Apple Brussels Sprout Hash

Sprouty in the Summertime

Summer is here, and you know what that means – I’m back in the kitchen! woohoo! (I just spent way too much time deliberating whether to go with my traditional and standard “woohoo” or mix it up with a “woop woop.” It’s definitely summertime).

To kick off my most favorite of seasons, I decided to do something daring: try Brussels sprouts (again).

I know, I know. I can hear the groans from here. But so many of my favorite veggie food bloggers insist that Brussels sprouts are to die for when prepared properly. It’s not that I haven’t tried. I spent a good year trying different recipes in search of one that would make the adorable little sprout-balls enjoyable, and I did find a couple I could tolerate, until I came across a disastrous sprout experience that swore me off of them for the past 2 years.

Here’s the thing: Brussels sprouts are crazy nutritious, and contain sulforaphane, which has some mad anti-cancer properties – particularly if you steam or stir-fry the sprouts. (Boiling reduces the anti-cancer properties). They also contain a chemical that boosts cellular DNA repair and blocks cancer cell growth.

I’d say that Brussels sprouts are too good to be true, but they’re not! If only we could find ways to make them palatable so that we eat them!

If you’ve put off your search for a tasty Brussels sprout recipe, you can sleep easy tonight, because I found The One. This recipe turns Brussels sprouts into a sweet, tasty side dish. I enjoyed mine alongside a spinach and grilled cheese sandwich (I’m on a sprouted grain bread kick, but that’s a story for another day). It was absolutely delicious. I would not lie to you about such serious things as Brussels sprouts.

If you fancy yourself a Brussels sprouts hater, you just might want to give them one more trip down the aisle. There’s a whole lot of happily ever after going on over here!

You can find the original recipe on Herbivoracious. Here’s my adaptation:

Apple Brussels Sprout Hash

by Shelly

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients (2-3 servings)

  • 1 tbsp Earth Balance
  • 1/3 of a medium onion, diced
  • 1 crisp apple (such as a Pink Lady), cored, and diced (peeling optional)
  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, cleaned, trimmed, and quartered
  • 2 fresh sage leaves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp minced fresh rosemary
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp honey
  • salt, to taste

Instructions

Melt Earth Balance in a large skillet over medium heat. Dice the onion and add it to the skillet with a pinch of salt. Cook until the onion starts to brown, about 4 minutes.

While the onion cooks, core and dice the apple. Add the diced apple to the skillet. Raise the heat slightly and cook until the apple starts to brown, about 2 minutes. Stir occasionally.

While the apple cooks, trim and quarter the Brussels sprouts. Add the Brussels sprouts, sage, rosemary, and a generous pinch of salt. Cook until sprouts are wilted and well browned, 10-12 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Remove from heat and add the vinegar and honey. Stir to coat. Taste for seasonings and adjust as necessary. Serve hot.

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Tofu Dippers with Avocado Ranch Sauce

Happy New Year! Have Some Tofu!

Happy New Year, everybody!

With the new year comes resolutions, and one of mine is definitely to cook more (and blog about it!) I got in some early practice today and made my favorite tofu dish to date: Tofu Dippers.

Tofu Dippers with Avocado Ranch Sauce

Tofu Dippers with Avocado Ranch Sauce

Tofu takes some practice, both in preparation and in appreciation. A bad tofu experience can make it difficult to appreciate this versatile wonder-food. Yes, I just called tofu a wonder-food. It really can be! One thing that has definitely helped me is the Tofu XPress (tofu press). It’s so much easier than the old stack-books-on-a-plate-on-top-of-towels-on-the-tofu method. Properly pressed tofu is the key to it absorbing all of the goodness of marinades, as well as to keeping it firm and not mushy.

In this case, my dear friend tofu appeals to two of my favorite food styles: finger-foods, and dip-able things. Preparation was not nearly as messy as I had anticipated, and the result was so good that… well, I ate the entire block of tofu in one sitting. Whoops. Who needs side dishes, anyway?

I served my tofu dippers with an avocado ranch sauce (from page 38 of Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day) – basically, a dipping sauce of avocado, vegan mayo, parsley, thyme, and dill. But they would be just as awesome with ketchup or regular ranch dressing.

Without further adieu, here is the recipe:

Tofu Dippers

by Shelly

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 25-30 minutes

Keywords: bake appetizer entree vegetarian tofu

Ingredients (2-4 servings)

  • 1 block of extra firm tofu, pressed
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 tablespoon garlic salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 eggs, beaten, or equivalent egg whites/egg beaters

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Mix together bread crumbs, garlic salt, and chili powder.

Prep the dipping station with 3 shallow bowls. First bowl: corn starch. Second bowl: eggs. Third bowl: bread crumb mixture.

Slice tofu into 1/4 inch thick pieces.

Dip each tofu slice into the corn starch, then the eggs, then the bread crumbs. Tip: keep your left hand as a “dry” hand to grab the tofu and dip it in the corn starch. Then use your right hand as a “wet” hand to dip the tofu into the eggs and bread crumbs.

Set each breaded slice onto a baking sheet lined with parchment or lightly oiled/sprayed.

Bake at 400F for 20 minutes, then flip tofu and bake an additional 5-10 minutes. Breading should be lightly browned.

Serve with your favorite dipping sauce.

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Not Epic but Pretty Good

Don’t you hate it when a recipe sounds epic and you slave away in the kitchen to prepare it, only to find that it’s just OK?

I suppose OK is better than awful.

I was pretty excited to try out this Pesto Veggie Gratin recipe from “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian,” and was even more excited that it called for goat cheese (which I discovered via an appetizer at Mas Tapas in Charlottesville and recreated at home via this Artichoke and Goat Cheese Dip). I think goat cheese is delicious when I’m on the non-vegan bandwagon… sorry, goats. At least I don’t eat you…

The recipe called for couscous, pesto (another obsession of mine… see The Magic of Pesto for my favorite pesto recipe), asparagus, goat cheese, and another vegetable (I chose a yellow squash). Sounds epic, right?

Pesto Veggie Gratin

Pesto Veggie Gratin

Looks pretty epic, right?

I must admit one instance of user error in preparing this recipe: I mistook scallions for shallots (I always get those two mixed up). I should’ve used shallots, but instead, I used green onions. So maybe there was a flavor depth thing missing.

The dish wasn’t bad. It was just a little bland… until I dolloped on more pesto! Next time, I’ll just add more pesto to the sauce and I think it’ll cross over into greatness, if not epicness.

Pesto Veggie Gratin plate

Pesto Veggie Gratin plate

So, chins up, people! They can’t all be epic meals… but one can dream!

The Deal with Eggs

I bought eggs last week.

I hear you now. You’re shrieking, “Whaaaat???!!”

I’ve always said that if I could only give up eating one thing – eggs, dairy, or meat – it would be eggs. The factory farming for eggs just seems to me the most cruel of all. It doesn’t hurt that I’ve never been much of an egg person to begin with.

But I had a veggie dish last week at the local Thai place, and it had eggs in it. The week before that, I ate eggs via the limited selection at a hotel continental breakfast. As I walked through the food co-op recently, I spied eggs and wanted them. So I bought them.

They’re local Shenandoah Valley free range eggs, but eggs nonetheless.

I’ve also always said that if I could walk up to the hen that laid my eggs and say, “Hey, buddy!” and know that she was laying them through nature’s course, living in a happy place, I’d have no problem eating eggs.

For now, I’m OK with these particular eggs.

I’ve been making green onion and dill scrambled eggs, and it might be the most delicious egg concoction ever. With the savory twist, I find that these eggs make a great side for lunch or dinner.

Scrambled Eggs with Green Onion & Dill

by Shelly

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Keywords: griddle breakfast side vegetarian eggs green onion

Ingredients (1-2 servings)

  • 3 small eggs
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • dash salt
  • dash pepper
  • pinch of dried dill
  • Earth Balance or nonstick cooking spray

Instructions

1. Preheat a skillet with Earth Balance or nonstick cooking spray.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together ingredients.

3. Pour into skillet and stir frequently until eggs are set.

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Butternut Squash Mac n Cheeze

Post Punk Kitchen recently posted their top 100 foodie things of 2011. This recipe from Oh She Glows made the list: Butternut Squash Mac n’ Cheeze.

I’m no stranger to vegan cheeze substitutes. Most, well, don’t taste like cheese (except for my beloved Daiya!). I happened to have a butternut squash laying around, though, so I decided to give this one a go.

Butternut Squash Mac n Cheeze

Butternut Squash Mac n Cheeze

This recipe made a nice, creamy sauce, and it was tasty – but it didn’t really taste like cheese. It was more like squash and garlic. Still, it made for a good side dish, and fit the bill for warm, winter-time comfort food. I’d probably like it better if it didn’t claim to resemble cheeze. I understand the need for a more whole-foods version of the ol’ mac and cheese recipe, though, so this works.

Note that the recipe makes a TON of sauce, so you will have extra sauce to put on veggies or other things throughout the week. You could almost fill a swimming pool with it.

Purple Cauliflower

Purple Cauliflower

Your eyes are not deceiving you. This isn’t some wacky Photoshop hack.

Purple Cauliflower

Purple Cauliflower

I was wandering through the last few days of the fall market at the Harrisonburg Farmers Market when I came across a booth with… purple cauliflower? I asked the farmer, “What is this purple cauliflower?” and he replied, “Well, it’s purple cauliflower!” I was expecting some sort of bizarre answer, after my encounters with alien cauliflower, but no. It was just purple cauliflower. According to Wikipedia:

Purple color in cauliflower is caused by the presence of the antioxidant group anthocyanins, which can also be found in red cabbage and red wine.[9] Varieties include ‘Graffiti’ and ‘Purple Cape’.

Excellent! But what would I do with it?

I decided to follow the same path as I did with the romanesco cauliflower; I boiled it.

Purple Cauliflower, boiling

Purple Cauliflower, boiling

Holy cow – that was fun!

Then, I mixed it with some Daiya mozzarella and unsweetened soymilk and turned it into cheesy purple cauliflower.

Cheesy Purple Cauliflower

Cheesy Purple Cauliflower

And while this was cheesy right off the spoon, it was even more delicious when I started dunking hunks of crusty bread into it.

I will miss the awesome produce of the farmers market through the winter. The market does continue through the winter here, but finding local, seasonal produce becomes less and less likely. Just one more reason to look forward to spring!

Creamy Avocado Potato Salad

Creamy Avocado Potato Salad

I’ve never liked potato salad. I don’t know why; I love potatoes, and have always been a pretty big mayo fan. Potato salad always seemed gross to me, though. Maybe my judgement stemmed from a food poisoning incident in 1998, whereby my entire family (including my father, who was undergoing chemotherapy at the time) got sick after eating potato salad at a graduation party. (It was one of the largest food poisoning outbreaks in Illinois history, sickening over 1,800 people in the south and southwest suburbs of Chicago). At any rate, I’ve never been a potato salad fan.

What was I going to do, then, with the giant bag of local Virginia potatoes I’d just purchased at the farmers market?

I sat down with my stack of cookbooks to seek a solution to the problem of my overabundant potatoes and stumbled upon – what’s this? Potato salad made of guacamole?!

Yes, Isa is a genius. Enter: Creamy Avocado Potato Salad. This one is featured in her book, Vegan Brunch.

I didn’t have any plum tomatoes, so I used a couple tablespoons of oil-packed sundried tomatoes. I also skipped the optional cayenne. Otherwise, I followed the recipe, and it was delicious!

Creamy Avocado Potato Salad

Creamy Avocado Potato Salad

Isa mentioned that it should be served immediately, due to the inevitable browning of the avocado, but really, mine wasn’t all that urgent. As leftovers the next day, it still looked pretty good, and the day after that, still not bad. It obviously looks the best when it’s fresh, but don’t let the warning deter you.

This is a very fresh-tasting twist on an old favorite. Loved it!

Veggie Burger and Cheezy Bacon Romanesco

Cheezy Bacon Romanesco

Today, I bring to you another example of just how messed up the US processed food industry is:

BacOs are vegan.

Yeah, BacOs, like, bacon bits – there’s no bacon in them.

(Note: vegan does not equal healthy. They’re made with genetically modified soy and a bunch of chemical crap… but they sure do remind me of my youth, and that tends to lead to some good tasting eats).

I picked up another alien (aka romanesco) cauliflower at the farmers market and was trying to figure out what to do with it. The onset of chilly fall weather has me clamoring for comfort food, so I decided to turn my Christmas Tree Veggie into cheezy bacon cauliflower.

I boiled the romanesco cauliflower for 5 minutes or so, then drained it and combined it with some Daiya cheddar, soymilk, and BacOs.

It was a glorious way to eat my veggies!

Veggie Burger and Cheezy Bacon Romanesco

Veggie Burger and Cheezy Bacon Romanesco

Paired with a poor-man’s veggie burger (I was out of buns!)

So good.

Roasted Green Bean Fries

Roasted and Grilled

Vegan MoFo Week 1, wrapping up! Here goes…

It’s recommended that we eat 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables daily (which would translate roughly to 3-5 servings of veggies and 2-4 servings of fruits daily). Suffice it to say, most people don’t eat that much produce in a day. Me – well, I almost always hit 5 per day (though sometimes with 3 fruits and 2 veggies), and often hit 6 or 7 servings a day. It takes a little work, though!

Where do I sneak in the veggies? My staple 2-servings come in the form of a giant bowl of greens every day, often with some extras in there – carrots, red peppers, cucumber, etc. Beyond that, I’ve got to make a little extra effort. The easiest way for me to sneak in more veggies is via side dishes.

Enter: roasting and grilling.

This past year, I’ve added 2 devices to my kitchen arsenal that have become invaluable in my attempts to get more veggies on my plate. They are the Griddler grill/panini press, and the KitchenAid countertop convection oven. Let’s face it – when you have to fire up the giant oven just to roast a few broccoli stalks, it just rarely seems worth it. My countertop toaster/convection oven preheats nearly instantly and makes it super-easy to bake and roast things without waiting for preheating or heating up the whole house.

Of course, you can always throw some veggies in the microwave and steam them, but personally, I find the flavors from grilling and roasting to be so much more delicious and satisfying.

These days, I’ll grill or roast just about any veggie. Butternut squash, broccoli, asparagus, green beans, kale – you name it, and I’ve probably tried to roast or grill it. My go-to’s are asparagus, broccoli, and green beans. I have fresh produce of one of those 3 in my fridge at all times, and will grab one or two of them to fill half of my plate at dinnertime every day.

Asparagus!

Asparagus!

Asparagus works best on the grill. Break off the rough ends, spray with a little olive oil, sprinkle with your favorite seasoning (I either go bare with salt/pepper, or use some Perfect Pinch veggie seasoning), and grill on medium for 4 minutes or so – until the asparagus is bright green and just starting to get grill marks.

Asparagus on the Grill

Asparagus on the Grill

My other new favorite is roasted green beans. Trim the ends, spray with some olive oil, and toss with your favorite seasonings (again, salt and pepper work well – but I often throw in some garlic powder too), and roast at 425F for 12-15 minutes. I eat ’em like french fries!

Roasted Green Bean Fries

Roasted Green Bean Fries

The rules for grilling/roasting most veggies are about the same, but if you like more hard-and-fast guidelines, google is your friend for temps and times. Most good all-purpose cookbooks have roasting guidelines in the front too (like Veganomicon). I usually just throw stuff in at 400-425F and check it after 10 minutes or so, adjusting till it looks good!

So, no more excuses for why you can’t get all of your veggie servings in each day. Eat a big ol’ salad every day, and fill half of your plate with veggies at dinner and, you’re there!

Ginger Mashed Sweet Potatoes & Apples

Oh Beautiful for Sweet Potatoes

.. for amber waves of grain…

OK, fine. I have no idea what spacious skies and sweet potatoes have in common, except that both make me happy.

The Vegan Month of Food marches on! I whipped (mashed?) up another side dish from my girl Isa – Ginger Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Apples. (Again with the apples? Yup. I got a great deal on a big ol’ bag of local Virginia red delicious preciouses!) You can find the recipe in the Appetite for Reduction cook book (preview available on Google Books – Ginger Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Apples).

Ginger Mashed Sweet Potatoes & Apples

Ginger Mashed Sweet Potatoes & Apples

This one is like having dessert for dinner – but it’s totally allowable! Sweet potatoes are literally one of the best foods you can eat. They’re a nutritional powerhouse – carotenoids, vitamin C, potassium, fiber – good stuff! It is not unusual to be able to get over 90% of your daily recommended vitamin A from a helping of sweet potatoes. They have great antioxidant properties, to boot. I could go on and on, but I’ll refrain. Just know that these tasty little tubers will rock your nutritional world.

If you’re looking for a subtly sweet, comfort-food-style side dish that won’t leave you starving for nutrients, turn to my friend, the sweet potato. Sing along, little spuds…

For purple mountain majesties….