Monday, September 28, 2009

Home Food

Just look at these little gems! Let’s just say, these apples and pears are very good friends. If you are a pear fanatic, as I am, you must try this really easy and lighter version of a lovely harvest dessert.

Harvest Turnovers

3 pears, diced fairly fine
2 apples, diced fairly fine
1 c. sugar
1 Tbsp. all purpose flour
1 tsp. ground cinnamon (I ground my own, but dried is fine)
½ Tbsp. vanilla (I would have used a vanilla bean, but didn’t have one. Extract was fine)
1/3 c. toasted walnuts, chopped
1 pkg. phyllo pastry sheets, thawed
1 c. melted Earth Balance

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix first 6 ingredients in a medium pan and place over medium-low flame or heat. There is no need to add additional liquid as the fruit will cook down, as will the sugar. Cook approximately 20-30 minutes, until fruit is softening and juice is thickening. Add toasted walnuts and stir well, then take off heat.

Phyllo pastry is tricky, and you must work fast. Melt your butter in a glass dish. I do mine in the microwave. Have that set aside with a silicone pastry brush. Dampen one tea towel and squeeze out well, then lay flat on the counter. Dampen another tea towel to wrap around pastry sheets. Take sheets out of packaging and smooth out stack on counter. Lift one sheet off stack, gently, and place it on one counter towel, then cover stack with other towel.

Use pastry brush to paint center 1/3 of pastry sheet with Earth Balance, then fold outside 1/3’s in. Brush Earth Balance down strip. Place ¼ c. apple mixture at the top of the strip then fold top right corner to left corner, to form a triangle. Continue folding down and over until you make a triangular formed packet. Brush outside of triangle, top and bottom with Earth Balance and place on cookie sheet.
Continue this process, always keeping the remaining stack of phyllo sheets covered with the damp cloth.

Place pastries on baking sheet and bake 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown. Let rest on a cake rack until cool. Hello Gorgeous!!!

If you want to freeze these you can leave them, without buttering the outside, place on a sheet and freeze. You can pop these off a cookie sheet and place in a zip bag and save until ready to make.

You will only use about ½ of the sheets, but I’m not sure how you can save the remaining sheets. I actually love cutting them into squares, “buttering” in between, and press down in muffin tins. You can fill this with the fruit filling or you could make little quiches. The point is, this is so much less fattening then traditional pastry crust.

These would be great with a vanilla frozen dessert, but I can't even get that far along. I eat them right off the baking sheet! Try this recipe out then get crazy and try different fillings...then tell me about it!

I wanted to share a photo of my favorite travel companion. This roll up can be varied in so many ways, but my go-to combo is hummus, sun dried tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce. I pack my roll-up and a piece of fruit in my carry-on bag, then whip it out and watch the other passengers salivate! Actually, I'll often make two so I can share.

In this particular situation I didn't have my dried tomatoes, so used bits of fresh tomato, cucumber, lemon flavored hummus, spinach leaves and oregano sprinkles. It was wonderful, healthy and took about 10 minutes!

Bean Chowder

Nothing says autumn like a great bowl of soup. I LOVE mixed bean soup, but typically this involves things like ham hocks and sausages. I thought about it, then came up with this really easy soup recipe that was perfect for my slow cooker.

1 pkg. mixed bean mix, rinse beans and soak overnight
1 cube vegetable boullion
1/2 c. diced onions
1 c. smoked chipotle salsa
1 T. vegetable oil
1 pkg. vegan chorizo
1 large bunch of dark greens (I used mustards), cleaned well and chopped
salt and hot sauce to taste

Drain and rinse beans. Put onions and beans in pot, along with vegetable boullion cube and 8 cups of water and salsa. Cover and turn pot on medium. Let cook for about 5 hours.

Removed sausage from casing. Put oil in medium-hot pan, then add chorizo and brown. I could not get the chorizo "crispy," but did get some brown bits. It remained very mushy, but had the most amazing, authentically chorizo smell! I put this into the crock pot. I let everything cook another hour and then added the greens for the last 45-60 minutes.

This is amazing and freezes really well. There is nothing greater than getting home, popping a container into the microwave and having hot chowder by the time I finish unpacking. Brilliant!

I love home!!!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

CSAs and Apples, Apples Everywhere

First, I know I've talked about Community Supported Agriculture before, but I think people often don't consider joining in the autumn season. Although I live in the coldest region of the U.S., there are still many wonderful winter crops, and farmer's still need reliable income, even when the days grow shorter. So, I encourage everyone to look into joining a local CSA. Many of my friends are members of more than one, for different things. It really is a fantastic way to support the farming you believe in, and eat food that's fresh.

This morning at Green City Market the booths were bursting with the most beautiful flood of russet, berry, rose, and every other way you can describe variations of red. Beside red, there are greens, golds and all kinds of combinations.

Because my eating-world now revolves around what is in abundance at the market, my wheels started turning, and I headed to my favorite sources for great recipes. I’ve included a few favorites, and will likely come up with more as the season progresses.

This is actually a perfect find from Vegetarian Times Magazine (February 2009). In integrates apples, with other early autumn super-stars.

Sweet Potato Salad with Apple and Avocado
Serves 6

1 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes
1 cup frozen corn
¼ cup unsalted hulled pumpkin seeds
1 medium red apple, diced (1 cup)
½ small onion, finely chopped (½ cup)
¼ cup chopped cilantro
¼ cup lime juice
2 Tbs. olive oil
½ avocado, finely diced

Place sweet potatoes in large saucepan, and cover with water. Bring to a boil, and cook 3 minutes. Add corn, and cook 1 to 2 minutes more, or until potatoes are tender. Drain in colander and rinse under cold water to cool. Drain well.
Toast pumpkin seeds in dry skillet over medium-high heat 3 to 4 minutes, or until seeds begin to pop. Transfer to plate, and cool.

Combine apple, onion, cilantro, and lime juice in large bowl. Stir in sweet potatoes, corn, and oil, and season with salt and pepper, if desired. Stir in avocado and toasted pumpkin seeds just before serving.

This is so unusual, and perfect for a cook-out side dish, or can be served as a main dish. I love it because everyone, including non-veggies.

This recipe is also from Vegetarian Times, and is a great main dish. I’ve actually substituted Field Roast apple-sage sausages for the tempeh and it worked perfectly.

Sweet-and-Sour Red Cabbage with Apples and Tempeh

Serves 8

1 8-oz. pkg. tempeh
1½ Tbs. olive oil, divided
1 Tbs. low-sodium soy sauce
2 large sweet-tart apples, such as Gala, Idared, or Rome, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 large red onion, chopped
2 lb. red cabbage, cored, quartered, and thinly sliced (8 cups)
½ cup sweet cider
¹⁄3 cup balsamic vinegar
3½ Tbs. dark brown sugar
1½ cups cooked chestnuts, chopped

Heat 1½ tsp. oil in skillet over medium heat. Add tempeh, and sauté 4 minutes, or until browned. Stir in soy sauce and ½ cup water. Simmer 5 minutes, or until liquid has absorbed, turning occasionally. Cool, and cut tempeh into small squares.

Heat remaining 1 Tbs. oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add apples and onion, and sauté 12 minutes. Stir in cabbage, sweet cider, vinegar, and brown sugar. Reduce heat to medium, and partially cover skillet. Cook 25 minutes, or until cabbage is tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in tempeh and chestnuts, and season with salt and pepper.

I’m a huge lover of soup. It’s easy, filling, and if you find a good one you can typically whip it up in no time. This one provides a great use for apples and is actually delicious paired with roasted veggies over polenta triangles.

Celery Apple Gazpacho

Makes 4 1-cup servings

3 cups chopped celery
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and cored
1 1/2 cups cold water
1 Tbs. lemon juice
1 tsp. salt
½ cup day-old bread, pulled into chunks
1/4 cup blanched almonds, chopped
2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
thinly sliced apples or even seeded red grapes for garnish

Place celery, apple, water, lemon juice, and salt in a blender until smooth. Keep in blender or pour in glass container and chill for an hour. Before serving, reblend, then strain through a sieve into glass bowl. Soak bread in strained soup 3 minutes. Rinse blender and pulse almonds until finely ground. Add soup with bread and blend. Then, with motor running, add oil in a slow stream, blending until emulsified.

Now for something sweet, I had to include a recipe for an apple galette. This is such a rustic, and beautiful piece of edible art. No one assumes you would make such a lovely-lovely primarily because you were too lazy to make a pie! I honestly think, the messier and more throw-together this is, the sexier! There are a million wonderful recipes for this in books and online. This is one I lifted forever ago and modified to be vegan. Give it a shot…it’s really yummy!

Apple Galette
Makes 8 to 10 servings

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup Earth Balance, unsalted or 1 1/2 sticks chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 Tbsp. ice water

1 1/2 pounds Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ½ chunks or 1/2'” slices
4 tablespoons sugar, divided
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped into sugar (or 1/2 tsp. good quality vanilla)*
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
1/4 cup apricot preserves
soy creamer

Blend flour and salt. Add butter and crumble with fingers until grainy, or place in food processor and blend until grainy. Add 2 tablespoons ice water and blend just until dough begins to clump. Continue adding ice water if dough seems too dry. You want it a little sticky. Form dough into ball, then flatten into circle about 5” in diameter and ½” high. Wrap dough in plastic wrap or wax paper and chill for an hour or freeze until ready to use.

Roll out dough between sheets of parchment paper to 1/8-inch-thick round, 14 inches in diameter. Remove top sheet then transfer, on bottom sheet to large unrimmed baking sheet. Chill 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450 F. In a bowl, combine apples, 2 tablespoons sugar, vanilla seeds, and lemon peel. Spread preserves over crust, leaving 1 1/2-inch plain border. Arrange apple atop preserves. Using parchment as aid, fold plain crust border up over apples, pinching any cracks in crust. Brush crust with soy creamer. Sprinkle crust edges and apples with remaining 2 tablespoons sugar.

Bake galette 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 F and continue baking until crust starts to brown, about 30 minutes longer. Remove from oven. Slide long thin knife between parchment and galette. Let stand at least 10 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature.

Not only is this recipe great to eat, but it makes your home smell amazing! So, make yourself some tea, cut a slice of this galette, and gaze out the window at the changes that are in the air! I adore autumn. If you have any great fall favorites, please do share!

*I have a glass container I keep full of suger and place my scraped vanilla bean pods in the sugar. I keep the lid tight and use this to sprinkle on cookies and cupcakes, to flavor tea and hot chocolate, and any other embelishing I can come up with. It's divine and would be perfect to sprikle on the galette crust. Just a thought!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Jewels for Autumn

The need for a go-to-showstopper is important to everyone, but especially single folks. Even if you’re not a cook, there should be one meal you can make that will blow the crowd away. It should be something you can whip up without much thought; something you’ve cooked through enough times to feel totally comfortable. It should also be something a little out of the norm, and memorable to your guests.

One of my best friends makes the best bread salad and zucchini soup. I have her recipe and I’ve tried it at home, but something about the way she puts the whole affair together, and all the gorgeous colors against the backdrop of her lovely home…it’s just much better at Carla’s. This is a woman who, at ANY given time, will have fewer items in her refrigerator than you would need all fingers to count. Several of these items are either alcohol or benefit alcohol in some way!

I have shared some of my stars: corn pasta with cilantro (picked up from Vegetarian Times), roasted veggies served over sautéed polenta (inspired by meal at Cafe Agri in Minneapolis), and the ultimate comfort dish, roasted Field Roast sausages with onions and potatoes. I can whip any of these lovelies up, with a side of tomato salad, and feel very comfortable no one is going to be missing the animal parts.

As we move into autumn I thought I’d look for some new tricks-up-my-sleeve, and share one of my favorite dishes of all time. This pumpkin jewel can be made in a grand gesture, worthy of center stage at Thanksgiving or Christmas, or it can be brought down a notch for evenings when you need rejuvenation from the mountains of snow and slippery sidewalks you’ve navigated. Again, I found the original recipe in Vegetarian Times, but made a few modifications based on my own preferences.

Fall Stew Baked in Pumpkin
Serves 6 -8

1 medium onion, diced
2 Tbs. olive oil, divided
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. dried oregano
½ lb. tomatillos, husked and quartered (1½ cups)
1 15-oz. can hominy, rinsed and drained (I’ve substituted roasted frozen corn and it was awesome!)
1 15-oz. can black beans or white beans, drained
Salt to taste
1 3- to 4-lb. pumpkin, or 6-8 little sugar baby pumpkins
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar soy or regular cheese, plus more for garnish, if you like it cheesy!

Preheat oven to 350°F. Heat 1 Tbs. oil in pot over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic. Sauté 7 minutes, or until softened. Stir in chili powder, cumin, and oregano, and cook 3 minutes more, or until spices darken.

Add tomatillos, hominy, beans, ı/2 cup water, and salt. Cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, partially covered, 10 to 12 minutes, or until tomatillos are softened. Uncover, and cook 5 minutes more to thicken stew, if necessary.

Meanwhile, cut top of pumpkin around stem to make lid. Scoop out pumpkin seeds and strings. Rub inside of pumpkin with remaining 1 Tbs. oil, and sprinkle generously with salt. Sprinkle cheese in bottom of pumpkin, or, if you’re doing little pumpkins sprinkle 1/8 c. cheese in the bottom of each.

Fill pumpkin with stew, then top with pumpkin lid. Place on parchment-covered baking sheet and bake 1ı/2 to 2 hours, or until pumpkin flesh is fork-tender. Remove from oven; let stand 5 minutes.

Scoop stew, including pumpkin, into bowls and serve hot, with garnishes of cheese, cilantro and/or guacamole. If you make the little pumpkins, you can serve them each in soup bowls or salad plates.

So, if I were having a soiree I’d make some spiced pumpkin seeds to serve with cocktails. For the main event, a pan of Mexican cornbread would be delightful with the pumpkin stew, or even those pre-made cornbread sticks.

For a little something sweet try Mexican hot chocolate (or cocoa made with your favorite mix) topped with whipped cream, spiked w/ a tablespoon of pumpkin pie filling and a splash of bourbon.

Ok, I seem to have a Southwestern theme going on, but I just find these flavors so comforting in the autumn and the produce is widely available. My best friend, Wendy, makes this incredible white chili. Her version involves ground turkey meat, but I’ve modified it, using ground soy meat. It was incredible and goes really well with my jicama-artichoke salad. This soup and salad combo is really hearty but won’t put you to sleep or weigh you down.

White Chili Recipe

1 lb large white beans, soaked overnight in water, drained
6 cups vegetable broth
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium onions, chopped (divided)
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 4-ounce cans chopped green chilies
2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 bag Morning Star ground soy meat
3 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese
1 jalapeno or serrano pepper, chopped (optional)

Combine beans, chicken broth, garlic and half the onions in a large soup pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until beans are very soft, 3 hours or more. Add additional water (or watered-down broth), if necessary.

Over medium heat, add oil to separate skillet, and brown frozen ground soy meat then add remaining onions and cookl until tender. Add chilies and seasonings and mix thoroughly. Add to bean mixture. Simmer about 30-45 minutes. Check seasoning, add jalapeno or serrano to level of desired hotness.
Serve topped with grated cheese. Garnish with cilantro, chopped fresh tomato, salsa, chopped scallions, and/or guacamole. Serve with fresh warmed flour tortillas or tortilla chips.

Jicama-Artichoke Salad
Serves 6-8


2 medium jicama, peeled and sliced into 2” long by ½” wide sticks. This should be about 2 cups. It’s important to submerge the slices in cold water while you finish slicing so that they don’t discolor.
1 14 oz. can of artichoke hearts, drained and sliced in half


1 1/2 c. sugar
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. salt
2/3 c. cider vinegar
2 cloves of garlic
2 c. vegetable oil
1 c. fresh cilantro
1 jalapeno pepper
1 T. chili powder

Mix sugar, cumin, salt and vinegar in blender. Add garlic cloves. While mixing, add oil slowly and continue beating until thick. Add cilantro. After well blended add chili powder.

Drain jicama and mix in a large bowl with artichoke hearts. Toss vegetables in this yummy dressing. Chill for at least 2 hours.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Last of my Tomatoes...Quickies!

The other day I made a really yummy tomato salad. At Green City Market I picked up a rainbow of heirloom tomatoes and couldn't imagine doing anything with them other than make a salad.

Thick tomato slices were placed on a bed of red-leaf lettuce, and then topped with shredded basil. About 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar was slowly simmered to thick syrup which was drizzled over the greens and tomatoes. This salad was lovely, but I felt the need to guild that lily!

Another jewel I picked up at the market was okra. OK, so I'm a southern girl and I like my fried okra. I had a really lovely picture of the salad, which was placed on Twitter, but deleted it from my computer. Sorry, but trust me, it was really pretty.

Frying okra isn't complicated or messy. I didn't fry up a pound...just about 10 pods. Slice them in about 1/2 pieces, shake in a bag with seasoned cornmeal and drop in hot oil. Fry the okra until it's golden, and then dip them out into a paper towel-lined calendar. Let them cool and crisp up. Taste for seasoning and salt if you need to.

These wonderful bites of okra were sprinkled atop my tomato salad, along with some snippets of fresh chive. I cannot tell you how wonderful it was!

Summer Soiree

Tonight a few friends came over for a sip of rose champagne before going out for dinner. While trying to create something to snack on , I remembered the oodles of crispy soy bacon left over from breakfast. Who doesn’t like a BLT???

I chopped tomatoes into a bowl with fresh basil, and crushed garlic. To this I added some balsamic vinegar, and salt. While this was marinating I made a sweet-spicy mustard sauce. This consisted of about 1/4 cup Dijon mustard, 1 Tablespoon of chopped tarragon, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper and 1/8 cup cider vinegar. After this was mixed well I drizzled in 1/2 cup of olive oil and added salt to taste. Perfect!

Toast slices were topped with bits of soy bacon, then topped with the tomato mixture, drizzled with the sweet-spicy mustard and then sprinkled with vegan parmesan.

I also had a plate of mushrooms that had been placed on rosemary springs and roasted for almost 2 hours at about 200 degrees. I sprinkled these with truffle oil and placed them on a tray.

Though none of my guests were vegetarians, everyone ate up. It was just a perfect bite of summer and paired well with my chilled rose champagne!

More Summer Cravings...

A few days ago I had a taste for fried green tomatoes, but alas, all I had were a few ripe cherry tomatoes. So, I decided to give it a shot.
I made a green salad and through the sliced cherry tomatoes in cornmeal with a little Cajun Spice added and fried those up. I served this with some pasta tossed with pre-made olive tapenade and sprinkled with vegan parmasan. This was the perfect lunch!!

Summer Quickies

Lastly, I have to include this yummy recipe I found and modified to be vegan. Quick breads are something I always keep in my freezer through the cold months in Chicago. Made with summer flavor combinations, warmed quick breads are a bright start to many mornings, and great to pull out for visitors.

Today I made blueberry-banana and orange-almond loaves. The orange-almond is just wonderful, so I want to share the recipe and hopefully you’ll like it as much as I do. In fact, after returning to my home after a cool evening with friends, I'm going to have to get this in the freezer or it will be gone by morning!

Orange Almond Quick Bread

3 c. sifted flour
3 Tbsp. baking powder
1 Tbsp. grated orange rind
¾ c. sugar
½ smashed banana or 1 egg
¼ c. fresh orange juice
1 ¼ c. vanilla soy milk
2 Tbsp. melted Earth Balance spread or shortening
1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract (I actually would have scraped a vanilla bean, but didn’t have one)
1 c. raw almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together flour and baking powder. Combine orange rind and sugar and add to flour mixture. Set aside. Combine smashed banana, orange juice, soy milk and Earth Balance. Beat this until blended well. Place almonds in blender, or in container to use with hand blender and add ¼ - ½ c. of the liquid mixture then blend almonds until they are completely ground. Pour all of liquid mixture into flour mix.

Combine all ingredients well then place in 2 small, greased loaf pans or one large. Bake 50 minutes- 1 hour, or until top is browned and firm to the touch.

This is so great sliced and toasted. I imagine it would be REALLY decadent if I made a glaze using lemon juice and powdered sugar, but personally I can't handle too much sugar first thing in the morning.

I hope you love all these end-of-summer goodies. Shortly the leaves will be turning and the days will shorten. I encourage everyone to put back a few little items you can turn to when you need a taste of sunshine and warmth. Until the chill sets in keep sipping big cold glasses of lemonade and soaking up every bit of the sun.