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.

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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: the curry express visits again

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

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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!

Where Have You Been All My Life, Acorn Squash?

One of the most unanticipated but welcomed outcomes of this pursuit of plant-based eating is the discovery of foods I passed by the previous 20+ years of life. This would include the acorn squash. In fact, this includes squash, period. I dabbled a bit in the butternut variety a la Trader Joe’s pre-cubed, but I did not have the slightest inclination of how diverse, flavorful, and delicious these fall vegetables could be when prepared well.

Partly due to Aaron traveling again and partly due to my incessant Pinning of new recipes, I went into overdrive this week on the lunch and dinner menus.

In the two hours of dicing, roasting and blending last night, I made another Oh She Glows recipe: Glazed Lentil Walnut Apple Loaf. I have such respect for Angela, a woman I only know through blog entries and phenomenal photos, but her graceful nature of pairing foods is remarkable. This dish was a candidate for the Paulson-Todd-Wojack Thanksgiving, and after tasting it last night, I could make the same case (although it does take quite some leg work to bring all the moving parts together):

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Look at that! Shredded carrots, onions, celery, raisins – the vegan stuffing. IMAG0957

The actual “loafing” of the dish – some may call this a “Dufner” dish. (No? Really?)

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I must have been so excited to take the last two – blurry, McBlurrison (hence why I do NOT tout this as a professional photographer’s blog…for many other reasons well.)

While the loaf baked, I prepped meal number two for the week: Cranberry Walnut Chickpea Salad Sandwich from The Simple Veganista (a new find in my blog pursuits). See a trend in main ingredient? This is what happens when you purchase a bag of walnuts from Costco.

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You can’t go wrong with this dish. I ended up eating it over a bed of spinach today but will make an excellent sandwich filling. The photo above is pre-dressing, which knocked my socks off.

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Looks a bit like hummus? It’s a combination of tahini, white wine vinegar, Agave syrup (maple-flavored), and a little water. OH MY GOODNESS. This is a powerhouse of flavor and just brought the entire dish together. I didn’t actually take a photo of my lunch today (oh, but you took all these?) I was ravenous today after my first double workout Tuesday, part of my winter maintenance plan.

I’ll share more of this week’s culinary adventures later, including the acorn squash that I roasted…which was the title of the post. How misleading of me. For now, I leave you with one of the most satisfying meals: a simple, toasted hummus and veggie sandwich. There is not much better in life than toasted bread:

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