leftovers & random stuff in the fridge

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so, i’ve been thinking how i should post a recipe but honestly, it’s just a lot of work! i feel like no one needs to read a blog about how to make quinoa salad with beans & mango…or maybe they do because i see a lot of them out there. i guess i feel like i want to only post stuff i think is great! or original! or unique!

well, today i was out running errands & ran into my friends melissa, adam & their adorable 20 month old son(who i totally scared with my enthusiasm). they own & operate this fantastic dog walking & cat sitting company in the neighborhood called paw paw pet care.  adam complemented me on my blog and said he was waiting for me to post again. it had never crossed my mind that people i actually know were reading this & checked back in to see if i had added a new recipe. i had already decided what i was going to make for dinner using leftovers, so why not take some pictures and post it?
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i was actually going to make a black bean & quinoa soup since it was so chilly out today! but then remembered i also had pineapple, half an avocado & some brussels sprouts to use up. so i picked up jicama & a few limes before spreading everything out on the counter to figure out what exactly i was going to make. and this is what i came up with: cilantro black bean baked quinoa, coconut oil pan seared brussels sprouts, oven roasted grape tomatoes, pineapple-jicama-avocado salsa and lime toasted pepitas.
i started with some leftovers, so i just used what i had & didn’t really measure. i mean, i don’t usually measure which is why writing these posts are a little daunting! anyhow, i threw this all together pretty quickly, even though writing it out makes it seem like it was a lot of work. it really wasn’t at all!
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cilantro black bean baked quinoa
3 cups cooked black & white quinoa
2 cups cooked black beans
1/2 cup salsa, homemade or jarred
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • preheat oven to 375
  • mix everything well and press into a casserole dish
  • cook 20-30 minutes, until heated through & lightly browned
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oven roasted grape tomatoes
  • toss grape tomatoes with a light drizzle of olive oil, pepper & sea salt
  • spread in one layer on a cookie sheet or baking dish
  • cook alongside the quinoa for 30 minutes, until blistered & soft

photo 2lime toasted pepitas

1 cup raw pepitas
juice of 1 lime
sea salt, pepper, cayenne
  • mix lime juice & spices in a small bowl, set aside
  • heat raw pepitas in a pan over medium-high heat, stirring often to toast evenly
  • when pepitas have browned & popped, turn off heat
  • add the lime mixture & stir well
  • let cool
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coconut oil pan seared brussels sprouts
brussels sprouts, washed, trimmed & cut in half lengthwise
coconut oil
sea salt, pepper, cayenne
  • melt a small amount of coconut oil in a pan
  • add brussels, face down & let cook until bottoms are browned
  • add spices & stir fry until cooked through
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pineapple-jicama-avocado salsa
1/2 cup pineapple, chopped
3/4 cup jicama, diced
1/2 of an avocado, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro
1  jalapeño pepper, seeded & diced
juice of half a lime
sea salt, pepper, cayenne
  • mix together & let sit while preparing the rest of the meal

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rawlicious soho

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this past friday was the 6 week mark of my sugar cleanse. i tend to be an all or nothing type of person so i thought cutting out sugars, sweeteners and sweets of any kind was a good way to reset my taste buds. and it has been! i have to admit, i’ve spent a lot of time looking at(drooling over) raw vegan blogs in the past six weeks. the desserts look so good!!! how do these people do it? how do they not just eat the whole thing?!

i also decided to go gluten free because i know lots of people who say they feel so much better when they avoid gluten. i was hoping for that lighter feeling i’ve heard so much about but i don’t really feel a difference from omitting gluten. maybe the true test will be when i do finally eat something with gluten in it? that said, i don’t feel like i’ll go back to having gluten in my diet on a regular basis–i just don’t see the need. i’m not a bread or pasta person anyhow. although i make an amazing version of my aunt judy’s insanely delicious pasta salad, so i’ll have to experiment with a gf version this summer! any gf pasta recommendations are welcome!

in the past few weeks i had also cut nuts & avocados out of the mix. i know, crazy! but i could really feel the benefits of my workouts when i didn’t have the “good fats” weighing me down. and i know, they are good & even necessary but fats nonetheless. so, anyhow all week i’d been thinking about having a sweet treat on saturday. not that i plan on going full force back into eating sweets, but i wanted a treat! there are so many vegan options in nyc, but i wanted something sweetened with agave, maple syrup or coconut sugar. i finally decided to check out a raw restaurant that opened in soho last summer…rawlicious. i’ve heard only great things about the menu & the pretty space. but everyone i know who’s been has said they are never busy & worry about how long they can maintain without more customers. i told my bff, elena that i was having dessert & wine on saturday so of course she said she wanted to join.

saturday finally arrives. i was up early & worked all day, running around on my feet for 9 hours. since i was going out for a treat i kept lunch on the lighter side.  my breakfast is always oats with fruit & usually lunch is my big meal of the day–a huge pile of steamed greens, veggies and beans or tofu or occasionally quinoa. then dinner is a simple salad. but i had the salad for lunch so i could enjoy my treat feast!

we met at the restaurant at around 7:30 and there were 4 other tables. the place is larger than i thought it’d be. nyc restaurants are not typically known for their spacious layouts. but the size made it feel even more empty. the server was very enthusiastic, a little scattered maybe but very sweet. we debated over the menu–lots of yummy options. and i decided to not think about how much i was going to be overloading on nuts or avocado or anything really. this was a treat night! we each ordered a glass of merlot–their only red by the glass. if you know me, you know i like my red wine. and bubbly–oh, i love the bubbly! but this year, i can count on one hand the amount of alcohol i’ve consumed(new year’s day excluded!). the last glass of wine i had was a month ago at my cousin’s place for her birthday. so i was super excited to sip a tasty glass and this is what she brings us…

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uhh, what?! biggest glass of wine ever! best server ever! her name is nicki and i hope she’s working next time i go in!!

we started with the the nachos appetizer. they are an assemble yourself kind of nacho plate. they bring you the dehydrated chips, cashew sour cream, pico de gallo, guacamole, scallions and green olives–which neither of us like so we asked them to leave them off. they also offer an optional walnut “refried bean” paste. we opted for the walnut beans & that was the right choice–it made the dish! the nachos were super yummy! some of the chips were a little thin so assembly was harder because they broke but i wasn’t mad, you just had to make  a little pile out of it.

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we split the pizza as our entree. they start with a sprouted buckwheat & flax crust, cashew cheese and pesto then change the toppings every day. ours had zucchini, tomatoes, red peppers and crumbled nutloaf. delicious! it’s 2 large pieces & they are very filling. pretty nut heavy so splitting was the way to go! and yes, i tasted it before i remembered to take a photo.

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i was excited for dessert time and had already been eyeing the brownie sundae. their raw brownie is made from dates, walnuts and cacao with a vanilla coconut frosting and served with the ice cream flavor of the day. but, when she told us the flavor was mint chocolate chip, i ruled that out. not a fan of mint & chocolate as a combo at all!! i mean, i really hate it. i told her my feelings about the ice cream flavor and she said if i wanted, she could dig out some cherry, cacao chip, banana ice cream instead. yes please!!! while they were digging up the ice cream, nicki brought us a coconut macaroon on the house–told you she was sweet! i’ve had my fair share of raw macaroons & this one was one of my favorites. it wasn’t heavy & coconut oil-laden like a lot of them are. it was light & fluffy.

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and, the brownie sundae was perfect for breaking the sugar cleanse. the ice cream needed to sit for a minute but when it did, it was creamy and flavorful. the brownie was also good–decadent but not super sweet. excellent choice.

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while we had been sitting there for almost two hours, there had never been more than 4 other tables. which was a huge topic of our conversation. this place is so good & people need to come eat here!! we weren’t in a rush at all so elena decided she wanted another glass of wine, which i declined. but i went crazy & order a second dessert! why? i have no idea…it’s that all or nothing thing! so, like crazy people, we ordered the cheesecake of the day which was chocolate coffee. and holy shit–best and worst decision ever! it was my favorite part of the meal. decadent seems to be the theme of this night & the cheesecake was the icing on that cake! super rich, creamy and flavorful. there was a light chocolate flavor, but mostly it tasted like espresso. so good, y’all. just so good. but too much!!

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needless to say, we were stuffed! ugh, i haven’t felt that way in a very long time. and after the kind of diet i’ve been eating the past few months, this was definitely a shock to my system! but, worth it for sure. we walked the 3 plus miles home over the brooklyn bridge in hopes of kickstarting some digestion! i don’t think it worked because i slept like crap. and still felt full when i woke up on sunday morning.

i loved rawlicious though and cannot blame them for my overindulgence! i plan on telling everyone i know to try this place & keep them in business…just maybe don’t go so nuts with all the nuts! and stick to one dessert!

sweet potato coconut oatmeal

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so, it snowed again last night. i thought it was just going to be a dusting, but it ended up being more. thankfully, most of it had melted to a beautiful slush by this morning with the gloomy rain washing it away. no big whoop, it happens. it’s march–it happens more often than not. in fact, since childhood, every year that i can remember that i lived in the northeast it’s snowed in march…except for last year. i cannot account for the years i lived in other parts of the country but i’m sure it was cold. that’s why they say “in like a lion…” and that’s why march is always the hardest part of winter for me. this year, i am embracing it with working out a ton & getting fit. no more waiting til may for those oh, shit! tank tops? moments.

all that said, i’m also taking this month to really get the most out of some of my favorite winter foods. i will truly miss the baked & roasted veggies. and the soups! oh, the soups! i mean, there’s really nothing like summer foods. fresh everything! crunchy veggies & juicy fruits. cannot wait! but, for now i’m appreciating my winter foods. i’m baking sweet potatoes like crazy to keep in the fridge. i eat them with black beans & greens, throw them in smoothies, add them to curries, soups or just eat on their own with a little cayenne pepper.

and a few weeks ago, i came up with this: sweet potato oatmeal. i am fully aware that i did not invent this delicious concoction. but the first morning i made it, i felt like a genius for “coming up” with the idea. deep in the sugar cleanse, i was(and am) restricting my sugar intake. i’m eating fruits, but not in huge quantities. i had also slowed down on the sweet potatoes for a few weeks then slowly started adding them back in. sure, on paper they are high in sugar but the way that your body digests them, they actually regulate blood sugar. plus they are high in vitamins a & c, calcium, beta carotene, folate & potassium. not that i need an excuse to eat them!

anyhow, back to my oatmeal discovery…i was making my usual morning oats & i opened the fridge to see what i could toss in with the pecans & hemp hearts. that’s when i spotted the container with the little baked sweet potato. i grabbed it, scooped out some the flesh & threw it in the pot with the oats. i stirred it to break it up & the oats became this beautiful orangey color. yum! sweet potato pie for breakfast! perfect end of the winter, when will this cold stop pick me up! especially when this is the view from your bedroom window before you went to bed:

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sweet potato coconut oatmeal

1/2 cup rolled oats
1 cup water
1/4 baked sweet potato, flesh scooped
1 tablespoon hemp hearts
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon unsweetened shredded coconut
raw peacans
nutmeg, to taste
dash of salt, optional

  • add oats & water to a small saucepan over medium-high heat.
  • bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low.
  • let bubble, stirring a few times, until desired consistency–i like mine a little chewy so i do 5 minutes, or until thickened.
  • add the flesh of the baked sweet potato, stir to break up & incorporate.
  • when warmed through, remove from heat & fold in hemp hearts, coconut & cinnamon.
  • scoop into a bowl & top with pecans & nutmeg.
*if you are using steel cut oats, adjust the oats to water ratio(just follow the package instructions).
this is a single serving, so feel free to multiply if you plan on sharing!

spilt pea soup

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a few months ago i headed out to run some errands in my brooklyn neighborhood, fort greene. i realized midway through my list of things to do, that i was super hungry and cold! i decided to walk over to the only vegan bakery around for a warm bowl of soup. i was hoping they’d have a hearty lentil or split pea. i stood in line for 10 minutes & when i finally go to the counter the girl told me they did not have any more soup! i was set on having soup & nothing else sounded good–even though their baked goods are delicious!

as i was walking back towards my apartment, i somehow decided i’d just have to go home & make it myself. i stopped at 3 markets along the way to get all the ingredients i needed, which really wasn’t that much…that’s just how it goes around here especially if you’re looking for organic produce! hours later, i sat down to eat the most delicious split pea soup i have ever tasted. that said, i haven’t had that many bowls of split pea soup and at this point i was starving! but, still it was damn good! unfortunately, i did not write down the ingredients i used or proportions or anything. this is why i need a blog! so, i decided to recreate the split pea soup with a few modifications(listed below) mainly because of my sugar/white carb cleanse.

split pea soup

5 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
2 leeks, cleaned & sliced
2 cups green split peas, rinsed
1 large or 2 small red potatoes, diced*
2 carrots, diced
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste-i like it spicy
4 cups vegetable stock or water, or a combo of both
sea salt & black pepper to taste
tempeh bacon, baked until crisp**
olive oil
lemon

  • combine split peas, potatoes, onion, leeks, garlic, carrots, paprika and cayenne in a large soup pot.
  • cover with water, vegetable stock or a combination of both.
  • bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, partially covered for 45 minutes or until peas are soft. add a little water/stock if it starts to get too dry or starts to stick to the pot.
  • blend half to all of the soup depending on your desired consistency. i ended up blending it all until smooth.
  • return to the soup pot and season with sea salt and black pepper, adding more cayenne and/or paprika if needed.
  • garnish with lemon juice, olive oil and tempeh bacon.

and voila! soup:

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just kidding! that’s don pablo, the 3-legged wonder kitty. he’s a big fan of that blue soup pot. i keep thinking he’s going to outgrow it soon but he still squeezes in there. i think it’s his consolation for not always being able to make the jump to the window sill. more on him some other time, now back to soup stuff…

*i used the  potatoes the first time, but omitted them for the second version. the potatoes add a delightful creamy texture but doesn’t change the taste. if you are avoiding a carb overload, you could replace the potatoes with turnips or cauliflower(yum! cauliflower!).
**i rarely cook with tempeh and it is a completely optional ingredient in this recipe. in fact, when i initially made the soup, it was the first time purchasing tempeh bacon. i usually avoid any processed foods, especially at home. that said, it adds great texture & depth to this soup & i recommend trying it…but i garnished with fresh thyme the second time around & that was yummy, too!

in case you were wondering what running errands in my world looks like, here’s a beautiful video made by soul of brooklyn, a group/initiative created by mocada. that’s my block at 0:13, right when the narrator says “these tree lined blocks”. can’t wait til there’s leaves on those trees!!

     

mushroom & kale crustless quiche

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my first few years of being vegan, i relied heavily on cookbooks to guide me in the kitchen. one of my most used cookbooks was vegan vittles: recipes inspired by the critters of farm sanctuary by joanne stepaniak. throughout the cookbook, there were photos & stories of these adorable, rescued farm animal friends.  i loved that cookbook! one of my favorite recipes was the classic quiche. it had all kinds of variations so i didn’t get bored. i’d make it for breakfast or dinner, it didn’t really matter. i loved it & thought it was the best thing ever. thinking back, i don’t know if i’ve ever tasted a traditional(egg) quiche? it wouldn’t really be something my mom would have made. and i wasn’t a huge fan of eggs growing up. either way, if i did try it as a child, it did not leave an impression. but i could not get enough of this version!

i was living in chicago at the time & luckily there was a whole foods nearby that sold a vegan whole wheat pie crust. i’d buy them & keep them in the freezer so i could make quiche on a whim. i don’t think it ever crossed my mind to actually make my own crust! that was way too advanced for my skills in the kitchen back then. over the last 15 years, i have thankfully acquired a knack for creating my own dishes. i don’t use cookbooks much these days, but i do like to look through them. i love all the photos. and i’m always googling things to get ideas…and look at the photos!

anyhow, for some reason i thought of quiche this week & how it’d be great to have little single servings for breakfast. i was hesitant because i really don’t eat too much tofu these days. i try to get my protein from a wider variety of foods. but, a little tofu’s ok…and it goes without saying: tofu should always be organic & non-gmo! i skipped the crust & baked some of them in a muffin pan for easy breakfast bites.

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mushroom & kale quiche

1 small onion, diced
3 cups mushrooms, sliced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
3 cups kale or greens of your choice, packed
1 lb. firm tofu, drained
1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
juice of half a lemon
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon or more spicy brown mustard
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast

  • preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • saute onions over medium heat in oil until translucent.
  • add mushrooms & stir fry until most of their moisture is released.
  • add garlic & greens, stir fry until just tender.
  • meanwhile, combine tofu, almond milk, lemon juice, nutritional yeast & spices in a blender or food processor, blending until smooth.
  • in a large bowl, fold veggies into the tofu mixture.
  • spoon into a prepared(sprayed, greased or lined) muffin tin or casserole dish*
  • bake for 35-40 minutes or until browned & a toothpick comes out clean.
  • let sit a few minutes before removing from muffin pan. allow to cool before packing up to store in the fridge…don’t forget to try one while they’re warm!
  • eat straight from the fridge or reheat(unless you are thinking of using a microwave- please don’t ever do that).

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you can really use any veggies you have lying around in this. i want to try peppers, tomatoes & jalapeño next time. or asparagus, shallots & spinach. or caramelized onions, broccoli & a little nutmeg. or go crazy with apple, rosemary and more nutritional yeast for added cheesiness. they are also on the light side, so adding a little cooked quinoa or millet might make for a more substantial breakfast. the possibilities are endless!

*i split this between a 6 muffin tin and a one pint mini casserole dish. i preferred the way the minis tasted. their texture was firmer, with a crispy outside. i’m guessing because of their size & the muffin tin was metal. the glass casserole dish produced a softer version(even though i baked it 15 minutes longer) that was still good.

roasted sweet potato & cauliflower soup

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soup season is thankfully almost over! don’t get me wrong–i love soup, i love making soup. but i am not a fan of cold weather at all. i really only tolerate it because i can make the soups! so, since it’s still real cold in new york, i decided to combine a few of my favorite things…sweet potatoes, cauliflower, garlic & capers! i was really winging it on this one because i’ve never tried these ingredients together-it just sounded good. and, it turned out delicious! it was also really easy. plus i was able to get some cleaning done during the roasting part. and, my apartment smells so good!

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roasted sweet potato & cauliflower soup

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
2 sweet potatoes, peeled & cubed
1 head garlic
1/4 cup capers, drained & dried
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
3-4 cups veggie broth or water, or a combo of both
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
salt & pepper to taste
  • preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • toss cauliflower & sweet potatoes with 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large casserole dish. sprinkle with salt & pepper.
  • cut the top off of the head of garlic & place in a small ovenproof bowl. drizzle with olive oil.
  • put capers in a separate small ovenproof bowl & drizzle with olive oil.
  • place all 3 dishes in the oven and cook for 20 minutes.
  • stir cauliflower & sweet potatoes and the capers. cook an additional 20 minutes, checking after 10 minutes & stir again if needed.
  • when done, the cauliflower & sweet potatoes should be cooked through & browned on the outside. garlic should be soft when pierced with a toothpick or knife in the individual cloves. the top will be golden brown. the capers will be crispy.
  • let cool a little and transfer the cauliflower & sweet potatoes to a blender. keeping a handful of florets aside for garnish.
  • squeeze the garlic paste out of the skins & put in the blender.
  • add 3 cups broth & the spices. puree until smooth, adding more liquid until it’s the consistency you like.
  • pour the puree into a saucepan & heat over low flame until warmed through.
  • transfer to bowls and garnish with a few cauliflower florets & capers.

i think next time, i’ll set aside a larger portion of the roasted cauliflower to make a chunkier version of this.

shredded brussels sprout salad

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i love brussels sprouts–love! but like most folks, i don’t want them mushy. i’ve roasted them with light oil & spices but i feel like that does not always get them crispy enough for my taste. also, my oven does not have a broiler(what? and why? very sad). so, my preferred method of cooking them is to cut them in half & pan fry them in a single layer until the bottoms are browned. then i throw in garlic & stir fry until they are cooked through. i add raisins or currants & pecans or walnuts just until warm then sprinkle with cayenne & a little salt. so good. this was really the only way i prepared them for years, which was fine by me because it doesn’t get old.

then about 4 years ago, i was in a little town called greenport on the north fork of long island. it was just before their tourist season starts, so it was real quiet. not all the businesses were open for the season yet but that wasn’t really the draw–it was just such a beautiful little town with a lot of maritime history. pickins were kind of slim for a vegan without the use of a  kitchen though…almost everything was seafood. thankfully there was a nice little natural market with a deli that had great options. one being a delicious marinated tofu sandwich with pickled jalapenos & cabbage that i ate by the water before visiting the maritime museum & seeing the sights.
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that evening, i decided to step into this cute little restaurant on front street. the bar was situated right up front, hiding the dining room from the street. i sat at the bar for a drink & the bartender immediately said: welcome to greenport, you from the city? tourists always stick out like a sore thumb. he was really chatty & i got a good history on the town.  he gave me a menu and out of curiosity, i peeked at it…mostly seafood. but then i saw it: shredded brussels sprouts. i asked him what they were cooked in & he said they were raw. he confirmed with the kitchen that it was a vegan dish & the rest is history. i don’t actually remember everything that was in that salad but i know it was bitter, sweet, salty & sour all at once. best salad ever! over the last few years, i’ve made so many versions of it.

i really wish i could remember the name of the restaurant. i went there 3 nights in a row for the salad…and they had great organic wines from the area. and let’s be real, there were no other options! i tried to look it up, but none of the restaurants on front street that i could find online look like this one. maybe it closed? oh well, it lives on in my salad bowl at least a few times a month!
oh, and i’ve happily added fruits back into my diet. yay! i might be cheating a little with the raisins but i’m ok with that.
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shredded brussels sprout salad
 
3 cups brussels sprouts, sliced*
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 avocado, cubed
3 leaves dinosaur kale, thinly sliced
2 blood oranges or tangerines(or both!), cut into segments**
1/2 lemon, juiced
sea salt & black pepper, to taste
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste(i like it spicy!)
1/8 cup raisins or currants
1/8 cup raw pecans, chopped
  • in a large bowl, whisk together lemon and spices
  • add the vegetables & use a fork to partially mash the avocado.
  • add oranges & raisins,  toss to combine.
  • check & adjust seasoning.
  • top with pecans & serve!

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variations:
  • omit avocado & raisins. add 2 tablespoons coconut oil to the lemon & spice mix. top with shredded coconut. i usually up the citrus & cayenne in this variation to balance out the sweetness.
  • omit oranges, pecans & raisins. add pears, almonds & dried cherries.
  • omit oranges, pecans & raisins. add apples, walnuts & golden raisins.
*after washing the brussels, slice off the stem. peal away one layer of outer leaves. slice in half from top to bottom, set them cut side down and slice crosswise. alternatively, pop them in your food processor using the shredding disc. i usually cut by had, but processed them today. the food processor will make much smaller pieces. i think i prefer to slice them myself.
**tips on how to supreme an orange here.

chai spiced oatmeal

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so, last friday i started a 6 week sugar cleanse. no sugar, no white starches, no natural-but still sugary-type stuff(maple syrup, agave, etc). i decided to cut out all fruits the first week just to really clean out the insides. i also decided this would be a good time to give gluten free a whirl. i don’t really consume too much gluten as it is & the more i read about it, the less i really want to consume it.

when i started telling friends i was going to start a sugar cleanse, several said i’d probably get headaches. for real? from not eating sugar? wow. i looked into it online & apparently it’s a major addiction with physical withdrawal symptoms. thankfully, i don’t have too much sugar in my normal everyday diet, so all has been easy so far. my only issue has been breakfast.

i’ve gotten in the habit of having oatmeal of some sort every morning. i’ll go back & forth between steel cut & old fashioned. it’s easy enough to find gluten free if you’re that concerned about the cross contamination. i always adorn it with hemp hearts(yum! omegas, protein & fiber), cinnamon, nuts of some sort…and fruit. i love apple-raisin, pear-clove, blueberry-ginger, banana-vanilla-nutmeg, peach-raspberry(refrigerator oats summertime favorite!), strawberries & almond butter and of course anything with coconut!

the first few days without fruit were ok but then i realized that 7 days was a long time for oats with just cinnamon, hemp hearts & almonds or walnuts. i miss my fruit! i decided i had to spice it up…and what better way than to make chai spiced oatmeal? at first i thought i’d just use some chai tea…not some run of the mill chai teabags,  i’d have to get the good stuff. like my friend marty’s amazing chai mookie. but i wouldn’t dream of wasting mookie on a test run! also, i’m not so sure i want my oatmeal to be caffeinated(but maybe i do…?!) so i figured starting with just the spice part might be a better idea. so, here’s what i came up with & it turned out to be real tasty! i think next time i’ll make a big batch of this spiced almond milk mixture to keep in the fridge for a few days.

chai spiced oatmeal
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
1 cup unsweetened almond milk*
1/2 cup water
1 cinnamon stick
1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled & sliced thin
8 cloves
5 black peppercorns
8 green cardamon pods
  • bring almond milk, water and spices just to a boil and simmer on low for 5 minutes, do not overheat!
  • remove from heat & let sit, covered for 20-30 minutes. this can be done the night before to save time in the morning.
  • strain the mixture to remove all the spices.
  • return the liquid to the pan, add oatmeal and simmer until desired consistency.
  • top with hemp hearts, raw almonds & extra cinnamon.
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*if you prefer steel cut oats, increase liquid by 1/2-3/4 cup.

chole

making chole

aside from my family, there have been a few other folks i’ve crossed paths with that have taught me a great deal about cooking. in 2002, i met a truly amazing woman named yashoda…aka mama g. she’s one of those women that inspires others effortlessly. it’s like she always knows what to say & can tell what you’re thinking and feeling before you yourself realize it. just being around her is a blessing. on top of that, she’s also a stellar cook! prior to meeting her, i had never really attempted to make indian food but after tasting a spread of ridiculously delicious vegan dishes, i demanded recipes. in addition to getting to cook with her a few times, she also wrote down a ton of recipes that i copied into a very special binder that i use to this day.

back then i had my heart set on perfecting sambar & i remember telling her that mine just doesn’t taste like hers. her reply was that it wasn’t supposed to, every cook lends their own flavor to the dish. she said that in india, you create your own curry blend to bring to the spice grinder so everyone’s is unique. the key is to find your mix & put your own spin on everything you make. those words have stuck with me & continue to inspire me, not just to be creative in the kitchen but as a manifesto for my life. one of my favorite & most used recipes of mama g’s is for chole. i’ve put my own slight spin on it, naturally.

most of these ingredients you can find in supermarkets. you will have to seek out an indian market for the fresh curry leaves & black mustard seeds but don’t skip them! they are essential to the flavor of the dish.

photo (6)cookbookchole

chole

1 1/2 cups chickpeas, soaked & cooked*
1 onion, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon coconut or walnut oil**
1 teaspoon coriander
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
3-4 curry leaves
salt, to taste
cilantro, for garnish
  • heat coconut oil in a small saucepan. add mustard seeds & cover until they pop.
  • remove from heat, add cumin seeds & curry leaves,
  • return to medium heat & add onions. saute until golden brown.
  • add spices & tomatoes. cook until tomatoes almost melt, stirring often. sprinkling with a little salt will help break down the tomatoes.
  • add chickpeas & cook on low until heated thoroughly.
  • i usually want my cole a little saucier, so i add a little water.
  • taste & adjust the spices especially if you added water.
  • garnish with cilantro
i like to serve this with steamed greens, as i’m not a big starch eater. but traditionally, you would pair this with poori or rice. i also usually double this recipe and eat it for a few days. like most curries, it’s best the next day anyhow.
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*dried chickpeas are the way to go for me. a little more time consuming but with a little planning, you can do that in advance. i usually make extra so i can make hummus & spiced chickpea snacks. super easy: rinse, soak overnight, rinse again & cook for an hour. easy! here are more detailed instructions if needed.
**i highly recommend using an oil that is good for heating at high temps. avoid olive oil for this recipe!

mushroom étouffée

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happy fat tuesday! i had big plans for a mardi gras feast, including a vegan king cake. but…after a sweets overload at the vegan bake off this weekend, i decided to go a not so fat route & just make one dish. my grangran(my dad’s mom) is acadian(that’s cajun, y’all) so although i grew up in the northeast, i had my fair share of southern cooking at home. my dad made, and still makes, the best red beans & rice that he’s even veganized for me over the years. but that was about all i liked…aside from when he would make beignets or grangran’s fried cornbread & fried okra, of course. i was never a fan of seafood as a kid & it was in just about everything he made, it seemed. i’d pick the okra out of the gumbo but wouldn’t touch the rest. last night after a chat with my mom, i decided to try to make étouffée, which she assured me would be easy. étouffée just means smothered & smothered mushrooms sounded like a great idea to me. i opted for pretty standard mushrooms but you can use any–lobster mushrooms would be fantastic in this! i cut some & sliced the others for texture but you can prepare them however you please. and yes, i am pairing this with quinoa instead of white rice. and, i would never tell my dad or grangran but i hate celery! my holy trinity substitutes garlic for celery, always. i know, but i’m only 1/4 cajun(if that much) & i didn’t grow up in the south…what do you expect?!

mushroom étouffé

1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup cremini mushrooms, halved
1 cup white mushrooms, sliced
1 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced
3 roma tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons cajun seasoning*
1/4 cup flour, can be gluten free
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock or water
scallions & parsley for garnish, optional
olive oil
1 cup cooked quinoa
spinach or any greens

  • heat olive oil in a large cast iron pan over high heat.
  • add mushrooms & 1 tablespoon cajun seasoning and saute until they start to soften.
  • remove from pan and set aside.
  • add a little more olive oil to the pan & add your holy trinity–onions, peppers & garlic(and/or celery if you must).
  • saute until onions are translucent, 5-7 minutes,
  • whisk in the flour slowly, making a roux.
  • whisk constantly until the mixture browns, about 5 minutes.
  • add the remaining tablespoon of cajun seasoning and mix well.
  • add the stock very slowly & whisk to make a smooth paste.
  • once all the stock has been added, you will have a thick gravy-like sauce.
  • add the tomatoes & cooked mushrooms, stir well.
  • simmer over low heat for about 30 minutes, until tomatoes break apart.
  • adjust spices as needed. i added cayenne & white pepper.
  • serve over a bed of raw or cooked greens & quinoa or your grain of choice.

*cajun seasoning can be purchased or you can make your own to taste mixing cayenne pepper, black pepper, white pepper, paprika, granulated garlic, onion powder, oregano, basil, thyme, salt.

mushrooom étouffée