Wednesday, March 27, 2013

This week's menu

Ahhhh... spring!  Sunshine, flowers, warm weather, and... snow??  Here we are in the first week of spring and that is precisely what is in the forecast for this evening.  Oh, well.  What can you do except accept Mother Nature's whims?  While I'm looking forward to a change of seasons so I can begin incorporating lighter veggies into the menu, for this week with winter's fierce grip on things, it will have to wait.  Instead, clients will see root vegetables, members of the cabbage family, and comforting sauces.  Asparagus does manage to make an early appearance in one of the entrees, however.  How could I resist?

baked sesame tofu with balsamic fig reduction, mashed root vegetables, and steamed asparagus

pan-fried tempeh with cauliflower au gratin and string beans

seitan piccata with red and white quinoa and brussels sprouts

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Quick & Easy Vegan Cooking on CT Style

It was great to be back on WTNH's "CT Style" show today!  I got up bright and early yesterday morning to do a little prep for the Black Bean and Quinoa Stuffed Zucchini Boats, then headed out to the studio for the taping.

This is one of my favorite recipes because it's quick to make and perfect to eat after a long day at work when there's no time or energy left to slave in the kitchen.  You can also use it to stuff peppers and tomatoes, then simply pop them into a warm oven for 10-15 minutes just before you're ready to eat.  I serve the stuffed zucchini with a luxurious Roasted Red Pepper Coulis that really kicks the flavors up that proverbial notch.  I like to make a big batch of the quinoa stuffing because it's also delicious the next day eaten as a cold salad.

Check the CT Style link to watch the full clip of me demonstrating how to assemble the recipe.

Black Bean and Quinoa Stuffing 
1/2 cup quinoa
3/4 cup of water
1/2 cup onion, diced
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp sea salt
fresh black pepper
1 15 oz. can of black beans, drained and rinsed
½ cup green onion, sliced

Place quinoa, water, and onion in a sauce pot, cover and bring to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer 15-20 minutes, or until quinoa is tender.  Fluff quinoa lightly and transfer to a large bowl. Gently combine quinoa with cumin, chili powder, black beans and green onion. Season with sea salt and black pepper.  

Baked Zucchini
2 zucchini, sliced in half length-wise
2 Tbl olive oil
sea salt
fresh black pepper

Scrape the seeds out of the zucchini with a spoon, leaving the walls of each hollowed-out half about ½-inch thick.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.  Bake at 400 degrees for about 10-15 minutes, or until fork tender.  Fill with black bean and quinoa stuffing. 

Roasted Red Pepper Coulis
12 oz. roasted red peppers
1-2 Tbl olive oil
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
1-2 Tbl water (as needed)

Puree ingredients in a food processor or blender until thick sauce forms, adding water if necessary.  

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Lunch, Learn, Live Healthier Cooking Party

This past weekend 10 of us gathered together at a private residence to enjoy a healthy cooking lesson and some delicious vegan food.  The theme was turning over a new leaf in preparation of the transition to spring and ideally, transition to a healthier lifestyle.  As such, this workshop focused on the basics of a healthy, whole-foods plant-based diet, where to get your protein, calcium, and iron, what superfoods to incorporate into your daily menu, how to stock your pantry with "go to" ingredients, and which equipment helps make this an exciting adventure.

We began with a quick smoothie pureed in the Vita-mix that I like to call an Equinox Elixer, since spring is the season this green drink celebrates.  It's a tasty mix of banana, pineapple, pear, and kale which all help boost the immune system and aid in digestion.  Unfortunately, though, we sipped these so quickly I wasn't able to get a photo!

Our refreshing drink was followed by a warm and satisfying bowl of Red Lentil and Jasmine Rice Curry Soup.  This is a twist on the traditional dal served at many Indian restaurants in that it's slightly heartier.  Fresh lemon juice added at the end not only perks up the flavor but also helps cleanse the liver of toxins.

The luncheon entree consisted of several elements.  The centerpiece was walnut "neatballs" which are high in fiber and Omega-3 oil.  These swam in a thick bechamel sauce made with pureed cashews and the sneaky ingredient, cauliflower.  Any time I can add a cruciferous vegetable to the mix, I do, because they're so high in cancer fighting properties. A white sauce was the perfect camouflage for the cauliflower which I actually think adds a nice subtle sweetness to balance the savory.  As a contrast, I drizzled a roasted red pepper coulis around the edge.  The accompaniment to the entree was a lovely Mediterranean Qinoa Pilaf made with sauteed shallots, sundried tomatoes, kalamata olives, kale, and toasted pine nuts.  This would make a perfect meal on its own with the addition of white beans and can be enjoyed warm or cold.

The final course was a gluten-free Chocolate Pudding Cake served with a simple strawberry sauce and fresh blueberries.  I'm always amazed at how this cake goes into the oven looking like a mistake, but then comes out like a luscious chocolate boat floating on a pool of lava.

Everyone at the table agreed it would be impossible to tell that this was vegan AND gluten-free.  It was simply too decadent.  And one would never guess that it had the added benefit of protein and calcium from the all-purpose gluten-free flour made from garbanzo and fava beans.  The berries finish off with the added benefit of cancer-fighting properties.

Thank you Anne Garland of Anne Garland Enterprises for hosting this event!  Could there be anything more enjoyable than a delicious meal that's also good for you shared among a group of strangers who quickly become friends? Cheers to all of you!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Hot & Healthy Raw Food Demonstration

Raw food in the middle of winter??!!  Who would do something crazy like that??  Me, that's who!  And when it's done right, you won't miss the stove at all.  Plus, you can always cuddle up in front of a fire in the fireplace after dining on these delicious treats.

This past Friday I had the privilege of sharing some gourmet raw vegan recipes with a group of 18 gathered in the back room of Divine Treasures, a vegan chocolatier in Manchester, CT.  Owner, Diane Wagemann, generously offered to be the host for this event, and I think it was the perfect location.

We started the evening in the Mediterranean with a raw falafel done two ways:  fresh from the food processor as a pate, and dehydrated into the traditional looking yet healthier version of falafel balls.  The base of the falafel is pumpkin seeds, which are high in zinc and perfect for anyone who suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) this time of year.

Both were enjoyed, but everyone agreed that the flavors intensified and the firm, slightly crisp, yet chewy texture of the dehydrated version were an unexpected delight.  It's nice getting that same falafel satisfaction without the harmful trans fats from deep frying!

These were served with a raw hummus pureed in my Vita-Mix to smooth perfection with cashews, zucchini, tahini and various seasonings.  Although regular hummus made with chickpeas is pretty healthy, everyone agreed that the raw interpretation was silky smooth and surprisingly decadent.  Cashews will do that!

Next we journeyed to Mexico for Raw Tacos with Walnut "Meat," Jicama "Rice," and Chipotle Cashew Aioli.  All of the nuts and seeds had been soaking the night before, so everything was drained and rinsed for the presentation.

I began with the walnut meat filling which is pulsed together in the food processor with sun-dried tomatoes, onion, jalapeno, and seasonings.  You'd never imagine this much flavor can be contained in raw ingredients, but it's worth experimenting.

Next we moved on to the Jicama Rice, which is made by pulsing together chopped jicama and pine nuts in the food processor until it's the consistency of grains of rice.  Jicama is a root vegetable native to Mexico.  It's slightly sweet and not too starchy with the texture of a water chestnut.  The brownish skin is very fibrous and often coated with wax to help it keep longer.

The skin must be washed, peeled, and removed before eating.  Once it is cut away, the jicama can be diced into chunks, then put into the food processor where it is pulsed together with the soaked pine nuts.

After it is pulsed for a few seconds, this mixture needs to be placed in a nut bag so that the extra liquid can drain out.  I did a little squeezing to hurry the process along and what I was left with was a big bowl of whitish water that reminded me of rice milk.  Out of curiosity, I decided to taste it.  And I made a surprising discovery: WOW!  Jicama water is the sweetest, most refreshing drink EVER!!  Or, at least, after doing a 2-hour demo it was the perfect elixer.  I'm definitely going to experiment with this more often. Somebody should look into bottling it. :-)

We finished the demo with the Chipotle Aioli made with soaked cashews, dried chipotle, lemon, garlic powder, apple cider vinegar, and sea salt.  I topped it all off with a garnish of fresh red pepper diced finely for a little pop of color.  Beautiful and delicious!