Day 22 of vegan recipe challenge: snack time

I recall a time when I was flirting with adopting the Paleo diet, and I borrowed some literature from a friend who was already on that path. I stopped dead in my tracks when I read that peanuts – PEANUTS – were a carcinogen and were to be completed shunned.

But? But?

As quickly as I picked up the book, I cast it aside, vowing to never abandon my friend the peanut, who had been with me as longer as I can remember (unless, of course, there is evidenced-based research out there that notes the dangers of eating said nut, which then I will give it stronger consideration).

Dinners growing up often had a blob of peanut butter on the side. It didn’t matter what else was served on the plate. I was going to have the daily dose of orangish-brown goodness. This trend continued through college where I would eat peanut butter straight from the jar (hello freshman 35!).

I may not have peanut butter every day still, but it’s pretty close. At least I’ve matured into integrating peanut butter more as an ingredient than the star attraction (fact: there is nothing wrong with peanut butter taking the main stage). I’ve tried to allow other butters to join the fold – almond, cashew, sunflower seed – but I’ll be honest: peanut butter is still my number uno, my home skillet, my butter from another nutter.

If you love peanut butter as much as me, then you will enjoy these incredibly simple yet satisfying Thai Peanut Cucumber Cups. My friend Samara made them as a pre-dinner appetizer last month, and we crushed them, happily.

cucumbers1

Thai Peanut Butter Cups (from Vanilla & Spice blog)
Makes about 20 – 22 cups

Ingredients:
1/2 cup peanut butter
4 tsp sweet chile sauce
1.5 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
Dash of ground ginger (or fresh ginger)
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 tbsp water
1 English cucumber
1/3 cup shredded carrot
Sesame seeds
Chopped peanuts

To prepare:
To make the peanut sauce, stir together the peanut butter, chile sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce, garlic, and ginger until smooth. Add the water to thin out a bit. Set aside or store in the fridge until needed.

Slice the cucumber into pieces about 1 inch thick. Use a melon baller or a ½ tsp measure to scoop out the middle seedy portion of each slice – don’t go all the way through, you still want a bit of cucumber at the bottom of each cup!

To assemble:
Lay out cucumber cups on a plate or serving dish. Spoon the peanut sauce into each cup (I just estimated how much to put in – you want a round mound in the middle of each cup but not too much that it overflows).

Sprinkle a bit of sesame seeds on top of the peanut sauce in each cup, followed by a bit of shredded carrot and crushed peanuts – it might help to do the peanuts first so they stick to the peanut butter, then finish with the carrots, but the order doesn’t really matter!

Refrigerated finished cucumber cups until serving time.

cucumbers2It’s peanut butter cucumber time!

It’s fun for the whole family! And, it definitely elevates the cucumber to a new level. Sometimes that little vegetable could use a spark, and this recipe does just that.

In non-vegan related topic, I have to share that one of my favorite podcasts is NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour (you’re welcome). If you are not an avid listener yet, you’ll discover that at the end of each show, they offer what is making them happy this week. So this is mine:

Driving home from the store over the weekend, I found myself responding to Aaron by saying: “Yep yep yep yep yep” in this strange, alien-like (and somewhat Australian??) voice. Neither of us could immediately pinpoint the pop culture reference. But, through the power of Google and a little sleuthing, we re-discovered part of our childhoods that was tucked in a brain fold far, far away:

Day 21 of vegan recipe challenge: only 18 more days to go

Admission: taking on this self-imposed challenge to post a vegan recipe through the end of January is not easy for me.

The difficulty doesn’t stem from having access to excllent recipes. It all boils down to time. How I want to spend my time, how I actually spend my time, how I “should” spend my time. As I’ve mused before, I also feel much more burned out sitting in front of a computer these days. I essentially spend my working day basking in the glow of the online realm (the irony of working for the environment – not being in it enough!)

Still, it’s nice to be uncomfortable with meeting deadlines. I still feel that way, at times, with running. This past Sunday’s 14-miler didn’t feel bad physically, but it managed to suck my mental energy out completely. Perhaps it was my overwhelming tiredness of cold weather. Perhaps it was because I managed to get a little lost on the trail. I still completed the run, in my goal pace time. And next weekend’s runs will be better. Challenge is healthy.

In the ode to my lust for all things crunchy, I’m sharing another Oh She Glows recipe that I made with friend Samara for a double date night a few months ago. Cooking with friends is FUN and certainly not done enough. Not only does it make the meal taste even more satisfying, but you have dedicated time to catch-up over chopping onions and making quinoa. I already have additional cooking with friends dates scheduled for this month and hope to add more over the year.

Crispy Quinoa Cakes
Makes 12 cakes
Prep time: 25 minutes; Cook time: 25 minutes
Gluten free; vegan

quinoa cakesPhoto: Angela Liddon, Oh She Glows

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax + 6 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup destemmed and finely chopped kale
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats, ground into a flour (use certified gluten-free if necessary)
  • 1/2 cup finely grated sweet potato
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons finely diced onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon runny tahini paste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons red or white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt, or to taste
  • 3 tablespoons gluten-free all-purpose flour (I used King Arthur) or regular all-purpose flour
  • red pepper flakes, to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Mix the ground flax and water in a small bowl and set aside for 5 minutes or so to thicken.
  3. Combine all ingredients together in a large bowl, including the flax mixture and the 1.5 cups cooked quinoa. Stir well until the mixture comes together. Don’t forget the flour because it helps bind the patties.
  4. Shape mixture into 1/4-cup patties with wet hands. Pack tightly so they hold together better. Place on baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes, then carefully flip cakes, and bake for another 8-10 minutes until golden and firm.
  6. Cool for 5 minutes on the sheet and then enjoy!
  7. Store leftovers in a container in the fridge for up to 5-6 days. To reheat, preheat a skillet over medium heat, add a bit of oil, and cook patties for about 3 minutes per side, or until heated through.

Tips: 1) To cook quinoa, rinse 1 cup uncooked quinoa in a fine mesh strainer. Place quinoa in a medium pot and cover with 1 1/2 cups water. Bring to a low boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and then cover with a tight fitting lid. Simmer covered for 14-17 minutes until most of the water is absorbed and the quinoa is light and fluffy. Remove from heat, fluff with a fork, and then place lid back on to steam for another 4-5 minutes. Note that this makes almost 3 cups of cooked quinoa and you only need 1 1/2 cups for this recipe, so you will have leftover quinoa (which is never a bad thing if you ask me!).

2) To make oat flour, add the oats into a high speed blender and blend on the highest speed until a fine flour forms. You can also use store-bought oat flour if desired.

We paired these cakes with a salad (if my memory recalls correctly), which provided a nice balance. Have you ever “cooked with friends”? Would you?

Day 21 of vegan recipe challenge: the curry express visits again

Talk about a fresh post: this is what we ate less than an hour ago:

currybowl2

Isa does it…again..and again..and again. On this rainy and cold Monday night, the combo of curry, broth, ginger, garlic, tofu – it just (as my Mom always says) hit the spot.

Down-Home Curry with Broccoli and Tofu
Serves 6

Ingredients:

1 tbsp. extra-virgin coconut oil
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp. minced ginger
3 cups vegetable broth (I use low-sodium)
2 tbsp. curry powder (I used mild but you can get wild and wooly if you like!)
2 tbsp. pure maple syrup (I used agave nectar)
2 tbsp. tomato paste
2 tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
3/4 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes, cut in 3/4-in. pieces
1 large carrot, peeled & sliced on a bias, 1/4-in. thick (I threw in two just for kicks)
14 oz. extra-firm tofu, cut into little triangles
4 c. broccoli florets
1 c. coconut milk (I used lite coconut milk and still found it rich but if you want extra $$, go for the full)
1/4 c. chopped, fresh cilantro (plus extra for garnish)
Basmati rice for serving

Directions:

In a 4-quart large saucepan, heat coconut oil over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until the onion is lightly browns, approximately 5 to 7 minutes.

Add the garlic and ginger to saucepan. Continue to sauté until fragrant, approximately 30 seconds. Add vegetable broth, curry powder, maple syrup, tomato paste, soy sauce & red pepper flakes. Stir to mix well. Don’t worry if the tomato paste doesn’t break down yet (it will).

Add the potatoes and carrots. Cover the saucepan and bring mixture to boil. After it reaches a boil, lower heat until simmering. Continue to simmer, with lid ajar, until potatoes are tender (5 minutes)

Add tofu, broccoli, coconut milk and cilantro. Bring mixture to boil then back down to a simmer, leaving the lid ajar. You just want to cook it enough to get the broccoli tender (about 4- 5 minutes). Then, take it off the heat and let it sit for 10 minutes (if you can wait!) Check the seasoning and then dish over cooked Basmati rice and toss on some cilantro, if you please.

CurryBowl1I took down two of these bowls tonight.

Now, on to cheer on the Oregon Ducks to the first – ever – college football national championship victory!

Day 20 of vegan recipe challenge: cuckoo for couscous

It’s always hard to watch the last few moments of the weekend fold in on itself, casting the dark shadows that will lead once again to the start of another week. All in all, it was another excellent weekend. I hosted our book club gathering on Friday evening (which is where today’s recipe stems from) as we ate various rice and lentil dishes while discussing Americanah and its implications for our world, our nation, our community, and ourselves.

Yesterday, we found ourselves in downtown Durham, exploring the Museum of Durham History before meeting friends at the newish Bull City Ciderworks. I highly recommend trips to both. Being still a “new” transplant to this area, I knew a little of the city’s history, mainly around what the Duke family initiated, but the breadth of civil rights and music history was enlightening. On Bull City Ciderworks: I never considered myself a huge fan of cider (although I wouldn’t pass up a glass of hot apple cider – ever). Still, the sweetness of many ciders has kept me at bay. The ciders we tried yesterday were full of flavor, several quite dry, and even hoppy. My favorite was Rhiz Up, touted as off dry ginger. I may have mentioned before how much I love ginger, and this hit ginger notes across the tongue and down the back of the throat. I would have this again in a heartbeat!

Speaking of things I would have again, today’s recipe was brought over to the book club potluck (I wish I had taken a photo of the spread because it was an array of colors) by my friend Shannon. I used to eat couscous like it was on the endangered grains list (making it in the microwave with saran wrap – yes, classy). But, it hasn’t made it on my grocery list in months. After trying this dish, it’s made it back to the top.

Cranberry Couscous Salad
Serves 6

couscousPhoto credit: Lalaloula. Say that three times fast!

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 cup uncooked couscous
  • 1/4-1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1/3-1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1/3 cup chopped green onion
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

Directions:
Combine broth, cranberries, cinnamon, and cumin in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Remove broth from heat and stir in couscous. Cover and let stand for 5-7 minutes. Fluff with a fork and set aside to cool slightly, uncovered.

Whisk oil and vinegar together; pour over couscous. Add remaining ingredients and toss well. Serve either chilled or at room temperature.

couscous2Photo credit by Absinthe27 – what a fantastic handle

Another week of recipes in store, I hope. It truly warms my heart that several of my friends have not only read the recipes but have made them – and made them their own. That’s what the art of cooking is all about: finding what you can do in the kitchen. Cooking isn’t rocket science (thank goodness because I would starve…damn you science and math) but it can be intimidating. Whatever small part I can play in shattering any fears is an honor.

Day 19 of vegan recipe challenge: if you give a mouse…

A cookie.

COOKIE?!

Who doesn’t like a fresh-out-of-the-oven-still-slightly-warm circular disc full of sugar, chocolate, maybe some nuts? Out of all the desserts, cookies are my favorite. In particular, I’m a fan of the softer cookies: not a whole lot of crunch. More pillowy, welcoming. Comfort me, sweet cookie..

After many holidays of baking multitudes of cookies, bars, brownies, and the like, I scaled back about three years ago. In part, I knew that I made these treats, I would eat these treats. Annnndddd..as you might know, that is not so good for the waistline. Friends also pushed back. It was one of those exchanges:”Thank you for these cookies. I don’t want to accept them because I am afraid of my inability to control myself around this container of greatness and I may fall into a pre-diabetic coma and I’m trying to fit back into my skinny jeans from high school that are buried in the back of my closet tbut thank you for your thoughtfulness.

As Christmas rolled around this year, I thought to myself: “I. Want. Cookie.” Looking back, I don’t believe i had actually made a vegan cookie recipe yet (I certainly had tasted many, both homemade and out that blew my mind). Moreover, I wanted to experience that slice of Christmas celebrations of yore, especially since we weren’t going to be with our families.

After some online perusal, I decided to try Post Punk Kitchen’s Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles. Hands down, these “laughing drawings” (too much??) are in my top five of cooking rankings. And, while I do love all things chocolate, I prefer an additional pop of something – spice, crunch – in a chocolate cookie.

cookie1Sort-of circular. Warning: the dough is SUPPPPPPPPPER sticky!

Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles
Makes two dozen cookies

For the topping:
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the cookies:
1/2 cup canola oil – KT note: I used 1/4 cup sunflower oil and 1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce. The cookies do turn out more “pillowy” but that’s how I prefer them.
1 cup sugar – KT note: I actually only used 1/2 cup a sugar based on reading some of the comments, and I thought they were still PLENTY sweet!
1/4 cup pure maple syrup – I subbed agave
3 tablespoons almond milk (Or your preferred non-dairy milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon chocolate extract (or more vanilla extract if you have no chocolate)
1 2/3 cups flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Mix the topping ingredients together on a flat plate. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, use a fork to vigorously mix together oil,  sugar, syrup, and milk. Mix in extracts.

Sift in remaining ingredients, stirring as you add them. Once all ingredients are added mix until you’ve got a pliable dough. KT note: pliable dough? This dough stuck to my fingers like superglue. Just a fair warning. Oh no, I had to lick it off……..

Roll dough into walnut sized balls. Pat into the sugar topping to flatten into roughly 2 inch discs. Transfer to baking sheet, sugar side up, at least 2 inches apart (they do spread). This should be easy as the the bottom of the cookies should just stick to your fingers so you can just flip them over onto the baking sheet.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, they should be a bit spread and crackly on top. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

cookie2
Yes, I will make these again. PPK also has a recipe for Chai Snickerdoodles, which I will most certainly try out in 2015.

How to complement this sweet and spicy chocolate spheres? How about some coffee or tea and…

creamer

As a converted black coffee drinker, finding this gem brought me back to the days where my coffee-to-cream ratio leaned heavily to the latter. Just a tiny splash of this So Delicious creamer elevated my morning coffee and tea cups to new levels. If you haven’t tried this line of coconut milk creamers yet, I give it my full recommendation!

Day eighteen of the vegan recipe challenge: brought to you by Michelle

Time is of the essence today. And, essentially, I don’t have time to pen a thoughtful post (or even a thoughtless one at that!). So, I’m inviting you to check out the recipes of my friend Michelle, who took her own vegan challenge in 2014. She is super talented, so I promise: you will NOT be disappointed with whatever dish(es) you opt to try in your own pursuits:

tofu scramble black beans green pepper cilantro corn tomatoesTofu scramble? Check!

Black Eye Pea Portobello Spinach Patties with Chipotle Pimento Cheese and Roasted Salsa Verde
Black Eye Pea Portobello Spinach Patties with Chipotle Pimento Cheese and Roasted Salsa Verde

Last, but not least for now, one of my new go-to salads:

Avocado, Corn, Tomato and Brussels Sprout SaladAvocado Corn Tomato Brussel Sprout Salad_2

Happy Friday, all! What vegan meals do you have planned for this weekend?

Day 17 of vegan recipe challenge: time to warm up

For those of you not in the States or who live somewhere where “cold” equates to below 60F, send the majority of this country your temperatures. At this exact moment, I don’t actually now how cold it is outside. I would like to live in this veil of ignorance for a bit longer before the biting, bitter reality hits.

So let’s think warm thoughts.

And to me, warm thoughts start in a bowl. A soup bowl, that is. Today’s recipe comes from Kellie Anderson’s blog Food To Glow, and it is super (and not solely because it was indicated as an ideal accompaniment to a Super Bowl celebration, and in her case, introducing this epic-Americana event to a foreign crowd).

Black Bean Quinoa Chili
Serves 4 to 6

blackeanPhoto credit: it’s ALL Miss Kellie Anderson

1 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 medium sweet potato, scrubbed and small dice
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 red or green pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
2 bay leaves or 2 kaffir lime leaves (I use 2 whizzed up lime leaves)
1 ½ tbsp mild chili powder (the kind that is a blend)
1 heaped tbsp dried oregano
2 tsp ground cumin
3  400g (14.5 oz) tins of black beans, drained but not rinsed
1 400g (14.5 oz) tin of good quality tomatoes, or 4 tomatoes, chopped
2 heaped tbsp sundried tomato paste OR ketchup
Light vegetable stock, about 1 litre (4 ¾ cups)
85g (1/2 cup) quinoa, rinsed (or 1 cup cooked quinoa)
Handful of thinly sliced cabbage or kale – optional

1. In a large saucepan sauté the onion in the oil for about five minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened.

2. Add the garlic, sweet potato, celery and red or green pepper and sauté, stirring as needed, for a further five minutes (to cook down the harder vegetables).

3. Stir in the bay/lime leaves, chili powder, oregano and cumin. Let this cook for a minute before adding two-thirds (eg two tins) of the beans, the tomatoes, tomato paste or ketchup, quinoa and three-quarters of the stock. Bring it to the boil and then turn down to simmer for 15 minutes. If you are using the cabbage/kale, add this towards the end unless you want it well-cooked.

4. While the chili is cooking, blend the remaining cooked beans to a puree with a hand blender, or similar. Add into the chili and carry on simmering for a further five minutes. If you want it a bit thinner – more like a soup – add the rest of the stock.

5. Let the chili sit for a few minutes then taste for seasoning and heat – adjusting as you prefer. Remove the bay leaves or lime leaves before serving warm but not hot, with guacamole, Greek yogurt/soured cream, chopped cilantro/coriander and or lime wedges.

This chili reheats very, very well although if allowed to sit overnight you may wish to add a dash more vegetable stock or water to make up for the absorbency of the quinoa.

________________________

Enjoy, Americans and non-Americans alike! I used canned black beans because she calls for a no-rinse, but that should not preclude you from punching in your dried bean ticket.