Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Vegan Shepherd's Pie

Fine, fine. I know this isn't the most beautiful picture in the world - it's not like every meal can be as pretty as a bowl of Couscous + Black Bean Salad - but I couldn't let that stop me from posting it here. (Although I'm still not sure what made me think that veganizing a traditional, English, meat-based dish was a good idea...)

Anyway, despite appearances, this Vegan Shepherd's Pie is quite tasty. It's also really hardy, which makes it great for those times when you're craving something extra-filling. (That also makes it a nice dish for those who are non-vegetarians.) Although the lentil/nut mixture is flavorful, the mashed potato topping is definitely my favorite part of the meal. And while I've never actually had a traditional Shepard's Pie before, I do feel confident in saying that my veg pie fits the bill for "comfort" food.

So, don't be too quick to judge a book by its cover (or in this case, a meal by its picture). I'm sure glad that I wasn't.

Recipe: Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie
(printer-friendly version)

1/2 cup uncooked brown lentils, sorted & rinsed
1/4 cup pearl barley
1 tsp. Marmite, or other yeast extract spread
2 cups vegetarian broth
1 large carrot, diced
1/2 large onion, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1 tsp. white all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. water
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup frozen corn
mashed potatoes made from 4 potatoes (according to your favorite recipe)

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.) In a large sauce pan, over medium-low heat, simmer lentils, barley, yeast extract, & veg broth for 15 mins.
3.) After 15 mins., add carrot, onion, garlic, & walnuts to the lentil pot, simmering for 15 mins. more. If the mixture starts drying out, add a splash or two of additional veg broth.
4.) Combine the flour & water, & stir it into the mixture, simmering until thickened.
5.) Season the mixture with salt & pepper. Remove pan from heat, & add the peas & corn.
6.) Pour the mixture into a 2 Qt. casserole dish, spooning the mashed potatoes on top.
7.) Bake for about 30 mins., or until the potatoes are lightly browned on top.
vegan shepherd's pie

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A Bit of Cooking Inspiration...

Vegetarian Times Complete Cookbook: This is, without a doubt, one of my favorite veg cookbooks! I'm an avid reader of "Vegetarian Times" magazine, and this cookbook includes tons of their best recipes. So far, my favorite recipe has probably been the Black Bean Chili Pot Pie, which consists of a delicious black bean chili with cornbread on top - yum! Useful nutritional and cooking info (ex: how to properly cook grains and legumes) abounds, too.
Vegetarian Sandwiches: Fresh Fillings for Slices, Pockets, Wraps, and Rolls: This is a beautifully designed cookbook. I'm a sucker for tempting photos, and this book has them in spades. Of course, there are lots of interesting sandwich ideas in it, too. Some examples include: Sweet Potato and Avocado Sandwiches with Tahini-Poppy Seed Spread; Open-Faced Crispy Tortilla Sandwiches; and East Indian Tea Sandwiches. The sandwich spreads and chutneys in the book are impressive as well.
Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone: Honestly, no vegetarian kitchen is complete without at least one Deborah Madison cookbook. While the soups and stews are particularly divine, the entire book stands out for its sheer breadth of information. Every recipe that I've made from it has been fantastic. Moreover, the guides related to wine parings, knife skills, and kitchen utensils make this cookbook even more fantastic. From sauces and relishes to dals and desserts, "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone" has definitely earned a spot on the top of my kitchen shelf.
A Beautiful Bowl of Soup: The Best Vegetarian Recipes: Here is yet another visually appealing cookbook. Personally, I think it should be a companion to "Vegetarian Sandwiches," because really, what goes better together than soup and a sandwich? (The fact that both of the books are by the same author probably helps as well!) I particularly like the separate listing of vegan recipes, as well as the tips on substituting ingredients. Chapters with recipes devoted to "chilled" and "dessert" soups make this cookbook a standout, too.
Rose Elliot's Vegetarian Meals in Minutes: I picked up this book while living abroad almost 6 yrs ago. It was the very first vegetarian cookbook that I'd ever purchased, and I fell in love with it right away. Although my version of the book has a different cover, this one appears to be the exact same thing. And while I admittedly don't use it as much as I used to, it does contain one of my all-time favorite soups. The recipe involves pesto and a difficult-to-find kind of bean, which pairs soo deliciously that CH asks me to make on an almost daily basis. Seriously! The only down-side to this cookbook is its heavy reliance on egg-based recipes.
The Joy of Vegan Baking: The Compassionate Cooks' Traditional Treats and Sinful Sweets: This is the newest addition to my ever-expanding collection. The cookbook's author, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, also hosts my favorite vegetarian podcast, which basically guarantees that I'd love this as well. "The Joy of Vegan Baking" is jam-packed with recipes for cakes, cookies, pies, cupcakes, strudels, and more. Of course, it also contains oodles of information about vegan dairy and egg alternatives, as well as some great tips on how and when to use them. And, not only will this cookbook help me "veganize" my family's holiday desserts, but it's sure to act as an invaluable resource for years to come.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Oh Baby, Baklava!

Oh. My. God.

Any attempt that I make - no matter how perfectly detailed or thoroughly descriptive - to convey the sheer deliciousness of this dessert will undoubtedly fail. And this is coming from someone who isn't even a "dessert person."

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Couscous + Black Bean Salad

Sometimes food turns out so darn pretty that you almost don't want to eat it. (Huge emphasis on the word "almost" there.) Clearly, this couscous and beans dish presented one of those difficult situations. Luckily though, hunger typically trumps my love of aesthetics, and this salad presented no exception.
Thus, I'm happy to report that I enjoyed this dish down to the very last bite. It has a somewhat subtle taste: no over-powering flavors; no ingredients screaming "notice me!" Truthfully, it's one of those meals that doesn't instantly strike you as fantastic. However, the more of it you eat, the more amazing it tastes.

Trust me on this...

Recipe: Couscous + Black Bean Salad
(inspired by allrecipes.com)

1 cup whole wheat couscous*
1 1/4 cups vegetable broth*
2 (150z) cans black beans, thoroughly rinsed & drained
1 cup frozen corn
3/4 red bell pepper, seeded & chopped
5 green onions, chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 tsp. red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 pinch salt
10 grinds freshly ground black pepper

1.) Cook couscous according to directions, replacing water with vegetable broth.
2.) In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lime juice, vinegar, cumin, salt, & pepper. Set the dressing aside.
3.) After the couscous has finished cooking, fluff it gently with a fork, & transfer it into a large bowl. Stir the beans, corn, red pepper, & green onion into the couscous.
4.) Pour the dressing over the couscous mixture, stirring to coat.
5.) Stir in the fresh cilantro, taste for salt/pepper, & add if necessary.
6.) Serve immediately, or refrigerate & serve later. (This salad is best at room temperature.)

*Variation: You can also use a box of Near East's Near East's "Roasted Garlic & Olive Oil" wheat couscous (instead of using plain, wheat couscous) when making this dish. If you do so, omit the vegetable broth and use water instead.

couscous and black bean salad

Friday, October 05, 2007

Raspberry Lover's Smoothie + Peanut Butter Delight

Alright, I'll admit it - I'm that little girl who used to carry a peanut butter sandwich to school in her Strawberry Shortcake lunch box (which eventually gave way to a Ghostbusters lunch box) every single day of the week. And by "every single day of the week," I, of course, mean "5 days a week for almost 6 years." Furthermore, a "peanut butter sandwich" sadly refers to two pieces of white bread (with the crusts, please) filled solely with creamy peanut butter (no jelly!).

If my mom felt like being creative while making my lunch, she'd use crunchy or extra crunchy peanut butter, or alternate between Jiff and Skippy brands, which added a bit of interest to my self-inflicted sandwich regimen. She'd also occassionally press large sandwich stamps onto the bread so that my beloved PB would be graced with pictures of Halloween pumpkins and witches, or the phrase "I love you." (Truthfully, I think my mom was more bored with making the same thing everyday than I should really have been with eating it.)

So, with that small confession out of the way (and the surprising revelation that limiting my food options in grade school may have lead to my current cooking obsession), it's time to share a couple of new smoothies.

These two drinks make an interesting pair: one is fresh, juicy, and slightly tangy; while the other is rich, creamy, and almost dessert-like. Additionally, the Raspberry Lover's Smoothie is perfect as a morning drink or as a midday pick-me-up, and tastes great when you're craving something healthy. On the other hand, the Peanut Butter Delight is delicious as an afternoon treat, or as a sweet, high-protein snack after a long day at work. It also does the trick when that little bit of nostalgia creeps in, because we both know that I wasn't the only kid who brought peanut butter sandwiches to school every day...

Recipe: Raspberry Lover's Smoothie
(printer-friendly version)
(pictured on left)

1 fresh, ripe banana
3/4 cup frozen raspberries
1/2 cup frozen black cherries
1/4 cup frozen blueberries
1 (6 oz) container raspberry soy yogurt
1/4 cup vanilla (or plain) soy milk
1 Tbsp. ground flax seeds (optional; adds Omega 3s - essential fatty acids)
1 tsp. psyllium husks (optional; adds fiber)

1.) Place all of the ingredients into a blender, adding the flax seeds & psyllium husks last.
2.) Blend until smooth, stopping to push ingredients down the sides, if necessary.

Recipe: Peanut Butter Delight Smoothie
(printer-friendly version)
(pictured on right)

1 fresh, ripe banana
1/3 cup smooth, natural peanut butter
1/4 cup vanilla (or plain) soy milk
1 Tbsp. agave nectar
7 ice cubes, crushed*
1 Tbsp. flax seeds (optional; adds Omega 3s - essential fatty acids)

1.) Place all of the ingredients into a blender, adding the flax seeds last.
2.) Blend until smooth; serve immediately.

*Tip: Crushing the ice before adding it will help the smoothie to blend more quickly, & will also extend the life of your blender. First, place the ice cubes inside a large zip-lock bag, squeeze the excess air out, & seal the bag. Then, place the bag on a flat, solid surface (kitchen counters work great), & use a rolling pin or heavy pan to crush the ice into smaller pieces.