Thursday, December 24, 2009

Pumpkin Dumplings in Ginger Miso Broth

I can not believe it has been a month since my last blog post. This was not intentional! The holidays have kept me super busy as I have not only been doing all the regular holiday stuff: shopping, attending holiday parties, etc... but I have also been spending a fair amount of my "free" time preparing for a series of cooking classes that I will be teaching in Menlo Park, CA starting in January! I am really looking forward to the classes, they will be all vegan, and have a focus on seasonal and organic cooking for optimum health.
Anyways, now that the gifts are all wrapped, my bags are packed for our trip to our family's home, and only a few hours stand between us and a wonderful Christmas celebration, I finally have some time to blog about some of the food I have made in the past month. I will separate out the blog posts, but this was one of my favorite dishes of the past month.
I was at the farmer's market one chilly Saturday morning, and a woman was selling, amongst other things, a section of what was once a much larger pumpkin. It wasn't your average halloween pumpkin, it was clearly of a different variety, and as I was told, a very flavorful squash.
I brought it home and roasted it, and indeed it was very flavorful. So I decided to make some dumplings with it. I had some wonton wrappers (which I am so happy are vegan!) so I pureed the squash, and because it had so much natural flavor, the only thing that I had to add to it was a bit of sea salt and red pepper flakes. I spooned the puree into the wonton wrappers and created the cute little dumplings that you see pictured above. I then steamed them for about 12 minutes in my bamboo steamer.
Simultaneously, I started a broth with fresh ginger, garlic, tamari and filtered water. I let this simmer for 15 minutes and added in fresh bok choy. I removed the broth from the heat and added in some miso paste. Miso paste is a fermented soy product, which contains beneficial bacteria. You never want to heat miso very high, certainly not to a boil, as the high heat will kill all of that beneficial bacteria.

I finished the broth off by adding my dumplings (probably more than I needed but they were sooo good!) and some fresh chopped scallions. The combination of the squash, the chewy dumplings, the bok choy, and the complex ginger was just heavenly.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Delicata Squash Tart with Bloomsdale Spinach and Caramelized Onions

I was reading the always inspiring and ever handy Martha Stewart mag the other day, and there was a feature on a mostly vegetarian Thanksgiving. I say mostly because the family was vegetarian yet were preparing some non-vegetarian foods for their guests, but the majority of the meal was vegetarian. Obviously, my Thanksgiving is chock full of beautiful and satisfying dishes that are animal free and full of flavor and nutrition. I was inspired by a dish in the feature using these beautiful delicata squash rings on a tart, so after a trip to the farmers market I decided to make something similar. I bought the most beautiful, organic bloomsdale spinach, and one of my favorite combinations is winter squash and dark leafy greens.
I have to admit, I wasn't feeling like making a yeast dough from scratch, so I cheated a bit and bought the whole wheat pizza dough from Trader Joe's. It works great if you haven't tried it before. So I sauteed up my spinach with a bit of garlic,  grapeseed oil, sea salt and pepper. (Keep in mind, you must always cook spinach! Spinach contains high amounts of oxalate which binds to nutrients that you need, and blocks their absorption. If you cook your spinach, you will inhibit the oxalate so that you can take in those valuable nutrients such as iron and calcium that are so rich in spinach). I also caramelized some onions for that touch of sweetness.
I sliced the delicata squash into rings (you can leave the skin on for this purpose, it adds some color and is not as thick as the skins of other squashes), and roasted the rings in the oven for 15 minutes. I layered the spinach, onions, and squash onto my par-baked dough. I finished it off in the oven for another 12 minutes to get that nice browning on top, and a crisp crust on the bottom. A drizzle of fresh olive oil, a pinch of salt and red pepper, and a fresh fall entree is on the table. De-lish. And thanks again to Martha for the inspiration.
In the spirit of the upcoming Thanksgiving, I am so thankful for my wonderful family: my husband and our sweet doggie, my parents and my brother and his wife, my in-laws and siblings in-law. My friends, my health, and the wonderful blessing of the journey of becoming vegan, and being in a position to share the joy and benefits of wonderful, healthy food with others.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Homemade Coconut Milk Ice Cream

One of the best small appliance purchases I ever made was that of my ice cream maker. It was not expensive and is not fancy, but it sure does the trick. The experimenting to be done with vegan ice cream is endless. From the ice cream base: soy milk, hemp milk, coconut milk, rice milk, almond milk, etc... to the add ins: chocolate, (duh), peanut butter, cookies, cookie dough, fruit, spices, etc... First, however it is of utmost importance to nail a good vanilla ice cream to build from. And this is mine. I use a combination of 1 can of light coconut milk, and one can of regular coconut milk. With that, I use my vitamix blender to combine the milks with agave nectar, soy lecithin (a soy product that you can get in vitamin stores that is good for brain function, and also works to help bind non-dairy ice cream without eggs) and I use some vanilla extract, along with the seeds of one fresh vanilla bean.
From there, I refrigerate the mixture for 30 minutes, then transfer to my ice cream maker. 30 minutes or so later, you have the most delicious homemade ice cream that does not compare to anything you buy in the store.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Chocolate Pumpkin Cheesecake!

My oh my, this is such a Halloween dessert! I'll be honest, I was very skeptical about the combination of chocolate and pumpkin... world's colliding... I dunno. But, I thought I'd give it a shot anyway. I needed to put together a fall dessert for a lovely get together with good friends, and after a little searching on my favorite website,, I came across this recipe, and gave it a whirl. It came out good! It is definitely different with the fall spices and the chocolate, but somehow, it works. I gave the top of the pie a nice swirl, but after I had it in the oven I realized I had been a little over zealous with the chocolate on top, and you could hardly see the swirls. It would have been nice if the pretty swirls had stayed, but it tasted great, and that's what matters most! 

Monday, October 26, 2009

Dana Sly's Blue Ribbon Vegan Cornbread

I know that cornbread isn't THE most exciting thing in the world, but I really love it and didn't quite feel like I had found the perfect vegan cornbread yet. Well, I have now! I found this recipe online for Dana Sly's Blue Ribbon Vegan Cornbread . Apparently Dana Sly developed this award winning cornbread and was only 11 years old at the time. I think that is awesome! The cornbread is equally as awesome. It has great texture and a nice balance between crumble and moisture. The only changes that I made is that I used whole wheat pastry flour in place of AP flour, and I added whole corn kernels as well. I highly recommend this recipe as a companion for a great bowl of chili (I'll post that recipe soon, I promise) and what to do with the leftovers?
As you can see from the first picture, a great breakfast or snack toasted with some earth balance and blueberry preserves. 

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Marrakech Curried Stew from the reFresh Cookbook

I admit it, I fell off the Vegan Mofo wagon last week! I hate to say it, but it's true. And it's not because I didn't want to be blogging about amazing food, it was just that I had a super crazy week last week that barely left me with time to check my email, let alone write about what I really love... food!  Anyways, I am back on track, and off with a bang this week. Tonight, I made the Marrakech Curried Stew from the reFresh Cookbook. I had a beautiful kabocha squash that I got at the market last week that I needed to put to some good use, and as I was flipping through cookbooks in my pj's this morning, as I often do on Sunday mornings, this recipe caught my eye and looked like the way to go. I did make a couple substitutions (namely kabocha squash for zucchini) but I also subbed in a purple yam  for a standard sweet potato, and I added in green beans as well. The stew is studded with chickpeas and raisins in addition to coconut milk, peppers, onions, carrots and lots of delicious spices including cinnamon, curry, turmeric, and cumin. I served this over quinoa for an extra protein boost. Quinoa is a highly nutritious grain (actually it is technically a seed) that cooks up with a lovely texture and a nutty flavor. Quinoa is a nutritional superstar because it is very high in protein (it has all essential amino acids) and is naturally packaged with fiber, b-vitamins, and several other nutrients. Quinoa is also gluten-free, and is healthy for all diets. (Even my doggie likes quinoa!) This made for a lovely sunday meal as my husband and I relaxed before the week ahead... We finished off the meal with homemade coconut milk ice cream, but I will save that for tomorrow's blog...

Monday, October 19, 2009

Simple Salads

I am sure it is no shocker that a vegan is a salad junkie, but that is exactly what I am! I rarely make the same salad twice, and if I do, it must be darn good. I love the creativity of salads, and changing them with the seasons. Some nights I just don't have the time or the desire to make more than a salad, so I just throw  everything I got into a bowl and whip up a nice dressing to go on top. Thats another thing... dressings. It is a basic formula: an acid, a fat, some salt and pepper - voila dressing is done. I rarely will purchase a salad dressing because it takes a minute to make them at home, and then just keep them in a jar in your fridge. I have some more elaborate creamy dressings that I like to make too- 1.) Avocado dressing: blend an avocado in a blender with enough water to get it to a lighter yet still creamy dressing. Add some lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper and you are done. Yum. You can also make a dressing by soaking sunflower seeds and then blending them in the same way as the avocado dressing to achieve that same creaminess. 
The salad above is a protein salad. I have baked tempeh and tofu cubes plus pumpkin seeds. I also threw in some roasted squash and onions, arugula, tomatoes, fresh parsley, etc. 
There are several options for your base salad greens. I have been on an arugula kick lately, but I also love a good spring mix, baby lettuce, or fresh romaine for some real crunch. The darker the leaves, the better in my opinion, but romaine is surprisingly nutritious on it's own. Hands down, my favorite? Marinated kale. But I will save that for another day's post. 
My point is that salad is not just a side dish, nor something to eat only when it is hot. It can (and should) be eaten year round, and let your creativity flow- our bodies love us to eat a variety of foods for a variety of nutrients. Raw foods have some definite benefits for our health. Namely, all nutrients and enzymes are in tact because the food hasn't been cooked. 

Saturday, October 17, 2009

SF Vegan Bakesale Day!

Today was the second Vegan Bakesale in SF this year. I LOVE these bakesales because not only do they raise money for great animal related causes, they also raise awareness that BAKED GOODS DO NOT NEED EGGS, ANIMAL-BASED BUTTER, CREAM, OR MILK TO BE GOOD!
As far as I am concerned, vegan baked goods are waaay better than non-vegan baked goods because they are a delicious treat, full of satisfaction, but without eggs, dairy, or any other harm to animals. There are plenty of ways to bind baked goods without eggs: ground flax seeds mixed with water, "Ener-G" Egg replacer, applesauce, mashed bananas, etc. I would love to see the day that all of the baked goods made in grocery stores, schools, bakeries are made without eggs, dairy, and are instead made with vegetable based butters, non-dairy milks etc. It is better for our bodies (although we still need to eat sweets in moderation. It is still sugar, fat and flour) and it is especially better for the animals.
So, for this bakesale, I was feeling some Mexican style inspiration. I made Dulce de Leche cookies, which are basically snickerdoodles with a little extra cinnamon and a homemade caramel topping (made from rapadura, earth balance, and almond milk). These cookies are more flat and crispy, and are rolled in large sugar crystals. I also made Mexican Double Chocolate Cookies, for which I used my basic chocolate cookie recipe, added cinnamon, chili powder, a pinch of cayenne, and of course, chocolate chips. These cookies were more dense and chewy, and were definitely my favorite of the two. These warming spices are my favorite this time of year, and especially enjoyable when mixed with chocolate. But what isn't made better by chocolate? 
I always bring home an assortment of treats from the bake sale as well. This time, I bought oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, a chocolate cherry brownie and a cinnamon roll by Cinnaholic. My husband and I will be sharing the cinnamon roll for breakfast tomorrow. Yum!
Thanks so much to the organizers of the bakesale! They do such an amazing job. I am just fortunate to have the opportunity to donate to a great cause each time. 

Friday, October 16, 2009

Stuffed Acorn Squash

Squash is an amazing vegetable. It has everything going for it. It has great texture, amazing flavor, and incredible nutrients. You can mash it, cube it, puree it into soups, add it to baked goods. I especially love cubed kabocha squash in a thai curry, or butternut squash soup. The only pie I ever liked as a kid? Punkin pie, of course! Ok... I think I've made my point. Squash is cool. I like squash.

Anyways, this dish is in no way original, but the joy of it is that it is completely adaptable, I don't think I've ever made this the exact same way twice. Here is the technique that makes it easy: Buy a small sized winter squash (I used acorn squash in the photo). Heat your oven to 375. Put the  squash in whole, and let it bake whole for at least ten minutes, but no more than 15. Take it out and let it cool. When it is cool enough to handle, cut it in half lengthwise. It should be very easy to cut, much easier than if you had tried to cut through it raw. Take a spoon, and remove the seeds. Then put the squash cut side down on a baking sheet, and let it cook for another 30 minutes or so until cooked through but not over cooked to where it is imploding. The squash steams itself perfectly. Remove from the oven and let cool. Turn over so that the cut side is up. (At this point, you could scoop out the flesh and use it for soup, or a mash) In this recipe, I made a lovely pilaf of brown rice, wild rice, and red quinoa. To that, I added tomatoes, pistachios, onions, raisins, and a few spices: cinnamon, cumin, and dried thyme. Spoon this mixture into the squash "bowl" and top with fresh parsley. Then, as you eat, scoop in a little squash with each bite for a real treat. Mmmm hmmm. Fall. Squash. I love it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Strawberry Blondies

I am a couple of days behind on posting this one, I actually made these last Saturday. Last weekend was Fleet Week in San Francisco, and it is a tradition of my good friend Cassandra's to have a swanky roof top party at her place to watch the Blue Angels fly. I, of course, can't seem to go to any get together without bringing some sort of food to share... that's just me. I love to feed people, and especially delicious vegan food! So, I whipped up this variation on Blondie's. In case you haven't had a blondie before, it is basically a brownie sans the chocolate, and there are endless variations to blondie's. For these, I swirled in a fresh strawberry puree to the top layer, which added a lovely tanginess and beautiful color, and also helped keep the blondies super moist. I topped them off with a dark chocolate ganache, and toted them into the city for the party. Unfortunately, the notorious San Francisco fog made it too dangerous for the Blue Angels to fly, so good thing we had good friends and good food to enjoy.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Farro Risotto with Butternut Squash, Cremini Mushrooms & Sage

Tonight was risotto night. It has been awhile since I made one, and I guess I had the hankering to just stand at the stove stirring. It is somewhat therapeutic I suppose, but it's not something I do often. Tonight I used farro in place of your traditional arborio rice that is typically used in risotto. farro (as it is called in Italy) is a form of wheat that is similar to spelt. It has a rich and nutty flavor that I think pairs very nicely with mushrooms. You can easily make a risotto from farro using the same technique as used with arborio rice, although there is less starchiness in farro so it has a slightly less gelatinous texture than arborio rice. The biggest difference however, is that it has a "bite" to it, or is chewier because of the density of the grain. I personally like this texture, but not everyone does, so it is something to be aware of if you are serving for company. The great benefit of using farro is that it is more nutritious than arborio rice which is basically the same as white rice, nutritionally speaking: void of much in the way of vitamins and minerals, fiber. Farro is unrefined and a whole grain, therefore it has all of the vitamins, minerals (B vitamins, calcium and iron to be specific), fiber and protein in tact. Because of that, the digestion of farro will cause less of a spike in blood sugar than arborio rice, and is filling and digested slowly. 
In tonight's risotto, I added a nice blend of diced butternut squash, cremini mushrooms, onion, garlic, fresh sage, dried basil, and finished it with sundried tomatoes and parsley. 

Sunday Dinner- Chickpea Cutlets, Mashed Potatoes with Gravy, Grilled Peach Salad, and Apple Tart

When I was growing up, Sunday was different than any other day... it was family day. Granted as a teenager, this wasn't always what I wanted, but looking back it is something that I am very grateful that my parents did. As an adult, my husband and I have carried on the same tradition. Sunday is our day to relax and enjoy one another and not have much of an agenda. For that reason, I tend to make big dinners on Sunday. I am definitely having that feeling of fall setting in, so I did a nice traditional, country style fall dinner. 
I made Chickpea Cutlets that I have been wanting to try. You can find the recipe here. It turned out great. To accompany that, I made my signature mashed potatoes with a simple mushroom gravy. They were creamy and full of flavor. I like to use red potatoes, and leave the skins on for a nutritional boost. With white potatoes, the majority of the nutrition is contained in the skins, so why throw them down the drain? Plus I like the rustic texture that they give to the mash.
My farmer's market still had peaches this weekend (me= happy) so I did a grilled peach salad with avocado, toasted walnuts, and arugula with a blackberry balsalmic dressing.
Dessert? Of course. I made an Apple Tart with traditional spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger), and served with a scoop of vanilla soy ice cream. 
Comfort? Check. 

Friday, October 9, 2009

Raw Key Lime Pie from "Sweet Gratitude"

Last year, I took a class on raw desserts at Cafe Gratitude, and I was super impressed with how delicious and seriously satisfying raw desserts can be. I purchased their "cook"book - Sweet  Gratitude, and I have really enjoyed making several of the recipes. This is the Key Lime Pie which is made using avocado. The avocado is undetectable and adds this lovely creaminess to the pie. It also uses a date nut crust, which I really recommend trying out. It is quick, easy and delicious. Enjoy!

Key Lime Pie (from Sweet Gratitude)
Macadamia Pecan Crust:
1 1/4 cups macadamia nuts
1 1/4 cups pecans
3 ounces date paste ( give the dates a whirl in your food processor)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt

Lime Filling
3/4 cup lime juice
1/2 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup coconut milk
1 cup avocado
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons soy lecithin (available at natural foods stores, whole foods, or vitamin stores)
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons coconut oil

For crust:
Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until there are no large chunks of nuts and dates are well combined with nuts. Transfer to 9" pie or spring form pan and press in evenly and slightly up the sides.

Add all of the filling ingredients to a high speed blender and blend until very smooth. Pour into prepared crust.
Refrigerate at least 4 hours until set. If you are still having trouble getting the pie to set, transfer to a freezer for an hour and then slice and serve.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The return of the SF Vegan Bakesale!!

Yea!!! It's back!! My favorite excuse to bake lots of sugary sweets is the SF Vegan Bakesale. You may have seen my post from the last time I contributed to the bakesale and the sale was extremely successful. This time the bakesale will be to benefit Give Me Shelter Cat Rescue, and from what I hear, I think this bake sale will be even bigger than the last! 
Mark your calendar and bring your dollars over to Ike's on Saturday October 17th. (If you haven't eaten at Ike's they have super yummy sandwiches) Be prepared to be tempted... you will always end up buying more than you meant to! 
...Now what to make, what to make? 

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Pumpkin Oatmeal with Berries and Soy Yogurt

This is one of my all-time favorite breakfasts, and I eat it a few times a week this time of year! In short, here is whatcha do:
Heat up some water (about a cup) and pour it over 1/2 cup rolled oats and 1/4 cup pumpkin puree (you can use more if you like it extra pumpkin-y)in a bowl, give it a stir. Cover the bowl and let it sit for about 5 minutes. Then stir in 1/2 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice and either some stevia of agave if you like your oatmeal a little sweet.
Top this off with some chopped strawberries, blueberries, and a dollop of soy yogurt for some extra creaminess and nutrition. The final touch is one tablespoon of fresh ground flaxseed. This gives texture and your daily dose of the very important Omega-3 fats that are hard to get. 
Eat warm and enjoy the flavor of fall.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Soba Noodles with Peanut Sauce, Veggies, and Meat-free "Beef"

Tonight I felt like going asian style and using up some of the homemade Peanut Sauce that lives in my refrigerator always. My hubby loves peanut sauce, and will put it on anything, and I do mean everything- pizza, salad, whatever... so I try to always have some on hand. And I love real Japanese buckwheat soba noodles. They are almost like comfort food. Buckwheat is actually not related to wheat, and is very nutritious. These noodles are a blend of buckwheat and wheat, and the buckwheat is what gives them the dark brown almost grey color. 
I am not one to use a lot of the meatless meat products, but sometimes it is just nice to switch it up a little and use them. Tonight was one of those nights. I grilled up some of the meatless "beef" strips and tossed them in there with the real good stuff: broccoli, carrots, spinach, edamame, and scallions. Anyone can throw this dish together very quickly: just steam your veggies while you cook the noodles and grill the strips, then toss it all together. A very tasty monday night din din. 

Friday, October 2, 2009

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies and a road trip to Bodega Bay

Today we are taking a little road trip to Bodega Bay where we will help one of our close friends celebrate his 30th birthday party... so naturally I had to make some chocolate chip cookies (Any excuse to make classic chocolate chip cookies!) I don't know if I have mentioned that I am a total cookie monster... I know I know, I talk about nutrition all the time, but we all have our weaknesses and what would life be without indulgences from time to time? Mine is chocolate chip cookies. I have mastered the perfect vegan chocolate chip cookie recipe. It's a little different than your standard vegan version of Nestle toll house. In this recipe you use the butter (earth balance of course!) cold and I also refrigerate the egg replacer mixture for a few minutes. I  use a blend of barley flour, oat flour and whole wheat pastry flour (so maybe there is a little nutrition in there... just a little though) and a combination of unrefined rapadura and evaporated cane sugar for the sweetener. These cookies are the perfect blend of chewy, soft, crisp and of course chocolatey. I can't wait to share these with our friends out on the beautiful north coast.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Tostadas with Sauteed Squash Blossoms & The kick off of Vegan MoFo!

More time has elapsed since my last posting than I would have liked, my life has been a little crazy lately, but today is the first day of VEGAN MOFO! So that means I am going to be posting a looottt more! What is Vegan MoFo? It is Vegan Month of Food! You can read more about it here: Postpunkkitchen, but the basic idea is that bloggers all over the world will write as much as they can about vegan food, from home kitchen experiments, to tried and true techniques, favorite ingredients, and great vegan restaurant meals.... at least 5 days a week! So be ready for some serious blogging, and to learn lots about delicious, plant-based cooking! 
... On to my tostadas.  I actually took this picture a few weeks ago and have been meaning to write a blog about it for awhile now, but better late than never, right? I had picked up some late season squash blossoms at the farmers market, and wanted to integrate them into some other dish... and I had a hankering for mexican food. It was a Sunday, and I love to spend time in the kitchen on Sunday, it's like therapy/mad scientist day for me... I can try out new things and really find it relaxing, actually. Plus, my husband gets to eat whatever concoction I have made for dinner (may be a good or bad thing for him... depends :) So I made some homemade tortillas. My Grandma is Mexican, and when I was young I remember her making homemade tortillas when she was babysitting my brother and I, and I really think there is almost nothing better in the world  than I fresh homemade tortilla that is still warm (with some Earth Balance on it, of course) They really aren't hard to make, just time consuming. Here is a good recipe for tortillas.
Moving on- I had some quinoa to use up, so I mixed that with some vegetarian refried beans for the protein layer of my tostada. I spiced this mixture up with some great seasonings: Chipotle chili powder, garlic powder, oregano, basil, salt and pepper. The next layer of the tostada is diced Heirloom Tomatoes (mmmm... I wish these were in season year round) Then, the squash blossoms. I sauteed these lightly with some sliced garlic and olive oil. Very simple and very tasty. The whole dish is topped off with some tangy avocado cream (Avocado, lime juice and cilantro processed in the food processor with a pinch of salt) and some fresh chopped cilantro.
Voila! I love food with layers, you get the best of every layer in each bite. This dish is absolutely bursting with flavor, and the best part is that it is totally adaptable- you can add in extra layers of any of your favorite mexican style ingredients. 

Monday, September 7, 2009

Spring Rolls with Collard Greens

For any of you who live in the bay area, you may be familiar with a popular vegan restaurant chain, Cafe Gratitude. It is one of my favorite treats to go there and have a really delicious and fresh meal, in a nice atmosphere. I often try to recreate their dishes at home. This one was kind  fun. One of their appetizers is spring rolls, but they wrap them in greens instead of rice paper. I have done dolmas wrapped in collard greens before, so I was confident I could recreate these spring rolls somewhat successfully at home. So I bought some collard greens, and all of the veggies that I wanted to stuff them with: avocado, carrot, scallions, heirloom tomatoes, bell peppers, and I decided to add some marinated tofu (not on Cafe Gratitude's menu). And it was surprisingly easy! So, I blanched the collard greens whole. You do this by bringing a large pot of water to a light boil, and then dipping the whole leaves in the water for a few seconds until they start to turn bright green. Then you submerge the leaves in ice water to stop the cooking process. Once the leaves are cool, you remove the stems so that you have two equal sized and shaped "wrappers". Give them a quick pat dry with a paper towel. At this point, you should have all of your fillings of choice prepared- any veggies and even fruit, that you like: cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes, peppers, papaya, orange slices, arugula, mint or other herbs, etc. Now you are ready to roll. Put your filling in a line on the lower side of the wrapper closer to you, leaving a little bit of room from the bottom. Then pull the part of the wrapper closer to you up and over the filling, fold in the two sides like a burrito, and then roll it away from you until all of your wrapper is used up. It may take a couple trys to get your rhythm going with this, but you will get it, I promise! If you are having a hard time keeping all of your filling together, then you could always add a little sauce like a peanut sauce to your fillings to keep them from falling apart. If you don't have a sauce on the inside, then I highly suggest a dipping sauce. In this case I made a sauce with almond butter, just like they serve at the cafe.  This can easily be made by whisking some almond butter with tamari, rice vinegar, minced garlic and ginger, and a little chili paste. I finish it off with some lime juice for an extra little kick. Slice the rolls in half at a diagonal, and serve either as an appetizer, or a few rolls with a side dish as an entree. 

Purple Power!

I just had to share these incredible purple foods.. this first one is a purple yam. I first had a purple yam when I was in school at Bauman College and one of my teachers brought one in to show us. She had baked it, and we all tasted it just plain without any seasoning at all, and it was delicious. Ever since then, I have been keeping my eyes open to try to find them again. Well I was at the farmer's market, and low and behold there they were, a small basket of purple yams almost hidden behind larger baskets of regular potatoes and yams. So, of course I bought more of them than I needed just because I was so happy to have found them again! This photo was taken just after I baked the yam whole, then split it in half, and what was inside was this stunning color and beautiful design! The outside of the yam is virtually colorless with just a light beige skin to it. I still eat the skin however, because as with all potatoes and yams, a good amount of the nutrition is contained in the skin.
To the right, is purple cauliflower. This is a little bit easier to find than purple yams, but the purple cauliflower can add some really amazing colors to several dishes. The taste is very similar to cauliflower, maybe just a little bit more complex. My favorite way to prepare this is cut into florets, and simply tossed with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Then roast in the oven turning once or twice for about 25 minutes. You could certainly also integrate purple cauliflower into curries and casseroles, just know that you are going to have a gorgeous intense purple color to your dish!
Purple vegetables and fruits are packet full of beneficial phytochemicals and flavonoids that are great for protecting you against heart disease, cancer, and help to improve brain function among several other benefits. Eat up! 

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Friday Night Pizza Night

I have this certain memory from my childhood, that Friday nights we often went to the Pizza "Parlor". Gosh. Nothing is called a parlor anymore. Maybe I'll open a restaurant someday and call it a some sort of Parlor. I find that word charming. Anyways, I seem to equate Friday nights with pizza or at least some type of comforting food. Almost a reward for making it through the week, and a good note to start the weekend off with. 
Vegan pizza is soooo good. It is one of my favorite treats. I know... I know... what is pizza without the cheese some of you may be saying.... Well I'll tell you. It is a delicious fresh tomato sauce made with the most ripe and delicious tomatoes of the season. It is fresh basil, and in this case sauteed onions and swiss chard, and barbecue soy chicken. I topped it off with a non-dairy white cheddar cheese. An absolute treat.  I don't think I have made the same vegan pizza twice. There are soooo many options with all of the incredible vegetables to choose from. I recommend either roasting or sauteing your veggies first, because vegetables have a high water content, which they release as they cook. With most veggies, if you put them on the pizza raw they will release their liquid as they cook on the pizza, and nobody likes a watery pizza pie!! Just a little tip for ya. 

Friday, August 14, 2009

Garlic & Ginger Asian Noodle Soup with Dark Greens and Tofu

Ginger is a complex and delicious flavor. It is almost fascinating to me that something so pungent, spicy, sweet, and savory can come all in one package, and growing from the earth at that! Ginger is known to help when you have a cold, to soothe your stomach when you are nauseated, and to be a beautifully fragrant tea. But the uses for ginger can go on and on. I love an Asian style broth with a strong scent of ginger, and ginger is always the perfect match to garlic, no doubt. If you have never tried raw ginger, I highly encourage you to do so, (mind you, only a small amount at first) to really appreciate the true flavor of ginger. Cooking it will certainly mellow it out some, and today I had a craving for a nice savory broth loaded with ginger, garlic and lots of fresh veggies. I added some baked tofu I had in the fridge, and some dark leafy greens (I can't hardly go a meal without these) and low and behold, I had a dinner to indulge all of my senses to end a good day of work...

 Garlic & Ginger Asian Noodle Soup with Dark Greens and Tofu
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • ½ large yellow onion
  • 1 tablespoon tamari
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned rice vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ¼ teaspoon chinese five spice powder
  • 1 ½ cups filtered water
  • 2 ounces quinoa pasta or brown rice pasta
  • ½ cup snow peas or sugar snap peas, whole
  • ½ cup carrots, julienne
  • 1 cup swiss chard or spinach, chopped
  • ½ cup firm sprouted tofu, cubed
  • 1 teaspoon red miso paste
  • chopped scallions for garnish

In a large saucepan, add garlic, ginger, onions, tamari, rice vinegar, red pepper flakes, five spice powder, water, and dry noodles. Add water and bring to a light boil. Add snow peas and carrots, then reduce heat to simmer and cover. Let simmer for 10 minutes and add swiss chard or spinach and tofu. Stir, and let simmer another 2 minutes until greens cook down and noodles become tender. Turn off heat and add miso paste. Stir gently until all miso is dissolved into the broth. 
Garnish with scallions and serve.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Oat Berry Salad with Roasted Tomatoes and Garlic

I love whole grains, like really chewy rustic whole grains. In my pantry at any given time, I have barley, millet, quinoa, wheat berries, farro, brown rice, bhutanese red rice... I just like to have a small amount of whatever I might want to use available at any given time. Recently, I was at Rainbow market (my personal equivalent of Disneyland) and saw Oat Berries, and I couldn't believe I hadn't ever tried these before! Oat Berries are the whole form of oats before they are rolled flat, cut up, or any of the other forms of processing they go through to make the oats that we all know and love. Now that I have tried them, to be totally honest, flavor-wise I don't see a huge difference in taste and texture between oat berries, and wheat berries, but either way the were delicious, and super nutritious too! With any whole grain that I listed above, I recommend soaking the grains for at least 8 hours up to 24 hours before cooking. This is for two reasons- 1.) It starts the germination process, and improves the nutrition (you won't see any sprouting yet) and 2.) It reduces the cooking time. Most hearty grains such as barley, oat berries and wheat berries can take up to an hour to cook! If you soak ahead, you are probably looking at more like 40 -45 minutes cooking time. 
So, after a long day at work I felt like a nice light healthy salad, so I put my pre-soaked oat berries on the stove to simmer, and I roasted up some sweet cherry tomatoes (both red and yellow, and oh so so sweet) along with some garlic and onion. The three roasted up together for a classic combination. When the oat berries were done, I tossed them with some fresh arugula, parsley, and then my trio of roasted delight. I topped it all of with some white balsalmic vinegar, lemon juice, sea salt, pepitas, and fresh cracked pepper. You could make this oat berry salad in similar variation with any number of veggies you might have on hand, tossed with a nice dressing, and some chopped nuts or tofu. A perfect dinner.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Summer on a plate- Watermelon, Heirloom Tomato and Arugula Salad with Corn Chowder and Nectarine Cobbler

Nectarine Cobbler
Corn Chowder
Watermelon, Heirloom Tomato and Arugula Salad
with Avocado and fresh Mint
To be completely honest, summer in San Francisco is not at all replicable of what summer is supposed to be. It is not hot, as a matter of fact it is not even warm. It is usually pretty chilly actually (today's high: 67 degrees) and overcast most of the morning and late afternoon. We usually get our "summer" in late September and October. But, where I grew up summer was hot and very traditional, so no matter what it looks like outside my window, in my head it is July, and there are just certain foods that I want to eat in July. The cold weather has left me deeply craving for summer lately, so I ended up having all my summer favorites all in one dinner to satisfy my longing... 

Watermelon, Heirloom Tomato and Arugula Salad:
I think watermelon and tomato go beautifully together, and when you pair these two with some spicy arugula, and tangy balsalmic dressing, you have the most balanced and tasty salad you can possibly imagine. Just to bump it up to the next level, I added in some mint chiffonade, and topped the salad with a nice creamy avocado. There is a woman who has been at the Alemany Farmer's market lately, and she comes up from Southern California, and she brings the most delicious avocados I have ever had. They are perfectly ripe, and so full of flavor, suddenly I have been wanting avocado on everything... I don't know what I am going to do if she ever stops coming to the market.

Corn Chowder
This is one of the simplest soups I have ever made, but if you use ripe, full flavored corn, it is simply delicious. I started by removing the corn kernels from 4 large cobs of fresh sweet corn. I then took the corn cobs, and simmered them in 4 cups of water for 20 minutes to make a corn stock, to enhance the corn flavor of my soup. In a separate large soup pot, I sauteed a whole yellow onion, and added one clove of minced garlic.  I then added the corn in with onion, along with a teaspoon and a half of ground cumin, salt and pepper, and one medium potato diced. (Leave the skin on- this is where the majority of the nutrients are in the potato, and once you blend the soup you will hardly notice the skin). At  this point, I added my corn stock to the pot, covered it, and let it go at a medium simmer for another 15 minutes or so, until the potatoes were tender. I finished off the soup by pureeing it in batches and then re-seasoning until the flavors are just right. I topped it with a cilantro sour cream (mix chopped fresh cilantro with some tofutti sour cream) and more of that awesome avocado. 

Nectarine Cobbler
My hubby does not like the fuzzy skin of peaches, so I decided to make the cobbler with some beautiful organic nectarines I scored. Again, I like to leave the skins on because there are so many wonderful nutrients and fiber contained in the skins. The nectarines were this beautiful red orange color, and so sweet I hardly had to add in any sweetener. This dessert was so simple, I just finely chopped up a few nectarines, and tossed them with a maple/agave blend from trader joe's (seriously, I don't think I even used a whole tablespoon) and some ginger powder (a little less than a teaspoon) I then used the biscuit recipe from one of my favorite blogs: veganyumyum (which you can also get as an iphone app- so awesome!!) I added some cinnamon to the biscuit recipe, and topped my nectarines with the biscuit dough, and baked it for about 25 minutes until it was bubbly and browned. I served it with some sweet cinnamon spiced cashew creme I had made for another recipe a few days earlier.  

So this meal brought the sunshine into our home, I felt fulfilled, enjoying the bounty of fresh summer foods. After all, it is summer pretty much everywhere else, even though when I look out my window it is still grey and misty. 

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Humm, Humm Hummus... Today's variation - Summer Squash and Kale Hummus

I'm not gonna deny it, I loooovve hummus. Every kind of hummus, red pepper, cilantro, white bean, sun dried tomato, eggplant hummus, I could literally go on and on. Although, my utmost favorite is the classic, creamy traditional hummus. I am always experimenting with new variations based on what I have in my fridge at the time, or what I might see in season at the farmer's market. You will  probably see me post multiple times about different hummus variations that I make.. The primary components of hummus are chickpeas, tahini (sesame seed paste) garlic, lemon juice, spices (usually cumin and paprika and sometimes parsley for me, but sometimes I change things up with other spices). Therefore, it is one of the healthiest snacks you can make. You are getting protein,  fiber, folate and iron from the chickpeas, calcium from the sesame seeds, and all of the benefits of raw garlic. If you make it without oil, as I do, you can keep your hummus pretty low on fat as well.  
Not only is hummus a great dip for snacks, it can be used as a spread on sandwiches and wraps in place of higher fat spreads as well.
Today, I had some kale left over from a kale salad, and a fresh yellow summer squash I wanted to put to use in a new way. So, I added those into my vita-mix as I was blending my hummus for my wrap for lunch today. Voila! This is one of my favorite hummus variations yet, and has an even more stellar nutrient profile from the added kale and squash!! And so pretty too. It's a keeper. 

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Summertime Barbeque Salads

I don't know many people who can't identify with the great pleasure of sitting outside either in someone's backyard, or in the park, or near the beach in the company of good friends and family, sipping delicious drinks, and enjoying barbeque, and the delicious classic accompaniments. Now that it is July, it was time to hit the barbeque with my husband. So, last Thursday night, I put together a nice cool Corn, Avocado & Tomato Salad, and my favorite- A classic style Potato Salad. I put these along side some skewers of BBQ seitan, squash, & crimini mushrooms. It was my first time making seitan from scratch which was very good and quite easy, but we'll save that for another day's blog. Anyways, pair this with a nice cold glass of Sauvignon Blanc, and what a great way to start off a summertime weekend!

I had scored a nice bag of mixed potatoes at the farmer's market that made for a colorful adaptation to my potato salad. The bag had a combination of fingerling, purple, and red potatoes, and all were miniature, and easy to quickly cut up. I roast my potatoes first, instead of boiling them, because I prefer the texture to be crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. I have always felt that the potatoes get a little mushy if you boil them, but if you prefer a softer texture, by all means you could definitely boil them briefly instead of roasting them! I also used Garlic Aioli (Wildwood) because it is my favorite vegan mayonnaise replacement, but you could use Vegenaise, Nayonaise, or anyother eggless mayonnaise that you prefer. And always use fresh (not dried) herbs! It makes a huge difference. Actually, I hardly use dried herbs in the summertime specifically, as fresh always just seems more appealing this time of year. Anyways, if you can, let the salad sit in the fridge for at least an hour or two before serving, to let all of your flavors come together. Enjoy!

  • 1 pound Small red potatoes, or fingerlings, purple potatoes, or combination of- chopped to 1/2-3/4 inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • ¾ cup Wildwood Garlic Aioli, or other vegan mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup scallions , chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
  • ½ cup carrot or celery (or combination of both), finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon old bay seasoning, or combination of garlic powder, paprika, and cumin

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combined chopped potatoes, olive oil, sea salt, and a grind of fresh black pepper. Toss well, and spread out evenly on a large baking sheet. Bake for approximately 20-25 minutes until starting to barely brown, and are easily pierced with a fork. Let cool completely. Transfer to large bowl.

Add in fresh herbs, carrots/celery, lemon juice, and aioli (or mayonnaise) to the potatoes. Thoroughly combine, and taste. Add additional salt or pepper if necessary.

Transfer to the refrigerator to cool at least one hour before serving.

Serves 4

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Gluten Free Lasagna

I remember watching Garfield when I was little, and Garfield and I had one major thing in common, we both love lasagna. Garfield would always scarf down those cartoon lasagnas and who can blame him, lasagna is delicious!

So, here I am as a vegan chef so many years later looking for new ways to make a healthier yet still so satisfying lasagna, and I have made quite a few. From traditional lasagna, to mexican style lasagna, to this one, my latest: Gluten Free Lasagna. For this one I made a batch of creamy polenta, which I spread out on a baking sheet in a thin layer. I then baked this and let it cool, and cut the polenta into "noodle" like strips. I then layered the polenta "noodles" with a mixture of caramelized onions & mushrooms, and a delicious swiss chard  and tofu "ricotta" that I created using tofu, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, apple cider vinegar, and salt and pepper. I also roasted some sweet tomato slices to put on top with a final dollop of cashew cheese . Not bad! I think Garfield would have liked this one ... 

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale, San Francisco

Today, I had the honest pleasure of donating my baked goods to San Francisco's local sale for the World Wide Vegan Bake Sale that is going on in countries all over the world this weekend. You can read more about it at The purpose of this bake sale is to raise money for local charities, each location can choose whatever charities they would like the proceeds to be donated too, and the other benefit is that it will introduce people the deliciousness of vegan goodies! It is a common thought that vegan baked goods must be lacking in flavor or texture as compared to the "real thing," but let me tell you, these treats were exploding with flavor, color, texture, and all without any cholesterol or animal products! My contribution were these yummy brownies topped with a layer of Almond Butter and Toasted Coconut (mmmm yum!) and I also made a few Baked Vanilla Donuts (with sprinkles, of course) these were my favorite donut when I was little, and I love that I can make a healthier version nowadays to enjoy as an adult. It was so fun to donate to this good cause. The local proceeds are going to benefit "Animal Place" and "East Bay Animal Advocates"