Meatless Monday: Vegan Lemon Cookies

While I do not traditionally put meat in my cookies (and really do not want to imagine a recipe that calls for it), I am very excited to share my first vegan dessert experiment.  

One of the culinary explorations I’ve enjoyed most this last year is finding healthier ways to make your favorite treats.  Maddie was my first introduction to this type of baking, the fact that her Zucchini Bread was the best I had ever had, and it had no butter or oil in it, amazed me.

After extensive research, the egg substitute I was most excited by was ground flax seed and water.  Given the many health benefits of flax seed, it seemed too good to be true that it would also create the desired texture of eggs.  My doubts were whisked away as I watched the coconut oil, sugar, and egg substitute mixture thicken.  In addition, flax seeds add a little of their own flavor, it almost tasted like I had added a pinch of nutmeg, what could be better?

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Vegan Lemon Cookies

  • 1.5 tps of baking soda
  • 1 cup white flour, 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup of Coconut Oil, just melted
  • 3/4 cup Cane Sugar
  • 3 tbs lemon juice
  • lemon zest from 1.5 lemons
  • 2 tablespoon ground flaxseeds
  • 6 tablespoons water (or other liquid)

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Mix the baking soda, flours, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.  Combine the coconut oil, and sugar, beat fully until dissolved.  Add lemon juice and zest.  Then mix flax seeds with water and add the mixture into the other ingredients. Beat together until mixture begins to thicken. Add dry mixture into wet mixture a little at a time, until fully combined.

Place small spoonfuls of dough on an ungreased baking sheet and bake until just golden on top, approximately 10 minutes depending on oven.

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Given that I had never made vegan cookies before, and was taking a risk doing them without a recipe, I decided to just cook a few first batch, to double check the texture.  I ended up placing the cookie dough in the fridge for 15 minutes to cool it off and temporarily thicken it up a bit.  The final texture was perfect, lightly chewy but still moist.  When I make these again, I will make sure that the dough stays relatively cool.

The lemon flavor together with the flax seed was an unbeatable combination and they were the perfect balance between sweet but not too sweet.

All in all, my first vegan baking experiment was entirely successful (she says modestly), and I am excited to expand into trying out cakes, and other delectable favorites. Until next week, Happy Meatless Monday!

Meatless Monday: Spring Salad with Strawberries and Fresh Vegetables

I am a foodie very much driven by cravings.  I shutter to think what my poor husband to be will have to deal with if I am ever pregnant because I am sure this trait will only intensify.  On nights like tonight where my cravings are varied and many, I take the opportunity to experiment with flavor combinations I have not tried before. 

While the backdrop for tonight’s experiment is certainly not original (a salad), the flavor combinations were diverse and new to me.  I decided to go with strawberries, avocado, caramelized onions, and steamed vegetables. I added some firm goat cheese, California Crottin, to be precise, but without it, the salad would still be rich and flavorful.

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Spring Salad with Strawberries and Fresh Vegetables

Salad:

  • 1 small red onion, cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1.5 inch pieces
  • 1 large handful of green beans, trimmed and cut into 1.5 inch pieces
  • 1 handful of strawberries, stemmed and cut in half
  • 1 avocado
  • Mixed greens
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • goat cheese for crumbling (optional)

Vinaigrette:

  • 1/2 shallot finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar

Heat a medium saute pan with some olive oil on medium-low heat. Once the olive oil is hot, add the onion, and continue to saute until soft and golden brown.  While onions are slow cooking, steam the asparagus pieces and green beans, until they are just under done.  Rinse under cold water and put to the side. Whisk together vinaigrette ingredients at the bottom of a large salad bowl.  Remove the caramelized onions from heat and add them to the vinaigrette mixture. Add steamed vegetables, strawberries, avocado, mixed greens and toss. Add goat cheese, and ample amounts of salt and pepper.

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Shay and I were both amazed how well the different flavors came together. The white balsamic, with the sweet strawberries, rich caramelized onions, and tart goat cheese complemented each other beautifully. Shay had seconds and then I practically licked the bowl. Embarrassing, I know, but try it, you will too. Hope you enjoy this hodgepodge of ingredients as much as we did.  Until next time, Happy Meatless Monday!

Meatless Monday: Stuffed Shells with Fresh Herbs

This was one of those meals that did not go according to plan and turned out better for it. The concept was simple enough, to create really flavorful stuffed shells.  Maddie and Brendan were coming over for dinner last night and I wanted to come up with a recipe that we could all assemble together.  Well, despite forgetting the eggs at the store, realizing that we had nothing to cover the baking dish with the moment it was supposed to go into the oven and making twice the amount of pasta that we needed, it turned out to be a delicious dinner.

My problem with most stuffed shell recipes is that they are almost flavorless, mostly consisting of ricotta, and very little spice.  In this recipe, I added ample amounts of my favorite herbs, and two flavorful cheeses to the traditional mixture to great success.

You could use your favorite pasta sauce, whether a homemade tomato or pesto, but I personally chose my favorite red pepper sauce from Pasta Shop in Rockridge.  I would recommend a light sauce like a tomato or red pepper to balance the rich shell filling.

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Stuffed Shells with Fresh Herbs
Filling

  • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme (chopped)
  • 1 Tbsp fresh oregano (chopped)
  • 2 cloves garlic (crushed)
  • ½ cup fresh basil (chopped)
  • 1 ½ cup Ricotta
  • ½ cup finely grated Gruyere
  • ¼ cup shaved Parmesan
  • ½ tsp salt

Shells

  • 16 oz pasta shells

Preferred Pasta Sauce, preferably tomato or red pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 300 degrees and bring a salted pot of water to a boil.  Combine the chopped herbs, garlic, and cheese in a large bowl and set aside.  Add shells to boiling water and cook until just al dente.  Run cold water over the shells in a colander before stuffing.  Spread a third of your sauce on the bottom of a large baking dish. Fill each shell with a small spoonful of the cheese and herb mixture. Place the filled shells in the baking dish and ladle remaining sauce on top, the shells should just be covered.  Bake in oven for 20 minutes on 300 then raise the temperature to 350 and cook for an additional 20 minutes, checking periodically. Shells are done when they are lightly golden brown on the edges and the sauce surrounding is bubbling.

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From Maddie giving me ideas for creating the best flavor combination, not to mention cooking with me in the kitchen the whole time, to Brendan and Shay stuffing the shells, this was entirely a team creation.

Despite forgetting the eggs and not having something to cover the shells with in the oven, they turned out fabulous. Because I made too much pasta and had extra sauce, Shay and I are enjoying some pasta with red pepper sauce for dinner tonight.  Here’s hoping all future culinary miscues produce such delicious results.  Until next week, Happy Meatless Monday!

Meatless Monday Will Return Next Monday

With the lovely but busy holiday weekend, I will be taking a very brief pause from posting, but Meatless Monday will be back next week with new recipes.  However, I will still be observing Meatless Monday tonight with a lovely salad and soup to go, completely vegetarian.   Thank you so much for continuing to follow us and we’ll look forward to sharing new recipes next week.

Meatless Monday: Quinoa Patties with Sautéed Leeks and Gruyere Cheese

This recipe was adapted from the amazing Heidi Swanson’s cookbook Super Natural Every Day, but I happened upon it on epicurious.  She also has a great baked version of the recipe on her blog

These patties are fairly easy to put together but are full of interpretative options.  I filled mine with the leftover combination of cheeses I used in a recent mac n’cheese (Irish cheddar, aged gouda, gruyere, and parmesan), sauted leeks, and fresh herbs.  You could easily do an Indian inspired version with garam masala, and cardamom or a greek one with mint, olives, and a tzatziki  dipping sauce, yum! The possibilities are endless.

I was inspired by Maddie’s recent “Quick Tip” for more flavorful pasta when cooking my quinoa. I cooked the quinoa in half water, half vegetable broth, with several sprigs of the fresh herbs I chopped into the patties.

Quinoa patties would make a great appetizer at your next party, or many meals to keep enjoying throughout the week.  I will admit that I’ve been so addicted, I have been eating them for almost every meal…for three days.

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Quinoa Patties with Sautéed Leeks and Gruyere Cheese 

  • 2 1/2 cups cooked quinoa, at room temperature
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
  • 1 tbs lemon thyme
  • 1 tbs fresh oregano
  • 2 tbs fresh basil
  • 1 sauted leek
  • 1/2 large red onion
  • 1/2 cup your favorite hard cheese, grated (suggest a combination of gruyere, parmesan, and cheddar)
  • 1 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 cup/3.5 oz /100 g whole grain bread crumbs, plus more if needed water, if needed
  • Cooking oil for pan frying

Combine cooked quinoa with eggs, and salt.  After eggs are well distributed throughout quinoa, add the fresh herbs, leeks, onion, cheese, and garlic.  Lastly mix the bread crumbs thoroughly and let the mixture sit for a few minutes so that bread crumbs fully absorb the moisture.  The final mixture should be able to be formed into patties but it needs to be as moist as possible without falling apart. If you need more moisture, add more beaten egg.  Alternatively, if the mixture is too moist, add more bread crumbs.

Pan fry in a little cooking oil until golden brown on each side, approximately 7-10 minutes per side, depending on the size of your patties. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce.

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I served the quinoa patties with my favorite mayonaise, Lemonaise, with ample amounts of lemon juice added (being the citrus addict that I am).

Whether you serve them at your next party, or get addicted like me and live off of them for days, I hope you enjoy these delicious patties.  Until next week, Happy Meatless Monday!

Meatless Monday: Soba Noodles with Cucumber and Green Onion

With addressing wedding invitations, and staying up into the wee hours to finish our wedding website, Sunday night dinner needed to be both quick, and something that would not leave us feeling awful the next day.  I remember nights as busy as this in college where I would go with my closest friends to Dennys and have cheese fries and a root beer floats at 1am.  Very healthy, right? The truth is, the reason so many of us Americans turn to “fast food” is that it is fast, easy, and inexpensive, but quick, healthier dinners are well within our reach at home, and can be just as satisfying. My current, much healthier alternative, to the fast food of my past is soba noodles.

Soba noodles are just like quinoa or pasta: A backdrop for endless possibilities of accompaniments and flavor combinations.  On a night where I need the comfort of carbs, but would like something healthier and faster than traditional spaghetti, soba is my go-to choice.  The mild nutty flavor of soba pairs beautifully with shoyu or a mild vinegar, such as rice or white balsamic.  You can also use a store bought soba sauce, or make your own, some people even love just a little bit of sesame oil.  Last night, I put together a simple citrus, Japanese inspired dressing.

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Soba Noodles with Cucumber and Green Onion

  • 2 tbs sesame oil
  • 2 tbs Shoyu
  • Juice from half a lemon
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • ½ tsp Hoisin sauce
  • Salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste
  • 5 green onions, chopped
  • 1 cucumber, quartered
  • 2 servings soba noodles, approximately 5 oz
  • Sesame seeds for sprinkling
  • A handful of arugula per portion (optional)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Prepare the dressing by combining the first 5 ingredients, and taste.  Add salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes as needed.  Place soba noodles in boiling water for 4 minutes while you prepare the green onions and cucumber.  Once soba noodles are just under done, drain and rinse in cold water to keep from continuing to cook.  Once noodles are fully drained, combine cucumber, green onion, and soba in a large bowl.  Dress and add additional salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes as needed.  Add a small handful of sesame seeds for crunch and arugula as desired.

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This is one of those incredibly easy vegetarian meals that is satisfying and gives all of us the opportunity to be creative.  Next time I may try it with avocado and soy beans, or perhaps even some mango.  I, personally, am grateful for easy, delicious, satisfying dishes like this that I can throw together on a busy night, instead of going to Denny’s at 1am. Until next time, Happy Meatless Monday!

Meatless Monday: Burrata, Asparagus, and Mint Pasta

Many of my friends tell me they are too busy to cook, especially during the week. In honor of them, and of people like me, who have found 2012 to be way more busy than they expected, here is a quick and delicious Spring pasta.

For those of you who have not experienced the culinary delight that is Burrata, it’s Mozarella mixed with cream, which creates this rich, soft cheese with a hint of sweetness. It makes a wonderful addition to pastas, salads, roasted vegetables, almost anything, really. In this pasta, I paired it with some steamed asparagus and lemon zest, which complemented the sweetness and richness of the Burrata well.

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Burrata, Asparagus, and Mint Pasta

1 bunch of asparagus trimmed and cut diagonally into inch long pieces

8 oz of favorite pasta

Zest of 2 meyer lemons

Salt. ground pepper, and red chili pepper flakes to taste

2 tablespoons of mint finely chopped

Parmesan cheese for sprinkling

2 spoon fulls of Burrata

Boil pasta water with ample amounts of salt, and prepare the other ingredients. Place a steam basket in another pot and fill approximately 2 inches with water. Place pasta in boiling water and asparagus pieces in steam basket. Cook the asparagus pieces until just tender, depending on thickness, 3-6 minutes. Cook the pasta until al dente, both pasta and asparagus should be slightly under done because they will cook more once combined. Combine cooked pasta, and asparagus in a warm pot (the one you used to cook the pasta) and drizzle with olive oil. Mix in lemon zest, salt, ground pepper, and red chili pepper flakes. Lastly mix in mint and desired amount of Parmesan cheese. Once individual portions are served, add a small spoon full of Burrata to each plate.

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If you wanted to do a lighter version of this dish, simply leave off the Burrata. The mint, lemon, and Parmesan make a lovely flavor combination on their own. Me, personally, I would never say no to Burrata, it’s the perfect ingredient to dress up a quick and easy week night dinner.

Until next week, Happy Meatless Monday!

Meatless Monday: Easy Mini Quiche Recipe

Stuffed Dates and Mini Quiches

Stuffed Dates and Mini Quiches

This weekend, I was privileged enough to celebrate Gabrielle’s upcoming nuptials with a fantastic group of ladies. Now, what happens at a bachelorette party stays at the party, but one thing I can speak to is the food — because I made it. Okay, not all of it. For dinner proper, we had a beautiful prix-fixe designed especially for us by the friendly folks at First Crush, but there was a good stretch of activity before dinner, for which we needed fuel. And I spent all day Friday (and Saturday morning) making sure we had that fuel, in the most delicious and convenient packages possible.

These mini quiches are ideal for party finger food, as I served them, or simply as a handy on-the-go breakfast, lunch, or dinner. (You all know from my passion for muffins how much I love food you can easily grab and go.) They’re also a great source of protein for those of us who choose to intentionally eat vegetarian regularly — whether it be Meatless Monday or not!

The fact that they’re incredible easy to make, as well as transport, is not to be undervalued either. When you’ve got several dishes to knock out, a simple but elegant appetizer like this is a godsend. Whereas I would normally make my own crust, cut out circles, prebake, and so on, I cut corners (but not flavor) by using the organic herbed ciabatta rolls found in my local co-op’s small frozen section. You can customize the recipe by using whatever rolls you prefer, along with your favorite vegetables and seasonings.

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Quick Mini Quiche Recipe

Makes 16 muffin-sized quiches.

  • 1 package small frozen rolls (at least 8 rolls)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/8 tsp fennel seeds
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 medium onion
  • small bunch rainbow chard, or other wilt-able greens
  • splash of balsamic vinegar
  • 2 bell peppers
  • 1 cup low-fat or skim milk
  • 4 large eggs (free range/organic, if possible!)
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp ground mustard
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Bake your frozen rolls according to the package’s instructions, and set aside to cool. Preheat your oven to 375°F for the baking of the finished quiches. Then, prep your veggie ingredients. Chop and lightly sauté the onion garlic in olive oil with fennel seeds. Add your greens and as they wilt, add a splash of balsamic vinegar and cook, stirring frequently, until all excess vinegar is evaporated. I also made fire-roasted bell peppers (click for how-to), but you could easily throw them (or almost anything else) into the sauté pan with your onion and greens.

Next, mix your quiche filling. Whisk together milk, eggs, paprika, mustard, salt, pepper, and thyme.

To assemble your quiches, spray two muffin tins with non-stick spray. (If you want to present your quiches in cupcake papers as I did, you will do that after baking, when they are already holding their shapes.) Cut your rolls in half and place one half in the bottom of each muffin cup. Sprinkle half of your Parmesan over each “crust,” then distribute your vegetables evenly over that. Pour egg mixture over each, and bake for 15 minutes, then sprinkle remaining Parmesan and bake an additional 5 minutes.

Let cool, then transfer each quiche into the festive cupcake papers of your choice!

dividerPretty easy for a fancy party appetizer, right? The best part of it all is, you can use whatever veggies you have on hand. No more excuses for letting that spinach go bad in the fridge. No more ordering in because you think you don’t have a vehicle for the ingredients on hand. I give you: the Quiche That Cures Many (If Not All) Ills.

Bachelorette fare: Lemon drop shots, stuffed dates, and mini quiches

Bachelorette fare: Lemon drop shots, stuffed dates, and mini quichesSpecial Preview...

 

Special Preview…

Coming this week on Foodies: Gourmet lemon drop jello shots in lemon rind wedges!  They look just like lemon slices, but taste just like your favorite citrus cocktail!

Baby Lima Bean and Blood Orange Salad

With the warm weather we have been enjoying in the last few days, I have been on a salad kick.  I love salads, they are a wonderful backdrop for a variety of ingredients and allow for culinary creativity. The trick with salads as main courses is packing in some protein so that you get full and have enough nutrients.

This particular salad was derived from one of my favorite Bruschetta recipes, which I originally found on Epicurious. The Bruschetta is made of up a fava bean dip, spread on toasted bread, and a blood orange salad on top.  Last night, I decided to put baby lima beans in a salad with blood orange slices and dressing, and topped with avocado and sourdough baguette pieces.

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Baby Lima Bean and Blood Orange Salad

  • 1 1/4 cups frozen double-peeled lima beans (about one 14-ounce bag), thawed
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 blood oranges
  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
  • 5 ounces Arugula
  • 1 Avocado
  • 6-8 Slices of Sourdough Bread (optional)

If not already thawed, soak frozen lima beans in warm water. Prepare blood oranges: Grate the zest from one orange, juice enough to get 3 tbs, and cut the rind and white pieces off of two, to get several small sections of the fruit itself.  Combine the juice, zest, and garlic in a large bowl.  Add the white balsamic and olive oil, and whisk together until fully combined.

Once beans are fully thawed, heat them and 1 cup water in a medium sauce pan on high heat until water is bowling. Reduce heat to medium and cook until just tender, approximately 10 minutes total. Drain beans and place them in a separate container to cool. Meanwhile, toss the arugula in the prepared dressing. Slice avocado into long, thin pieces, and prepare baguette into 1 inch slices.  Once beans are room temperature, add them to the arugula mixture and toss. Add orange pieces.

Serve with avocado on top and bread on the plate.

dividerShay and I both found this salad a delicious balance of flavors with the blood orange and the garlic, but also filling with the avocado and the beans.  While I will admit that it has similarities to my last salad post, just try the combination of white balsamic, blood orange juice, and garlic, I bet you’ll want to use it in everything too. Happy Meatless Monday!

Meatless Monday: Tofu Salad with Blood Orange Sesame Vinaigrette

In my quest to discover and invent delicious, healthy recipes, I have come to love tofu.  I used to think that it was bland, cardboard-like, or when uncooked, an undesirable texture. But as I have started to experiment, it’s really amazing how much you can do with tofu.  While I know I have only scratched the surface of tofu possibilities, one my favorite things to do with it is to lightly brown it.  It takes almost no time at all, and will take on the flavors that you cook it with.

In this recipe, I browned tofu on top of a bed of arugula and other mixed greens with a few of my favorite salad additions.   The toppings combinations are endless, but I found the crunch of cucumber, and green onion with the soft avocado made a lovely texture combination. The blood orange juice is a nice alternative to the usual suspects in a Japanese inspired dressing, but in a pinch, orange or lemon juice would also provide a nice balance to the sesame oil and white balsamic vinegar.

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Tofu Salad with Blood Orange Sesame Vinaigrette

  • Juice from 1.5 medium sized blood orange
  • 2 tbs sesame oil
  • 1 large garlic clove pressed
  • 2 tbs “shoyu” (unpasteurized soy sauce)
  • 2 inch chunk of ginger grated
  • 2 tbs White balsamic vinegar
  • pinch of paprika
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • salt and ground pepper to taste
  • 1 tbs Canola or other cooking oil
  • 2 14oz packs of extra firm tofu
  • 1 large bag of arugula or other desired salad green
  • 1 bunch of green onions, finely sliced
  • 1 cucumber, sliced in thin rounds and then halved
  • 1 avocado diced
  • 1 small handful of sesame seeds (optional)

Whisk together the first nine ingredients in a large bowl; taste and season as needed.  Prepare cucumber, avocado and green onion and set aside.  Remove excess moisture from tofu and slice into 1/2 inch pieces. Place the cooking oil, with salt and pepper in a large saute pan and bring to medium heat.  Saute tofu until golden brown on both sides *NOTE depending on size of saute pan, may need to cook tofu in multiple batches.  Meanwhile, toss the salad greens, green onions, cucumber, and avocado in the large bowl with the salad dressing.  Once the tofu has reached the desired color on both sides, remove from heat and cool for a few minutes. Add the room temperature tofu to the salad mixture and toss until all ingredients are evenly coated. Add sesame seeds last on individual portions.

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If you like this salad but want to try something different next time, instead of sauteing the tofu, caramelize it.  There really are so many ways to do tofu well.  So if your only experience of tofu so far has been as a bland, mushy, inferior meat substitute, give this recipe a try and see if you too become a tofu convert.  Happy Meatless Monday!!

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