Lemon Blueberry Walnut Muffins (Vegan)

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Anyone who reads this blog will notice that I have posted a lot of recipes in the last couple of days, whereas in the preceding several months, I posted nothing. This can be attributed to one glorious thing called Summer Vacation. Yes, being a teacher has its perks, and this is definitely number one. Being on summer vacation, whenever I run out of horses to ride, I start looking for other things to do because being idle has never been my strong suit. I tend to my garden, play with the hounds, read a little, go kayaking and swimming, and when all else fails, I start baking things.

Yesterday morning I came up with this recipe for a vegan morning muffin that I am quite happy with. The walnuts give it a nice crunch and there is just a hint of lemon that perfectly complements the blueberries. These muffins are deliciously¬†moist because coconut oil tends to have that effect on baked goods! Really, who needs eggs and butter anyway?! These are best served warm with some Earth Balance spread on, and they happen to go very well with coffee. ūüôā

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • zest of one lemon
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 cup soymilk
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil (refined)
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 cup (or more) of roughly chopped walnuts

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and set the oven rack to be right in the middle.
  2. Combine dry ingredients in large mixing bowl.
  3. Add soymilk, coconut oil lemon zest and vanilla. Whisk together.
  4. Gently fold in blueberries and walnuts.
  5. Using nonstick baking spray, grease the muffin tins. This should make 10 good sized muffins. Don’t try to stretch it to 12, they will turn out too small and wimpy! Using 2 spoons, carefully fill the muffin tins.
  6. Sprinkle a pinch of sugar on top of each muffin.
  7. Bake for about 25 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. (Check after 20 minutes to see how they are doing, as ovens vary)
  8. Once finished, set the muffin tin on a cooling rack for 10 minutes before removing muffins from tin.
  9. Enjoy, guilt free! ūüôā
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Moist, fluffy and perfect with your morning coffee!

 

 

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Kubi Nu Shaak (Vegan)

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Jairus and I are obsessed with Indian food. Most Indian recipes are inherently vegan, so we don’t even need to modify them!¬†Recently, Jairus discovered a little family owned Indian market here in CVille. We were like kids in a candy shop. So many hard to find spices for so cheap! So we stocked up and created our own “masala daba”, or “spice box”. In our case, its not a box, we just filled up many mason jars on the countertop with our frequently used Indian spices. They are so colorful and so fragrant!

We cook Indian meals constantly. A month or so ago, in the process of moving, I rediscovered an old family cookbook that was given to me by the daughter of one of my Dad’s clients. Their family is Indian, and in this homemade cookbook, the daughter compiled all of her traditional family recipes and explanations of all of the spices, their origins, and how to use them! It was like finding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Ever since, I’ve been trying these recipes left and right. This particular recipe, kubi nu shaak, is a very light cauliflower curry dish that can be accompanied by a slew of other vegetables of your choice. I chose to throw in onions, peas and kale because that’s what I had laying around in my fridge.

Jairus commented that this recipe was far less “soupy” than Indian food that we typically find at restaurants. After some research, I have found that is because most restaurants serve Punjab style Indian, which is a totally different region. It is a large country, after all! In my opinion, the recipes from the family cookbook that I have are much lighter, healthier, with more elegant and refined curries.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1/2 tsp tumeric
  • Salt + pepper to taste
  • Cumin to taste
  • Coriander to taste
  • 2-3 red hot chiles, dried, cut in half
  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • A few handfuls of kale, roughly chopped
  • a handful of frozen peas
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • cilantro, chopped, for garnish
  • 1 lime
  • basmati rice
  • Earth Balance¬†vegan butter
  • Tandoori Naan (just because!)

Instructions:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a skillet
  2. Add mustard seeds. Once the seeds start popping, you know the oil is hot!
  3. Add the caraway, tumeric and hot chiles and move around with a spoon so they don’t burn.
  4. Add the vegetables to the skillet. Pour 1/2 cup or so of water over the vegetables and cover. Stir periodically to ensure even coating of the curry over the vegetables. As the curry cooks, more water (or vegetable broth) may be needed so that the vegetables do not stick to the bottom of the pan.
  5. Meanwhile, steam some basmati rice and bake the Naan in the oven.
  6. The curry is finished when the vegetables are fork tender. Add cumin, coriander, salt and pepper to taste. I also modified this by finishing the curry with a pad of Earth Balance because I’m a fatty!
  7. Serve over basmati rice with chopped cilantro and a squeeze of lime!

Pappardelle with Red Pepper Sauce (Vegan)

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This recipe is an adaptation of a recipe that can be found here.

Let me begin by saying this: I hate red bell peppers. Give me any hot pepper, and I’m a happy camper. Jalape√Īo, Habanero, Poblano, red hot chiles, Banana Pepper, you name it, I like all the peppers. Heck, I even like¬†green, yellow and orange bell peppers. But I swear to you, red bell peppers have a certain flavor that, to me, tastes like dirt. So why would someone like myself decide to experiment with a recipe in which the main ingredient is red bell peppers? The answer is two reasons: 1. Because the pictures looked yummy and 2. I wanted to give red bell peppers one more chance before I denounced them forever. I must say, I’m glad I did because this recipe is scrumptious and healthy too!

Ingredients:

  • 2 red bell peppers
  • Olive oil
  • 4-5 cloves garlic
  • 2 shallots
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • chili¬†flakes to taste
  • fresh herbs of your choice (I used thyme, sage, rosemary and parsley because that’s what I have in my garden)
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk or coconut cream
  • 2-3 Tbsp flour to thicken
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine or rose
  • Pappardelle pasta

 

Instructions:

  1. Grill the red peppers until they are blackened. You will have to turn them periodically to ensure even grilling. Once they are ready, let them cool, peel off the blackened skin and discard it.
  2. In a large nonstick skillet, sautee the minced garlic and shallots in the olive oil until translucent and fragrant. Add the finely chopped herbs, salt, pepper and chili flakes to taste. Finally, add the flour. Stir frequently. This will become thick like a roux. Pour into a blender/food processor along with the red bell peppers.
  3. Meanwhile, start boiling your pasta until al dente.
  4. Blend the ingredients until creamy and smooth.
  5. Taste your sauce. If it lacks flavor, make some adjustments. Add the vino. Blend some more.
  6. Pour your sauce back into the non stick skillet. Cook until it starts gently bubbling and the sauce thickens quite a bit. If the sauce is not thickening, add some more flour or corn starch.
  7. Strain the pasta and coat with vegan butter substitute or olive oil. Pour your sauce over the pasta and mix together gently until all the pasta is coated.
  8. Serve with roughly chopped parsley on top alongside some warm, crunchy bread and a glass of vino! ūüôā

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Curried Roasted Eggplant

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It has been 11 weeks into my second foray of being Vegan and I must say, I feel fantastic! Of course, it helps when you have someone on the bandwagon with you. Jairus is the one who spearheaded the diet this time, due to his ominous looming 30th birthday back in September.

On any given work week, we cook the following things: pho, ramen, grilled vegan sausages with kale and roasted potatoes, some kind of pasta dish and some kind of Indian dish. Most carnivores I have met have scoffed when they found out I’m vegan, saying things like, “How do you live? I could NEVER survive without meat and cheese!” I challenge any of you carnivores to come over to our house on Indian night and see if you change your mind.

This particular recipe is probably the best Indian dish I have ever made. Perhaps one of the best I have eaten, period. It is my own adaptation of this recipe , with a few modifications.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large eggplant, cut into cubes.
  • Olive oil for saut√©ing
  • 2 Tbsp Earth Balance
  • 1 1/2 large yellow onions
  • 3 dried red hot chile peppers
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • 3 tsp tumeric
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 thumb fresh ginger, minced
  • 4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 2-3 diced ripe tomatoes
  • 1/2 can coconut milk
  • 1/3 cup water
  • Chopped fresh cilantro
  • basmati rice

Instructions:

First, drizzle the eggplant with olive oil, then sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Roast in a 400 degree oven for about 15 mins, making sure to flip it over to roast it evenly on both sides. When they are a bit shrively and golden brown, they are done.

Meanwhile, in a flat sautee pan, sautee the garlic, ginger and onions with the Earth Balance until the onions start to soften and turn golden. Add all of the spices and cook for another minute or so before adding the tomatoes. Put a cover over the pan and allow the tomatoes to soften, stirring frequently. Add the coconut milk and water. Allow the curry to simmer for at least 10 minutes or until it starts to thicken. It should be the consistency of stew. Add a bit of salt to your liking.

Serve on top of basmati rice with cilantro sprinkled on top.

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Peach Cobbler

Peach Cobbler. How befitting for a southern summer?

Peach Cobbler. How befitting for a southern summer?

Up North, apple picking is a “thing”. Everyone does it. Well, here in the South, peach picking is a “thing”. And let me tell you, eating a ripe peach right off the tree is a very lovely thing. My peach expectations have been forever changed and I will never buy a peach from the grocery store again.

Nearby our house, there is a place called Chiles Peach Orchard. Jairus and I made two trips there this summer, collecting about 30 lbs of peaches each time. We made¬†enough peach jam to last us for years. I ate peaches 3 meals a day. We sliced, peeled and froze some peaches to make pies in the fall. But best of all, we made peach cobbler. Can’t get much more Southern than that.

Whenever in doubt, I always consult with my good friend Betty. Crocker, that is. This is her recipe and it reads as follows:

Heat oven to 400 degrees

Mix 1/2 cup sugar, 1 Tbsp cornstarch and 1/4 tsp cinnamon in a 2 qt saucepan. Stir in 4 cups peeled, sliced peaches (about 6 medium) and 1 tsp lemon juice. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Boil and stir 1 minute. Pour into ungreased 2 qt casserole; keep mixture hot in oven.

Cut 3 Tbsp shortening into 1 cup flour, 1 Tbsp sugar, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt in medium bowl using pastry blender or criss crossing 2 knives, until mixture looks like fine crumbs. Stir in 1/2 cup milk (I used soymilk). Drop dough by 6 spoonfuls onto hot peach mixture.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until topping is golden brown. Serve warm a la mode or with fresh whipped cream.

Yum.

Yum.

Blistered Cherry Tomato Sauce

An Adriana Nannini Original! 

This year, Jairus and I built an extravagant, organic raised bed garden. Two 4×8′ beds, to be exact. It was an expensive, laborious, sometimes stressful undertaking. We learned more about pests and garden fungi than I ever really wanted to know. Throughout the growing season, our garden became¬†infested¬†with tomato hornworms, japanese beetles, caterpillars, cucumber beetles, flea beetles, squash bugs and many more horrible pests. Root rot and blight wiped out our entire crop of summer squash, and our cucumber plants eventually fell victim to downy mildew. While this was all very depressing, it was also very rewarding. Among the highest yielding of our crops were the cherry tomato plants. Every day I picked handfuls of ripe cherry tomatoes; so many, in fact, that we had to give some away, and think of creative ways to use them.

My blistered cherry tomato sauce is a recipe that I came up with as a teenager when I used to have a small, not very successful garden in my backyard in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. It is a refreshing change from regular tomato sauce, as it is made with lots of garlic, herbs and white wine.

Blistered cherry tomato sauce over ravioli with green beans from the garden!

Blistered cherry tomato sauce over ravioli with green beans from the garden!

First, sautee some garlic (2 big fat cloves) lightly in olive oil. Cut two big handfuls ¬†of cherry tomatoes in half. Dump them into the pan/skillet and allow to “blister” at medium to med-high heat. Make sure you flip them over from time to time so both sides of the tomato half get blistered. Add fresh chopped herbs. We have an herb garden that we grow in pots on our front porch. For this sauce, I like to include thyme, rosemary, sage and parsley. I also add salt, pepper and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Once the herbs are all incorporated, I pour in a cup or so of dry white wine and reduce by half over medium to med-high heat. I finish the sauce with about 2 Tbsp butter to cut the acidity. We have been using Earth Balance recently as a vegan butter alternative, which works just as well. Spoon the sauce over any type of pasta. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley and grated parmigiano reggiano.

A scrumptious, organic summer feast

A scrumptious, organic summer feast

Vietnamese Pho

Packed with flavor, this Vietnamese staple is so yummy you won't even believe how healthy it is!

Packed with flavor, this Vietnamese staple is so yummy you won’t even believe how healthy it is!

Every year for lent, I give up sweets. I mean ALL sweets, including sugar in my coffee. Including artificial sweeteners. Including chewing gum. I go all out in this self-imposed sweet deprivation and I never, ever cheat. I steadfastly resist my cravings until the bitter end, 12:01am Easter day, when I celebrate by eating an entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s by myself, directly from the carton.

This year, I decided to try something completely different, and Jairus decided to join me for the sake of health and willpower-testing. We, for the next five weeks, are going to be SOBER VEGANS. That’s right. We live in the heart of Virginia wine country and won’t be able to drink a sip. Of course, the vegan part won’t be all that difficult for me since I’m already a vegetarian, though I certainly will miss my cheese. But poor Jairus is going from being a carnivore to vegan with no intermediary step. Cold turkey! We purged our fridge of all things dairy and replaced it all with fruits, vegetables, vegan sausage, Earth Balance butter and vegenaise.

Last night, for our first vegan dinner together, I decided to make one of my favorite dishes: Vietnamese Pho. Pho is a traditional Vietnamese soup that is great on a cold day. It is comprised of a simple, delicate yet flavorful broth, rice noodles and lots of vegetables. Usually pho is made with chicken or fish stock; I, of course adapted this recipe to make it vegan.

For the Broth:

In a medium to large pot, using a small amount of olive oil, sautee 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 chopped yellow onion, 1 chopped celery stalk and about 2 “thumbs” of minced fresh ginger. Add salt and pepper to taste. Fill the pot about 3/4 full with water. Add one vegetarian bouillon cube and 3 bay leaves. Bring to a boil, stirring to ensure that the bouillon cube disintegrates. Reduce heat and set aside. After about 30 minutes, or once your broth is flavored to your liking, remove the solids from the broth by pouring it through a sifter into a different pot or bowl. Discard the solids and keep the broth on low heat on the stove so that it will be waiting when you are ready to assemble the pho!

For the “Fixins”:

Tofu: Heat about 1-2 Tbsp oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Cube up some tofu and pat it dry. When pan is hot, toss in tofu. Allow the tofu cubes to sear before flipping them over. Add salt and pepper to taste, as well as a drop or two of sesame oil, if desired. Once cubes are seared and crispy golden brown on all sides, remove from pan and set aside.

Shitake Mushrooms: In the same pan that you used to sear the tofu, add 2 Tbsp¬†Earth Balance (or regular) butter. Toss in the chopped shitakes. I recommend removing the tough stems from this variety of mushroom. Also, don’t chop them too small. They are too beautiful and delicate to be chopped into oblivion. I just halved mine. Sautee the mushrooms in the butter, adding salt and pepper to taste. When they are golden brown and fragrant, remove from pan and set aside.

Vegetables: You can really get creative here and use any vegetables you like. I used onions, carrots, celery, snow peas and baby bok choy.¬†Rinse out the pan that you saut√©ed the tofu and mushrooms in. Add a small amount of water and steam your vegetables lightly with a tight fitting lid. You don’t want your veggies to be soggy, just barely steamed. Steam the carrots and celery first, since they take longer, than add the onion and snow peas, and finally, the baby bok choy. The steaming should only take about 5 minutes total.

Garnish: Chop up a small handful of fresh cilantro and a large handful of fresh scallions. Cut a lime in half. Set aside.

Assembly:

When you are ready to eat, turn the heat up to medium-low on your broth. Toss in your rice noodles and scallions and cook for one minute. Add your vegetables. For plating, choose a deep bowl that can accommodate lots of broth. Use tongs to grab the noodles out of the pot and place in the bowl, as well as the veggies. Use a ladle to serve up plenty of broth. Then, place a handful of shitakes and a handful of your crispy tofu on top. Sprinkle some of the chopped cilantro and the lime. Squeeze some of the lime into your broth and enjoy!

Voila! Your vegan meal is complete.

Voila! Your vegan meal is complete.