Sunday, January 17, 2016

Friends in the Kitchen NYE Appetizer - Root Vegetable Cakes with Dirty Rice Rolls and Spicy Sweet Aoili

Every year we do our New Year's Eve dinner, I get super excited to see what will come out of the creative minds and kitchens of my friends.

A little backstory...and certainly my intuition and interpretation. I believe that there are very few coincidences and that we have a lot more history than we are aware of. It seemed an odd coincidence that my friend Jerry and I were introduced by an old high school buddy of mine. After we became friends it became crystal clear that this was no coincidence. When Jerry and I get a chance to talk food and collaborate on an amazing meal I know that we have known each other for a very long time. He get as obsessed as I do with bringing something exciting to the table and I feel I could talk to him for days about gardening, food, cooking and life. 

So every year when we start planning our NYE party, I am like a little kid waiting to see what he is going to create. This year was extra awesome, because I got to help him plate.

Keeping with the cajun/creole theme and his incredible creativity, the appetizer was a festival for the taste buds. I wish I had a recipe, because it was that good. He is iron chef-like and just goes to town creating...which does not include stopping to write things down lest the creative process be hindered.

I do know that the earthy root vegetable cake was created with beets, parsnips, carrots and damn I'm not sure of what finally made it bind. It was truly on the fly. The collards were stuffed with an incredible spicy dirty rice. I could have eaten bowls full of the rice alone. The piquant pepper hit all of the regions of taste buds. It was drizzled with a spicy sweet aioli. The pictures barely do it any justice. His wine pairing of a fruit forward but dry syrah was amazing. 

Tell me this isn't a great way to start the night! 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

New Year's Eve Fabulousness, Festivities and Food!!!

For me, 2015 was the year of work. I spent the year learning, learning and learning more about my new position at work. I love my job, but I let it take over most of my time and energy. The blog, my waistline and my kitchen creativity took the biggest hits. I am happy to say that 2015 was also the year of the kitchen remodel (I will post about that later). Most of the remodel is complete and it is re-igniting my passion for cooking and entertaining (and hopefully blogging).

Last year was the first time in many years we didn't host our 4 course wine tasting dinner and it was sorely missed. I have vowed to do everything in my power to make sure that doesn't happen again! It is always the best way to ring in the New Year: great conversation, great friends and of course amazing food.

This year I originally told everyone to go vegan rogue without a theme. I did mention that I was going to make something cajun/creole, but really had no idea what I was going to make. We lost the Cajun master Paul Prudhomme, so I felt my choice was a very fitting tribute. The table-scape had a Mardi Gras vibe.

I'm going to give you a teaser today and post the menu. My next posts will feature the actual food. Commence drooling!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Heat Advisory Fajita Bowl

Heat Advisory Fajita Bowl

4 servings as an entree, 6-8 as a side dish

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups cooked quinoa, cooled
2 cups tightly packed fresh spinach, stems removed, chopped after measuring
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, halved and sliced thinly
2 fresh jalapeno peppers, halved and sliced thinly*
2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 cups tightly packed sugar
1 recipe Creamy Chipotle-Lime Dressing (see recipe below)
1/3 cup pepitas
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
Avocado and chopped cilantro for garnish (optional)

In a large bowl, stir together black beans and quinoa. Top with spinach but do not stir in.

In a 12 inch iron skillet or non-stick pan over medium heat, heat olive oil. Add onions, jalapeños and brown sugar and saute, stirring occasionally until onions become caramelized, about 10 minutes. Place hot onion mixture on top of spinach to wilt it slightly. While spinach is wilting, make dressing.

Add dressing and pepitas to the bowl and stir well to combine. Gently toss in cherry tomatoes. Serve over more spinach leaves if you like or just as it is in a bowl. You can serve immediately, but I recommend refrigerating for a few hours to let the flavors develop. I prefer this one room temperature. Garnish with avocado and cilantro if you like.

Creamy Chipotle-Lime Dressing

Makes about 1/2 cup

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup vegan mayo
2 chipotles in adobo sauce*
1/4 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon granulated onion
1/4 teaspoon salt
pinch ground coriander

Place all ingredients in small food processor or magic bullet and blend until smooth.

* If you are a little heat sensitive, halve the amount and remove seeds.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Sugar and Nice and Everything Pumpkin Spice

Fall would not be fall without a barrage of pumpkin themed everything. Last night I was at the home of a dear friend of mine for her 50th birthday party. She and her husband and many of our group of friends wait all year long for the Great Pumpkin season to come. While we don't wait in the pumpkin patch for his ornageness to show up, we do anticipate with glee the arrival of winter squash and the Dali Lama of fall food season: the pumpkin.

During the party, my lovely friend Daph and I got to chatting about restaurants, food and cooking. She shares my great passion for trying new places and recipes. It has been far too long time since my foodie spirit went into hybernation. After our conversation, I felt it begin to awaken from it's deep slumber. That and the fact that by the end of next month, I will have a beautiful newly remodeled kitchen made me want to get cooking and blogging again.

At such party, my honey mentioned not so casually that he thought it would be a great idea for me to make him his favorite Banana-Pecan Pancakes for breakfast in the morning. I knew there were no bananas to be found in the house and after a late night of wine tasting, a trip to the grocery store was not sounding at all appealing. As fate would have it, I had some pumpkin puree in the pantry and these pumpkiny nutty pancakes were born.

I want to share this profound pearl of wisdom from Linus Van Pelt of the Peanuts with you: "There are three things I've learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics and the Great Pumpkin." Linus, thank you for sharing your wisdom, as a token of my gratitude I share this Great Pumpkin inspired recipe.

The Great Pumpkin Spiced Pancakes

Makes 12 pancakes

1 1/2 cups almond milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 Cup All Purpose Flour
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon melted coconut oil, cooled if heated or 1 tablespoon mild oil such as grapes
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, if you prefer toasted walnuts, feel free to toast and cool completely

In a two cup measuring cup (to save yourself an extra dirty bowl) or bowl, combine almond milk and vinegar and set aside to let curdle slightly. In another small bowl combine flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices and make a well in the center.

In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together pumpkin puree, maple syrup, oil, vanilla extract and almond milk mixture until well combined and smooth. Pour the liquid mixture into the well in your dry ingredient and whisk with a fork. Be careful not to over mix. It's OK to have a few lumps. Fold in walnuts.

Spray a large iron skillet (or non stick skillet) with coconut oil or other neutral tasting oil. Heat over medium high heat until skillet is hot, being careful not to let it smoke. Using a 1/4 cup measure (I like to use an ice cream scoop). Drop batter onto hot pan and spread slightly using a circular motion to maintain the round shape. Cook on first side until batter starts to bubble and cakes are nicely browned. Top with a pat of Earth Balance and maple syrup. Serve immediately.

These actually freeze well. You can reheat them in the oven for 5-7 minutes at 350.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Colonel Mustard in the Kitchen with a Giant Portobello

I have to admit, my time in the kitchen over the last year has been pretty minimal. My body and my wallet can attest to the fact that eating out has been the norm. Today I vowed to myself that I would work very hard to cook and eat at home far more often. It really doesn't take that much more time than going out if you make simple stuff, it sure costs less and I like having control over what goes in my belly. Ah kitchen of loveliness, how I have missed you so.

Fred has been a mustard fiend the past several months. He craves it and can't get enough. I thought it would be nice to make something I knew would help him get his mustard on while using up some leftover quinoa I had in the fridge. 

I don't know why, but while I was shopping yesterday, for no reason in particular, I picked up a package of Tofurkey Kielbasa. Food in the shape of links and mustard go together like peanut butter and jelly. Oh and let us not forget the perfect accompianament of caramelized onions. 

Normally I would fire up the grill and pop all of it on a bun. However, I'm trying to cut back on the bread intake, so instead of doing the bun thing, I decided to get a little more creative and use portobellos for the vessel of my creation. It took less than 30 minutes from start to finish, so this would be a great weeknight dinner. The tang and spice of the mustard is a tasty compliment to the meaty kielbasa and portobello. The caramelized onions lend a welcome hint of sweetness. 

Try this one out on your hard core tailgaters and grillers. It is a fun departure from the typical grilled sausages. I'm betting this will be a hit during football season!

Kielbasa and Quinoa Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms with Mustard Sauce

Makes 4 Mushrooms

4 large portobello mushrooms, fins and stems removed (dice stems and set aside)
2 teaspoons tamari
2 teaspoons olive oil
pinch of salt and pepper

2 vegan Kielasa, sliced in 1/4 inch half moons
1 tablespoon olive oil divided
1/2 cup yellow onions, medium dice
1 large clove garlic minced
1/4 teaspoon rubbed sage
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 vegetable stock
2 tablespoons yellow mustard*
1/4 cup tightly packed fresh parsley, roughly chopped
1 cup cooked quinoa.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Spray a  9 x 13 baking dish lightly with olive oil. In a small bowl, combine tamari and olive oil. Brush thin coating of mixture on mushrooms. Place mushrooms in baking dish with a small amount of water. Cover with foil and bake for 12 minutes. Remove mushrooms from oven. Let cool enough to handle. Pour out extra liquid. 

While the mushrooms are baking, to a 10 inch non-stick or iron skillet over medium hight heat, add 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and kielbasa. Sauté until nicely browned, turning over one or twice to prevent burning. Set aside on a small plate. 

In the same pan over medium low heat add 1/2 tablespoon oil . Add diced mushrooms and onions and sauté until onions start to caramelize/brown slightly. Add garlic, sage, black pepper and salt. Sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. whisk in vegetable stock and mustard until mustard is dissolved. Add parsley and sauté for about 30 more seconds. Stir in browned kielbasa and quinoa and cook until heated through. 

Gently spoon 1/4 of the mixture into each warm portobello cap. Serve immediately or if you like a slight crunch on top, return to the oven uncovered for 5-7 minutes. Garnish with parsley leaf if desired.

It is important to note that the filling is more like a pilaf than a stuffing. 

*The quinoa filling is delicious on its own. If you decide to forgo the mushrooms, reduce the mustard to 1 tablespoon. Feel free to use spicy mustard if you are a spicy food fan. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Schnepf Farms Peaches - Peach Walnut Crisp

It seems that most years I somehow miss out on a tradition in our part of the world…the Schnepf Farm Peach Festival. It looks like I may miss out on the actual event again this year because I keep over-booking myself, but I am not missing out on some of the best peaches on the planet. This week I was given a gift of some of these luscious, succulent, sweet beauties.

I am usually kind of on the fence about peaches, but I think I have realized that this is only because I wasn't getting them fresh off of the farm. I bit into one and was amazed at how juicy and flavorful it was. It was hard for me to cook them, because they were so good in their natural nekid form. But cook them and I did. I want to share my creation with you. It's a little twist on tradition with the walnuts, but I think you will agree that this was a delicious call.

I am not always up for making things super labor intensive. Most of the recipes I found for peach cobbler required peeling the peaches. I wanted to skip the peeling for two reasons, I wanted to get this in the oven faster and I just feel the skin has to offer additional fiber and nutritional benefits. While this recipe still has plenty of sugar, I tried not to go crazy on the amount so the peaches natural sweetness would come through. The rolled oats add a nice texture as well. I hope you enjoy this wonderful peach season and give this a try!

Peach Walnut Crisp

6 servings


5 large peaches, sliced
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons arrowroot starch
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
pinch salt


1/2 cup rolled oats (not quick cooking)
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch salt
5 tablespoons cold Earth Balance vegan margarine (non-hydrogenated), cut into very small cubes

1/3 cup chopped toasted walnuts

Preheat oven to 425 F

Toss the sliced peaches and sugar together in a medium sized bowl. Place peaches in a strainer and let sit for half hour. This will help draw some of the liquid out of the peaches so the crumble isn't goopy. Set the bowl aside.

In a clean medium sized bowl, combine rolled oats, flour, 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. When they are well combined. Add cubed margarine and cut in with your fingers until the mixture until it is evenly mixed and crumbly.

Grab your peach mixing bowl and add peaches and remaining filling ingredients. Gently toss until it is evenly mixed. Spread the peach mixture evenly in the bottom of a 8" X 8" glass baking dish. Top evenly with crumble mixture. Then sprinkle evenly with walnut. Press walnuts into crumble.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until top is golden brown. Let sit for at least 30 minutes before serving.

We ate this plain, but it would be wonderful with some vanilla or cinnamon ice cream.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

How Did I Celebrate Pi Day? "Grand" Strawberry Pie

I kept hearing all the scuttle butt about Pi Day. I am not usually a big pie maker or baker, but I love when I have time to participate in any kind of food themed day. I figured I better get turning the oven on out of my system soon too. It's going to heat up here very quickly and I will not want to go anywhere near that stove when it is above 100 degrees. So Pi day was a tasty excuse to fire it up.

A Four Leaf Clover for St. Patty's Day

I was going to make one of Julie Hasson's no bake pies originally as I had a organic pre-made pie crust in the freezer. Then I found huge containers of fresh organic strawberries at Costco and the stage was set. I am kind of embarrassed to admit, but I have never made a strawberry pie. I decided I wanted to make a double crust baked version, but kept finding recipes for single crust non-baked version. So I kind of mixed ideas to come up with this lovely creation.

The "Grand" comes from the fact that I used fresh orange juice and orange zest from our tree for subtle flavoring. Years ago, I fell in love with the strawberry Grand Marnier flavor combination and thought it would be delicious in pie. Oh yeah, I was right. I brought the pie to a friend's house for dinner and it was demolished. Not a scrap left. I think this pie would be lovely with a nice Prosecco or sparkling water with a squeeze of lemon if you are not a drinker.

"Grand" Strawberry Pie

Make One 9-inch pie

2 pounds fresh strawberries, quartered if large, halved if small (about 6 cups)
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons arrowroot starch
1 teaspoon orange zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

2 raw pie crust rounds (your favorite recipe, my favorite to use is the Basic Pastry Crust from Veganomicon).

Spray coconut oil (or any other neutrally flavored oil)
Sugar for sprinkling on the top crust

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly spray 9 inch pie pan with oil.

Place 5 cups fresh strawberries in a large bowl, reserving 1 cup.

In a blender, combine 1 cup strawberries, orange juice, sugar, arrowroot, zest and vanilla until smooth. Place in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Simmer until thickened, stirring constantly, about 3 minutes. Pour thickened mixture over fresh strawberries and stir until they are evenly coated.

Roll out one pie crust (don't forget to use flour and parchment paper to make rolling a breeze) to about 1 inch larger than the pie pan. Gently press to the bottom of pie pan. Fold edges under and pinch gently to shape edges. Spoon in Strawberry mixture. Roll out second pie crust. Using cookie cutter of your choice, cut out fun shapes and place evenly over the top of the pie. You want to cover at least 2/3 of the pie surface. As an alternative, you can make lattice. I am too impatient for that, so I cheat. Spray top pie dough with a light coating of oil. Sprinkle with a touch of additional sugar. Place in the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes until the crust is slightly browned.

Remove from oven. Let cool slightly, then refrigerate for at least three hours until completely cool before serving.

Watch it disappear!