Category: Food & Recipes, Human

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

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As we’ve already established, I love roasted red peppers, and adore soup; put them together, and I damn near have an excitement aneurism. So this soup and me? Well, we were made to be. Almost. But we’ll get to that.

With three red peppers, three yellow peppers (which I had to swap out for more red peppers, due to lack of availability), eight tomatoes, and an onion, this bad girl is bursting with roasted veggies. So much so that I almost couldn’t fit them all in a pan for roasting, even after eliminating the chiles (I’m a baby, you knew this already) and subbing in canned Roma tomatoes (the fresh ones? currently out of season and flavorless). To wit:

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You only roast the veggies for twenty minutes, which is 1/2 to 1/3 of the total amount of time I usually take to bake roasted peppers. After just twenty minutes, the skins aren’t yet ready to peel away – and they don’t need to, since this recipe doesn’t require you to skin the peppers.

You guys, I was skeptical.

I really, really hate loose pepper skins, even more than I hate hand-skinning roasted peppers. But I wanted to follow the recipe as closely as possible, so I swallowed my doubt and DID NOT SKIN THE PEPPERS. Also, I can’t lie, it was hot and I was feeling lazy. Since you blend the whole shebang anyway, I was hoping/praying that the skins would mostly be pulverized into unassuming bits.

And they were, mostly. The operative word being “mostly.” There’s no doubt in my mind that the finished soup would’ve been much creamier had I roasted the peppers separately and then skinned them afterwards. That said, for the most part the skins weren’t terribly noticeable. A few times I had to stop and spit out an especially sizable piece (impeccable manners over here), but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d feared.

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But. When I mixed some corn and gnocchi into the leftovers for a heartier meal, the pepper skins became much less noticeable. So there’s that. Only skin the peppers if you’ve got your heart set on a creamy, smooth-as-silk soup, I guess.

Otherwise this soup was to die for. Or not, you know what I mean. Very similar to Candle Cafe’s Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Tofu Dumplings, just minus the dumplings and with double the peppers. Actually, in my write-up of that recipe, I raved that the soup was similar to their roasted red pepper pasta sauce, “but drinkable!” Since Dankin’s version also has tomatoes, I imagine this one’s even more on point.

All the stars.

Book Review: Vegan’s Daily Companion, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau (2011)

Friday, May 8th, 2015

“…vegan is what I was meant to be.”

four out of five stars

My hope is that we can navigate through this world and our lives with the grace and integrity of those who need our protection. May we have the sense of humor and liveliness of the goats; may we have the maternal instincts and protective nature of the hens and the sassiness of the roosters. May we have the gentleness and strength of the cattle, and the wisdom, humility, and serenity of the donkeys. May we appreciate the need for community as do the sheep and choose our companions as carefully as do the rabbits. May we have the faithfulness and commitment to family as the geese, and adaptability and affability of the ducks. May we have the intelligence, loyalty, and affection of the pigs and the inquisitiveness, sensitivity, and playfulness of the turkeys.

My hope is that we learn from the animals what it is we need to become better people.

With no fewer than four cookbooks under her belt – The 30-Day Vegan Challenge, The Vegan Table, Color Me Vegan, and The Joy of Vegan Baking, which is destined to become a classic – many of you may know Colleen Patrick-Goudreau as an accomplished vegan chef. But she’s also got a master’s degree in English Literature, which she puts to use as a writer and public speaker, educating the public about compassionate living and animal rights. Her exploration of the intersections between human and animal exploitation, both on the Food for Thought podcast and various short videos released on YouTube, are among my favorites.

In Vegan’s Daily Companion, the self-described Joyful Vegan brings all her talents and avenues of interest together to create a book as unique as it is informative. Part cookbook, part self-help book, part pop culture guide, Vegan’s Daily Companion offers 365 days of inspiration, knowledge, and celebration to vegans, both new and experienced. From Monday through Sunday (with the weekends sharing a recipe), each day you’ll find a short discussion or series of tips, each tailored to a specific theme:

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Cookin’ Up a Storm with Laura Dakin – and Red Lentil, Lemon, and Rosemary Soup!

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

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I don’t think it arrived in time to make it into my last Stacking the Shelves post, but I recently received a copy of Laura Dakin’s Cookin’ Up a Storm: Sea Stories and Vegan Recipes from Sea Shepherd’s Anti-Whaling Campaigns for review. (Thank you, Goodreads & Book Publishing Company!)

Initial thoughts: If you’re saying to yourself that I own more than enough cookbooks by now, you’re probably right. Totally right actually. But I just can’t help myself! Also, Cookin’ Up a Storm is unlike any other vegan cookbook I’ve seen, in that it’s as much a chronicle of Sea Shepherd’s anti-whaling campaigns as it is a cookbook. There are tons of photos of marine life; interviews with the crew; sailing terminology; and a glimpse of everyday life on board the Steve Irwin.

These recipes are eighty of Dakin’s favorites, which she regularly dishes up for a crew of fifty, using items that can easily be stored in the ship’s pantry. This makes for some interesting sea-faring substitutions; for example, the obligatory tofu scramble swaps out refrigerated tofu for shelf-stable silken tofu. Given that excess moisture can put a damper on scrambles, I’m really curious to see how this one turns out.

Also on my radar: the Vegetable Crumble (I’ve tried a million fruit crumbles, but not a single veggie-based one!); Sailor’s Delight Sausages (that’ll be Shane’s job, he’s the seitan man in our house); Rockin’ the Boat Risotto; Lemon-Garlic Green Beans; Boatload of Butternut Caponata; Big Boat Banana Bread; and the Apple and Potato Oven Fries. Oh, and all the breakfast foods, of course.

In case you hadn’t caught on, many of the recipes have nautical and/or activist-inspired names, which is kind of fun and furthers the “eating at sea” theme.

The cookbook isn’t terribly thick, but it is gorgeous and a bit different from the usual. And given the difficulties of cooking at sea, the recipes are well-suited for beginning cooks; you won’t find any complicated, multi-step recipes or uncommon ingredients here. Give it to a non-vegan fan of Whale Wars for some guerrilla activism. (As Dakin notes, while Sea Shepherd isn’t an animal rights organization, it is one of the few environmental groups that recognizes the importance of a vegan diet in combating a whole host of environmental issues.)

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So. The first recipe on deck: Red Lentil, Lemon, and Rosemary Soup. Mostly because it’s super-easy to make and I already had all the ingredients on hand. Also, I love soup.

And I loved this soup! It’s hearty, comes together in a snap, doesn’t require very many ingredients (and nothing that demands much prep), and the pairing of lemon and rosemary is THE BEST. I’ll definitely be making this one again.

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Making Not-tella with Hazelnut Flour and a Recipe for Vegan Nutella Swirl Ice Cream!

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

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Behold: Hazelnut flour!
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Along with a giant honking bag of red quinoa, the nice people at IFS Bulk also gave me 48 ounces of hazelnut flour to play around with! Prior to this, it didn’t even cross my mind that hazelnuts might come pre-ground, flour style, similar to almonds, cashews, and the like. But they do! And of course I used the flour to make my absolute favorite: vegan nutella!

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My precious!
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So far the only recipe that’s worked for me is the Not-tella from Veganomicon – which, you might recall, I rocked to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs a few VeganMoFos back. Anyhow, it’s the only version I’ve tried that actually results in a readily spreadable, creamy nut butter. And while it can be a little tough on ye ole food processor, it’s 1000% worth it.

Still, I wondered if maybe swapping out the whole hazelnuts for hazelnut flour might make the process a wee bit easier? After all, it’s the whole filberts that really make my food process jump and dance and just generally send me into a panicky tailspin. Once they’re processed, things go much more smoothly from there.

And you know what? Hazelnut flour FTW!

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Ooey, gooey, and spreadable at room temp.
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I made a couple of batches of Not-tella – one for ice cream, one for licking from the spoon – and each time the process was pain-free. I didn’t even have to take a break to let the motor rest. From now on it’s nutella with hazelnut flour for this girl.

(More below the fold…)

Buying in Bulk, White vs. Red vs. Black Quinoa, and a Recipe for Savory Red Lentil and Quinoa Bolognese

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015

Red and Yellow Quinoa, Lago Titicaca

Red and Yellow Quinoa, Lago Titicaca; CC image via twiga_269 on Flickr.
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You guys know how much I love ye ole bulk food stores, right? Back when I started that “frugal vegans” series a few VeganMoFos ago (which sadly turned out to be fairly short-lived, since I exhausted all my ideas in under a month), buying in bulk was one of my top/most popular tips.

Whether you’re prepping for the apocalypse or just trying to save some money, buying in bulk can be a great option. Don’t have an underground bunker in which to store all those tubs of extra goodies? Pair up with a friend or two and split your haul!

So when Alexa from IFS Bulk got in touch, I jumped at the chance to try out some of their products and create a few original recipes.* With everything from black chia seeds to dried currants and mammoth pecan halves (my favorite!) to choose from, it was hard to whittle it down. In the end, I went with red quinoa and hazelnut flour. We’ll discuss the hazelnut flour another day (spoiler alert: there will be vegan Nutella!); today it’s all about the quinoa.

Prior to this, I wasn’t even aware that quinoa came in different colors – red and black in addition to the more popular white. What’s the difference?, you might be asking. Good question! I wanted to know too, so I did a little research, and here’s what I found.

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Chocolate Banana (Paleo) Bread

Monday, April 6th, 2015

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After our rather underwhelming experience with the Blueberry Pancakes from The Paleo Bread Bible, I was a little scared to try again. I mean, I hate wasting monies, and once I fall into a baking rut, it can sometimes prove difficult to pull myself out. But I didn’t want to write the cookbook off entirely based on just one recipe, so. Banana Bread it was. Chocolate Banana Bread, to be exact.

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And you know what? It wasn’t that bad! The batter’s super-easy to pull together, and the bread smells heavenly while it’s baking. It’s got almond flour, coconut flour, cacao nibs, and walnuts (which, strangely, are mentioned in the instructions but not the ingredients list. Yeah.) This time I used flax eggs (3 TBS hot water + 1 TBS ground flax seeds; whisk and let sit for ten minutes) instead of Ener-G, and it seemed to get the job done.

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Cream of Mushroom Soup

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

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This is another recipe from Vegan’s Daily Companion, by way of Compassionate Cooks member Melissa Phillips. Considering how much a loved the Creamy Mushroom Pasta from Simple Recipes for Joy, I totally expected to fall head over heels for this dish, too. I wasn’t as crazy about mushrooms in drinkable soup form though. It’s not a bad recipe, just not one of my favorites. On the other hand, Shane is a huge fan.

Cha-cha-cha-changes: I couldn’t find any oyster mushrooms, so I left them out. Also, the soup tasted a little on the bland side to me, so I doubled up on the thyme. I left half of it chunky, too, which was a nice variation, I think.

On another, completely unrelated note, here’s a picture of Mags waving ‘em in the air like she just don’t care. Because Mags.

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Blueberry Coconut Pancakes (And a GF pancake FAIL!)

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

I recently received a whopping five pounds of coconut flour for review, so I finally broke out that copy of The Paleo Bread Bible I scored through Goodreads. Nearly every recipe calls for coconut flour, yo! I’ve been meaning to try it for ages, but haven’t done a whole lot of baking lately.

I decided to start with something simple – you know, a real can’t-eff-this-up recipe – and, spoiler alert, it was an epic fail.

I give you: Blueberry Pancakes.

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Since he’s the designated pancake-flipper in the house, Shane was stuck making these, and I tweeted halfway through the ordeal my prediction that these GF Paleo Pancakes would have him in tears before the night was done. He didn’t cry, but it was close. There was a lot of cursing and several areas of burned skin. (Never cook while you’re angry, folks.)

The problem? The pancakes just didn’t hold together very well. Even after he added some wheat flour to the almond/coconut-flour batter, it spread out like whoah after he ladled it onto the griddle. And while they got nice and crunchy on the outside, the insides remained a gooey mess, as you can see in the bottom pic. We even tried oven-baking some of the batter into a giant pancake, like so, to no avail.

Now, all of these recipes use eggs – so it could be that the egg replacer we chose just wasn’t up to the task. It was ye trusty old Ener-G, though, so I don’t think that’s it.

I was planning on trying the banana bread, but I’m legit afraid at this point. This is why I rarely give cookbooks a negative review: I don’t feel comfortable rating a cookbook unless I’ve tried multiple recipes, but I refuse to throw good money after bad if the first two or three are a disaster. It’s a conundrum.

Anyway.

A few nights later, he tried swapping out some flour in a regular carby recipe for coconut flour, with much better results;

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you can find the recipe under the jump. He was feeling lazy, so he just went with Bisquick – but you can try this trick with your own favorite recipe, too. We also added some coconut extract for double the coconutty flavor, and it tasted amazing with blueberries.

All in all, not a total loss.

(More below the fold…)

Cookbook Review: Simple Recipes for Joy, Sharon Gannon (2014)

Friday, March 27th, 2015

Really Enjoyed the Selection of Soups & Pasta Dishes

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.)

Sharon Gannon’s Simple Recipes for Joy: More Than 200 Delicious Vegan Recipes is nothing if not quirky – and I mean that in the best way possible. The cover features a Mad Hatter-style vegan tea party, and the interior of the cookbook has a fun, funky ’70s vibe. The glossy pages include tons of mouth-watering food photos, as well as shots of the author, both at work (Garon co-founded the Jivamuktea Café in NYC) and play (her costumes will leave all the hippie chicks in awe).

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The 200 vegan recipes are divided up into fifteen sections: soups; pasta and sauces; salads; dressings; dips and spreads; grains; beans, tempeh, tofu, and seitan; vegetables; potatoes; toasts; sandwiches; quick bread and crackers; desserts; smoothies; and tea and other hot drinks. Also included are a FAQ; cooking tips; notes on a well-stocked kitchen; 30 sample menus; and 21-day cleansing diets.

Since I first got to know Simple Recipes for Joy during the cold winter months, I veered heavily towards the soups and pasta dishes. At 50 pages, the chapter on soups is easily the largest – and one of my favorites. Save for the Cream of Broccoli Soup – which was tasty enough, but made me all kinds of bloated – every recipe proved a winner.

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The Red Lentil and Tomato Soup was awesome, and helped me to polish off a whopping two pounds of my homegrown tomatoes. It’s a little on the thin side, though; for a heartier soup, I added an extra cup of red lentils toward the end of the cooking cycle. That gave them just enough time to cook, but not dissolve entirely, like the first batch.

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Lentil Bolognese

Thursday, March 26th, 2015

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This little gem of a recipe is from Vegan’s Daily Companion by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. While not a cookbook proper – it features 365 days of vegan inspiration, including but not limited to cooking tips and recipes – each weekend is all about recipes, so. Many of them are reprints from the author’s previous cookbooks, but this one’s an original sent in by Barbara Lyons. Barb, you rock, and so does your Lentil Bolognese. Packed with veggies and a whopping cup o’ red lentils, it makes me feel a little better about eating a carb-loaded meal. I almost didn’t have to nap after polishing off a plate!

I added more spices than the recommended amount (2 teaspoons oregano as opposed to 1, and 2 tablespoons basil, vs. the suggested garnish). I also swapped out the black olives for Kalamata, because hello? There’s just no comparison.

Creamy Mushroom Pasta

Monday, March 23rd, 2015

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Okay, so I lied!

The lovely spring weather has kept me so busy that my review of Simple Recipes for Joy is slow going. In the meantime, I decided to try another pasta dish: namely, the Creamy Mushroom Pasta, which is amazaballs.

Basically you saute the mushrooms along with some garlic and spices; mix in some mushroom stock (I used veggie), soy milk, water, and gluten-free flour for thickness, and then puree the whole shebang into a creamy mushroom sauce. So good! But I like my pasta with some chunk veggies too, so I upped the ten ounces of mushrooms to an even sixteen, and then held some back prior to adding the liquids. Once the sauce was creamed and the pasta cooking, I mixed the mushrooms back in with the sauce so they’d be nice and warm. Done and done!

From the looks of things, though, I probably could have went with even more ‘shrooms. Filing that lesson away for next time.

For the GF flour, I went with coconut, which made for an interesting texture. Once the sauce cooled, it got a little grainy, but…I kind of liked it! It’s reminiscent of the Fettuccine Alfredo from Mark Reinfeld’s The 30 Minute Vegan’s Taste of Europe, which uses cashews in addition to mozzarella Daiya. The coconut flour bits are so similar to the little cashew crumbs that one’s easily mistaken for the other. And since Reinfeld’s Fettuccine Alfredo happens to be my favorite Fettuccine Alfredo of all the times…well, good memories, positive associations, and all that jazz.

Spaghetti and “Meat” Balls

Thursday, March 19th, 2015

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You guys, can you believe this is my first and only post titled “Spaghetti and Meat Balls”? NEITHER CAN I.

Anyway. This is probably the last recipe I’ll try before reviewing Sharon Gannon’s Simple Recipes for Joy. I think the count’s up to eleven now, which is good enough for this girl.

So. Spaghetti and “Meat” Balls. Now you know I’m a rather rigorous judge when it comes to pasta dishes, since red sauce basically pumps through my veins. And I’ve had some frustrating run-ins with sketchy faux meatball recipes, so there’s that.

While these meatballs didn’t exactly come together as expected – the directions were a little confusing; the batter, super-mushy – I was able to salvage them with a few tweaks.

(More below the fold…)

My Current Favorite Fast Food

Saturday, March 14th, 2015

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I go through cycles where I absolutely cannot stuff enough of a particular food into my face, and right now that food is tofu scramble. Bonus points if it’s served with a side of semi-greasy baked potato pieces slathered in ketchup.

A friend on FB asked for tips on eating healthier, which got me thinking. One of my favorites is this: make up a giant batch of a well-loved (but healthy) food so that I can live on the leftovers, if not for a week, then at least a couple of nights. That way I won’t be tempted to eat a quick junkie meal (pizza, you know I love you but…) on those nights when I don’t have the time or desire to cook something from scratch. For those who live in places where vegan takeout is an option (I don’t; it’s both a blessing and a curse), having healthy leftovers in the fridge may discourage you from choosing this path of least (but most delicious) resistance.

I especially love tofu scrambles for this, because they’re so versatile and easy. Just reheat leftovers on the stovetop for five or ten minutes (it doesn’t require a ton of adult supervision, which is all the better!) and dinner is served. Don’t have enough leftovers for a proper meal? Bake a potato, steam some carrots, toss in a cup or two of extra frozen veggies. Anything goes in a scramble; it’s the perfect cleaning out your fridge/freezer meal.

Or use the scramble as a filling in a sammie, loose “meat” style. The bread makes an excellent filler, and the mode of delivery magically transforms it into brand new meal.

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Tofu scrambles be banging on sourdough bread slathered in Vegenaise and garnished with spinach and a few tomato slices.

Lately I’ve been making a double-batch of tofu scramble at a time. Sure, it takes about a half hour extra, but I have enough scramble left over for three or more additional meals. Plus I can press both bricks at the same time, and I end up with fewer dishes to wash overall. Win.

Under the jump is my from-memory recipe for this particular scramble – we’ll call it the Vegetable Spectacular – but I’ve made it so often that I’m pretty confident of the formula.

For the potatoes, preheat the oven to 425F. Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper (one large cookie sheet per potato). Clean the potato and then dice it into bite-sized pieces; uniformity is more important than size here. Place the pieced in a large bowl and add two tablespoons (give or take; again, per potato) of olive oil and some salt and pepper; mix well. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and bake for 30 to 40 minutes (or until crispy), rotating the sheet(s) and flipping the potatoes halfway through.

(More below the fold…)

Cream of Celery Soup

Friday, March 13th, 2015

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If you guys know me at all, you know that I loathe celery. I kind of say so every opportunity I get. Truth be told, it’s only the gross, stringy, floss-like texture of celery that I dislike – the actual taste is pretty bangin’. Seriously. Celery salt? Bring it on!

So color me intrigued when I spotted the Cream of Celery Soup in Simple Recipes for Joy. The celery is boiled into a mushy mess and then pulverized with an immersion blender, so I figured that ought to take care of all the flossy bits. And it totally did! This soup has all of the taste of celery with none the weird mouth feels.

(Updated to add: Well, at least the freshly made soup did; strangely enough, the celery strings seem a little more prevalent in the reheated leftovers. Maybe because the soup was thicker the second and third time around? It’s a brain teaser.)

Also present: potatoes and coconut milk, for a wonderfully thick yet creamy texture; carrots and mushrooms for extra yumminess; and parsley, garlic, tarragon, and thyme for added depth of flavor. As per usual, I added a tiny bit more spices than called for: an extra 1/4 teaspoon on top of the tablespoon each of tarragon and thyme.

This soup is both delicious and easy to make, and this particular recipe makes a pretty massive pot. Seriously, I had to break out the 16-quart monstrosity because I worried that our second-largest 6-quart pot just wouldn’t contain all the awesomeness.

I mean, just look at the creamy goodness!

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Cacao Banana Ice Cream (Now with Nibs!)

Thursday, March 12th, 2015

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Last week I received a packet of sample goodies from Kazu; nestled among the quinoa, matcha powder, and goldenberries were cacao powder and cacao nibs. As usual, when faced with food items for review, I went with my first instinct: make ice cream! I even happened to have a few quarts of sliced bananas in the freezer, just waiting on me; serendipity, anyone?

So what’s the diff between cocoa and cacao powder, you might be wondering? While both begin life in the pods of the Theobroma cacao plant, the difference lies in the processing: cocoa beans are roasted before being cracked, deshelled, and ground into a powder, while cacao beans are not. (The shells, by the by, are where we get nibs.) Cacao is raw; cocoa is not. It may also contain more antioxidants than its processed counterpart.

Neither cacao nor cocoa should be confused with carob, which comes from an altogether different plant (the carob tree) and is the only one of the three that’s suitable for canines. Both cacao and cocoa contain theobromine, which is toxic to dogs.

Since cacao and cocoa powder can be used almost interchangeably, the recipe was a no-brainer. I only used 3 tablespoons of cacao, but feel free to increase it to a full quarter cup if you’d like a stronger flavor. And as long as you omit the sugar and soy milk (hopefully you’ll need neither – ’tis the goal with banana ice cream, after all), this recipe is suitable for those on a raw food diet.

Bon appétit!

(More below the fold…)

Maharini Dal

Monday, March 9th, 2015

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Packed with red lentils for protein (and hearty, stick-to-yer-ribbedness), the Maharini Dal (“fit for a queen”) from Simple Recipes for Joy is almost as tasty as it is healthy. I say “almost” because it contains cilantro, which I omitted without hesitation. (Ew, soap!) Otherwise I’d say that the recipe’s spot-on, though I did add an extra teaspoon of cumin, coriander, and curry on account of the recommended one tablespoon of each proved a little understated for my palate.
For what it’s worth, this seems to be a recurring theme with SRJ.

Who knows, maybe my palate’s just woefully underdeveloped? I’ve been told that I’m heavy-handed with certain spices. *shrug*

Country Vegetable Soup

Friday, February 27th, 2015

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Another one from Simple Recipes for Joy ! This soup proved much kinder to my insides than last month’s Cream of “Broccoli Hates You” Soup. The broth is surprisingly understated, considering the amount of spices that go into it: two tablespoons of rosemary, and a tablespoon each of cumin and coriander. (Is it just me, or does that sound like a ton of rosemary?) Really tasty though, and excellent for dipping crackers and rolls. The veggies include potatoes, carrots, corn, and peas (which I omitted), for a hearty vegetable soup.

We’ve been experiencing a cold snap here in MO, and an oversized mug of piping hot soup sure hit the spot.

For the dogs, I finally dug the heated blanket out of storage. I think they’re officially in love.

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Cashew Cappuccino Nanaimo Bar Chunk Ice Cream

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

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Like many of my recipes (especially ice cream recipes – though usually banana-based), this one was borne of a desire to clear out the fridge/freezer. (Spring cleaning, it’s about that time!) I had about a quarter of the messed-up Cashew Cappuccino Nanaimo Bar I made (or tried to make, rather) for Christmas sitting in the freezer, and I decided what better way to finish it off than mixed with ice cream? You can’t go wrong with ice cream. It’s just not possible.

So basically I just chopped the leftovers up and stirred stirred them into a batch of vanilla ice cream post-processing: easy peasy! You can do this with pretty much any baked good you’ve accidentally-on-purpose made a little too much of: cookie batter, cupcakes, granola bars, truffles, you name it.

While certain layers caught my attention more than others (namely the cashew cream and chocolate topping), the finished ice cream proved tasty enough that I’m thinking about turning these flavors into their own honest-to-goodness ice cream, no nanaimo bar required.

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(More below the fold…)

Kelly’s (Formerly) Super-Secret, Slow-Simmered, Slightly Sweet and Very Savory Pasta Sauce

Friday, February 20th, 2015

2015-02-15 - Sweet & Savory Pasta Sauce - 0007 [flickr]

Back when I published my review of The Oh She Glows cookbook last March, I may or may not have bragged about my super-awesome, oh-so-secret, perfected after years of slow-simmering and taste-testing, epically awesome pasta sauce from scratch. The internet may or may not have begged me to publish said recipe. Okay, so several people requested it.

Since it’s something I usually whip up on the fly, I wanted to actually make a batch, writing down the steps as I went, rather than guessing at the amounts of ingredients and such. Fast-forward eleven months and I’m just now getting to it.

It’s been the perfect storm of events conspiring against me: for one, I just haven’t been eating pasta as much. And when I do make sauce from scratch, it’s the frozen tomatoes in the fridge that get the first priority, ingredients-wise; problem is, they’ve already been run through the food processor, cooked and seasoned, such that they’d totally throw off the recipe. Also, the recent preponderance of cookbook reviews means I haven’t had as much time for original experimentation.

And then there’s Peedee, aka cancer boy: diagnosed with lung cancer last March; chest cut open and tumor (seemingly successfully) removed in April; and now, after nine months of screening, with x-rays in three-month intervals, it seems the cancer’s back. He started chemo yesterday (which, at the time of this writing, is actually still several days away; ’tis the magic of the queue! Insert a quick wish for minimal side effects here.) So yeah, it’s been a pretty hectic year.

Okay! I didn’t mean to go so dark there! Let’s talk pasta sauce, shall we?

So the key to me dream pasta sauce is three-fold. First, simmer, simmer, simmer! This sauce takes at least two hours to make, preferably more. The longer you can keep it on the stove top, the richer and more nuanced the taste. This definitely isn’t a weeknight/work night meal dealio.

Secondly: don’t be stingy with the sundried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, Kalamata olives, garlic, basil, and/or oregano (those last two should always appear in a 3-to-1 ratio, by the way). These bad girls make the sauce.

Last but not least: conduct plenty of taste testing along the way. Re-season as necessary. Love your pasta sauce, and it will love you back.

Wait! I lied. There’s a fourth rule that I just realized should be a bona fide rule, on account of it’s uber-important: you simply MUST add the red peppers in two batches. The original ones cook so long that they break down a little and become one with the sauce, whereas the second batch stays nice and chunky and results in tiny explosions of sweet, tangy, and occasionally charred flavor. So, so good. My mouth is watering as I write this.

SO. In summary: no two of my sauces are exactly alike, but what follows is my best stab at a standard recipe. Enjoy!

(More below the fold…)

Product Review: Amy’s Daiya Cheese Pizza

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

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Shane and I decided to extend our Halloween junk food/horror movie marathon tradition to Valentine’s Day, since once a year is not enough. We got a later start than usual, and only managed to fit five movies in, instead of our usual six or seven: Citadel, The Returned, State of Emergency, The Awakening, and Fido. Thanks to a spring roll and lo mien-fueled carb overload, I started nodding off during Citadel, which actually wasn’t half bad (Aneurin Barnard, meow!); but of the five, The Returned proved my favorite by a long shot. But I digress.

In honor of the occasion, we finally broke out those Amy’s brand Daiya cheese pizzas that we scored from Natural Grocers waaaay back in November. You know what that means: frozen pizza review time!

When I first cracked it open, I have to admit that I was a little underwhelmed. More cheese, please!

2015-02-14 - Amy's Daiya Cheese Pizza - 0002 [flickr]

And then Shane gently and somewhat bemusedly reminded me that we tend to load up our pizzas with a ridic amount of cheese, and maybe this frozen pizza is being more reasonable than me? I begrudgingly agreed, and then proceeded to load it up with more cheese (mozzarella and cheddar), along with a heaping helping of veggies: onions, Kalamata olives, mushrooms, and red peppers.

I baked it as directed, and then five or ten minutes longer. I forget, because Bridesmaids was on and commanding my attention. Basically I let it go until the crust got nice and crispy and the cheese was bubbling like a Jacuzzi.

2015-02-14 - Amy's Daiya Cheese Pizza - 0003 [flickr]

Amy’s crust has always been my favorite – that is, up until I tried the Vegan Harvest pizza from American Flatbread. Now it’s first runner up, but with a very honorable mention. (I mean, flatbread. There’s just no beating that.)

So it’s tricky to accurately rate a pizza after altering it so drastically, but I’ll try. The crust, as we’ve already established, is aces. I would have liked to have seen more cheese, but it’s more or less (okay, slightly less) in line with other frozen pizzas. The pizza itself has a very strong basil taste – so much so that at first I thought they’d hidden a layer of pesto in there somewhere. But nope, it’s just basil. Potent like whoah. Not bad, but a little obtrusive maybe? Especially if you aren’t in the mood for it.

Size: 4/5. As per usual, the pizza is slightly smaller than the box. Still large enough that I was only able to finish 3/4 in one sitting.

Crust: 5/5. Like it, love it, gotta have it, wanna be it.

Sauce: 4/5. Enough to get the job done.

Cheese: 4/5. It’s a Daiya Cheese Pizza, y’all! Emphasis on Daiya. Load ‘er up!

Toppings: 3/5. Ease up on the basil, mkay?

Overall: 4/5. Daiya cheese + Amy’s crust = my OTP. Replace the basil with more cheese and you’ve got yourself a perfect 5-star rating.

And now, because we were talking movies earlier, this is usually how movie night goes down at the Garbato-Brady house:

2015-02-05 - Popcorn Time - 0003 [flickr]

One bowl of popcorn for me, one bowl for the dogs. (They don’t really care for my salt and vinegar seasoning.) Shane? He’s on his own.