Thursday, January 31, 2013

Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

I can't pass up the mint and chocolate combination. It has always been my favorite flavor for desserts even though I'm not normally a chocolate-lover. I make these cookies with white whole wheat flour, which is a lighter-tasting variety of whole wheat.

Fresh from the oven.
Cookie dough ready for the freezer.
Are you like me and eat way too many cookies when you make a batch? Try baking just what you need and freezing the rest so you can pop a couple in the oven when you have a craving or when the kids think they need cookies. Freeze tablespoon-sized scoops on parchment paper, then transfer to freezer bags or another container so you can just pull out a few scoops, defrost, and bake!
Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup non-dairy milk,
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp peppermint extract
2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

With a hand mixer, cream together sugars and coconut oil in a mixing bowl. Add non-dairy milk, cornstarch, and extracts and mix again. The coconut oil will harden if the milk isn't at room temperature, but don't worry about that. Sift in flour, salt, and baking soda and mix well. Fold in chocolate chips.

Drop dough by the tablespoon onto the cookie sheet. These cookies hold their shape well, so you may want to flatten them slightly. Bake for 10-12 minutes.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Eggplant Parmesan

I'm never quite sure what to do with eggplants when I buy them. They usually get turned into baba ganoush, but this eggplant called for something a bit more colorful. I decided to make a vegan Eggplant Parmesan. My husband was hesitant about it at first, since he has had some bad experiences with eggplant in the past, but he loved it, especially the cashew cheese sauce.

I have trouble with tomatoes because of reflux, so I substituted bell peppers for the tomatoes you normally find in Eggplant Parmesan. In addition, this is gluten-free and can be soy-free if you use chickpea miso. I baked the eggplant instead of frying it.

Eggplant Parmesan with saffron rice. The rice is from a box I found on sale since saffron isn't something I keep around my kitchen.
Eggplant Parmesan

1 medium eggplant, sliced into 3/8-1/2 inch rounds
1 red bell pepper, halved and seeded
1 green bell pepper, halved and seeded

1/2 cup water
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 cup raw cashews
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup roasted pumpkin seeds
1 1/2 tsp miso
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast

Preheat broiler on your oven. Place eggplant and bell pepper halves on a cookie sheet. Broil for 5 minutes, then flip over pieces and broil for another 3-5 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 400F. Lightly grease a large cake pan, then arrange the eggplant in a single layer on the bottom of the pan. Slice the bell peppers and lay them on top of the eggplant rounds.

Cashew cheese sauce - Put the water, nutritional yeast, cashews, lemon juice, onion powder, and salt in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour cashew mix over the peppers and eggplant.

Pumpkin seed Parmesan - Place pumpkin seeds, miso, and nutritional yeast in a food processor (I use a mini processor for small quantities like this) and pulse until a fine mixture forms. Sprinkle the pumpkin seed mixture over the vegetables.

Bake for 25 minutes, or until the cashew cheese is bubbly and the pumpkin Parmesan is lightly browned.

Arrange the broiled eggplant in a single layer on the bottom of a cake pan.  
Slice the bell peppers and lay them on top of the eggplant rounds.
Pour cashew cheese over the vegetables.
Sprinkle pumpkin seed Parmesan over everything.
Bake at 400F for 25 minutes.

Baby-Safe Vapor Rub

Commercial vapor rubs are full of things we really don't want to absorb into our bodies, ingest, or breathe in - petroleum, turpentine oil, and camphor. Additionally, these rubs are not safe for children under 2.

Since everyone in my house in congested right now, I decided I needed to make my own chest rub. Most of the recipes I found use beeswax, which was not an option for our vegan family. Many also contained oils such as peppermint and eucalyptus, which can cause laryngeal spasms in babies and toddlers. Peppermint oil can be a uterine stimulant in pregnant women when used topically or internally. Additionally, peppermint can reduce milk supply in lactating women.

This super-simple vapor rub recipe is subtly-scented, so don't expect the menthol blast you get from commercial rubs. It contains chamomile and lavender oils, which are suitable for all ages and have decongestant properties. The coconut oil melts on contact with the skin so it goes on easily. Make sure you use only pure essential oils and not perfume or potpourri oils.

Baby-Safe Vapor Rub

1/2 cup coconut oil
3-4 drops chamomile oil
3-4 drops lavender oil

Place all ingredients in a small bowl and whip with a hand mixer for 2-3 minutes. Spoon into a clean, dry jar and keep in a cool place.

Rub onto chest as needed and breathe deeply.

Aromatherapy Play Dough

We're still fighting illness around here. Turbokid was coughing all night, so I decided to make him some peppermint-scented play dough to help relieve the congestion. Since this made a huge batch, I split it to make nine different colors and scents. When Turbokid squeezes or kneads the dough, the scent is released.

Salt doughs and play doughs are the only thing I use bleached flour and cheap iodized salt for. The color of the dough isn't as light if I used unbleached and whole wheat is too coarse. This is a cooked dough, which has a smoother texture than no-cook doughs. Making this play dough will give you a bit of an arm workout between the stirring and kneading.

I only have five essential oils in my cabinet so far(lavender, lemon eucalyptus, chamomile, orange, and peppermint), so I experimented with coconut and vanilla extracts. The scent is more subtle with the extracts and you have to be careful not to use too much or the dough becomes sticky. You only need 2-3 drops of most essential oils to scent a ball of dough the size of a preschooler's fist.

Red - tension blend (lavender-chamomile-peppermint), natural white - vanilla extract, blue - peppermint, light purple - lavender-chamomile, orange - orange, green - lemon eucalyptus, brown - coconut extract, dark purple - lavender, yellow - chamomile
Aromatherapy Play Dough

2 cups bleached all-purpose flour
1 cup salt
1 Tbsp cream of tartar
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 cups warm water
food colorings
essential oils or extracts

Stir together flour, salt, and cream of tartar in a medium saucepan. add oil and water and mix well with a hand mixer, making sure there are no lumps.

Heat mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly. Cook until the dough forms a big ball and is no longer sticky. Remove from heat and allow the dough to cool until it is cool enough to handle.

Divide dough into desired number of colors. Knead sections and roll into balls. Make a depression in the center of a dough ball and drip in food colorings and essential oils. You only need a 2-3 drops of each to start with and you can easily add more to get your desired color and level of scent. Kneed the dough ball until the colors are well incorporated. Repeat with other dough balls, scents, and colors.

Store in an air-tight container between uses.

You can use any skin-safe essential oils you like. Peppermint is good for congestion, lavender and chamomile are good for stress, and citrus is energizing.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Onion Soup

Turbokid and I are both sick, so I brought out my favorite sick day recipe. I made this soup on a regular basis when I had hyperemesis gravidarum because it was one of the two things I could keep down at all (the other was Gatorade ice chips). It is gentle on the stomach, and good even when not sick. This is my simple comfort food and a vegan alternative to the omnivore's trusty chicken noodle soup.

Onion soup with Daiya grilled cheese.
Onion Soup

1 Tbsp olive oil
3 onions, sliced thin
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup flour
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
4 cups water
3 Tbsp tamari or soy sauce
1 tsp dried thyme

Heat oil in a large sauce pan. Saute onions and garlic in the oil until translucent. Add flour and nutritional yeast and stir until the onions are evenly coated. Add water, tamari, and thyme. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for about 10 minutes, until broth is slightly thickened.

Garnish with vegan cheese, scallions, and/or fresh herbs.

I usually make this soup with plain yellow onions, but it is especially good with sweet onions like Vidalias or Mauis.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Raw Coconut-Lime Cookie Balls

My current obsession is raw cookies. They are free of most allergens, quick to make, and a healthy snack to eat in the 3-second lull between group exercise classes and chasing two hyperactive toddlers. This is a variation of the versatile sunflower seed cookie I posted last week and they taste like Lara Bars. If you want a more Larabar-like bar, you can roll them flat and cut them before refrigerating instead of rolling them into balls.

Raw Coconut-Lime Cookie Balls

1/2 cup raw almonds
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup unsweetened dried coconut (plus more for rolling cookies in)
1 cup pitted dates
1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice
1 Tbsp coconut oil

Pulse almonds, seeds, and coconut in a food processor until a coarse flour forms. Add dates and pulse into the dates are well incorporated. Add the coconut oil and lime juice and process until a dough forms.

Roll 1/2 Tbsp-sized portions of dough into balls and roll the balls in shredded coconut, if desired. Refrigerate for a few hours to overnight, and store in fridge.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Spaghetti Squash and Fava Beans with Sunflower Pesto

Spaghetti squash is a great alternative to pasta if you're trying to avoid grains or simple carbohydrates. I often pair it with a tomato-based pasta sauce, but tonight I decided to raid the basil pots in my kitchen window and make pesto. I only got one cup worth of leaves from my poor, stripped little plants, so I decided to make a milder pesto by adding spinach. The first can of beans I pulled out of the pantry were fava beans, but you can substitute favas with any other bean you like.

Spaghetti Squash and Fava Beans with Sunflower Pesto

1 medium-sized spaghetti squash

1 cup fresh basil leaves
1 cup spinach
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 tsp salt

1 can fava beans, drained and rinsed
2 shallots, sliced thin
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp olive oil
pinch salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375F. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Place cut side down on a cookie sheet and bake for 45 minutes.

While the squash is baking, make the pesto. Place basil, spinach, sunflower seeds, nutritional yeast, olive oil, and salt in a food processor and process until smooth. The spinach may cause the pesto sauce to oxidize and turn a little darker, but this doesn't affect the flavor.

Heat 1 tsp of olive oil in a saute pan. Add shallots and mushrooms and saute for 3-4 minutes, until shallots are translucent. Add beans, salt, and pepper, and continue sauteing for another 1-2 minutes until beans are hot.

When the squash is done cooking, use a fork to separate the strands. Put squash on plates and spoon pesto and bean mixture on top. Mix the pesto into the squash before eating.

Serves about 3.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Raw Sunflower Seed Cookies

I've been experimenting with raw cookies for the last couple days. I don't have a dehydrator, so I needed to come up with a recipe that only required a food processor. I posted a variation of this recipe containing almonds and peanut butter on my Facebook page a couple days ago. This variation uses coconut and sunflower seed butter instead, so it's suitable for people with peanut or tree-nut allergies. They are also sugar-free and grain-free.

It is easy to make your own nut and seed butters by running roasted or raw nuts or seeds in a food processor, scraping down the sides frequently until a butter forms. Different ingredients take different amounts of time to process into butters. Sunflower seeds process in about 5 minutes, while almonds can take 10-20. Sesame seeds are low in oil so require a little added oil to turn into tahini. For this recipe, I used some homemade unsalted sunflower seed butter that needed to be used up.

Raw Sunflower Seed Cookies

1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes (or coconut flour)
1/2 cup unsalted sunflower seed butter
1 cup pitted dates
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Pulse the coconut in a food processor until it turns into a coarse flour. Add the sunflower butter, dates, and vanilla and process until the dates are incorporated and a dough-like mixture is formed. If the mixture isn't sticky enough to form a soft dough, add another tablespoon of sunflower butter and process again. Using your hands, form dough into balls. Flatten slightly into a cookie shape. Refrigerate for a few hours to overnight and enjoy.

Green (and Red and Black) Curry

I recently discovered black soybean tofu and black rice noodles. The tofu is starting to pop up in health food stores and the noodles came from an Asian market. They both cook up a little on the gray side, so this time I brightened them up with some colorful veggies and drowned them in green curry sauce. This version is gluten-free, but other noodles, such as soba, and regular soy sauce can be substituted for the black rice noodles and tamari.

Green (and Red and Black) Curry

1 lb black soybean tofu
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 1/2 cups broccoli, chopped (12oz)
1 1/2 cups sugar snap peas
1 can coconut milk
2 Tbsp green curry paste
1 Tbsp gluten-free tamari
1/2 cup peanut or almond butter
3 bundles black rice noodles - about 8oz

Cook rice noodles according to package directions.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the coconut milk, curry paste, tamari, and peanut or almond butter.

Heat coconut oil in a wok or large saute pan. Cut tofu into small cubes or batonnets. Saute until sides begin to brown, then add broccoli, pepper, and snap peas. Saute until vegetables are vibrant and begin to soften.

Stir in the cooked rice noodles and the curry sauce. Garnish with unsweetened coconut and basil. Serves about 4.

Breakfast Stir Fry

Caring for a toddler and a preschooler doesn't leave me much time for a breakfast that doesn't involve bread, so I'm always looking for something that is quick, high protein, filling, and healthful. It also helps if it tastes good.

I used Tofurky Italian Sausage for this stir fry, but you can also use a different product or use beans and Italian herbs instead. The Tofurky sausage has 29g of protein, 8g of fiber, and 15% daily value of iron, so it's not a bad thing to occasionally add into your diet if you're trying to up your protein consumption and have no problems with soy or wheat.

Broiled Grapefruit is a nice complement to this dish.

Breakfast Stir Fry

1 Tofurky Italian Sausage, cut into 1/4" slices (or other type of faux sausage)
1 tsp coconut oil
3 mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup sugar snap peas
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup baby spinach
pepper to taste

Heat oil in a saute pan or skillet. Add meatless sausage and saute until it begins to brown. Add sliced mushrooms, snap peas, and garlic, and stir fry until the peas are bright green and the mushrooms begin to soften. Mix in the baby spinach and stir fry for another minute, or until spinach begins to wilt. Remove from heat and pepper to taste.

Serves 1

Variation: If you're not into fake meats, substitute 1/2 cup cooked beans of your choice for the meatless sausage. Mix in 1/4 tsp Italian herbs and add to the stir fry after the mushrooms and snap peas.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Cranberry-Orange Coffee Cake

Do you still have cranberries left over in your freezer from the winter holidays? I always freeze a bag or two for use later in the year. This sweet and tart coffee cake is a tasty way to use some of those leftover cranberries. If you don't have fresh or frozen cranberries, dried will also work, but you'll want to reduce the sugar a bit.

Cranberry-Orange Coffee Cake

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat or white whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cup sugar (1 cup if using dried cranberries with added sugar)
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
4 Tbsp coconut oil
1 Tbsp orange zest
1 cup orange juice
2 cups fresh/frozen cranberries or 1 cup dried cranberries

1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1/2 Tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350F. In a mixing bowl, combine flours, sugar, salt, baking powder, coconut oil, and zest with a fork or your fingers until a coarse meal forms (no clumps of flour or coconut oil). Stir in orange juice until well mixed and then fold in cranberries. Pour batter into a 9x9 cake pan and smooth the top.

In a small bowl, stir together topping ingredients until well combined. Sprinkle topping over batter.

Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Messy Mouse's Scrambled Tofu

My thirteen-month-old daughter will eat just about anything. She especially likes brightly-colored foods, so she loved this multi-hued scrambled tofu. Even the spinach was gobbled down before she asked for more. The smoked sea salt isn't necessary if you can't find it, but it does add a nice dimension to the simple dish.

Messy Mouse's Scrambled Tofu

1 lb firm tofu, drained and mashed with a fork
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 of a red bell pepper, chopped
1-2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1 cup baby spinach
1 Roma tomato, chopped
1 1/2 tsp fresh basil, minced
fresh ground pepper to taste
sprinkle of smoked sea salt (optional)

Heat oil in a skillet. Add tofu, garlic powder, onion powder, turmeric, and salt and stir well to combine. Scramble for 7-8 minutes, then stir in red bell pepper. Continue to scramble until the bell pepper begins to soften. Stir in nutritional yeast, spinach, and basil. Scramble for about 1 minute, until spinach wilts. Remove from heat and add pepper and smoked salt to taste.

Serve over a bed of fresh baby spinach with toast on the side.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Cheesy Crackers

These light and crispy little crackers are easy to make and Turbokid approved. As soon as I took this picture, little Turbokid squeaked "Mine!" and ran off with the plate. Luckily for him, this recipe makes a large amount of crackers. I predict they won't last long once toddler sister and cracker connoisseur  Messy Mouse wakes up from her afternoon nap.

These crackers are somewhat reminiscent of Cheez-Its or Cheese Nips, but without the animal products and artificial ingredients. I used Teese Vegan Cheese and shredded it in the food processor before processing it with the rest of the ingredients. You could also try Daiya or Vegan Gourmet (Follow Your Heart). For variation, you could try a flavor other than cheddar or toss in some dried herbs before processing. If made with Daiya and coconut oil or soy-free Earth Balance, these crackers can be soy-free.

Cheesy Crackers

1 cup shredded non-dairy cheddar cheese (8oz)
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
4 Tbsp coconut oil or Earth Balance
1 cup flour
1 tsp salt

Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until a dough forms. If the dough is too dry, drip in a little cold water and pulse.

Split dough in half to make it easier to roll out after chilled. Wrap dough halves in wax paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350. Roll out dough into a thin sheet (about 1/8 inch thick) and cut into desired shapes with a knife or small cookie cutter. Bake on a parchment-lined cookie sheet until crispy, about 10-15 minutes. The crackers will still be a little soft coming out of the oven but they will crisp up as they cool. Cool completely, then store in an airtight container.

Amount made varies depending on thickness and size of crackers. My batch made about 130 1"x1" square crackers.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Lavender-Lime Shortbread

These light and delicate shortbread cookies are great with tea. The lavender and lime combination may seem odd, but the flavors blend together wonderfully.

Lavender-Lime Shortbread

1/2 Tbsp dried lavender (food-grade)
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp finely grated lime zest
1/2 cup non-dairy butter, salted (I used Earth Balance)
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
fresh lime juice

Grind lavender to a coarse powder with a mortar and pestle or with a spice grinder. Stir lavender, sugar, and lime zest together in a mixing bowl. Add the softened non-dairy butter and cream the mixture together. Add flour and salt. Beat until a soft, crumbly dough forms, adding lime juice if necessary if dough is too powdery.

On a piece of plastic wrap or wax paper, form the dough into a loaf. Wrap the dough and refrigerate for an hour. 

Preheat oven to 350F. Removed dough from fridge. Cut the dough into 1/4 inch thick slices and place on a cookie sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until edges are lightly browned. Let cookies cool for five minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Cool completely, then ice if desired. 

Makes about 18 cookies.

Icing (optional)
1 cup powdered sugar
1-2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp lime zest
1/2 tsp ground dried lavender

In a small mixing bowl, stir together ingredients. If the icing is too thin, add extra sugar, and if it's too thick, add more lime juice.

Spoon icing onto the cookies and let set for at least half an hour.

Tension Relief Body Lotion

Store-bought lotions and body butters contain long lists of unpronounceable ingredients and acronyms. Why expose your skin to a battalion of lab-made chemicals when you can make your own lotion at home with just a couple of natural ingredients? 

I made this lotion with an essential oil combination that sometimes helps with headaches and general tension. To test it, I put a few drops of each oil in a carrier oil and dipped a washcloth in it. I put the washcloth on my headboard last night and woke up feeling more refreshed than I have in a long time. Feel free to substitute your favorite essential oils or oil combinations for the lavender, peppermint, and chamomile. You can also alter the ratios. The ratio I gave yields a strong peppermint scent over more subtle lavender and chamomile scents.

This lotion may go on a little oilier than you are used to, but that's actually a good thing. Let the oils absorb into your skin and they will leave it super-soft. This is especially wonderful for dry winter skin and would probably feel great on the feet and covered with spa socks. The scent lingers a lot longer than commercial lotion... I can still smell it 30 minutes after rubbing it into my arms... so it is probably best applied at night unless you don't mind smelling like peppermint for a while.

Ingredients for homemade lotion.

Tension Relief Body Lotion

1 cup pure cocoa butter
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup almond or apricot oil
1 tsp vitamin E oil (optional)
15-20 drops lavender essential oil
15-20 drops chamomile essential oil
10-15 drops peppermint essential oil

Put the coconut oil and cocoa butter in the top of a double boiler. You made need to immerse the cocoa butter container in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes to soften it so it can be scooped out easily. Melt the coconut oil and cocoa butter. Remove from heat, stir, and let cool for about 10 minutes. Place in the freezer for 20 minutes (or if it's cold outside, you can stick it on the porch).

Coconut oil and cocoa butter in my improvised double boiler.
Coconut oil and cocoa butter. 
Fully melted coconut oil and cocoa butter. It doesn't take long to melt them because of the low melting points. Coconut oil melts at 76F and cocoa butter melts at 93-100F, which is why chocolate melts in your mouth. If your home is warm (above 75F), you will start off with liquid coconut oil. Coconut oil has a low melting point, but melting it does not change its properties so it is fine to use either melted or solid.
 Stir in almond or apricot oil and essential oils. Adjust the essential oils according to your preference. Place in the refrigerator or another cool place until the mixture is partially solidified. This can take a while - about 40 minutes in the refrigerator for my batch.

Partially-solidified mixture right out of the refrigerator.
Whip with a hand-mixer or stand mixer, scraping the sides often, until a butter-like consistency is achieved. This will take several minutes, longer if the kitchen is warm. If it is still runny, return the mixture to the refrigerator or freezer for a few minutes and then whip again.

Whipped for 30 seconds.
Whipped for 3-4 minutes. It now has a consistency similar to buttercream.
Scoop lotion into a clean glass jar. It may continue to set over the next 12 hours. It doesn't need to be refrigerated and won't mold because there isn't any water in it, but it should be kept in a cool place. This batch made 2.5-3 cups of whipped lotion, enough to completely fill an old pickle jar.

Finished lotion. 
Notes: The thickness of this lotion can vary depending on temperature and oil content. The first batch I made in December has a thinner texture more like a commercial lotion. The batch I made today set up thicker, more like a body butter. It may seem a little thick, but your body temperature will melt it.

The essential oils can be replaced with any skin-safe essential oils you choose. Amount needed will vary depending on scent strength of the oil. An unscented lotion can also be made by leaving out the essential oils. The lotion will still carry a faint aroma of chocolate and coconut.

Shea butter can be used instead of cocoa butter. Mango butter might also work, but I haven't experimented with it because of Turbokid's allergy.

I don't own a double boiler or a stand mixer, so this became an exercise in hand-mixer endurance. The whipping is very easy with a stand mixer since you can just turn it on and scrape down the sides on occasion. I improvised a double boiler by placing a Pyrex bowl over a saucepan containing about two inches of water. If you do this, make sure the boiling water doesn't touch the bottom of the bowl and let the bowl cool before chilling it. Thermal shock is nothing you want to play with.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Butternut French Toast

I made my daughter's baby foods, so I had some leftover purees in the freezer to use up. Purees can be a good way to sneak more vegetables into your meals. I add them to soups, pasta sauces, and even desserts. This time, I'm sneaking them into a breakfast-for-dinner. My kids loved it... Turbokid devoured three slices of toast before I had time to sit down!

The omelet is a half-recipe of the Vital Ital Green Banana Omelet from Vegan World Fusion Cuisine. I substituted basil, cherry tomatoes, and Swiss chard for the cilantro, carrots, and green onions. I also learned I am terrible at flipping omelets.

Butternut French Toast and Vital Ital Green Banana Omelet (from Vegan World Fusion Cuisine)

Butternut French Toast

1/2 cup pureed, cooked butternut squash (4oz)
1 cup non-dairy milk (I used unsweetened almond)
1 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp coconut oil
6-8 slices whole grain bread (I used an ancient grain bread from a local bakery)

In a wide, shallow bowl, whisk together the squash puree, non-dairy milk, sugar, flour, and cinnamon.

Heat the oil in a skillet. Dip a slice of bread in the squash mixture, coating both sides, and then place in the skillet. Cook each side until crispy and golden. Remove from heat and cover with a clean dish towel to keep warm while cooking remaining slices. Serve with applesauce or maple syrup.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Chocolate Mint Pudding

This is similar to the raw young coconut pudding idea I suggested in Feeding the Finicky Toddler. However, I made this one all for me (and little Messy Mouse, who decided it was awesome). I used fresh mint to imitate the flavor of a cheesecake I had once at Cafe Gratitude. My husband didn't like the herbal flavor of fresh mint, but I loved it.

If you've never had a young coconut, pick one up at an Asian market and break it open! Inside, you'll find a surprising amount of coconut water (mine tonight had 1 1/2 cups) and a jelly-like meat. My first exposure to young coconuts was at a cultural festival, where the Thai booth served ice-cold young coconuts with nothing but a straw to drink the water and a spoon to scoop out the meat.

Chocolate Mint Pudding

Jelly from a young coconut (about 3/4 cup. Reserve the coconut water for drinking or for another recipe)
1 oz semisweet chocolate, melted
4 fresh mint leaves
Sweetener of choice, to taste

Put the jelly, chocolate, and mint in a food processor. Process until smooth, scraping the sides as needed. Stir in sweetener to taste and enjoy!

Serves one mommy and one silly tiny toddler.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Festive Toasted Couscous

I had a pomegranate in need of devouring so I mixed up this fun little side dish. My one-year-old ate about a third of the arils as I removed them from the fruit. She seems to have a new favorite snack! I cheated and used pre-cut raw butternut squash because the grocery store was out of whole butternuts. 

Festive Toasted Couscous

1 1/3 cups Israeli couscous
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups vegetable broth
2 cups butternut squash, diced
1/3 cup toasted sliced almonds
1/2 cup pomegranate arils
2 tsp minced fresh basil
salt to taste

Steam butternut squash until tender. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a saucepan, saute couscous in the olive oil until the couscous is lightly browned (about 5 minutes). Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cover. Simmer until the liquid is absorbed (about 12 minutes). Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes.

Mix in the squash, almonds, pomegranate arils, and basil, and salt to taste.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Curried Cheeze Sauce

There are four nutritional yeast aficionados in my house. I put it on popcorn, pasta, vegetables, and whatever else might need a cheese-like zing. Tonight was a quick and easy dinner night since I didn't feel like cooking after running errands with the kids all day. I love broccoli and cauliflower with either curry or cheezy sauce, so I combined the two and made curried cheezy sauce.

Curried Cheeze Sauce over steamed cauliflower and broccoli and vegan pigs in blankets (I sprinkled Daiya cheese on the crescent rolls before rolling them over the veggie dogs).
Curried Cheesy Sauce

1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1 cup non-dairy milk (I used unsweetened almond)
2 Tbsp olive oil
dash of cumin
dash of paprika
salt to taste

Stir the dry ingredients together in a saucepan. Whisk in the non-dairy milk and olive oil. Heat sauce over medium heat, whisking constantly, until thick, smooth, and a little gooey. Salt to taste and spoon over anything you want - vegetables, tofu, baked potatoes, pasta, whatever!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Lemon Basil Bread

I love the smell of fresh-baked bread. It invokes sweet memories of childhood and experiments have correlated experiencing the smell of fresh bread to being kinder to strangers. Scents can invoke memories and alter moods in unexpected ways and the scent of bread brings many people comfort.

I've been using this recipe for a couple years. Many homemade bread recipes require eggs or milk, but this is simpler. I've livened it up from the usual yeast-salt-flour combination and given it a kick of herbs and citrus. The oat flour can be replaced by whole wheat, but I recommend keeping the all-purpose flour as is so the bread does not become too dense for the fresh citrus flavor.

Lemon Basil Bread

2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (1 package)
2 Tbsp sugar
1 1/4 cups lukewarm water
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup oat flour
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 1/2-2 tsp fresh lemon zest
2 Tbsp fresh basil, minced
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp coconut oil, melted (canola or another vegetable oil also works. Olive oil has too strong of a flavor for this bread).

In a small bowl, dissolve 1 Tbsp of the sugar and the yeast in the water. Let stand for about 5 minutes, or until bubbly.

In a large bowl, stir together 1 cup of the all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup of the oat flour, the lemon juice, lemon zest, basil, salt, the remaining 1 Tbsp sugar, and coconut oil.

Add the yeast mixture and mix until well combined. Add the remaining flour and stir well. The dough will be a little sticky.

Cover the bowl and let the dough rise in a warm place for about 40 minutes, or until the size is approximately doubled. Punch the dough down. Place the dough in a greased loaf pan. Smooth the top and pat the dough to fill the corners. Cover the dough again and let it rise another 40 minutes, or until doubled.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake for 35-40 minutes. The bread is done when the loaf sounds hollow when the crust is golden and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Let cool, then slice and serve with non-dairy butter.

Agave butter is great with this because the sweetness balances out the tartness of the lemon. Just mix 1 tsp of agave nectar into 2 Tbsp of non-dairy butter like Earth Balance.

Fruit-Infused Water

I have trouble getting Turbokid to drink water. His father has a juice habit and it has rubbed off on him. I've been encouraging him do drink more water by trying two different things. I either mix just an ounce of juice in with seven ounces of water in his sippy to give the water flavor, or I make up a pitcher of fruit-infused infused water. This is also good for people who need to drink more water but don't like it plain.

When I was pregnant with Messy Mouse, my midwives always had a huge pitcher of infused water out on the counter at the birth center. Every appointment, they had a different flavor. We had to avoid some of them because they contained mango or cherries, but the ones we could drink were greatly enjoyed by Turbokid. He especially liked any combination with strawberries. I dealt with morning sickness all nine months, so the ginger infusions were particularly refreshing.

Infused waters are easy to make. All you do is combine thinly sliced fruits and herbs in a pitcher, cover with filtered water, and let sit for 8 hours or overnight. Then just strain out the fruit and enjoy the water. You can even make smaller quantities in jars if you have a couple slices of fruit leftover from another cooking project.

It is fun to experiment with different combinations of fruits and fresh herbs or just combinations of fruits if you don't have fresh herbs on hand. Here are some tasty combinations to add to a pitcher (approximately two quarts) of water:

1 sliced cucumber
1 sliced lemon
10-12 mint leaves
1 Tbsp thinly sliced ginger

1 sliced lemon
1 sliced cucumber
8 basil leaves

4 sliced strawberries
1 sliced orange
1 Tbsp thinly sliced ginger

Raspberry Lemonade
handful of raspberries
1 sliced lemon

2 sprigs rosemary
2 sliced limes
1 sliced orange

1 sliced peach
handful of raspberries
8 basil leaves

1 sliced pear
1 Tbsp thinly sliced ginger
1 cinnamon stick

5 sliced strawberries
1 sliced lemon
1 sliced orange

Monday, January 7, 2013

Miso Soup with Avocado and Scallion

I started making this easy soup when I had work done on my mouth and couldn't chew well for a while. I didn't have time to make dashi so I used regular vegetable broth. The avocado turns a basic broth into a surprisingly filling comfort food.

Miso Soup with Avocado and Scallion

(one serving)
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth (or 1/2 of a low-sodium vegetable bouillon cube in 1 1/2 cups water)
1 Tbsp white miso
1/2 avocado, diced
1 scallion, sliced thin

Bring vegetable broth to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and stir in miso until dissolved. Pour the miso and broth into a soup bowl and stir in avocado and scallion.

That's it! Slurp it from the bowl Japanese-style or go Western and use a spoon.

Banana Oat Cookies

These muffin-like cookies are free of wheat, sugar, oil, and soy in addition to being vegan!

Banana Oat Cookies

2 cups oat flour or oatmeal run through a blender or food processor until fine (I used old-fashioned oats)
4 overripe bananas, blended (the riper the banana, the sweeter it is)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla (optional)
1/3 cup cashew pieces (or shelled sunflower seeds, or other chopped nut or dried fruits)
1/3 cup chopped dates

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix cinnamon and baking soda into the oatmeal flour and then stir in the blended banana, cashews, and dates. Drop by the tablespoon onto an oiled cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes.

Other substitutions would be good for the cashews and/or dates. I just used what I had in the kitchen. Maybe dried cranberries or blueberries, pumpkin seeds, slivered almonds, whatever is safe and available. The photograph above is a batch containing sunflower seeds and dried cranberries.

Broiled Grapefruit

Looking for a quick, light, hot breakfast without all the grains or a fruit to compliment a heartier meal? I had one lonely grapefruit left so I made this. Broiling the grapefruit mellows the tartness, so even people who don't normally like grapefruit may like it this way.

Broiled Grapefruit

1 red grapefruit
1 tsp coconut oil or Earth Balance
3/4 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Preheat the broiler on your oven. Cut the grapefruit in half. With a small knife or grapefruit knife, score the fruit along the membranes and rind. This will make it easier to scoop out after cooking.

In a small bowl, stir together the coconut oil or Earth Balance, sugar, and cinnamon until well combined. Spread the mixture over the grapefruit halves and place the halves on a cookie sheet.

Broil for 3-5 minutes. Serves one, but the recipe can easily be multiplied to serve more.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Feeding the Finicky Toddler

This was originally published on my main blog, Evergreen and Indigo. Turbotot is now three years old so has been upgraded to Turbokid.

Oy, toddlers!

All toddlers go through phases of loving and hating foods and my vegan toddler is no exception. We made an effort to introduce him to a wide variety of foods as soon as he started solids at six months. He loved even stranger things like kale and tempeh until he was over a year old, when he decided all he wanted was crackers, rice, and fruit. It can be a struggle to get him to eat anything but carbs some days, so I've had to be sneaky to get him eating veggies and beans. Here are some things that work for us.  But, be warned... what works today might not work tomorrow, and what a toddler won't touch today he might devour the next time it's offered. Keep offering, it might take a while but my son decided he loved snap peas after I put them in front of him at least two dozen times without him ever trying them.

1. Soups 
This is a big one for us. As soon as Turbotot discovered the mechanics of a spoon, he only wanted to eat spoon foods. There was a catch, though. The foods had to be smooth. He refused chunky soups and yogurts, but would eat any flavor if they were pureed smooth. I made him cream of broccoli soup and he devoured three bowls in one sitting. I experimented with other veggies and came up with an all-purpose cream soup recipe that has been a hit with my texture-picky toddler.

Cream of Whatever Soup
1 pound vegetable of choice (broccoli, carrot, asparagus, kale, cauliflower, squash, etc.)
1 onion, chopped
1-2 cloves of garlic
2 cups vegetable broth or water
1/4 cup flour Or cornstarch
2 1/2 cups fortified plain non-dairy milk
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons basil, oregano, ginger, or other herb or spice of choice
fresh ground black pepper to taste

Cut the vegetable of choice into chunks. Put the broth or water in a large saucepan and add vegetable, onion, and garlic. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the vegetables are tender.

Put the contents of the pot and the flour in a food processor or blender (probably needs to be done in two batches) and process until smooth. Return to stove and stir in remaining ingredients. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the soup thickens.

This recipe is very forgiving and you can use more than one pound of vegetables or a combination of vegetables. Cream of carrot soup with ginger is very soothing on upset stomachs.

2. Dips
Toddlers love dips. Hummus, guacamole, bean dip, and spinach dip are a huge hits in our house. I serve them with homemade or store-bought pita bread, crackers, or vegetables.  

Simple Bean Dip
1 can of beans, any variety, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup of salsa

Process in blender or food processor. That's it, super easy and my toddler loves it on toast. It yields about two cups for far cheaper than the store-bought bean dips, and the texture and taste can be adjusted through using more or less of different kinds of salsa.

Whole Wheat Pita Bread

3 1/2 cups flour (a combination of 1/2 white and 1/2 wheat works well. You can use all whole-wheat, but may need to add more water since whole wheat flour is more absorbent than white)
3 tsp yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup lukewarm water

Stir the yeast and sugar into water and let sit until the yeast bubbles. Combine the flour and salt, then add the yeast mixture and knead. Cover and let rise for 1 hour.

After 1 hour, knead the dough. Divide into 12 portions. Roll each one out to make a thin bread.

Heat and lightly oil a skillet. Cook the breads one at a time for 1-2 minutes on a side on medium-high heat. The breads should fluff up and create center pockets if the heat is adjusted correctly (this can take some trial and error).

3. Smoothies
Add ground flax seed, chia seed, a quarter of an avocado, and/or a handful of spinach to fruit smoothies for a health boost. Coconut oil can be added for skinny toddlers who need more calories.

4. Pudding
Head to the nearest Asian market for a healthy, toddler-friendly pudding! Blend the jelly-like meat of a young coconut with strawberries, cocoa, carob, or banana until smooth. Reserve the coconut water for a quick electrolyte drink or an add-in for smoothies. My toddler goes nuts over this "pudding" and calls it "pie". Young coconuts can be found in some regular supermarkets, but I've found them to be cheaper and fresher in Asian markets.

5. Pasta Sauce
Stir pureed vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, or squash into homemade or commercial pasta sauce. My toddler is a huge fan of pasta, so this is an easy way to get him to eat veggies. I also like pureeing beans to make cream sauces as instructed in The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook.

I know I have more ideas hiding in my cluttered head, so I'll add to this list if I remember them. My guy loves whole edamame, mushrooms, snap peas, carrots, baked sweet potato fries, and bean sprouts, but we are still trying to convince him to eat other vegetables without having to disguise them. Do you have any more suggestions on how to get toddlers to eat more beans, vegetables, and other healthy foods?

Vegan No-Bake Lactation Cookies

I get so many requests for my vegan lactation cookie recipe, so I figured I'd post it publicly so that all the moms out there can use it.  And hey, it's not just for lactating moms!  My husband and son love these things.  No, they have not lactated as a result of eating them.  They are just tasty cookies with lots of stuff in them to help support lactation.  They are dairy-free, egg-free, wheat-free, and can be soy-free depending on what non-dairy options you pick.  They might not work for all women since everyone responds differently to galactagogues, but they work for me.

Vegan No-Bake Lactation Cookies

1/2 cup non-dairy milk (I've used soy, rice, and almond successfully)
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup peanut butter (the natural all-peanut kind)
1/2 cup vegan margarine (Earth balance works well and comes in a soy-free variety as well)
1 Tsp vanilla
3 cups old fashioned oatmeal
1/2 cup ground flax seed
2-4 Tbsp brewer's yeast or nutritional yeast

Combine oatmeal, flax seed, and brewer's yeast in a large bowl. 

In a small saucepan, combine non-dairy milk, sugar, cocoa, peanut butter, and margarine. Stir over medium heat and bring to a boil. Boil mixture for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add vanilla. 

Pour chocolate mixture over oatmeal mixture and stir well to combine. Drop cookies onto a cookie sheet or wax paper to cool or refrigerate until cookies are firm and no longer sticky.

I've played with a couple of variations on this recipe recently that turned out well. Replacing the peanut butter with another nut butter like almond or hazelnut is tasty. I also tried adding a scoop of vegan protein powder to the oatmeal mix before adding in the heated liquid mixture, and that also turned out well. 

Raspberry Walnut Baklava

Just a little bit of awesome.  I don't make desserts like this very often because I end up eating too much, but they are wonderful for vegan potlucks and holidays.

Raspberry Walnut Baklava

I had to snap a picture before it disappeared.  It was quite popular.

1 package phyllo dough
1 cup non-dairy buttery spread, melted
1 jar of seedless all-fruit raspberry or black raspberry jelly
1/4 cup water
2 cups chopped walnuts
2 Tbsp cinnamon
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp agave nectar
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom and sides of a 9x13 pan. Mix nuts and cinnamon in one bowl and jelly and 1/4 cup of water in another.

Place two sheets of phyllo dough in the pan and brush with buttery spread. Repeat three times so there are eight sheets of phyllo and four layers of butter.

Spread half of the jelly on top, and then sprinkle with half of the walnut mixture. Top with two sheets of phyllo dough and butter. Then, spread the rest of the jelly and sprinkle with the rest of the walnuts.

Layer the remaining sheets of phyllo dough two at a time with butter in between. Brush remaining butter on the top.

Use a sharp knife to cut the baklava into 2-inch squares, cutting all the way to the bottom layer. Bake for 40 minutes until golden and crisp.

Meanwhile, make the syrup. Combine the sugar, water, agave, and vanilla in a saucepan. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, then remove from heat.

Remove baklava from the oven and pour the syrup over it.  It may boil and sputter. Allow baklava to cool, then serve.

Coconut-Chia Pudding

Chia seeds are rich in Omega-3s and easier to digest than flax. Other health benefits are explained here. My first experience with them was making this simple pudding. The chia seed creates a gel when it absorbs liquid, which makes it great for making a no-cook pudding.

Coconut-Chia Pudding

1 15 oz can of coconut milk (1 1/2 cups)
3/8 cup chia seeds
1/4-3/8 cup agave nectar
1 tsp vanilla

Stir together all ingredients until smooth. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours before serving.

Variations: add cocoa powder or fruit purees. For a raw pudding, blend together the water and jelly from a young coconut and use it in place of the canned coconut milk.

Oat Flour Banana Bread

This tasty bread is soy-free, wheat-free, and nut-free. My family devoured it in less than 24 hours, so it's obviously not free of flavor, though.

Oat Flour Banana Bread

1/3 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup sugar
2 ripe bananas
2 cups oat flour (or oatmeal run through a food processor until very fine)
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup coconut milk (the beverage kind, not the canned. I used coconut nog that was left over from the holidays)
1 tsp vanilla extract
cinnamon and brown sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a hand-held mixer, cream the coconut oil, sugar, and bananas in a mixing bowl. Mix in the oat flour, baking soda, and baking powder, and then add the coconut milk and vanilla and mix well. Pour batter into an oiled 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 bread pan. Smooth the top of the batter, then sprinkle with a little cinnamon and brown sugar. Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out dry.

Fennel and Kale and Tofu, Oh My!

Here I go, starting something new. My main blog is Evergreen and Indigo, but since I'd rather focus that blog on writing than food, I've created this new one as a place to put my recipes. I'll start with tonight's dinner...

Creamy Fennel-Celery Soup, Balsamic Kale, and Breaded and Baked Italian-Herbed Tofu.

Creamy Fennel-Celery Soup

3 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium-sized onion, sliced
1 fennel bulb (stems trimmed off and bulb thinly sliced. Keep some of the fronds for garnish)
6 celery stalks, sliced
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
4 cups water or vegetable stock
1 cup non-dairy milk (I used soymilk)
2 tsp minced fresh basil

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until it just begins to brown. Add the fennel and celery to the saucepan and saute along with the onion until the vegetables are slightly translucent and tender.

Season with salt and pepper and add the water or stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook, partially covered, for 30 minutes.

Remove saucepan from heat and stir in the non-dairy milk. In batches, place soup in a food processor or blender and puree. Return soup to pot and stir in the minced basil.

Ladle into bowls and garnish with fennel greens and minced basil.

Serves about 6.

Balsamic Kale

1 bunch green kale
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 scallions, sliced thin
1 Tbsp olive or coconut oil
1-2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

Heat the oil in a saute pan. Rinse the kale, then remove the stems and chop the leaves into bite-sized pieces. Add the scallion and garlic to the pan and saute for 1-2 minutes until the garlic begins to brown. Add the kale and saute with the garlic and scallion. As soon as the kale begins to soften, add the balsamic vinegar. Stir for 1 minute, then remove from heat and serve.

Breaded and Baked Italian-Herbed Tofu

1 lb sprouted tofu
1 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1 Tbsp Italian herbs (or a combination of basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, and sage)
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp hummus
1/2 cup non-dairy milk

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In one small bowl, mix the panko, herbs, and salt. In a second small bowl, whisk together the non-dairy milk and hummus.

Slice the tofu into 1/4 inch thick squares. One at a time, dip the tofu squares into the hummus mixture and then into the panko mixture. Place on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes until browned, flipping once halfway through the cooking time. Serve with condiment of choice (my kids prefer barbecue sauce).