Vegan Tacos with Guacamole and Corn Relish

Okay, confession time: I did not intend for these tacos to be vegan. I forgot cheese at the grocery store, and like Tim Gunn, not to mention every chef, I had to make it work.  Despite this lapse in cognitive function (I mean, me of all people, forgetting cheese!) the flavors came together quite nicely.

Tacos open up a world of possibilities. You can make them at any time of year, with whatever veggies are in season. I’ve been wanting to do veggie tacos for a while, and love using mushrooms as a meat substitute.  I chose chanterelles and crimini mushrooms, but you really could use any variety. Maddie has inspired me to work on texture combinations, and I have to say, the sauted mushrooms, crunchy corn, and creamy guacamole made for a winning mixture.

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Corn Relish:                                    

2 ears of corn roasted, kernels cut off from core

1 red onion, sliced into 1/4 inch pieces

3 medium sized heirloom tomatoes, diced into bite sized pieces

2 cloves of garlic crushed

1 tbs balsamic vinegar

Guacamole:

3 ripe avocados

1/2 red onion

A handful of fresh parsley finely chopped

3 small gloves of garlic

Juice from 3 limes

1 tsp agave nectar

1/2-1 tsp green chili pepper, finely chopped

Tacos:

3 handfuls mushrooms of your choice

2 cloves of garlic, diced

6 corn tortillas

Arugula

Preheat the oven to 420 degrees.  Meanwhile, carmelize your onion by placing a tablespoon of oil into a saute pan, and cooking your onion pieces on low heat for 45-50 minutes, stirring frequently.  While your onions are cooking, cut your tomatoes and roast the two ears of corn until just tender (about 30-40 minutes depending on your oven). While you can combine the ingredients for the corn relish in any order, I prefer to let the tomatos and the garlic sit in the bowl together first before adding the other ingredients. Once your onions are tender and lightly golden brown, combine the remaining ingredients for the corn relish and set aside.

Mix the avocados, red onion, parsley, garlic, and lime juice in a medium sized bowl.  Add agave and the green pepper pieces. Taste and adjust flavors as needed. Set aside.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a medium sized saute pan on medium heat. Add mushrooms and cook until they look moist. Add garlic and cook until mushrooms are just starting to brown on the edges. Meanwhile, heat the tortillas. Once the mushrooms are done and the tortillas heated, plate all componants as desired.

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Despite giving a bad name to cheese lovers everywhere by forgetting the “most important ingredient”, this vegan experiment turned out quite well and I look forward to trying other types of veggie tacos in the near future…and there WILL be cheese.

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!!

Whole Wheat Chocolate-Orange Muffins with Raspberries

We’ve all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But really, who has time to make scrambled eggs with whole grain toast and fresh fruit salad every morning? I return once more to the muffin, God’s gift to the working (wo)man. The challenge remains, to pack as much nutrition as possible into a handy grab-and-go package.

Healthy Chocolate-Orange Muffin

Healthy Chocolate-Orange Muffin

What you want at breakfast is something thats going to sustain you, body and mind, through the first big push of your day. From a nutritional standpoint, protein will keep you feeling full longer, but the mental aspect of satiation is just as important. Studies show that people who plan something sweet into their day are less likely to overindulge than those who restrict themselves. Whole wheat flour and fat-free cottage cheese provide the protein you need for fuel, while the richness of dark cocoa is sure to stave off your chocolate cravings, sprinkled with refreshing pockets of tart raspberry fruitiness. (more…)

Low-Fat Banana Bread Recipe

As you may have read, Maddie’s zucchini bread started a revelation for me: Dessert can be reasonably healthy AND delicious(!!!). I have friends who do not need dessert and can give it up for months at a time. Let’s be clear: I can’t do that. I have dessert way more often than I probably should, so this discovery that it can be delicious and healthy enough to have several times a week was extremely exciting.

Sometimes, Shay buys more bananas than he can consume in a week. On one such occasion last week, as the bananas were starting to get a little soft, I decided to try out Maddie’s zucchini bread recipe but with bananas and a few minor changes. Instead of half white flour and half whole wheat, I used my new latest obsession: whole wheat pastry flour. Seriously folks, those who have not tried it, jump on the band wagon, you won’t be sorry.

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Lemon Custard Cakes – An Easy & Elegant Dessert

When Brendan and I bought our first house a little over a year ago, there were a few major selling points.  One, if you recall, was a stove with gas burners for fire-roasting peppers.  Another was the big back yard, complete with a fully-mature lemon tree.

Serving lemon custard cakes

Yes, I'm wearing a tiara. It wasn't my idea.

I was already famous (among friends) for my lemon bars, but living with such easy access to fresh lemons, I’ve had a chance to experiment with other delectable citrus desserts.  One of my very favorites has to be these individually-sized lemon custard cakes.  They’re super simple to make, but come off as incredibly impressive due to their delicate texture — top half smooth and custardy, bottom half almost soufflé-like in consistency.  I first served them on New Year’s Eve 2010 (the first we spent in this house) to none other than Gabrielle and Shay, in an epic celebration that lasted until almost 5 am.  And yes, I’ve had them since.  And yes, they’re every bit as good without a stomach full of Champagne.

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Low-Fat Pumpkin Cheesecake Recipe

Having just made both apple and pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving, I decided to avoid pie altogether when Christmas rolled around.  I settled on the idea of making a pumpkin cheesecake, so that my sister (an avid pumpkin pie lover) would not feel deprived, but I wouldn’t need to be bored in my baking either.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Pumpkin Cheesecake (with candied orange garnish)

I browsed half-a-dozen recipes online and considered the pitfalls of cheesecake making.  The problem with many cheesecakes, in my opinion, is they are too heavy; it feels almost like eating a block of solid cream cheese, in terms of density.  Pumpkin is a wonderful ingredient for lightening up rich recipes, so we’re halfway there already.  But I was disappointed with the relatively small amount of pumpkin called for in many of the recipes, and astounded at the amount of cream cheese others called for.  (Three8-oz packages, Paula Deen?)  So, once again, I found myself improvising.  I know you’re all surprised.

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Whole Wheat Pumpkin-Spice Squash Muffins (Another Almost-Fat-Free Recipe)

Healthy Squash Muffins

Healthy Squash Muffins

Breaking my toe has really put a damper on my baking recently.  Today, the withdrawals became too much to bear, and against my better judgement, I hobbled to the kitchen, preheated the oven, and scoured the kitchen for something out of which to make muffins.

As it turned out, I didn’t need to look far.  Finding half of a leftover roasted acorn squash from dinner last week, I was immediately inspired to create a pumpkin-pie-spiced squash muffin recipe.  With the mashed squash and a little unsweetened applesauce, there was no need to add any additional oil or butter, so like my zucchini bread recipe, the only fat these muffins contain is from the eggs.  I made them 100% whole wheat, but they’d come out beautifully with white flour too, if that’s what you prefer.

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Pomegranate Chicken with Roasted Root Vegetables

Pomegranate chicken with polenta, spinach, and roasted root vegetables

Pomegranate chicken with polenta, spinach salad, and roasted root vegetables

A few weeks ago, Gabrielle complained to me of an attempt to make pomegranate chicken.  It wasn’t bad, she said, it just wasn’t pomegranate-y enough.  So I set out to create an easy recipe that would give her the flavor kick she was looking for.  The dish turned out deliciously, and accompanied by creamy polenta, fresh spinach, and roasted root vegetables, it made a pretty perfect autumn meal.

In this case, I used beets and carrots (and a stray turnip that somehow made it into our groceries), but you could use whatever root veg you prefer.

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