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.