Oct 29, 2015

stuffed peppers with polenta + adobo pepitas

I have been looking to come up with an awesome stuffed pepper recipe for years now and short of using a ton of cheese, it hasn't occurred to me what to stuff it with. I'm not a fan of dry stuffed peppers and I didn't want it to be mediocre. After a long time, I've come up with something really great!

Stuffed Peppers with Creamy Polenta and Adobo-laced Pepitas. Yeah.

Ingredients? 12 total, plus salt, sugar, black pepper and water.

The polenta in these peppers is creamy and luscious. I used coarse cornmeal, so my polenta took about 45 minutes to cook until tender, but it was so worth it! It goes to show, when your cornmeal is coarse, don't be afraid to cook it longer than you would cook a finer version of cornmeal.

I cooked the onions until caramelized, cooked the polenta and added raw zucchini at the end. After cutting the tops off the peppers, leaving just enough room to add the polenta, I baked them in a very simple tomato sauce.

Speaking of the tomato sauce, once baked, it is crazy good! If you love sauce as much as I do, go forth and double its recipe.

Then there are the pepitas! Did you know that pepitas are super high in protein and they are so tasty. Pepitas can be roasted in hundreds of different ways and here I add an adobo seasoning to them.

Adobo seasoning is a Latin American mixture of spices, sometimes including cumin, coriander, garlic, oregano, turmeric and/or bay leaves (just watch out for meat ingredients). There are organic versions or traditional ones available at any grocery store and you will find yourself using it often. If you have a few spices, HERE is a recipe (sub the fresh garlic with 1 teaspoon garlic granules).

That's it! Enjoy!

Stuffed Pepper with Creamy Polenta
Prep time:30 minutes Cook time: 45 minutes
Serves 4 

1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 small onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup cornmeal or polenta
1/4 to 1/2 cup non-dairy plain, unsweetened milk
Sea salt and black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 small zucchini, cut into 1/2 -inch dice
4 small peppers (bell, poblano or 6 medium Anaheim) 

1 tablespoon olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 cup tomato paste (not concentrate)
1 cup vegetable broth
1 teaspoon sweetener
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 cup raw pepitas
1 teaspoon adobo seasoning

1. Polenta: Heat the oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add the onion, cover and cook until caramelized, about 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add a splash of broth if the onions are sticking. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt, add the water and bring to boil. Add the cornmeal slowly, using a whisk to stir while you add the cornmeal. Bring back to boil and reduce to medium-low. Cover partially and cook until tender, about 20 to 45 minutes, depending on grind, stirring occasionally. When tender, add the milk, season with salt and black pepper, add the lemon juice and zucchini. Add more milk if needed.
2. Cut off the sides of the peppers just large enough to add the polenta. Fill the peppers.
3. Sauce: While the polenta cooks, heat the oil in a small pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and oregano. Cook until golden, about 1 to 3 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook until the paste darkens a bit, about 2 minutes. Add the broth, sweetener and salt. Whisk well to combine, bring to boil and transfer the sauce to a 9X9 baking dish. Add the stuffed peppers on top of the sauce. Heat the oven to 400-degrees F (no need to preheat), and bake the peppers until they are tender, about 45 minutes. 
4. Pepitas. Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the pepitas and cook until lightly golden, about 3 minutes. Add the adobo and salt, to taste. Cook for another 30 seconds. Serve the pepitas garnishing the baked peppers.

 © 2015 Copyright Zsu Dever. All rights reserved.

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Oct 26, 2015

seared cauliflower and chickpeas piccata

It seems I have made piccata for the blog more than a few times but it's probably all in my head as I can only find it HERE. My memory lags probably because I make it for home at least every few months. The family loves Seitan Piccata and because it is a very easy dish to throw together (given you have seitan handy), I'm all for it.

The usual mashed potatoes are the accompaniment and maybe a vegetable sneaks in there, such as steamed green beans, but this time around I wanted to make it without seitan.

The flavor affinities of cauliflower + chickpeas + lemon + sweet potatoes + greens is a winner and I instantly wanted to transform these ingredients into one cohesive dish. The sauce for the piccata has only 9 ingredients, plus the cauliflower and chickpeas.

While I served this bowl-style, with the addition of sweet potatoes and greens, you can by all means ignore my suggestion and go with the standard mashed potatoes and green beans.

Roasting the sweet potatoes is the first order of business as preheating the oven and cooking the tubers will take the longest.

The next longest step is cooking the collard greens, so get them on the stove and you can essentially forget about them.

In this recipe I treated the cauliflower a little differently. I simply sauteed and seared the pieces until they were tender and golden.  Cover the cauliflower as it cooks over low heat and it will not only sear but cook all the way through. Definitely a fantastic way to treat this vegetable! A little seasoning of salt and black pepper and I could eat them all day long. I might, if given the chance.

Finally, the sauce is made. This step goes pretty fast after the chickpeas are done sauteing so it might be a good idea to have everything ready to go once the chickpeas are golden brown.

This is the best dish to eat all these seasonal produce in: cauliflower, sweet potatoes, collard greens and lemon.

There it is! Gluten free (if using rice flour), nutritious, pretty and delicious.

Seared Cauliflower and Chickpea Piccata
Prep and cook in 40 minutes
Serves 4 

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch half-moons
1 teaspoon olive oil
Salt and black pepper

8 ounces collard greens, tough stems removed and cut into ribbons
1/4 small onion, chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small head cauliflower, cut into 1/2 -inch slices (as best as you can)

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 garlic cloves, cut into thin slices
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour or rice flour
1/4 cup dry white wine or vermouth**
1/2 cup vegetable broth
 2 tablespoon capers
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons minced parsley

1. Potatoes: Preheat the oven to 425-degrees F. Combine the potatoes and oil on a baking sheet and season with salt and black pepper. Bake the potatoes until golden and tender, about 20 to 30 minutes, flipping the potatoes midway through cooking. Lightly mash with a potato masher.
2. Collards: Combine the collards and onion in a medium pot. Add enough water to cover the collards well. Cooking the collards in plenty of water will reduce their bitterness. Season with salt and black pepper and cook until tender over medium heat, about 20 minutes. Drain and keep warm.
3.  Cauliflower: Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the cauliflower slices (and the pieces that fell away when slicing), cover the skillet with a lid, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until golden, about 9 minutes. Flip the pieces and cook the other side until golden and the cauliflower is  tender, another 9 minutes. Remove from the skillet and keep warm.
4. Sauce: Heat the now empty skillet over medium heat. Add the chickpeas and cook until they are dry, about 3 minutes. Add the oil and cook until the chickpeas are golden, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and chili flakes and cook until the garlic is golden, about 2 minutes. Add the flour and mix well. Add the wine and cook until the wine almost evaporates completely. Add the broth and capers and cook until the broth is reduced by half and thickens, about 2 minutes. Add the reserved cauliflower, lemon juice and parsley. Cook until the cauliflower is warmed through. Season with salt and black pepper.
5. Assembly: Serve the mashed sweet potatoes with the collards and piccata. Spoon a little of the sauce onto each serving. 

** Wine substitute: Soak 1/2 cup of sun-dried tomatoes in 1 cup of hot vegetable broth. Set aside to rehydrate and infuse the broth with the flavor for at least 30 minutes. Drain and squeeze the tomatoes of their liquid. 

 © 2015 Copyright Zsu Dever. All rights reserved.

Oct 24, 2015

avgolemono soup + "cook the pantry" winner

The Greek soup, Avgolemono, has been on my mind for the past year or so, ever since I saw it being prepared on a cooking show. This classic soup is often made with rice and chicken, but it is always flavored with lemon and thickened with egg yolks, giving it its characteristic pale yellow color.

I redid this soup, not so much with authenticity in mind, unlike most other recipes I create, where that is a central theme of mine: authenticity but with better, kinder, vegan ingredients. Instead, this time I just wanted to play with the fall produce that is currently available. Lemon, kale and dill.

I simply love kale and using it to replace the chicken is such a great switch, especially since kale and lemon are a natural flavor-match. Add some dill, which is a flavor-match with lemon, and you have a bright, sunny summer-y dish in the middle of autumn.

In addition to flavor profiles, I also wanted this recipe to be very quick and very easy. This recipe needs only 9 ingredients, including water, salt and black pepper (not pictured below.)

It is a very basic soup recipe that starts with great quality vegetable broth. Most store-bought vegetable broths these days are golden in color and taste great, so if that is what you have on hand, this is a very speedy soup dish. If your broth is not dark golden color, omit the 2 cups of water from the soup and increase the broth to 5 cups. Easy fix.

While your rice is cooking in the broth....

Heat your pot of water for the kale. Cooking the kale separately in a good quantity of water will help draw out most of its bitterness. This same "bitter" remedy is perfect for collard greens as well, just make sure to cook collards for around 15 to 20 minutes, instead of 5 minutes, as collards are much tougher.

Don't forget to save your cooking water, cool it and water your plants with it.

After the rice is cooked, add the cooked kale, fresh dill and lemon juice mixed with the starch. Instead of eggs (which actually bring no flavor to the soup at all, since the lemon is such a dominant flavor), this version is thickened with arrowroot (or cornstarch). It leaves the soup silky and smooth, as does its egg counterpart. Add lemon juice to taste as some people find it very assertive.

That's it! It's done! It is a delicious, tangy first course or light supper when you don't want something too heavy to weigh you down overnight. You can also use short grain brown rice instead of the Arborio, but cook it longer, around 20 minutes.

Now for the anticipated winner of Cook the Pantry (AmazonB&N)  by Robin Robertson...

The winner is Janel Gradowski. Congratulations! Please contact me so I can get the book to you!

Avgolemono Soup with Kale and Rice
Prep and cook in 30 minutes
Serves 4 

4 ounces kale, tough stems removed and cut into ribbons
3 cups good quality vegetable broth
2 cups water
1/2 cups arborio rice
1 tablespoon minced dill
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon arrowroot or cornstarch
Sea salt and black pepper

1. Heat a large pot half-full with water to boiling. Add the kale and cook until the kale is tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.
2. Combine the broth, 2 cups fresh water and rice in a medium pot. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer and cook until the rice is almost tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the kale and dill. Season with salt and black pepper. Simmer until hot.
3. Combine the lemon juice (smaller amount) with the starch and mix well. Add to the simmering soup and heat the soup just until it thickens. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, black pepper and more lemon juice.

 © 2015 Copyright Zsu Dever. All rights reserved.

Oct 13, 2015

"cook the pantry" + chipotle corn chowder + giveaway

Today is the day that Cook the Pantry (Amazon, B&N), by Robin Robertson , is available for sale! Robin does it again! Simple, easy and quick vegan cooking! Cook the Pantry contains over 100 recipes of fast easy and delicious recipes.

Cook the Pantry is based on Vegan Unplugged, a previous book by Robin, that focused on emergency cooking when the power goes out. That guide contained 70 or so recipes and this new book revamps about 30 of those recipes, using fresh ingredients and newer techniques. Even if you have Vegan Unplugged, this book has about 70 new recipes! That is 70 more ideas for making dishes in a snap.

Here are some of the dishes I made using Cook the Pantry:

This bowl meal is full of protein and deliciousness! The sauce is so good that my kid was eating the cheese sauce right out of the container, while she was impatiently waiting for the rest of the meal! We added some leftover tortilla chips and a few slivers of scallions. Why not? Cooking the pantry is about using what you have available.

What a gorgeous salad this turned out to be! Flavored rice, topped with hearts of palm, cucumbers and slivers of nori. A sushi roll turned inside out and assembled right into a bowl. Since I had some green beans that needed to be used up, I figured this would be the perfect place. This dish continues to show the versatility of Cook the Pantry.

Apparently we really were on a Mexican food kick, because we chose this Nacho Pie, which is actually unbaked, so it was a snap to make after soaking the nuts. It is filled with pinto beans, olives and homemade pickled jalapenos and homemade salsa fresca. Simple to throw together and very tasty. Again, I had a few produce items to utilize, the tomatoes and scallions, so onto the pie they went.

I think out of the several dishes we tried this week, this was one of our favorites. It is a Chickpea-Artichoke Cake served with an easy Lemon-Thyme Aioli. So good! I was going to save a few for the lunch box, but nope, it was all gone. Very tasty and, again, easy and quick.

All in all we ate pretty well this week - and dinner was ready in 20 minutes, as promised. There were the occasional soaking of the nuts, but that is something that can be done in the morning, or as Robin suggests, soaking in boiling water for a few minutes.

The book is full of Annie Oliverio's (yes, another book by her!) gorgeous food photography and it is in full color. It is printed by Vegan Heritage Press, which has been making full-color, photo-packed cookbooks over the last few years, which pleases me to no end. The quality of the book is exceptional, making this a wonderful addition to any home.

Easy, delicious, quick recipes, full-color book, beautiful photos and top notch publishing. Robin has written over 20 cookbooks, and this book is another one in a long line of exceptional recipe development by one of the most beloved vegan authors.

Try a recipe for yourself! Vegan Heritage Press is sharing the recipe below from Cook the Pantry, for Chipotle Corn Chowder.

But before you do, let's do a giveaway of Cook the Pantry, Robin style! To enter to have a chance to win, leave a comment below telling me what obscure ingredient you have in your pantry, freezer or fridge. For a second chance to win, like me on Facebook or follow on Pinterest. Once you've done that, come back here and leave a second comment (not in the same comment as before) telling me what you did: facebook or pinterest.

Contest is open to US residents and ends Monday at midnight, October 19. Good luck! I will choose the winner at random and make the announcement in a new blog post soon after the contest is over. It is helpful if  you are following this blog via email or RSS feed (link) to be sure to receive the notification.

Chipotle Corn Chowder
Makes 4 servings

This sweet, satisfying chowder is made with frozen whole kernel corn. The garnish of pimientos and parsley adds a dash of color. (Recipe from Cook the Pantry © 2015 by Robin Robertson. Photo by Annie Oliverio. Used by permission Vegan Heritage Press LLC.)

1 tablespoon safflower oil
1 medium onion, minced or shredded
1 carrot, finely chopped or shredded
1 russet potato, finely chopped or shredded
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
2 cups vegetable broth
1 (16-ounce) bag frozen corn kernels
Salt and ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
2 cups plain unsweetened almond milk
1/2 cup raw cashew pieces, soaked for 3 hours, then drained
1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 (2-ounce) jar chopped pimientos, drained

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, and potato. Cover and cook for 4 minutes to soften. Stir in the celery salt, broth, corn, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, stir in the coriander, liquid smoke, and almond milk, and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes.

While the soup is simmering, combine the drained cashews and chipotle in a blender with 1 cup of the simmering broth from the soup. Blend until smooth and creamy, then add 1 more cup of the soup and blend until smooth. Stir the mixture back into the soup. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with parsley and pimientos.

Oct 1, 2015

"vegan-ease" + giveaway

It is the first official day after mofo and to fill the gaping hole that the end of the blogging month brings, I am so excited to be taking part in Laura Theodore's blog tour for her brand-new cookbook, Vegan-ease (Amazon, B&N).

For those that are not familiar with Laura, she is the Jazzy Vegetarian on Public Television, which is currently in its fifth season of bringing easy, delicious vegan cooking to tv-land. Laura is not only a chef, an author, a television personality, a fabulous singer (more goodies on that one below!), but she also hosts a radio show!

I can hardly keep up with the little I do, it is a wonder how Laura manages all that and has any time left over! Well, maybe it's because she makes easy vegan meals! This is her third cookbook, and if you have her other two, you will know that all her recipes are easy and delicious. So, what makes this one different?

Besides the new recipes, new menu plans and new tips, Laura has broken the book into three ease factors, simply denoted as 1, 2, or 3. The lower the number, the easier it is to make and less time it takes in the kitchen.

Although I had heard Laura on radio and got to see her show, I first officially "met" her when she interviewed me (a complete unknown) on her radio show. While I stumbled and stepped all over her words, she was simply graceful and gracious, putting me at ease.

Laura is just as caring and thoughtful with the recipes she creates for the home cook, as her book is full of easy to prepare, healthy and utterly delicious meals, treats and sips.

Besides being gorgeous, full-colored, hardcover, the book is bursting with photos, even some from Annie Oliverio. This book is broken into three parts with the bulk of the book in the second part, The Recipes.

The recipes are further categorized into Appetizers and Beverages, Breakfasts, Quick Breads, Soups, Salads, Pizzas, Mains, Sides, Desserts, Fancy Desserts and Holiday Recipes. So, yeah, you've got everything in this book.

Plus there are the menus! And I love menus! Laura provides 12 different menus.

Since I am such a sucker for menus, I decided to forge right on ahead and see just how easy Laura's recipes are. I chose to follow the Merry Breakfast Buffet, since that is a season we will be falling into very soon.

I did change the option up a bit, because I wanted to try the Spinach-Tomato Vegan Omelet (page 47). Laura promised that this is the definitive vegan omelet. I'm game, I thought. Bring on the magical vegan omelet.

Other than that switch and that we skipped the Easy Rich Hot Chocolate, for reasons having nothing to do with the recipe (it is actually very easy and looks exactly as described - rich), I made the entire menu (almost) as written.

Starting with baked goods, I made the Cranberry Christmas Coffee Cake, but I could not for the life of me find cranberries - fresh or frozen, so I decided on blueberries, thawed and lightly drained. This cake is made with whole wheat flour (as Laura keeps close to whole foods and healthy cooking) and I tell you honestly, it was completely delicious!

Moist and sweet - but not overtly sweet - it hit the spot at the end of our "buffet." It was done about 15 minutes before the recipe indicated, but honestly, once you start swapping things in a recipe, you have to be a bit more careful with timing and results. It just goes to show that these recipes are flexible - even the baked goods (although you should take much more care when messing with baked things as they are more chemistry than cooking.)

On the top, going clockwise is Tempeh Sticks, Spicy Baked Home Fries, Spinach and Tomato Vegan Omelet and Sunshine Salad. for up close inspection, the bottom photos are Sunshine Salad and Tempeh Sticks.

Everything was delicious! And,as the book claims, EASY! Even this complete menu, with 5 dishes (6 with the hot chocolate, which would have taken me another 5 to 8 minutes to make), was a snap to prepare.

Let's discuss that omelet.

She kept it 100. The woman spoke true and this here is the Vegan Omelet that I have been waiting for;  Ms. Theodore has broken the code and she brings to us this really, truly, amazing omelet. I have been making my Fried Vegan Omelet for years (which is more of an ode to my husband's childhood fried egg sandwiches), but this is light and fluffy and, with the addition of black salt, is completely to die for!

I've prattled on enough about the dishes I made; it's your turn. Laura is sharing a recipe for you to make. This is the Hungry Guy Burger and it looks as though it will even feed a hungry girl!

Before you dive into the kitchen, Laura has also graciously allowed me to giveaway an autographed copy of Vegan-ease AND one of Laura's Jazzy CD's. The contest is open to US residents and will end Monday, October 12, midnight.

To be eligible to win you must be following this blog via email or RSS feed (link).

Photo by Annie Oliverio

“Hungry Guy” Burgers
Makes 6 burgers / Ease Factor 1      

My husband always complained that I did not make our veggie burgers BIG enough! So the “Hungry Guy” Burger was born. Packed with hearty black beans, spicy salsa and rolled oats, these five-ingredient wonders are filling and super-quick to prepare. Now everyone’s happy!

1 can (15 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed
2⁄3 cup plus 2 heaping tablespoons prepared salsa, plus more as needed (see note)
3 slices whole-grain bread, torn into chunks
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
2⁄3 cup rolled oats

      Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a large, rimmed baking pan with unbleached parchment paper.
Put the black beans and salsa in a medium-sized bowl and mash using a potato masher or large fork until well combined. Put the bread chunks and cumin in a blender and process into coarse crumbs. Add the bread crumbs to the black bean mixture and stir to combine. Stir in the rolled oats and mix to combine. If the mixture seems dry, stir in another heaping tablespoon of salsa and mix to combine.
Scoop up a generous 1⁄2 cup of the black bean mixture and put it on the prepared pan. Form it into a burger, shaping it with clean hands, then flattening it slightly. Continue in this manner to make five more burgers (see note). Bake for 20 minutes. Flip the burgers and bake for 8 to 12 minutes, or until golden.

Chef’s Notes
- You may use mild, medium or hot salsa in this recipe.
-  Once formed, the burgers may be covered and refrigerated for 2 to 6 hours before cooking. Add 5 to 7 minutes to the baking time.

Recipe from Laura Theodore's Vegan-Ease: An Easy Guide to Enjoying a Plant-Based Diet © Laura Theodore (Jazzy Vegetarian, LLC 2015), reprinted by permission. Photo courtesy of Annie Oliverio.

Amount per serving, based on 6 servings/burgers:  170 Calories; 2g Fat; 0g Saturated fat; 10g Protein; 241mg Sodium; 30g Total Carbohydrate; 1g Sugars; 8g Fiber 

To be eligible to win you must be following this blog via email or RSS feed (link).

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