbsp curry powder
1/2 tbsp - 1 tbsp sambal (or your preferred hot chili paste)
 1 tbsp sesame oil

Drain tofu, cut into slices and press each slice with paper towels.  To remove more excess liquid, wrap the tofu in multiple paper towels, place a heave book or pot on top, and let sit for at least an hour.  For me, I like a nice firm piece of tofu, so I tend to let the tofu sit for a few hours to remove as much liquid as possible.

After you have removed desired amount of liquid from the tofu, cut into cubes and set aside.  In a large pot, heat sesame oil over medium heat, and add in minced garlic and galangal and the sliced jalapenos and saute for about 3 minutes.  Add in broth, coconut milk, chili paste and about 1/4 c of the lychee liquid.  Bring to a boil, turn down, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes.  Once all of the flavors have developed, add in the remainder of the ingredients, stir and cover for an additional 10 minutes.  Adjust flavor and heat level to your taste preference and serve with steamed rice.  Enjoy!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Chill out this summer with this....Chilled Chili Spiked Avocado-Lime Pasta Salad with Roasted Tomatoes

I must apologize for the lack of posts lately, but my MIA status is warranted, I promise!  Ryan and I are preparing for our first baby!  With that said, there have been some alterations around the household and within our daily lives.  I cannot wait to meet our little munchkin....October/November can not come any faster! 

Of course, being pregnant, I have had my fair share of cravings, food aversions and crazy indigestion.  I have realized that sure, you can read all the prenatal meal planning you desire; What you should be eating, when you should be eating, how you should be eating.  But, lets be honest, everyone is different!  Whether you are pregnant or not, these guidelines are not going to work for everyone!  I have realized it is really crucial to listen to your body.  You are truly the only person who knows how you feel and how to cater to those internal needs.  For instance, I have realized eating large meals three times a day simply is not going to work for me and my little P.  With that said, my baby and I love munching on healthy vegetables, vegan "beef" jerky, nuts and peanut butter....lots and lots of peanut butter.  As long as you are obtaining all your crucial vitamins and nutrients, don't change what works for you!

We are now into our second trimester and mommy is started to feel better, more invigorated and a bit more inspired to start posting some delicious and inventive recipes I have whipped up lately....starting with a Chilled Chili Spiked Avocado-Lime Pasta Salad!

I particularly like this recipe because it is different than any other pasta salad I have had before.     Lets be honest, you cannot go wrong with anything avocado....especially in the summer heat!  Making the "sauce" or "dressing" from a beautifully ripe avocado and vegan yogurt is smooth, luscious and won't weight you down!  The fresh herbs and lemon and lime juice really brighten up your everyday pasta salad and the addition of roasted cherry tomatoes gives it a splash of color and an additional burst of flavor.  But, the kicker is the diced jalapeno!  This inclusion really gives the chilled pasta salad an extra bite to it!

And, I know what you may be thinking:  Will this pasta salad last more than one day or will the avocado oxidize and turn brown?  Honestly, that oxidation is a heart breaker and has happened too many times to a killer batch of guacomole.  But, this did not happen with the pasta salad.  I had leftovers refrigerated in an air tight container for two nights, and each day the color was still a beautiful pale green.

Chilled Chili Spiked Avocado-Lime Pasta Salad with Roasted Tomatoes

4 servings cooked pasta of your choice (I used gluten free rigatoni)
1 ripe avocado
1/4 plus 1 tbsp vegan plain greek yogurt
1 lime, juiced
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
1 tbsp chopped basil
1 jalapeno, seeds removed and diced
1 small garlic clove, minced
s+p to taste
10-12 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 tbsp evoo

Preheat oven to 400.  Toss halved cherry tomatoes with evoo and roast them in the oven for about 15 minutes or until they begin to "prune".

If you have yet to cook your pasta, do so now according to package instructions.  Set pasta aside to cool. (HINT: toss with a touch of evoo so the pasta will not stick to each other)

In a blender, take the remaining ingredients, EXCEPT for the diced jalapeno and puree until smooth.  If you need the sauce to be "saucier", simply add more lemon juice or a touch of water until you reach your desired consistency.  Season to taste and toss the avocado-lime.  Sprinkle in the diced jalapenos and mix thoroughly.  When cherry tomatoes are done roasting, toss them into the mix to finish off the salad.  Transfer to refrigerator and chill until serving time.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Three Peas In a Pod..... Vegan Sweet Pea Ravioli with Pea Pesto and Vegan Pea-Butter Sauce!

It is April...the rain is falling, the temperature is rising and the plants are coming to life!  Green is all around us, or at least will be soon!

One of the great things about the changing of the seasons is that our taste buds change with them!  In the fall and winter, we start to gear towards those warm, earthy and hearty vegetables/dishes, such as squashes and stews.  It is almost as if our body wants us to feel warm and secure in order to bare those cold winter nights!

Then, once the sun starts shining and the temperature rises, we crave those light and bright ingredients and dishes, such as fresh peas, ramps, arugula....I mean I could go on!  As for me, I prefer spring and summer....for both the weather and local ingredients!  Both just make me feel light and energized!

With that said, lets play with a versatile and easy spring peas!  It is always fun to use one ingredient and turn it into multiple elements in a dish.  For this pasta dish, we created 3 different and diverse ways to use peas:

1.) Ravioli with pea and tofu "ricotta"
2.) Vegan Pea and Basil Pesto
3.) Vegan Whole Pea and "Butter" Sauce

This recipe is bright, diverse and bursting with flavors that all come from the same ingredient....WHAAAA????

Vegan Pea Ravioli with Pea Pesto and Vegan Pea-Butter Sauce!

Ingredients/Directions for the Ravioli with peas and tofu "ricotta":

store bought or homemade ravioli dough, rolled and cut into squares
1 c tofu ricotta
1/2 c green peas (thawed if frozed)
1 garlic clove, minced
s+p to taste
1 flax seed egg, mixed with water

In a blender, combine tofu ricotta, green peas, minced garlic clove and seasonings until smooth.  Set aside.

Now time to assemble the raviolis!
Before you  roll out and cut pasta dough, make sure you lightly flour your surface.  Once dough is cut, mix together your flax seed egg mixture and brush the outer edges of each ravioli square.

After completed, spoon in about 3/4 tbsp of the ricotta/pea mixture on one half of the ravioli square.  Gently fold over the other half of the ravioli to envelope the filling.  Seal the ravioli tightly by pinching with fingers.  Repeat until each is completed.  Boil until rise, or lightly flour and set aside until ready to cook.

Ingredients/Directions for the Pea and Basil Pesto:
1/2 c green peas (thawed if frozen)
1 hefty handful of fresh basil
2 tbsp evoo (plus more if pesto needs more liquid)
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 garlic clove, minced
s+p to taste

Simply throw all the ingredients in a blender until smooth!  Adjust seasoning to taste!  That is it.  Serve with the ravioli at room temperature.  ****NOTE**** this is great to freeze and use at a later date!

Ingredients/Directions for the Vegan Pea-Butter Sauce
1/2 c green peas (thawed if frozed)
3 tbsp vegan butter

Simply melt butter over medium-low heat (do not brown!).  Add in peas, and you are done!


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Basil-Orange Tofu and Quinoa Stir Fry!

The last few weeks Ryan and I have been concentrating on getting our bodies strong and wholesome again.  Between his frequent visits to the chiropractor, my magic hands and arms working on his back, multiple mile walks, and various yoga and strengthening sessions, our bodies need for some delicious, protein driven meals.

I have been obsessed with oranges for the last few months.  I don't know if my body is craving the sweet citrus or what, but there is nothing better than cutting up a fresh orange into slices and sucking all the bright, revitalizing vitamin C out of it!  I swear, nothing is better than fresh fruit and sunshine after a cold and miserable winter!  Bring on those rays and citrus!!!

With that said, citrus is included in both the marinade for the tofu and in the sauce for the stir fry, which makes this quite the harmonious dish!  A little bit sweet, a little bit savory, tons of protein, vegetables and healthy lipids!  What a perfect post workout meal!

Basil-Orange Tofu and Quinioa Stir Fry!

(for the basil-orange marinated tofu)
1/2 package of extra firm 5 spice tofu (or plain extra firm tofu, drained), cubed
1-2 large orange, juiced
1 tbsp tamari or soy sauce
1 tbsp chopped fresh basil
1/2 tbsp agave nectar
1/2 tbsp Thai chili paste
1 tsp sesame oil

In a bowl, mix together all the ingredients for the marinade.  Toss in cubed tofu and let sit for about 20 minutes to absorb some of the basil-orange marinade.  Remove tofu from bowl and keep the left over marinade.  Heat saute pan with sesame oil over med-high heat and add in cubed tofu.  Saute each side for about 2 minutes.  Before removing tofu, toss in the remaining sauce and coat completely.  Add to quinoa salad.

(for the Quinoa Stir Fry)
1/2 c dry quinoa
1 c vegetable broth or water (for cooking quinoa)
1/2 c sliced mushrooms
2 carrots, julienned
1/4 c shelled edamame, cooked
4 green onions, chopped
2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tbsp sesame oil
1/2 tbsp chili oil
2 tbsp tamari or soy sauce
2 tbsp fresh orange juice

In a small pot, bring broth and quinoa to a boil, reduce heat,cover and cook for about 15-20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.  Fluff the quinoa with a fork, remove from heat and set aside.

In a wok, heat sesame oil and chili oil over med heat. Add in minced ginger and garlic and saute for about 1 minute.  Toss in mushrooms and julienned carrots and continue to saute for another 3-5 minutes.  Add in the remaining ingredients and quinoa (except for the basil) and stir until everything is mixed.  Transfer to a bowl and toss with your basil orange tofu!

Garnish with chopped basil, sesame seeds or more chopped scallions!


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!