Saturday, December 21, 2013

Recipe: Gluten-free Soy-free Vegan Meatballs

For the past three months, I've been cooking Friday night dinner for my parents once a month.  I think this qualifies as a new family tradition!  It's been a nice way to unwind after a long week and also experiment with new recipes.  The first month it was an Indian feast of Pumpkin, Spinach, and Chickpea Curry with Oven Roasted Masala Cauliflower and Gluten-free Paratha.  Last month we had Black Bean and Brown Rice Stuffed Baked Zucchini with Roasted Red Pepper Coulis and Potato Torte. This month we went with Italian.

It seemed at first like an easy fallback.  Pasta, sure, that's pretty much what I eat all the time.  But I wanted to make something special for the occasion.  I was thinking maybe spinach lasagna, which would've been perfectly awesome on a cold evening.  However, I decided to do a little twist on that, so to speak:  How about Rollatini?  And to challenge myself even further, I wanted to make it entirely gluten-free and soy-free.  This meant working with super delicate and finnicky rice noodles, and no tofu.  More on that later.

I also wanted to bulk up the meal with some meatballs, sans meat, of course.  And even though there are a gazillion vegan meatball recipes out there, most of them are made with wheat gluten, bread crumbs, and some type of crumbled soy product.  I wanted none of that!  I was determined to come up with a recipe that was not only vegan, gluten-free, AND soy-free, but that was made with no processed foods AND which held together in tomato sauce AND was quick and easy to make.

This recipe requires a food processor, and the ingredient list is somewhat extensive, but the mixture comes together in no time at all... well, maybe 10 minutes.  Then you just roll them into balls, place on an oiled and lined baking sheet, pop them in the oven, and they'll be ready to eat by the time you've assembled your rollatini!

Gluten-free Soy-Free Neatballs
1 1/2 cups walnuts, toasted
1/4 cup gluten-free panko breadcrumbs (I used Ian's Natural Foods)
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
3 Tbl fresh parsley
1/2 cup minced onion
1 Tbl coconut aminos (this takes the place of tamari or soy sauce)
1 Tbl balsamic vinegar
3 cloves garlic
8 oz. cremini mushrooms, chopped
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1-2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large skillet, toast walnuts on medium heat until fragrant.  Place walnuts in food processor and pulse until a fine crumb consistency is achieved.  Place in large bowl and combine with breadcrumbs, flour, oregano, and basil.  Place remaining ingredients in food processor and pulse together until everything is finely chopped and beginning to clump together as the mushrooms and onion release their liquid. Be careful not to over-process into a paste!  There should still be some texture to the onions and mushrooms.  Combine these ingredients with the walnut mixture and stir together until everything is blended.  If mixture is too wet, add a little more flour.

This is what it should look like after mixing.

Scoop out a heaping tablespoon of the mixture and roll into a ball.  This makes roughly 2 dozen, depending on the size.  Place meatballs on a foil lined baking sheet coated with oil.  Bake for 20-30 minutes or until browned underneath, then flip over and bake another 5-10 minutes.

When finished, these will be firm on the outside and tender on the inside.  They can be placed in a simmering pot of marinara as they hold together well in sauce.  Alternatively, meatballs can be frozen "as is" in a ziplock bag then popped into a microwave for quick heating later or dropped into tomato sauce.  Even my meat-eating dad said these were yummy!  My mom said you'd never know they were vegan.  Well... kinda.  The flavor profile is reminiscent of the original, but there's none of that greasy heaviness, just pure deliciousness.  Enjoy!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Baking Brownies on CT Style

I returned to the set of WTNH-TV's "CT Style" this week to talk about entertaining vegan style.  This is the time of year for holiday parties, and as a vegan, that can be a challenge.  Whether you've been invited to a family get together, an office holiday party, or a potluck, having at least one surefire vegan dish that everyone will love will help make any occasion a success.

My recommendation:  Brownies!  Everyone loves them, and this gluten-free vegan version of a traditional recipe is indistinguishable from the original.  In this segment I show how to dress them up for a special occasion in order to make this ordinary dessert a festive standout.

Add a drizzle of raspberry sauce to the plate and garnish with fresh raspberries and a dollop of vegan whipped creme.  Or, cut the brownies into bite-sized chunks, top with a raspberry and garnish with a little powdered sugar like a fresh coating of snow.  These are perfect for dessert party hors d'oeuvres.

Another combination I like are flavors reminiscent of candy bars.  For the Mounds combo, garnish with some toasted coconut and a drizzle of chocolate sauce.  If you like Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, try swirling some peanut butter into the top of the brownie batter before baking.  These look yummy and taste decadent.

Another way I've decorated these versatile brownies is with a spiced maple pumpkin sauce.  They look pretty on the plate and taste SOOOOO good!  Get the recipe for Gluten-free Vegan Brownies here.

If you'd like to see the demonstration of this recipe being made on CT Style, click on this link.  Be sure to leave your positive comments on their website!  

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

TV Appearance - "Healing Outside the Box"

I was recently invited to be a guest on North Haven public access TV's program, "Healing Outside the Box" hosted by Rosemary Lachance and Lisa Burton.  The show focuses on spiritual energy healing and alternative therapies, and I was happy to discuss my work as a vegan chef from an ethical perspective.

Often when I'm asked to appear on a cooking segment, the show producers gently nudge me away from the animal issues and focus instead on the health aspects of eating vegan.  This makes logical sense since I'm always focusing on the food and cooking techniques, and yet I always feel as if I'm not being entirely true to myself since animals are the main reason why I'm vegan.  Therefore, it was pleasantly refreshing and fulfilling to be able to speak from the heart during this candid one-hour interview.  Despite the daunting prospect of filling a straight hour with only talk, surprisingly the time flew by.  I suppose it's easy when discussing something I'm so passionate about!

We also talked about food substitutions for dairy and eggs, how to get protein, iron and calcium, and some tips for people transitioning to a vegan diet (hint:  make friends with other vegans!).  I also gave my recommendation for a fool-proof recipe when entertaining vegan style or when attending a get together with non-vegans:  Chocolate Chip Brownies with Maple Pumpkin Butter, Chocolate Drizzle and Toasted Coconut. The recipe also happens to be gluten-free, as well.

Be sure to check your local listings for when this program will air in the southern Connecticut region.  

This week's menu

This is actually three week's of meals that I've been cooking for clients... it's just been a hectic time, so I have't gotten around to posting photos!  Some of my favorites make an appearance on the menu, including Spinach, Pumpkin and Chickpea Curry which I probably make at least once a week for myself once the weather gets cold.

Another favorite is Baked Eggplant Stacks with Tofu Cheese, Fire-Roasted Tomato Marinara, and Sauteed Greens. Some people wonder how I'm able to get the eggplant rounds so crisp on the outside and tender on the inside without dredging them in an eggwash and flour. The trick is a mixture of cornstarch, tahini, and water.  I mix it into a thin paste, dip the eggplant slices in, then place them on an oiled baking sheet and sprinkle lightly with sea salt.  These get baked in a hot 400 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes on each side.

The result is pure creamy heaven when combined with a tofu ricotta mixture and topped with a rich and savory marinara.  Yum!  I hope you find some inspiration in these menus!

 Week 1

Kabocha Squash, Kale and Azuki Bean Sautee with Brown Rice

Shiitake, Pistachio and Snap Pea Penne Pasta with Pumpkin Cashew Creme and Fresh Basil Chiffonade

Week 2

Baked Tofu and Cabbage with Indonesian Peanut Sauce on Rice Noodles

 Dijon Agave Glazed Tempeh with Mashed Root Vegetables and Brussels Sprouts

Week 3

Baked Sesame Tofu with Mashed Root Vegetables and Kale, Pine Nut, Raisin Sautee with Balsamic Reduction

Italian "Sausage" and Portobello Sautee with Stewed Zucchini on Baked Polenta

  Pan-fried Tempeh with Cremini Mushroom Gravy, Wild Rice, Cranberry and Toasted Pecan Pilaf with Savory Vegan Bacon Brussels Sprouts

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Recipe: Gluten-free Brownies with Maple Pumpkin Butter, Chocolate Drizzle and Salted Caramel Toasted Coconut Flakes

I spent the afternoon getting ready for an appearance on southern Connecticut's public access TV program, Healing Outside the Box, by baking a batch of gluten-free chocolate brownies.  The theme for this evening will be "Entertaining Vegan Style," so I figured the best way to introduce someone to the idea is by sharing a winning dessert.

Who doesn't love a good brownie? They're moist, chocolately, and decadent, but in the vegan version, no animals had to suffer for our enjoyment!  Even better, the recipe is gluten-free, so instead of refined flour, they're made with high protein garbanzo beans!  Oh, hey now, would I steer you wrong?  Yeah, they're pretty awesome.  

You can eat them plain right out of the baking dish, of course, or you can add a little gourmet twist by garnishing with some luscious sauces and salted caramel toasted coconut flakes as I've done here.  Serve these to your guests this holiday season and they will be lining up to make a Vegan Resolution this New Year, guaranteed!

Gluten-free Chocolate Brownies (makes 16)
(adapted from Robin Robertson’s Vegan Planet recipe)

1/4 cup coconut oil
1 cup semisweet vegan chocolate chips, divided
2 Tbl ground flax seed + 6 Tbl water (egg replacer)
3/4 cup vegan sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose gluten-free flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp xantham gum
2 Tbl cocoa powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup water (approx.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly oil an 8”x8” pan. In a small sauce pot over medium heat, combine 1/4 cup oil plus 1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips, stirring until melted.  Remove from heat and set aside.  Place flaxseed mixture in a large bowl.  Add sugar and vanilla and blend well.  Str in melted chocolate mixture.  Stir in the flour, baking powder, xantham gum, salt, and cocoa powder and enough water to form a smooth batter.  Fold in remaining chocolate chips, then pour into prepared pan.  Bake approximately 20-25 minutes, or until top is firm.  Let cool before cutting into squares.  

Maple Pumpkin Butter
3 Tbl pumpkin puree
3 Tbl maple syrup
1/8 tsp sea salt
dash of cinnamon

Stir together all of the above ingredients until smooth, adding more maple syrup as necessary.  Pour into squeeze bottle and pipe onto plate for garnish.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Thanksliving Roundup

It's that time of year when we prepare to gather together with family and friends for an all-day feast to give thanks for all that we cherish.  While that tradition typically revolves around the carving of a roasted turkey as the centerpiece, for us vegans, it's a more compassionate celebration.  We choose instead to indulge in glorious dishes created from Mother Nature's harvest... sweet baked butternut squash, oven roasted Brussels sprouts, mashed sweet potatoes, piles of potatoes swimming in gravy, and crispy salad greens.  It's a time to get creative in the kitchen with recipes that elevate the ordinary into something extraordinary to suit the occasion.

This is what my Thanksgiving plate typically looks like.

There's usually some kind of faux meat/roast (in this case, Cornmeal Crusted Tofu) surrounded by piles of colorful veggies.  One year I even tried a tofu turkey that looked like a three-dimensional child's drawing of a turkey.  It's easy to go overboard with the menu because there are SO MANY delicious options this time of year.  I try my best to keep it simple.  But that certainly doesn't mean I'm at all deprived.

It's particularly tempting to overdo it on desserts.  A couple of years ago I made Gluten-free Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars with pumpkin puree swirled into the batter.  I think I may have to revisit this creation again this year.... so good!

For your culinary pleasure and to help you stay focused, I've compiled this list of links devoted to Vegan Thanksgiving Menus. Check them out for inspiration!  Drool over the photos!  These are definitely worth trying at home!

Happy holiday!

A Very Vegucated Thanksgiving - From the producers of the life-changing vegan documentary, "Vegucated," these menus feature Southern favorites as well as light and tasty treats for the holiday.

Forks Over Knives Plant-based Thanksgiving - Another life-changing documentary, the producers have shared some of their favorite holiday recipes.

Oh She Glows Vegan Thanksgiving Recipes - This blog is filled with tons of gorgeous vegan food photos, and the Thanksgiving menu delivers even more ooos and ahhhs.  I'm gonna have to try that Pumpkin Pie Brownie!

Healthy Vegan Thanksgiving - From Dreena Burton's Plant-Powered Kitchen come these fabulous Thanksgiving recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert.

The Greatest Gluten-free Vegan Thanksgiving Menu - From Manifest Vegan blogger Allyson Kramer comes this super healthy and delicious menu in VegNews.

Vegan Thanksgiving from HuffPo - The Huffington Post put together this lovely slideshow accompanied by recipes for the holiday.  Get ready to drool!

Vegetarian Thanksgiving from the NYT - Can you believe the New York Times is getting on the veg holiday bandwagon?  Yes, it's true!  Here are some pretty amazing recipe they've compiled into a searchable database.

Gourmet Vegetarian Thanksgiving - Even Gourmet magazine is on it this season!  Take a look at some of these sophisticated creations like Bruschetta with Chickpea Puree and Chopped Arugula, Baked Figs in Lemon Syrup, and Roasted Chestnuts.

Vegan Holiday Kitchen - Here are some beautiful recipes form the cookbook with the same name.  Lots of great ideas for stuffings, sides, soups and salads.

Buzzfeed's Vegan Thanksgiving - Here are 41 more from Buzzfeed!

Vegetarian Thanksgiving Menu Planner - This is a great little tool from Eating Well magazine for those planning a holiday get together.

Vegetarian Thanksgiving Meal Plan - A nice guide for the feast and leftovers from the non-profit Mercy for Animals.

ChooseVeg Thanksgiving Menu - Ideas for meal planning and creating the perfect feast.

And most important to remember is the reason behind the celebration.

"No prayer I ever said over their dismembered bodies exonerated me from the part I played.  No excuse I ever made washed the blood from my hands.  I only felt free when I stopped participating.  I felt like a weight had been lifted, and I recognized the inherent connection between animal rights and all other social justice issues." ~ Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Month of Menus

As we move into cooler weather, the seasonal menus here at Well on Wheels headquarters take on more comfort tones... creamy sauces, stews, and warming spices.  I've also been incorporating autumn produce such as butternut squash, pumpkin, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts into the menu.  One of my favorite additions is toasted pepitas which I like simply tossed with sea salt, or for a more complex layer of flavors, I add chili powder and cinnamon.  Try these garnished on luscious pumpkin risotto or simply eat them as a snack.  They're loaded with Zinc, so they help fight the dreaded Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which grips many of us New Englanders as the daylight gets shorter and nights get chillier.

Stay warm this season!

Week 1 

Baked Tofu with Harissa, Mashed Root Vegetables, and Brussels Sprouts 

Red Lentil and Coriander Millet Cakes with Coconut Curry and Green Beans 

Three Sisters Stew with Baked Polenta 

 Week 2

Baked Tofu with Braised Figs and Balsamic Reduction, Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Pumpkin Rissoto with Toasted Pepitas, Sauteed Escarole and White Beans 

Panfried Tempeh with Green Beans and Potato Au Gratin 

 Week 3

Pumpkin, Spinach and Chickpea Curry with Roasted Cauliflower and Brown Rice 

Mediterannean Pasta with Sundried Tomato Relish 

Quinoa Paella with Smoked Tofu and Asparagus 

Week 4 

Mediterannean Chickpea with Roasted Potatoes 

Baked Butternut Squash with Agave Glaze and Cranberry Compote, French Lentils and Sesame Cabbage 

Baked Tofu with Pistachio Pesto, Brown Rice and Broccoli and Red Pepper Sautee 

Week 5 

Zucchini and Fire-Roasted Tomato Stew with Baked Sweet Potato Rounds and Parsley Oil 

Baked Tofu with Dijon Agave Glaze, Quinoa, and Brussels Sprouts Amandine 

 Tempeh Stuffed Cabbage with Marinara and Sauteed Baby Spinach

Sunday, October 6, 2013

New Haven Register article on The Traveling Vegan Chef!

I was so excited to be contacted by a reporter from the New Haven Register a few months ago about doing a story on me and my vegan personal chef business.  She had contacted me as a result of seeing a comment I had made on a friend's Facebook post.  Just goes to show how social networking really does make a difference!

And what a thrill it was to finally see myself in print this morning! Sandi Sheldon did a wonderful job of portraying my journey from unhealthy junk food addict to reformed vegan chef and food blogger who now travels the highways to prepare delicious meals in people's homes, helping them make the healthy transformation as well.  I'm happy to give you a peak into that part of my life...

"If you want to eat healthful foods, but you’re cowed by kale and turned off by turnips, you just may need a little help learning how to prepare them.
Mary Lawrence of New Haven, known as the “traveling vegan chef,” is just the one to come to your aid...."
Read the full article here.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Making Three Sisters Stew on CT Style

I recently returned to the set of WTNH-TV's "CT Style" to prepare a seasonal recipe called Three Sisters Stew.  The stew gets its name for the three main ingredients - corn, beans, and squash - which grow in harmony together and are also culinary companions.  The corn grows tall while the beans climb up the stalk and around the base, squash plants crowd out the weeds and keep the roots of the plants cool and moist.  This type of companion planting was used by Native Americans who discovered that these three crops grown together minimized the need for watering, weeding, and fertilizing the soil.  It is a planting method still used in organic gardens today, and chefs like me reap the rewards!

These three veggies, along with tomatoes, proliferate farmer's markets this time of year and are at their peak of flavor, which also makes it the perfect time to create this recipe.  I've prepared this dish with fresh made polenta, and topped it with spiced pepitas, and a drizzle of parsley oil for added layers of flavor, color, and texture.

I hope you enjoy it this season!

Three Sisters Stew (serves 4)
2-3 Tbl olive oil
1 cup onion, diced
2 cups summer squash, cut into quarter moons
2 cups green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
1-2 tsp cumin
1-2 tsp dried oregano
1 lb. diced tomatoes (or 1 28 oz. can)
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 cup corn
1 15 oz. can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
½ tsp sea salt
fresh black pepper

In a large sauce pot, sautee onion in olive oil until it sweats and is starting to brown, about 5 minutes.  Add summer squash and green beans and cook until fork tender, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic, red pepper flakes, cumin and oregano and heat for about a minute until fragrant.  Stir in diced tomatoes, tomato paste, corn, and pinto beans and heat for 10-15 minutes, or until sauce thickens.  Season with salt and pepper.

Polenta (makes 4-6 servings)
6 cups water 
2 tsp sea salt 
1 3/4 cups yellow cornmeal 
3 Tbl Earth Balance margarine

Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add salt and gradually whisk in the cornmeal. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the mixture thickens and the cornmeal is tender, stirring often, for about 5-10 minutes. Turn off the heat then add the margarine, and stir until melted.  Pour into oiled pan and let cool.

Spiced Pepitas
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1 Tbl Earth Balance margarine
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp sea salt

In a sauté pan, melt Earth Balance over medium heat.  Add pumpkin seeds and sauté several minutes until they begin to get toasted.  Add spices and sea salt and sauté another minute, or until pumpkin seeds begin to pop.  Set aside in a bowl to cool.