Day 27 of vegan recipe challenge: it’s time for Taco Tuesday

Plug (and not shameless) for The Lego Movie, which recently was snubbed by the Academy in this year’s Oscar animated movie nominations. This is one of the 3,409,340 movies I watched over Christmas (also known as 7 in my frame of reference), and I really, truly enjoyed it. So watch it, and say: everything is awesome. Which you will. Because it will be stuck in your head. (If you would like to remove that song from your head, I would recommend watching Frozen…so you can…let it gooooo…let it go.)

Back to taco Tuesday: no picture of these beautiful tacos because – tacos don’t last long enough in this house for their photoshoot.Fortunately, Isa and her crew at PPK also shared this recipe on their blog:

Ancho-Lentil Tacos (photo by IsaChandra)

This is also found in the Isa Does It cookbook (am I starting to sound like a broken record?) and one that is fast, tasty, and taco-riffic. For the times I have made this recipe, I have cooked up my lentils the night before. You can make them prior to starting the rest of this dish, or, if you’re in a pinch, you can purchase cooked lentils from the store. Canned lentils may throw off the salt balance, so be warned if you go that route. You can often find cooked lentils in either the produce or healthy foods sections.

Ancho-Lentil Tacos
Serves 6
Total time: 20 minutes; Active time: 20 minutes

For the Ancho Spice Mix:
2 teaspoons ground ancho chili
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the lentils:
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion. minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch of salt
2 1/2 cups cooked brown lentils
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons hot sauce (Isa recommends Cholula; I used Frank’s)

For serving:
Corn tortillas
Shredded lettuce
Salsa
Slice avocado or guacamole
Whatever else you like on your tacos

Prepare the spice mix: Put ingredients for spice mix together, Boom goes the dynamite.

Prepare the lentils:
Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil. Keep a cup of water within reach; you’ll need to add splashes as you cook. Saute the onion and garlic in the oil with a pinch of salt for about 3 minutes, until lightly browned. Add the spice mix and toss for 30 seconds or so to roast.

Lower the heat to medium, and add the lentils, a few splashes of water, the tomato paste, and hot sauce; use a spatula to mash the lentils a bit as they cook, until they hold together. If your spatula isn’t working to accomplish this, just use a fork. Do this for about 5 minutes, adding splashes of water as necessary if it appears dry. Taste for seasoning; you may want to add more spices or hot sauce.

To assemble:
Lightly toast the tortillas in a dry pan, if desired, or microwave briefly just to warm through. Stuff with filling and fixings and then stuff face.

Taco Tuesday doesn’t just have to be on Tuesdays. Because today is Wednesday. And that makes this recipe taste even better. And, because:

Day 24 of vegan recipe challenge: it’s all about those frites

Raise your hand if you don’t like French fries. (and, if it is because you believe them to be called Freedom fries, you may exit this blog immediately).

No doubt there are certain types of fries you may not care for, but – and this is perhaps a gross generalization – most people like French fries.

So, here’s the follow-up: what is your favorite type of French fry? In need of a great opening for your next networking event, you’re welcome. As silly as it may sound, this line of questioning can lead to serious discussions, even potential arguments, over which form of fried potato reigns supreme. Thick-cut steak fries? I know those are near the bottom of Aaron’s rankings. The spiraled delight of the curly fry? How about the porous waffle fry? Skinny? Sweet potato? Shoestring? Home fries? The list could go on and on. One that tends to be overlooked but eoften vokes strong memories of cafeteria lunches is this one:

crinkleRight next to your creamed corn and “chicken tenders”

The crinkle fry. An ole-forgotten standby of many diners, drive-ins, and now, our freezer. During menu planning last week, I had already pinpointed Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Island Black Bean Burgers as one of the new recipes to test out. As American as I can possibly sound, what goes best with burgers?

Kale.

Yes, there was some stir-fried kale served alongside the burgers. But really, I meant:

crinkle2In one word: yum.

Unfortunately, the actual burger component of this meal went to hell-in-a-handbasket quickly. It wasn’t the preparation portion that threw me into a tailspin. Apparently, during the shopping trip, I failed to open my eyes and actually read what I was purchasing. Sooo…instead of cilantro, I picked up parsley. And, instead of scallions, I purchased shallots. And, to boot, my Jamaican curry powder arrived at 8pm that evening, so the spice component was all improv.

Regardless, these burgers were outstanding, and I know they will even taste BETTER with the island-infused curry powder and perhaps cooking my black beans just a tiny bit longer so the mashing process goes a little easier.

dinner2Baked bean burger goodness.

Isa includes a recipe for nectarine salsa with these burgers. But, since nectarines aren’t in season, I didn’t want to chance it. Instead, I picked up some Mrs. Renfro’s Mango Habanero Salsa. In three words: ay de mi!

Island Black Bean Burgers
Makes 8 burgers (mine made 10 somehow)
Total time: 45 minutes; Active time: 20 minutes

For the burgers:

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained (1 1/2 cups)
1 (15-ounce) can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained (1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1 cup finely chopped scallions
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoon Jamaican curry powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable broth
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1 cup panko breadcrumbs

Burger buns
Additional toppings of choice (mango or pineapple salsa is fun!)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400F.

In a medium bowl, use a small potato masher (or a strong fork) to mash the black beans and black-eyed peas. They should be good and mushy but not totally pureed, with a few beans still identifiable in the mix.

Add the red pepper, scallions, cilantro, curry powder, salt, broth, and lime juice and mix well. Mix in the panko until it all holds together. Refrigerate for 10 minutes or so.

Then, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray or brush with oil. Form the burger mixture into 8 patties (or more) that are about 1 inch thick. Spray or brush with a little more oil and bake for 15 minutes. Flip the burgers and bake for 12 to 15 more minutes, until nicely browned.

A note from Isa: she writes in Isa Does It that to make a perfect patty every time, use a 3-inch cookie cutter. Pat the mixture into it, and don’t worry about fingerprints (they will flatten out when you flip them). If you don’t have a 3-inch cookie cutter, use an empty 15-ounce can and press it into the veggie burger mixture. Then, simply pop the patty out of the can!

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And what to dip those crinkle fries in? We kept it local with some Num Num Sauce.

The burning question: what is your favorite French fry shape?

Day fifteen of vegan recipe challenge: dip set

Dips: not just for killer triceps. Dips can make a meal. Let me rephrase: dips can BE a meal. And in our house, they have come through on those “I just can’t fathom cooking” nights. Last night was one of those for sure.

When I’m feeling fancy (or have extra green in my bank account), I splurge on the best hummus in the market. Yes, bold statement. But, I’m prepared to back it up with multiple primary sources (aka all the friends who have tasted this sweet nectar of the gods).

Let me introduce you to Roots, an Asheville-based company (eat local), who knows how to elevate hummus to new levels [they refer to themselves as the micro-brew of hummus – how much better could it get?!]

1921075_552270924904507_5034779069687916224_oBehold – the mecca of chickpea bliss

If I had to choose, I would select the Mango Srircha as my favorite with the Thai Coconut Curry as a close second. There are still several from the hummus family I have yet to try (2015 resolution!)

But, if you either don’t live in North Carolina or would rather make something up yourself, I’ve got two go-to dip recipes for those nights where some veggies, pita, crackers – whatever you want – serve as the main utensil for getting the goodness from your plate to your mouth:

First up, from Robin Robertson in Quick-Fix Vegan, welcome Moroccan Pumpkin Hummus:

Moroccan Pumpkin Hummus
Makes about 2 cups
Pumpkin-Hummus1Photo of her masterful creation by THE Robin Robertson!

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon sugar (which I often omit)
2 tablespoons tahini
1 cup home-cooked or canned chickpeas
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon chopped pistachios, for garnish (optional, but so nice!)

Directions: Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, ginger, coriander, cinnamon, allspice, turmeric, cayenne, and sugar and cook until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the tahini and chickpeas, then remove from the heat. Stir in the pumpkin, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and process until smooth. Transfer to a shallow serving bowl and sprinkle the pistachios on top. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate until needed.

Ready for number two? I used the Simple Veganista’s Simple White Bean Hummus recipe as a base and threw in a couple of other ingredients to make an homage to one of my favorite dips growing up: the onion dip (pass me the Ruffles!)

White Bean “Onion” Dip
Makes about 2 cups
Adapted from The Simple Veganista’s Simple White Bean Hummus

Ingredients

  • 1 can cannellini beans (15 oz), drained and rinsed
  • 2 heaping tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of 1 or 2 lemons
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 -3 tablespoons of dried chopped onion
  • 2 -3 teaspoons of ground black pepper
  • a couple twists of himalayan salt grinder
  • a couple tablespoons of water as needed to thin

Directions: Put ingredients (except water) in food processor or blender and let ‘er go to town. Add water in if you want to thin the dip. Stop and taste along the way to see if you need more salt, pepper, onion. For best flavor, I would let this sit in the fridge as long as you can because the flavors marry so well overnight. Mmmmmm!

Until then, let me see you dipset:

5 Firsts

While this month has not only brought my new employment, which I still have yet to delve deeper into on this blog (but will soon), I have also had the pleasure to experience other events that have made this month absolutely fly by.

1) Pace a friend during a marathon

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Oh, dreaded mile 19, looming in the distance for the Rock N’ Roll Marathoners lumbering up another hill in the 26.2 grueling journey. In my own marathon experience, this is the exact spot I hit my wall. Poor Aaron, trying to take a photo while his tyrant partner growled, snarled, and demanded immediate hydration relief.

Taking on her second marathon, my friend Jessica mentioned that it would be nice to see a familiar face at this mile marker, to which I readily agreed to not only be there but would love to join her for the last leg. While the morning started out beautiful in downtown Raleigh, the rising sun cast an intense heat down, and many runners I watched looked worn out. As she bounded up the hill, Jessica looked amazingly agile and graceful for being 19 miles in and off we went, winding our back back to the finish line.

Alas, her wall turned out to be mile 21 in this race. But, with grit, determination, some bad jokes, and attempts to keep her mind off running, I ran with her until the Finish line was in view, making my way off the course (which confused onlookers – is that woman quitting NOW?!) and then running back to my car, to wrap up an (almost) half-marathon mileage day for me. I loved being a partner runner – the freedom of knowing you don’t have to do the whole race, and you get to celebrate and cheer on the accomplishments of others, almost from the driver’s seat.

2) Sampling my first vegan doughnut

Funny side note about this accomplishment: it actually took two attempts to be successful in acquiring said doughnut. The first time involved Aaron and I taking the “Bean to Biscuit” trail, getting our coffee and meandering to Rise Biscuits and Donuts for the infamous vegan doughnut (or donut – however you feel most comfortable spelling out this breakfast treat). Sadly, by the time we made it through the glass doors, they had sold out of all vegan doughnuts (minor pout session did occur).

Take two:

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Now, I’ve never been a person who craves doughnuts. Similar to cotton candy, I’ve often found the non-cake varieties to be less than satisfying. That being said, this lemon cake doughnut rocked. Dense, moist, with a light lemon flavor, slightly crunchy exterior and melt-in-your-mouth goodness. This was a great way to start last Thursday. Each day the vegan doughnut is a different offering, so one best believes, as Arnold says, I will be back.

3) Witnessed cats treating each other with kindness.

IMAG1665Perhaps a slight exaggeration that it is a first time, but mutual cleaning between these two critters had been a rare sighting. During virus overload earlier this week, I had the opportunity to see this sweet sight, which warms a momma’s heart.

4) Cook with miso paste.

Where have you been all my life, sweet and wonderful paste?

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Surprise, surprise, another Oh She Glows cookbook recipe. Not only was this a ridiculously tasty meal, but I honestly did feel more energized after eating it. The combination of raw and cooked vegetables along with the incredible orange-miso dressing put this dish as a must in the meal rotation.

5) New bottle shop brings sweet surprisesIMG_20140411_181948The owner’s of Sam’s Quick Shop (aka beer mecca) opened a second store just 6 minutes from our current home: Sam’s Bottle Shop. On opening night, Aaron ventured out and brought home a thoughtful present, as we had attempted to plan a western NC getaway for my birthday weekend. Alas, nothing seemed to fit in the budget or schedule, so he brought western NC to me with the Bug Eyed Stout from Frog Level Brewing. It was only my second beer from the Waynesville microbrewery, and I thought it was a decent stout. Regardless, the gesture made my month.

Six more days of April left to enjoy, and we will certainly end this month on a bang. No more races until mid-May, which leaves additional weekend play time. This Saturday is the Pit’s annual NC Cuegrass Festival. While I won’t be partaking in the ‘cue portion, I will lap up the bluegrass like no one’s business.

Hello, pizza night.

Friday nights in America. Back in the day, we had the telephone number of the local pizza delivery restaurant memorized (these days, I’m sure there’s an app for that. Or, why call? Just order online!) I have fond memories of the Pizza Hut specialty: the Bigfoot (almost 2′ of pizza goodness). Do you recall this brilliant innovation of food gluttony at its best?

bigfoot

Toppings? Not really. Well, just extra-extra-extra cheese. I KID YOU NOT. We did order multiple layers of ooey, gooey cheese. Square pizza + 5lb of cheese per slice = one happy kid.

Since the 90s, pizza night has changed quite dramatically in our lives. Last week, we indulged in a pizza night, which had been hiding from our kitchen for months. Now, I’ve done homemade dough, and I will note that I enjoy Bob’s Red Mill’s Gluten-Free Pizza Crust Mix for a nice chewy texture.

But, when one is not in the mood to make crust, my best bet? Trader Joe’s. The chilled pizza dough (which now comes in THREE flavors: white, wheat, and now a fancy herb blend). But, this would be our first homemade pizza sans cheese. Granted, I still don’t miss cheese. Yet, I wondered: how would I feel about not seeing (or smelling) the bubbling, browning topping, giving me the signal that “the pizza is done!”?

Pizza #1: Trader Joe’s marinara sauce base with roasted butternut squash, spinach, and yellow squash (it was a 100% TJ’s pizza).

IMAG1615Colorful!

Pizza #2: Stubbs BBQ sauce, “real” chicken, portabella mushrooms. sauteed onions/garlic, sauteed Brussel sprouts

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The After:

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The second photo should reveal that we dug into the pizza ASAP. Personally, I enjoyed the spinach ‘za much more than the second, mainly due to my lack of love toward the fake chicken. The texture was just…too soft. If using again on pizza or other dish, I would grill it first to give it a nice crispy, slightly charred flavor.

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This dish also marked the official end to my career with Donate Life North Carolina and the world of organ, eye and tissue donation. I have ventured into the world of environmental advocacy – more, for sure, to come from this transition!

What are your “must have” toppings on your pizzas? Anything off the wall that you would recommend?