Monday, April 23, 2012

Food52 Allium Competition

I am really excited about these petite quiches...

Last night, I was surfing the web looking for inspiration for new recipes when I came across a contest at Food52 celebrating alliums (a fancy name for the onion family). Naturally, my mind went towards the cheesy, springtime egg dish from my childhood, an outright perfect vessel for allium experimentation. When I was growing up, my mom would make quiche for a special occasion breakfast or dinner at least once a season, and I always adored the soft, buttery texture and traditional broccoli cheddar flavor. But tonight I wanted to make something fancy out of my old favorite so I came up with three different flavor profiles, each highlighting a different allium. And if I do say so myself...yum.

Petite Quiches Three Ways

For the crust:
(adapted from David Lebovitz)

1/4 cup buckwheat flour
3/4 cup organic all-purpose flour
6 T vegan butter
2 T water
1 T canola oil
1 T sugar
1/4 t salt

For the base:
(adapted from Whole Foods Market)

1 container of extra firm tofu, pressed to remove water
1/2 cup vanilla soy milk
2 T tahini
1/2 t salt
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 t curry powder
1/2 t garlic powder

For the onion-fig filling:

1/2 sweet onion
6-8 dried figs, sliced in quarters
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 T olive oil
1 T vegan butter

For the potato-leek filling:

4 purple new potatoes
1 leek (for tips on cleaning, click here)
8 baby portabella mushrooms
olive oil
seasoned salt
1/4 cup vegetable broth

For the rapini-shallot filling:

1 shallot
2 cloves of garlic
1 handful of rapini (about 2 cups chopped)
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 t rosemary
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine flours and place in a small bowl. Set aside. Meanwhile, mix remaining ingredients in an oven-proof bowl. Place in the oven for 15 minutes or until the butter is melted and caramelizing. Remove from the oven and immediately mix in the flours. Once the dough has pulled away from the edges of the bowl, divide into thirds and place into three small ramekins. After it has cooled, use your fingers to pat the dough outwards until it covers the ramekin bottom and sides evenly. Place in the refrigerator until ready to bake.

Meanwhile, lower the oven to 375 and prepare the base by placing all the ingredients in a blender and mixing until it is smooth and lump free. Place in the refrigerator with the tart crust until ready to bake.

Next, prepare the fillings. For the onion-fig filling, place butter and a 1/4 cup of balsamic in a medium skillet over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, add the figs and raisins, stirring until the sauce is reduce and thick. Pour into a small bowl and set aside. Meanwhile, slice the onion into thin pieces and add to the same skillet prepped with oil. Stir the onions until they begin to caramelize. Remove from heat and stir into fig mixture. Set aside. For the potato-leek filling, set a small sauce pan to boil and add potatoes, cooking for ten minutes or until tender. Remove from the water and smash with a rolling pin, reserving skins. Meanwhile, prepare leek and slice mushrooms into bite-sized pieces. Heat an oiled skillet over medium heat and saute the leeks. Add the potatoes and season with salt and pepper. Add mushrooms and broth, cooking until the sauce thickens and vegetables are tender. Set aside. Finally, for the rapini-shallot filling, chop rapini, shallot, garlic, and parsley. Next, in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat, saute the shallot and garlic with some olive oil until caramelized. Add the rapini, parsley, rosemary, and vegetable broth. Finally, cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until broth is mostly evaporated.

To assemble the petite quiches, remove all components from the refrigerator and set on the counter. Spoon a third of the base into each ramekin and follow with the filling. The quiches should be almost overflowing. Place in the oven and bake 20-25 minutes or until the filling is firm to touch and slightly brown. Devour immediately. Seriously, a burnt mouth is totally worth it.

Make sure to check out the recipe at Food52!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Banana Milkshake

I think this speaks for itself...

Banana SoyShake with Granola

2 partially frozen bananas (approximately 3 hours of freezer time)
1 cup vanilla soymilk
2 T almond butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup granola (like my Chocolate Pumpkin Granola!)

Place bananas, soymilk, almond butter, and extract in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into two small glasses and top with granola. There are simply no words...

Chipotle at Home

This weekend has gone by so fast. I can't believe I only have two more weeks left in my sophomore year of college! This semester has been all about seeking joy, and it has turned out to be a beautiful one. But I'm ready for summer. There is so much to do with our pending move to Texas, and I know August is going to be here before we know it, so I'm going to enjoy as much of my time off as I possibly can.

Because it's just that time of year, my boyfriend and I had the opportunity to go see Mahler's 3rd symphony this afternoon. I have been to a few symphonies in my life, but this one held me completely spellbound for the entire two hours. There really aren't words. It was lush, vibrant, emotive, full of energy...suffice to say it was simply glorious. I feel blessed to live in a community that supports such a comprehensive dedication to the arts.

Oddly enough, when I got home I was craving Chipotle. But since neither of us felt like going out to eat, I decided to make my own version at home.

Vegan Mexican Rice Bowl

1/2 cup brown rice
1 cup water
2 ripe avocados
1/2 red onion
1 small tomato
1/2 lime
a handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper

2 onions
10-12 mushrooms
2 bell peppers
2 cans of beans (black and pinto work well)
1 container of firm tofu (optional)
1/2 tsp red pepper
1 tsp garlic salt
1 head of lettuce
1 jar of salsa, preferably fresh
cilantro to season

Place water in a sauce pan, bring to a boil, and add rice. Cook according to package instructions. Meanwhile, slice the avocados and place in a medium bowl, mashing until smooth. Chop the red onion, tomato, and cilantro. Add to the avocado mash and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper and the  juice from the lime. Place in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Slice all the vegetables into bite sized pieces. Heat oil over medium heat in a nonstick skillet. Saute onions and pepper until caramelized. Add mushrooms and cook for a few minutes more. Meanwhile, slice the tofu into small cubes and press between a towel. This technique takes a lot of the water out of the tofu and makes for a much firmer and more flavorful bite. Rub the cubes in the red pepper and garlic salt and place in a smaller skillet with 2 tablespoons of oil. Cook over medium heat until cubes are golden brown on all sides. By this time, the vegetables should be nice and soft. Add the beans and season with salt and pepper. Cook a few minutes more or until most of the liquid has been absorbed.

To assemble the bowls, put about a 1/2 a cup of rice on the bottom and drizzle with lime juice. Next comes the lettuce, tofu, vegetable mixture, and finally the guacamole and salsa. Season with a little cilantro and serve.

Yield: approximately 6 servings

Yum! Now onto banana ice cream for dessert. Make sure to check out my new recipe page for links to printable recipes!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Life's a Beach

Happy Saturday!

My date last night was so wonderful. We decided to go to a Thai place for sushi before the opera, and I ordered a Wakame salad and vegetable rolls with a cup of green tea. Delicious! Then we walked beside the river in downtown Tampa before watching our friends perform in Verdi's Aida. It was a really glorious production, and I'm so proud of all of my beautiful priestesses. They work so hard to fill the audience with such joy.

I got up at ten this morning because we got home so late from the opera, but I still had enough time to whip together some maple-oat cookies. I borrowed the cookie recipe from Whole Foods Market and with a little tweaking and a special frosting, I ended up with a really satisfying vegan dessert that my three non-vegan friends couldn't get enough of. 

Maple-Oat Cookies with Maple-Almond Butter Frosting

Inspired by Whole Foods Market
For the cookies:

1 cup rolled oats
scant 1/4 cup barley flour
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup applesauce
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the frosting:

2 T almond butter
1 tsp maple flavoring
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2-3 T soy milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Toast the oats in a skillet over medium heat until aromatic and golden-brown. Place all cookie ingredients and the toasted oats in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Using a tablespoon, drop rounded balls onto a baking sheet and flatten to about a 1/2 inch thickness. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown and crisp.
Meanwhile, combine the almond butter, half of the powdered sugar, and half of the milk. Stir to combine. Keep adding powdered sugar and milk until you reach the desired consistency. Frost cooled cookies and place in the refrigerator to help set the frosting (approximately 10 minutes). Remove from the refrigerator and dust with powdered sugar. 

Yield: 13 cookies

The pasta salad and garlic crackers were just as popular. It was so much fun eating it on the beach, until the wind and rain chased us off, that is. A word of warning, though. While eating outside is beautiful, be prepared to have a flock of seagulls hovering a foot above your head. Apparently seagulls see the joy in eating vegan food, too! 

Anyway, I'm really exhausted from all the driving today, so I'm going to go relax with one of my favorite romantic comedies. But, as promised, here's the recipes for the pasta salad and crackers:

Summer Pasta Salad

3 cups of pasta
1 zucchini
4 tomatoes
3 carrots
1 head of broccoli
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 can Hoppin' John beans
1 can black beans
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 T lemon juice
salt and pepper

Fill a medium pot with water and set to boil. Chop all vegetables into bite-sized pieces and place in a large bowl with basil, seeds, and beans. Once the pasta is cooked, rinse with cold water, and mix in with the vegetables. Add remaining ingredients, stir, and place in the refrigerator until ready to eat 

Yield: 12 servings

Garlic Herb Crackers

1 loaf stale French bread (very economical!)
1/4 cup oil
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 T of herbs (I used rosemary and thyme)

Preheat an oven to 400. Slice the baguette into 1/2 inch slices, or thinner depending on the size you want your cracker to be. Brush with oil and top with garlic and herbs. Bake for ten minutes or until crisp and golden brown.

Yield: 12-20 crackers

Good friends + good food=joy

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Pantry Challenge

I got so caught up in blogging and thinking about my date at the opera tonight that I completely forgot I am going to the beach tomorrow!

And guess who promised to bring all the goodies?

This girl.

I literally have a half an hour until I have to get ready to leave for my date. That leaves me with a) no time to go the store and b) no time to cook anything that requires a lot of time. Here’s what I could find in my pantry.

Thank goodness for leftover ingredients…

The pasta is cooking as I type and all of the veggies are cut into bite-sized pieces and marrying with the herbs and beans in a large bowl. I had a few sundried tomatoes left so I decided to throw those in the mix as well (I threw in the residual oil as well since I would have added it for a dressing anyway). I’m feeling pretty good about this dish. I just discovered a loaf of stale baguette in my fridge, so I’m going to cut it up and toast it in the oven with oil, thyme, and garlic. I’m hoping it’ll come together as a nice, homemade cracker.

So it's been about twenty minutes and everything is done cooking. The kitchen smells fantastic! I ended up adding a can of black beans and about a quarter cup of balsamic vinaigrette to the pasta salad to beef it up a little, and it tastes very fresh and yummy. I didn’t try the crackers, but they look delicious. I’m hoping to have time either late tonight or early tomorrow to whip up something for dessert. Any ideas? I’m wavering between chocolate chip cookies and no-bake oatmeal raisin cookies….or maybe both?

Phew! Potential crisis averted! Now time to go get dressed for my date… I’ll post tomorrow about how everything goes with updated recipes and photos! Until then, I challenge you to raid your own pantry to see if you can come up with something as delicious and healthy as I did. Chances are you’ll surprise yourself with something amazing. 

Finding Joy

Good morning beautiful souls!

I am half-way through a bowl of chocolate cranberry muesli right now... seriously yummy. I really think I ought to write a post about 101 ways to use my chocolate pumpkin granola. Addiction doesn't even begin to cover how I feel about this granola...

Anyway, today I've decided to dedicate most of the day to improving my blog. I was in the car yesterday on my way to a lesson and I asked myself if I were a reader of this blog, would I be clear on what the purpose is? I think it is pretty clear that I have a passion for vegan cooking and want to share it with the world, but that's only a third of what I want to accomplish. What about the other two-thirds? What about Simple and Joyful?

There is a line in my favorite children's book, Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney that I think sums it up the best:

Do one thing to make the world more beautiful.

I want to make your world more beautiful by inviting you to see how I found joy. I have experienced so much self-hate in my life and while everyone's suffering is unique, I know that there are so many of you who are going through similar situations to mine. And it absolutely breaks my heart. But the one consolation is I know you will get through to the other side. You will find something that teaches you joy and from there, the rest is easy. You just have to keep looking.

A very wise older gentleman told me something beautiful yesterday. He said, "I'm an old man. Life is short. It goes by so fast. So find what makes you happy and please do it."

I'm going to be honest, I had to choke back tears.

Why do we deprive ourselves of happiness? I think a lot of it has to do with feeling like we're in some way not able to get that thing we know would give us joy. In other words, we talk ourselves out of it. One of the first things I altered in myself on my road to joy was the way I talked to myself. I wasn't aware of it until my therapist pointed it out, but my self-talk was almost entirely negative. I was focused on what I did wrong rather than what I did right, and what's worse is I thought I was being too proud or too confident if I admitted to anything I did well.

Sound familiar?

Well it's completely wrong.

How can we hope to achieve happiness if we're constantly telling ourselves we aren't worth it? The answer is we can't. My entire life, I have been surrounded by people who love and support me, but their support could only take me so far. I had to do it myself. Confidence is beautiful. Pride is beautiful. There is nothing wrong with loving yourself. In fact, there is everything right.

And the moment I changed the way I treated myself, my whole world opened up. I gave myself permission to feel entitled to what I did well and humbled by what I hadn't learned yet. I found self-love through feeding my soul and on those days when I'm feeling less than amazing, it is that discovery that gets me through. It's such a beautiful place to be, and I hope that something in your life today inspires you to join me.

How to love yourself:

1) Find something you do well and observe how you treat yourself in those situations. Are you confident? Poised? Fun-loving? Excited? Learn how you act when you are most alive and then apply that sensation in every part of your life.

2) Get out of your head. If you are looking in the mirror and thinking about everything that is wrong, imagine saying those things to someone you love dearly. You should love yourself just as much.

3) Can't is a four-letter word. Replace it with a handful of words that best describe your personality. Mine are quirky, silly, fun, and loving. So instead of saying "I can't roller skate so I'm not going to go" say "I look so silly when I'm roller skating. At least they'll all get a laugh."

Which leads us to this point:

4) Learn to laugh at yourself. Laughter is like self-hate kryptonite. If you can find humor in the quirky things you do (I mispronounce words all the time. I once said superFLUS instead of suPERf-ulus), you can find self-love.

5) Talk about yourself. You don't want to be one of those people that completely dominates a conversation, but it is important to interject points about your day. What are you excited about, what did you do today that was interesting, what did you learn? You can physically be in a group of people but not be their spiritually. You are just as interesting and important as everyone else. Start treating yourself that way.

6) Remove toxic friends. If you have someone in your life that sounds just like that negative voice inside your head, ask yourself if you are spending time with them is really something that makes you happy.

7) Pay attention to your instincts. More often than not, we ignore how we feel in a given situation. Give yourself permission to seek constant joy. Try it first at home, then with friends, and finally at work. Really evaluate whether something feels good and right or whether it is just an obligation.

How did you learn to love yourself? I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

One Week Anniversary Dinner

Happy Wednesday!

My house smells like chocolate and pumpkin pie.

I am so deep in my happy place right now.

Dinner was delicious. I decided to celebrate having gone one week without counting calories by treating myself to a dish I don't make all that often. Spaghetti squash is ridiculously easy to make and its mild, buttery flavor makes it adaptable to almost any combination of flavors. Basically all you do is cut a squash in half, drizzle with oil and herbs, and bake cut-side down for thirty minutes at 350 degrees. When it is done cooking, just pull it out of the oven and use a fork to shed the meat onto a plate.

But just in case you get caught up, here's a detailed set of instructions I found online that is really helpful.

Spaghetti Squash with Porcini Mushrooms and Roasted Vegetables

1 medium spaghetti squash
1 tsp fresh thyme
1 T oil
salt and pepper

1 cup of porcini mushrooms
1 zucchini
2 tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic
1 onion
1 head of broccoli
¼ cup pumpkin seeds
red pepper

Preheat the oven to 350. Cut the squash in half and drizzle with oil, herbs, and salt and pepper. Place face down on a tray and bake for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut all the vegetables into bite-sized pieces. Place on a tray with pumpkin seeds and drizzled with oil, salt, and red pepper. Roast in the oven alongside the squash for 15 minutes.

Remove squash from oven, shred, and top with vegetables.

Yield: 2 servings

And then there’s the granola…

There are simply no words.

Chocolate Pumpkin Granola

(adapted from King Arthur Flour)

4 cups rolled oats
½ cup wheat germ
2/3 cup chocolate pieces plus 1/3 cup to add after baking
¼ cup dark cocoa powder
½ cup coconut
½ cup chopped pecans
½ cup sliced almonds
¼ cup flax seed
½ cup pumpkin seeds
2 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp clove
1 tsp nutmeg

¼ cup maple syrup
1/3 cup pumpkin puree
¼ cup applesauce
2 tsp vanilla

2-3 cups raisins

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Mix all dry ingredients excluding the fruit in a large bowl. Stir to combine. Whisk wet ingredients together in a small bowl. Poor over dry ingredients and stir to combine. Spread out onto two prepared baking sheets and bake for an hour and a half, stirring and rotating pans every 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the pans. Add raisins and the rest of the chocolate chips.

Store in an air-tight container or a plastic baggie.

Yield: approximately 18 half-cup servings

Note: This granola is not overly sweet. If you like your granola to have a sugary flavor, add another ¼ cup of syrup or puree or a ¼ cup of brown sugar.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Bowl of Sun

This is the time of year in Florida that makes me love where I live. The mornings are cool and crisp and the afternoons are a just warm enough so you can sit outside in the shade with some friends and enjoy a cup of coffee without feeling like you're wilting. And since today happened to be the morning of my 8 a.m. class, I was able to do just that. There is nothing more spiritually uplifting than taking a few hours out of the day to sip Starbucks and reflect on what is going right in the lives of dear friends. If I have taken anything away from my years in therapy, it is that healing is synonymous with giving yourself permission to stop moving and exist peacefully for a while. So the next time you have an opportunity to take a moment out of your schedule to simply be present and in touch with your spiritual health, I encourage you to take it. They are rare, but the ripple affects in your everyday life are both profound and lasting.

The rest of my day was pretty typical, but when I got home, I was still so inspired by the day that I decided to treat myself to some sun-inspired pasta using ingredients I had in my fridge and pantry like sundried tomatoes, sunflower oil, and sunflower seeds. The result was something both satisfying and fresh, a perfect tribute to this amazing day.

Sun-Inspired Pasta with Roasted Vegetables

1 cup of bowtie pasta
1 small zucchini
1/2 yellow onion
1/2 red bell pepper
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes
1 clove of garlic
2 T sunflower seeds
1 tsp flax seeds
1 T sunflower oil
Fresh thyme and rosemary
salt and pepper to taste

Set a pot of water to boil and preheat oven to 400. Meanwhile, chop up all the vegetables into bite sized pieces. Place on a baking sheet and toss with oil, herbs, salt, and pepper. Place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid burning. Add pasta to salted water. Cook according to instructions (10-14 minutes). Drain and place in a bowl along with the seeds. Top with vegetables and your seasoning of choice.

Yield: 1 bowl of pasta

Monday, April 16, 2012

For Two: Portabella Mushroom Burgers

Last night, I went a little overboard with dinner.

It’s not exactly a secret, but I am obsessed with mushrooms. I seriously can’t get enough of them. I eat them plain, in pasta, over rice, in sauces, on salads, in soups, marinated, sautéed, stuffed, you name it. So when the craving for burgers presented itself, I naturally made it all about the mushroom.

Grilled, Marinated Portabella Mushroom Burgers with Grilled Vegetables and Avocado Spread

For Burgers:

2 medium sized portabella mushrooms
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 T butter, melted
1 garlic clove, chopped
1t brown sugar
For Avocado Spread:

2 ripe avocados
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt

I wanted something to balance the textures and flavors of the burger, so I came up with a few simple, yet delicious sides:

Homemade Toasted Sesame Potato Chips

1 large russet potato
2 T toasted sesame oil
salt to taste


Corn on the Cob

2 ears of corn

Bite-Sized Banana Splits

(Dessert inspired by OhSheGlows. Ice cream inspired by Whole Foods Market)
2 frozen bananas
2-3 strawberries
1 cup vanilla soy milk
2 T almond butter
6 oz dark chocolate
1 T canola oil
½ cup pecans, chopped
½ cup shredded coconut

One of the things I find extremely helpful when preparing a detailed menu is taking the time to think about what menu items take the most time. For this particular meal, the item that is the most time consuming is the Bite Sized Banana Splits (dessert before dinner!). The first thing you will need to do is freeze two bananas. Ideally, this will have been done a day in advance, but the ice cream will work just as well for this purpose if the bananas are only partially frozen. Once the bananas are frozen, place them in a blender with a cup of vanilla soy milk and two tablespoons of almond butter. Blend until smooth.


Cover a miniature muffin pan with a sheet of plastic wrap. Spoon equal amounts of the ice cream into the muffin cups, filling to the top. There will be plenty of ice cream left over, and I recommend freezing it for later or, if you’re like me, eating it on the spot. Next, slice up some strawberries and place one slice on top of each cup of ice cream. Place in the freezer for approximately two hours or until the center is no longer liquid.

Meanwhile, you can prepare the mushroom marinade. In a small bowl, combine the melted butter, soy sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, and garlic, whisking to combine. Pour the mixture over the cleaned mushroom caps in a large plastic bag and place in the refrigerator, turning every half hour until ready to grill.

Now comes the fun part: the homemade potato chips.

Just a side note: Before yesterday, I had never made potato chips before and had no idea what to expect. So naturally, I thought it would be a great idea to use unnatural amounts of herbed sea salt on both sides of the chips. (Note to self: There is such a thing as too much salt.)

I am happy to say that attempt two yielded much more satisfying results. Simply preheat the oven to 400 degrees, slice whole, skin-on potatoes to about an 1/8 of an inch, and toss them in toasted sesame oil. Place chips on a baking sheet and sprinkle lightly with salt. Bake for ten minutes, turn chips and bake another twenty minutes, watching carefully so the chips do not burn. Remove them from the oven and place on a wire cooling rack.

And naturally, you’ll have to taste one just to make sure they’re fit for consumption.

Or make that two…

And now onto the second stage of the dessert.

Place the oil and chocolate chips in a microwave proof bowl and microwave on high until the chocolate has melted. Meanwhile, chop the pecans and place in a nonstick skillet, toasting on medium heat until they are nice and golden. Place on a plate with the coconut flakes and mix to combine. Remove the ice cream from the freezer. They should look something like this and be like ice cubes to touch. If they are still liquid in spots, return them to the freezer for another half hour. The chocolate sauce will hold up well at room temperature until you are ready to assemble.

Note: this is an ideal dessert to make with a few kids or extra hands to keep the coconut nice and white, but if you are on your own, use a large spoon to dip the ice cream into the chocolate sauce and then drop into the topping. Be prepared to get really messy fingers.

Place the finished bites on a tray and return to the freezer until ready to eat. Note: thaw five-seven minutes before consuming.

To prepare the avocado spread, slice two ripe avocados lengthwise and mash roughly with a fork. Add lemon juice and salt (I used a seasoned salt mix from Penzey’s Spices, but you can really use any sort of salt for this purpose), stirring until the spread is malleable, but still slightly textured. Cover and set aside.

And we’re almost there. To prepare the vegetables, shuck the corn and set a large pot to boil. Slice onions and peppers and tomatoes in thick slabs. They should look something like this:
The corn will take about ten minutes to cook, so whenever you are ready to begin sautéing the vegetables, put the corn into the boiling water.

Next, preheat the oven to the lowest setting and remove the mushrooms from the marinade. Place them on a medium skillet over medium heat, tossing occasionally to avoid burning. There is no health related reason to cook the mushrooms, but I think the flavor is more concentrated when they have been sautéed for a few minutes. Just be careful not to overcook. Place the mushrooms on a tray with slices of bread and put in the oven to keep warm. Finally, sauté the onions and peppers until they begin to caramelize. Remove the mushrooms and bread from the oven. Spread both sides of the bread with avocado spread, place a mushroom, cap side down on the bottom slice and fill the cavity with the vegetables. Top with the remaining slice of bread and serve alongside the chips and corn with a frosted glass of fresh limeade.

And craving accomplished! I hope you enjoy this as much as I did, but make sure to save room for dessert. Also, using baguettes was a delicious idea, but also a completely impractical one. If you actually want to eat your burger like a burger and not like an uncooperative steak like I was forced to do, use a softer roll or even a pita instead.

Yield: 2 burgers

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Maple Almond Butter Crêpes with Toasted Walnuts and Orange Blueberry Sauce

I can't stop thinking about the crêpes I had this morning...

If you’ve never had a crêpe before, the best way to explain them is an egg-based, ultra thin French pancake filled with a myriad of savory sauces, jellies, butters, and fruits.

In short: pure deliciousness.

Unfortunately, as delicious as they are, crêpes are also entirely non-vegan. But impossibility has never really affected me, so I set to the Internet to find a basic recipe and stumbled across a real gem at VeganYumYum.

After a few slight alterations and a whole lot of whimsical superfluities, I came up with my version of the classic French crêpe:

Maple Almond Butter Crêpes with Toasted Walnuts and Orange BlueberrySauce
adapted from VeganYumYum's Spring Crêpes Three Ways

For the Crêpe Batter:

1 cup flour
¼ teaspoon fresh nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1 tsp brown sugar
1 T maple syrup
½ cup vanilla soymilk
2/3 cup water
¼ cup olive oil
2 tsp vanilla

For the Filling:

1 cup walnut halves
1 cup blueberries
¾ cup maple syrup
1 tsp orange zest
1 tsp orange extract

And here’s how you make them (for the quick and dirty version, click here):

The first thing you will want to do is measure out all of your ingredients. 

I like my breakfast crêpes to have a hint of sweetness, so I blended maple syrup and brown sugar to achieve a warmer flavor. However, if you want to make savory crêpes, just leave the sweeteners out.

Next, combine all of the ingredients in a medium sized bowl and whisk until the batter is smooth and free of lumps. Place in the refrigerator for a half an hour.

Meanwhile, you can prepare the walnuts and orange blueberry sauce.

Place the walnuts inside a skillet and set to medium heat, tossing occasionally to achieve an even toast. 

Or, you could do what I did and leave them sit and achieve a lovely uneven black.

While the walnuts are toasting, pour the maple syrup, blueberries, zest, and extract into a small sauce pan and set to medium high heat. The maple syrup will come to a boil relatively quickly, so keep an eye on it so it doesn’t boil over. Stir occasionally for approximately ten minutes or until the berries begin to break down and the sauce thickens. 
Pour into a bowl and set aside.

By now, the crêpe batter should be nice and set. When I pulled mine out, it was a little bit thick, so I added about two tablespoons of water to the batter, which made it more pourable.

Heat a medium sized skillet over medium heat. (An easy way to tell if a skillet is hot enough is to flick some water onto the surface. If it sizzles, you are ready to go). The first crêpe I made was naturally a disaster. I used a scant quarter cup of batter and poured it directly onto the surface like you would a pancake. The result?
A little on the small size…but the good thing is I had an excuse to try my orange blueberry sauce and may I just say Yum.

Not to be discouraged by the first flop, I came up with a three-step technique. First, I picked up the skillet so it wasn’t directly on the heat source, then I used a ladle to swirl the batter onto the skillet rather than plop it in a heap like I did before. Lastly I used the flat side of a spoon to smooth out the batter until it covered the entire pan in one thin layer.

Ahhh perfection…

Eventually, after about three minutes, the edges of the crêpes should start to look golden brown. When this happens, use a spatula to flip the crêpes onto the other side and cook for about another minute.


The best time to assemble these crêpes is right when they come off of the skillet as the heat from crêpes aids in the spreading of the almond butter. I used about three tablespoons to cover the entire crêpes, but feel free to use more or less depending on how much nutty flavor you want. Finally, sprinkle with walnuts, fold in thirds, and top with blueberry sauce. Enjoy in a garden with a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice.

Yield: 6 crêpes

A few tips:

If the crêpes split during flipping, apply some batter over the cracks like Spackle. After you have finished browning the current side, flip and allow the batter Spackle to set.

If you want to make all the crêpes at once, simply reheat the finished crêpes on the stove when ready to eat.

To make crêpes for a smaller crowd, simply halve the filling recipe and freeze the remaining crêpes.  Whatever you do, do NOT fold the crêpes before freezing. I did this my first time saving crêpes and ended up with crêpes crumbs.  Thaw in a microwave or skillet.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Inspiration in a tree, a cup, and a piece of chocolate

I didn't want my first day as a blogger to go by without a post, so even though I'm running short on time, here's a compilation of things I've found particularly inspiring about this past week:

This single red leaf. Every time I look at this picture, I'm reminded to always embrace my individuality. Uniqueness is perhaps the most beautiful quality we possess as humans.

This antique tea set. I have used this as decoration on my bookshelf next to my favorite classics like Jane Eyre and Alice in Wonderland for years. On a whim, I decided to take it off the shelf and fill it with some jasmine green tea. I was reminded to never save something for a special occasion when I can enjoy it today.

This chocolate. So far, one of the most enjoyable parts of being vegan is my awakened love for chocolate. This one was filled with almonds and salted caramel. During the photo shoot, the heat from the tea melted half of the chocolate, leaving me with no other choice but to eat it all.

And yes…I did lick the cup and saucer. I have no shame when it comes to chocolate.