February 28, 2012

Indonesian Tempeh Stew

With the winter weather still hanging on here in Ontario, I thought this would be a good time to post some tropical recipes to try to ward off the winter blues.  So I bought myself a pineapple at a much higher price than I would usually be willing to pay, and I easily used it all up within a few days!

Most of that pineapple went into smoothies and a mini loaf, but the rest was used in this Indonesian-inspired stew from the Vegan Planet cookbook. The original recipe called for a mixture of tempeh and sweet potato simmered in a spicy tomato and coconut milk broth.  I wanted to include a couple more ingredients to make the stew a bit more interesting, so I added pineapple and yellow beans, which I thought would go well with the other Indonesian flavours.

After tasting the stew, I was really glad I added the pineapple! The pieces of fresh pineapple were my favourite part of the dish, and they gave it a nice overall balance between sweet and spicy.

This was also the first time I've ever used tempeh in a recipe and I have to admit, I was a bit nervous when I first took the tempeh out of its package and cooked it - the smell was not very appealing and I didn't really like the taste of it plain.  But all of my worries disappeared when I tasted the final product! I really liked the texture of the tempeh and the way it soaked up the flavours of the stew.  I'm not really a fan of meat substitutes that taste or look a lot like actual meat, but with tempeh (which is made from fermented soybeans) I found that the taste and texture are more nutty rather than meaty, which I liked.

Overall, I loved the combination of flavours and textures in this stew, and it was the perfect mix of a hearty, warm stew for winter with notes of brighter tropical flavours.  And don't leave out the finishing touches of the lime juice and cilantro, they really helped bring everything together!

Indonesian Tempeh Stew
Adapted from Vegan Planet

One 8 oz package tempeh
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
3 shallots, peeled and diced
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
1 small chili pepper, seeded and minced (I used jalapeno)
1/4 tsp chili flakes (optional if you like more heat)
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 cup water
1 14.5 oz can crushed tomatoes (or half of a 28 oz can)
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk (I used the kind from a carton)
1.5 cups chopped fresh pineapple
About 4 oz green or yellow beans, trimmed and cut in half
Salt and pepper (to taste)
Zest and juice of half a lime
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

First, poach the tempeh – place the block of tempeh in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a simmer and continue simmering for 10 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Cut tempeh into cubes.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tempeh and cook for about 5 minutes, turning occasionally to brown all sides. Remove from heat and set aside.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots, garlic, chili pepper, chili flakes (if using) and ginger. Cover and cook until onion is softened, 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the sweet potato, water, crushed tomatoes and soy sauce. Cover and cook until potato is tender, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove lid and reduce heat to low. Add the coconut milk, cooked tempeh, pineapple, beans, salt and pepper. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 10 minutes.

Add the lime zest and juice and cilantro just before serving.  Garnish with additional cilantro and lime wedges if desired.

Makes 4 servings. 

February 24, 2012

Pumpernickel Sandwich with Avocado, Sprouts & White Bean Spread

I've got a quick post for you today with another way to use the white bean dip that I posted last time.  Actually, the real reason I made that dip was so that I could make my favourite sandwich - pumpernickel with white beans, sliced avocado and alfalfa sprouts!

The inspiration for this sandwich came from The Way the Cookie Crumbles, and each time I eat it I wonder why I don't make it more often!  I love the combination of the creamy white beans with the avocado slices, and the sprouts help provide some texture and lots of nutrition.

Pumpernickel is one of my favourite types of bread, and when I saw some freshly baked pumpernickel bagels for sale at the farmer's market recently, I had to get them!  Regular sliced pumpernickel loaf or another type of whole-grain bread would also work well for this sandwich, but I really liked this bagel version, since it was a bit sturdier than bread.

This was a healthy and filling lunch - for me, it's the kind where you enjoy every bite and, like a good book, you actually don't want to finish it because you don't want it to end!

Pumpernickel Sandwich with Avocado, Sprouts and White Bean Spread
Inspired by The Way the Cookie Crumbles
*I didn't measure quantities for the sprouts and white bean dip - just use however much you like!

1 pumpernickel bagel (or 2 thick slices of pumpernickel loaf)
1/2 an avocado, sliced
a couple handfuls of alfalfa sprouts
white bean spread (recipe here)

Cut the bagel in half. Spread a thick layer of white bean dip on the bottom half (I also added a thin layer to the top half to help the sprouts stick).  Next, add a layer of avocado slices, topped with alfafa sprouts.

Makes 1 serving.

February 22, 2012

Multi-Seed Crackers with White Bean Dip

I always like to have at least one dip in the fridge to eat with crackers, pita chips or carrots as an afternoon snack. I usually stick with different flavors of hummus, but since I had some white beans leftover from my Quinoa with White Beans, Roasted Grapes and Brussels Sprouts, I decided to try making a dip with the beans instead of chickpeas.

The dip was super easy to make, and since white beans are naturally softer than chickpeas, it was very creamy without needing to add any extra oil. To flavor the dip, I added some fresh thyme, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper.

And since I needed something to eat my dip with, I also decided to make some crackers!  Homemade crackers are actually pretty easy to make, and you can make them healthier than storebought ones by controlling the type of flour and other ingredients that go into them.

I adapted this recipe for seed crackers from the Living Kitchen Wellness Group. The original recipe contained three different kinds of seeds, and I added two more types to really make these crackers multi-seeded!  I also added some rye flour because I like the flavour it adds, and I thought they needed a bit of sweetener so I added some agave syrup.

The crackers had a nice texture from all the seeds and a slightly nutty flavour that I liked. They were a tad on the dry side, but they made the perfect base for a creamy spread like the white bean dip!

Multi-Seed Crackers
Adapted from The Living Kitchen Wellness Group

1/2 cup oat flour
1/2 cup rye flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp each: poppy seeds, sesame seeds, chia seeds, golden flax seeds, and sunflower seeds
2 tbsp + 1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp agave nectar (or other sweetener)
4-6 tbsp water

Preheat oven to 370° and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Add the olive oil and agave and stir to mix. Gradually add the water 1 tbsp at a time until a sticky dough forms.

Roll out the dough on a clean surface as thin as possible. Cut into squares or rectangles with a knife.

Place crackers on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes, until crackers are firm and golden (mine took 13 minutes). Remove from oven and let cool.

Serve with white bean dip (recipe below) or another spread.

Makes about 17 crackers.

White Bean Dip
2 cups canned white kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 tsp fresh thyme (or rosemary)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper

Add all ingredients to a food processor and process until completely smooth.

Store in the refrigerator.

This was submitted to Wellness Weekends at Diet, Dessert, and Dogs.

February 20, 2012

Carrot Cake Pancakes with Orange-Cashew Cream

One of my favourite family traditions is Pancake Tuesday. I always looked forward to it because it was the one day of the year when we would get to eat pancakes for dinner.  My parents would cook up a big platter with three or four different kinds of pancakes, and I would try them all!

Blueberry was always my favourite, but we also had chocolate chip, plain, and sometimes an apple-cinnamon or banana version.  Those traditional flavours will always be special to me, but now I like to come up with new kinds of pancakes to try.

My latest favourite is carrot pancakes, because they're just sweet enough for breakfast and I figure since they have a vegetable, they're also appropriate for dinner!  So to celebrate Pancake Day this year, I made these vegan carrot cake pancakes topped with an orange-cashew cream.

The pancakes themselves turned out nice and thick and fluffy, and to get the carrot cake flavor, I added some warm spices, shredded coconut, chopped walnuts and dates to the batter. I also used coconut milk in both the batter and the cashew topping, and topped them with some orange zest.

I also used this opportunity to try my new NuNaturals stevia products.  Instead of adding sugar and vanilla extract to the batter, I used their alcohol-free vanilla stevia drops.  The amount I used added just the right amount of sweetness for my tastes, but my sister thought the pancakes weren't sweet enough, so you might want to use more drops or add 1-2 tsp of sugar or sweetener to the batter if you prefer a sweeter pancake.

These pancakes would taste great on their own or drizzled with maple syrup, but I really liked eating them with the cashew cream that I made by blending a small amount of soaked raw cashews with a bit of orange juice, coconut milk and stevia drops.

Since I was only making a small amount of cashew cream for a single serving, I had a hard time getting the cashews to blend properly so my "cream" was still a bit chunky.  But I still loved the taste and it made a nice topping for the pancakes as a substitute for cream cheese frosting that is usually found on carrot cake.

So if you're looking for new inspiration for Pancake Tuesday, try these carrot cake pancakes or check out the Pinterest Board I created full of more creative pancake ideas!

Single-Serving Vegan Carrot Cake Pancakes with Orange-Cashew Cream
Adapted from The Tie Dye Files and The First Mess

Cashew Cream

2.5 tbsp raw cashews, soaked in water for at least 4-5 hours
1-2 tbsp coconut milk beverage

1 tbsp orange juice

5-10 drops NuNaturals vanilla stevia liquid

1 tsp flax mixed with 2 tsp water
1/3 cup whole wheat flour

2 tbsp rolled oats

2 tbsp sweetened or unsweetened shredded coconut

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp each nutmeg and ground ginger

1/8 tsp salt

1/3 cup grated carrot

1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk beverage (or another non-dairy milk)

10 drops NuNaturals vanilla stevia liquid (or 2 tsp sugar)

3-4 dates, soaked in hot water for a few minutes then drained and finely chopped

1 tbsp chopped walnuts

For the cashew cream:

Drain the cashews and place in a food processor or blender. Add remaining ingredients and process until smooth (I would recommend starting with 1 tbsp of coconut milk and add more to thin out the cream if necessary). Set aside or refrigerate if you are making it ahead of time.

For the pancakes:

First, mix the flax with the water and let sit for at least 5 minutes to thicken.

In a large bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients (flour through to salt).  Add the grated carrot, coconut milk and stevia and stir gently to combine. Fold in the chopped dates and walnuts.

Heat a large skillet on medium-high and spray with low-fat cooking spray. Add the pancake batter to the pan in about 1/3 to 1/2 cup measures (I divided the batter into two large pancakes, but you could easily get three pancakes).

Cook on one side undisturbed for a few minutes, until the bottoms are set and browned. Carefully flip pancakes with a spatula and cook 2-3 more minutes on the other side. 

Serve with cashew cream on top and maple syrup if desired.

Makes 1 serving (2 pancakes)

This was submitted to Wellness Weekend at Diet, Dessert, and Dogs.

February 17, 2012

Quinoa with White Beans, Roasted Grapes and Brussels Sprouts

Whenever I make a salad or grain like rice or quinoa for my meals, I like it to include a variety of components so that it doesn't just feel like a boring side dish.  This quinoa dish that I made recently emcompasses what I like to think of as a complete meal - it has veggies, fruit, legumes, grains and nuts, all in one bowl!

I usually add raisins or dried cranberries as the "fruit" component in my salads, but this time I tried using roasted grapes, which I now love!  Roasting grapes in the oven makes them soft and almost caramelized with a deep, sweet flavor.

I first saw roasted grapes on Two Peas & Their Pod, and I've been wanting to try them since then.  I finally got around to making some crostini topped with roasted grapes a couple of weeks ago, and I liked it so much that I wanted to find more ways of incorporating them into recipes.

So I did some searching and came across this recipe for Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Grapes on the blog Jeanette's Healthy Living.  I liked the idea of combining the grapes with brussels sprouts, so I used her recipe as inspiration for this quinoa.

The grapes and brussels sprouts are roasted together with fresh thyme, and since I wanted those flavors to shine, I kept the dressing very simple and minimal.

To bulk up the dish a bit more, I added some canned cannellini beans, which I thought complemented the other ingredients really well. I also added some toasted pine nuts, but another nut like slivered almonds, walnuts or pecans would also work well. 

Altogether, this meal was definitely filling enough for dinner, but also makes a nice lunch!

Quinoa with White Beans, Roasted Grapes and Brussels Sprouts
Inspired by Two Peas & Their Pod and Jeanette's Healthy Living 

1/2 lb brussels sprouts, washed, trimmed and cut in half
1 tbsp olive oil, divided

1 clove garlic, minced

Salt and pepper

1 cup red grapes

1 tbsp fresh thyme

Salt and pepper

1 cup water

1/2 cup dry quinoa

2-3 tbsp pine nuts (or pecans or slivered almonds)

1 tbsp white wine vinegar

1/2 tsp agave nectar
1 cup canned white beans, rinsed and drained

Preheat the oven to 400° and line a baking sheet with foil. Toss the brussels sprouts with 1/2 tbsp of olive oil and the garlic and season with salt and pepper. Spread the Brussels sprouts and grapes on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with thyme and stir to combine.  Place baking sheet in the oven and roast for 20-25 minutes, until the grapes have softened and the brussels sprouts have browned.

Meanwhile, bring the water to a boil in a medium sized saucepan. Add the quinoa, cover, and reduce heat to low. Let cook for 15 minutes, then remove from heat and let sit, covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff quinoa with a fork and transfer to a large bowl.

Toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet for a few minutes, until lightly toasted.  Prepare the dressing by whisking the remaining 1/2 tbsp of olive oil, white wine vinegar and agave together.

Add the roasted brussels sprouts, grapes, white beans and pine nuts to the bowl with the quinoa. Pour the dressing over everything and toss to combine. Season with more salt and pepper if desired.

Makes 2 servings.

February 14, 2012

Vegan Crunchy Peanut Butter Cups

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

If you're still looking for a decadent-tasting but healthy dessert to finish off your night, I've got just the thing for you - these miniature vegan peanut butter cups!

When I first saw these popped amaranth peanut butter cups on the blog My Little Celebration, I knew immediately that I had to make them! They're basically made of a layer of chocolate and a layer of peanut butter mixed with chopped peanuts and popped amaranth. 

Amaranth is a small grain that can be cooked and eaten like rice or quinoa and is high in calcium, protein and fiber. Another way to cook it is by popping it on the stove like popcorn. I had never tried amaranth before, but now that I know how much fun it is to pop it, I want to start making it much more often!

In my version of these treats, I replaced the butter with melted coconut oil and reduced the amount of powdered sugar because I didn't want them to taste too sweet. I also added some cacao nibs to the bottom layer and made them in my mini muffin pan to get smaller sized cups.

Once I had made them as the recipe instructed, I thought they'd be even better if I added another layer of chocolate on top so that the peanut butter layer was enclosed in the chocolate (like a Reese's cup). So I coated half of them with more chocolate and left the other half with the peanut butter layer showing. After tasting them both ways, I preferred the chocolate cups, so I recommend adding the extra top layer!

Even though I personally loved these, I should add a warning that if you're expecting these to taste like Reese's peanut butter cups, you will probably be disappointed.  Since my sister happened to have a mini Reese's cup lying around, I actually did a taste test to compare the two and I much preferred my healthier version! I find Reese's overly sweet and a bit artificial tasting, whereas these taste like real peanut butter and I loved the crunchy texture from the cacao nibs, chopped peanuts and the amaranth (although you could try leaving out the peanuts for a smoother filling).

This recipe does require some waiting time in between making each layer, but they still didn't take much time overall and were pretty easy to make. They also store well in the freezer, so you can take one out whenever you crave a treat!

Vegan Crunchy Peanut Butter Cups

1/4 cup natural peanut butter
1/2 tbsp melted coconut oil
1 tbsp powdered sugar
2 tbsp crushed peanuts
2 heaping tbsp popped amaranth (about 1 tbsp unpopped)
About 6 tbsp vegan chocolate chips, divided
1-2 tbsp raw cacao nibs

Prepare a mini-muffin pan by coating the cups with a bit of cooking spray.

First, pop the amaranth grains in small batches. Heat a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Once it is hot, add a small spoonful of amaranth and cover the pot with a lid. As the kernels begin to pop, shake the pot back and forth. Once it is has finished popping, remove from the heat immediately and transfer to a small bowl. Continue popping the amaranth in batches until you get two heaping tablespoons (I did this in 4 batches, but I burnt the first one!)

Prepare the peanut butter filling by combining the peanut butter and coconut oil in a bowl. Stir in the powdered sugar and crushed peanuts, then stir in the popped amaranth.

Melt 3 tbsp of the chocolate chips in the microwave or over a small pot of simmering water on the stove. Spoon the melted chocolate into the mini muffin pan cups, spreading it evenly (I was able to get 8 cups).  Sprinkle a pinch of cacao nibs into each cup, pressing gently with your finger into the chocolate. Place the muffin tray in the freezer for a few minutes until the chocolate has firmed up a bit.

Remove the pan from the freezer and add a large spoonful of the peanut butter filling on top of the chocolate in each cup, spreading evenly. Place the filled cups back in the freezer for 10-15 minutes, until firm.

If you are adding the top layer of chocolate, melt the remaining chocolate chips. Remove peanut butter cups from the muffin tin. Working quickly, use a flat knife or spoon to spread some of the melted chocolate over the top of one peanut butter cup and around the sides. Repeat with remaining peanut butter cups. Return to freezer until hardened.

Store in the fridge or freezer and let thaw for 5-10 minutes before eating.

Makes 8 mini cups (this was a good sized portion just for myself, but you may want to double the recipe!)

This was submitted to the RecipeLion February Blog Hop

February 12, 2012

Morning Glory Muffins

I hope you're not sick of seeing beet recipes on my blog yet, because I've got another one for you today!

I've always thought that beets and carrots make a good combination, and I figured if carrots can be added to baked goods like loaves and muffins, then why not beets?  So I set out to create a hearty muffin full of fruits, veggies and other healthy ingredients.  There were too many different ingredients in these muffins to come up with a concise name, so I'm just calling them morning glory muffins (although I'm not exactly sure what qualifies muffins as morning glory)!

I was worried that these muffins would turn out to be a disaster, and I still wasn't sure about them when I took a bite after taking them out of the oven....but I guess they just needed some more time to sit and cool because I loved them once I tried one the next morning!

The beets gave the muffins a pinkish tint, but their taste didn't overpower the rest of the ingredients. I really liked the combination of beets, carrots and apple, and I loved how every bite was full of different textures.

The ingredients list may look long, but you can customize these based on what you have on hand....for example, if you don't like beets just substitute more carrots, and if you're not a fan of raisins then you can leave them out too.

My only complaint about these muffins is that they didn't rise much in the oven, so they were a bit flat.  These are definitely not the light, sweet cakey type of muffin, but if you like a more dense, hearty muffin then these are for you!

Morning Glory Muffins
Inspired by various recipes like these muffins from Sweet Savory Planet

1/2 cup spelt flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground ginger
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1 tbsp golden flax seeds (optional)
1 tbsp wheat bran or wheat germ (optional)
2 tbsp raisins
2 tbsp chopped walnuts
1/2 cup grated carrot
1/2 cup grated beet
1/2 a small apple, finely diced
1/2 a ripe banana
1.5 tbsp melted coconut oil
2 tbsp unsweetened almond milk (or other non-dairy milk)
2 tbsp orange juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp ground flax

Preheat the oven to 375° and prepare a muffin pan with paper liners.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices in a large bowl. Add the brown sguar, oats, coconut, flax seeds, wheat bran, raisins and walnuts and stir to combine. Next, add the shredded carrot, beet and apple to the bowl and stir until they are coated with the dry ingredients.

In a separate small bowl, mash the banana. Add all the remaining ingredients and stir well to mix.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until all the dry ingredients are incorporated.

Divide the batter into the muffin cups, filling each one about three-quarters of the way full. Bake for 23-26 minutes, until the muffins are set and a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool completely on a wire rack.

Makes 8 small muffins.

February 10, 2012

Veggie Potpie Stew - Guest Post for Sometimes I Veg

Today I'm doing my first-ever guest post at Sometimes I Veg on the theme of "What I Would Feed a Vegan Coming to Dinner".

I hope you'll click over to read my post, which includes the recipe for the veggie potpie stew pictured above.

And if you haven't visited Miriam's blog yet, she has lots of other great vegetarian and vegan recipes, so be sure to check them out while you're there!

Have a good weekend everyone!

February 08, 2012

Raw Beet Cheesecake for Two

On Monday, I shared a recipe for beet pasta and I told you that I had a Valentine's dessert with beets coming up soon.  Well, I'm happy to say that you don't have to wait any longer!

I'm so excited to finally share this recipe that I made almost a month ago.  I came up with the idea when Cara of Fork and Beans announced a Valentine's Bake-Off Contest.

The rules for the contest were to create an original recipe for a vegan and gluten-free Valentine's Day dessert, and my mind immediately turned to beets! I like the idea of using natural ingredients to create vibrant colours in food instead of using food dye, and beets seemed like the perfect thing to make a pretty pink Valentine's dessert.

Since I don't have much experience in gluten-free baking, I thought that a raw dessert might be the best way to go.  I've tried a couple versions of raw "cheesecakes" where the filling is made of blended cashews, so I wanted to take that idea and create a version using beets.

For the crust, I used a mixture of almonds and dates, although another nut like walnuts or pecans would also work. I also added some cacao nibs to give the crust a slight chocolate-y taste, and I thought the hint of cacao went perfectly with the beet filling.

I was a bit nervous to taste the filling, but it turned out just how I was hoping! The beets added a nice sweetness without tasting too "beet-y", and they combined really well with the cashews to create the cheesecake taste that I wanted.

The final touch to make this dessert extra special for Valentine's Day was to make a garnish shaped like hearts....and what better way to make them than with more beets! I followed Martha Stewart's method for making candied beets and cut them into heart shapes to place on top of the finished cake.

Since I was just making this for myself, I used my miniature cake pan to make a small cheesecake.  Although I ate most of the cake myself, it ended up being the perfect size for two people to share!

Personally, I would choose this raw beet cheesecake over any other indulgent or chocolatey dessert for Valentine's Day, but I realize that most people probably don't share my tastes.  You definitely won't fool anyone into thinking this is a rich cheesecake, but if you want a healthy dessert that still tastes good then I hope you'll give this recipe a try!

And be sure to check out all the other submissions to the Fork and Beans contest for more Valentine's Day dessert ideas!

Miniature Raw Beet Cheesecake
Inspired by various other raw cheesecake recipes

1/4 cup raw almonds
1/4 cup chopped pitted dates
1 tbsp raw cacao nibs
Pinch of kosher salt

1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked in water for at least 4 hours
1/2 cup raw grated beet
2.5 tbsp melted coconut oil
2.5 tbsp agave syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Juice of half a lemon

Candied beet hearts for garnish (recipe below)

To make the crust:
Place the almonds in a food processor and process until they are finely chopped. Add the dates, cacao nibs and salt and continue to process until the dates are broken down and the mixture sticks together.

Transfer the crust to the bottom of a round mini cake pan (I used a 4-inch wide, 2-inch deep pan with a removable bottom) and press down firmly, making sure it is evenly spread.  Store the crust in the fridge while you make the filling.

To make the filling:
Drain the cashews and place in the food processor. Add the remaining filling ingredients and process until completely smooth. Pour the filling on top of the crust in the cake pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Place in the fridge or freezer for 1-2 hours to firm up. Once it is set, carefully remove from the pan and garnish with candied beet hearts.

If you have leftovers, store in the fridge or freezer (if stored in the freezer, let it thaw at room temperature before serving).

Candied Beet Hearts:
Adapted from Martha Stewart 

1 medium sized beet, peeled (you won't need all of it)
1/2 cup water
1/4 sugar

Preheat oven to 250°.

Slice the beet very thinly - four or five slices will be enough, depending on how many pieces you want to make. Use a heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut hearts out of each slice (you can try a couple different sized cookie cutters).

Bring the water and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the sliced beets, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 30 minutes (the syrup will reduce and become thick and sticky).

Remove beets from the pot with a slotted spoon and place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour, until the beets have dried (they may need an extra 15 minutes or so). Store in a container at room temperature.

This has also been submitted to Wellness Weekends at Diet, Dessert & Dogs.

February 06, 2012

Pretty in Pink Pasta (aka Beet Pasta)

Now that Super Bowl is over, it's time to post some Valentine's recipes!

Valentine's Day doesn't really have much significance for me, but I still like to celebrate it by watching romantic movies (hence the title of this post) and making treats to fit the holiday theme!  This year, I made two recipes (a dinner and dessert) that both feature a secret ingredient to make them a beautiful Valentine's pink ... beets!

For my dinner recipe, I made this pasta with a colourful beet sauce.  The beets are first roasted in the oven and then pureed with yogurt, lemon, garlic and spices to make a creamy and flavorful coating for the noodles. I also added some toasted pine nuts and fresh parsley on top of my pasta, which I thought made it more special and enhanced the presentation factor, but you can leave the pine nuts out for a more budget-friendly dish.

Since I love beets in any form, especially the flavor of roasted beets, it was no surprise that I loved this pasta! But if you do decide to make this for someone special, make sure they're a fan of beets first because they are definitely the star of this dish!

Stay tuned later this week for my Valentine's dessert with beets!

Beet Pasta
Adapted from Moderate Oven

4-5 oz dried pasta - wide noodles like fettucine or pappardelle work best (make sure they are egg-free for a vegan dish - I used durum wheat ribbons in parsley-garlic flavour)

2 medium beets
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup low-fat plain yogurt (or soy yogurt)
1/2 tsp cumin
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper
2-3 tbsp pine nuts
about 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley for garnishing

First, roast the beets. Wrap whole beets in tin foil and place on a baking sheet. Cook in the oven at 400° for about 60 minutes, until they are tender. When the beets are done roasting, peel and slice off the ends. Cut into quarters, then place in a blender.

In a small skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds, until lightly browned. Transfer the contents of the skillet to the blender with the beets.  Add the lemon juice, yogurt, cumin, cayenne, and a pinch of salt and pepper to the blender.  Puree until you have a smooth sauce. 

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling water according to the package directions. Drain and set aside.

Toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet for a few minutes, until they are lightly browned and fragrant.

To serve, toss the cooked pasta with the beet sauce.  If the sauce and pasta have already cooled, you can heat a large skillet on the stove, then toss the pasta and sauce together in the skillet and heat until warm.  Top with toasted pine nuts and fresh parsley.

Makes 2 servings. 

February 02, 2012

Sweet Potato Chili Fries

Every year around this time, recipes for chili start popping up everywhere in magazines and blogs. Chili has never been part of my family's Super Bowl tradition, but it seems to be a popular game day choice for a lot of other people!

Since there are already so many recipes for vegetarian chili out there, I didn't want to add another one here...but instead, what I can offer you is an idea for a fun way to use up your leftover chili - these sweet potato chili fries!

The concept of chili fries had never particularly appealed to me until last year, when I decided to make this recipe for vegetarian chili with fries from my Canadian Living: Vegetarian Collection cookbook.  I liked it so much that I couldn't wait to make it again the next time I had leftover chili!

This time, instead of serving the chili over regular potatoes, I tried it with sweet potatoes because I love sweet potato fries....and now I can say that I love eating sweet potato fries with chili even more!

You can use any vegetarian chili recipe here (although I wouldn't recommend a sweet potato chili since you'll already have the sweet potato fries). Then all you need to do is bake your fries in the oven, heat up your leftover chili and serve with any additional toppings you like - I used sour cream and shredded cheese, but you can leave these out for a vegan version (or use vegan substitutes).

Sweet Potato Chili Fries
Adapted from Canadian Living

1 large sweet potato
olive oil
Tex-mex seasoning
2 servings of leftover vegetarian chili*

Scrub the sweet potato (I left the skin on). Cut in half lengthwise, then slice each half into thick wedges.  Toss with a bit of olive oil and season with tex-mex spices (I used a pre-made spice blend, but regular chili powder would work too).

Place fries on a baking sheet and bake in the oven at 425° for 25-30 minutes, flipping halfway.

Transfer fries to a plate and top with reheated chili. Garnish with sour cream, shredded cheese, and green onions if desired.

Makes 2 servings.

*For the chili, I used this recipe, with the following changes:
- left out the celery and increased the amount of onion and carrot to at least 1/2 cup each
- used smoked paprika and increased the amount of chili powder by an additional tsp
- added a small minced jalapeno
- used mixed beans (although next time I would stick with just kidney beans)

Other Vegetarian Chili Recipes from Around the Web:
Vegetarian Chili with Bulgur Wheat from A Couple Cooks
Fiery Red Bean Chili with Farro from Jeanette's Healthy Living
Vegetarian Quinoa Chili from Food Doodles
Chipotle & Chocolate Chili from Would Would Cathy Eat
Vegetarian Chili with Peanut Butter from Branny Boils Over
Vegetarian Green Chili from Pink Parsley
Pumpkin Chili from The Taste Space
Pumpkin Chili Mole from Florida Coastal Cooking


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