Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Taco Tuesday

Roasted Eggplant and Black Bean Tacos with Cilantro Lime Quinoa,

 Tofu Queso Fresco, Peppers and Onions


I live in Austin, Texas. I should make tacos. Tacos are awesome. Okay. Tacos. Let's make some. 

That was my inner monologue this morning. It's high summer, and everyone seems to be making tacos - soft tacos, crunchy tacos, breakfast tacos, taco salad, etc. Every other recipe I seem to come across lately is for tacos. Plus, as stated above, I live in Austin, and if there's one thing Austinites are crazy about, it's tacos. So, it felt only natural to try and come up with a new recipe of my own. After my Roasted Eggplant Lasagna, I've developed a bit of an obsession with roasted eggplant. I love the texture and the way it absorbs flavors, and have been trying to come up with other recipes to toss it into. Taco filling seemed like a grand idea. I pared my slightly smoky roasted eggplant and black bean filling with flavorful cilantro lime quinoa, creamy tofu queso fresco (admittedly, I take great liberty with the term), and slow sauteed red bell peppers and onions. I used small corn tortillas which makes this recipe gluten free, however feel free to use whatever you'd like! Top with traditional taco fixins -green onions, tomato, sliced avocado or guac, picante, and I especially love sliced black olives on my tacos! The results were pretty darn tasty :)

There are quite a few elements here, so this is the order I made things in. First, start the quinoa and roast the eggplant. While they're cooking, saute the onions and peppers, and make the tofu queso fresco. Finish the filling, then you're ready to assemble. You could also make this in stages - you could certainly make the tofu queso fresco the day before to give the flavors a chance to marry.

Roasted Eggplant Black Bean Filling

  • 1 eggplant, ¼" dice
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • Half of a 10 oz can diced tomatoes with jalapeno and cilantro (I used Whole Foods 365 brand because that's what I had on hand, but you could also use Rotel, or 1/2 cup of salsa instead)
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 cups no salt added or reduced sodium black beans, drained
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • ¼ - ½ tsp Chipotle Mrs. Dash, or chipotle powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Pepper to taste

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.

Spread the diced eggplant on a baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil, salt and pepper and mix about with your hands. Spread it evenly, and bake for 15 minutes. Stir, cover with tin foil and bake for another 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a cold saute pan. Add remaining ingredients, and heat the pan to medium high.

All of the ingredients ready to be mixed.

Cook for about 15-20 minutes, or until the bean mixture is bubbly and heated through.

Cilantro Lime Quinoa

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • The other half of your can of jalapeno and cilantro diced tomatoes (or ½ cup salsa)
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • ¼ tsp Chipotle Mrs. Dash, or chipotle chili powder
  • Juice of half a lime
  • 2 TBS cilantro, finely chopped 
Everything in the rice cooker

Either place all ingredients (except for the lime juice and cilantro) in a rice cooker according to manufacturers directions (i.e., using the rice cooker's cup measure and liquid measure), or in a medium saucepan. If using rice cooker, cook according to manufacturers directions. If cooking on the stove, bring quinoa mixture to a boil, cover, and reduce heat. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until all of the liquid has been absorbed and the quinoa is light and fluffy. Remove from heat, add lime juice and cilantro. Fluff with a fork and set aside.

Finished Cilantro Lime Quinoa

Tofu Queso Fresco

  • 1 lbs firm tofu
  • Juice of remaining half a lime
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 TBS nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Using your (very clean) hands,  press as much liquid out of the tofu as you can. In a medium sized bowl, crumble the tofu with your fingers. Add remaining ingredients and smash everything together with your fingers. Taste for seasonings and adjust in needed. Cover, and set in the fridge to let the flavors meld until you're ready to assemble.

Onions & Peppers

  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp olive oil
  • 1/8 tsp salt 
Heat the oil in  a medium saute pan. Cook the onions and peppers on medium high heat for about 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently. You want to cook them until the onions have begun to caramelize, and the time this will take may vary depending on your stove (electric vs. gas, etc.). I like to cover them about half way through the cooking process, and add the salt. Once they are caramelized and smell delicious, spoon them into a bowl, cover, and set aside.


After :)


This part is really up to you, but I like to go: corn tortilla, quinoa, beans, peppers & onions, queso, toppings, om nom nom. You could just as easily throw everything on top of a bed of lettuce and crushed tortilla chips for a nice taco salad, or use whole wheat tortillas  - whatever floats your boat! 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Whole Wheat Banana Bread!

Mini Whole Wheat Banana Bread Bundts with Mini Chocolate Chips

This recipe does not involve chickpeas. I know I hinted that my next few recipes would feature that versatile legume, however tonight was not the night. Tonight was the night that I wanted to try out my new mini-bundt pan (one of our awesome wedding gifts). I thought about doing mini bundt cakes, but honestly, I'm a little cake/cupcaked out after the wedding. I waned to make something a little healthier too, so I decided on whole wheat banana bread! This is a recipe that my mom has been making since I was a little kid, and has always been one of my favorites. I think she originally found it in one of those spiral bound, community recipe collections - possibly from the La Leche League, of which my mom was a proud member (yeah, she was a crunchy mom way before that was all the rage :). She made some alterations to the recipe along the way, then when I went vegan it was one of the first things I tried my hand at veganizing.

I really love this recipe. It smells like comfort and home. It's also great to take to work, school, as a hostess gift, etc. Who doesn't love banana bread? And, despite being made with whole wheat flour, this bread doesn't taste "healthy" - it tastes rich and moist. I highly recommend lightly toasting a slice and drizzling it with a bit of maple syrup. That along with a nice strong cup of tea- heaven. You can absolutely make this recipe even healthier- when I'm making this just for Andrew and I (and know we'll end up eating at least half of it the day it's made -ok, honestly if Andrew's involved it probably won't last a day), I usually cut the oil in half and replace it with either an extra banana, or a few TBS of apple sauce. I'm also not terribly fond of overly sweet banana bread, the ripe bananas add quite a bit of sweetness on their own, so I'll also often cut the sugar to 1/4 cup when making it for myself. However, when I'm planning to share, I make the recipe as is. It's still a much healthier alternative to the banana breads that rely heavily on at least a cup of sugar and a cup of oil.

You can make this in a loaf pan, as muffins, mini muffins, mini-bundts- basically whatever shape you want. It still tastes awesome. I hope you like it :)

Whole Wheat Banana Bread

  • 1 cup mashed, very ripe bananas (about 3)
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil, canola oil, or melted earth balance
  • ½ cup brown sugar or maple syrup
  • 2 TBS ground flax seeds + 4 TBS water (Chia seeds or Ener-G Egg Replacer to equal 2 eggs may also be used - if you use the chia seeds though, you'll want to sort of grind them up a bit first)
  • 1 ¾ cups whole wheat flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼- ½  cup  hot water (adding more if dough seems too thick)
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts nuts (my personal favorite), or chocolate chip (optional) 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a medium bowl, add the flour, salt, and baking powder. Whisk with a fork to combine, and set aside.

In a slightly larger bowl, mash the bananas until they're gooey and mashed to your hearts content using a potato masher or fork. Add the oil, brown sugar/maple syrup, ground flax seeds and water and mix well. Add the dry ingredients to the wet alternately with the hot water (though sometimes I just dump it all in- nothing explodes). Mix until smooth. Fold in nuts or chocolate chips (or both!) if desired. Pour into a lightly oiled loaf pan, and bake for 55-60 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean. Let cool, slice and serve!

For mini-bundts, bake for approximately 20 minutes.
For muffins, bake for 20-25 minutes.
For mini-muffins, bake for 15 minutes or so.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Recipe Review (Trying something new!)

In which I make Susan Voisin's (fatfreevegan.com) "Tofu-Cashew Mayonnaise," and "Spicy Collards and Black Eyed Pea Soup," and tell you all about it.  


So, I'm trying something new. This week (yes, I'm trying to blog at least once a week this summer), I'm not sharing a recipe of my own creation, but some super delicious recipes from one of my favorite blogs - The Fat Free Vegan Kitchen by Susan Voisin. As I've mentioned before, I've been following Susan's blog for years, and it's an absolute go-to when I'm planning our meals for the week. She has a wonderful collection of soups, salads, one pot meals (especially great when the school year is in full swing), desserts, sauces, dressings, etc. that use accessible ingredients and are both delicious and extremely healthy. Love, love love!

I've made two of her recipes in the past two days, one for the first time and one that I've made many times before. I wanted to share my thoughts, and pictures, with you!

Tofu-Cashew Mayonnaise

Now, I have NEVER been a fan of mayo. Even before I went vegan - even then the thought of eggs and oil whipped into oblivion made me cringe. But there are two things I do like it in - potato salad and chickpea salad (sort of a vegan chicken salad kinda thing). There are several great vegan mayonnaise products out there - Nayonaise and Veganaise (my omnivore dads favorite). But they can be a bit pricy, and if it's not something that I'm going to use often (and that has a limited shelf life), I'm reluctant to shell out $6 for a jar of the stuff. However, that's where this tofu-cashew mayonnaise comes in!

It has started to get horrendously hot here in Texas - the high yesterday was 104- and while that absolutely won't stop me from using my stove top, it does make me start craving light, cool lunch fare. So I decided to make a batch of chickpea salad (recipe coming soon) to keep in the fridge - it's great on toast, in a pita, or on top of a big pile of greens - refreshing and oh so tasty. And it's one of those things that just gets better as it sits in the fridge, which is always an added bonus. I had come across this recipe the other day, when I was looking at some of Susan's salad dressings, and decided to give it a shot. It has 5 ingredients, and you basically just throw everything into a food processor/blender and voila! It looks and tastes like mayo, and is much, much better for you - 1 TBS has only 15 calories and less than 1 gram of fat! And, needless to say, 0 cholesterol.

As she suggests in the recipe, I ended up making half a batch (using the remaining silken tofu in a smoothy :) - because, as I said - it's just not something that I use that frequently. I followed the recipe  to the letter, but I think in future I may change one little thing... Next time, I'll probably soak my cashews (either overnight, or in boiling water for 30 minutes) before blending them with the other ingredients. I think it would make it just a little smoother, and more like the real thing. Nevertheless, it tasted fantastic in my chickpea salad.

Spicy Collards and Black Eyed Pea Soup


I have made this recipe countless times before - it usually goes into fairly regular rotation once the weather starts to cool down and I'm in full-on soup obsession mode. However, despite the heat, this week I really, really wanted some soup. And this one's always a hit. I do take a few more liberties with this one- adjusting the spices to my own tastes. I just can't handle too much spice, so I make this mild, and give my husband the bottle of Sriracha and let him torture his taste buds as he will. To that end, here are my alterations:

1) I omit the cayenne and hot sauce - for me, the paprika and chipotle chili are enough for a nice subtle heat.
2) I usually don't add the additional 2 cups of water, because I like my soup a little thicker.
3) I add 1-2tsps of garlic powder - because I really, really like garlic. 
4) I add 1tsp of liquid smoke in the last few minutes of cooking. I think it adds such a nice depth of flavor, and it just seems to finish the dish for me. 
We love it over rice, with a nice drizzle of flax oil. 

Chickpea madness coming soon...

Monday, July 8, 2013

Roasted Eggplant and Zucchini Lasagna with Toasted Walnuts

It's been a while... Let's make some lasagna! 

So, I've been away for a while... since January, to be precise. But there is a reason - my graduate program took me to Taiwan for three months. It was a very interesting experience, and though I did find, and eat, a lot of very tasty vegan foods (don't even get me started on the tropical fruits! Fresh pineapple, dragon fruit, green mango with papaya... mmm...), I did not do a whole lot of cooking. Partly due to my hectic schedule, and partly due to my limited kitchen supplies.

When I returned to Austin in mid May I immediately began hot gluing and paper crafting for my end of June wedding, which left little time for blogging. We had a super simple backyard wedding with a dessert reception. Dozens of cupcakes (I don't care if they say cupcakes are dead, or if cronuts are the new cool kids on the block - cupcakes will always have my heart), toppings, sauces, cookies, brownies, etc. My fabulous aunts made southern style pies and cobblers - which added a wonderful bit of family tradition. My best friend frosted the cupcakes beautifully, and the entire kitchen was a bustle of family and friends and sweets. And, of course - everything was vegan :) And pretty damn tasty, if I do say so myself! That's what really made the day perfect. All of that love just made everything sweeter.

I know it sounds crazy, or just stupid, but I really wanted to do most of the cooking for our wedding myself. I've said it before, and I'll say it again - cooking feeds my soul. It makes me happy. To me, there is no greater way to show your love for people, than to cook them delicious, healthy food (or ridiculously sinful sweets).

For our rehearsal dinner, I made four of these big roasted eggplant and zucchini lasagnas, and they went over quite well (even with the many non-vegans)! I actually made them on Wednesday afternoon, pre-baked them, and stuck them in the freezer until the dinner on Friday night. The left overs were pretty tasty too.

My pictures never seem to do things justice :/

This is a recipe I've been working on for a while, and I am absolutely in love with it! The sauce is, quite frankly, what makes this lasagna. The roasted eggplant and zucchini, with the occasional whole clove of roasted garlic, burst with flavor, and soak up all of the tomato-y goodness, while toasted walnuts add a savory crunch. This recipe is fairly easy, and freezes quite well, and you can make it in parts if you like. You can even make the sauce and tofu ricotta the day before you plan to assemble.

Tofu Ricotta: (adapted from Isa Chandra Moskowitz fabulous recipe found in one of my all time favorite vegan cookbooks- Vegan With A Vengeance)
  • 1 lb extra firm tofu (non GMO)
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ¼ - ½  tsp salt
  • pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped (or 1 tsp dried - but fresh really is best)
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1-2 TBS Gomasio (toasted sesame seeds) (Optional)

Remove the tofu from the package and give it a few good squeezes to remove as much excess tofu liquid as possible. In a medium sized bowl, crumble tofu with your (very clean!) hands until it resembles the texture of ricotta. Add the remaining ingredients, and mix thoroughly. I like to just use my hands for this,  so that you can really make sure that everything is incorporated. Taste for seasonings, and adjust as needed. Cover, and place in the fridge until ready to use. You can even make this the day before if you like. The flavors just get better the longer you let them sit :)

Roasted Veggie Sauce:
  • 1 eggplant, peeled and cut into ½” cubes
  • 4 zucchini cut into ½” cubes
  • 1 large onion, medium dice
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into ½” cubes
  • 6 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 TBS olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1-14oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • ½ - ¾ jar store bought pasta sauce (I like Newmans Own, or Whole Foods brand)
  • 2 cups frozen chopped spinach (or your favorite leafy green)
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup fresh basil, roughly chopped (or 1 tsp dried basil if fresh is unavailable)

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

You will need two baking sheets. Spread the chopped onion and bell pepper in a fairly even layer on one baking sheet, and the eggplant and zucchini on the other. Divide the garlic cloves and olive oil between the two sheets. Add salt and pepper to taste, and mix to coat everything. Cover with tin foil, and bake for 30 minutes, stirring half way through. After 30 minutes, remove the tin foil, stir, and place the veggies back in the oven for another 30 minutes, until the onions and peppers are golden and beginning to caramelize, and the eggplant and zucchini are tender and also beginning to caramelize.

Remove from the oven, and set aside to cool a bit while you assemble the remaining sauce ingredients.

In a large pot, add all of the remaining sauce ingredients, except for the fresh basil. Add the roasted veggies, and stir to incorporate. Cook over medium heat for about 30-45 minutes, stirring frequently, until the sauce is heated through and the spinach is thawed. Taste for seasoning, and adjust as needed.

The Rest of the Package:
  • 1 package whole wheat no-boil lasagna noodles
  • ½ cup black olives, torn into pieces
  • 1/3 cup chopped and toasted walnuts

Toast the Walnuts:

Now this is really simple. Finely chop the walnuts. Place a paper towel, or clean kitchen cloth on a microwave safe plate, and spread the walnuts evenly over it. Microwave for one minute, stir. Repeat this process an additional two times unill the nus are warm and fragrant. Done.


Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

In a 9"x13" lasagna pan, spread a few tablespoons of the sauce just to cover the bottom. This helps to reduce sticking. You can also rub down the sides of the pan with olive oil, but I usually skip  this step.

Line the bottom of your pan with a layer of lasagna noodles. Add 1/4 of your roasted veggie sauce, and spread evenly to cover the noodles. Next, sprinkle 1/4 of your tofu ricotta on top of the sauce layer. Repeat this process to create the next layer- noodles, sauce, tofu ricotta, but this time add 1/2 of your toasted walnuts. Repeat - noodles, sauce, tofu ricotta. Repeat for your final layer, and sprinkle the remaining walnuts and the black olives on top. Cover with tin foil, and bake for 40 minutes. After 40 minutes, remove tin foil and continue baking for another 30 minutes, or until the top is bubbly and golden and a knife slides easily through the layers of noodles. Allow to cool, and serve!