Day 26 of vegan recipe challenge: cooking with friends

Perhaps “Cooking with Friends” could be the “Words with Friends” for the new year. Less wordy, less competitive, and the outcome literally puts food on the table.

Yesterday afternoon, my friend Jessi and I took on our own culinary friendship date. During the process, we touched on our own challenges when cooking with our partners: the improv chef versus the stick-to-the-recipe, the “this is how I do it” mindset [totally guilty of this one], so for a friend to be willing to chop, simmer, and saute along side you, I chalk that up to a pretty big deal.

We started with Angela Liddon’s Thai-Inspired Hydrating Cucumber Salad with Roasted Spiced Chickpeas.. I showed some self-restraint and allowed the chickpeas to cook longer than I had previously, giving them even more crunch (and subsequently keeping fewer on the baking sheet as I snuck a couple each time I walked by – oops!). Below, find the recipes from the Oh She Glows blog for both the salad and the roasted chickpeas.

Bowl2You will be quenched, my friends.

Thai-Inspired Cucumber Salad with Roasted Spiced Chickpeas

Yield: about 3 portions

Dressing:

  • 1/2 cup seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1.5-2 tablespoons natural cane sugar, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

Salad:

  • 2 medium field cucumbers
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 cup diced red onion
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup chopped roasted peanuts, for garnish
  • Roasted spiced chickpeas (recipe follows)

1. Whisk dressing ingredients together in a small bowl and adjust to taste. Feel free to add more sweetener if you prefer. Set aside.

2. Peel cucumbers, slice off the ends, and slice in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds with a small spoon (see photo in post if necessary). Slice halves into 1/8-inch “half moons” and toss into a large bowl. If your cucumbers are really big you can slice the half-moons in half as well.

3. Dice the red pepper and red onion and add into bowl. Roughly chop cilantro and add into bowl. Pour in all the dressing and toss to combine. Let this salad sit for about 30 minutes in the fridge, tossing every 10 minutes or so to help the dressing soak in.

4. Meanwhile, prepare the roasted chickpeas (if desired). Recipe follows.

5. Portion into bowls and top with peanuts and roasted chickpeas (optional). Serve immediately.

Roasted Spiced Chickpeas

Yield: 1.5 cups chickpeas or 3 (1/2 cup) servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 (15-oz) can chickpeas (or 1.5 cups cooked)
  • 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric

1. Preheat oven to 400F and line a medium baking sheet with a couple pieces of paper towel.

2. Rinse and drain the chickpeas and place onto paper towel. Add a couple paper towels on top and roll the chickpeas around until completely dry. This helps them crisp up in the oven.

3. Add the chickpeas into a medium mixing bowl and stir in the oil until coated. Now stir in the rest of the seasonings.

4. Discard paper towel and line baking sheet with parchment paper. Add chickpeas back onto the baking sheet.

5. Roast at 400F for 20 minutes. Give the pan a gentle shake to stir the chickpeas and roast for another 15-20 minutes, until golden and lightly charred on the bottom. I roast for a full 40 minutes because I like them on the crispy side, but keep an eye on them as oven temps vary.

6. Cool for 5 minutes or so and then top on your salad. They will lose their crispness quickly so these are best enjoyed immediately. If need be, you can freeze them once fully cooled, reheat them in the oven for about 5 minutes or so to bring back the crispiness.

But, that’s not all!

That was just the starter set. We jumped over to Isa Does It for the Curried Peanut Sauce Bowl with Tofu & Kale. Recently, I reveled in my love for peanut butter. If you have the same lust in your heart, you will MELT over this sauce. After making it, I would put it on anything (even a bird):

No, not really a bird. But as pizza sauce? Yes. On salads? Yes. Over a bowl of quinoa and veggies? Yes. On ANYTHING? Almost yes.

Curried Peanut Sauce Bowl with Tofu & Kale
Serves 4
Total time: 25 minutes; active time: 25 minutes

For the tofu:
1 tablespoon olive oil (I used peanut)
14 ounces extra-firm tofu, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the sauce and kale:
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup water
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter (!!!)
2 teaspoons curry powder (see note)
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons tamari (can sub soy sauce)
2 tablespoons agave nectar
1 teaspoon sriracha
1 bunch kale, stems removed, torn into pieces
Pinch of salt

For serving:
4 cups brown rice, quinoa, or rice noodles
Sriracha (optional)
Fresh cilantro (optional)

Note: Isa recommended S&B Oriental Curry Powder. I could not find it so I used a traditional curry powder. If you can find the S&B brand, the star anise in it supposedly really shines. It’s on my list!

Prepare the tofu:
You’ll need a cast-iron pan, or something nonstick that can take very high heat. Preheat the pan over high heat. Once the pan is good and hot, apply the oil in a thin layer. Add the cubed tofu and sprinkle with the salt. The tofu should immediately sizzle when it hits the hot pan; otherwise, turn up the heat. Cook for about 7 minutes, tossing often, until it’s nicely browned.

Prepare the sauce:
Preheat a 2-quart saucepan over medium-low heat and add the oil. Saute the ginger and garlic in the oil for about 30 seconds. Add the water and deglaze the pan, then turn up the heat a bit. Once the water is warm, add the peanut butter, curry powder, rice vinegar, tamari, agave, and sriracha. As the ingredients heat up, the peanut butter will blend smoothly into the water as you stir. It should take 5 minutes or so, stirring often. Taste for seasonings, especially to see if you like the level of curry, and add more if you like.

Prepare the kale:
Get your steaming apparatus ready. Place the kale in the steamer and sprinkle on a pinch of salt. Steam for about 5 minutes, until soft but still with a little spring to it.

To assemble:
Spoon the rice into bowls. Add the kale, then the tofu, and smother in the peanut sauce. Top with sriracha and cilantro, if you like.

How differently our three bowls turned out:

Bowl4Aaron

Bowl3Jessi

Bowl1Katie’s…and the worst photo (le sigh)

Have you cooked with any of your friends? Was it a success? Or is it still something we don’t talk about?

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 nine of vegan recipe challenge: a good kind of crunch

Not that post-beach, swish out your mouth ten times crunch.

sandmouth

Not that post-dental “polish” that you still find repulsive after 20+ years of enduring.

dentist

This is the kind of crunch you want – and may need – in your life. Did I mention that it involves cashews?

cashewThank you for being Ambitious, Monique!

Today’s vegan recipe comes from the kitchen that pushes itself to new limits. Perhaps you would call it the Ambitious Kitchen..or wait, that’s its name. Blogger Monique has dozens of delicious, quality vegan recipes (plus many are gluten-free, etc., etc.) for you to add to your cooking repertoire. This is one of my favorites because: 1) I’m a sucker for cashews; and 2) I’m a big fan of eating from bowls (sorry plates).

So, I share with you a nutrient-packed salad with the nice amount of roasted crunch to satisfy your salt and sweet tooth(s?) Teeth? Whatever.  From The Ambitious Kitchen:

Crunchy Cashew Thai Quinoa Salad with Ginger Peanut Dressing
Serves 6
Prep Time: 10 minutes; Cook Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:
  • ¾ cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1-2 cups shredded red cabbage, depending on how much crunch you like
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • ½ red onion, diced
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro
  • ¼ cup diced green onions
  • ½ cup cashew halves or peanuts
  • Optional: 1 cup edamame or chickpeas
  • Fresh lime, for a bit of tang

For the dressing:

  • ¼ cup all natural peanut butter [Krema is one of my favorite peanut butters if you prefer to purchase]
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
  • 3 tablespoon soy sauce, gluten-free if desired
  • 1 tablespoon honey (use agave if vegan)
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • Water to thin, if necessary
Instructions:
  1. To cook quinoa: Rinse quinoa with cold water in mesh strainer. In a medium saucepan, bring 1 ½ cups of water to a boil. Add in quinoa and bring mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and let simmer for 15 minutes or until quinoa has absorbed all of the water. Remove from heat and fluff quinoa with fork; place in large bowl and set aside to cool for about 10 minutes. You should have a little over 2 cups of quinoa.
  2. To make dressing: Add peanut butter and honey/agave to a medium microwave safe bowl; heat in microwave for 20 seconds. Add in ginger, soy sauce, vinegar, and both sesame and olive oil and stir until mixture is smooth and creamy. If you want a thinner dressing, simply stir in a teaspoon or two of water or olive oil.
  3. Add as much or as little dressing as you’d like to the quinoa. I always start out with a little bit of dressing and usually add more to suit my taste preferences. Alternatively you can save the dressing for later and add when you are ready to eat; however the flavors of the dressing usually soak into the salad so I love adding it to the quinoa first.
  4. Next fold in red pepper, onion, cabbage, carrots, and cilantro into the quinoa. Garnish with cashews and green onions. Serve chilled or at room temperature with lime wedges if desired.

How do you get your crunch satisfaction?