Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Phat Freddy Day

Every so often I feel like Fred doesn't get enough of the blogging love. He is an incredible man, friend, partner, and kitchen bitch. Kitchen bitch is a term of endearment I think it is cute, but sometimes Fred thinks it takes away from his studliness. Pishaw! That said Fred still gets to keep his man card, because he refuses to wear a frilly apron and nothing else. He doesn't usually read the blog, so hopefully I am safe. Otherwise I may get some serious payback when I least expect it. Honey if you're reading...I will be sleeping with one eye open.

This week Fred has been working feverishly in the garden to clear the crazy burmuda grass that seems to take over everywhere else but where it is supposed to grow. The roots are like a giant octopus trying to sqeeze the life out of our veggies. It's in the triple digits here, so the poor plants need all the help they can get. Even though we planted a little late, we are starting to get a few goodies. We've gotten a couple of stripped zuchs, a few jalepenos, cherry tomatoes, and a lone cucumber. But for me the most exciting take was the first gorgeous large tomato! Now, I wouldn't wish this on anyone, but Fred was really sick with a nasty cold this week. He had no appetite and that lone tomato was just sitting there getting more ripe. Yes, selfishly I scarfed that bad boy right down. It was so incredible. There is nothing like eating the fruits (or in this case the vegetables) of your labor (or in this case Fred's labor). It was so juicy and flavorful; it almost tasted like a midwestern tomato. I sure hope we get more before the AZ sun boils them on the vine.

On top of being the master gardener, Fred occasionally takes his kitchen bitch role seriously. After he started feeling better this week, he mustered up the energy to cook for me. A couple of Christmases ago my mom got Fred Robin Robertson's Vegan Fire and Spice. He made a few recipes out of it when he first got it and then like so many of our cook books it ended up back on the shelf collecting dust while recipe testing commenced. I'm very happy we've rediscovered it. With his cold, I thought he needed lots of ginger and garlic to boost his immune system. I suggested he make her Garlic Soup recipe. It is chock full of garlicky goodness. As a bonus it is a recipe that hails from Spain...a country that has a special place in my heart. The soup is a lucious indulgence in garlicky stinky pleasure. Do not eat this before a date, unless your date is also having some. The broth is rich and flavorful. The garlic takes on a very savory and deep flavor. Fred used a whole grain baquette. The bread soaks up the broth and mellow the garlic just a bit. It is a wonderful combination.

I've been very pleased with the recipes from Vegan Fire and Spice. This week I also made her Red-Hot White Bean Chili. It calls for 3 tablespoons of chili powder. Amazingly there was only 1 tablespoon left in the container! This never usually happens as we have an arsenal of spices. Luckily there was some chipotle and ancho powder in the spice cabinet. I used one tablespoon of each along with the chili powder. Some kitchen mishaps turn out to be the best. I will make it this way from here on out. It added such a great smoky depth to the hearty beans. NOM!

I'm going to not so subliminally keep laying out recipes and cook books in the hopes that my studly kitchen bitch may suddenly have the urge to whip me up some tasty treats!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Food Network Friday - Guy Fieri's Spicy Cherry Ribs

I don't know why, but I really love to watch Guy Fieri's shows. Especially Diners, Drive In's, and Dives. He makes me want to take road trips to little divey gems all over the country. This weeks FNF challenge was to veganize his Spicy Cherry Ribs recipe. I had a lot of fun with this challenge. I decided to go way outside of the box and do an Asian/Southwestern infusion plate. I strayed a bit from Guy's original recipe by replacing Sriracha hot sauce with chipotles in adobo to give it a Southwestern flair. After all we do live in the heart of the Southwest.

I figured my cohorts and I would probably do similar sauces, so I wanted to attempt to make this remake shine with some interesting accompanying components. There are a lot of different components and flavors going on in this dinner. I started off with the Chipotle-Cherry Glazed Smoked Tofu and Tempeh. Then things really got interesting.

To run with my Asian/Southwestern vision I decided to try a really cool variation of tamales. First I wanted to make a tamale type filling without spending a load of time or adding all the shortening and fat to the filling. I made an interesting polenta filling complete with shiitake mushrooms and hatch green chilis. The polenta can be enjoyed on its own, but man is it good as eggroll filling! To round out the flavor and heat profile, it seemed a good idea to do a creamy sauce for the eggrolls to tame the chipotles down a bit.

Now we can't have dinner without some veggies. I'm totally in love with baby bok choy (Asian) these days. Today at the farmers market there was some kick booty sweet corn (Southwestern). I made a simple glaze by using an all natural jarred hoisin sauce. I used 1/2 cup of the hoisin, 1/2 cup veggie broth, 1 teaspoon tamari, and about 1/2 teaspoon Sriricha. The corn was sliced into 1/2 inch wheels and par boiled. Then both the corn and the bok choy were grilled and brushed heavily with the hoisin mixture just long enough to get the bok choy to el dente stage. Make sure not to over cook. It should still have a bit of crunch.

Chipotle-Cherry Glazed Smoked Tofu and Tempeh

8 servings

1 - 12 oz. package tofu
1 - 8 oz package tempeh

2 teaspoons yellow mustard

dry rub:
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 recipe Cherry Chipotle Glaze (recipe below)
Chopped scallions for garnish
Sesame seeds for garnish

Slice tofu into equal rectangles. Cut tempeh block in half. Take each half and slice it down the middle to make thin rectangles. Cut each rectangle on a diagonal to make 8 total triangles. Steam tempeh for 10 minutes. Let cool enough to handle. Place tofu and tempeh in smoker with pecan chips. Follow smoker directions. It should take around 15 minutes to smoke. You can buy pre-smoked if you'd like.

Make rub by mixing all dry spices. Reserve 1 teaspoon rub for East Meets Southwest Tamale Eggrolls (recipe below).

Once tofu and tempeh are cooled, brush both sides with mustard. Coat each side of tofu and tempeh with dry rub. Place on a deep rimmed baking sheet. Let sit out at room temperature for 1-2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350.

Brush each side of tofu and tempeh with Cherry Chipotle Glaze. Pour remaining evenly over tofu and tempeh. Cover pan with aluminum foil. Bake for 25 minutes and remove foil. Bake for 10 more minutes. Remove from oven. Plate 1 piece of tofu and top with 1 piece of tempeh on each plate. Garnish with thinly sliced scallions and sesame seeds. Serve with East Meets Southwest Tamale Eggrolls (recipe below)

Cherry Chipotle Glaze

1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 cup diced red onion
3 tablespoons fresh minced ginger
2 cans red cherries in water, drained
1 tablespoon blue agave
8 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons tequila
2 chipotles in adobo chopped (do not remove seeds)
1 1/2 tablespoons adobo sauce (from chipotles)
1 1/2 teaspoons dry sherry
1 1/2 teaspoons brown rice vinegar
4 tablespoons low sodium tamari

In medium saute pan over medium heat saute onion ginger, cherries, agave, and garlic in sesame oil until mixture thickens. Deglaze with tequila. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 20 minutes. Put in blender or food processor until pureed. Return to pan and let cool to room temperatre. Can be stored in fridge for up to 3 days.

East Meets Southwest Tamale Eggrolls

8 eggrolls

1 cloves garlic minced
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
3/4 cup thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon low sodium tamari
2 roasted hatch chilis, seeded and chopped small
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 teaspoon reserved rub mix from recipe above
1/2 cup coarse corn meal (polenta)
8 Vegan egg roll wrappers
1 recipe Creamy Coconut Eggroll Sauce (recipe below)

In a medium saucepan heat toasted sesame oil over medium heat. Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds until it becomes fragrant. Add mushrooms and tamari. Saute until mushrooms are soft. Add hatch chilis. Saute for 2 more minutes. Pour in vegetable broth. Turn heat to high and bring mixture to a boil. Slowly pour in polenta whisking constantly. As mixture thickens switch to a wooden spoon and stir until polenta  thickens and get fairly stiff but not hard. Immediately assemble eggrolls. Using vegan eggroll wrappers, take one wrapper putting corner closest to you. (it will look like a diamond). Spread about 3 tablespoons of polenta mixture across the wrapper as pictured. Fold both sides over the end of the mixture. Take bottom of the diamond and wrap over the filling an roll egg roll style. Put in glass baking dish covered with a damp cloth. Repeat with remaining 7 egg roll wrappers. If you have never made egg rolls before, click here for a really nice pictorial on how to do it.

Heat canola oil to 350 in 10" iron skillet. Test with eggroll wrapper. It should bubble and cook very quickly. Carefully place 4 eggrolls at a time in the oil. Drain on paper bag topped with paper towel. Keep warm in warm. Fry the remaining  eggrolls. Drizzle 2-3 tablespoons sauce on plate. Cut each eggroll in half diagonally and place over sauce. Serve immediately.

***The polenta/tamale filling is also excellent on its own***
Creamy Cocunut Eggroll Sauce

Makes about 1 cup

1 cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon arrowroot
1/4 teaspoon 5 spice powder
3 tablespoons hot salsa
1 teaspoon mellow white miso

In a small saucepan over medium heat whisk together all ingredients until miso is dissolved. Heat until sauce reduces by about 1/4 and thickens a bit, whisking frequently. Turn heat off and start assembling eggrolls. Sauce is best served at a little above room temperature.

For dessert I decided on something simple and summery, but still taking on kind of an Asian theme. I made Terry's Favorite Almond Cookies from Veganomicon. They are similar to those yummy almond cookies you get in Chinese restaurants. I made them into ice cream sandwiches using Coconut Bliss Maraschino Cherry flavor. Perfect for the summer heat. 


Monday, June 14, 2010

Restaurant Review - Lon's at the Hermosa

Lon's is a beautiful well hidden gem located on property of a lovely boutique resort, The Hermosa Inn, in Paradise Valley, AZ. If you didn't know exactly where you were going, you would be likely to miss this beautiful property. Fred and I have a special place in our hearts for the Hermosa Inn and Lon's. We got engaged on their patio, spent our pseudo honeymoon there and recently spent our first anniversary celebration there. We've always loved the innovative cuisine, the wonderful wine list, and the incredible ambiance at Lon's.

Lon's offers a very unique dining experience on Tuesday nights. It is called Tuesday Trust Table. You trust the chef to create a 5 course tasting menu and trust the sommelier to handle the wine pairings. Those smart enough to take advantage of this special event get to dine in the beautiful wine cellar. This outing, Fred managed to get an opportunity to speak to executive chef Jeremy Pacheco and the lovely hostess whose name is escaping me right now (I sincerely apologize) ahead of our visit. Chef Pacheco uses local and organic ingredients whenever possible. Many of the vegetables they use are picked fresh from their own garden. He asked if the chef would be able to accommodate all vegan courses. He also explained our history with Lon's. Chef Pacheco was more than happy to create an all vegan menu for us. As a fellow foodie, you can only imagine my giddy excitement! This was the best anniversary present I could wish for!

When we were taken to the cellar, it was beautiful. There were no other reservations for the Trust Table, so Fred and I had the cellar to ourselves. Tres Romantique! It was breathtaking. There were candles placed throughout the cellar. The table had a beautiful center piece created by our lovely hostess with an anniversary card. Fantastic touches I must say.

Now that I have set the stage lets get on to the menu!

Rick our sommelier started our adventure off with a lively Paco & Lola Albarino from Spain. A great start as I am a huge Spanish wine fan. This was paired with an appetizer of lightly tempura battered okra, trumpet mushrooms, baby leeks, squash blossoms with baby squash served with a light romesco sauce. Most of the vegetables came the chefs own on site garden. The tempura was perfectly crisp and light so as not to overpower the fresh vegetables.

For our second course Rick chose a 2008 Yalumba Chardonnay from South Australia. Another perfect pairing. The second course was a Baby Root Salad with baby gem lettuce, beets from Duncan Farms in Goodyear, AZ, shaved fennel, radishes and carrots all from chef's garden. The salad was drizzled with Meyer lemon oil from Queen Creek Olive Mill and a 25 year old balsamic vinegar. The baby root vegetables were gorgeous, sweet and flavorful and allowed to be the star. 

For the third course a 2008 Terlato & Chapoutier Shiraz-Voigneir was chosen (I'm pretty sure I have the vintage correct). I was a bit concerned that it might be too big for the third course offering, but you have to trust Rick. He knows what he's doing. The third course was by far my favorite of the evening. Chef created a cucumber risotto served over what I am going to just call liquid gold in my mind. But really it was the most incredible yellow tomato gazpacho I have had the pleasure to indulge my happy taste buds in. The dish was garnished with lush red cherry tomatoes and basil both picked fresh from the garden earlier in the day. This dish is a beautiful showcase of the best of summer. It was light tasting and bursting with wonderful summery goodness.

The fourth course was paired with a 2008 Meiomi Pinot Noir from Sonoma County. It was a lovely complement to the BBQ Schnepf Farms Peaches over Quinoa Pilaf garnished with fresh fennel fronds, mint and sage. The chef made mention of the fact that he used the quinoa as a protein source, which I thought was great as many chefs are at a loss on how to get "those vegans" their protien. 

This was the only course that fell just a little flat for me. Part of the reason has nothing to do with the preparation, I'm just not a huge peach fan. That said,  I still remain objective even if there is an ingredient I'm not crazy about. The peaches themselves were actually very nice. They were cooked to perfection with just a little bit of a bite. What threw me off was a bitterness I could not define and a little bit too much salt in the pilaf. The saltiness took away from the delicate flavor of the peaches. It was still done nicely, but just a little unbalanced.

Ah dessert. The lovely sweet ending to a night we wished could have gone on forever. I was honestly starting to feel the headiness of a lovely evening and perhaps the wine a bit. This was the selection Rich chose for dessert from Spain.

This was paired with a apricot & peach cobbler. Again these are not my favorite fruits, but the desert was  perfectly executed. It was simple, fresh, warm, and wonderful. It was a wonderful complement of tart and sweet. Fred, who is a fan of these fruits, loved it.  As a special treat, our desserts were served with a candle to commemorate our anniversary.

I must mention our server Rachel. She was friendly, knowledgeable, and wonderful. I was a server for many years, so I tend to be a little particular when it comes to service. She made sure that we wanted for nothing. She was there to make sure we had all we needed, but also gave us plenty of privacy to enjoy our evening. She had the perfect balance of being personable and professional. 

I wish I could aptly put into a post the ambiance of the entire Hermosa Inn and Lon's experience, but you will have to experience it for yourself. The service and attention to detail is evident with each person you meet there. The property is well maintained, quiet, and beautiful. Lon's at the Hermosa should be on your dining "to do" list, especially if you want to be pampered and have a truly unique dining experience. 

Our Hosts for the Evening from left to right: Rick (sommelier), Rachel (server), Chef Jeremy Pacheco, me, and Fred.

A view of part of the garden on the Hermosa Inn property.

Lon's at the Hermosa
5532 N. Palo Christi Road
Paradise Valley, AZ 

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Chipotle - Sausage - Bean Breakfast Burro

I woke up really hungry today. I mean really hungry. I've been on a mission to shed the 40+ extra pounds I've gained since I met Fred. I'm not blaming him at all, but I tend to cook, eat, and drink more when I am happy. Happy is a good thing, fat is not. So, I am cutting back on the unhealthy, fried, high-fat, sugary crap and eat more nutrient dense foods. Today I wanted to splurge a little. While this is a little indulgent, it is not totally unhealthy as it packs a whopping 24.9 grams of protein per serving. It is a little high calorie at 495, but only 23% of the calories are from fat.

Why all the nutritional mumbo jumbo you might ask? I have become obsessed with the MyPlate tool on the website. I have been plugging in many of my recipes to see how well they fare on the fat/carb/calorie scale. Eventually my obsession will cause me to find another nutritional site to track vitamins and minerals too, but that will be for another day when I have more time on my hands.

Are you still with me and awake? If so, you will win the bonus prize of an awesome recipe to treat you and your family too when you are craving some good hearty breakfast burros!

Chipotle - Sausage - Bean Breakfast Burro

6 - 1/2 burrito servings
Canola spray
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 package of gimme lean sausage broken up or crumbled
1/2 cup sliced cremini mushrooms
1 cup cooked red kidney beans
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced
1 12 oz package firm tofu
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon tumeric
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup Daiya Italian Blend (or cheddar if that's the way you roll)
3 12" whole wheat tortillas (if you find low fat, you can lower the calorie content here)

Spray a bit of canola spray into a 10" iron skillet or non-stick pan. Over medium heat, saute garlic for about 30 seconds until fragrant. Add Gimme Lean and brown. Once sausage is browned, add cremini mushrooms and a touch of water if pan is getting dry. Saute until the mushrooms just start to release their juices. Add kidney beans, tofu, nutritional yeast, tumeric, and salt and mix until everything is well distributed. Turn heat to med low and cook for 15 to 20 minutes. Mixture should be moist but not wet. 

Once mixture is cooked, sprinkle 1/4 cup Daiya on one end of each tortilla. Top with tofu mixture and roll up burrito style. You can eat them at this stage, but I like to cook them a little longer. In another large skillet, spray a bit more canola oil. Place rolled burritos in pan seam side down. Cook for 3-5 minutes until just starting to brown and crisp up a bit. Flip and do the same on the other side.

Serve with your favorite salsa.

The filling can also be enjoyed as a scramble without the tortillas. That cuts 110 calories and 2 grams of fat from the recipe. Leave off the cheeze and cut out 90 more calories and 7 grams of fat. So yes, I probably could have done without the tortillas and cheese, but sometimes it is just worth it. Hey, I still have 700 or so more calories to consume today! So there!!!

Friday, June 4, 2010

FNF - Rachel Ray - Spring Chickn Towers

Spring Chickn Towers with Asparagus and Lemon Dijon Sauce

Hey gang, it's Food Network Friday again. If you're new to the blog, this is a fun challenge we try to do once a month or so. We pick a Food Network recipe and do a vegan interpretation of that recipe. Each entry is posted at Tami Noyes' sight Vegan Appetite. Check it out!

If you are a Rachel Ray fan, I have good news for you. I've been able to veganize and reduce the fat for this recipe just in time for swimsuit season. As a side note, I don't usually like to use prepared meats and such, but it seemed to work well for this recipe. It makes it fast and easy. This recipe boasts only 287 calories per serving and about 12.7g fat. It comes together fairly quickly for an easy and fancy weeknight meal.

3 Servings

12 - 16 oz extra firm tofu (1 package), pressed
3/4 cup Daiya Italian Blend Cheeze
6 Yves Deli Ham slices
1 lb fresh asparagus trimmed to 4 inch pieces
1 cup low sodium vegetable broth
1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
juice of 1 large lemon (approx 1/4 cup)
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup loosely packed flat leaf parsley, chopped
pinch white pepper

Slice tofu block into 3 equal rectangles. Take each section and slice into three equal thin rectangles. If you prefer, you can use cookie or biscuit cutters to make fancy shapes. Smoke with apple or alder wood for 15 minutes. You can use right away or refrigerate for up to 2 days. As an option, you can purchase pre-smoked tofu.

Steam or blanch asparagus until just bright green. Do not overcook. You want it a bit firm and crisp. Keep warm.

Start sauce by mixing 1 cup cold water, bullion, lemon juice, and arrowroot in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk frequently until sauce thickens. Turn off heat. Stir in dijon mustard and parsley. Keep warm.

Preheat oven to 450.

Cut small hole in middle of tofu and ham slices for asparagus spears if desired. If you prefer you can serve asparagus on the side. If your tofu has been chilled; on griddle or in iron skillet, warm apple smoked tofu and ham slices. Once warm layer in iron skillet or other oven safe dish sprayed with cooking spray to prevent sticking. Layer by first putting slice of tofu, then 1 slice ham cut or folded to the size of the tofu, then carefully layer shredded Daiya Italian blend (approx 2 tablespoons per layer), repeat and finally top with last slice of tofu. If you are putting the asparagus in the tower, put two small spears cut to approximately 3-4 inches in length in the hole.

Once the towers are layered in the pan, bake for 5-8 minutes until cheese starts to melt.

While the towers are baking, spread sauce evenly over 3 plates. Place cooked towers in the center of sauce. Garnish plate with remaining asparagus spears and quartered cherry tomatoes (optional).

Thursday, June 3, 2010

BBQ Time

Thanks to all of those who lost their lives to keep us free! Memorial Day seems to kick off summer BBQ season (at least in my head). This Memorial Day we were lucky enough to have Fred's sister visiting from Montana. The kids came by for a dip in the pool and some great summer BBQ eats.

American Vegan Kitchen provided some key recipes for our celebration. The Incrediburgers are incredible! They look eerily like the beefy version. The texture is nice an firm. They are delicious and perfect for grilling. We also made Brat Relish from AVK. Holy mama, this stuff is like a relish form of crack. It is spicy and mustardy and fantastic. You need nothing else but this relish on any brat to make it perfection.

We also indulged on a low fat number from the upcoming Appetite for Reduction, Trattoria Pasta Salad

Snacks were abounding. Fresh fruit platter, home made guac and salsa and chips. NOM.

For dessert (from Julie Hasson's upcoming Vegan Diner) Almond Cake was the star.

Fred and Barb chillin' pool side with tomatoes freshly picked from the garden.