Monday, December 21, 2009

Brussels Sprouts

Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Maple, Mustard, and Pecans

I love the fall and winter for the abundance of produce available. There are so many combinations of vegetables, fruits, nuts, and grains that the weather turns warm again before I run out of ideas!

In the last few years I've re-discovered Brussels sprouts. When I was growing up, my mom loved Brussels sprouts but boiled them to death, so I only knew them as army-green balls of nastiness. Because of that, I avoided them for a long time, until I had them browned instead of boiled. Caramelizing the Brussels sprouts brings out the natural sweetness and cooking for a shorter period of time reduces the amount of sulfur compounds released and increases the amount of vitamins retained during cooking. Since Brussels sprouts are a member of the cabbage family, they benefit from similar treatments.

An easy way to try out Brussels sprouts on those who are uncertain about them is to shred them. I clean and trim the sprouts and run them through the slicing blade on the food processor. In one of my favorite recipes, I like to pair what I think of as "typical" fall flavors with Brussels sprouts, so I add mustard, pecans, and a touch of maple syrup. The mustard also compliments the sprouts as they are in the same biological family (Brassica).

Brussels Sprouts with Maple, Mustard, and Pecans

2 lbs Brussels sprouts, trimmed
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup white wine or vegetable broth
1 tsp dried thyme
2 tbsp whole grain mustard
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 cup pecan halves, toasted
Salt and pepper to taste

Shred sprouts using the slicing blade of a food processor. This can also be done by hand using a very sharp knife. Add sprouts, olive oil, white wine, and thyme to a non-stick pan with a lid. Turn heat to medium, cover, and cook for 5 minutes. Remove lid and turn heat to medium high. Cook for 5-10 more minutes, stirring infrequently, to allow the sprouts to brown and caramelize. Stir in remaining ingredients and heat through, adding salt and pepper to taste.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Sweet Potatoes

Up until I moved away for college, I'd never tasted a sweet potato. Not even in the candy-sweet holiday casseroles - my family just didn't make them. I think my first experiences with sweet potatoes were with Boston Market's sweet potato casserole - lots of brown sugar, marshmallows, and calories! When you think of sweet potatoes, usually this is the dish that comes to mind. However, once I learned how to eat more healthily, I realized that there's a lot more to sweet potatoes than the super sweet marshmallow confection dish.

Now, I love sweet potatoes in savory dishes - I think it's a pity that most people only ever see them used in sweet dishes. In fact, the recipe that I'm going to highlight in this post surprises many people because they're expecting a sweet dish, only to come to face with creamy, smokey chipotle. Chipotle peppers and Southwestern spices in general are my favorite way of dressing up sweet potatoes; spicy Southwestern flavors pair naturally with the inherent sweetness of the potatoes.

As mentioned before, one of my favorite ways to prepare sweet potatoes is as a mash around the holidays. This recipe was developed from mashed white potatoes, with spices adjusted to highlight the flavors of the sweet potatoes. The chipotle powder can be adjusted - if I'm cooking for Mike and myself, I use more; when I'm serving this to others I stick to the amount listed below. You can also substitute vegan versions of the dairy products (Earth Balance and soymilk). Please do use real maple syrup - pancake syrup is no substitute!

Chipotle Mashed Sweet Potatoes

2 lbs sweet potatoes
1/2 stick unsalted butter (or 1/4 cup Earth Balance)
1/4 cup half and half (or 1/4 cup soymilk or creamer)
1/2 tsp chipotle powder (or 1 minced canned chipotle pepper)
1 minced garlic clove
1/8 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tbsp maple syrup
Salt and pepper to taste

Peel, cube, and boil sweet potatoes until soft. Drain and mash with butter. Stir in remaining ingredients and add salt and pepper to taste.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I would like to try to keep this open as a food discussion blog as well. Mike tells me to just start writing, as that's where everyone starts. No one starts off knowing where their niche is, but they work their way into it.

Lately I've been loving cooking with fall flavors - winter squashes, apples, pecans, thyme, hearty whole grains, the like. I adore this time of year as a vegetarian.

On the other hand, it's been difficult trying to balance the heartier foods and flavors with eating lighter - though the warm weather we've been having in Florida definitely helps. I've always had issues watching what I eat in the fall and winter.

On a happier note, I'm working on planning some vegetarian dishes for Thanksgiving at my in-laws and for a holiday potluck at my friends' house. I'm going to attempt a seitan "turkey" from Bryanna Clark Grogan for both - I've really only ever made the Seitan o' Greatness recipe before, so this should be a little new.

I'm going to wing a basic stuffing recipe - I'd like to make a base of whole grain bread cubes, and add a nut, a dried fruit, and an herb for the major players. Possibly even two different versions, one for Thanksgiving and one for the potluck. For nuts I'm considering pecans or hazelnuts; fruits, apricots, apples, pears, or cranberries; and herbs, sage, rosemary, thyme. Just which in which combination is my dilemma right now!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Simple Baked Tofu

For whatever reason, it took me a long time to get tofu "right." Mike even told me that he hated what I was making, for a long time. Here's what even non-tofu eaters will eat.

14oz block extra-firm tofu
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tsp or more sriracha or chile and garlic sauce
1/4 cup dry sherry
1 tsp fresh ginger
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp brown sugar

Slice the tofu width-wise into three pieces, so that you have three pieces in the original shape of the tofu block. Place a 4 fold thick layer of paper towels on the counter, lay the tofu in a single layer on top, and place another 4-fold thick layer of paper towels on top. On top of that, place a baking dish containing a weight, and let drain for an hour or more. If desired, you can replace the wet paper towels with dry ones and let drain longer.

Mix the remaining ingredients. In a baking dish, add the tofu and pour marinade over. Refrigerate one hour or overnight, turning halfway through.

Heat oven to 250 F. Place tofu in a single layer on a baking dish, and cook for 2 and a half hours or more. If you have any marinade remaining, you can baste the tofu with this. Turn the tofu over halfway through. At the 2 hour mark, turn the oven down to 200 F.

Serve immediately or refrigerate for later use. I like to make large batches of this since it's relatively time consuming, and freeze or refrigerate for later meals.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Mexican Pineapple Slaw

1/2 head green cabbage, shredded finely
1 cup shredded carrots
1 red onion, sliced very thinly
1 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen

2 (or more) jalapenos, minced
2 tbsp fresh pineapple, pureed
1/3 cup light mayonnaise
1 lime, juiced
1 tsp cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine cabbage, carrots, and onion in a large colander and toss with 2 tsp salt. Allow to drain for one hour, then rinse and squeeze dry.

Meanwhile, mix together remaining ingredients. Toss with wilted vegetables, corn, salt and pepper to taste, chill, and serve.

Monday, September 7, 2009

BBQ TVP Taco Filling

1 1/2 cups dried tvp crumbles
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup barbecue sauce
1 tbsp Penzey's BBQ 3000 seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine tvp, water, and seasoning in a small saucepan and heat over medium until all of the water is absorbed. Add barbecue sauce, stir, and adjust seasoning to taste.

Refried Beans

1 lb dried pinto beans, soaked
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp taco seasoning (I cheated here)

Soak beans overnight, then boil in fresh water until soft. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, add cooked beans, and mash. Add taco seasoning, and cook until heated through.

Many other things can be added, including chiles, onions, cheese, but this is a basic recipe.

Poblano Salsa

8 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
4 poblano peppers, diced
1 large sweet onion, diced
3 limes, juiced
1 1/2 tsp cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients. If a finer texture is desired, pulse in a food processor into very finely diced. Chill, and serve.

Nectarine Habañero Salsa

2 nectarines, diced
4 habañeros, diced
1/2 red onion, diced
1/2 tsp cumin
1 lime, juiced
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine, chill, and serve.

Pineapple and Jalapeño Salsa

2/3 of a fresh pineapple, diced
6 jalapeños, diced
1 red onion, diced
2 limes, juiced
1 tsp cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine, chill, and serve.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Lentil, barley, and spinach soup

1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 stalks celery, diced
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
10oz frozen chopped spinach
1/2 tbsp celery salt
2 tsp Italian seasoning
1 can lentils
1/2 cup uncooked quick barley
8 cups vegetable broth
1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Saute onion until caramelized, about 20 minutes. Add celery, garlic, and spinach. Cover pan until spinach is defrosted, then add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, then simmer until barley is cooked through, about 12-15 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.