Monday, August 31, 2009

German Inspired Kale Soup with Whole Wheat Spaetzle



After canning a bushel of peaches today I really wasn’t much in the mood for cooking tonight, so I made soup. This is one of those clean out the refrigerator meals (like most soups) but it is different since it is flavored with German herbs. The German influence was driven by the desire to use the seitan beer brats. Once I had decided to make a German type of soup then I knew I wanted to make spaetzle.

Before today I had not made spaetzle without egg so I wasn’t quite certain it would work. My first attempt didn’t use tofu and the spaetzle texture wasn’t right. In fact, I hated the texture and immediately through it away. After considering the composition of egg (protein and fat) I decided to try the silken tofu and tahini dip I had in the refrigerator in place of egg. That substitution made a huge difference in the texture. The other change I made was to make the dough texture thicker (like a stiff waffle batter) and that should have also helped. Next time the only change I would make would be to add a little onion and garlic powder to the dough to give it more flavor, beyond that I think the recipe is perfect.

German Inspired Kale Soup with Whole Wheat Spaetzle
Serves 6

Soup Ingredients:

½ tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
3 leeks, finely chopped
3 green onion, finely chopped
6 carrots, finely diced
1 bok choy, finely shredded (or green cabbage)
10 kale leaves, finely shredded
8 cups of water (or enough to cover the vegetables)
1 ½ teaspoons of caraway seeds
½ teaspoon of poppy seeds
½ teaspoon of dry mustard
2 teaspoons of kosher salt
2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
3 seitan beer brats, cut in half lengthwise, sliced into ½ moons

Spaetzle Ingredients:

1 cup of whole wheat flour
6 tablespoons of silken tofu, tahini, garlic sauce
6 tablespoons of water
½ teaspoon of salt
½ teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon of dry mustard

Directions:

Sauté the leeks, green onion, and carrot in the olive oil until tender. Add the remaining soup ingredients and simmer for 30 minutes.

While the soup simmers make the spaetzle. Bring a pot of water to the bowl while you make the dough.

Combine the flour, salt, pepper and dry mustard and whisks to combine. Add the tofu and stir with a fork to combine. Add the water a tablespoon at a time, stirring with each addition until the dough resembles a waffle batter.

Using a spaetzle maker, large holed grater or strainer, scrape ¼ of the dough to the top of the spaetzle maker. Use a silicon spatula to press the dough through the maker and into the boiling water. The spaetzle will fall to the bottom of the pot and will rise when they are cooked (about a minute). Remove the floating spaetzle with a strainer to a bowl of cold water to keep them from sticking together. Continue making spaetzle using one quarter of the dough at a time until you are finished.

To serve the soup, place the hot vegetables and broth in the bottom of the bowl and top with spaetzle. The hot soup will warm the spaetzle. You don’t want them to cook the second time in the soup or they will be overcooked and mushy.

Refrigerate the soup and spaetzle separately so the spaetzle do not get water logged.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 323.6
Calories From Fat (16%) - 53.18

Total Fat - 6.1g
Saturated Fat - 0.83g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 1089.28mg
Potassium - 1039.96mg
Total Carbohydrates - 46.19g
Fiber - 7.23g
Sugar - 8.35g
Protein - 22.94g

Comments:

Much to my surprise my husband loved this soup. This was unexpected since he isn’t thrilled by kale and doesn’t like vinegar. When I asked what he liked about dinner tonight he told me it was caraway since I don’t normally cook with it.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Japanese Black Truffle Tomatoes



Normally I wouldn’t blog about produce but these tomatoes are amazing. We picked them up this morning from our organic CSA and they are magnificent. The tomatoes have a wonderful rich flavor. They seem to be a lower acid tomato based on the taste. We loved the meatiness of the tomato as well as the fabulous dark color.

If you are gardener you might want to look for these seeds when you are buying for next year. These tomatoes are clearly the best I have had this year. Here is a link to a seed seller in case you are interested.

Fava Beans with Toasted Bread and Tofu Tahini Sauce



This is variation of the chickpea dish that our favorite Lebanese restaurant makes. In addition to changing the bean I added the tomatoes and lemon and eliminated the oil. I also changed the yogurt to silken tofu. Overall I am very happy with how well this dish came out.

Fava Beans with Toasted Bread and Tofu Tahini Sauce
Serves 6

Ingredients:

½ yellow onion, finely diced
4 Roma tomatoes, finely diced
1 ½ cloves of garlic, grated
¼ teaspoon of cumin
¼ teaspoon of coriander
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 pound of small dried fava beans, cooked until tender
6 small whole wheat pita breads (or substitute low fat pita chips)
8 tablespoons of silken tofu, tahini and garlic dip
3 tablespooons of almond milk, or less
¼ cup of pine nuts, toasted

Directions:

Cooke the onion, tomatoes, garlic and lemon juice until onions are tender. Add the cooked fava beans and heat over low until hot.

While the beans are getting warm tear the pitas into bite size pieces and dry toast in a cast iron pan until crispy.

Make the sauce by combing the silken tofu, tahini, and garlic dip and almond milk (one tablespoon at a time) into the blender or food processor. Add almond milk until you reach the consistency you like.

To serve the dish, place the beans in the bottom of the bowl. Pour a drizzle of the tofu tahini mixture on top and garnish with the toasted pine nuts. Surround the exterior of the beans with the crispy bread shards. Traditionally the bread is placed on the bottom of the dish and the beans put on the top. My husband likes this served with the bread shards on top so that is the way we eat it. Feel free to layer this any way you wish.

Serve hot.

Nutritional information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 415.9
Calories From Fat (18%) - 74.92

Total Fat - 9.12g
Saturated Fat - 1.04g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 293.88mg
Potassium - 1113.86mg
Total Carbohydrates - 61.69g
Fiber - 25.18g
Sugar - 8.21g
Protein - 29.54g

Comments:

This dish has good flavor and I particularly like the interplay of textures with the soft beans, creamy tofu topping and crunchy bread shards. The flavor is definitely Middle Eastern, but not overpowering. If you like things acidic a little fresh lemon juice added at the end when you are plating would be very nice.

Middle Eastern Eggplant and Zucchini in the style of Imam Bayildy


(pictured: eggplant on the left, zucchini on the right, with reduced sauce on top)

There is a Middle Eastern dish that I love called Imam Bayildy, which means the Imam fainted. It is a famous Turkish dish that you find in most Middle Eastern restaurants. The original dish is quite high in fat from the amount of olive oil that is traditionally used. Some say that is where it got its name. The Imam fainted when he heard how much of the precious olive oil was used to make the dish.

Since we are trying to keep our fat down to minimize our inflammation I decided to change the dish significantly. Additionally I decided not to stuff the whole split eggplants and then also to add zucchini. This is why I am calling this “in the style of Imam Bayildy". Many of the flavors are the same, but the technique and calorie count are very different.

Middle Eastern Eggplant and Zucchini in the style of Imam Bayildy
Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, finely diced
4 Roma tomatoes, peeled and diced
½ teaspoon of cumin seed
¼ teaspoon of coriander seed
¼ teaspoon of fennel seed
¼ teaspoon of cinnamon
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon of agave
14 ounce can of tomato sauce
½ cup of water
2 medium white eggplant
2 medium zucchini

Directions:

Sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil until tender. Add the remaining ingredients except the zucchini and eggplant. Cook over medium heat while you prep the zucchini and eggplant.

Slice the zucchini and eggplant lengthwise from top to bottom. Score the exterior of the eggplant to make it easier to cut later. Cut a deep cross hatch pattern into the interior of both the eggplant and zucchini to help them collapse so that they are reasonably flat when cooked.

Put the zucchini and eggplant interior down into the bubbling sauce. Cook covered on low heat for 20 minutes. Turn the zucchini and eggplant over and cook for an additional 20 minutes.

When the zucchini and eggplant are soft, remove them from the pan and move to a serving platter to cool to room temperature. The eggplant may cook more quickly than the zucchini. If this happens cook the zucchini until it is also soft and then remove to a serving platter to cool.

Continue to cook the sauce (uncovered) to reduce the sauce to a thicker consistency that you can serve on top the zucchini and eggplant. When the sauce is thick (about 15 minutes) cool it to room temperature.

This dish is best served room temperature or cold. Imam Bayildy is traditionally served cold but I think the flavors are better at room temperature.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 147.92
Calories From Fat (26%) - 37.83

Total Fat - 4.34g
Saturated Fat - 0.62g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 538.45mg
Potassium - 1168.11mg
Total Carbohydrates - 27.45g
Fiber - 11.71g
Sugar - 11.96g
Protein - 5.47g

Comments:

You can make this dish with all eggplant or zucchini if you wish. I prefer eggplant and my husband likes zucchini so I make both versions at the same time. This is a much easier and healthier version of the iconic original dish. If you like Middle Eastern dish you should give this a try.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Crispy Baked Eggplant Filled with Tofu Ricotta and Pine Nuts



This dish is a vegan version of a restaurant dish from Sue and John's wedding anniversary this year when we all went out for dinner. The original dish was made with ricotta and was shallow fried. I have had this on my list to make healthy for about six months (sorry for the delay guys). The tofu ricotta worked extremely well as filling for the eggplant. Tofu firms as is cooks so the texture was perfect in between the eggplant slices. Raw cashews added richness to the filling. Pine nuts were included because they were in the original dish.

Not surprisingly this dish was the favorite this evening of my omnivore parents, who both had seconds, and took the leftovers home. If you are looking for a decadent dish for a party with both vegans and omnivores I suggest this one. If you want to take this over top you can drizzle it with basil or chive oil. This would also be wonderful served on a bed of homemade tomato sauce.

Crispy Baked Eggplant Filled with Tofu Ricotta and Pine Nuts
Serves 8

Ingredients:

2 globe eggplants, sliced ¼ - ½ inch thick
14 ounces of firm water packed tofu, thoroughly drained
¼ cup of raw cashews
1 garlic clove
2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast
1 ½ teaspoons of kosher salt
½ teaspoon of garlic powder
½ teaspoon of oregano, dried
¼ cup of pine nuts, toasted
2 tablespoons of whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons of almond milk
1 ½ cups of whole wheat panko bread crumbs
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

Place the eggplant slices of a half sheet pan lined with paper towel. Place paper towels between the layers of eggplant slices (I had two layers). Top the pan with another pan and weigh it down lightly (I used a couple of empty Pyrex containers. You want the eggplant to give off its excess liquid so the final dish won’t be soggy. I allowed mine to sit undisturbed for about an hour.

Squeeze the tofu dry as you can get it and place in a colander while you process the cashews.

Put the raw cashews in your food processor and process until the nuts are finely ground. Add the tofu, garlic, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, and oregano. Process until everything is thoroughly fine and smooth. Stir the pine nuts into the mixture by hand (you want them to remain whole for texture) and move the mixture to the refrigerator until you are ready to make the eggplant sandwiches.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line two baking sheet pans with parchment.

I find it easiest to line up the eggplant (top and bottom) first. Spread the tofu onto half the eggplant sandwiches and top with the matching eggplant slice.

Dust each sandwich with whole-wheat flour to make the breading stick. Dip each sandwich into almond milk and then into the panko breadcrumbs. I like to allow the sandwiches to dry out a little (10 minutes) before I proceed with the baking. I think this helps the coating to stay on the sandwiches.

Lightly coat each eggplant sandwich with a little drizzle of olive oil. I tried spraying it with oil but it causes some of the breading to come off. I used a total of 1 tablespoon of oil for all the eggplant sandwiches. Bake the sandwiches for 15 minutes and check to see if they are ready to be flipped. The top will be more brown than the bottom. You may need to add a little oil if the sandwiches are dry (mine didn’t need it). Cook an additional 15 minutes on the second side.

Serve these hot.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 201.12
Calories From Fat (40%) - 79.84

Total Fat - 9.44g
Saturated Fat - 0.98g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 541mg
Potassium - 500.69mg
Total Carbohydrates - 21.83g
Fiber - 6.11g
Sugar - 3.7g
Protein - 10.96g

Comments:

My omnivore parents devoured this dish. Both of them told me this was their favorite dish tonight. I thought it was good, but honestly felt it was a little too rich for me. Adding an acid to this may have made it a little better for me. I think next time I will serve this on a bed of tomato sauce.

Lentil Carrot and Walnut Salad



This is a salad I have made a few times but never documented. Both my husband and I like lentils and carrots so it was natural that we would like this salad. It is a great winter salad when the vegetable choices are bleak. I have made this dish without the fresh parsley and while it is still good, it is much better with the parsley if you have it.

Lentil Carrot and Walnut Salad
Serves 8

Ingredients:

1 ¼ cup of lentils
5 cups of water to cook the lentils
4 tablespoons of sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon of walnut oil (or canola)
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
6 large carrots, grated
½ of walnuts, toasted and chopped
½ cup of fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped

Directions:

Pick through and rinse lentils. Cover the lentils with the water and cook until tender. Over high heat this took 20 minutes for me. Drain the lentils and move to a large bowl with a lid.

Add the sherry vinegar, walnut oil and kosher salt to the hot lentils so that they absorb the dressing more readily. Allow the lentils to come to room temperature before adding the carrots. Once the carrots have been added the salad can be refrigerated until ready to serve.

Stir the walnuts and parsley into the salad at the last minute so the parsley remains fresh and the walnuts remain crunchy.

Serve this salad at room temperature or cold.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 196.02
Calories From Fat (30%) - 59.01

Total Fat - 6.96g
Saturated Fat - 0.68g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 282.75mg
Potassium - 541.71mg
Total Carbohydrates - 25.52g
Fiber - 11.46g
Sugar - 3.71g
Protein - 9.53g

Comments:

This may have been my favorite dish from dinner tonight. The lentils are acidic from the sherry vinegar but not too acidic. Grated carrot adds a nice sweet crunch. The walnut flavor is subtle but adds a little omega three as well as fatty mouth feel that all dishes need. Chopped parsley adds a nice freshness to the dish. If you are looking for a different salad this one is a good option.

Roasted Tomatoes with Pomegranate Molasses, Sumac and Almonds



Last weekend I made slow roasted tomatoes with balsamic vinegar. Today I wanted to try a couple of variations. First I wanted to roast the tomatoes a little more quickly so I increased the oven temperature by 50%.

We love Middle Eastern food in our house so I wanted to use pomegranate molasses and sumac in this version of the tomatoes. It seems like I am always reaching for the pomegranate molasses and sumac lately. Finally I decided a few slivered almonds would be tasty and in keeping with the Middle Eastern theme.

Roasted Tomatoes with Pomegranate Molasses, Sumac and Almonds
Serves 8

Ingredients:

Approximately 17 Roma tomatoes (enough to fill a half sheet pan)
2 tablespoons of pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon of pomegranate juice
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
½ teaspoon of sumac powder
¼ teaspoon of kosher salt
1 tablespoon of slivered almonds

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.

Cut the Roma tomatoes in half top to bottom. Remove the stem end and the seed sacs.

Combine the pomegranate molasses, pomegranate juice (to thin the molasses), and lemon juice and whisk to combine.

Use a spoon of put a little of the juice into each tomato. I think I used about a ½ teaspoon per tomato half (so not much really). Next sprinkle the tomatoes with the sumac and kosher salt and put the pan in the oven.

Check the tomatoes in one hour to see if they are a texture you like. I roasted my tomatoes for an hour and fifteen minutes. I sprinkled the almonds onto the tomatoes just before serving so they retained their crunchy texture.

Nutritional information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 89.06
Calories From Fat (11%) - 9.75

Total Fat - 1.14g
Saturated Fat - 0.12g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 73.26mg
Potassium - 695.7mg
Total Carbohydrates - 19.43g
Fiber - 3.58g
Sugar - 12.43g
Protein - 2.77g

Comments:

If you like Middle Eastern food I think you will really like these tomatoes. The sweet and tart flavor from the pomegranate molasses works well with the tomatoes, lemon juice and sumac. The flavor of these tomatoes is complex and yet familiar. The crunchy almonds are a nice textural variation next to the soft tomatoes. I think this is my new go to tomato side dish for when I am having Middle Eastern food.

Roasted Roma Tomatoes with Sherry Vinegar and Basil



Since we are also having the sweet pomegranate roasted tomatoes I wanted something similar but different for contrast so I decided to use sherry vinegar to see how we liked this by comparison. I made both versions at the same time and held them at room temperature until dinner. My husband and I found it difficult not to sample these prior to dinner. The smell was very inviting.

Roasted Roma Tomatoes with Sherry Vinegar and Basil
Serves 8

Ingredients:

Approximately 17 Roma tomatoes (enough to fill a half sheet pan)
3 tablespoons of sherry vinegar
¼ teaspoon of kosher salt
2 tablespoons of fresh basil, finely chopped

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.

Cut the Roma tomatoes in half top to bottom. Remove the stem end and the seed sacs.

Pour the sherry vinegar into a bowl; it makes it easier to get it evenly into the tomatoes. Use a spoon to put a little of the vinegar into each tomato. I think I used about a ½ teaspoon per tomato half (so not much really). Sprinkle the tomatoes with the kosher salt and put the pan in the oven.

Check the tomatoes in one hour to see if they are a texture you like. I roasted my tomatoes for and hour and fifteen minutes.

When you are ready to serve top the tomatoes with freshly chopped basil.

Nutritional information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 55.3
Calories From Fat (9%) - 5.18

Total Fat - 0.62g
Saturated Fat - 0.08g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 73.55mg
Potassium - 724.77mg
Total Carbohydrates - 12.27g
Fiber - 3.9g
Sugar - 7.57g
Protein - 2.69g

Comments:

These tomatoes are a little tart from the sherry vinegar but also sweet from the concentrated tomato. Fresh basil took the flavor over the top. These were just as good as the other version of tomatoes I made today but with a different flavor profile. When I asked everyone which tomato version they liked best the response was unanimous, both tomatoes were good and were so different it they couldn’t be compared.

I plan to use the leftover tomatoes for sandwich for the next fews days.

Bulgur, Seitan Brats and Eggplant Tomato Sauce


(pictured: bulgur and brats in sauce with vegan mozzarella grated on top - not yet microwaved to melt the cheese)

This morning I decided to use up leftovers for breakfast. I make things like this often for breakfast and lunch. I wanted to use a brat in breakfast this morning since I wanted to see what the texture would be like if they were simmered rather than crispy. My husband and I both agree that we with prefer the brats simmered. We are discussing trying the brats out on the parents this weekend for dinner to see how they work on omnivores. I don’t know that I am feeling that brave yet, but we will see.

Bulgur, Seitan Brats and Eggplant Tomato Sauce
Serves 2

Ingredients:

½ cup of bulgur, dry
1 ¼ cups of water, filtered
1 pinch of kosher salt
1 seitan beer brat, sliced thin
1 cup of eggplant tomato sauce
vegan mozzarella, to garnish – optional

Directions:

Combine the bulgur, water and kosher salt in the small pan with a lid. Cover the pan and bring to a boil then reduce the heat so that it is simmering. Cook for 10 – 12 minutes (depending on how long it takes to absorb the water). Leave the lid on the pan and turn the heat. Allow the bulgur to stand for 10 minutes so that it will continue to steam.

While the bulgur is steaming make the brat and sauce topping. Slice the brats thinly and add to the tomato sauce. Simmer the brats and tomatoes until heated through.

Top the bulgur with the brats and tomatoes. Garnish with a little shredded vegan mozzarella if desired. The vegan mozzarella will melt on top if your sauce is hot enough (at least 185 degrees). Or you can pop the dish in the microwave for 30 seconds and that works as well.

Nutritional Information (without optional cheese):

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 269.45
Calories From Fat (12%) - 32.59

Total Fat - 3.75g
Saturated Fat - 0.56g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 373.63mg
Potassium - 484.69mg
Total Carbohydrates - 40.84g
Fiber - 9.54g
Sugar - 3.98g
Protein - 20.05g

Comments:

The brat texture was quite good simmered in the sauce for a few minutes (about 10). We think the texture of this sausage is closer to real sausage than any other seitan sausage we have tried before. It is still firmer than traditional sausage, but the soaked breadcrumbs do make the texture less firm (which was the point).

In case you are curious I think we have decided on what is for dinner tonight ….crispy baked eggplant slices stuffed with tofu ricotta and pine nuts. This is another dish that has been on my list for a while and since the weather is less than stellar today it is a good day to spend in the kitchen.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Seitan Beer Brats with Sauerkraut and Baked Potatoes



My German heritage husband is not overly fond of sauerkraut. This fact is still one of those things that makes me go, huh? What kind of German doesn’t like sauerkraut? I love the stuff so I have devised a way that we can both enjoy the sauerkraut.

If I soak the sauerkraut in a bowl of water for a few minutes and then strain it, rinse it and soak and rinse it a second time then my husband likes sauerkraut. Additionally, soaking and rinsing removes most of the salt from the sauerkraut making the dish healthier. I add a few common German spices to this dish to make up for the reduction in saltiness.

Seitan Beer Brats with Sauerkraut and Baked Potatoes
Serves 2

Ingredients:

½ tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
28 ounces of sauerkraut, drained and rinsed of excess sodium
1 teaspoon of caraway
1 teaspoon of dill weed (dried)
½ teaspoon of fennel seed
½ teaspoon of sweet paprika
½ cup of water, white wine or beer
2 seitan beer brats
pan spray
2 large Yukon Gold Potatoes (about 4 ounces each)
4 tablespoons of silken tofu, tahini, garlic sauce or tofu sour cream

Directions:

Sauté the onion in olive oil until tender. Add the remaining ingredients, except the seitan beer brats and simmer over low heat for at least 30 minutes.

Scrub the potatoes and pierce them with a paring knife so they don’t explode in the microwave. Cook until tender. Time will depend on the wattage of your microwave.

Cut the brats on the bias into ½ inch slices. Heat a heavy bottomed pan over medium low heat. Spray the pan with cooking spray and add the brat slices. Cook the brat slices on the first side until they are brown and a little crisp (about 3 minutes). Spray the top of the brats before you turn them so that the oiled side will be down. Cook the second side it is also a little crisp. Remove from the pan and keep warm until ready to serve.

To serve, put the sauerkraut on the bottom and top with the crispy brat slices. Garnish the potatoes with a dollop of tofu tahini garlic sauce or tofu sour cream.

If you make this earlier in the day (or your husband is running late as mine was) you can hold everything in a 200 degree oven until you are ready to serve. If you need to do this, I would suggest that you add the bratwurst to the sauerkraut so that it stays more moist. The presentation won't be as pretty but the texture of the brat will be better.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 519.81
Calories From Fat (19%) - 100.91

Total Fat - 11.46g
Saturated Fat - 1.59g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 1471.34mg
Potassium - 1682.41mg
Total Carbohydrates - 65.64g
Fiber - 15.28g
Sugar - 8.79g
Protein - 38.38g

The sodium in the statistics above is overstated. I could only find numbers for drained low sodium sauerkraut. I feel certain by soaking and draining the sauerkraut the majority of the sodium is rinsed away.

Comments:

We enjoyed this meal tonight. It was very filling and satisfying on a stormy night as tropical storm/depression (whatever it is now) Danny is coming up the east coast.

Update:

I have changed my mind on the brats after breakfast this morning. I would recommend stirring the crisped brats into the sauerkraut so that they are more moist. After having our brats simmered this morning I now think simmered is definitely the way to go.

Seitan Beer Brats



How many times have you seen the commercial for the Johnsville Brat Beer Hot tub? The commercial came on this morning and I decided my husband would like a healthy version of this, but with a twist of course. I was going to put the beer in the brat rather than the brat in the beer.

I grabbed my Charcuterie book to find out what was in bratwurst and surprisingly it is pork, white pepper, ginger and nutmeg with heavy cream and egg. This made me think that the commercial bratwurst sold in this country isn’t bratwurst at all. When I checked the Johnsville website no dairy or egg. However, the Johnsville Beer brat on the website sounds interesting and a better match for the beer idea. The Johnsville beer brat includes beer, lemon and sweetener. That is where I began the process.

To get a somewhat fatty (think squishy) texture to the sausages I added whole wheat bread crumbs soaked in beer and a little olive oil to the seitan mixture. I also thought garlic would be good in these. A little agave was added for sweetness, but not much. I tasted the wet mixture and decided not to add lemon to this batch, I wasn’t certain I wanted that flavor this time.

Seitan Beer Brats
Makes 8 large brats

Ingredients:

2 cups of whole wheat bread crumbs
2 tablespoons of onion flakes
12 ounces of ale or beer
¼ cup of water
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon of dry mustard
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
½ teaspoon of black pepper freshly ground
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced or grated on a microplane
1 teaspoon of agave
10 ounce box of vital wheat gluten
2 bay leaves

Directions:

Combine all the ingredients except the wheat gluten. Stir so that everything is evenly combined. You want the breadcrumbs and onion flakes to absorb the liquid. Allow the wet mixture to stand for at least 5 minutes. Check the texture of the breadcrumbs; if they are completely wet you can add the wheat gluten now. Knead to thoroughly combine the wet and dry ingredients. This mixture should feel much softer than regular seitan dough due to the amount of bread crumbs, that will be what gives the sausages the soft texture you are looking for.

Put the bay leaves in the bottom of your pressure cooker. Add the steamer insert and enough water to come to the bottom of the insert.

Remove 8 sheets of aluminum foil from the roll to form the sausages. You want pieces that are about 10 inches in length so the sausages have at least three layers of aluminum foil around them. This will make certain they retain their shape while cooking.

Place the seitan dough on a cutting board and cut into eight roughly equal pieces. Roll each piece of seitan into a fat snake and place it on a sheet of foil. Roll the foil around the seitan snake like you are rolling a burrito (with open sides). When the seitan dough is rolled up twist the ends of the aluminum foil tightly like a tootsie roll.

Place the wrapped seitan sausages into the pressure cooker. Bring the cooker to pressure and cook for 15 minutes. Allow the cooker to return to pressure naturally. Remove the sausages from the pressure cooker and allow them to cool until you can remove the aluminum foil without burning your fingers. This will take at least 15 minutes.

Place the unwrapped sausages in a container with a lid and refrigerate until you are ready to use them. They can also be wrapped individually in plastic cling film and put into a Ziploc freezer bag and stored in the freezer for at least a month.

These sausages can be used in recipes that call for bratwurst.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 222.5
Calories From Fat (18%) - 40.19

Total Fat - 4.53g
Saturated Fat - 0.67g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 196.53mg
Potassium - 110.93mg
Total Carbohydrates - 14.06g
Fiber - 1.5g
Sugar - 1.32g
Protein - 28.85g

Comments:

In the interest of full disclosure I will tell you that I am not a fan of beer. The only beer I ever liked was warm Guinness or Grolsch and that was a lifetime ago. If I am drinking it is red Italian wine (normally Brunello) 99% of the time. With that in mind these beer sausages are much better than I expected. The texture is definitely softer than normal seitan, but still firm enough to mimic a meaty bite.

You can expect to see a few meals with these in the coming days and weeks. I expect my husband will really like these.

Bentonite Clay Health Beverages May Contain Arsenic



This article is a little disturbing. Apparently beverages that are sold with the purpose to detoxify the system have tested positive for arsenic.

Arsenic is a class one carcinogen, which means there is no safe level. Since all the beverages the UK Food Standards Agency tested were positive for arsenic I plan to avoid these. If you have purchased anything like this the abstract outlines the beverages that were tested.

On a related note I had been considering buying bentonite clay to make a homemade facial mask until I read this article. While I don’t think the risk is high, since we are capable of absorbing things through our skin, I don’t plan on using any facial products with bentonite clay to be cautious.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Sweet and Spicy Beans with Shitake Mushrooms and Brown Rice



I had fresh beans and shitake mushrooms in the refrigerator and that screamed Chinese food to me. I considered making this dish all spicy but I don’t make sweet Chinese sauces very often so I decided to try to go left (not something I do well … I am far too predictable).

My husband enjoyed this dish tonight and will be taking the leftovers for lunch tomorrow. If you like Chinese food this is a fast, no fuss dinner.

Sweet and Spicy Beans with Shitake Mushrooms and Brown Rice
Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 cup of short grain brown rice
2 cups of water
¼ teaspoon of kosher salt

1 tablespoon of mirin
1 red onion, sliced thin
3 cups of green beans, tipped
3 cups of wax beans, tipped
½ pound of fresh shitake, cut into bite sized pieces
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced (allow to stand 10 minutes so the allicin can develop)
½ tablespoon of fresh ginger, finely minced
2 tablespoons of agave
2 tablespoons of liquid aminos
1 teaspoon of chili garlic sauce
2 tablespoons of cashews, for garnish

Directions:

Combine the rice, water and salt in pan with a lid and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to simmer and cook covered for 45 minutes. Allow to stand 10 minutes longer (with the lid on) so all the water will absorb. Fluff the rice with a fork to serve. Don’t use a spoon it will mash the grains.

Heat a big pan and add the mirin and onion. Cook until the onion begins to soften slightly. Add the beans and cook for a minute or tow. Add the remaining ingredients except the cashews. When the vegetables are heated through add the cooked rice and toss to coat the rice with sauce. You want the to absorb the sauce as much as possible. As soon as the rice is heated through you are ready to eat.

Plate the rice, beans and mushrooms and top with a few cashews.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 274.29
Calories From Fat (11%) - 30.9

Total Fat - 3.79g
Saturated Fat - 0.45g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 642.31mg
Potassium - 289.57mg
Total Carbohydrates - 61.73g
Fiber - 9.33g
Sugar - 2.98g
Protein - 6.95g

Comments:

This is much more filling that it looks. My husband and I had a serving and I also couldn’t finish my dessert. On the other hand my husband had no difficulty eating two desserts (but he can always do that).

I decided to make this sweeter and less spicy but you can easily increase the chili and garlic sauce and get more heat into this dish. The dish was tossed into the pan to absorb the sauce. I wasn’t in the mood to use any cornstarch tonight and when you add the warm rice to the pan it eliminates that need.

If you like fresh beans and mushrooms I think you will like this dish.

Layered Chocolate and Peanut Butter Mousse with Bourbon



My poor husband has been waiting for this mousse for months. I thought of the idea at least 3 months ago, told him about it and then never made it until today. This is a variation of my chocolate mousse with espresso, which is one of his favorites. Well, he also loves chocolate and peanut butter cups (which I don't make often) so I thought that he would like the flavor combination in mousse form. Needless to say, he loves it.

This dessert is very easy to make. The portions are intentionally small because the mousse is so rich and decadent tasting. I don’t like to have much at once and my husband can always eat two, so this small portion works well at our house. I have made the chocolate mousse for many people (never vegan) and everyone has loved it.

I included bourbon in this recipe since I knew it would work well with the peanut butter, and it is an amazing flavor combination. You can omit the bourbon if you wish, but it does add to the flavor and more importantly to the aroma, and only amounts to ¼ tablespoon per serving.

Layered Chocolate and Peanut Butter Mousse with Bourbon
Serves 4

Ingredients:

12.3 ounces of low fat silken tofu, firm
6 tablespoons of agave
½ teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 tablespoon of Bourbon (used Woodford Reserve)
2 tablespoon of natural organic peanut butter
2 tablespoons of cocoa powder
4 tablespoons of dark chocolate chips

Directions:

Place the tofu, agave, vanilla extract and bourbon your food process and blend completely.

Remove ½ of the tofu mixture to be made chocolate shortly.

Add the peanut butter to the food processor and blend completely.

Put the peanut butter mousse in the bottom of 4 cups. Scrape the processor bowl well or wash it and return it to the machine with the reserved tofu mixture.

Add the cocoa powder to the food processor. Melt the chips in the microwave on 30% power until soft (I needed 3 minutes). Scrape the soft chocolate into the food processor and thoroughly blend.

Top the peanut butter mousse with the chocolate mousse. Cover the top of the cups with plastic cling film and refrigerate until firm (about 2 hours). Enjoy cold.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 190.82
Calories From Fat (45%) - 85.99

Total Fat - 10.36g
Saturated Fat - 3.47g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 135.81mg
Potassium - 215.38mg
Total Carbohydrates - 16.62g
Fiber - 4.32g
Sugar - 2.43g
Protein - 9.66g

Comments:

This recipe has a little more fat than I would like, but much of it comes from the natural peanut butter so I don’t think it can be that bad for our health.

Chocolate, peanut butter and bourbon are a flavor match made in heaven. The chocolate layer is a little thick, the peanut layer softer, and together they are magical. If you want you can add some chopped peanuts or mini chocolate chips to either layer. I would put peanuts in the chocolate and chocolate in the peanut butter.

Vegan Mozzarella



I have been searching for the perfect vegan mozzarella for a long time. To say that I am picky about my vegan cheese would be an understatement. Buffalo mozzarella was my favorite type of mozzarella. I loved the soft texture and the almost sweet yet salty taste. When Rose of Dandelion blogged about mozzarella, I knew I had to try it again. I blended the recipe I was most happy with, with the one Rose mentioned from Veganize It Don’t Criticize It, and that seemed to work well.

My mozzarella is equal parts silken tofu and almond milk with raw cashew added for richness. I used lemon juice for a very slight tang. The agave is added to mimic the sweetness dairy adds to fresh cheese. My cheese is a little higher in sodium than some of my recipes because I think that is necessary to come close to a dairy cheese taste since they all rely on salt.

This is definitely my best mozzarella so far. This cheese does not taste at all like tofu, or cashews. The flavor is very mild, like mozzarella. The texture is softer than commercial mozzarella, but not quite soft enough to mimic buffalo mozzarella, but close. Here is the recipe if you want to give it a try.

Vegan Mozzarella
Serves 10 (4 ounce servings)

Ingredients:

1/3 cup of raw cashews
12.3 ounce package of Organic Silken Tofu, firm
1 ½ cups of almond milk (I used my version with oats)
2 teaspoons of kosher salt
1 teaspoon of lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 teaspoon of amber agave nectar
4 teaspoons of agar, powdered (NOT flaked)

Directions:

Place the raw cashews in your blender. Process until they are a fine powdery meal (but not cashew butter). Add the remaining ingredients, except the agar and process until the mixture is completely smooth.

Pour the contents into a saucepan and sprinkle the agar on top the mixture and whisk it completely in. Allow it to stand for 5 minutes so the agar will bloom.

After the 5 minutes has passed, turn the heat on medium and cook, stirring continually. The mixture will start to bubble (like polenta) at about 160 degrees. You want to continue to cook it for about 5 minutes to come close to 212 degrees. The agar sets best when it has come to a least 185 degrees and is then cooled to 110 degrees.

If you want to use this on pizza, the temperature of the agar needs to reach 185 degrees before it will begin to melt again.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 170.76
Calories From Fat (15%) - 25.72

Total Fat - 2.95g
Saturated Fat - 0.42g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 452.35mg
Potassium - 571.46mg
Total Carbohydrates - 35.05g
Fiber - 3.49g
Sugar - 1.85g
Protein - 5.74g

Comments:

If you are accustomed to commercial mozzarella this cheese will seem too soft to you. The texture of this cheese is closer to buffalo mozzarella, which is a much softer cheese. Unlike my vegan cheddar cheese brick this cheese retains a softer character but is still firm enough to slice. Next time I am going to back down a little on the agar to make the cheese a tiny bit softer (maybe ½ teaspoon).

I tried this with tomatoes and basil salt for a twist on vegan caprese salad for lunch and was very happy with the results. This will undoubtedly turn up this weekend on pizza if we don’t eat it all first.

I have frozen vegan cheese before, and it does fine. However, we normally don’t have any difficulty eating it before there is any worry that it will go bad. It will last a week in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed container.

High Fructose Corn Syrup Linked to DNA Damage



According to this article we have yet another reason to avoid high fructose corn syrup. Since at our house we are actively trying to avoid DNA damage, I will be even more vigilant to avoid HFCS now.

Researchers at the USDA have measured dramatic increases in hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) as temperatures increase. It is apparently a heat-induced decomposition of the product. It is interesting that there are limits on how much can be contained in the honey and yet I have heard of this before.

When I did a little research it seems to appear in many products. Since this seems to be a by-product of fructose dehydration I assume only sweet products (dried fruit was mentioned in one article) are at risk for this by-product. I interpret this as yet another reason to keep our sweet consumption to a minimum (bummer!).

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Vegan Braunschweiger


(pictured: vegan braunschweiger on wasa crisp with dijon and pickled red onion)

Credit for this concept goes to Bryanna Clark Grogan and her recipe posted on August 6, 2009. I am very excited about this recipe. Topped with Dijon and onions this reminds me so much of liver without the negative health impact.

I made some changes to the Bryanna’s original recipe; most noticeably I swapped out the silken tofu and sunflower seeds for the pulp that is left when I make almond milk. I make almond milk so often I always have the pulp on hand and wanted another way to use it. There are only so many veggie burgers I can make with the almond pulp before I have a freezer full. I thought this recipe would be a good way to use the almond pulp, and it was!

The texture of this loaf is firm, but spreadable. Texture is one of those things that I think is critical in cooking and this one turned out really well. This is so good spread on a hearty bread or cracker with a little mustard and pickled onion.

Vegan Braunschweiger
Serves 8 – ½ or each small loaf

Ingredients:

wet strained pulp from making almond milk (recipe here)
4 ounces of Yukon Gold Potato, scrubbed and cut into small chunks (peel on)
1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons of onion flakes
¼ cup of nutritional yeast flakes
¼ cup of whole-wheat flour
¼ cup of liquid aminos
2 cloves of garlic
½ teaspoon of thyme, dried
½ teaspoon of oregano, dried
5 allspice berries, ground (approximately ¼ teaspoon)
1/8 teaspoon of freshly ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1 teaspoon of liquid smoke
8 ounces of almond milk, unsweetened

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Put everything in the blender with half the almond milk and puree until everything is combined. If the mixture is too thick add the remaining almond milk 1 tablespoon or 2 two at a time until the mixture will pour (mine was still somewhat thick).

I used four small loaf pans (4 ½ by 2 ½ by 1 ½) and the mixture filled each to within ¼ inch of the top of the pan. Place the pans in another pan and add water so that it comes half way up the sides.

Bake for 45 minutes, until the mixture is beginning to set, but is still somewhat soft. It will firm significantly as it cools.

Wrap tightly and store in the refrigerator. I plan to freeze half of mine like Bryanna suggested on her site, assuming it lasts long enough to make it to the freezer.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 80.32
Calories From Fat (37%) - 29.41

Total Fat - 4.62g
Saturated Fat - 0.03g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 832.11mg
Potassium - 388.89mg
Total Carbohydrates - 9.41g
Fiber - 1.01g
Sugar - 0.55g
Protein - 3.6g

Comments:

It has been a few years since I have had brauschweiger, but I think this is a reasonable approximation. The flavor is quite good, and as I said earlier the texture is great.

If you make almond milk and are looking for a way to use the leftover pulp this is great option. There are so many options for where you can take this base. I can imagine many different pate varieties in the coming months.

Update:

I took this to cooking class tonight, and please note this is not a vegan class, and ..... it was much better received than I expected. The men definitively seemed to like it more than the women. But, overall I think this is a winner. The texture is definitely dead on. Most people thought the flavor was good, although I did get a few suggestions that I will try to incorporate into the next batch.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Potato, Green Bean, Tomato and Lettuce Salad with Tofu, Tahini, Garlic Dip



This is a good salad for lunch (since it is best cold). It is similar to a salad nicoise, but without the tuna.

Yukon gold potatoes were what I had on hand so I used those. Any waxy potato would work here. Adding the acid (in this case vinegar) to the hot potatoes is something I always do. It adds a lot of flavor without adding unnecessary fat or calories. I used both green and wax beans for color, but all green beans would have been great here too. The reason I used the silken tofu, tahini and garlic dip was because I was out of cucumbers and didn’t think it would last until I got to the store for more. Normally I would serve this salad with lemon vinaigrette. The tofu, tahini, garlic dip worked well as a salad dressing. Both my husband and I thought it worked well enough that we would use it for salad dressing again.

Potato, Green Bean, Tomato and Lettuce Salad with Tofu, Tahini, Garlic Dip
Serves 2

Ingredients:

8 ounces of yukon gold potatoes
1 ½ cups of green beans, cleaned
1 ½ cups of wax beans, cleaned
½ tablespoons of sherry vinegar
6 cups of lettuce, cleaned, dried and torn into bite sized pieces
2 Roma tomatoes cut into bite size pieces
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
6 tablespoons of silken tofu, tahini and garlic dip

Directions:

Microwave the potatoes until just tender and allow to cool so that you can handle them. When they are cool enough to handle, cut them into bite size pieces.

Steam the green beans for 5 minutes. Remove them to a pan that you can spread them out in a single layer to expedite cooling. I don't not immerse my cooked produce in ice water as I believe that some of the vitamins would leach out into the water using that method. Add the potatoes to the beans and sprinkle with the sherry vinegar while they are still warm so they absorb the vinegar. Refrigerate until needed.

Plate the prepared lettuce. Top the lettuce with tomatoes, beans and potatoes. Salt and pepper the salad to taste and finish with a big dollop of tofu, tahini and garlic dip.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 256.05
Calories From Fat (16%) - 41.07g

Total Fat - 4.76g
Saturated Fat - 0.58g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 100.22mg
Potassium - 1605.11mg
Total Carbohydrates - 48.09g
Fiber - 9.91g
Sugar - 8.47g
Protein - 10.83g

Comments:

Sometimes we eat dinner very late, like tonight. I cooked and cooled the beans and potatoes a couple of hours before dinner and held them in the refrigerator until my husband got home from work. This salad made a nice light late dinner.

We had this salad with a slice of whole-wheat flat bread topped with my variation of the braunschweiger from Bryanna Clark Grogan’s website Vegan Feast Kitchen; I will post my variation of the recipe tomorrow. I highly recommend that you try the recipe on Bryanna’s site; the flavor is very nice and makes a good topping for bread with a little Dijon mustard and pickled onions.

Zucchini Bacon


(pictured: zucchini bacon draining on paper towel)

Zucchini bacon was a request of my husband. I have been making bacon bits for a while now and he wanted me to make bacon strips. I tried using thinly sliced tofu and it worked reasonably well, but it wasn’t exactly what I wanted. Since my hubby thought zucchini would be a good replacement that was what I worked on next.

This marinate is a combination of many different recipes I have seen for flavoring TVP to make bacon bits. I used the oil to replicate the fatty texture of bacon. Agave and black pepper were included to give the bacon a flavor similar to maple pepper bacon. Liquid Aminos was included for saltiness. Liquid smoke was required if I was going to get anything remotely bacon like. Apple cider vinegar was added to balance the sweetness of the agave.

Zucchini Bacon – Version 1
Serves 8

Ingredients:

2 zucchini, thinly sliced (I used a mandoline one setting up from thinnest)
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of amber agave
2 tablespoons of liquid aminos (or low sodium soy sauce)
2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
½ tablespoon of liquid smoke
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions:

Whisk the marinate and place it and the zucchini slices in a container with a lid, or a Ziploc bag. Marinate the zucchini at least 2 hours, tossing the zucchini periodically to make certain all the slices absorb some of the flavor. I marinated my zucchini for about 15 hours in the refrigerator. When I removed them from the marinade they were more pliable than when they went into the marinate.

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees preferably using your convection setting. Line two half-sheet pans with parchment or a silpat and place the zucchini strips in an even layer on the pans (do no overlap). Save the excess marinade since you may want to brush it on your zucchini bacon while it is cooking. Or you could use it for the next batch.

Check the zucchini every hour to see how it is doing. I turn mine over each hour so I can check the consistency and obtain even cooking. You can brush the bacon with the reserved marinade each time you turn it over. This may extend the length of time required to bake the zucchini, but I think it will add more flavor. How long you cook the bacon will depend on how chewy you want the end result and whether you brush the zucchini with the extra marinade. I removed mine from the oven after 3 ½ to 4 hours (the smaller pieces came out earlier).

Nutritional Information (higher than actual):

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 58.85
Calories From Fat (78%) - 46.04

Total Fat - 5.21g
Saturated Fat - 0.73g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 259.23mg
Potassium - 147.89mg
Total Carbohydrates - 2.86g
Fiber - 1.02g
Sugar - 1.04g
Protein - 0.72g

I posted the nutritional information so that you had some idea of where the upper end of the calories and other nutrients were, but I know they are overstated. I had a good amount of the marinate left when I finished cooking. Additionally, there was a lot of fat on the baking sheet when I finished. It looks like most of the oil doesn’t get absorbed. My best guess is the fat and calories above are at least double what they are in reality. When you make the zucchini bacon you will see what I mean about the leftover marinate and fat.

Comments:

This is another one of those recipes where I expect the first question is "how much is it like the real thing". Like the vegan cheese brick, you aren’t going to fool anyone into thinking this is bacon. However, it a little smoky, a little sweet and peppery like bacon. The chew is also closer to bacon than I expected. So the answer is no, it doesn’t taste like bacon, but it is similar to bacon and it does taste good. In my opinion, tasting good is what matters most in a successful recipe. However, just because it tastes good doesn’t mean I have finalized this recipe. I think I can make it more “bacon like” but this will take a few more variations.

Next time I will increase the liquid smoke, and I will probably decrease the apple cider and fat. I am considering adding a liquid Dijon to emulsify the dressing but I haven’t decided on that yet. Assuming my husband wants me to continue to “tinker” with this recipe you will see another version of this in a week or so.

If you decide to try this concept and make some changes please let me know what you do. I think this recipe is going to take some effort to finalize. I posted this recipe early in case anyone has any suggestions or wants to work on this recipe at their house. Since zucchini is so abundant now, I thought this would be a great time of year to play around with this concept.

Update:

I grabbed a slice of this from the refrigerator to see how the texture and flavor changed when cold and it is better cold. The texture firms in the refrigerator and the flavor seems more rounded. I do still think it needs a little more smoke, but it is definitely better cold.

My husband thinks this only needs more smoke. It appears I am being too much of a perfectionist again. I still may tinker with it a little, but not much since the hubby is happy with it.

Almond Milk with Oats



I make almond milk nearly everyday. Since I discovered it was easier than making soymilk almond milk has become my non-dairy milk of choice. When I make soymilk I use Bryanna Clark Grogan’s recipe that adds a few tablespoons of oats to the milk and it made a world of difference in terms of creaminess. Today I thought why don’t I try adding oats to the almond milk, so that is what I did.

This almond milk is richer than my standard recipe for almond milk but is no more difficult. If you are looking for soymilk replacement this recipe is quick, easy and rich.

Almond Milk with Oats
Makes 6 ½ cups

Ingredients:

1 cups of almonds, soaked overnight
7 cups of filtered water
3 tablespoons of old fashioned oats (uncooked)
1/8 teaspoon of sea salt - optional

Directions:

Place half the almonds in your blender with half the water and half the oats. Blend for a minute or two until the nuts are ground. Strain the nut milk through a fine wire sieve or a regular sieve lined with a couple layers of cheesecloth. Repeat with the remaining ingredients. I save the strained solids in the freezer for adding to veggie burgers.

Refrigerate and serve cold or use as you would dairy milk or soymilk.

Nutritional Information (per 1 cup):

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 57.5
Calories From Fat (53%) - 30.29

Total Fat - 3.31g
Saturated Fat - 0.05g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 150.09mg
Potassium - 209.3mg
Total Carbohydrates - 4.98g
Fiber - 1.48g
Sugar - 0g
Protein - 1.76g

Comments:

This almond milk tastes very similar to the recipe without oats but this milk is thicker and richer. There may be a little oat taste in the background, but if there is, it is subtle. I may taste oats only because I expect to. Overall I am pleased with the addition of oats in the almond milk. I can’t wait to hear what my husband thinks.

Metal Water Bottles Can Have bisphenol A (BPA)



Something else to worry about, just what I needed. If you have metal water bottles they may have the BPA you were trying to avoid. I don’t know about you but I bought metal water bottles to avoid the BPA in plastic bottles, so this really annoys me!

My water bottle is uncoated stainless steel, so I think that is safe. My husband has a larger Sigg water bottle that is coated aluminium. Since the article indicated that Sigg removed the BPA from the bottles in 2008 our recently purchased bottle should be safe. The interior of our Sigg bottle appears the be the safe "pale yellow" color on the inside.

I wanted to post this link so that everyone knew that there is a potential problem with metal water bottles. If one manufacturer was coating bottles with BPA I doubt they were the only ones.

Tea Drinkers Are Biologically 5 years younger


(pictured: Double Green Tea with Goji Berries and Pomegranate Juice)

If you don’t already drink green tea, this study gives you a good reason to start. According to researchers at the University of Hong Kong the consumption of tea is linked to longer telomeres. If you have read any of the Dr. Oz books you know what telomeres are and that longer is better. In case you haven’t read his books here is my interpretation of telomeres:

Telomeres are found at the end of your chromosomes. Each time the chromosome reproduces the telomere gets a little shorter. When the telomere is so short it can do longer do its job the chromosome commits suicide (apoptosis). It if doesn’t die it can mutate and that is the beginning of cancer.

The study found that those people that drink 3 cups of tea a day have telomeres that are longer than those that drank less than one cup a day. Green tea has more polyphenols (antioxidants) than black tea and should therefore be more beneficial. Yet another reason to drink your green tea everyday.

Regular multivitamin users also appear to have longer telomeres. This may make it easier to remember those multivitamins every morning.

I don’t know about any of you, but I made a big mug of green tea right after I read the linked abstract.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Polenta Terrine Stuffed with Eggplant Tomato Sauce


(pictured: polenta terrine and salad with hempseeds)

Sometimes when I have a little leftover chunky vegetable sauce I make a polenta terrine. It is easy to make and looks like something that is more time consuming than it is. When you use leftover sauce this is the ultimate second use meal. I like to serve this with a big salad and maybe another veggie side dish.

My Italian side loves polenta. In fact I am such a polenta junky that my darling husband bought me a beautiful Italian cooper polenta pot. Just what every Italian girl needs. So yes, we do eat a lot of polenta. I like dishes like this that don’t require frying the polenta and adding a lot of unnecessary fat.

To my polenta I add a little nutritional yeast for umami and hot crushed peppers for flavor. I love polenta, but I like it to have flavor beyond just corn. If you don’t like spice you can always add olives, capers or herbs to the polenta instead.

Polenta Terrine Stuffed with Eggplant Tomato Sauce
Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 cup of polenta, dry (I used Bob’s Red Mill Organic)
4 cups of cold water
1 tablespoons of hot crushed peppers
2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
1 cup of eggplant tomato sauce

Directions:

Add the polenta and cold water together in a saucepan and whisk for a minute to thoroughly combine. You want all the grains of polenta to be wet so they don’t clump. If you whisk thoroughly you won’t get any lumps. I learned this in cooking class from a fellow Italian and it works like a charm.

Have a loaf pan ready by the stove for the polenta when it is cooked.

Add the hot crushed peppers, nutritional yeast and salt to the polenta and stir to combine. Turn the heat to high and stir until the polenta begins to bubble, now turn the heat down to low and cook (stirring every minute or so) until the polenta is no longer grainy. The time this takes to become soft will vary by brand and age but it should be ready in about 20 minutes.

Pour half the polenta in the bottom of the loaf pan and smooth to create an even layer. Add the eggplant tomato sauce on the top of the polenta and smooth this into a reasonably even layer. Top with the rest of the polenta and smooth the top. You can refrigerate the terrine and cook it later.

When you are ready to cook preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cook the terrine to heat it through, about 30 minutes. Allow the terrine to rest for at least 15 minutes so the terrine will be easier to slice and serve. Don't rush serving this like I did, or the bottom of the polenta will not have firmed up enough to come out cleanly. It will taste good, but won't be as photogenic.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 163.93
Calories From Fat (6%) - 9.03

Total Fat - 1.01g
Saturated Fat - 0.07g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 863.19mg
Potassium - 382.58mg
Total Carbohydrates - 31.8g
Fiber - 3.5g
Sugar - 1.64g
Protein - 6.18g

Comments:

My husband thought the polenta terrine was “a nice creamy texture with a mildly spicy background.” He told me "it was well balanced and a good use of the leftover eggplant tomato sauce".

The creaminess of the polenta was nice with the chewiness of the eggplant in the filling. I thought the spiciness of the polenta was a good counterpoint to the light sweetness of the eggplant tomato sauce.

I served this tonight with a simple lettuce and tomato salad with balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil, sprinkled with a few hempseeds for omega 3’s. The terrine with salad made a filling and nutritional meal.

Whole Wheat Flat Sandwich Bread



This bread started as focaccia and morphed into this variation of flat bread that isn’t dimpled. Sometimes I add herbs or seeds to this bread, but more often than not I make it plain since I haven’t always planned what I am going to eat it with when I make it.

Since this bread is scored into slices before it has its second rise you could put different toppings on each slice if you like. I have used caramelized onions and thyme, olives and garlic, sun dried tomatoes and garlic, cooked spinach and almond feta, onions and herbs, there are many possible variations.

Whole Wheat Flat Sandwich Bread
Serves 16

Ingredients:

1 ¾ cups of warm water (around 100 degrees)
2 ¼ teaspoons of active dry yeast (or 1 package)
¼ teaspoon of agave or sugar
2 cups of sprouted whole wheat flour
2 cups of whole wheat flour
½ teaspoon of kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions:

Proof the yeast by adding it and the agave to the warm water. Allow the yeast to stand for 10 minutes during which time it should start to bubble. If it doesn’t bubble your yeast was dead before you started, or your water was too hot and killed the yeast. Don’t make the bread if the yeast didn’t proof.

Move the proofed yeast mixture to your stand mix and then add the remaining ingredients. Turn the mixer on low and process until dough forms. If some of the flour remains dry add a little room temperature water (no more than 2 tablespoons at a time) until all the flour is absorbed. The amount of water your flour will take will depend on the humidity.

Once the dough has formed allow the mixer to knead the dough for 5 minutes to develop the gluten. You can do this by hand but it takes about twice as long.

Grease a large bowl (about twice the size of the bread dough – I use an 8 cup measuring bowl) and move the dough to the bowl. Lightly coat the top the dough with oil. Cover the top of the bowl with plastic cling wrap and move the dough to a draft free place to double in bulk (I use the interior of my microwave). Check the dough in about an hour. If the dough has doubled you are ready to shape it into the pan.

Take your half sheet pan and either line it with parchment, a silpat or grease it. Place the dough in the pan and press it with your hands until it covers the pan corner to corner. The bread dough will cover the pan but you need to be persistent. If you hands are sticking to the dough use a little oil to the top of the dough.

Cut the dough (using a sharp or serrated knife) into 16 pieces. Lightly salt and pepper the dough. Allow the dough to sit on top the stove while you preheat the oven.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees during which time your dough will rise again. Fill a spray bottle with warm water for later.

When you dough is at least as high as the sides of the pan it is ready to bake. Place the dough in the oven and spray the oven interior with water. I spray my baking stone with is always in my oven; you can also spray the oven walls. The humidity helps the dough to rise.

Set your oven time for 25 minutes and check to see if it is done then. If it is not done, it shouldn’t need more than 5 more minutes.

When the bread is done remove it from the oven and allow to cool a few minutes in the pan. Then move the bread to a wire rack to cool completely.

When the bread is cool I slice the bread in half and wrap the two halves in plastic cling film and then put those in a large lidded container and keep it in the refrigerator. If I know we aren’t going to eat it all in 5 days I take the excess and store it in the freezer. It will reheat well wrapped in aluminum foil in the oven. Or you can do what I do and use it for whole wheat bread crumbs. I haven’t bought breadcrumbs or croutons in years.

Nutritional Information (per 1/16th):

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 118.53
Calories From Fat (25%) - 30.02

Total Fat - 4.37g
Saturated Fat - 0.26g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 62.67mg
Potassium - 28.38mg
Total Carbohydrates - 23.16g
Fiber - 3.55g
Sugar - 0.55g
Protein - 3.83g

Comments:

I have been making this bread for at least 5 years. It is easier to make than loaf bread because you don’t have to worry about the middle not being done. If you are someone that likes crust (like I am) this bread has crust on every piece.

Burger King has a Veggie Burger


(pictured: a homemade veggie burger sandwich)

Before you stop at Burger King on your next drive there are some things you should know. Per the Burger King website here is the nutritional information on the sandwich with the works (lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, ketchup, mayo and mustard):

Calories 430
Fat 17g
Sat Fat 2.5g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 5g
Carbs 48g
Sugar 9g
Protein 23g
Sodium 1530 mg

Those 17 fat grams equate to 153 calories from fat or 36% total calories from fat. The sodium content is 70% of what an adult should have in a day. While I applaud Burger King for adding a veggie burger to the menu, I would like a sandwich with less sodium and no cholesterol and preferably less fat.

I wondered if they offer the veggie burger on a salad. According the website they do not. In fact, they don’t offer a vegan salad option at all. Their garden side salad has 220 mg of sodium without any salad dressing. What? I guess it is in the cheese. Depending on the dressing you choose the sodium can go to 960 mg on a side salad.

At the moment I am almost wish I hadn’t looked at the Burger King website. Apparently I will need to keep looking to find healthy options for my husband when he is traveling.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Spaghetti Squash Gratin



Last night I started making spaghetti squash with the idea that I would serve it with the pasta. I followed a recipe that I found on-line for microwaving the squash and the cooking time was way off. The recipe I tried said 6 – 8 minutes in the microwave if cut in half. Well….my microwave took almost 25 minutes and that was longer than I could wait last night. Since I had a large container of spaghetti squash and didn’t want to serve it tonight with sauce my husband and I collaborated and came up with this idea of a spaghetti squash gratin.

The almond milk white sauce tastes much richer than it actually is. The cornstarch does a nice job of thickening the sauce without adding unnecessary fat. The fresh nutmeg adds a beautiful aroma and makes this dish feel as though it is made with a traditional béchamel sauce. The whole wheat bread crumbs mixed with a little extra virgin olive oil add a nice crispy top to the dish.

Spaghetti Squash Gratin
Serves 6

Ingredients:

8 cups of cooked spaghetti squash
4 cups of almond milk, unsweetened
4 tablespoons of cornstarch
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
½ teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
1 clove of garlic, finely minced
¼ teaspoon of nutmeg, freshly grated
1 cup of whole wheat bread crumbs
2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease on 9 by 12 inch pan or two 8 by 8 inch pans and set them aside.

Put the cooked squash into the baking dish.

Make the white sauce by adding the cornstarch to the cold almond milk and whisking to thoroughly combined. Add the salt, black pepper, garlic and nutmeg to the almond milk. Heat the milk over medium heat whisking periodically until the sauce thickens.

Pour the sauce over the spaghetti squash and smooth out the top of the dish.

Add the olive oil to the breadcrumbs and toss to combine. Top the baking dish with the breadcrumbs and evenly spread them out over the top of the gratin.

Bake until the dish begins to bubble (about 30 minutes). Allow the dish to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 162.17
Calories From Fat (26%) - 42.04

Total Fat - 4.68g
Saturated Fat - 0.5g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 1023.89mg
Potassium - 417.8mg
Total Carbohydrates - 27.31g
Fiber - 4.91g
Sugar - 6.26g
Protein - 4.43g

Comments:

This dish was tasty and very filling. I am always surprised when a low calorie dish like this turns out to be so satisfying. My husband told me this was almost as good as the balsamic and garlic roasted tomatoes. That is very high praise considering I know how much he loves the roasted tomatoes. This recipe was easy to make and very satisfying to eat.

Balsamic and Garlic Roasted Tomatoes


(pictured: tomatoes before roasting)

This morning at the farmers’ market we bought a huge amount of tomatoes. I think we have about 50 Roma tomatoes to eat this week. Good thing we like tomatoes. After seeing the recipe Rose posted last week on her blog Dandelion, I knew I needed to make tomatoes this week. I have a few different ideas in mind for how to change the flavors of the roasted tomatoes that I am eager to try. If you are looking for another variation on this theme the veggievixen was also roasting tomatoes this week which you can see here.

This is my standard roasted tomato recipe. I do use my favorite 18-year balsamic from Napa Valley Naturals when I make these tomatoes and I think that makes a huge difference in the final flavor of this dish. That particular vinegar is aged in cherry casks and has a nice fruity sweetness that I love.


(pictured: roasted tomatoes waiting to be eaten)

Balsamic and Garlic Roasted Tomatoes
Serves 4

Ingredients:

6 Roma tomatoes
1 tablespoon of good balsamic vinegar
3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
¼ teaspoon of kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
6 – 8 fresh basil leaves - optional

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees using your convection setting, if available.

Cut the tomatoes in half from stem end down. Use your fingers to remove the seeds and pulp from the interior of the tomatoes (see uncooked photo). Place the tomatoes on a half sheet pan lined with parchment or a silpat silicon baking sheet.

Drizzle each tomato half with a little of the balsamic vinegar. Place some of the minced garlic in each tomato half. Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper.

Cook the tomatoes until they reach the desired level of doneness for you. I roasted mine for three and half hours.

Move the roasted tomatoes to a serving platter. Julienne the basil and sprinkle it over the roasted tomatoes. The tomatoes can be served hot, warm or cold. I think they taste best when room temperature.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 43.87
Calories From Fat (8%) - 3.58

Total Fat - 0.42g
Saturated Fat - 0.06g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 129.02mg
Potassium - 496.39mg
Total Carbohydrates 9.5g
Fiber - 2.53g
Sugar - 5.95g
Protein - 1.97g

Comments:

This very simple dish was everyone’s favorite at dinner this evening (yes, I took a poll). I am always surprised when the simple dishes are the best received.

Artichoke and Walnut Salad



Artichokes are one of my favorite vegetables. I think it is an Italian thing. I am always on the lookout for a new way to serve artichokes. This salad with walnuts is a nice change. You can also make this salad with hazelnut oil and hazelnuts if you prefer.

This salad is light but flavorful. The Dijon flavor does not overpower the salad. The walnut oil adds a nice flavor that echoes the toasted walnuts.

One of my favorite things about this salad is that it is something you can make quickly and most of the items are always in my pantry.

Artichoke and Walnut Salad
Serves 4

Ingredients:

28 ounces of brined, canned artichokes, drained
½ tablespoon of walnut oil (or canola)
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
½ tablespoon of sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons of toasted walnuts, roughly chopped
kosher salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

Combine the walnut oil, Dijon mustard and sherry vinegar. Whisk to emulsify the dressing. Toss the artichokes in the dressing and refrigerate until ready to serve.

When you are ready to serve check the dish for salt and pepper and adjust as necessary. Add the toast walnuts just before serving so they remain crunchy.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 93.76
Calories From Fat (38%) - 35.91

Total Fat - 4.21g
Saturated Fat - 0.39g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 761.33mg
Potassium - 22.55mg
Total Carbohydrates - 11.33g
Fiber - 1.84g
Sugar - 0.1g
Protein - 3.65g

Comments:

If you are an artichoke fan this salad is a nice change from some of the more common salads. I liked the textural contrast of the walnuts to the soft artichokes. This salad would be great on a crostini that was topped with almond feta.

Hummus - Basic Reduced Fat



We eat a lot of hummus in this house. Hummus has become our go to sandwich spread. I make a lot of different variations of hummus depending on my mood. There is my roasted red pepper, garlic and sweet paprika hummus, also my roasted garlic hummus, and my roasted red pepper and smoked paprika hummus. There are many other hummus variations that I have yet to put on the blog. They will all get posted eventually.

Most of my humus recipes have little or no fat and this is not exception. After reading the book “Life Over Cancer” we have been trying to keep our fat percentage down to about 13% overall, with most of that being omega 3 fat. In order to achieve a fat percentage that low it is imperative to keep the fat down on the hummus. Commercial varieties of hummus can get 50% or more of their calories from fat. Sure, they taste good, but that much fat isn’t necessary. This recipe is my attempt to keep the fat down but still maintain a little richness from the tahini.

Hummus - Basic Reduced Fat
Makes 3 ½ cups

Ingredients:

1 cup of dried garbanzo beans, cooked (cooking water saved)
2 tablespoons of tahini
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
½ teaspoon of cumin seed
¼ teaspoon of coriander seed
¼ teaspoon of sweet paprika
1 teaspoon of lemon zest
1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1 ¼ cups of bean cooking liquid (added a little at a time – see directions)

Directions:

Cook the garbanzo beans until very tender. Drain the beans and reserve the cooking liquid to use later in the recipe. Make the hummus while the beans are still warm. This is one of the secrets to a smooth hummus without a lot of added fat from olive oil and tahini.

Into the food processor place everything but the bean cooking liquid. Process to combine the ingredients. Add the cooking liquid ¼ cup at a time and continue to process checking the hummus consistency. Remember that the hummus will firm up in the refrigerator so you may want to make it a little thinner than you think you would like in the end.

Refrigerate in a covered container. This will last at least 5 days in the refrigerator.

If you want to serve as part of a mezze spread, swirl the top of the hummus to create grooves. Pour a little extra virgin olive oil on top so that it puddles in the swirl. Sprinkle the top with sweet paprika, toasted pine nuts and chopped fresh parsley.

Nutritional Information (per ¼ cup serving):

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 66.54
Calories From Fat (26%) - 17.18

Total Fat - 2.05g
Saturated Fat - 0.25g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 139.72mg
Potassium - 143.88mg
Total Carbohydrates - 9.47g
Fiber - 2.67g
Sugar - 1.57g
Protein - 3.21g

Comments:

This is my basic reduced fat hummus. The secret to getting the hummus creamy with just two tablespoons of fat (tahini) is making the hummus while the beans are still warm. I don’t know why this works, but it makes a big difference in the creaminess of the hummus.

The flavor of this hummus is mild so that you can mix it with many different ingredients on crackers, cucumber rounds (my favorite) or sandwiches. I even use this as the base of a roasted vegetable pizza to keep the veggies from sliding off when you eat it.
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