27
Apr
11

i <3 Hearts of Palm

I’ve had salads with hearts of palm in restaurants once or twice, and I never objected to them. It wasn’t until a couple months ago, however, that I tried this vegetable plain…and I’ve been hooked ever since. They have such a unique flavor; it almost seems a shame to add much to them at all. As such, my mom and I have been buying them all spring and eating them straight from the can. Of course, it wouldn’t be much of a blog post if I just wrote “Buy hearts of palm. Eat straight from can,” so I decided to try something a little fancier.

Well, fancier this is. It may seem like a lot of work, but it’s the slice-and-place kind of work; it doesn’t require much in the way of physical exertion or technical skills.  So, if you’ve got the time and need an amuse bouche that’s attractive, tasty, and totally vegan, these may be for you. If not, buy hearts of palm. Eat straight from can.

Ingredients:

1 can hearts of palm

1 carrot, thinly sliced

1/2 avocado

1 tbs lemon

3-4 endives

Directions:

Wash the endives, chop off the bottoms, and separate the leaves. I found that the inner leaves were best for this appetizer, as they’re milder and less bitter than the outer leaves.

Slice the carrot as thinly as you can. I used a potato peeler.

Cut the hearts of palm into .25-.5 inch slices. Hearts of palm are sort of layered, so you can easily push the circles in the middle of each slice right out.

Mash the avocado with the lemon.

Lay one carrot slice down the middle of each endive leaf. If your carrot slices are too long, cut them; if they’re too short, use two and overlap them slightly.

Using a small spoon or butter knife, fill each slice of heart of palm with the mashed avocado. Place near the end of the endive leaves.

11
Apr
11

Pistachio Pesto Pasta

I think nuts should be a bigger part of the average American diet. They are naturally tasty, they come in all different varieties, and many kinds of nuts have a lot to offer nutritionally. What’s your favorite kind?

Where my personal tastes are concerned, I’ve always found that my favorite nuts to eat are the ones that have the lowest nutritional value. On one end of the nut spectrum, we have walnuts. They’re full of fiber, B vitamins, and Omega 3 fatty acids. They have been shown to lower cholesterol and be good for the heart. Too bad I think they look like larvae and their texture, to me, seems stale. On the other end of the nut spectrum: peanuts. (Technically a legume, I know…) They’re sweet and tasty, fun to shell, and don’t even get me started on the butter…but alas, peanuts are high in fat and calories.

I’ve always assumed that pistachios, being almost as rich and versatile as peanuts, probably had little to offer nutritionally. That’s why I was surprised when I recently learned that pistachios actually have a lot of the same health benefits as walnuts! What good news! (Though anyone who reads this blog can tell you that poor nutritional value won’t necessarily stop me from eating something I like.)

In honor of my new favorite nut, I made a pistachio pesto. I think it would be good plain, on bread, in a sandwich, and probably lots of other ways that are more creative than those. Today, I just added it to some pasta and trust me, I’ll be making this again!

Ingredients:

For the pesto:

(makes a little more than 1 cup of pesto)

1 cup roasted, unsalted pistachios, shelled*

2 cups spinach

1/4 cup fresh parsley

3 tbs olive oil

2 tbs lemon juice

1-2 tbs water

salt and pepper, to taste

*Hopefully you can find the shelled ones at the store…otherwise, you’ll have to remove the shells yourself.

For two servings of pasta:

about 2 tbs olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

1 shallot, minced

1 large handful grape tomatoes, cut in half

2 servings of your favorite kind of pasta (I used fettucini)

salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

Pulse the pistachios in a food processor until they’re pretty finely ground. Add the rest of your pesto ingredients and process until smooth. If you prefer a thinner pesto, you can add a little more water. I kept mine pretty thick though, figuring I’d thin it out later if I needed to.

To make the pasta, boil some water and add the noodles. A few minutes before they are done, heat a couple tablespoons olive oil in a pan and add the minced garlic and shallot. When they seem softer and more translucent, add some pistachio pesto to the pan and mix. For two servings of pasta, I only used about 1/4 cup of my pesto.

Drain the pasta when it’s finished, reserving a couple tablespoons of the water to help thin the pesto.

Add the pasta and water to the pesto, garlic, and shallot. Toss to combine. Add the tomatoes, salt, and pepper and toss again.

05
Apr
11

Banana Pudding with Vegan ‘Nilla Wafers

When I step into a bakery, I often look right past the popular cupcakes and cookies and opt instead for a cup of banana pudding. Smooth and creamy with a bit of crunch from the vanilla wafers…what could be more satisfying? This version is 100% vegan with soy milk, soy whipped cream, and vegan vanilla wafers. It makes about four servings.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup granulated sugar

3 tbs corn starch

about an inch of a vanilla bean (recommended) OR 1 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups soy milk

1 tbs Earth Balance

2 ripe bananas

about 2 cups Soy Whip

about 1 cup crushed vanilla wafer cookies

(Lots of supermarkets sell store-brand ‘nilla wafer cookies, and I know I’ve seen vegan versions before. Of course, things like that have a way of becoming much harder to find when you actually need them, so I ended up making some from scratch. I modified this recipe, substituting an Ener-G egg for the real egg and Earth Balance for the butter. The vegan batter was a bit crumbly, so I rolled them into balls and flattened them with my palms, rather than piping them onto the baking sheet, as suggested. They came out great!)

Directions:

Combine the sugar and corn starch in a small mixing bowl. If you are using a real vanilla bean, cut it in half the long way, scrape out the inside, and add that to the sugar mixture.

Heat the soy milk in a small saucepan. If you are using vanilla extract, add it to the soy milk.

Stirring over low heat, slowly add the sugar mixture to the soy milk, mixing to combine.

Continue heating and stirring. The sugar should dissolve and, after a few minutes, the mixture should thicken to almost to a pudding consistency.

Take the pudding off the heat and allow it to cool for a few minutes, then move it to the refrigerator. It will continue to thicken as it cools.

If you haven’t already, crumble the wafer cookies. I put mine in a ziplock bag and hit them with a rolling pin.

Cut the bananas into thin slices.

When the pudding is completely cool, take it out of the refrigerator and add about two cups of soy whip. Mix to combine.

Assemble the pudding in individual glasses or in a larger glass bowl.

Begin by spooning in a layer of the pudding:

Then add a layer of banana:

and a layer of cookie crumbs:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Add a second layer of each:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and a final layer of pudding:

I topped mine with a bit more whipped cream and some cookie crumbs. Keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

22
Mar
11

Fresh Spring Rolls with Sweet and Sour Sauce

With the weather finally getting warm and the days getting longer, can you guess my inspiration for today’s post? These spring rolls are fun to make and great for a light lunch or midday snack. Crispy, fresh, and complimented nicely by the flavorful sweet sauce. The recipe makes about four rolls and half a cup of dipping sauce.

 

Sauce Ingredients:

6 tbs rice vinegar

3 tbs light brown sugar

1 tbs Mirin (Japanese cooking wine)

1 tbs lemon juice

1 tsp sesame oil

 

Spring Roll Ingredients:

1/2 a head of radicchio, shredded

1 handful of pea sprouts

2 carrots, julienned

1/2 a seedless cucumber, julienned

1-2 stalks of celery, cut in thin strips

1 tbs minced cilantro

1 ripe avocado, sliced

Spring roll wrappers

(I found them in the Asian section of my regular grocery store.)

 

Directions:

In a small saucepan over low heat, dissolve the sugar in the vinegar. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients and stir to combine. Simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, so the sauce can reduce and thicken. Take off heat and set aside.

Prepare all of the vegetables.

The spring roll wrappers are brittle when you get them from the store. To cook them, fill a skillet with an inch or two of water and bring it to a simmer. Hold the wrapper on one side and dip the other half in the water. Hold it there for a few seconds, until you can feel that it goes soft. Then, pull it out of the water and carefully turn it so that you’re holding the soft end and dipping the first half in the water. When the whole wrapper is soft, let the excess water drip back into the skillet and lay the wrapper out on a cutting board or other surface.

Lay the vegetables down the middle of the spring roll wrapper, leaving an inch or so at the top and bottom.

Fold the top and bottom of the wrapper over the vegetables.

Fold the right side of the wrapper over the vegetables.

Gently push the vegetables to the right, pulling the right side of the wrapper tightly over them. Then, continue rolling as tightly as you can.

Cut the spring rolls in half, if desired, and serve with the sweet and sour sauce.

20
Mar
11

Bruschetta

Bruschetta is a great way to start a meal that’s sure to please vegans and non-vegans alike. If you’re having guests over, you can make the topping a day ahead of time and keep it in the fridge. In fact, I find that the flavors of this dish mellow after a day or two and it tastes even better, so you will still be able to enjoy it the day after the party– if there’s any left.

Serves 6-8.

Ingredients:

1 pint grape tomotoes

1 tbs minced shallot

1 clove mashed garlic

1 tbs fresh minced parsley

2 tbs fresh minced basil

1/2 tbs balsamic vinegar

1 tbs extra virgin olive oil

1 French baguette, sliced

Directions:

Slice the tomatoes in half and scoop out the juicy, seedy inside with a grapefruit spoon.

You don’t have to worry about getting every last seed, but you want to get rid of most of the juice so that your bruschetta won’t be too soggy.

When your tomatoes are mostly juice-free, chop them smaller.

Combine the chopped tomatoes with the rest of the ingredients in a bowl.

Mix gently to combine.

Serve atop sliced baguette and garnish with fresh basil leaves, if desired.

06
Mar
11

Chocolate Hazelnut Rolls

Notella” idea #2: Rolls with a Twist

For a new take on the classic cinnamon roll, consider using your chocolate hazelnut spread as a filling. I wasn’t sure how this would turn out, but it was just what I hoped for. Neither the dough nor the filling is too sweet; the sugary frosting has that area covered. The hazelnuts play an important role as well, contributing both flavor and crunch.

This recipe takes a while to make, but it’s not especially work intensive. Most of the time is spent waiting for the dough to rise. You can do most of the work the day before you plan to bake them, if you like.

Finally, if you’ve already used up your notella on…I don’t know…banana surprise muffins, perhaps, or if you’re just looking for a regular old cinnamon roll recipe, I’ve provided instructions for that as well.

This recipe makes seven rolls.

(An odd number, I know, but it fits nicely in an 8 inch square or round baking dish.)

Ingredients:

For the dough:

1/2 cup warm water (110-115 degrees)

1 packet active dry yeast

1 tsp + 1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup canola oil, plus extra for the bowl

1/2 cup non-dairy milk (I used almond milk)

2 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for kneading

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

For the chocolate hazelnut filling:

about 1/3 cup homemade chocolate hazelnut spread

1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts, optional

For a traditional cinnamon bun filling:

1/4 cup melted Earth Balance

1/2 cup sugar

2-3 tbs ground cinnamon

For the frosting:

1/4 cup Earth Balance

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 heaping tbs cocoa powder

1 tbs non-dairy milk

Directions:

In a small bowl, combine the warm water, yeast, and 1 tsp sugar. Mix with a fork until yeast is dissolved, then set aside to proof for 5-10 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the non-dairy milk, oil, and 1/4 cup sugar.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients.

When the yeast looks foamy, add it to the wet ingredients and stir to combine.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet, approximately one cup at a time, and fold it in with a spatula.

On a clean, floured work space, knead the dough until it forms a smooth ball, about 3-5 minutes.

Coat a clean mixing bowl with oil and place the dough ball in it to rise. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and place in a warm location. It should rise until it has approximately doubled in volume, about an hour or an hour and a half. When it’s ready, it should not spring back up if you press the top with your finger.

When the dough has finished rising, place it on a lightly floured work surface. Punch it down and knead once or twice. Then, roll it into an 8×12 inch rectangle.

If your chocolate hazelnut spread has been in the refrigerator, microwave it for a few seconds until it is an easily spreadable consistency. Then spread it on the dough. Leave about a 1/2 inch border. If you like, you can spread some of the chopped hazelnuts on top of the notella.

(Note: If you prefer the traditional cinnamon filling, just brush the melted Earth Balance on the dough and sprinkle an even layer of sugar and cinnamon over top. Still, leave a 1/2 inch border.)

Beginning at one of the short ends, roll the dough tightly to form a log.

Cut the log into seven rolls. I like to use thread to cut through the dough, but a sharp knife should do the trick as well. If the ends of the log are messy, cut them off and discard them.

Place the rolls in a greased 8×8 square or 8 inch round pan and top with the chopped hazelnuts (optional).

If you plan to bake these as soon as possible, set the pan aside so that the dough can rise for a second time. Pick a warm place again, and leave the dough for 45 minutes – 1 hour. It should expand to fill the pan.

If you plan to bake these within 24 hours, cover the pan and put it in the refrigerator until ready to bake.

Bake for about 25 minutes at 350 degrees, until the tops turn golden brown.

To prepare the frosting, just beat all of the ingredients together with an electric mixer.

I waited a few minutes for the rolls to cool, then I applied the frosting in a zig zag pattern. I used a plastic bag with a small hole cut in the bottom as a makeshift pastry bag.

Serve warm.

01
Mar
11

Banana Surprise Muffins

Last week, I posted a recipe for “notella,” a chocolate hazelnut spread. Though it’s good simply as a topping for baguettes or fruit, I keep thinking of more new ways to use it. Maybe I’m obsessed; I can’t help it. For the next several posts, this blog will be all notella, all the time.

Notella Idea #1: Muffin Stuffin’

When baking, it’s usually best to have a plan. I do my best to avoid surprises because I find that baking surprises are almost never good. Sure, there’s the rare occasion when a minor ingredient substitution leads to a recipe revelation, but surprises in my kitchen are usually more like “What’s that burning smell?” or “Did I forget to put sugar in this?”  These little muffins, on the other hand, prove that there is such a thing as a pleasant baking-related surprise. It might even be the happiest surprise of all: “How’d that chocolate get in there?” (Just don’t give them to anyone with a nut allergy, or the surprise won’t be nearly as pleasant.)

Makes about 4 dozen mini muffins.

Ingredients:

2 very ripe bananas

1/2 cup  vegan margarine (I use Earth Balance)

1 cup light brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

about 1/4 cup vegan chocolate hazelnut spread, refrigerated

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, mash the bananas. Add the margarine (at room temperature), sugar, and vanilla. Mix with an electric mixer until smooth.

Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and fold them into the wet. Mix well.

Refrigerate batter for 20-30 minutes.

Line a mini muffin pan with cupcake papers. You could probably use a regular size cupcake pan (and bake for a few minutes extra), but I haven’t tried it.

Take batter out of the refrigerator and spoon a little into the bottom of each paper (column on the far left). Use enough batter to cover the whole bottom of the paper, but don’t fill it up more than 1/3 of the way.

Spoon little balls of the refrigerated notella into the middle of each cup (column second to the left). Each ball should be about the size of a really big pea. Or I don’t know, two peas. Just make sure there’s room around it.

Spoon more of the cake batter on top of the notella balls (column second to the right). Make sure the notella is covered on all sides.

These don’t rise very much, so don’t be afraid to fill the papers just about to the top (column on the far right).

Bake for 20-22 minutes, until the tops feel firm to the touch.




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