Wednesday, April 27, 2011

This week's menu

This week's menu was inspired by the stacks of bright green asparagus gracing the refrigerated produce shelves at my local independent grocer.  How could I not make something with it?

Meal #1 was the lemon-infused Tofu Piccata with Quinoa and Fresh Asparagus.  The piccata sauce is made with rice milk or soy milk, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, nutritional yeast, and capers.  It's that little bit of salty brine from the capers and tang from the lemon juice that bring it all together.  Plus, I love the way the colors and textures complement each other as well.

Meal #2 was a Sweet and Sour Tempeh with Broccoli and Pineapple on Quinoa.  Again, there was a pleasant contrast of flavors that made this dish one you want to dig into, and the contrasting colors are pretty eye-appealing as well.

The final dish doesn't look like much on screen, but believe me, it's purely decadent comfort food.  The Seitan Stew with Root Vegetables is made with a thick, rich gravy that gets its flavor from tamari and tahini.  Sautee a bunch of crimini mushrooms and shallots together in a pot, deglaze with cornstarch and water, season with tamari, then thicken with tahini.  Add the cubed seitan, roasted sweet potato, parsnip and carrot, and you'd never know this was vegan.

Vegan Easter

The tradition at my parents' house is lasagna for Easter, and while that was tough to give up when I went vegan 14 years ago, my mom has started a new tradition of two lasagnas:  one oozing with ricotta and mozzarella, and one loaded with spinach and tofu.  And though I must confess there's a part of me that misses all that cheese, the vegan version is still pretty yummy.

We started the afternoon eating fest with a luscious parfait of fresh fruit.  Not only were the complementary colors of blue, green and yellow a pleasure to look at, but the sweet and juicy flavors of kiwi, blueberries, pineapple and orange were perfectly refreshing on an unusually humid April day.

The main course was, of course, lasagna.  On the side were broccoli and cauliflower drizzled with the same tahini lemon dressing I made for the salad.  Yum.  Last night I augmented the leftovers with melty Daiya cheese and fresh parsley and chives from my garden.

And for dessert, nothing beats chocolate.  My mom made a decadent gluten-free chocolate cake layered with fudgey chocolate icing and strawberry preserves.  I'm liking this new tradition more and more every year.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

This Week's Menu

Whole Foods recently posted an article about the health benefits of black beans and some creative ways to add more of this mighty legume into your diet... even in brownies.  I decided to go the more traditional route this week by making a black bean chili for my clients.

The chili is simple, warm and comforting, with lots of diced tomatoes, green peppers, mushrooms and corn.  I spice it up with a bit of cumin, chili powder and cayenne pepper.  It's always a favorite on a cold, rainy day.

A couple of clients have been asking for tempeh, so for another meal this week I made Tempeh Crabcakes.  These tender little patties get their seafood flavor from dulse flakes, and even omnivores comment that they taste pretty close to the real thing.  I think it's the squeeze of lemon that does the trick.

For the third meal, I made a spicy tofu stir-fry with broccoli, carrot, and snow peas.  The sauce gets its flavor from hoisin, a Japanese barbecue sauce, mixed with tamari, mirin, and agave syrup.  Chopped peanuts, ginger and fresh basil add some crunch and zip.  It's a perfect balance.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Gluten-free Shell Pasta with Spinach, Mushroom and Tomato Cream Sauce

This was another quick, toss-together dinner featuring a comforting, thick and rich sauce perfect for a rainy evening.  I started by sauteing a bunch of  sliced cremini mushrooms and chopped garlic in olive oil until soft, then stirred in some baby spinach.  Once that was wilted, I added some crushed tomatoes, fresh basil, salt and pepper.  For the creamy part, I stirred in about 2 tablespoons of Tofutti cream cheese at the end.  I tossed this with my al dente pasta, then topped it all off with some homestyle chopped basil.  Done!  Delish!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

This week's dinner

People often ask me what I cook for myself for dinner, assuming it's some wild and adventurous experiment every night.  While I'd like to think I'm creative with even the humblest of meals, I tend to opt for what's quick and easy.  And in the case of dinner earlier this week, I went with a simple stir-fry... with a slight twist.

The base was red onion, carrot, and broccoli which I stir-fried with some peanut oil in a hot pan.  

Next, I panfried some tofu with a little tamari and toasted sesame oil.  When this was browned and lightly crisp, I transferred all the veggies back into the pan and added some chopped pistachios and wild garlic chives from my yard.  So, that was the little creative twist to this still so simple stir-fry.  And, just to get a little more cheffy, I topped it all off with a basil chiffonade.  Woo!

Planting a Chef's Garden

Last week I had the pleasure to combine two of my favorite activities, cooking and gardening, into a presentation for the Bethel Public Library called "Planting a Chef's Garden."  The planning part took place over the winter, and by the time I was ready for this presentation, pea seeds were soaking and I had already turned over my own garden to get ready for some planting.

This is the time of the season to start sowing cool weather veggies like peas, lettuce, radish, and any of the dark leafy greens like collard and kale.  I'll be trying my new favorite variety of kale this year, the Italian "Lacinato," aka Dinosaur Kale.  I love it for its mild flavor, tender leaves and vibrant green color which works perfectly chopped in salads, hidden in mashed potatoes, tossed with pasta, or even stir-fried with other veggies.  I'm really looking forward to these first little leaves popping up.

After the presentation I did a mini cooking demonstration using seasonal veggies, asparagus and snap peas.  Tossed with a Dijon Vinaigrette dressing, pistachios, and wild onion chives form my yard, this salad was a hit with everyone.

Thanks to all who attended, and to Susan at Bethel Library for coordinating this fun event!

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Sunday, April 3, 2011

This week's menu

I've been craving broccoli and greens this week, which makes sense since we're transitioning to a new season and both help with cleansing and detoxing all that winter gloom.  And so, these were the featured ingredients in this week's menu.

The first entree combined a little mashed sweet potato comfort food with an early spring veggie, asparagus.  Since it still feels like winter, I thought this pairing worked well.  And the orange and green color contrast looks pretty groovy on the plate, too.

The second entree was a simple tofu stir-fry with bok choy, broccoli and carrots.  It's seasoned with toasted sesame oil to add a little bit of richness.

The final entree was a hearty Tempeh Stroganoff with broccoli.  I used Bionaturae's curly rombi pasta because it looks like little flying carpets, and sometimes we just want to escape from the world.