Saturday, January 23, 2016

Pasta with Roasted Eggplant, Kalamata Olives and Burst Grape Tomatoes

Oh, yummmm.
This has become a huge "go-to" winter favorite with my family the past several years and I realized, as seems to be the case with many of my recipes, I haven't shared it with you! And that's a shame, because it is fast and easy (despite a long list of directions) and sooooo good.

 My kids are HUGE Kalamata olive fans and they're always begging me to put olives in everything. These olives might not be the most budget-friendly ingredient (try to find them pitted, at an "olive bar", for the best price) but a few go a long ways, packing a lot of flavor, so I usually have a deli container of them in my fridge.

They're a perfect fit with this dish; salty olives, combined with the earthy, roasted eggplant and sweet tomatoes make a very flavorful combo! Plus, we all know that olives have loads of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, right?

I use whole wheat angel hair pasta here because when I first switched to using whole-grain pasta, my kids just weren't sold on its texture. Angel-hair seemed to be the most accepted variety, it cooked up tender and the texture was similar to "regular" pasta. Everyone likes whole wheat pasta in any shape or size now, but I still use angel-hair in this dish because that's how I did the original recipe. It can get mushy quickly, but will hold it's shape nicely if not overcooked. Use whatever pasta you prefer, but if you're new to whole wheat pasta, or just not a fan, I highly recommend trying angel-hair!

I especially miss my fresh, garden tomatoes in the middle of the winter, and roasting a few, tiny, sweet, store-bought "grape" tomatoes just until their skins burst intensifies their flavor and almost makes up for a lack of home-grown, summer tomato goodness.
Pasta with Roasted Eggplant, Kalamata Olives and Burst Grape Tomatoes
Olive oil
2 large eggplants, quartered
Kosher salt
1 tub of grape or cherry tomatoes (about 2 cups)
2 whole garlic cloves, peeled, and crushed
1 cup of Kalamata olives, quartered or very roughly chopped
2 Tablespoons Kalamata olive brine
3 Tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds dry whole-wheat spaghetti or angel-hair pasta

-Heat oven to 450°.
-Quarter eggplant lengthwise into wedges, and coat lightly with olive oil (eggplants will absorb olive oil quickly, so I have the best luck coating them with my hands for a quick, even, but not saturated layer of olive oil).
-Put eggplant on baking sheet, skin side down, sprinkle with salt and roast in the middle of the oven, turning once or twice, until very soft when pierced with fork, about 15 - 20 min depending on size of eggplant.
-Remove eggplant, stab all over with fork, and place, cut side down, on a layer of paper towels to drain and cool for 5- 10 min. while chopping olives and parsley.
-Chop olives (I'm a little OCD and prefer individually quartering each olive because I much prefer uniform olive pieces and not tiny black bits in my pasta, but it IS time-consuming - do what works for you!!) and chop parsley.
-Once eggplant is cool, roughly chop into 1-inch+ pieces. (You can peel the skin if you want, but we don't mind it - taste it to see, some eggplant skins seem to hold a bit of bitterness while others don't)
-In large skillet, heat a Tablespoon of olive oil.
-Add tomatoes and stir gently over high heat for about three minutes, until starting to warm through.
-Add crushed garlic and eggplant to skillet.
-Lower heat to medium, continue to stir gently, occasionally, JUST until tomato skins begin to wrinkle and one or two have burst. Gently stir in olives.
-Remove from heat and set aside.
-In a large pot, boil water and cook pasta according to package directions.
-When pasta is al dente, remove 1 cup of the cooking water, set aside, and then drain pasta.
-Put drained pasta in the skillet with eggplant and tomatoes, over medium heat.
-Stir/toss together gently - tongs work best here.
-Add Kalamata olive brine, 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water and the parsley and Nutritional yeast
-Toss to mix, add more cooking water if needed, (you want the pasta moist but not "soupy"), season with salt (if needed) and a generous amount of fresh-ground black pepper.
**NOTE: If the tomatoes have not "burst" (and not all of them will) upon serving, stab those little suckers with a fork right before eating them, the juice inside is VERY HOT!!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Fruit and Nut Oats in a Jar

I am never hungry first thing in the morning (I know, I know, breakfast... most important meal of the day... blah-blah-blah), it takes me a while to be hungry, so I bring something to work, and join my students.
We serve a breakfast-like, morning "snack" in my classroom, as I know some of my kiddos don't get breakfast at home.

Everyone sits at the table, we practice things like manners, holding utensils, naming foods, communicating with our friends. All good stuff. So, I bring my breakfast and eat with them. Usually just a bar, or a bagel, but lately I've been craving something more hearty (and WARM!) like oatmeal.
So after a little research online, I combined what I liked from about ninety-five Pinterest recipes and came up with exactly what I liked!!
It's SO good and hits all the things I love in a hot cereal - loads of fruit, nuts, seeds and texture! You won't need a lot, it's very filling. Just dump 1/2 cup or so in a little jar, and you're good to go. And as a bonus, it looks all cute (and convenient). Apparently oatmeal in a jar is a trendy thing, who knew?

Anyway, if you'd like to make your own, here's a rough guideline - feel free to add or delete whatever you like!

Before scooping out a serving of oatmeal, I gently shake up the mixture to get an even distribution of the ingredients.  I only make about a weeks worth at a time so I don't get tired of the same combo and to be sure that it stays fresh.
If you can find other rolled grains, I think they might be interesting too? I'm not that adventurous.

Easy Fruit-And-Nut Oatmeal In A Jar 
3 cups Bobs Red Mill old fashioned rolled oats (GF if that's your thing)
1/2 cup (or to taste) raw almonds or hazelnuts
1/2 cup raw pecan halves (or walnuts if you must, I'm allergic so I use pecans)
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup unsweetened large flake coconut (Bob's Red Mill sells this too)
1/4 cup ground flax
1/2 cup dry soy milk or coconut milk powder (most healthfood stores, Whole Foods or Amazon)
1/4 cup brown sugar OR maple sugar if you can get it
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup raisins or dried cranberries
1 cup other chopped assorted dried fruit (I like apricots, some people like apples, dates, etc.)
*optional 1/4 cup finely chopped candied ginger (I LOVE this addition, but it's not for everyone) 
Preheat oven to 350°.Spread the oats, nuts and seeds on an un-greased baking sheet, just like you're making granola. Toast for about 10-15 minutes. Turning, or stirring at least once.
Let the oats and nuts cool, then pulse just a few times in a food processor to VERY lightly chop.
Mix with the rest of the ingredients and stir well.
Store in an airtight container.
To serve, scoop out about 1/2 cup of the mixture into a mason jar and when you're ready to eat, and add hot (almost boiling) plant milk or water to just cover the oatmeal.
Stir, cover and let it sit for 2 to 3 minutes.

Friday, January 08, 2016

In which I discover that I'm an idiot!

Attention, attention!!!

Just a notice to all three regular readers of my blog!!

APPARENTLY I'm more technologically challenged than I realized, as I JUST discovered that all the blog posts I made ALL LAST YEAR (not that many) were posted as "private".

I wondered why no one was commenting. I wondered why I wasn't getting page views, but since I really don't obsess much about who views my blog, I never really gave it much thought.

Until the new year when I was doing just a little tinkering and noticed.....

"Seriously, Mom
~~ Olivia, age 4

"This post set to PRIVATE"

And I went "What, whaaaaaaat? Is that really a thing? Who does that?"

Well, apparently it IS a thing.
And I did.

But not to fear, all posts are now fixed and you can read them, and if I promised you a review or shout-out and you never saw it, I'm sorry, and hopefully it's all good.

More to follow this year.
Posts you can actually see!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Summer Garden Taco Soup

I invented this spicy(!) vegetable-filled taco soup last summer to help deal with our crazy tomato and zucchini crop. It's been repeated many times since then. Vary according to what veggies you have available and adjust heat to your liking. It doesn't HAVE to be spicy!

Summer Garden Taco Soup
1 package Beyond Meat Feisty Crumbles (or vegetarian burger of your choice)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 - 2 jalapenos (to taste), minced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 large zucchini, cut into small cubes
1 red bell pepper, chopped small
3 medium sized garden tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons (or to taste) of Penzey's Spices taco seasoning (or whatever taco seasoning you use)
2 cups vegetable broth or vegetarian chicken-style broth
2 cups water
1 (15-ounce) can black beans
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced plain tomatoes (Or tomatoes with green chiles)
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup frozen corn kernels or kernels from 4 fresh ears of corn
1 cup of your favorite salsa (as mild or hot as you prefer)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 Tbsp fresh-squeezed lime juice
Put Beyond Meat in a large pot with olive oil, over medium heat.
Add onion, garlic, jalapeno, zucchini and bell pepper.
Saute until onion is translucent. Sprinkle mixture with taco seasoning.
Add remaining ingredients except cilantro and lime, and turn heat to medium-low.
Make sure soup is simmering and covered, cook 30 or more minutes until flavors have blended and vegetables are soft - stirring occasionally. (Add more water if it gets too thick).
Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.
Stir in cilantro and lime just before serving.
Garnish each bowl with vegan sour cream and chips if desired.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Review: Farmstand Flaxbread™ Vegan Breakfast Sandwich

The awesome and creative people over at Sweet Earth Foods (the folks that make the yummy Benevolent Bacon) recently sent me some of their breakfast sandwiches to try.
I'm not the biggest consumer of pre-packaged foods, because I much prefer cooking my own, but hey, foods like this serve a purpose, and are great for new vegans, anyone in a hurry or those who can't/don't like to cook.

And I definitely like to eat yummy vegan stuff and I DO get a lot of newly vegan folks asking me about this or that product and if I've tried it, so why not?
Honestly, before they sent me the sandwiches, I had no idea Sweet Earth had such a huge line of products. Those of you who can get these items on a regular basis are LUCKY!
I was SUPER excited when these sandwiches showed up on my doorstep and that I got to try them before they hit the markets in October.
Keep in mind, I happen to live in the vegan-food-free zone of my state - way out in the uncivilized foothills practically to Mt. Rainier. Beutiful country, but any "new" vegan products (any packaged vegan products at ALL!!) aren't going to make it to stores in my neck of the woods. When I hear about something "new" I have to wait until I make one of those (very infrequent) long drives to the big city with it's shiny stores and fancy foods...  (OK, maybe I'm a bit dramatic there...)
Seriously though, I DO know how many of you feel, it's a bummer NOT being able to find so many of the interesting sounding products you hear and see other bloggers casually using ALL THE TIME, it seems, on social media.
OK. End of rant. In short, I was excited to get to try something NEW!
So, this vegan breakfast sandwich (they also have a vegetarian one) is officially called the Farmstand Flaxbread™ Vegan Breakfast Sandwich.
It features the company’s Benevolent Bacon, a spicy, "eggy" chickpea patty and a sun-dried tomato spread. The whole wheat bread is made with oats, oat bran, and flaxseed, and has 14.5g of whole grains per serving. The entire sandwich has 14g of protein and 6g of fiber. Pretty good for one sandwich!

I love the idea of a breakfast sandwich, because it seems fast vegan breakfasts are often limited to green smoothies (I do NOT do smoothies!!) or a piece of toast and peanutbutter. These definitely give you another option (along with the company's new breakfast burritos too - MORE fast vegan breakfast food!)

So, what did we think? OK, I followed the cooking directions on the package, and on my first sandwich ended up having to heat it quite a bit longer than the package said. This made the bread just a tiny bit dry. So on my second attempt, I wrapped the sandwich in a damp paper towel and it microwaved MUCH faster and the bread stayed nice and  soft.
I split these with my family so we could all offer an opinion, and all of us agreed they were really very good! Nice flavor and texture, good combination of the smoky "bacon", savory, eggy chickpea patty and tangy tomato spread! The Flaxbread is nice and hearty, and stands up to the filling really well!They are smaller than the standard American fast-food English-muffin breakfast sandwich, more like a slider, but a million times better for you, WAY more nutrient dense, and I think just as filling! My boyfriend of the hearty appetite said he'd eat two for breakfast, at least (ha!) and my teen daughter said one was plenty filling. Your mileage may vary.
These will be available in stores like Whole Foods, starting October 1st.
Go get some!!

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Vegan Pumpkin Tres Leches Cake

No long introduction here, the picture speaks for itself.
Several weeks ago, my daughter asked me what I wanted for my birthday.
I told her I wanted a Vegan Pumpkin Tres Leches Cake.
(I felt sorta bad, knowing no vegan versions existed on the Internet - at least none that I had found).

A few days later, she disappeared into the kitchen, threw flour and sugar around and created THIS!
And was the best birthday ever.

Vegan Pumpkin Tres Leches Cake

1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1 tablespoon finely shredded fresh gingerroot
pinch of salt
1 1/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
4 tbsp Bob's Red Mill egg replacer with 3/4 cup of water
1 cup mashed or pureed pumpkin
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup (packed) brown sugar
1/3 cup canola or other oil
1/4 cup unsweetened plant milk
2 Tablespoons molasses
1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
Tres Leches Mixture:
1 cup coconut milk (the full-fat canned kind, in fact, the higher-fat brands work best here)
1 cup Vanilla or Pumpkin soy or coconut coffee creamer
1 tub of So Delicious Coconut Whipped topping (or whatever vegan "whipped-cream" dessert topping you have available)  
Preheat oven to 375F.
Line a 9-by-9-inch pan with parchment, spray with cooking spray, or grease and flour the pan; set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients and whisk to combine. Curdle the non-dairy milk by whisking together the plant milk and apple cider vinegar. Mix egg-replacer with water in separate bowl. Set both aside for 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes, stir together all "wet" ingredients and then stir in to dry ingredients until just combined, don't overmix. Batter is thick.
Turn batter out into prepared pan, smoothing the top lightly with a spatula.
Bake for 25 - 30 minutes, or until center is set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, or with a few moist crumbs, but no batter.
Allow cake to cool in pan, on top of a wire rack, for at least 30 minutes before turning out onto the rack to finish cooling completely.
While cake cools, make the tres leches topping.
Shake can of coconut milk well, measure out 1 cup and whisk together with creamer.
Place cake a rimmed serving platter.
Poke holes on the top of the cake using a chopstick or spoon handle.
Pour the creamer mixture all over the cake, using a spoon to evenly distribute the liquid and fill the holes in the cake.
Set aside in refrigerator for 2 or more hours, for cake to chill and the liquid to soak in.
When ready to serve, spread vegan whipped cream over the cake and dust with cinnamon.
Slice and serve.

Friday, August 21, 2015


Is everyone as overwhelmed with zucchini as I am right now? Isn't it fun?
Seriously my favorite vegetable - I doubt I could ever get tired of it!
This past spring, we experimented with several zuke and summer squash plants in large pots on our tiny back porch.
After a slow start and a little experimenting with how much water and fertilizer they needed to thrive, we're now harvesting a bumper crop off those three pots.

And while I love zucchini in a million different ways (except zucchini bread, of which I am NOT a fan), using the shredded squash in these faux "crab cakes" is definitely one of my favorite recipes.
Disclaimer: I have never had REAL crab cakes, so I have no idea if they're anything close, and I really don't care. It's an easy recipe (much easier to DO than to describe, I promise) and was a sure-fire way to get my kids to eat zucchini back in the day.
Stay tuned. The tomatoes are falling off the vines, I'll have to share a couple recipes there too!

Zucchini "Crab" Cakes

3+ cups grated zucchini or yellow summer squash
2 teaspoons flax seed, ground fine
1 Tbsp. vegan mayo
1 Tbsp. melted margarine
1 cup dry bread crumbs
1/4 cup besan (garbanzo) flour
1 Tbsp. gluten flour
1/4 cup minced or grated onion
2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning (This is absolutely essential to making them taste "right")
1/2 cup seasoned all-purpose flour (simply throw in a little salt, pepper, cayenne, whatever you like)
oil for frying 

Shred zucchini and squeeze out excess moisture in a towel.
(You can use a little less or a little more and simply adjust your breadcrumbs, etc. It's a pretty forgiving recipe.)

In a large bowl, mix all ingredients EXCEPT all-purpose flour and oil.
The mixture should hold together in loose, sloppy blob-like cakes or "patties", several Tablespoons in size.
If too dry, add a bit of vegan mayo a spoonful at a time.
If too wet, add besan/garbanzo flour or breadcrumbs, a spoonful at a time.

You can see the ones pictured ended up with a bit too much besan flour and were a bit "pancake-y"... still super tasty though!!
In medium-size skillet, heat several Tablespoons oil on medium high. (I prefer coconut oil here, I feel it leaves things less greasy, but use whatever you prefer.) Shape mixture into patties with your hands, (this will be messy).
While still in your hand, after "shaping" into a patty, lightly sprinkle/pat with seasoned flour all over (or dredge in flour by dropping the "patty" in a plate with the flour, to cover. This process is trickier and more messy).
Plop into heated skillet. (It's easiest if you shape one patty, dredge in flour and place in hot oil before moving to next one...) Don't actually "plop" them, you'll splatter oil!
Fry patties/'cakes' in oil until holding together nicely and golden brown on both sides.
You may need to adjust heat a bit.
Drain on paper towel. Serve warm.

Serve with tarter sauce (and I don't know why but we always serve them with fresh tomatoes, probably because we have TONS of both right now).