Monday, October 29, 2012

Loaded Sweet Potatoes

This dish has become a staple dinner item in my house. It is so simple yet I find that I look forward to it every time I make it. It is a great meal to have towards the end of the week when you may have random leftover veggies or leftover beans etc. that you are looking for something to do with.
In this edition of "Loaded Sweet Potatoes" I have done a fresh mex sort of potato, and this is probably my favorite to date. The fun part is that you can make this a variety of ways... either with leftovers as mentioned above, or with a theme. Spanish, Thai, Mediterranean, which ever flavors you choose. I find that it is best to mix textures for best results: a creamy sauce, beans or seitan for protein and bite, onions, nuts or seeds for crunch. The basic technique is as follows:

1.) Select a nice, medium sized sweet potato for each person that you are feeding.
2.) Preheat the oven to 375.
3.) Put some seasoning on the outside of the sweet potato. I take about a teaspoon of oil per potato and mix it in a small bowl with a pinch of salt and whichever spices might go best with the "theme" of that evenings potato. In this instance I used cumin, garlic, and chili powders for the the fresh mex potatoes. Once you have mixed your spices with the oil, brush the outside of the potato with the seasoned oil. Then take a fork and make a couple of holes in the potato for steam to escape. They will look like this:
The amount of time that you bake them will depend on the size of the potatoes. These guys took about 35 -40 minutes. After about 30 minutes check them to see if they are fork tender all the way through. If not, let them go another 10 minutes and then check again. You want them to be fork tender but not mushy. While your potatoes are baking you will want to have the remaining ingredients prepared.
4.) Remove the potatoes from the oven and let them cool slightly.
5.) Use a fork and knife to gently split them open most of the way, lengthwise.
6.) Load your potatoes! In this case I did the following:
- I put a "cheeze"sauce in first to get all melty into the potato.
- Then a layer of warm seasoned black beans
- A few strips of sauteed seitan
- Fresh tomatoes
- Homemade guacamole
- Daiya cheese
- Scallions
- Sunflower seeds

This dish is fun to eat because you get to deconstruct your potato while getting to enjoy all of the flavors in each bite. I find that I can eat this all year round, and I don't think I have made it the same way twice. This dish is also husband approved!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Pumpkin Bars... Veganized!

Ahhhh.... Fall. My favorite season has finally arrived! Here in Sacramento the weather stayed hot well through September and the beginning of October and I have been dying for the temperature to drop a little bit, those leaves to fall, and for the first day that would  require a sweater and a scarf. And it finally came this week!! So I decided to celebrate by busting out the pumpkin pie spice and bake something truly pumpkin-y delicious.
This recipe was one that my mom got from one of her friends when I was in elementary school. The original recipe relies heavily on eggs, and is topped of with a cream cheese frosting. As delicious as it was, it was not vegan, and therefore needed to be revamped. The original recipe is a dense, incredibly moist bar rich in pumpkin and spice, best eaten with a fork. I knew that it would be tricky to get that same quality without the eggs. As I started to think about all my egg replacing ideas, I knew that many of them (flax seed, banana, ener-g egg replacer) wouldn't work either due to texture or flavor. The original recipe calls for 4 eggs, so I would need something with bulk. So I did something that I have never done before, and I am happy to say that it worked! I replaced the eggs in this recipe with Cashew Cream. It offered the moisture, some binding qualities, and a pleasant delicate flavor that wouldn't over power the pumpkin like say, a banana would. Instead of going with the traditional cream cheese frosting, ( I didn't feel like going to the store for tofutti and preferred something a little healthier) I decided to use the remaining cashew cream to make a glaze, and it turned out very well) If you are more of the cream cheese frosting type, you could easily whip some tofutti cream cheese with powdered sugar, almond milk, vanilla and a hint of lemon juice to make a rich vegan cream cheese frosting. I am so happy to report that my vegan rendition of this recipe worked. I shared some with my parents who know the original recipe well, and received rave reviews.  Before I delve into the recipe, I would like to highlight other fall joys of my week...We took the baby to Apple Hill for the first time! Yay! Here is the lil pumpkin patch kid herself:
Apple Hill has been a family tradition of ours for as long as I can remember. It is a beautiful collection of Apple Orchards with a variety of activities and apple related goodies and treats. Each orchard offers special activities and everything from fresh apple cider, to pies, breads, caramel apples etc. Although I love all of those things, most of what you find at Apple Hill is not vegan, except for well, the apples (duh :) apple cider and thankfully, apple butter!! I bought us a lovely jar of apple butter that is vegan and scrumdidilyumptious (sp?). I also bought lots of apples, pumpkins and asian pears. A great trip. And the next morning for breakfast, I enjoyed a wonderful breakfast panini of maple almond butter (see previous post) and apple butter on toast. When heated panini style everything got ooey gooey delish. I will be eating this probably every other morning from now until Christmas. It was that good. 
So, I am thrilled fall is here, and I plan on savoring each day because it always goes by too fast. 

Pumpkin Bars with Vanilla Cashew Glaze
1/3 cup Earth Balance (or other vegan margarine)
2 C. evaporated cane sugar
1 15 oz can organic pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
1/2 cup prepared cashew cream (recipe below)
1 tsp vanilla
2 C. whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (original recipe calls for cinnamon- I prefer the pumpkin pie spice mix)
1/2 tsp sea salt

For the Cashew Cream::
1 cup raw cashew pieces (soaked for at least 30 minutes and drained)
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon agave nectar
pinch of sea salt

Vanilla Cashew Glaze:
Remaining Cashew Cream (after 1/2 cup has been used in the bars)
1/2 tsp vanilla
juice of 1/2 small lemon
1/4 C agave nectar
2 T coconut milk
1 tsp arrowroot powder

Preheat oven to 350 or 325 if you are using a convection oven. Lightly grease a 9 x13 pan and set aside.
For the cashew cream:
Using a high speed blender, add cashews, water, agave and sea salt to the blender and blend on high until very very smooth, approximately 1-2 minutes. Measure out 1/2 cup for use in the bars and then leave the remaining in the blending carafe until needed to make the Frosting. 

For the bars:
In a large bowl cream together the Earth Balance and the sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the cashew cream, pumpkin and vanilla and continue beating until well mixed and smooth. 
In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, spices and salt until combined. Add half of the dry mixture into the wet and mix until well combined. Then add the remaining dry ingredients to the wet and continue mixing until well combined again. 
Pour this mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 38-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Set aside to cool.

While the bars are cooling, make the glaze by adding the vanilla, lemon juice, agave nectar, coconut milk, and arrowroot powder to the carafe of the blender and blend very well. Once the bars are mostly cool, you can gently poor the glaze over the top. The light heat of the bars will help the glaze to spread evenly. 
Transfer the bars to the refrigerator to continue setting up for at least 2 hours. These bars should be served chilled. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A windy city, a beautiful wedding, & amazing vegan food...

In case you can't tell, this says "Chicago Sept 20" No. I didn't do this, I just thought it ironic because Sept 20th is my birthday and we were in Chicago :)

I've never been one much for tagging or vandalism of any sort for that matter, so this picture is not my work, but I did think it was ironic when I saw this on a wall in the Bucktown neighborhood of Chicago on September 21st. 
We went to Chicago for the beautiful wedding of a good friend of ours. Last time we were in Chicago it was below freezing, and with the wind it was colder than anything I had ever experienced, but I still loved the magic of this city. 
This visit was even more magical as we had our sweet baby girl with us, it was my birthday, and of course, the wedding. However, being the responsible vegan that I am, I can't go to any city without first doing some research on vegan hot spots in the local area. Especially these days, I am proud to say that vegan options and vegan restaurants are so much more abundant than even a few years back when I made the plunge. Last time we were in Chicago, we did make it a point to make it to the Chicago Diner, but this year, I wanted to experience something new, and that we did. 

The first night we stayed in this awesome 3 bedroom apartment at an Urban B&B in Wicker Park. 

This is the beautiful tree-lined street of our apartment. I loved it here, I could have stayed forever (if it didn't get so cold in the winter). It is a gorgeous neighborhood, rich with history yet buzzing with contemporary shops, restaurants and people. This was a very vegan friendly neighborhood, and the cool owners of the B&B were hip to all the cool vegan stuff in the area to check out, so they gave me great recommendations. I was super happy to find out that a Native Foods had just gone in a couple of blocks away. Native Foods is in SoCal, but I had never tried it and always wanted to.  More on that in a bit. 

Our first night there was my birthday, and I had gotten us a reservation at Karyn's On Green. All it took was a hot second of looking at their menu online before I knew it was the perfect place to spend my birthday.  We went, and the decor was gorgeous, the people were uber friendly (due to lack of babysitting options, we brought our daughter, and were very nervous, but the staff made us feel right at home and welcomed her lovingly),  but most importantly the food was awesome. Absolutely awesome. We started with chorizo and crab cake style sliders, but unfortunately those disappeared before they could be photographed. You will have to excuse the fact that these pics are a little dim, the ambience was great, but not ideal for food blog photography. 

After that I had a Green Tomato Carpaccio and a Ethiopian Spiced Eggplant with Lentils and Squash Puree that was so packed with flavor, I sat there and savored every bite. It was perfect. 

My favorite part however was the dessert which was a selection of housemade nut based ice-creams with raw "cookies" and a drizzle of pure maple syrup, all of which was adorned with a single candle burning in honour of my 30th birthday. The evening was perfect. A beautiful vegan meal in a gorgeous restaurant with a view of Chicago's finest skyscrapers, enjoying the company of my wonderful husband and my beautiful daughter. Not the roaring party of my twenties, but the maturity felt right, I wouldn't have changed it for the world. 

The next day, we strolled amongst our Wicker Park/Bucktown neightborhood. We found a quaint italian coffee shop where we got espresso and a delicious breakfast sandwich of almond butter and jam on toasted ciabatta. Yum. It was warm and cozy for that un-seasonably drizzly September morning. 

After a lovely morning cruising our neighborhood, we stopped into Native Foods and got food to-go to take to the Cub's game that afternoon. I wanted to order 1 of everything on the Native Foods menu, it all sounded so good. In the end we got Quinoa bowls- my husband's was a Mediterranean themed, and mine was a Moroccan themed bowl. I took a picture, but honestly it did not photograph well in the to-go box. But it was fresh and very flavorful. We each got a dessert and shared both- a brownie, and a strawberry parfait. Both were delish. We noshed on our treats while taking in our very first Cubs game. It was awesome.  Later in our trip, I also enjoyed a visit to Karyn's Fresh Corner which was a grocery and cafe near Lincoln Park that was really nice. 

All-in-all I found Chicago to be not just vegan friendly but a thriving vegan city.  The Chicagoans are kind, down to earth and extremely friendly. It was a nice reminder that it's ok to slow down and enjoy the scenery a little. It's so easy to get caught up in the rat race, but when it's all said and done,  it will be about the little things, the small moments in life, and how we treat one another and our world. I think this city is getting it right. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Bananas Foster with Cashew Peanut Butter Ice Cream

This dessert, it's bananas!  B-A-N-A-N-A-S! Okay dorky moment over. I made this dessert a couple of weeks ago, and I've been meaning to post it! It's really good, and not hard to do at all.
For those who have ever made homemade ice cream the "regular" way... meaning dairy, white sugar, etc, you know that it can be a long process of making custard on the stove and so forth, making it so much more appealing to just go to the store and buy ice cream.  Well, vegan ice cream is so quick and easy to make it's just silly to make any other kind of ice cream, or buy a $6 pint, in my opinion! All you really need is a good blender and an electric ice cream maker and you are in business.

For this dessert, I adapted a recipe that I learned when I was studying for my Natural Chef certificate. It's a super easy cashew based ice cream that can be taken in any direction one might like... Strawberry, Chocolate, Coconut, Green Tea, or even some fancy concoction using Berries and reduced Balsalmic Vinegar. In this particular case, I took it in a peanutty direction, laced with a coconut milk background. Yum.

I topped the ice cream with a quick saute similar to a Bananas Foster. Simply put, I sauteed banana slices in Earth Balance, unrefined brown sugar, and a tiny splash of vanilla. The Earth Balance and the brown sugar combine to make a delicious caramel sauce. If you are into a rum flavor you can also add a splash of rum as in the traditional bananas foster recipe. Personally I am not into the flavor of rum, so I omitted that element. The dessert is topped with candied peanuts to elevate the subtle peanut flavor in the ice cream.

Bananas Foster with Cashew Peanut Butter Ice Cream
Serves 4 (with leftover ice cream)

For the  Ice Cream:
2 cups cashews, soaked for 2 hours and drained
2 cups light coconut milk
1/2 cup agave nectar
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup peanut butter (I have also used PB2 powder as a lower calorie option)

Add all ingredients to a high-speed blender and blend well- approximately three minutes until very smooth. Transfer mixture to the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Pour the mixture into the cannister of the ice cream maker, and process according to the machine's manufacturer's instructions. Once the mixture has been processed into ice cream  you can serve immediately or freeze to serve later. If you do serve later, allow the ice cream to sit out for 15 minutes to soften up prior to serving.

For the Bananas:
3 tablespoons Earth Balance
3 tablespoons Brown Sugar ( I use an unrefined version)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 bananas, sliced

Add  Earth Balance, brown sugar, and vanilla to your saute pan over medium heat, and whisk until combined. Add in banana slices, and let cook without disturbing the slices too much, as you don't want them to break apart. Make sure you at least flip all the slices to get them coated in the caramel mixture. Cook approximately 3-5 minutes until slices are softened and caramel coated, then remove from heat.

Put 2-3 scoops of ice cream in each of four serving bowls. Divide the bananas foster and sauce evenly among the four bowls. Top with candied peanuts, or regular peanuts and serve immediately.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Almond-Hazelnut-Peanut Butter Blend

There is no doubt that I have a full fledged nut butter obsession. I really truly think that nut butter is the most delicious food in the world. It is my deserted island food... the one thing that I would want with me in the rare case that I would be trapped on a deserted island with no food. It would be my last meal. Well... along with a vegan chocolate chip cookie. 
My husband was really sweet and got me a Vitamix for Christmas our first year as a married couple, which seems like forever ago, which was also not long after I made the evolution to becoming vegan. I have truly felt like this device is worth every penny. It can do anything. It can save the world. The Vitamix should be President. Among the many talents of the Vitamix is creating nut butters. Nut butters can also be made in a food processor, but I have burned out too many food processor engines to actually recommend making nut butters in one. The Vitamix  does a stellar job with the nuts. Which makes it my buddy in my nut butter obsession. 
So far, I have stuck to your old standbys. Peanut Butter. Almond Butter. Sunflower Butter. But over the weekend I was noticing that I had a small amount of a few different nuts, but no large quantity of any one nut. What to do, what to do. So I made this incredible nut butter blend with the nuts I had on hand. It is SO good. I blended almonds, hazelnuts, and peanuts with a bit of each sea salt, vanilla and maple sugar, just to take it to the next level. This nut butter came out so velvety with a rich and subtly complex flavor, I never expected it to be as perfect as it is. 
I will mention here that I did need to add a bit of Grapeseed Oil to keep the nut butter working in the vitamix. I am not crazy about having to add oil to my nut butters,  I prefer them free of added oils, but in some cases you need the oil to make the nut butter grind up properly. You can always drain off the excess after the nut butter has sat for a day or so. It is so good, I'm thinking of adding it to the line up at Angelfood Vegan Treats.
I highly recommend this nut butter blend- it is such a treat. I have yet to try it with jam on my favorite multi-grain bread, but I am looking forward to that soon. If you don't have a vitamix, you can definitely do it in a food processor, it just takes more time, patience, and a spatula to scrape down the sides often. 

Almond Hazelnut Peanut Butter

2 cups raw almonds
1 cup hazelnuts
1 cup unsalted peanuts
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 tablespoons maple sugar
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil (or more as needed to assist in blending depending on your machine)

Add all ingredients to your vitamix or food processor. Start on low and move up to high. Blend well. If using a vitamix use the special tool to continuously push the nuts downward toward the blade. Per the vitamix directions for making nut butters, after about 1 minute of doing this, your mixture should be moving pretty smoothly. If it is not, let the machine rest for a bit since the motor can get pretty warm. Please refer to the vitamix instruction booklet if you are unsure. 
If you are using a food processor, you may have to scrape the sides down often, or possibly use more oil to get the mixture smooth. 
Spread on toast, bananas, or just a big spoon and enjoy! 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Sonoma Chickpea Salad

I have never been a mayo person. I have always thought it is the most disgusting thing in the world. Something about the texture and the fact that it turns clear when it sits out too long has always grossed me out. And then my brother got food poisoning from bad mayo on a vacation one year so that really did it for me as a kid. Therefore it is probably no surprise that when I chose to go vegan in 2007 I still had no interest in vegan mayo.
Somewhere along the line though, I was introduced to Wildwood's Garlic Aioli and I thought it was pretty darn good! Now I try to avoid most soy products, and too many processed foods, but I figure that a little bit every now and then is probably ok.
I never liked mayo based salads until after I became vegan and liked the Garlic Aioli. Now, I have found that they have a place in my life. I was at Whole Foods this morning picking up a few grocery items, and I saw they had a Sonoma Chicken Salad made with a processed soy based chicken replacement. It looked really good and refreshing on this 100 degree day in Roseville. I got to thinking that I could probably make the same thing with chickpeas to make it less soy based. So I came home and I did just that. And it is REALLY good. The only soy in this dish is the soy protein that is in the Garlic Aioli, which isn't too terribly much per serving.
Try this between two slices of toasted whole wheat bread, on sliced baguette, on a bed of lettuce, or hey even straight out of the bowl!

Sonoma Chickpea Salad

1 can (rinsed) or 2.5 cups cooked chickpeas
2 stalks organic celery, cleaned and diced
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
approx 20 organic red grapes, halved
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1/2 cup Garlic Aioli or other vegan mayonnaise you prefer
juice of half a lemon
1 tsp agave nectar
salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl,  use a potato masher to mash up chickpeas until chunky and broken up but not too smooth. Add in celery, walnuts, grapes, onion, and mayonnaise. In a separate bowl combine lemon juice and agave nectar, and add that into your bowl. Mix everything together well, then add in sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Taste and re-season if necessary.

This dish is best served chilled. 4-6 servings.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Pure Life Chef is now Angelfood Vegan

Well hello there, it has been awhile! I am sorry for the absence, so much has happened since my last post! First and foremost, I had a baby. I have a beautiful 5 month old baby girl, and she is absolutely amazing and my new inspiration. 

Not too long after my last blog post, I got pregnant and suddenly food was completely uninteresting to me. All food except for plain whole wheat bread or a plain whole grain tortilla suddenly became the most disgusting thing ever. And that lasted quite awhile. Therefore I didn't do much cooking while I was pregnant or even grocery shopping for that matter. I had to send my husband to the store most of the time, just because I didn't like the smell or being in the presence of food. I also became obsessed with reading everything I could about pregnancy, birth, babies, and raising children. Hence, blogging took a back seat. 

Here's the little lady at 4 months

Now here I am five months after giving birth to my baby, ready to get back out there. I've never been more inspired than now to keep spreading the vegan message through my cooking and recipes and now my newest venture, my vegan baking operation. I have revised this blog to reflect the name of my new business, Angelfood, and I am also expanding the topics that I will blog about. I will still cover my  cooking, recipes and products, but I plan to also blog about my adventures in raising a healthy veg child.

I was able to keep all of my old posts and followers as Pure Life Chef, as you can see in the archive, but I am excited about the new direction of my blog and my business with Angelfood. Angelfood Vegan Treats is my new baking operation. I work out of a local kitchen to produce all handmade, small batch vegan treats such as cookies, brownies, sweet breads, muffins, cupcakes and candies. I am currently in the process of making contacts to get my products out and accessible to the public, and I am also taking orders for bridal/baby showers, parties and events. If you are in the Greater Sacramento Area, please check it out. In the future, I am also hoping to start teaching some vegan cooking classes again, I really miss them!

Many exciting things on the horizon here. Thanks for sticking around the blog, and I promise lots of good stuff to come!