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Archive for September, 2011

Butter Pecan Granola

I don’t know what is causing the buttery smell in this granola — but when it bakes, it smells like butter. It’s heavenly. I’m guessing it’s the sorghum or the coconut oil (or a combination of the them both) — and probably the pecans too!

Back in my senior year in college, I was living in a cooperatively-run house called Fletcher Collective (I’ve mentioned this experience several times before, but I’m just making sure you’re paying attention!). We bought all of our food collectively (which, as you can imagine, caused some conflicts, but suprisingly few, given there were 10+ different mouths to feed) and mostly in-bulk, saving a lot of money that way (and now I buy most of my groceries in bulk too — saving lots of $, even though it’s just me to feed).

The only downfall (or maybe this was a disguised fortune?) to the way we bought our groceries, though, is that there was rarely a quick snack you could grab and take on your way to class or work — you had to kind of work for it. There were more than enough ingredients in the house, but you’d need to put a little effort into making them into something you could eat. Hence, I did make a lot of “one-minute” trail mixes, a mixture of different nuts, seeds, and dried fruit, which kept me going until dinner but wasn’t the most satisfying lunch. To combat this issue, we had as one of our chores for each month the “guff food” person (“guff” is how we referred to food that was shared by the house — anyone could eat it, versus some items we bought personally, such as luxury items we didn’t splurge on as a house — how the people who came before me came up with that name, I have no idea). The “guff food” person would make grab-and-go snack items for the house to share once a week.

Well, my point to all of this (after rambling on for a while about something you may or may not find interesting, sorry!) is that I have that same problem of not having something I can put together and eat in 10 seconds or less, without sacrificing nutritional value, since I try to only buy food items that are in their least processed/most raw form. In order to have some easy snack items at arm’s length, I have to put some extra time into preparing them so I can have something when hunger strikes. In this case, I made this butter pecan granola, which is beyond easy to make, requires 45 minutes tops (depending on how fast you can throw all of the ingredients together in a bowl), and only 10 minutes of actual hands-on time and during the rest you can blog, have a cup of tea, or make your pup’s day and have a dog party (obviously the preferred thing to do). Then you can have a bowl of granola with your favorite nondairy milk to reward yourself for all of your hard work and store the rest in a glass jar for the next time you need an easy snack! And making homemade granola is so much cheaper than buying granola at the store, especially if you buy all of the ingredients in bulk. If everything else I’ve said about this recipe hasn’t sold you yet, I bet saving some money will!

Butter Pecan Granola

This recipe uses locally-grown pecans and sorghum! If you live in northeastern Missouri like me, you can find these products locally at Local Harvest. If not, feel free to substitute with a different liquid sweetener if you can’t find sorghum in your region (brown rice syrup would be a good one in this recipe).

  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup oat bran
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ
  • 1/2 cup sorghum (update: this amount of sorghum might be too sweet – I recommend halving this amount and seeing how you like it, but only if you’re using sorghum; other liquid sweeteners should be fine at this amount.)
  • 2 tbsp. blackstrap molasses (optional; if using sorghum, you might not need it, as sorghum has a similar taste to that of molasses)
  • 1/4 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1/4 cup hulled sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil + more to coat pan (you may substitute with olive oil, but the coconut oil is recommended in this recipe)
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • a few pinches of salt
  1. Preheat oven to 325. Grease a large casserole dish or two baking sheets.
  2. Combine all ingredients except for dried cranberries (these will be mixed in after baking) in a large bowl.
  3. Transfer to prepared casserole dish or baking sheets. Bake for 25 minutes, stirring once in between and watching in the last few minutes to make sure it does not burn.
  4. Mix in the cranberries. Store in an airtight container. Enjoy with nondairy milk or yogurt, over ice cream, or by itself as a trail mix.

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Maple Walnut Blondies

These are the perfect treat for the first week of fall! Made with Blue Heron Orchard (a local farm right here in Missouri!) certified organic(!) applesauce that I picked up last night from Apple Bites, an apple-themed event going on at Local Harvest. You can see by my over-use of exclamation points that I’m really excited about these blondies – and fall and local farms! So when I set out to make the Maple Pecan Sticky Blondies from Dreena Burton’s Eat, Drink & Be Vegan, I decided to change the recipe up a bit in order to make use of my newly-acquired applesauce, and I really liked the result! These are more cake-like than your usual blondie (maybe because of the applesauce), but I’m becoming a fan of these (after my fourth piece, I’m embarrassed to say). I prefer these the day after they were made — either cold or at room temp. (but stored in the freezer for freshness).

Tip: Dreena recommends to cool them in the refrigerator first before cutting. After cutting into squares I first let them freeze on a baking sheet , then store them in a container in the freezer, which makes it easy to just grab a piece and eat (and it also allows them to stay fresh longer).

Maple Walnut Blondies (adapted from the Maple Pecan Sticky Blondies in Eat, Drink & Be Vegan)

Blondies:

  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp. sucanat (I might leave out the extra 2 tbsp. next time and see how I like ‘em that way.)
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tbsp. arrowroot powder
  • 3 tbsp. nondairy milk (I used homemade cashew milk)
  • 1/3 cup applesauce
  • 2 tbsp. pure maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 tsp. blackstrap molasses
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 tbsp. safflower oil (or another neutral-tasting oil)
  • 1/4 cup nondairy chocolate chips

Topping:

  • 3/4 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. pure maple syrup
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. safflower oil (or another neutral-tasting oil)
  1. Preheat oven to 400. Combine ingredients for topping in a small bowl. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes. Set aside.
  2. Reduce heat to 350 and line an 8×8 baking pan with parchment paper.
  3. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. Combine 1 tbsp. of nondairy milk with the arrowroot powder in a separate bowl. Add the remaining nondairy milk and the rest of the ingredients (except for the chocolate chips) and stir until well-combined. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix until just combined.
  4. Transfer batter to parchment-lined baking pan and sprinkle with walnut mixture and chocolate chips. Lightly pat down into batter. Bake for 32 minutes. Place baking pan on a cooling rack and allow to cool before cutting into squares (or cool in the refrigerator before cutting for neater squares).

Yield: 9 squares

I recommend storing these in the freezer (pre-cut) and serving cold.

In order to balance my blood-sugar after all of these blondies, I made my version of the Good Shepherd’s Pie from Get It Ripe, and I wanted to show off how pretty the beets make the dish look!

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Kitchen Revamp!

This was my dinner last night! It was a well-rounded meal with veggies, beans, and quinoa (isn’t the red quinoa pretty?). I adapted the recipe for the stew of veggies and beans from the Sweet Curry Chickpea Casserole from Dreena Burton’s Vive le Vegan! (you can probably see that I used cannellini beans instead of chickpeas). I was in the mood to make an easy dinner but I wanted something pretty hearty – so a casserole was the perfect choice, and boy, this one is easy! Just mix all of the ingredients in a casserole dish and bake for about an hour, stirring a bit in between. For the last twenty minutes, I put the quinoa on the stove and everything was all ready to go.

But, back to the main theme of this post– kitchen revamp! I am on a mission to thoroughly reorganize my kitchen, particularly my storage of spices and dried goods. During my senior year in college, I lived in a collective house, with a shared kitchen and shared food (which we bought as a house), and, despite having a fairly messy kitchen*, everything was organized well, which made it pretty easy to decide what we needed to buy, to plan a meal, and to do the grand event — cook! Our bulk dried goods were stored on shelves below the counter in plastic storage containers with lids or glass jars. All of our spices (bought in bulk) were stored in glass mason jars or reused glass jars.

My current set-up is to keep most of my dried goods (dried beans, nuts, dried fruit) in the bags that are provided at the store for bulk items in a single cabinet, and then I have another cabinet for spices (either in the tiny jars they are sold in or in little plastic bags from the bulk spice section). This can get pretty confusing and makes it difficult for me to know what I’ve got in the house, as most things are hidden in the back of the cabinet — and I also feel bad wasting all of those tiny plastic bags.

I intend to change that! Just wanted to share — maybe writing it on here makes me feel more accountable. I’ve been requesting donations of glass jars from my friends and family. I also would love to make the kitchen more functional in regards to my cookware, to hopefully acquire more cookware, and to decorate the kitchen a bit and make it more festive and inviting (I’m picturing pumpkin-themed dishtowels and oven mitts and actually hanging my first picture in the entire house — boy, do I suck at decorating). I will post a photo of my brand spankin’ new kitchen when it’s done (hopefully soon) — this will also allow me to post more recipes, as I will probably move into my kitchen permanently after the revamp.

I’m also seeking tips from you. Do you have any tips for a more functional kitchen? Any DIY (easy, as I am no master in the craft department) projects for redecorating/restructuring my kitchen? I really want to do this one.

*Understatement!

Now that I’ve publicly committed to this project, here’s my version of the Sweet Curry Chickpea Casserole:

Sweet Curry Cannellini Bean Casserole – adapted from Vive le Vegan!

This dish tastes great leftover — I just reheat everything together (the beans, veggies and quinoa) on the stove with a tiny bit of oil for the pan. The flavors have set in a little bit more and the sweet potatoes become all creamy. Yum!

  • 3 cups cooked cannellini beans (I think adzuki beans would also work really well in this dish and add some nice color.)
  • 1 13.5 oz. can light coconut milk
  • 1 cup red onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups celery, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups apple, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. fresh ginger, minced or grated
  • 1 1/2-2 tbsp. curry paste (I used 1 tbsp. of a red curry paste, and it wasn’t spicy enough for me. Adjust to your taste preference.)
  • 2 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds (or ground cumin)
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • 3/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/8 tsp. allspice
  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a large casserole dish — stir until evenly distributed.
  3. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Stir, cover again, and bake for 30 minutes longer — stirring once in between. Serve with rice or quinoa (or your preferred cooked grain).

Yield: 4-6 servings (with the cooked grain)

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Has anyone tried the new vegan samosas at Local Harvest Cafe (in St. Louis)? They are to-die-for. Very decadent — sweet and spicy curry filling, flaky crust, baked not fried(!), with an arugula chutney on top, served over steamed greens and pickled vegetables (I assume the veggies will change with the season). I can’t get enough. They just recently added the samosas to their fall menu. I’m hoping they will get a permanent spot on the menu. Try ‘em if you haven’t already — they are $11 for two (big) samosas with a side of steamed greens and pickled veggies. I got a $6 house salad to start the meal off and ended up full and satisfied (I was initially afraid the two samosas wouldn’t be enough food, but they were!). I’ll have to get a photo of the fancy-looking meal the next time I order take-out from them. By the way, did you know South Grand Delivered (bike delivery!) is now delivering Local Harvest for lunch and dinner?

I also wanted to share a recipe for homestyle chocolate chip cookies (only slightly adapted from Dreena Burton’s famous chocolate chip cookies from Vive le Vegan!). I made these for my aunt’s 24th* birthday — and they were a hit at her birthday dinner tonight. They are the crunchy kind of cookie, which is my aunt’s favorite kind (aren’t I the best niece in the world?). Don’t let the whole wheat pastry flour and sucanat fool you — these are definitely one of those cookies you should take to gatherings to impress non-vegans!

*That’s the age she’s claiming these days. My aunt works with the criminally insane — I’m not going to argue with her.

Homestyle Chocolate Chip Cookies (adapted from Dreena Burton’s recipe in Vive le Vegan!)

  • 1 cup + 1 tbsp. whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 cup sucanat
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 tsp. blackstrap molasses
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup safflower oil (or another mild-tasting oil)
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line two baking trays with parchment paper.
  2. Combine flour, baking powder and soda, and salt in a medium-size mixing bowl. Set aside.
  3. Combine maple syrup, sucanat, molasses, vanilla, and oil in a small mixing bowl. Mix well. Add the wet ingredients to the dry along with the chocolate chips and mix until just combined.
  4. Form 8-10 spoonful-size cookies onto the baking sheets, spaced several inches apart. Bake for 11 minutes. After one minute out of the oven, transfer parchment paper to a cooling rack.

P.S. I know I just pledged my devotion to a sugar-free lifestyle in the previous post, but my favorite aunt only turns 24 once, right?

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Sugar Blues

I really wanted to post a recipe today, but I just don’t have anything! I made an apple cake yesterday, but it was a little too sweet for the new no-sugar me, so I decided to do a recipe-less post as an outlet for my musings on sugar.

I used to have the biggest sweet tooth — ice cream, candy, cookies, cakes, gum, mints (it’s pretty hard to avoid sugar in today’s world — it’s everywhere!). I’d even go so far as to eat multiple sugar packets with my best friend when we were 11 – sneaking in the restaurant bathroom with them, lining up the packets, ripping the paper off at the top, and pouring it all in our mouths. Disgusting, huh? This story goes to show, though, that sugar is a drug.

My point? Thinking back on my (short) life so far, I can think of two major health issues I’ve suffered from since I can remember — crippling headaches and fatigue.

 While doing a sugar-free cleanse led by jae steele (one of my favorite cookbook authors), I started noticing the sugar in my life, most importantly the amount of it. I also noticed the effect that sugar had on me once I started incorporating it back into my life after the cleanse — when I have a sweet dessert, the sugar rushes to my head and I feel similar to when I’m caffeinated (another stimulant my body can’t handle — a post for another day). The day after I have that chocolate mousse I couldn’t resist, a headache creeps up on me and lasts for several hours.

I’ve always avoided caffeine for this reason. It makes me loopy and the following day or so, I suffer from painful headaches and my sleep cycle becomes out of whack — I sleep through my alarm, I find I need more sleep than normal, and I have a hard time getting to bed. So why do I let sugar reak this havoc on my system while I dutifully turn my head from coffee (something I also enjoy the taste of)?

The horrors of sugar only recently became apparent to me after the sugar-free cleanse I did in the beginning of spring of this year. As someone who loves to bake, this adjustment to a (more) sugar-free lifestyle has not been easy. It’s also tricky when there’s so much conflicting information out there on the best forms of sugar alternatives. Is agave really low-glycemic? Is it really raw (when it’s labeled raw)? Would using a homemade date syrup be lower-glycemic than agave nectar and maple syrup? Is evaporated cane juice and/or sucanat really that much healthier than using sugar? And don’t get me started on flours! It’s all so confusing to me. I’ve recently put on hold at my library Breaking the Food Seduction: The Hidden Reasons Behind Food Cravings–And 7 Steps to End Them Naturally by Neal Barnard. I’m excited to read it to see what sort of answers I can find in it when it comes to sugar. I don’t like the thought of being addicted to anything — especially if that thing is causing me headaches and fatigue! On the other hand, I also feel like a dessert is a dessert — it’s supposed to be unhealthy — but maybe I feel this way because I’ve been convinced that this is true, even though that’s really not how it should be. What we put in our bodies shouldn’t cause us pain. I’ll share what I find after I start reading the book!

What do y’all think about sugar? Do you avoid it? Have a favorite alternative? Not notice sugar/its effects on you at all? I’m hyper-sensitive, especially when it comes to stimulants like caffeine and sugar, so maybe you see this post as an overreaction. I’m genuinely curious about how you feel about sugar, so please share!

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“Welcome Fall” Meal

Autumn (the fancy word my friend fall sometimes goes by) is officially here! Or maybe not officially, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s time for apple-picking, pumpkin patches, giant leaf piles, open windows, hot cinnamon-spiced cider, and, my favorite part, pumpkin and apple pie! Fall also means comfort food! What’s better than hanging out by a warm stove when it’s cold outside? So, to welcome the season, I made this recipe for “Mac-Oh, Geez!” from Dreena’s Vegan Recipes tonight for dinner along with the Molasses Baked Beans from Vive le Vegan! What screams comfort food more than mac n cheese and baked beans?

Both were absolutely delicious, which makes me even more excited for Let Them Eat Vegan!, Dreena’s long-awaited fourth cookbook, which will be out in 2012. I replaced the brazil nuts with more cashews in the “Mac-Oh, Geez!” and it turned out great, so feel free to use more cashews if you don’t have brazil nuts. I made this simple potato-beet-green bean salad to round out the meal. I love how the beets dye the potatoes pink!

Potato-Beet-Green Bean Salad

  • 1 large potato, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 5 small beets (2 medium-size beets), chopped
  • 1 cup green beans, ends removed and cut in half
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. agave nectar
  • 1/2 tsp. dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil

Directions:

  1. Place potatoes in a medium-size saucepan and cover with several inches of water. Bring to a boil and cook for 13-15 minutes, until they can be pierced with a fork (but are still holding together). Drain and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, steam the green beans for five minutes.
  3. Mix the remaining ingredients, except for the minced garlic and beets, in a medium-size bowl. Add the potatoes, green beans, garlic, and beets (yes, leave beets raw!). Toss until covered. Serve at room temperature or cold. (This would be a good recipe to make ahead of time in order to let the flavors marinate for a while before serving, but it’s also tasty eaten right away.)

Yield: 2 servings

By the way, I wanted to mention that starting on October 1, I am going to be Vegan Mofo-ing it, so expect to hear a lot more from me in the near future! I’m looking for a theme for the month, so let me know your ideas!

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Chocolate Turtles

Calling these “chocolate turtles” reminds me of this scene from The Office, so of course I wanted to call them turtles! They are over-the-top rich chocolate truffles — a dark chocolate ganache filled with a caramel-y nougat made of raw almonds, cashews, and walnuts and topped with a nut of your choosing! They are pretty easy and simple to make but with a pretty fancy-looking result. These would be great to serve at a holiday gathering or to give as a homemade gift. Feel free to experiment with the proportion of nuts — just make sure you have a total of 3/4 cup of nuts total. You’re going to want to serve these cold out of the freezer (the chocolate ganache will melt at room temperature).

*This has the potential to be raw if you use all raw ingredients. They will taste great either way.

Ingredients

Filling:

  • 1/8 cup agave nectar
  • 1/4 cup raw walnuts
  • 1/4 cup raw almonds
  • 1/4 cup raw cashews
  • pinch of salt
  • touch of vanilla extract

Process walnuts, almonds, and cashews in a food processor into a fine meal. Slowly add agave nectar while continuing to process until you have a nice smooth dough (scrap down the sides of the bowl a few times). Form into walnut-sized balls and set on a parchment paper-lined baking tray. Place in freezer while you prepare the chocolate ganache.

Chocolate Ganache (store any leftover ganache in the freezer):

  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup agave nectar
  • 1/4 cup coconut butter
  • pinch of sea salt

Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender (I used a spice/coffee bean grinder, which worked well) until smooth. Take the filling out of the freezer and roll each of them separately in the ganache until completely covered (since the ganache is sticky, I use a spoon to do this — just put each ball in the bowl of ganache, use the spoon to cover it and then use the spoon to transfer back to the parchment-lined baking tray). Place a single nut on top of each truffle. Let set in freezer for at least an hour before serving. Store in freezer until ready to serve.

Yield: 12 turtles

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The taste and look of this juice reminds me of the Hawaiian Punch which comes out of a juice box but sans the high-fructose corn syrup and avec tons of fresh fruits and veggies. I love the color of this juice — I’ve been making a big batch of this every evening and sipping on it while I read or watch TV before bed. I store it in an old jar with a lid that used to hold maple syrup, so I can shake it every once in a while, as separation may occur. This is a great late-night snack, especially if you’re craving something sweet or if you’re wanting to increase the amount of raw fruits and veggies you consume in a day.

Ingredients

  • 4 carrots
  • 2 apples
  • 1 orange
  • 1-2 beets (two small, one medium-size, 1/2 of a large beet)
  • 1 stalk of celery

Juice all ingredients. Enjoy immediately.

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Hi! It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but now that the weather’s starting to cool down, I’ve been doing a lot of cooking. This was my first time cooking with beets, believe it or not, and I was so excited to discover how easy it was. Don’t let the number of steps intimidate you — it’s really not that difficult or time-consuming. I adapted this recipe from the “Balsamic Roasted Beetnuts Salad” from Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen. Serve these beets and vinaigrette over lightly sauteed greens (I used kale fresh from my backyard garden!).

Ingredients

  • 4 medium beets, scubbed and tops + root tails trimmed
  • 1 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 cup almonds
  • 1/2 cup plus 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.
  2. Cover the beets and 1 tsp. salt with water in a medium pot over high heat. Boil uncovered for 20-30 minutes, until the beets are easily pierced with a fork. Drain. Peel the beets with your hands while running under cold water (you can also use a vegetable peeler if you are having trouble).
  3. Meanwhile, toast the almonds on a baking sheet for five minutes.
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the almonds and maple syrup and cook for five minutes, stirring constantly.
  5. Transfer the nuts to a cutting board and allow to cool, then chop coarsely.
  6. Increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees.
  7. Cut the beets into quarters and toss with four teaspoons of the olive oil in a medium bowl. Roast for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, return to bowl, and toss with 2 tablespoons of the balsamic vinegar. Return to baking sheet and cook for an additional five minutes. Set aside to cool.
  8. Combine the remaining two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, mustard, 1/2 tsp. salt, and black pepper in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the remaining seven tablespoons of olive oil.
  9. Serve roasted beets over greens and toss with balsamic vinaigrette. Enjoy warm or cold.

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