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Archive for January, 2010

When I first flipped through my copy of Vegan Brunch, I just couldn’t wrap my head around all the delicious recipes Isa had come up with. I didn’t see a single recipe that I thought “meh” about. In fact, I had to just put the book aside and forget about it for a little while so my brain had time to digest everything and make an intelligent decision about which dish to try first.

Enter necessity. I was digging around in the fridge around dinnertime…looking for vegetable inspiration…when my eyes came upon the ruby-red pearls at the back of one of the veggie crispers…fresh cranberries! Then I thought about it a little while longer and realized that those fresh cranberries have been in the fridge for a really. long. time. I gingerly removed the package and inspected the berries…they looked fine. I opened the package and gave them a very cautious sniff…they smelled…okay. I knew if I didn’t use them within the next day or two, I’d have to toss them and you know how I feel about food waste.

I knew I’d end up with some sort of breakfast bread. I mentioned the cranberries to Husband and he immediately requested cranberry-lemon loaf or muffins. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that classic combination…I love it under normal circumstances…but these cranberries needed a resurrection, you know?!?!

I tried thinking of an ingredient that had more oomph than lemon and it hit me…orange! Of all the citrus fruits, the humble orange with the horrible misfortune to be named after the colour of its fruit (very unimaginative, I must say!) is by far my favourite. I can’t pinpoint exactly what it is about the orange I love so (perhaps it’s simply because it’s my favourite colour); but, I reach for it more often than any other fruit. I always say that oranges are the reason I could never live by a 100 Mile Diet. With the decision made, I immediately began pulling out ingredients for my standard muffin recipe…then I remembered my brand new copy of Vegan Brunch sitting upstairs.

I flipped to the index and grinned when I discovered that Isa didn’t let me down…naturally! I went directly to her Cranberry Orange Nut Muffins recipe and skimmed it over…similar enough to my standard recipe that I had all the ingredients handy, I was finally able to crack the spine of Vegan Brunch! Due to a household allergy, I omitted the nut ingredients from the original recipe and to ensure I didn’t have leftovers, I increased the amount of cranberries (which I left whole).

They were perfect! I inhaled one immediately out of the oven…cursing the steam that singed the roof of my mouth and then had another once they’d cooled…you know, for comparison’s sake. The flavour was wonderful. The orange was bright and coloured the muffin such a tropical yellow; the cranberries were tart and exploded a little in your mouth and added such a lovely colour contrast.

Isa mentions in the book that the orange juice caramelizes the tops and, although that was my mother-in-law’s favourite part, I loved that they weren’t a sweet muffin. I prefer my muffins on the tart side…it tricks my brain into thinking that it’s a healthy breakfast when it tastes more of fruit than of sugar. I’m sorry I couldn’t try them with the nuts; once Husband and I are back into our own place, I’ll try them that way. Until then, I certainly won’t complain about eating them nut-free!

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Jukut Murab is a Balinese salad containing black-eyed peas and a dressing with chili, tamarind and coconut. I adore black-eyed peas and I’ve never met a coconut dish I didn’t want to live on for eternity so I’ve wanted to try a vegan version of this salad for quite some time (the traditional version usually contains shrimp paste). I did quite the extensive web search to compare different recipes and finally came up with a version that wouldn’t require a trip to the grocery store for out-of-season herbs and a single red chili.

It’s an extremely healthy meal. The fat in the dressing comes from unsweetened flaked coconut, there’s a single teaspoon of salt in the entire salad, and the beans give you plenty of fibre and protein.

More importantly, the salad is absolutely wonderful taste-wise! It’s great served right away; but like most bean dishes, the flavours deepen when it’s been allowed to chill for a few hours (or overnight).

The salad itself doesn’t have a lot of flavour, it’s a very simple combination of black-eyed peas, cucumber and green onions. All the intense flavours come from the dressing…a wonderful tangy, sweet, spicy dressing, heavily accented by coconut flakes.

Jukut Murab (Black-Eyed Pea Salad)

1 lb. dried black-eyed peas

-1 cucumber, chopped or sliced

-3 green onions, chopped

-1 tsp. dried mint

-1 tsp. tamarind paste; whisked with 2 T. water and strained, reserving liquid

-1/2 cup unsweetened flaked coconut

-1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

-2 small cloves garlic, minced

-juice of one lime

-1 tsp. brown sugar

-1 tsp. salt

Soak the peas in enough water to cover them completely by at least 1″ for 8 hours. Rinse and drain. Put in a large pot and cover with at least 3″ water. Bring to a gentle boil, reduce heat and continue cooking for 1 hour, or until tender.

Alternately, place the dried peas directly in a pot and cover with at least 3″ water. Bring to a gentle boil; reduce heat and let simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 1 hour. Drain and rinse the peas. Cover with 3″ water; bring to a gentle boil; reduce heat and cook 1 hour, or till peas are tender. Drain and cool completely.

Add the cucumber and green onions to the beans and toss thoroughly.

Combine all remaining ingredients in a small bowl; whisk well. Pour over salad and toss gently to combine. Serve immediately, if you wish or chill and serve the next day.

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I bought the most beautiful eggplant a few days ago and knew right away that I wanted to try something different with it. Normally, my eggplants end up in simple sauces or ratatouilles; and, although those are always delicious, they’re not exactly treats, either.

I settled on a dip that was based on a Nigella Lawson recipe and needed only one change to become vegan. I made a few other changes to suit my tastes and what I had in the house.

Roasted Eggplant Dip (altered from a Nigella Lawson recipe)

-1 lg. eggplant

-2 T. olive oil

-1 lg. sweet onion, chopped into 1/2″ pcs.

-3 cloves garlic, minced

-1 cup plain soy yogurt

-1/4 tsp. saffron threads; soaked in 2 T. warm water

-1 tsp. dried mint

-2 T. pine nuts, toasted

-salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 450. Wash and dry the eggplant. Prick the skin with a fork all over and roast the eggplant for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Cool completely. Slice the eggplant in half; use the backside of a knife to scrape out the flesh from the skin. Put the flesh into a strainer and mash; let sit to drain while you prepare the rest of the dip.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for a couple minutes, until onion is translucent. Add the garlic and continue cooking till brown. Stir in the eggplant pulp and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Remove from heat; season to taste with salt and pepper. Let cool completely.

In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the yogurt and 1/2 tsp. of the mint. Add the cooled eggplant mixture and the saffron mixture and stir till smooth. Season with salt and pepper again, if needed. Transfer to serving dish. Sprinkle the remaining mint and all the pine nuts across the top.

I served this with toasted pita but I imagine it would be great with whatever your favourite veggie is…broccoli comes to mind…mmmm….Husaband, my sister and I actually preferred this at room temperature; chilled it was lacking a little in the texture department.

The flavours were really nice; a little unexpected. The dip had a sweetness to it that surprised me. I think I was picturing something more like onion dip and this was completely different. The mint was the predominant flavour…use fresh if you can find it (I couldn’t that day). The saffron added this little something extra…a change in colour, a little taste you couldn’t quite work out on your tongue, intrigue.

The eggplant was a background note, I found…it gave the dip this velvety smoothness which contrasted nicely with the crunchy pine nuts on top and the toothsome chunks of onion throughout. I imagine using different onions would drastically change the flavour profile…maybe using yellow onions would result in a more savoury dish. Regardless, this dip was delicious…dare I say, even a little sultry.

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When I first saw this recipe on Jae’s blog, I just knew I had to try it. It sounded so amazing and I was really excited about the flavour combination. The other day, I whipped up a loaf (cutting the original recipe in half) and we devoured it! Husband is a bread junkie and he couldn’t get enough…he spent the evening just tearing off giant hunks of bread until it diminished to nothing more than a few crumbs on the cutting board. My in-laws really enjoyed it, as well…my mother-in-law raved about the flavour and my father-in-law claimed it reminded him of really good bakery pumpernickel bread.

I thought it was incredible. The hint of molasses added just the right touch of sweetness and coloured the loaf a beautiful caramel. The millet and sunflower seeds added crunchy texture and a great earthy, toasted flavour. I loved what nutmeg did for the loaf. It gave the bread a very distinct flavour and such a wonderful aroma. There’s a fair amount of nutmeg in the recipe and I strongly suggest using fresh grated nutmeg instead of powdered…I find the taste of pre-ground nutmeg to be a little astringent; but, fresh, it’s crisp and sharp while still, somehow…warming and comforting.

I did substitute soy yogurt for the applesauce in the original recipe and maybe that attributed to the slightly crumbly texture I noticed. I imagine the applesauce would have added some more moisture; but, all in all, it was a fabulous loaf. It was superb sliced warm and slathered with Earth Balance and just as delicious at room temperature and dipped into a bowl of Smoky Refried Bean Soup.

I highly recommend trying this recipe. You can find the original recipe on Jae’s blog, here.

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I woke up New Years Day with a nasty cold…I know, Happy Freaking New Year, right?! When I get sick, I don’t eat. I know that’s not the healthiest way to approach it; but, I just can’t bring myself to consume food. I usually survive on tea, water and sometimes cups of broth. However, my poor Husband needs to eat…so this time around, I figured I’d make a big old pot of soup and we could live off that for a few days until I kicked the cold.

I think it worked. I am feeling much better now and Husband managed to kick his cold in only a couple days…maybe there’s something to be said for this whole eating thing after all!

I don’t remember where I found this recipe originally…I discovered it in my bulging “recipes to try” folder and thought it would be perfect because I had a partially used container of refried beans in the fridge. The recipe called for a green pepper; I’m not a huge fan of green peppers because I have a really hard time digesting them so I used a red pepper instead.

The soup was really delicious…it was hearty, very reminiscent of chili, with just a little heat from the hot sauce and the flavours melded together in such a nice way.

Smoky Refried Bean Soup

1 T. olive oil

-1 medium onion, chopped

-3-4 cloves garlic, minced

-1 green pepper, chopped

-1.5 cups vegetable broth

-1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes, with liquid

-1 15 oz. can refried beans

-1 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed

-1 cup corn kernels, canned or frozen

-1 tsp. cumin

-1.5 tsp. paprika

-1 tsp. chili powder

-1 tsp. hot sauce

-1/2 tsp. oregano

Preheat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté till it begins to brown and soften. Stir in the peppers and garlic and cook another minute.

Add the rest of the ingredients and stir well to combine. Mash the refried beans a little with a wooden spoon to incorporate them. Cover and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer the soup for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Garnish with chopped fresh parsley, if desired.

I didn’t use any salt and pepper in the soup. The stock I used was pre-salted, as were the tomatoes and refried beans and the hot sauce and chili powder added enough heat and depth that I didn’t feel any need for pepper, either.

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