Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Ziti Baked with Spinach, Tomatoes, and 'Smoked Gouda'

I made a homey pasta casserole a couple of nights ago, and here's another version to try. On a personal note, I'm pleased to announce that this blog post is officially the ONE YEAR MARK of my blog! ::celebration and party hats:: I hope I've shown that a vegan can eat seasonally and healthfully and yummily - all with great variety - and never need to answer the question, "but what do you eat???" ever again. And don't worry - I intend to keep on blogging with a new batch of April recipes starting tomorrow.

Of course there's not actually smoked Gouda in this recipe, as the title suggests - instead I shredded the vegan mozzarella block from Galaxy Foods.

First, cook 8 ounces of ziti according to package directions. I used the ziti from Whole Foods' house brand. Drain and set aside.

While the pasta cooks, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 1 cup chopped onion and 1 cup chopped yellow bell pepper; saute 5 minutes. Add 3 minced garlic cloves and saute an additional 2 minutes.

Add one (14 ounce) can of diced tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano, along with 10 ounces (1 and 1/4 cups) of regular canned diced tomatoes. Increase the heat slightly to bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in 4 cups baby spinach and cook for about 30 seconds, stirring frequently, until the spinach wilts.

Remove from heat and stir in the cooked ziti and 3/4 cup of the shredded vegan cheese. Transfer the mixture to an 11x7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle the top evenly with 1/2 cup more 'cheese'.

Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes. You'll have 5 servings, of about 1 and 1/2 cups and 390 calories each.

ziti $1.99
yellow bell pepper $1.80
canned diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano $1.19
canned diced tomatoes $1.19
baby spinach $2.50

Monday, March 30, 2009

Braised Baby Artichokes and New Potatoes

Yum! The tastes of spring are upon us at last... A special thanks to the employee at Whole Foods on Bowery, who ordered a special delivery of baby artichokes upon my inquiry. This delicious baby variety - more tender than its bigger sibling, and thus with no need to take out the fuzzy choke - should just be coming into season. If you can't find them, substitute frozen artichoke hearts, in which case you can skip the soaking step below.

If you do have baby artichokes, combine 1 cup water and a teaspoon and a half of lemon juice in a bowl. Trim the stems off of 6 baby artichokes (about 3/4 pound total), to within one inch of the base. Peel the stems and peel off the tough outer leaves. Cut each artichoke in half lengthwise and place in the water mixture. Set aside.

Heat a tablespoon and a half of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat (whoops! my burner was on medium-high, so my onions got a bit more browned than they should have). Add 1 cup thinly vertically sliced onion and cook 5 minutes.

Add 1 cup water, 1/2 cup chopped carrot and 3/4 cups green peas - use fresh if you can find them, which you should be able to this time of year! Frozen will do in a pinch of course. Bring the mixture to a boil.

Drain the artichokes, and add to the skillet, along with 1 and 1/2 cups small red potatoes, cut into quarters. Because my potatoes were a bit larger, I cut them into eighths.

Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Uncover and cook for 3 minutes.

Add 1 tablespoon chopped dill, 1 tablespoon chopped mint, 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/8 tsp. black pepper. Remove from heat and add a tablespoon of lemon juice.

You'll have 3 servings of 1 and 1/3 cups and about 240 calories each.

lemon juice $4.39
baby artichokes $4.51
fresh green peas $3.99
red potatoes $0.67
dill $3.29
mint $1.99

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Mushroom Rigatoni Bake

The original recipe suggested a couple different pasta shapes you could try in this hearty pasta casserole: gigli (not to be confused with the movie! a pretty cone-shaped pasta), or radiatore (a tight, coiled grill-shaped pasta). However, since both of those are fairly obscure, it's hard enough to find them in regular brands, much less organic versions! So I stuck with rigatoni, and used Whole Foods' house brand.

Cook 8 ounces of whichever pasta you choose according to package directions; drain and set aside.

While the pasta cooks, melt 2 teaspoons of vegan butter (such as Earth Balance) in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1/4 cup sliced shallots and saute 3 minutes.

Add 8 ounces sliced shiitake mushroom caps, 4 ounces sliced cremini mushrooms, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. black pepper, and 3 minced garlic cloves; saute 8 minutes.

Add 1 tablespoon dry sherry and cook an additional minute, then remove from heat and set aside. For the sherry, I love the unfiltered Fino en Rama from Alvear, because I can be sure it is vegan.

Place 1/4 cup all-purpose flour in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Gradually add 2 cups plain soy milk (such as Silk), stirring constantly with a whisk. Bring to a boil, then cook 1 minute, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 cup grated vegan cheese until it melts - the original recipe used Asiago, but I used the vegan mozzarella block from Galaxy Foods.

Stir in the cooked pasta and the mushroom mixture, tossing to combine. Spoon the mixture into an 8x8-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle the top with another 1/2 cup grated 'cheese'.

Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Divide into 4 equal portions (about 1 and 1/2 cups each), for 4 hearty entrees of 480 calories. Garnish with thyme sprigs if you like for a pretty presentation.

rigatoni pasta $1.99
shallots $0.68
shiitake mushrooms $7.98
cremini mushrooms $1.16
fresh thyme $2.49
dry sherry $13.97
vegan mozzarella $3.39

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Moist 'n' Dark Date Nut Bread

This recipe makes 3 loaves-worth of this yummy bread. Give away the extra loaves as hostess gifts or to friends - or, if you keep them for yourself, they freeze wonderfully wrapped in plastic wrap, so will last a long time. A couple of slices makes a perfect breakfast in the morning.

Combine 2 cups chopped and pitted dates in a bowl with 2 teaspoons baking soda. Pour 2 cups boiling water over the date mixture; stir and let cool. (The recipe didn't say exactly how cool to let it become - room temperature etc. - I let mine cool down for about 15 minutes).

In a large bowl, combine 2 cups raw sugar, 1 tablespoon vegetable shortening (such as Earth Balance), 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and the equivalent of one egg using egg replacer (such as Ener-G). Beat with a mixer until well blended.

Spoon out 3 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour into measuring cups, leveling with a knife. Alternate adding the flour and the date mixture to the sugar mixture, starting and ending with the flour.

Stir in 1 cup chopped pecans (toast them first in a skillet for a couple of minutes, before you chop them).

Pour the batter evenly into 3 (8x5-inch) loaf pans coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes - a toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean. Cool for 10 minutes in the pans on a wire rack, then remove from pans and cool completely on a wire rack.

Each loaf will yield 16 slices, each of which is 110 calories.

dates $4.49
raw sugar $3.49
all-purpose flour $4.49
pecans $6.99

Friday, March 27, 2009

Sesame Tofu Stir-Fry over Rice

Stir fry night! My advice, as with any stir fry, is to prep all ingredients in advance, since cooking times are quick.

Make one cup of cooked brown rice according to package directions (if you buy in bulk, this is about 1/2 cup uncooked rice to 1 cup water; combine in a saucepan, bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat and cook for about 25 minutes until the liquid is absorbed).


In a bowl, mix together a teaspoon and a half of regular sesame seeds, a teaspoon and a half of black sesame seeds and 1/8 tsp. salt. Add 1/2 pound firm tofu, cut into one-inch cubes, and toss gently to coat.

Heat a teaspoon of peanut oil and a teaspoon of dark sesame oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tofu and stir-fry for 5 minutes - be careful because sesame seeds will pop and splatter as they cook! Transfer the tofu to a bowl and set aside.

Return the pan to the burner and coat with cooking spray. Add 2 cups thinly sliced shiitake mushroom caps and stir-fry for 3 minutes. Add 1 and 1/2 cups (2-inch long) slices of asparagus, and stir-fry an additional 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in 2 tablespoons of sliced green onion.

While the vegetables are cooking, whisk together 1/4 cup vegetable broth, 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce (I used the organic hoisin sauce from Whole Foods' 365 brand), 2 and 1/4 teaspoons soy sauce (use low sodium varieties, to cut down on sodium totals in the recipe!), 1/2 tsp. cornstarch and 1/2 tsp. chili sauce - that last is available in Asian sections of food markets, and should be vegan, but do read the ingredient list to be sure.

Pour the broth mixture into the pan, and remove from heat - the sauce will thicken. Add the tofu cubes, along with an additional 1/8 tsp. of salt. Toss gently to combine.

Place 1/2 cup of cooked brown rice on each of 2 plates. Top each with 1 and 1/2 cups of the tofu mixture. Each serving is 430 calories.

A quick side note: soy sauce is vegan, and pretty much should be regardless of what brand you buy. There are all sorts of varieties on the market including reduced-sodium and wheat-free, if you don't include wheat in your diet. I add this caution, however, because a waiter in a Japanese restaurant once told me their soy sauce was not vegan, and brought me a special dish of my own - I assume this is because the restaurant took the liberty of adding oyster sauce or fish sauce, normally. So if you eat out, do double check before ordering anything with soy sauce in it!

shiitake mushrooms $3.99
asparagus $4.19
green onions $0.99
vegetable broth $2.69
soy sauce $3.39
brown rice $1.21

Thursday, March 26, 2009

White Pizza

The original recipe for this pizza called for a blend of ricotta, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses in the topping. Instead, I used crumbled firm tofu for the ricotta, grated vegan mozzarella from Follow Your Heart for the mozzarella and grated vegan mozzarella from Galaxy Foods for the Parmesan (yes, I know that means I used two types of 'mozzarella' but the taste and texture of the two are quite different, so created a nice contrast in the final product).

So in a bowl, combine 1 cup 'ricotta', 1 cup grated 'mozzarella' and 1/4 cup grated 'parmesan'. Spread the 'cheese' mixture over a pre-made pizza crust, leaving a 1/2 inch border around the edge. I'm happy to have discovered that Whole Foods' 365 brand now makes ready-to-go pizza crusts, which I find preferable to popular brands such as Boboli - for all I know Whole Foods has had this product for a while, but it's been quite some time since I needed pre-made crust!

Sprinkle the pizza evenly with 1 cup thinly sliced basil, 1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots, 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh spinach, 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper (go up to as much as 1 teaspoon if you like more fire to your pizza!), 1/2 tsp. black pepper, 1/2 tsp. dried oregano, and 1/4 tsp. garlic powder.

Top evenly with 1 cup thinly sliced plum tomato. Bake the pizza at 425 degrees for 10 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and cut into 6 slices, each of which is 340 calories.


firm tofu $1.99
vegan 'mozzarella' - not sure! my boyfriend was sweet enough to pick this up for me at the health food store
vegan 'parmesan' $3.39
pizza crust $4.99
basil $2.99
shallots $1.24
fresh spinach $2.50
plum tomato

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Mediterranean Vegetable Stew over Soft Polenta

Here's a quick entree for a weeknight - and I do mean quick! Have all the ingredients prepped and ready to go because things move fast once the burner is lit.

Heat a teaspoon of olive oil over medium-high heat - the original recipe suggested using a large saucepan, but I used a medium skillet because I needed my saucepan for the polenta (see below).

Add 1 cup (1/4-inch thick) sliced zucchini and 3/4 tsp. minced garlic and saute 30 seconds. (Using bottled minced garlic makes prep time even shorter, but I minced a fresh clove).

Add 1 (14 ounce) can of diced tomatoes, 3/4 cups of undrained, canned stewed tomatoes (about half of a 14 ounce can), and 3/4 cups rinsed and drained canned chickpeas (about half of a 14 ounce can), along with 1/8 tsp. black pepper. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

While the vegetable stew simmers, bring 1 and 1/2 cups water to a boil. Add 1/2 cup dried polenta, stirring with a whisk. Reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally - watch it carefully, because polenta expands and gets stiff quickly! In place of Parmesan, stir in 3/4 cup grated vegan cheese of your choice - I used the vegan mozzarella block from Galaxy Foods.

Place 2/3 cup polenta on each of 3 plates, and top each serving with 1 cup of the stew. Each serving is 360 calories.

zucchini $1.55
canned diced tomatoes $1.19
canned stewed tomatoes $2.19
canned chickpeas $1.79
vegan mozzarella $3.39

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Gingered Pear Crisp

Last night I made a dessert with delicious cold taste and texture. If you prefer a warmer option, try this yummy pear crisp. I halved the amounts in the original recipe, so you can easily double this to serve more people.

In a bowl, combine 2 tablespoons golden raisins, 2 tablespoons raw sugar, 1/2 tsp. grated orange rind, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons fresh-squeezed orange juice, 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh ginger, and 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract. Add 2 cups chopped and peeled Bartlett pear (the pieces should be about 1/2 an inch big), and toss to coat. Spoon into a 1-quart baking dish (or 8x8-inch baking dish) coated with cooking spray. Set aside.

In another bowl, combine 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, 1/4 cup regular oats, 2 tablespoons packed organic brown sugar, 1/8 tsp. cinnamon and just a dash of salt. Cut in a tablespoon and a half of vegan butter (such as Earth Balance) until the mixture resembles coarse meal - one of these days, I'm going to buy myself a pastry blender! Until then, the back of a fork or two knives does the trick. Stir in 1 tablespoon chopped pecans.

Sprinkle the flour mixture over the pear mixture. Bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes (the topping should be lightly browned). Let cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack before dishing out servings. A one cup serving is 280 calories, and you'll have enough here for 3. Again, double the recipe if you have a larger crowd - or want leftovers!

golden raisins $4.49
orange $0.97
ginger $0.33
vanilla extract $6.29
Bartlett pears $2.00

Monday, March 23, 2009

Deconstructed Flan

The title is a great name for this recipe for a couple of reasons. First, it is literally what it says it is - all of the components of flan - namely custard and caramelized sugar syrup - piled in a dessert glass instead of molded like creme caramel. But more appropriately for this blog, I like the name 'Deconstructed' Flan because almost every ingredient in a real flan is not vegan! Use a few savvy replacements, however, and you too can enjoy this delicious dessert.

This is another recipe that begins with the process of draining yogurt to make 'yogurt cheese'. (I did the same recently in a Tzatziki recipe). I still don't think that this method works quite the way it should with soy yogurt as it does with cow's milk yogurt, but you can mostly approximate it.

Line a colander with 4 layers of cheesecloth, and place the colander in a large bowl. (In a pinch, you can use coffee filters or paper towels in place of cheesecloth; I used the latter when I realized I was out of cheesecloth around midnight!) Pour one 32-ounce carton of vanilla soy yogurt (such as Silk) into the colander; cover loosely with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 12 hours. Spoon the drained soy yogurt into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set aside until you're ready to assemble the 'flan' later.

Now it's time to make soy ice cream! In a bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup raw sugar with the equivalent of 3 eggs using egg replacer (I highly recommend using Ener-G egg replacer for this recipe, instead of other methods such as flax seed etc.).

Combine 1 cup plain vegan creamer (such as Silk original flavor creamer) with 1 cup plain soy milk (again, Silk is my go-to brand) in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Slit open a vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the soy milk mixture; add the bean. Continue cooking until a thermometer reaches 180 degrees, stirring frequently so the mixture doesn't boil!

Gradually pour the soy milk mixture into the 'egg' mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk. Transfer back to the saucepan, and return to a burner over medium heat. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly; the mixture should be slightly thick.

Place the saucepan in an ice-filled bowl and let stand until it reaches room temperature (about 25 to 30 minutes), stirring occasionally. Remove the vanilla bean.

Pull out your ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's instructions - I use one from Krups which stirs a mixture into 'ice cream' in about 30 minutes. Whatever the case, make sure to read instructions in advance - I know with my Krups I have to freeze the freezer bowl starting 24 hours in advance, so this would be a bad time to figure that out!

Transfer your soy ice cream mixture to a freezer-safe container and freeze for at least another hour, so it is completely firm.

Soon before dessert, make the sauce: place 1/3 cup raw sugar in a saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until the sugar melts (about 5 minutes), stirring occasionally so it melts evenly. Continue to cook one final minute until golden.

Carefully pour in 1/2 cup boiling water - the mixture will bubble and splatter! Return to the burner over medium-high heat. Slit a vanilla bean open lengthwise; scrape in the seeds and add the bean. Cook for a final 2 minutes (the mixture will reduce down to about 6 tablespoons).

Remove from heat and let stand 10 minutes, then remove the vanilla bean.

Now you're ready to assemble! Place 1/4 cup of the 'yogurt cheese' in the bottom of 6 dessert glasses. Top with 1 tablespoon of the sauce and 1/2 a cup of the 'ice cream'. Each flan is 320 calories.

vanilla soy yogurt $2.69
soy creamer $1.99
plain soy milk $2.49
vanilla beans $11.99

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Black Bean Quesadillas with Corn Salsa

These homemade quesadillas - literally 'little cheesy thing' - are as delicious as anything you'd find out at a Mexican restaurant - and no doubt healthier for you as well!

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 1 and 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic and saute 30 seconds. (Note: as a time saver, you could purchase bottled minced garlic, which lasts in the fridge practically forever. I did chop fresh cloves, however).

Add 2 cups chopped plum tomato, 1/2 cup chopped cilantro, and one (15-ounce) can of black beans (rinsed and drained) and continue to cook for 5 minutes (the liquid should be evaporated), stirring occasionally.

Place 4 (8-inch) flour tortillas on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray - I chose the whole wheat tortillas from Whole Foods' 365 brand. Top each tortilla with a heaping 1/2 cup of the bean mixture and 3 tablespoons grated cheese - the original recipe called for "Mexican blend cheese" but I grated the vegan cheddar block - new and improved! - from Galaxy Foods.

Fold each tortilla in half and lightly coat the tops with cooking spray. Broil for 3 minutes. Cut each tortilla into 3 wedges.

While the quesadillas broil, combine 1 cup frozen corn, 1/2 cup chopped cilantro, 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lime juice, 1/2 tsp. minced garlic, and one chopped red bell pepper in a saucepan. Bring to a boil (yes, it will come to a boil, even though there's only a tiny bit of liquid on the bottom of the pan!) and continue to cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.

Place 3 quesadilla wedges on each of 4 plates. Top each with 1/3 cup of the salsa for 4 entrees of 420 calories. I wish I knew how to say "bon appetit" in Spanish!

plum tomatoes
canned black beans
flour tortillas
vegan cheddar cheese
frozen corn
red bell pepper

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Caramelized Onion Dip

Make this dip ahead of time so the flavors have time to meld - even the night before, if you prefer and have a busy afternoon! It makes a great party appetizer. You can serve with homemade pita chips, or, I decided to buy the adorable mini pitas from Whole Foods' market brand, which are the perfect size for dipping.

Heat a medium skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat; add 3 cups chopped onion and saute 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, then cover and cook for 20 minutes until golden brown, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and let cool.

In a bowl, combine 1 tablespoon vegan sour cream (such as Tofutti's Better Than Sour Cream) and 2 tablespoons softened vegan cream cheese (Tofutti also makes a great Better Than Cream Cheese). Blend well, then stir in 2 more tablespoons vegan sour cream, 3 tablespoons vegan mayonnaise (I like Spectrum's light canola mayo, but there are plenty of vegan options on the market!), 1/4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce (Annie's Natural's brand makes a vegan version without anchovies: www.anniesnaturals.com), 1/8 tsp. salt and a dash of ground red pepper.

Cover and refrigerate, as I mentioned, at least 8 hours but up to overnight. 1 tablespoon of dip is 30 calories.

vegan sour cream $2.49
Worcestershire sauce $3.69

Friday, March 20, 2009

Baked Gigantes in Tomato Sauce

Gigantes are large white beans used in Greek cuisine. They are named - I can only suppose - for the giants from Greek mythology, and indeed these are the biggest beans I've ever seen! You can find them at Mediterranean grocery stores - if you're anywhere near Manhattan, try the amazing International Grocer near the Port Authority. They are expensive, probably because they're so hard to find, but note that my cost listed below was for twice the amount called for in this recipe, since I wanted to have some extra to use in recipes down the road. If you can't find gigantes, large dried lima beans make a good substitute.

To begin, place 1 and 1/4 cups (about 8 ounces) of dried gigantes beans in a pot and cover with water to 2 inches above the beans. Let stand at least 8 hours, or overnight. Drain.

Return the beans to the pot and cover again with water to 2 inches above the beans; bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 1 hour.

While the beans are cooking, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add 1 and 1/2 cups chopped onion, 1/2 cup chopped celery, 1/2 cup finely chopped carrot, and 2 small minced garlic cloves; cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add 1 teaspoon dried oregano and 1 and 1/2 cups canned crushed tomatoes (undrained - that's about half of a standard 28-ounce can); turn down the heat just a notch and simmer for 10 minutes.

Stir in 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill (or 1 teaspoon dried dill, if you prefer), 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. black pepper, and 1 teaspoon agave nectar (in place of honey).

Combine the tomato mixture and the gigantes in a 1 and 1/2-quart casserole dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour. You'll have 4, 1-cup servings of 330 calories each.

dried gigantes $8.00
canned crushed tomatoes $1.79

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Patatas y Berzas (Potato and Cabbage Mash)

Patatas are potatoes. Berza is cabbage. Mash 'em together and you have this side dish; it hails from the Basque region of Spain.

Peel and cube 4 cups of Yukon gold potatoes (about a pound and a half). Cover with water in a saucepan and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Drain, return to the pan, and mash with a potato masher.

While the potatoes cook, bring 4 cups water to a boil in a Dutch oven. Add 4 cups Savoy cabbage. The recipe did not specify whether to chop it, or if so, how to chop it, but since it's about to be pureed, I settled for coarsely chopping. Cook for 5 minutes, then drain over a bowl, reserving 1/2 a cup of the cooking liquid. (Note: regular green cabbage will do if you can't find Savoy, which has crinklier leaves and a slightly stronger flavor).

Combine the reserved liquid and the cabbage in a blender and blend until smooth. Stir into the mashed potatoes. Return the pan to the stove and cook over medium-high heat for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.

Stir in 1/4 tsp. salt and 1 teaspoon truffle oil - this touch absolutely makes the dish. I should note that the original recipe called for a full teaspoon of salt as well, but since my taste buds don't run that salty, I slashed that quantity way down. Add the full amount, if you prefer.

2/3 a cup is a side serving of 110 calories.

Yukon gold potatoes $1.46
Savoy cabbage $0.57

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Greek Black-Eyed Peas and Greens

Here is another dish with the flavors of Greece; it makes a hearty vegan entree.

Place 1 and 1/4 cups dried black-eyed peas in a saucepan, and cover with water to 2 inches above the peas. Bring to a boil, then drain. Return to the saucepan, and cover once more with water to 2 inches above the peas. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and cook for 30 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In a large Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add 2 cups finely chopped onion, 1 cup finely chopped celery and 4 minced garlic cloves; cook 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 7 cups torn Swiss chard, 6 cups baby spinach and 6 cups arugula (your pot will probably be just about overflowing!), along with 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. black pepper, and one (14-ounce) can of diced tomatoes (undrained; I like the canned tomatoes from Whole Foods 365 brand). Cover and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally (and watch those greens wilt way down - am I the only one who gets a strange fascination out of this?).

Add the black-eyed peas; cover and cook for 15 minutes.

Add 1 cup crumbled vegan feta (such as Sunergia). Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

You have dinner for 6 - a 1 cup serving is 270 calories.

dried black-eyed peas $1.61
onion $2.99 (I bought a whole bag of about 7 onions)
celery $2.50
Swiss chard $2.49
baby spinach $3.99
arugula $2.50
canned diced tomatoes $1.19
vegan feta $4.49

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Low-Fat Strawberry-Cinnamon Muffins

These little muffins makes a great start to the day! The strawberry jam on the inside is a nice surprise.

Spoon out 1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour into measuring cups, leveling with a knife, Combine the flour in a large bowl with 1/2 cup raw sugar, 2 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/4 tsp. salt.

Make the equivalent of one egg using egg replacer (such as Ener-G) and beat with a whisk until slightly frothy. Add 2/3 cup vanilla soy yogurt (such as Whole Soy), 3 tablespoons plain soy milk (such as Silk) and 1/4 cup melted vegan butter (such as Earth Balance) to the 'egg'. Stir well with a whisk, then add to the flour mixture, and stir just until moist.

Line 12 muffins cups with liners - I like the unbleached baking cups from Beyond Gourmet, which is an eco-friendly company. Lightly spray the liners with cooking spray (I forgot this step, so I am hoping my muffins peel away from the liners okay!).

Spoon 1 tablespoon of batter into the bottom of each liner. Top each with 1 teaspoon of strawberry jam. Fill the muffin cups with the remaining batter (about one more tablespoon-ful per liner). For the jam, favor organic varieties which aren't loaded with sugar over those that are - I used Whole Foods' 365 brand Strawberry Fruit Spread, which doesn't contain sugar at all, but is sweetened with white grape juice concentrate - much healthier!

Combine 1 tablespoon raw sugar with 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, and sprinkle evenly over the muffins. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes (a toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean). Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then remove from the pan and continue to cool completely on a wire rack. Each muffin is 170 calories.

vanilla soy yogurt $1.19
strawberry jam $1.99

Monday, March 16, 2009

Compota de Frutas (Winter Fruit Compote)

This dessert relies on fruits that are still seasonally available, here at the tail-end of winter. It is delicious served alongside vegan vanilla ice cream, or on its own! It is a traditional dessert in the Basque region of Spain.

In a small saucepan, combine 3 dried figs, 3 prunes, 3 dried apricots, and 1/4 cup golden raisins, with 1/4 cup apple brandy. Simmer over low heat just for a minute or two (alternatively, you could place the ingredients in a bowl, and microwave for 1 minute). For the brandy, you could try a well-known brand such as Calvados, but I used the slightly sweeter apple brandy from American Fruit. There are no vegan worries about brandy, of which I am aware.

Meanwhile, combine 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup unfiltered, dry white wine, 2 tablespoons raw sugar, 1 teaspoon grated orange rind and 1/2 tsp. grated lemon rind in a saucepan; stir well with a whisk. Bring to a boil, then add the apple brandy mixture; cover, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Slice one apple in half; save half for another use. Peel the other half, and cut into 6 wedges. Add to the saucepan, cover and cook 5 minutes. The recipe did not specify which type of apple to use, but I chose Braeburn.

Slice one pear in half; save half for another use. Peel the other half and cut into 6 wedges. Add the pear wedges to the saucepan, cover and cook a final 5 minutes. Again, no specificition for variety was made, but I used a Bartlett pear.

Remove the pan from heat, cover, and let stand at room temperature for 2 hours. When you're ready to serve, 2/3 a cup is 200 calories - you'll have about 4 servings.

Note: for a good wine suggestion, view my recipe from this month for Pain Perdu.

dried figs
dried apricots $3,99
white wine $19.99
lemon $0.50
orange $1.23
apple $0.80
pear $1.01

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Brown Soda Bread

This quick bread comes together easily since it doesn't require yeast. Soda bread, of course, evokes the tastes of Ireland, so consider this in honor of the upcoming St. Patrick's Day.

Spoon out 2 cups whole wheat flour and 1 cup all-purpose flour into measuring cups, leveling with a knife. Combine the flours in a large bowl with 2 tablespoons organic brown sugar, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon caraway seeds and 1/2 tsp. salt.

Cut in 2 tablespoons of chilled vegan butter, cut into small pieces (such as Earth Balance). You can use a pastry blender or the back of a fork, cutting the 'butter' in until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Make vegan buttermilk by pouring 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 tsp. lemon juice into a measuring cup, and then filling with plain soy milk (such as Silk) to equal 1 and 1/4 cups. Let stand 5 minutes to clabber (sour) the mixture.

Make a well in your dry ingredients, and pour in the 'buttermilk', stirring just until moist. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead 5 or 6 times, then transfer to a baking sheet lightly coated with cooking spray.

Shape the bread into an 8-inch round loaf. Across the top, make 2 diagonal slits, about 1/4 inch deep, with a sharp knife, to form an X.

Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 35 minutes (a toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean), and cool completely on a wire rack. Cut into 12 wedges, each of which is 150 calories.

Erin go Bragh!

whole wheat flour $3.49
brown sugar $4.39

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Bloody Mary

Vegan, beware! If you've ever ordered a Bloody Mary for brunch in a restaurant, chances are it wasn't vegan. Most Bloody Mary mixes include Worcestershire sauce, which sneakily contains anchovies. Luckily, you can buy vegan Worcestershire sauce from Annie's Naturals: www.anniesnaturals.com This recipe will make a pitcher to serve 4 people - perfect to start off your Saturday brunch!

In a pitcher or bowl, combine 3 and 1/2 cups tomato juice (try an organic brand such as R.W. Knudsen, which is also low in sodium: www.knudsenjuices.com) with 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons vodka (I like Absolut), 1 and 1/2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lime juice, 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish, 1 tablespoon vegan Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 tsp. garlic salt, 1/2 tsp. ground celery seed, 1/2 tsp. black pepper, and 3/4 tsp. hot sauce. Stir together and chill until just before serving.

Serve over ice in tall glasses and enjoy! Each 1 cup serving is 100 calories.

Note: I was sure I had garlic salt at home, but what I had was garlic pepper. So I reversed things above, using 1/2 tsp. garlic pepper and 1/2 tsp. salt - I figure it all works out the same in the end, right?

tomato juice $3.29
vodka $8.83
limes $1.38

Friday, March 13, 2009

Tomato and Lentil Soup

With the leftover lentils I had from last night, I tried out this soup recipe. Traditionally eaten in Greece on 'fasting' days, when no meat is allowed, I can hardly fathom why, since this dish hardly makes you feel you're missing out on anything! It's hearty and delicious - serve with a slice of crusty bread on a still-chilly March night.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add 3/4 cup chopped onion, 1/4 cup finely chopped carrot, 1/4 cup finely chopped celery and one minced garlic clove; cook for 10 minutes.

Add 2 and 3/4 cups water, 3/4 cups dried lentils (again, I chose standard green lentils, though any variety would do), a teaspoon and a half chopped fresh dill, 1 bay leaf, 1 dried red chile pepper, and 6 tablespoons (about 4 ounces) of tomato sauce. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in another teaspoon and a half of chopped dill, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/8 tsp. black pepper, and a teaspoon and a half of balsamic vinegar. Discard the bay leaf and the dried chile pepper.

Ladle 1 cup of soup into each of 3 bowls. Top each with 2 tablespoons of crumbled vegan feta cheese (such as Sunergia - their Mediterranean Herb variety and their Lemon-Oregano variety both blend well with the other flavors in this dish).

Each serving is 280 calories.

onion $0.44
celery $1.99
dried red chile pepper $0.16
tomato sauce $0.79
vegan feta $4.49

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Lemony Lentils with Black Olives

You may have noticed several of my recipes this month have featured flavors of Greece - that's because there's a section on that country's cuisine in this issue of my cooking magazine. Here's another Grecian-flavored dish, packed full of the vegan powerhouse, the lentil.

First make the dressing. In a bowl, whisk together 2 teaspoons grated lemon rind, 3 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 3/4 tsp. dried oregano (or 2 teaspoons chopped fresh, if you prefer), 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. black pepper, and one minced garlic clove. Set aside.

In a saucepan, combine 3 cups water, 1 cup dried lentils (I suppose any variety would do, but I used standard green lentils), 1/2 cup chopped carrot, 2 crushed garlic cloves, 1 thyme sprig, and 1 rosemary sprig.

(Note: to crush garlic, place on a cutting board, and place the flat edge of a knife over the clove. Whack with your palm, then remove the peel and coarsely chop).

Bring the mixture to a boil, then cover, reduce heat and simmer for 18 minutes.

Drain, and discard the thyme and rosemary sprigs. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in 1/2 cup chopped and seeded plum tomato, 1/3 cup chopped and pitted kalamata olives, 1/4 cup chopped parsley and 1/4 cup chopped green onions. Drizzle evenly with the dressing.

The original recipe suggested that 1/2 a cup makes a side serving of 180 calories - but I'll suggest that 1 cup makes a vegan entree of 360 calories. The lentils are equally delicious warm, cold, or at room temperature.

lemon $0.50
garlic $0.57
dried lentils $2.99
thyme $2.49
rosemary $2.49
plum tomato $0.58
green onions $0.99

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Papas de Caserio (Farm Hand Potatoes)

This side dish comes from Spain's Basque region, to the north of the country, where it is a traditional rural dish. Although originally cooked over an open fire, this version makes use of the stovetop! It uses very simple ingredients, but the preparation and combination is just new enough to spark new life in the humble potato, this close to the end of winter vegetable season...

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat in a Dutch oven. Add 4 thinly sliced garlic cloves and saute 1 minute. Remove the garlic from the pan and set aside. Add one cup chopped onion and saute 3 minutes. Stir in 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, and cook for 1 minute. Return the garlic to the pan, along with 4 cups baking potato (peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces), 2 cups water, 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. black pepper. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

(Note: the recipe actually called for a good deal more salt and pepper - 3/4 tsp. for the former and 1/2 tsp. for the latter. Since I'm not a big fan of food that is either too salty or too peppery, I cut down the quantities, but use these original amounts if you prefer!)

Remove the pot from heat and stir in 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley. Ladle 1 cup into each of 5 bowls for 5 side servings of 180 calories.

garlic $0.57
onion $0.51
baking potato $1.49

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


There were a few things about the original recipe for this traditional Greek yogurt-cucumber condiment that perplexed me, so I took a little bit of artistic license.

The first issue is probably just the result of using soy yogurt in place of cow's milk yogurt. The recipe is based on first placing a 32-ounce carton of plain yogurt in a colander lined with 4 layers of cheesecloth, covering loosely with plastic wrap, and allowing to drain for 12 hours. As with the other times I have used this "yogurt cheese" method with soy yogurt, there is no liquid left at the end of my 12 hours! At the same time, the soy yogurt has condensed down, from about 3 cups to 2 cups. I remain perplexed as to where the remainder goes - evaporates into my fridge? Absorbs into the cheesecloth? Regardless, you should have about 2 cups of plain soy yogurt left in your colander after 12 hours. If you have any extra, reserve it for another use. Spoon those 2 cups of soy yogurt into a bowl, and cover and refrigerate until you're ready to proceed with the rest of the recipe.

(Oh right, my favorite brands to try for the 32-ounce soy yogurt are either Silk or Wildwood).

Shred 1 and 1/2 cups of cucumber (the large holes of a grater work well), and place in a colander. Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. salt and toss well to coat. Let drain for 15 minutes. Place the cucumber on paper towels, and squeeze dry between several layers. You'll probably need to repeat this step a few times for the cucumber to be fully squeezed dry, so I highly recommend recycled paper towels, like those from Seventh Generation, to ease the guilt factor!

Combine the cucumber, the soy yogurt, another 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. black pepper, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint and 2 minced garlic cloves. (I realized at the last moment that there was but one garlic clove left in my fridge, so my final result was less garlic-y than intended - probably a good thing when it comes to kissing my boyfriend good night!).

Spoon into a serving dish and drizzle with olive oil - here is where my eyes popped, perplexed. The original recipe stated to drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil - but even a teaspoon drizzled on top seemed like, well, too much.... both in terms of visual presentation, and knowing what the nutritional value of the spread was supposed to be. So I drizzled my tzatziki with 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Use a full tablespoon-ful if you prefer.

You'll have 3 cups total. The tzatziki is delicious with pita wedges as an appetizer, or as a spread for sandwiches - think in place of mayo for a vegan BLT, or combined in pita halves with hummus or falafel.

1/4 cup of the spread is 30 calories.

plain soy yogurt $2.99
cucumber $1.99
mint $1.99

Monday, March 9, 2009

Warm Eggplant and 'Goat Cheese' Sandwiches

These delicious sandwiches make for a quick weeknight dinner. The eggplant carries a hint of the spring that is but ten days away from us, but the warm rolls are still welcome on a chilly night! The original recipe called for a spreadable goat cheese - the nearest vegan equivalent I know of isn't an imitation cheese, but rather Tofutti's Better Than Cream Cheese, so that's what I use here.

Cut 2 (1/4-inch) thick slices from a small eggplant. Brush 1 teaspoon of olive oil over the slices. Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat, and coat with cooking spray. Add the eggplant slices and cook on each side until lightly browned - the original recipe said 5 minutes per side, but mine were perfect after 4 minutes, so watch them carefully to avoid burning. Remove from the pan and sprinkle evenly with 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. black pepper.

Meanwhile, cut two sandwich rolls in half and place on a baking sheet. Again, I strayed from the original recipe which used rustic sandwich rolls (available from companies such as Pepperidge Farm). Instead, I bought the whole wheat buns from Rudi's Organic Bakery, which are vegan, according to the website: www.rudisbakery.com If you don't choose Rudi's, choose any (1 and 1/2 ounce) sandwich bun that doesn't contain any animal products!

Spread 1 tablespoon of vegan cream cheese (or other goat cheese alternative of your choice) over each roll half (so 4 tablespoons total). Bake the rolls at 275 degrees for 9 minutes.

Place 1 eggplant slice over the 'cheese' on the bottom half of each roll. Top that with 1 (1/4-inch) thick slice of tomato, and top that with 1/2 cup arugula. Place the top of the roll on top.

You'll have dinner for two! Add a bowl of soup to round out the meal. Each sandwich is 300 calories.

eggplant $2.35
vegan cream cheese $2.99
sandwich rolls $3.99
tomato $1.92
arugula $2.50

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Apple Spice Cake

A slice of this delicious cake hits the spot no matter when - as an afternoon snack with a cup of tea, for dessert, or even - as an indulgence - for breakfast!

In a large bowl, combine 1 cup packed organic brown sugar, 1/3 cup softened vegan cream cheese (such as Tofutti's Better Than Cream Cheese), 1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Beat with a mixer until well combined.

Make the equivalent of two eggs using egg replacer (such as Ener-G). Add to the brown sugar mixture, one at a time, beating after each addition.

In a measuring cup, make vegan buttermilk by pouring in 1 tablespoon lemon juice, then filling with plain soy milk (such as Silk) to equal 1 cup. Let stand 5 minutes to clabber (sour) it.

Meanwhile, spoon out 1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour into measuring cups, leveling with a knife. Combine the flour in a bowl with 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. ground cloves and 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg.

Alternate adding the flour mixture and the 'buttermilk' to the brown sugar mixture, starting and ending with the flour mixture, and stirring well after each addition. Stir in one cup of peeled and chopped Braeburn apple (about 1 large). (Note: you could also add 2 tablespoons apple brandy here if you want to make the flavor even more intense, although I did not).

Pour the batter into an 8x8-inch baking dish, coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes (a toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean).

Let cool for ten minutes in the pan on a wire rack, then remove from pan and allow to cool completely on the wire rack. Sprinkle the top evenly with 2 teaspoons organic powdered sugar.

Cut into 12 slices of 210 calories each - and enjoy!

Braeburn apple $1.00

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Smoky Eggplant Puree with Crostini

Here's another option for a nosh before a night out on the town. This one is easy to make ahead in the afternoon!

Cut a one-pound eggplant in half length-wise and place, cut-sides down, on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and coated with cooking spray. Lightly spray the tops of the eggplant with cooking spray.

Broil for 30 minutes - doing so for this long ensures that the skins will char and impart a nice smoky flavor. Let cool slightly before scooping out the pulp with a spoon. Discard the skins.

Place the pulp in a food processor along with 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. black pepper; puree until smooth and set aside.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add 1/2 cup finely chopped onion and one minced garlic clove; cook for 9 minutes, stirring occasionally. The onion should just be browned.

Remove from heat and stir in the eggplant puree, 1/2 cup chopped and seeded plum tomato and 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley. Stir to combine, and transfer to a bowl; cover and chill at least 2 hours before serving.

When it's time to serve, toast 18 (1/4-inch thick) slices of baguette. (Note: broiling them for a minute on each side works well, if you don't have a grill pan or the like). 3 tablespoons of puree plus 3 baguette slices makes an appetizer of about 110 calories.

eggplant $2.37
onion $0.51
plum tomato $0.47
parsley $1.69
baguette $1.29

Friday, March 6, 2009

'Feta'-Chile Spread

Serve this as an hors d'oeuvre before a Friday night out.

Place either a poblano or anaheim chile on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and broil for 3 and 1/2 minutes on each side. Let cool slightly before peeling off the skin, then make a lengthwise slit up the chile; open it and discard the seeds and stem. Chop and set aside.

In a food processor, combine 1 cup crumbled vegan feta (such as Sunergia), 1/4 cup plain soy yogurt (such as Whole Soy) and 1 tablespoon lemon juice; process until smooth.

Transfer to a bowl, and stir in the chopped chiles. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour so the flavors meld.

At serving time, cut 2 pitas into 8 wedges each. (The recipe didn't specify what size pita to use, so I bought standard 6-inch ones from The Baker; if you use another brand, check the ingredient list to be sure they are vegan!). 4 pita wedges plus about 3 tablespoons of dip is 160 calories.

poblano chile $0.76
vegan feta $3.69
plain soy yogurt $0.99
pitas $1.99

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Pain Perdu

There has been many a time, at brunch, that I have watched my non-vegan boyfriend order the French Toast with envy - beautiful slices of baguette with fresh fruit, powdered sugar... but alas, with milk, eggs, butter. Then I discovered this recipe to make my own at home. Use day-old baguette for this recipe - pain perdu, which literally means "lost bread", was precisely that; bread too stale to be eaten by itself, but delicious when toasted up into French Toast as we know it. Although you could certainly make this for breakfast or brunch, I am of the firm opinion that sometimes breakfast is best eaten for dinner.

In a bowl, combine 3/4 cup plain soy milk (such as Silk), the equivalent of 3 eggs using egg replacer (such as Ener-G - about 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of powder whisked into 6 tablespoons water), 2 tablespoons raw sugar, 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, 1/8 tsp. salt and 3/4 tsp. vanilla extract. Stir well with a whisk.

Arrange 8 (1-inch) slices of French bread baguette in a single layer in a shallow dish. Pour the soy milk mixture over the bread, and let stand 2 minutes - not all of the liquid will be absorbed, so discard any extra.

While the mixture absorbs, melt 2 tablespoons vegan butter (such as Earth Balance) in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bread slices and toast 3 minutes on each side. Remove from the skillet but keep warm.

Meanwhile, combine 1 cup water, 1/4 cup dry white wine, 2 more tablespoons raw sugar and 1 and 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch in a saucepan; bring to a boil, then cook for about 5 minutes until reduced to 1/2 a cup. Add in 1 cup raspberries, 1/2 cup blueberries, 1/2 cup blackberries and 1/4 cup halved strawberries, and stir until combined.

Serve 2 slices of bread with 1/2 a cup of sauce on each of 4 plates. Sprinkle the portions evenly with 1 and 1/2 teaspoons powdered sugar - look for an organic brand such as Whole Foods' 365 organic.

For the wine, I stuck with the French theme by choosing a crisp, mineral-y Sancerre - look for organic or unfiltered if you're concerned that a particular wine isn't vegan.

Each serving is 270 calories. I call that bread that is no longer lost!

plain soymilk $2.39
baguette $1.29
white wine $19.99
raspberries $4.99
blueberries $2.99
blackberries $2.99
strawberries $3.99

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Baked Eggplant with Savory 'Cheese' Stuffing

Yum, eggplant! Easily my favorite vegetable. These stuffed versions make a filling vegan entree. For the 'cheese', try the vegan feta from Sunergia.

Cut 2 (1-pound) eggplants each in half lengthwise. Make 4 slits along the cut sides of each, cross-wise, then place, cut-sides down, on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the pan for ten minutes before carefully scooping out the pulp (a regular spoon works well), and reserving a 1/3-inch thick shell. Return the shells to the baking sheet. Chop the pulp and set aside.

While the eggplant is baking, place one (1-ounce) slice of white bread in a food processor and pulse about 10-15 times, until you have coarse crumbs. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon olive oil and pulse another 5 or 10 times until combined. Set aside. (The mixture should equal about 1/2 a cup). When you buy white bread, check ingredient labels - even some organic brands contain nonfat milk or honey. The one from The Vermont Company looks to be vegan.

Now for the filling! Heat a large skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add 1 and 1/2 cups finely chopped onion and saute 3 minutes. (The onion I had at home was only big enough to yield 1 and 1/4 cups, but this made a negligible difference!). Add the chopped eggplant pulp, along with 1 and 1/4 cups finely chopped red bell pepper, 1 cup finely chopped and seeded plum tomato, 1/4 tsp. dried oregano (or 1 teaspoon chopped fresh, if you prefer), and 2 minced garlic cloves. Cover, reduce heat and cook for 10 minutes, then uncover and cook an additional 5 minutes, stirring occasionally (all the liquid should be absorbed).

Remove from heat and stir in 3 ounces crumbled vegan feta (about 3/4 cup), 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. black pepper.

Stuff each eggplant shell with a generous 1/2 cup-worth of the stuffing. Sprinkle the shells evenly with the breadcrumbs. (Note: I found it helped to flatten the shells down with my palm, to make them hold as much of the stuffing as possible).

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes - the recipe didn't say to use the same foil-lined baking sheet as before, but I did, to speed up clean-up! Also, talk about making a beginner's error - I forgot to set the timer! Luckily I remember looking at my watch on the half-hour around when I put them in the oven, so I took them out on the hour.

One stuffed eggplant half is 180 calories.

eggplant $4.72
white bread $4.59
red bell pepper $2.35
plum tomato $0.95
vegan feta $3.69
flat-leaf parsley $1.69

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Wilted Greens with Rice

This recipe is a variation on a traditional dish eaten in Greece during Lent, called spanakoporizo. I am neither Greek nor religious, but it certainly sounded delicious, so I thought I'd give it a try, and it is the right season after all! Do all the vegetable chopping in advance, or you'll be rushing mid-recipe.

Heat a tablespoon and a half of olive oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add 3/4 cup chopped onion and saute 5 minutes. Add one minced garlic clove and saute an additional minute. Stir in 1/2 cup uncooked basmati rice, and cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently.

Next, stir in 3/4 cup water, 2 and 1/4 tsp. chopped fresh dill, 6 cups of pre-packaged baby spinach (thinly sliced), and 1 cup mustard greens (stems removed and thinly sliced). Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for about 10 minutes until the liquid is absorbed.

Stir in another 6 cups thinly sliced spinach, another cup of thinly sliced mustard greens, another 2 and 1/4 teaspoons dill, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/8 tsp. black pepper, and just a dash of crushed red pepper. Cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly (all of those greens will wilt way down).

A 1 cup serving is about 180 calories - double that for a main dish portion.

dill $1.99
packaged spinach $5.00
mustard greens $2.79

Monday, March 2, 2009

Triple Sesame Asparagus

I'm probably jumping the seasonal gun with this side dish - the weather outside is frightful, but I'm thinking of spring...

Simply plunge one pound of trimmed asparagus spears into boiling water; cook 3 minutes, then drain. Plunge in ice water, and drain again.

In a large bowl, toss the asparagus together with 1 teaspoon white sesame seeds, 1 teaspoon black sesame seeds, 1 teaspoon dark sesame oil and 1/4 tsp. salt - now you see why it's called triple sesame!

Divide evenly among 4 plates for side-servings of 60 calories each.

This probably goes without saying, but trimming asparagus is super easy - if you bend the asparagus towards the bottom of the spear, the tough part will naturally snap off. It's very intuitive, so try it out for yourself and you'll see.

asparagus $6.15
black sesame seeds $3.99

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Thin French Apple Tart

Sometimes, it is so easy to be vegan these days it almost feel too easy - do you know what I mean? Vegan ice cream, vegan whipped cream, vegan hot dogs... it's hard to imagine we're missing anything! Alas, sometimes the vegan does run about against the elusive ingredient that reminds her it still takes a bit of extra work to eat ethically.

Tonight, the culprit was refrigerated pie dough. A time-saver for this delicious and easy tart, pre-made pie crust would normally not be a problem. Two companies that I know of - Wholly Wholesome and Whole Foods' 365 brand - make frozen pie crusts fitted into 9-inch pie plates, which are vegan and ready to go.

That, alas, was the problem, since this recipe called for a pre-made pie crust to be rolled into a 12-inch circle. The only available option on the market seems to be Pillsbury's refrigerated pie crust, but step far back, because it is not vegan. This product contains lard, which, ugh, sounds like exactly what it is - a hunk of pig fat - which is so repulsive a thought I probably wouldn't eat it even if I ate steak.

Luckily, it's not too hard to whip up a pie crust at home, and only adds about 10 minutes to your total time for this recipe. You may have to sacrifice a tiny bit of convenience, but you're saving the animals.

So to make a quick crust, spoon one cup all-purpose flour into a measuring cup, and level with a knife. Combine in a bowl with 1/4 tsp. salt. Cut in 2 tablespoons chilled vegan butter, cut into small pieces (such as Earth Balance), and 1 and 1/2 tablespoons vegetable shortening - try the one from Earth Balance as well, which is certified vegan. Use a pastry blender if you have one for best results, but in a pinch, two knives or the back of a fork will do.

Combine 3 tablespoons ice water and 1 teaspoon lemon juice in a bowl (don't forget - ice water is exactly what it sounds like: cold water with ice cubes added to chill the temperature way down). Add the water mixture to the flour mixture one tablespoon at a time, tossing with a fork until moist. Turn the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap and shape into a 4-inch circle. Cover and chill for 30 minutes. (Note: I needed to add one more tablespoon of ice water than specified, to keep my dough from being too crumbly).

Here's where you pick up where the original recipe begins! Whlie your crust is chilling, combine 1/4 cup raw sugar and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon in a bowl; set aside.

Peel, core, and very thinly slice 2 pounds of Golden Delicious apples (about 4 large ones). If you have a paring knife, this a great time to use it to make quick work of the apple peels. A vegetable peeler works just as well, if you don't. Set the apple slices aside.

Remove your dough from the fridge and roll into a 12-inch circle in between sheets of plastic wrap; fit into a 12-inch round pizza pan, removing the plastic wrap. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the sugar mixture. Top with the apple slices, working in a spoke-like pattern from the outside in (see photo for reference). Sprinkle the apples with the remaining sugar mixture.

Bake at 425 degrees for 30 minutes.

In a small skillet, combine 2 and 1/2 tablespoons agave nectar (in place of honey) with 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract. Heat over low heat for about a minute until warmed. (Note: you could also do this in the microwave for about 40 seconds if you have one, which I do not). Drizzle over the tart while it's still warm. The tart is best served warm - cut into 8 wedges of 220 calories each.

vegetable shortening $3.39
ground cinnamon $3.99
Golden Delicious apples $3.26

The Vegan Pantry

  • Vegan yogurt - Whole Soy http://www.wholesoyco.com/
  • Vegan milk - Silk http://www.silksoymilk.com/
  • Vegan Feta - Sunergia http://www.sunergiasoyfoods.com/
  • Vegan Cheese - Galaxy Foods http://www.galaxyfoods.com/
  • Vegan Eggs - Ener-G http://www.ener-g.com/
  • Vegan Butter - Earth Balance http://www.earthbalance.net/product.html