Thursday, August 9, 2012

mystical zucchini

I LOVE a good farmers' market. Heck, I even love an average farmers' market.

One Sunday, I decided to traipse up to a little farmers market on the Upper West Side sitting behind the Museum of Natural History. Can we get any cuter?

Why do I love the farmers' markets so much?

1. You find the craziest, newest things.
2. Everything is a normal price and you know exactly who you're giving you're hand earned cashola to
3. Everything is so fresh! I swear you can hear the fruits and veggies still breathing.

But back to point #1. The craziest things...on this particular Sunday, I found yellow plums (cool!) and "eight ball zucchini"...what?! They looked like zucchini...except they were round. Hmmm....I'll have two, please!

I brought them home and let them sit in the fruit bowl for a few days looking quite perplexing and then decided I better use them before I had moldy ex-squash mush balls. Gross.

I decided to stuff them. PERFECT. With a combination of beef-less beef, veggies, some seasoning, and a bit of TLC...I was in vegan, healthy, farmers' market paradise.

PS If you can't find eight ball zucchini, regular ol' zucchini will fare you just fine, you just won't feel nearly as cool.

Vegan Stuffed Eight Ball Zucchini


  • 2 "eight ball" zucchini - or regular ol' zucchini if these aren't available
  • 1 package beefless ground beef
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic,chopped
  • 1 chili pepper, chopped
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs (optional) 
  • Salt and pepper to season
  • Dairy free vegan cheese (I used Daiya - Mozzarella flavor)
  • Olive oil spray
  1. Cut the tops off the zucchini and scoop out the inside pulp with a spoon. Kind of like carving a pumpkin, except not as gooey and, therefore, not as fun. Keep the guts!
  2.  In a nonstick pan, soften the garlic, onion and shallot in a bit of EVOO
  3. Once softened, but not brown, add in the beefless beef and the chili pepper (you can use more or less chilis, with or without seeds, depending on how spicy you like it)
  4. Add in the zucchini pulp.
  5. Once well combined, add in the paprika and oregano. Season with salt and pepper and let cook a few minutes for all the flavors to combine.
  6. Stir in the nutritional yeast
  7. Remove from heat and add in the panko (if using)
  8. Spray the insides and outsides of your zucchini shells with a tiny bit of olive oil. Fill half way with the stuffing. Throw in some "cheese". Fill the shells the rest of the way with the stuffing and top with cheese. 
  9. Cook in oven at about 350 for about 25-30 minutes or until cheese is melted and shells are soft.
  10. Dig in!

I now understand why they call them eight ball zucchini...these babies were mystical.

Monday, June 18, 2012

back in avocado action

Well, it has been a while.

epic fail.

I stopped being so creative in the kitchen for a spell while there was a lot going on around here. I got lazy...lazy, fat, and sick. Ok, maybe not, but seems like it.

I started to pick it back up recently but haven't gotten around to typing here in a while. And then one night I was ready to photograph my creation...and I left my camera battery at work. Who does that?! A lazy person. Anyway, motivation has hit me again and I've gotten my (slightly spread out) tush back in the kitchen a bit more frequently. And I'm going to get back on here to keep myself accountable!

So, here is one of my favorite.favorite.favorite. recipes I've made in a while. Its delicious, pretty simple, and so worth the little extra time it may take.

Avocado "Fries" with Cilantro-Lime Dipping Sauce.

excuse me while I punch the air in victory.

So, one night I decided to whip up a yummy vegan chili in the crockpot. I threw everything that was ever in my fridge or cabinet in it and we were eating it for at least 3 days straight. And we aren't ones for small portions. I tried to switch up the WAY we ate it everyday... chili over rice, chili tacos, chili enchilada pie. All were delicious, but a bit repetitive. So on day 2, a side dish was needed. I was going to make guacamole, but there was only one lonely avocado in my fruit bowl. And if you know me at all, one avocado is NOT enough for guac. Especially when I have to share.

Then I remembered seeing avocado fries all over pinterest and Lightbulb! Iwas totally ready to try this out. I wanted to veganize and healthify this baby and so...the following was born:

Avocado Fries with Cilantro Lime Dressing (vegan!)
  • One ripe avocado
  • 3-5 tbsp ground flax
  •  9-15 tbsp warm water
  • 1-1.5 cups panko bread crumbs
  • about 1 tsp garlic powder (more or less to taste)
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • sea salt
  • 1/4 c. raw cashews - soaked
  • 3-5 tbsp vegan mayo (I used original Veganaise)
  • juice of half a lime
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
  1. Mix together the flaxmeal and warm water. The correct ratio is 1 tb flax : 3 tbsp warm water. Stir until it begins to thicken and turn into a sticky, gloppy, eggy-ish slop. Set aside. **Been looking for a way to bread food without eggs? Voila!
  2. Combine the panko and garlic powder. Grind a generous amount of black pepper into the bread crumbs. Add a few dashes of sea salt. Adjust the seasonings to taste and add any additional seasonings you deem necessary...cumin or chili powder might be good!
  3. Cut your avocado in half and remove the pit. Without cutting through the skin, cut the avocado flesh into fry sized pieces. Carefully remove with a spoon
  4. Plop the avocado fries into the flax slop. Using only one hand, make sure all sides of the avocado are coated in the flax
  5. Remove the avocado from the flax and toss it in the panko mixture. Use your dry hand to make sure all sides are coated. 
  6. Place on a cookie sheet and cook about 20-30 minutes, turning once, until golden brown and crunchy!
  7. While the "fries" are baking, throw the soaked cashews in the food processor and process until a paste forms.
  8. Add the veganaise, lime juice, and fresh cilantro and process until well combined.
    **Note you can use a different ratio of mayo to cashews (or all mayo) for the dressing. I added cashews to decrease the amount of processed oils and unknown, creepy things in the veganaise. 
  9. Once the fries are cooked, serve immediately with the dipping sauce. .
  10. Do a happy dance
  11. Try to show restraint and not eat the entire plate at once.
    But if you do, don't feel bad about it!
PS. I used the rest of the mayo on a veggie wrap the next day and did another happy dance.  Two happy dances in two days...score!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

buffalo tofu bites.

The only person I ever really cook for is my terrible-vegan boyfriend. So, when my friend, B, who has been following my crazy vegan-ness said she wanted to come over for dinner one night, I wasn't sure WHAT to do. I considered suggesting we just go out to eat, after all NYC is chock full of vegan restaurants, or suggesting we order something in, again, thank you NYC for making that too simple. But, I realized that was silly and I not only loved a reason to cook up a feast, but it was darn time I shared this craze with someone else.

Of course, we had scheduled far in advance and I totally forgot until she reminded me a few days before. Shootshootshootshootshoot. I racked my brain on what to make.

I made old reliable - my AAB pasta - but wanted to make a few more things to keep us going all night, and to help keep the copious amounts of wine and skinnygirl margarita in check.

I'm a huge fan of finger food and appetizers, dips, etc. So I went for it. B and I have always loved chicken wings, so I decided buffalo tofu would have to do.

I googled a few recipes but didn't really love any of them + B eats gluten free so I knew I'd have to adapt. I also realized one of the best things about buffalo wings is the dressing you dip them in -- I tried to make a ranch-ish substitute. The result was incredible. We ate the entire batch, a whole block of tofu. They were so good, I made them again the next day and when I came home to eat them, terrible vegan boy had eaten them all. As for the "ranch", well, it didn't taste like ranch really, but it was delicious and I smothered it all over everything for the next few days.

Buffalo Tofu Bites with Not-Really-Ranch Dressing
for the tofu:
  • 1 block extra firm tofu, pressed to drain as much of the liquid out as possible
  • 1 cup of unsweeted, unflavored soy milk
  • 2 tbsp corn starch
  • 2 tbsp hot sauce
  • 1/2 cup flour - the first time, I used brown rice flour (so it was gluten free), the second time I used part brown rice flour and part whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs (optional) -- I left these out when I made them gluten free
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 3/4 tsp garlic salt - or garlic powder and salt
  • 2 tbsp Earth balance butter/margarine/soy spread
  • 3 tbsp hot sauce
  • 1 tbsp water
-First, press the life out of your tofu. I put paper towels on a plate, put the block of tofu, covered it with paper towels and another plate, and then stacked three books on top. I found Harry Potter #5, 6, and 7 worked wonders for it. I pressed it for at least an hour, switching the paper towels each time they were soaked through

-Once pressed, cut the tofu into 2 bite size cubes or triangles. I used and much preferred the triangles.

-Mix the soy milk, the cornstarch, and the 2tbsp of hot sauce together in a bowl. Make sure its mixed well and then the cornstarch isn't in a glob on the bottom.

-In another bowl, mix together the flour, panko (if using), cayenne, paprika, and garlic salt.

-At this point, everything on your table should be a weird pink color

-Throw some of your tofu cubes into the soy milk mixture, coat completely and then drop them into the flour mixture to coat. Put onto a separate clean plate.

-Do this with all of your tofu. Cover the plate and refrigerate at least an hour (or until you're ready to cook and eat)

-Preheat oven to 375.

-Melt the earth balance butter in the microwave, mix in the hot sauce and the water.  

Sidenote: typical buffalo sauce recipes are equal parts butter and hot sauce, I tried to cut down on the butter by adding water, which I think worked well. Feel free to omit the water and just use the butter. 

And if you need or want more sauce, the proportion of butter : hot sauce should be 1 : 1 - or butter : water : hotsauce should be 2 : 1 : 3. 

-Put the coated tofu on a lightly greased non stick baking pan.

-Drizzle the half of hot sauce over the top

-Cook at 375 degrees for 15 minutes or so.

-Take them out and flip them, pour the rest of the hot sauce over the top, and bake an additional 15 minutes.

 **I found that the ones that I used the panko in were a bit drier and you may want to add a bit more hot sauce to the top.

-Drizzle with additional hot sauce, if desired, again using the same ratios (butter : hot sauce, 1 : 1) or (butter : water : hot sauce, 2 : 1 : 3)

Vegan Not Really Ranch Dressing
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked for at least an hour
  • 1/4 cup water / soy milk
  • about a quarter of a package firm tofu
  • 2 tbsp veganaise
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp agave
  • 1/2 tbsp + 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 tbsp fresh dill 
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley
-Blend the cashews, tofu, soy milk, water, veganaise in a food processor.

-Add the spices and seasonings
and puree them in.

-Note: I used fresh dill, and I only used about a tbsp because its all I could get off of my aerogarden plant without killing it, but I think I would have used more if I could have gotten my hands on it. I think adding some dried dill would have worked as well, as a tbsp would have been enough. I'll adjust next time.

Sidenote: this recipe makes a dressing that is ideal for dipping. When I wanted
to use it on my salad, I took some out and
whisked in a bit of water to thin it out
and make it more ideal to use on a salad

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

cheesy as pie

Two things have happened recently leaving me feeling pretty great.

One: My "limbo state" that sort of prompted this silly blog has started to wind down a bit. I see a light at the end of the tunnel! Although its dim it still feels pretty fab.

Two: I stuck to this vegan thing pretty hardcore (without breaking for several weeks). Before that I tended to do it for a few days or a week or so and then sneak in a piece of meat or some cheese. So I got super strict and stuck to it (I'll admit it was broken this weekend when my boyfriend insisted on a celebratory steak, see point one above). Anyway, sticking to that vegan-ism, too, felt fab. I even turned down some free ice cream at work (free ice cream?? ...that NEVER happens). It was even carried over to me and pushed upon me and I still said no. I had to try to explain why, but my co-workers who are primarily from a largely carnivorous culture, did not get it at all. ...awkward.

Anyway, after sticking for it for just a few weeks, I feel great. I have a lot of energy and definitely look and feel a bit trimmer. Can't complain!

One of the ways I was so able to stick to it so well was indulging a bit. Aka if I craved something, I found a way to have it. ...easier said than done, right? sometimes

So, one night I decided to make something out of a vegan cookbook. A big, hearty, vegan meal cooked in a crockpot. I was SO excited. I chopped everything up the night before, tons of fresh veggies and tofu, threw it all in the crockpot before work, and all day was super excited to come home to the glorious smells of the crockpot and dig my fork in. I thought I had stumbled upon a vegan's paradise.

Thought...I came home, opened the door of my apartment and inhaled. And inhaled again. Not much to smell. I stuck a fork in. I believe my exact words were "meh". Not bad at all, just so not great. I stirred it up, spiced it up, but couldn't quite whip up the vegan paradise I had been dreaming of all day. When aforementioned terrible vegan boyfriend came home, he was super excited (he has a thing for crockpots). He smiled and ate with my but we were both less than enthused.

I remember saying " least its super healthy!" ...truth. We ate it for dinner, but still had an ENTIRE crockpot full of it. I absolutely hate wasting food but knew we wouldn't eat it again as is.

The next day, as I went about my day I knew that there was a giant pot of farmer's market that really should be eaten, but ugh, I so just did not want to. I decided I could not throw it out, so would need to change it into something else.



I decided to take a hefty portion of the leftover crockpot mess and turn it into the filling for a vegan burrito. I added some extra tofu, some extra veggies, salsa and a wholeee lot of seasonings and turned my sad crockpot extravaganza into some burrito filling. That's the glory of something like a burrito, with the right seasonings and a few tweaks, you can wrap nearly anything in a tortilla and call it a burrito.

However, I still wasn't satisfied. When you crave mexican food, part of that craving it cheese. Cheesy delicious goodness. **insert vegan wah here*

But! Having successfully made a vegan ricotta substitute, I wondered if I could make a vegan mexican-ish cheese-ish substitute. I started googling to see if it had ever been done before (duh, of course) and came up with TONS of results. I read so many different recipes, most with cashews, of course, but some with insanely ridiculous main ingredients, such as carrots. I don't love the taste of cooked carrots and couldn't imagine that pureed cooked carrots (aka baby food) could EVER taste like cheese, but I also loved the idea of bulking up the cashew cheese while cutting down on the calories and I knew I had to tweak it and try it!

I played around for A LONG TIME and came up with the following recipe, that I smeared all over my burrito, some blue chips, a spoon...and maybe even my finger.

Here ya go:

Vegan Mexican Cheese Sauce
  • 1/2 cup cashews - soaked for a few hours
  • 3 carrots, boiled until soft
  • 1/2 cup - 1 cup water
  • about 3-4 oz of pimento (I had bought a 6.5 oz jar, which held one GIANT pimento, and I used about half of it) --> don't get too hung up on the amount here - half of a 6-7 oz jar, or a whole 3-4 oz jar -- don't use the oil, juice, water, whatever that the pimento is swimming in!
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 can of chopped green chillis
-Boil your carrots until soft and easily pierced with a fork
-Drain your soaked cashews and add them to a food process, process until crumbly and pastelike. Add about 1/2 cup of the water to help smooth the mixture out
-Chop up and add the cooked carrots and pimento -- puree into the cashew paste

-Add the nutritional yeast and puree. Add the cornstarch and puree. (I like to pulse my food processor as I go so I don't end up in a cloud of powder by adding all the dry ingredients at once)
-Add the garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika and pulse pulse pulse.
-Add the lemon juice and apple cider vinegar. Add more of the water to reach your desired consistency.
-Transfer the sloppy orange mixture to a nonstick saucepan and heat over low flame, stirring constantly to prevent burning
-Taste and adjust the seasonings as you see fit.
-Add the whole can of chilis (more or less to taste) and cook until heated through

Serve as a dip or as a sauce for burritos, tacos, or rice!

This stores well for a few days in a sealed container in the fridge (not that it'll last that long). I re-heated in the microwave, stirring in a few tablespoons of water before heating to thin out a bit.

So so delicious and the all natural carrot/cashew base makes it a healthy way to indulge and curb those cheesy cravings! Success!

Monday, March 12, 2012

as easy as AAB!

I remember the first time I ever had basil pesto. I was in the city for a high school "field trip", and we went to some not-so swanky italian restaurant. I swear thought I had stumbled upon some new culinary nirvana. From then on, every time I stepped into a restaurant that served the green pasta, I would order it without even looking at the rest of the menu.

Now that I've attempted to cut a bit of the grease and cheese off my plate, I can't whip up this culinary dream as much as I'd like. Cue the improvising.

I saw this recipe by Giada De Laurentis - perhaps the most frustrating cook on the food network -- who can eat globs of pasta, cheese, and fried food and look THAT good!? No one, I reckon, hence why she seems to take a bite of what she cooks and moves on to cooking the next meal that I gain 4 pounds just by watching her cook.

Anyway, that recipe looked FANTASTIC, so I altered it just a tinyyy bit and came up with my own little bit of paradise that I don't feel as guilty eating as I do when I eat pesto in a restaurant, served in a nice pool of its own grease.

Using the avocado instead of olive oil, spares you from using a processed oil and gives you a good, natural source of omega 3s!

AAB Pesto (Avocado-Arugula-Basil Pesto)
  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 1-2 cups arugula
  • approximately 1 cup fresh basil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • whole wheat pasta
  • tomatoes for garnish
  • almonds/pine nuts/walnuts for garnish
  • salt and pepper to taste

-Boil the pasta in a pot of salted water until cooked to your liking

-Cut open and pit the avocados. Add to a food processor and puree until smooth

-Blend in the lime juice, this is more to keep the avocado from turning brown than for flavor -- although I think the acidity adds a bit of something

-Slowly add in the arugula, basil, and garlic, pureeing as you add.

-Add salt and pepper to taste

-Alter the amount of arugula, basil, and garlic to your liking.
When I made it last, I used a TON of arugula. This results in more pesto, with less calories per bite!

-Once all the ingredients are pureed, and your pasta is cooked, remove your pasta from the water with a slotted spoon. I find this works better than draining with a strainer in this case, because the extra water on the pasta helps the pesto to spread and coat the pasta. Mix the pasta with the pesto and smile.

-Garnish with chopped tomatoes and nuts of your choice.
 Store any remaining pesto in the smallest airtight container you can fit it in to avoid browning and use in the next 2-3 days. I used the remaining pesto on everything for the next few days. My favorite was on a wrap with some (more) arugula, tomatoes and roasted red peppers! 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

ricotta without the curdles.

Every once in a while (and by every once in a while, I mean far too often), I crave some cheesy gooey comfort food. And every once in a while, I indulge this craving. However, one weekend, I decided to play with this craving in a health(ier), vegan way. -- nut cheese!

I had made it once to put on some kale chips (not the previously posted ones), and although the kale chips were kind of soggy and weird-the nut cheese was tasty! So I figured this wasn't a completely impossible concept.

I played around with some different textures and flavors and liked the result quite a bit. I used a combination of cashews and tofu for a really crumbly, but also creamy texture.

This is what I came up with, feel free to tweak based on what you're using it for.
  • 1 cup cashews -- soaked in water (with a dash of salt) at least 2-3 hours
  • 1/2 block extra firm tofu
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • between 1/8-1/4 cup soy milk/creamer or a combination of both (use more or less depending on what you're using it for)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • basil - I used as much as I could pull off of my aerogarden plant without killing it - probably between 1tsp-1tb dried basil, or as much fresh basil as you like
  • 1/2 tablespoon agave
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
-Drain and pulse the soaked cashews in a food processor until well pureed -- kind of like a chunky butter
-Cut the firm tofu into cubes and add it to the food processor, pulse combining it with the cashews.
-Add all remaining ingredients, pulsing as you go, until you have a creamy, ricotta like texture
-Feel free to adjust the seasonings as you wish -- make it sweeter (more agave) for a spread/dessert, herb-ier (?) for an italian dish (more basil, oregano, or add parsley!)
-Taste and adjust! And taste and taste and taste! I couldn't stop eating it!

Note that the cheeze dries out a bit when you bake it, so you can make it a bit waterier/creamier if you're using it in a dish that will be baked.

I boiled some store-bought manicotti shells, stuffed 'em with the "cheeze", added some tasty (jarred) tomato sauce and baked for about 30 minutes at 375 degrees.

 Serve it up with some extra sauce and a yummy salad and feel quite a bit less guilty about indulging!

The cheezeee was also Deeeeelish on these little flatbread crackers/on some raw veggies/on a spoon. I'm sure it'd be excellent as a spread on a veggie wrap - perhaps with some eggplant and sundried tomatoes.

Aka -- make extra because you'll want to use it on everything!

Monday, February 20, 2012

taming of the squash

A long time ago, someone told me about "spaghetti squash". I had never had it, heard of it, or seen it and wasn't much of a squash eater. She described it as "just a regular squash that, when you cut it open, the inside is like spaghetti!"

I was intrigued, but never tried it. Recently, however, I bumped into a box of these large, intimidating squash at Whole Foods. I decided to pick one up (which was quite a feat because they are pretty heavy).

I forgot to take a picture of mine, but that's what they look like before you tame the beast, in case you stumble upon a bunch of unmarked squashes? squashi? sqeesh? what is the plural of squash, anyway?

After lugging it on the subway, I put it on my counter and there it sat for a few weeks. Good thing squash don't go bad quickly!

One day, I decided it was now or never but had NO idea how to crack this monster. Apparently, there are two ways to go about it.
1. Roast the whole thing and then cut it open
2. Cut it open and then roast it

...revolutionary, really.

I went for the latter, and took the sharpest knife I could find and dug in. It.wasn't.easy. Its a bit like carving a pumpkin, except not as fun and far more dangerous since it has no flat bottom to stand on and seems to slip every time you give the knife a good push...cute

Anyway, I got it open, split in half, VERY unevenly, but it didn't seem to matter.

However, once I looked inside, I was appalled to see that nothing inside it even resembled spaghetti. I was baffled, but upon a bit of research, found out this was okay.

Once you've conquered the beast and opened it, pull out all the slime and seeds, again, similar to the way you'd clean a pumpkin, except far less fun. Then,  stick it cut side down onto a baking sheet and put it in the oven, pre-heated to 375 degrees.

I let it roast for about 40 minutes, and honestly, had NO idea if it was done or not. I pulled it out and it looked practically the same as it did when it was un-roasted, except it now burned my hands and some of the pulp that I was too lazy to clean out was burned.

I held it over a bowl, ran a fork down the center, and I swear, the heavens opened and the angels sang. This stupid little wanna-be pumpkin who had tried to make me cut my fingers off, had just turned into SPAGHETTI. I was thrilled.  ecstatic. shocked. and then I wondered who on earth figured this out for the first time.

But either way, run your fork over the "meat" of the squash from end to end, stem to stem, until the whole thing is just an empty shell and you have a bowl of beautifully yellow spaghetti squash.

I ate mine with only some garlic and shallots, sauteed with olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper. I'm sure there are a million ways that this would be delicious, but I wanted my first spaghetti squash experience to really taste as squashy as possible.

It did not disappoint.