Garden pasta

Confronted with an ever-growing pile of tomatoes, peppers, and zucchini on our kitchen counter, Andrew and I decided we had better switch gears from last night’s lentil vegetable soup and make something that would highlight our garden produce.

I began by broiling two of our sweet red peppers in the toaster oven until their skins turned black.  I covered them with a bowl to steam briefly before removing the skins.

I cut up five medium-small red tomatoes from the garden and placed them in the food processor along with the roasted red peppers.  To that I added a handful of fresh sage and basil.

In a pan, I sauteed a large yellow squash with a large clove of garlic.  I added half of the yellow squash, 1/2 tsp. salt, and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper to the food processor and pulsed until the ingredients came together.

After cooking the pasta, I combined it with the rest of the sautéed yellow squash, the sauce from the food processor, a generous drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, and another handful of chiffonaded basil in a large serving bowl.


Vegan chocolate pudding

There’s nothing like chocolate pudding to help two crabby and tired parents unwind at the end of the day.

I went through a chocolate pudding phase a couple of years ago and came across this recipe from smitten kitchen that I really liked.  Tonight I made a modified version of it that is vegan, has less sugar, and more chocolate and vanilla.  It was just exactly what we needed.

1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 to 1/3 cup sugar
1/8th tsp. salt
3 cups coconut milk beverage (I use So Delicious Original)
7 oz vegan bittersweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Double boilerPut water into the bottom of a double boiler, or into a pot that fits on top of another pot, and bring to a simmer.  Mix the cornstarch, sugar, and salt together and put in the top of the pot.  Slowly add the 3 cups of coconut milk beverage while whisking to avoid lumps.

Continue stirring fairly often for about 20 minutes, until it thickens.  Add the chocolate chips and stir until completely melted.  Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract.  You could also add other ingredients at this point such as cinnamon, cayenne, nutmeg, almond extract, orange extract, mint extract, etc.

Pour into bowls.  I like to eat it warm, but it can also be refrigerated if you prefer it cold or want to eat it later.  Enjoy.

Updated 18 September 2012:
A commenter pointed out that I made this with Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips, which are not vegan.  I’ve changed the ingredient list to say “vegan bittersweet chocolate chips”, but I haven’t had a chance to try it yet.  I hope to get the chance to try it soon, and then I will post an update.

Lentil, chickpea, and vegetable soup – aka toddler candy

My 15-month-old daughter doesn’t eat much and is pretty picky about what she does eat.  She also changes what foods she will and won’t eat about every few days.  She definitely does not eat sautéed vegetables.  Possibly a problem for a vegetarian kid whose parents’ go-to meal is pasta with sautéed vegetables, but we discovered that vegetable soup for her is magical toddler candy.

I went to freeze the leftover soup for Andrew to take to work with him during the week and discovered that there were hardly any vegetables left.  She ate almost all of the vegetables out of the pot, and a large number of the ones that made it into our bowls, between last night and this evening.

Here’s what I put in it (approximate):
1 onion
3 cloves garlic
3 carrots
3 stalks celery
1 potato
3 medium-sized summer squash
2 cups green lentils
1 cup red lentils
1 cup cooked chickpeas and their cooking liquid
1/4 cup red wine

Dried herb and spices to taste:
1 vegetable bouillon cube (not really necessary)
2 bay leaves
cumin (preferably toasted, but I was lazy)
hot pepper flakes
freshly ground black pepper

2 cups blended fire-roasted tomatoes
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. sugar (optional)
Fresh basil
Extra-virgin olive oil

Start by heating water in a large tea kettle.

Begin heating a few Tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil in a large soup pot.  Add the vegetables as you finish chopping them, the onions first, then garlic, carrots, celery, potato, and summer squash.  Stir to mix as you add them.

Wash and add the green lentils, red lentils, and chickpeas.  Add the red wine, herbs and spices, and pour in enough water from the tea kettle to make soup.

Once the lentils are cooked (about 40 minutes), add the tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, and add salt to taste.  Add sugar if needed.

Serve with a drizzle of good extra-virgin olive oil and some shredded fresh basil.

We have lots of fresh herbs and chard in the garden, but Ariella was sleeping, so I couldn’t go out of the house to pick them.  They would have been great additions.

We ate our soup with toast and beautiful tomatoes from our garden.

Risotto Cakes and Raw Zucchini Salad

The other day I made risotto cakes and raw zucchini salad for dinner.

Raw zucchini salad?  Let me explain.  I’ve never been a raw zucchini person, but I’ve been using my mandolin to slice matchstick-sized pieces of zucchini for my 15-month-old daughter.  While I was slicing away, she asked if she could have some (and by ask I mean, yelled something like “da” “da” and gesticulated wildly).  I told her it was raw, but handed her a very thin piece.  She ate it and seemed happy to have successfully communicated and received the item that she desired.
That night as I was making a salad, I threw in some of the raw zucchini just to add a little variety.  I couldn’t really taste it in there, but I tried a few of the sticks by themselves and discovered that they had absorbed the salad dressing and were very good.
So I decided to make a salad out of just raw zucchini and dressing, after all it’s that time of year when we have an abundance of over-grown zucchini piling up on our counters and continuing to get still more overgrown in the garden.  To dress it I added salt, pepper, extra-virgin olive oil, and red wine vinegar.  So good.  I think I’ll do one with the addition of chiffonadded basil next time.

The risotto cakes were made from the leftover herb and vegetable risotto from the night before.  Personally, I think risotto is missing something without the parmesan, but fry some risotto cakes in oil and they shine all by themselves. No pun intended.

I recommend oiling your hands before starting to make the patties, because the rice is very sticky by the next day.  You will probably need to reapply it as you go.

Fry risotto cakes in a hot, cast-iron skillet with a thin layer of olive oil.

I have every intention of creating a risotto post complete with step-by-step photos one of these days, but we’ll see what time will allow.

Vegan Coconut Milk Chocolate Mousse

Vegan coconut milk chocolate mousse has revolutionized my life.  It is delicious and so simple.

1. Put a can or two of full-fat coconut milk into the refrigerator over night or until they are needed.

2. Flip the can upside down, open it, pour liquid into a container to use later in something else.

3. Scrape solid coconut milk out of can and whisk by hand until fluffy and mousse-like (I tried it with a standing mixer and it generated too much heat.  Doing it by hand worked  better in my opinion – extra points if you chill the bowl ahead of time).

4. Add approximately 1/4 cup of unsweetened Ghirardelli cocoa powder per can of coconut milk, or to taste
1 pinch salt
A splash of vanilla extract
Sugar or other sweetener to taste
Whatever else you want to add

The first time I made this I added a little almond extract too.  When I was at the parents’ house, my Aunt Indigo had the brilliant idea to do a cinnamon and cayenne one, so we added the above ingredients and then cinnamon and cayenne pepper to taste.  It was fantastic!

Refrigerate for a bit or stick it in the freezer if you need it to chill faster.  It is also very good frozen.

This is a variation on the recipe for Chocolate Frosting Shots from the blog Chocolate-Covered Katie

Lactose is my enemy, but vegan food is not

Over the past few years I have become increasingly lactose intolerant.  This is unfortunate as I habitually consume large amounts of cheese, and often other dairy products, at every meal…and between meals…and as midnight snacks.

However, I’m determined not to let this get me down, and I’m using it as an opportunity to try new recipes and especially as a way to delve into vegan cooking and baking.

Maybe this is my body’s way of forcing me into reluctant compliance with my morals.

I started posting a few things on Facebook that I will put here for completeness:

Facebook 29 August 2012 –
I know you’re all dying to hear about my experiments with semi-vegan food, so here’s what was on tonight’s menu:

Salad – Lettuce, hearts of palm, kalamata olives, sun-dried tomatoes, carrot, cucumbers (from garden), sweet red peppers (from garden), avocado, walnuts, dried cranberries, salt, pepper. Dressing: red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, sugar.

Dessert – Coconut milk chocolate mousse. Amazing. I added a tiny bit of salt and a little almond extract to her ingredient list.

Beverage – Fresh squeezed lime with sugar and sparkling water

Facebook 31 August 2012 –
Semi-vegan dinner last night:
Scalloped potatoes – made with this vegan bechamel recipe (I used olive oil and almond milk):
Loosely based on this scalloped potatoes recipe, since I had never made them before:
I did top it with parmesan, but I think it would also be really good with homemade herb breadcrumbs instead.
White bean soup (great northern beans cooked from dried in a crockpot with a bay leaf, garlic, s&p) served with crispy fried sage
Simple salad with lettuce, raw zucchini (from garden), raw carrots, dried cranberries, red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper.

Dessert: Peach smoothie with leftover coconut liquid from the night before and (non-vegan) zucchini muffins from a thoughtful friend with too much zucchini in her CSA share 🙂

My mandolin is my new best-kitchen friend, but I really should get a protective glove…

What vegan food have you been cooking lately? I need more ideas!

I took a break from cataloging food while I was visiting my parents, but now that I’m home I’ll hopefully find the time to post a few things now and then.

Potato latkes with homemade applesauce

Every year I look forward to Chanukah so I have an excuse to make latkes. They are simple and delicious, and for me, completely evocative of the holiday season.

Potato latkes
1 onion
6 medium russet potatoes
5 Tbsp. flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt + more to taste
Pepper to taste
Extra virgin olive oil or other oil for frying

Grate the onion and the potatoes, drain all of the liquid from them, and add them to a bowl. The drier the better! You can use your hands to wring and press out the liquid, but a clean, non-fuzzy kitchen towel works the best. Add the flour, salt, and pepper to taste.

Heat a deep cast-iron pan with about 1/4 inch of olive oil over medium heat. Test the heat of the oil by dropping in a small piece of potato. The oil is ready once the potato cooks quickly to a golden brown with out burning. Adjust the heat as necessary.

Grab a small handful of the grated potato mixture and squeeze tightly forming a disc-like patty similar to a thin burger. You will have to squeeze the liquid out or it won’t stick together. Add patties a few at a time to the hot oil. They should become golden brown fairly quickly, but still have time for the inside portion to cook.

Pull them out with a spatula and set them on a plate with a paper towel on it to drain. Adjust the heat to achieve the desired outer crispiness and inner softness.

Serve with homemade applesauce and/or sour cream.

Serves 4.

Homemade applesauce
4 cups of apples – pink ladies, gala, granny smith, other local apples
1/2 cup sugar or to taste
1 cinnamon stick
4-5 whole cloves

Cook in a pot with a little water, the cinnamon stick, and cloves. Cook covered for 20 minutes until the apples begin to fall apart.