Monthly Archives: February 2012

Spicy Peanut and Eggplant Stew

This gem of a stew is probably my idea of heaven in a bowl. Like the title indicates, it combines all my favourites: peanut butter, eggplant, and spiciness. Eggplant is one of my favourite vegetables because it’s nice and meaty and can either be enjoyed lightly seasoned and grilled or marinated to the hilt. Any way you cook it, it is melt-in-your-mouth delicious, and in this soup the eggplant assumes the spicy peanut broth flavour that makes it virtually impossible for me to not go back for thirds. The green beans add some colour and crunch, which I think is necessary to any stew. The broth is one of the best uses of peanut butter out there, deftly combining tomatoes, peanut butter, and spices into a velvety broth that should be bottled as ‘nirvana broth’.

 

This recipe is originally from Veganomicon, but Isa Chandra Moskowitz has been kind enough to post it on her blog as well. (The PPK – Spicy Peanut Eggplant and Shallot Stew).  I made the recipe slightly healthier by only using 2t. of peanut oil instead of the 1/4c. called for, and I dry roasted the spices before the sautéing began. As I cut down the oil, I didn’t pre-sauté the shallots and eggplant in separate steps. Shallots, then eggplant, then onion. This also cuts down on prep dishes, which I am always a fan of.

 

If someone told me I had to prepare for nuclear holocaust and could only bring one dish to the bomb shelter, this would be the one. It’s that good.


Spinach Tomato Curry

One cannot be prouder than I am right now to present to you this wonderful bowl of curry. This is my very first attempt at a recipe completely by scratch, and it was a smashing success! Sure, I frequently work off of 2 or 3 (or 4 or 5) recipes to create a dish, and I am no stranger to the ‘just dump it in’ philosophy, but usually there is some method to the madness. I have also never been ambitious enough to tinker with curry spice blends. I have over cumined before, and it was not pretty. But as I was staring into the depths of my freezer, the squash, spinach, and curry leaves were beckoning. Why can’t you combine these elements? I say go for it! I added some tomatoes because I prefer tomato curries to coconut milk curries (and I don’t care what Tom Collicchio thinks: squash + tomatoes = greatness), and this dish was born.

A quick note about curry leaves: These were a find at the Asian supermarket, and I now want to grow a curry leaf plant. I have seen them described as the Indian ‘bay leaf’, but I think this is an unfair description. I have yet to figure out what value bay leaves add to a dish, although I faithfully put them in every time. Curry leaves are aromatic, slightly oily to the touch, and give a nice sizzle when added to the pan. And they don’t taste like wood when you accidently eat them!

The curry leaves and fenugreek add that extra something to the spice mix, which you may only notice if you use them. I’m sure, having been curry leaf and fenugreek-less for the majority of my cooking ‘career’ that this curry would be fantastic without.  It comes together quickly, and the dry-roast of the spices at the beginning is definitely worth it. To save time, you can use a block of frozen spinach instead of fresh – just add it into the stew when you add the tomatoes. This dish tastes just as good as it smells, and the leftovers are sure to disappear quickly!

Spinach Tomato Curry

Spices:
2t. ground cumin
1t. ground coriander
0.5t. fenugreek
0.5t. turmeric
1t. garam masala

Other stuff:
1t. mustard seeds
1t. canola oil
0.75c. onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1T. fresh ginger, minced
4 curry leaves
2-4 jalapenos, diced
1 butternut squash, cut into 1″ cubes (~4.5c.)
1-2c. water
1 (28oz.) can diced tomatoes
4c. spinach, roughly chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
0) In saucepan, dry roast spices until fragrant. Set aside.
1) In same saucepan, saute mustard seeds in oil until they start popping (I find it helpful to use a lid otherwise mustard seeds go splattering everywhere)
2) Add onion, garlic, ginger, and curry leaves. Saute until onion is translucent.
3) Add chilis. Saute ~1min.
4) Add spices. Stir to prevent burning.
5) Add squash and water. Cover and bring to a boil.
6) Add tomatoes. Stir.
7) Lower heat to a simmer, cover and cook ~20min, until squash tender. (Stir occasionally to prevent bottom-burn!)
8) Add spinach. Stir in and cook until wilted
9) Taste for seasonings.
Serve with rice.


Chocolate Chocolate Cookies

First, let me apologize for no picture. I was distracted by how delicious they were coming out of the oven – eating takes priority every time 🙂

I am not what you would call a fan of dessert. I like some dessert now and again, but if someone made me choose between Lindt dark chocolate or fresh fruit, the fruit would win every time. But everyone needs their stashes, and these cookies are worthy! I was inspired by my almond milk that was about to expire, and a splurge purchase of unsweetened carob chips at Bulk Barn. I have never had carob chips before, and I am now an official convert. They taste different than chocolate, but in a good way.

The recipe was inspired by the chocolate chocolate cookie recipe in Veganomicon, however I think I have made enough substitutions to make it my own. These are the healthiest chocolate cookies you will ever eat. I brought them to work once in a blind taste test against a coworkers wife’s super-special chocolate monster cookies, made traditionally with real butter, sugar, eggs, M&M’s and chocolate chips. I take great pride in the knowledge that head-to-head my plate disappeared the fastest! My coworkers never knew what was in those cookies, and until now it’s been a secret. Out of the oven they taste like morsels of fudge. Out of the freezer it’s a cookie popsicle. Dipped in some natural peanut butter … swoon worthy.

Chocolate Chocolate Cookies

Yield: 40 cookies

Dry ingredients:

1c. spelt flour

1c. whole wheat flour (Note: to make it gluten free, 2c. quinoa flour or your favourite gluten free mix would work well)

2/3c. unsweetened cocoa powder

1t. baking soda

pinch of salt

Wet ingredients:

1c. unsweetened applesauce

1/4c. agave nectar (brown rice syrup or maple syrup would work too!)

4t. flax seeds

1/2c. almond milk, or your favourite non-dairy milk

2t. vanilla extract

2/3c. chocolate chips (or carob chips!)

Optional add-ins: 2/3c. nuts of your choice, dried cranberries, frozen raspberries … the possibilities are endless!

Directions:

1) In small bowl, sift together all dry ingredients

2) In larger bowl, mix together applesauce and agave nectar. Add in flax seeds, milk, and vanilla. Stir to combine.

3) Add dry ingredients to wet in batches, stirring as you go. Mix to combine.

4) Add chocolate chips and other add-ins. At this point the dough may be too stiff to mix with a spoon, so get in there with your hands! Mix to combine.

5) Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Make balls of dough approximately the size of a quarter and place on lined cookie sheet. (I fit 20/sheet). If you like crispier cookies, smoosh down the tops of the cookies with the back of a spoon.

6) Bake at 400dF for 8min. Let cool ~2min on cookie sheet, then transfer to wire rack.


Hot and Sour Soup

May not be the prettiest soup at the ball, but worth your attention!

My first vegan cookbook that I ever bought was Veganomicon, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. It quickly became my stand-by cooking Bible, and now sports the hallmark of every well-loved cookbook: stained, dog-eared pages that falls open at all frequently used recipes. This was also the first cookbook that started my weird habit of sitting down with a cup of coffee and reading a cookbook like a good novel, cover to cover, tabbing all the recipes I wanted to try. This soup, Hot and Sour Soup with Wood Ear Mushrooms and Napa Cabbage (page 143) was one that caught my attention but took a bachlorette party to produce. Quick, easy, and versatile, this soup is perfect for the winter blahs or for the spring thaw. Or for any season, really!

I have yet to find wood ear mushrooms, so I use the dried mushroom variety pack from Superstore. Not a lover of mushrooms, dried mushrooms are fantastic. Not only do they taste like something, but they have texture too! You actually have to chew them to eat them, and they quickly because a pantry staple after this recipe. I have also thrown in a variety of vegetables in here – from bok choy (above) to Chinese broccoli (also fantastic steamed by itself!) to whatever is lying around the fridge. It is a change of pace from the chillies and the noodle soups, and makes the kitchen smell like a little Chinese hole-in-the-wall restaurant. Although promised to be “completely inauthentic”, I still use the boat spoons to slurp it up! It freezes well, if you have more restraint than I and have enough leftovers to freeze!

Extra bonus: This soup also changed my omnivore parent’s attitude toward tofu. Before the word “tofu” was accompanied with a nose wrinkle and pronounced “toFU ICK”, it is now purchased occasionally with an open mind. If that’s not a ringing endorsement, I don’t know what is.


Cranberry Citrus Salad

In a recent jaunt through the produce department, I came across a bag of cranberries. I have never liked cranberry sauce, cranberry jell-o, or any dish that has ever graced the table at Thanksgiving or Christmas with cranberries in it. So fresh cranberries have never made it to my grocery basket. Until this fateful day when I saw that a whole bag was $0.45. I can’t pass up a deal to save my life, so into the basket they went. When I got home, I stared down this cranberry bag. It stared right back, mocking me and my impulse buy.   

Google did not help me much. Spin-offs of holiday cranberry dishes didn’t seem appropriate in mid-January, and I wasn’t in the baking mood, so the cranberry bag sat forlorn in the fridge for a couple of days, taunting me with its existence. Until the Eureka! moment happened, and this fresh citrus salad was born! Sweet oranges and tart grapefruit serve as the base for these cranberry gems. Tossed together with some lime juice, and it is one of the best fruit salads around. I had some leftover and tossed in some (uncooked) rolled oats for breakfast and thought I was in heaven. There is so much more to this berry than cranberry sauce and baked goods. Watch out bag of cranberries – there’s more in store for you!

 

Cranberry Citrus Salad

1 Naval orange, cut into bite-sized pieces*

1 Grapefruit, cut into bite-sized pieces*

1c. fresh cranberries

Juice from 1 lime (~1T.)

Sugar (optional)

 

Directions:

*Tip* to prepare citrus fruit: The easiest way to do this is to lob off the ends of the fruit, then cut the peel off following the contour of the fruit. Then just cut it into bite-sized pieces like you would an apple.

1) Toss all ingredients into a bowl

2) Cover with saran wrap, and let rest in the fridge until ready to use


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