Split Pea Soup – Smoky and Delicious

I think that a well made soup is a real treat and when I have the time I like to make a batch of split pea soup. It is so much better than any sort of store bought soup from a can and it makes a perfect winter meal. 

If you want to stretch it or make it even more hearty, you can also add potatoes. This makes a lot, so unless your serving a large family, you can have left overs and I think it tastes even better the next day.

Ingredients

4 Cups low sodium Vegetable Broth
2 tablespoons Vegetable Oil
2 cups Water
2 cups dried Split Peas (soaked overnight)
4 cloves Garlic minced
2 cups Carrots, diced
1 cup Celery, diced
1 Onion, diced
1 tsp Black Pepper
2 tsp Salt (or to taste)
1 tsp Thyme
1 tsp Marjoram
2 Bay Leaves
2 tsp Liquid Smoke

Directions:

Rinse and then soak the split peas overnight in a heavy cast iron pan. In the morning, drain and then rinse again. Pour in vegetable broth, water, and bring to a soft boil. Gently skim away any scum that comes to the surface

In a sauté pan, and add the oil and sauté the carrots, garlic, onions and celery until translucent. Do not brown them.

Add this mixture into the heavy pan and then add the liquid smoke, salt, black pepper, bay leaves, marjoram and thyme and stir well.

Allow the soup to simmer covered for at least 4-5 hours, stirring to keep it from sticking.
If you wish, you can blend the soup in a food processor, to give it a smooth consistency, or use a handled food processor. Once this is done, allow the soup to cook for another 1-2 hours and then serve as desired.

Charred Brussels Sprouts with Shallot and Garlic

I am a big fan of brussels sprouts, but I am amazed how many people don\’t like them. I can only imagine this is because of too many mushy overcooked experiences as a child. However, I find that even the doubters will turn around after smelling these cooking away in the oven.

The key to getting these perfect is not to overcook them and to get just a little bit of char on the sprouts. I think these are wonderful as a side dish, but I particularly like them served over pasta with a squeeze of lemon.

Ingredients


4-5 cups of Brussels Sprouts, hard end cut off and then cut in half.

4 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 large Shallot, peeled and sliced thinly.
4 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and sliced thinly.
Salt and Black Pepper

Begin by preheating your oven to 400 degrees and preparing your sprouts. Put the sprouts into a Pyrex oven proof dish, which is large enough that they can lie in one layer. Add olive oil, shallots. garlic and toss, and then add salt and black pepper. Put into the oven and bake for at least 30 minutes, stirring once halfway through cooking.


Serve as a side dish or over pasta. If you choose to serve them over pasta, then I think they are great with a squeeze of lemon, sprinkle of chili flakes and a bit of Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

Maple Sweet Potato Pie

I had this maple sugar hanging around in the cupboard. I had bought it to make some Mennonite cookies and it just never happened so I decided to figure out how to use it and I thought that maple sugar and sweet potatoes sounded like a great combination and they were indeed. 

The maple sugar can be ordered online at the King Arthur Flour website, if you can\’t find it locally. Its worth worth the extra effort and cost to find it. 

Ingredients

4 cups sweet potato, peeled and cut into 2 inch pieces (About two med/large)
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup Maple Sugar

2 tsp Vanilla Extract
2 Tbsp Earth Balance Spread or butter
2 Tbsp Corn Starch
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground Ginger
1/4 tsp Nutmeg, freshly grated

1/4 tsp Allspice
1/8 tsp Salt
1/4 cup Sweetened Coconut – Optional, but very yummy. 


Boil the sweet potatoes in salted water until they slip off a knife when skewered 

In a mixer, combine the cooked sweet potato, coconut milk, Earth Balance, vanilla extract, maple sugar, corn starch, cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg, allspice and salt. Mix until smooth. Fold in the coconut at the end if desired.

Pour it into your pie crust and put into a 400 degree oven for 30-35 minutes, or until the crust is browning on the edges. Remove and let it cool completely before serving.

My Favorite Vegan Must Haves

I get this question from non vegans quite frequently, \”What do you eat?\” So, after many requests, I thought posting some of my favorite vegan \”must haves\” would be helpful.

I don\’t think that you can expect to have vegan products that taste exactly like non vegan, but that\’s not really the point. Bottom line, do they taste good? All of these products certainly do.


Often I hear from people that they can\’t find these products locally. Firstly, start by asking for them at your local store and they will often order them and start stocking them. Secondly, find a place that might be a bit of a further drive and stock up. 


You can find most of these products at Whole Foods and most Von\’s and Kroger locations in the US. Sadly, Daiya is not yet available in the UK, but they are actively looking for a partner, so fingers crossed.

For many people, cheese is the most difficult food to transition, and honestly I loved my cheese too, so it was initially a big concern for me. The key is to have realistic expectations and just experiment. Here are my vegan cheese must haves.


Daiya – Hands down, this is the best cheese substitute out there and they make many other great products. My absolute must have is the Cheddar. They also make Mozzarella and Pepper Jack. This melts like real cheese and makes killer nachos and quesadillas. I have found that it tastes much better when it is melted.

Go Veggie – While I am not a big fan of their cheese slices or their shredded cheese, but they do make a very good Parmesan cheese substitute. This one is amazing. You do not need a lot, to get a bold parmesan taste. With these two cheese substitutes in my refrigerator, I can make Italian, Mexican and most any sort of cheese based dish. It\’s worth noting that Go Veggie have a new package, so it might look quite different.


Meat Substitutes – I am a big fan of Boca, Beyond Meat and Gardein products. Note, Boca makes a lot of products and while they are all vegetarian, they are not all vegan. Garden and Beyond Meat are all 100% vegan.





Lastly, I love the Beyond Meat Crumbles which can be used wherever you would use ground beef and they also make fantastic soft tacos, chili and spaghetti sauce.


Butter Substitutes – Earth Balance. I have tried them all, but for me this is the very best and it can be use for all recipes, toast or really anytime you need butter. They also make it in sticks for easier baking and they have many other wonderful products. Check out their website.


Mayonnaise/Dressing – There are two top brands. They are Vegenaise and Just Mayo. Both are very good for making salads, on sandwiches and often people who say they don\’t like normal mayo, actually like these brands. I do find that Just Mayo seems to stay emulsified better than Vegenaise, but it is a bit more pricey.

Quick Meals – I always have some soup in my desk and at home for quick meals. I have never found anything better than Dr McDougall\’s soups. They are low in calories and really good. They are a great quick meal and good for you. I like all the flavors but the Vegan Pad Thai and Hot and Sour Soup are special favorites. You can get them online and at most retailers.


So, if you look in my refrigerator/freezer and pantry, you will always find these products along with:

Broccoli

Bananas
Berries
Apples
Red Peppers
Onions
Green Onions
Garlic
Ginger Root
Spices and fresh Herbs
Vegetable Oil- Remember to keep it in the fridge.
Olive Oil
Soy Milk
All sorts of nuts, perfect snack food.
Frozen Corn and Peas- Great for making chili, risotto, soft tacos and corn lime chili soft tacos.
Fresh Salad Greens
Corn Tortillas
Whole Grain Bread
Peanut Butter
Pasta
Potatoes
Mung Beans and Lentils
Canned Black and Pinto Beans
Canned Tomatoes

With these products you can eat very well and get healthy too. 
 Enjoy and eat well.


How to store bananas? Problem solved – UPDATED

I don\’t know about all of you, but over the years I have thrown away a lot of bananas that have gone overripe and its always bothered me. Such a waste of food, and you can only freeze so many. I mean how much banana bread can one person eat? So, what to do?

I decided to do some research and after reading too many long winded scientific explanations. Yes, people have spent a lot of time on this subject. I realized that most of the suggestions were far too much work, like wrap each banana individually and use a banana hanger and increase the airflow, keep away from other fruit etc.


I came up with what seemed to be a simple solution and I am happy to say, it works very well, and I have pics to prove it. 


Apparently, its all about blocking the uptake of ethylene to the bananas, and there is a simple way to do it. The pics below show the bananas after 4 days and they have not ripened one bit more than when I bought them.


Step 1- Wrap the base of the banana with plastic wrap/cling wrap.

Step Two – Wrap an elastic/rubber band around the plastic wrap to secure it.

When you want to use a banana, just remove the wrap and take off a banana and re-wrap. This is important. If you cut one off, then you create a spot for the ethylene to uptake.

I mean how easy is that?  I will update after a few more days and compare, but 4 days is good for me, as I was losing bananas in 2-3 days.


Update: Here they are after 5 days sitting on the counter. Minimal difference from the original pic and they are still firm and slightly green on the ends. Works for me.




Cauliflower and Potato Curry (Aloo Gobi)

This is a wonderful vegetarian/vegan curry dish. It can be very hot or not depending on how you manage the chilies. I like it hot, but with a sweet and sour aftertaste.


Ingredients

1 head of Cauliflower, cut into florets
3 Medium Potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 Tbsp Margarine or Butter
1 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
6 cloves of Garlic, peeled and pureed
1 inch piece of Ginger, peeled, chopped and pureed
1 Serrano Chili, puréed. Add additional chilies if you want a hotter result.
1 Onion, chopped and pureed
2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Sugar
3 Tbsp Curry Paste*
1 can diced Tomatoes
Juice of one Lemon
Cilantro to finish

Begin, by adding the garlic, ginger, chili, salt and onion to a food processor and puree the mixture. Add margarine and oil to a pan and gently cook the pureed mixture for 5 minutes.

Add the sugar, curry paste and cook briefly. Then add cauliflower, potatoes and mix well and sauté briefly. Then add tomatoes, bring to a soft boil and simmer covered for 45- 1 hour.

Finish with lemon juice and cilantro and serve with basmati rice.

*Note: if you can not find prepared curry paste, then you can make your own by using the following recipe.

1 Tbsp Garam Marsala
1 tsp Turmeric
1/2 tsp ground Cumin
1 Bay Leaf
¼ tsp ground Coriander

Apple Crumble

Just in time for apple season is this rich and decedent apple dessert. Warm out of the oven with ice cream, this is a perfect end to a wonderful meal. If you want to have a bit of fun, use individual ramekins and you can create multiple mini desserts. If you do this, then I like to start them in a water bath for half the cooking time and then transfer to a baking sheet.


Ingredients

1/2 lb sliced and peeled Apples. I like to mix a tart apple like Granny Smith with a full bodied apple like Macintosh.

1 ½ Tbsp. of Cornstarch, mixed with 2 Tbsp. of warm water
1/4 cup Water
½ tsp Cinnamon
1/8 tsp Ground Cardamom
1/8 tsp freshly grated Nutmeg
1 ½ cup of sifted AP Flour
1 cup Sugar
¼ cup Light Brown Sugar
2 tbsp. Light Brown and white Sugar mixed
12 Tbsp. of Earth Balance or Butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Sift the flour; sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg together and then cut the butter and margarine into the mixture until it is completely incorporated.

Take the apples and put into the saucepan with the 1/4 cup of water and bring to a soft boil and add in the cornstarch mixture and cook until thickened. Now put apples into 8 inch square Pyrex dish or a 9 inch rectangular Pyrex dish.

Gently sprinkle and pat the flour mixture over the top of the apples and then finish with the sugar mixture. Put onto a baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes and then brown with the broiler until just golden. Watch it carefully, as it will easily burn. 


Allow to cool before serving. Either cinnamon ice cream or a double Devon cream makes a great addition. To keep it vegan, go for the SO Delicious Vegan Ice Cream.

Kale and Black Olive Pasta

I made this last night and it was really good. Best part is, it was easy and it’s very healthy as well. I love kale, but don’t really cook with it as much as I should, so this is a good way to encourage me. I am planning to working on a kale soup recipe on the coming weeks. Bon appétit


Ingredients

5 cups of Kale leaves, chopped into large pieces.
½ cup Black Kalamata Olives, chopped
¼ cup White Wine
1 cup of Vegetable Broth
2 Shallots, sliced
2 Garlic cloves, sliced
3 Tbsp Olive Oil
½ tsp Chili Flakes
Juice of one Lemon
Salt and Pepper to taste.
Farfalle, DeCecco of course.

Put a pot of water on to boil. While waiting for it to come to a boil, add olive oil to a sauté pan and lightly sauté the garlic and shallots. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook as directed.

Then add the kale leaves, olives and chili flakes and sauté until the kale begins to wilt, then add the white wine and lemon juice. Once the wine has cooked away, add the broth and simmer until the pasta is done.

Drain the pasta and put into a large bowl and toss with the kale mixture and add Parmesan cheese or non dairy substitute as you desire.

Brown Sugar, Oatmeal and Applesauce Cookies

I found this recipe in a great cookbook call “Betty Goes Vegan”. It is a wonderful cookbook that has a lot of traditional recipes, but all done in a vegan manner. So really perfect, if you want to avoid cholesterol and some fat.

Flavor wise, these cookies taste amazing and when I took them to a party no one could believe they were vegan. As usual, I played around with the recipe a bit. Bottom line is, do they taste good? And the answer is, yes!!!!


Ingredients

2 cups of Brown Sugar
1 cup of Margarine, softened. I use Earth Balance.
1 1/2 tsp of Vanilla
1 Tbsp Applesauce

1 cup of Whole Wheat Flour
1 cup of AP Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
½ tsp Cinnamon
1/8 tsp freshly grated Nutmeg
Pinch of Salt

2 cups of Old Fashioned Oats, not the quick kind.
¾ cup of crushed Walnuts or Pecans if you prefer.
½ cup of dried Apple Pieces. I used freeze dried and they were fine.
¼ cup of Water


Preheat oven to 350.

In a large mixing bowl, cream your margarine and brown sugar until smooth, then mix in the applesauce and vanilla.

Sift together the whole wheat flour, AP flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and introduce into the creamed sugar mixture, one half at a time and mix well by hand. I find a silicone spatula is great for this.

Then add one cup of the oats, apple pieces, nuts and use your hands to mix together. Then add remaining oats and the water and mix until incorporated.

Take about a 2 Tbsp piece, roll it slightly into a ball and put onto a non stick cookie sheet and press down with the back of your hand. Bake for 15 -18 minutes. I found they were done after about 17 minutes, but I like cookies that are soft and chewy. Adjust to your taste.

Cool them on the cookie sheet for about 1-2 minutes and then transfer for a cooling rack. They are great the day they are made and for a day after. They might last longer, but mine didn’t stay around that long.

Options: I think they would also be good with some raisins, or dried figs or dates added.

Slow Cooked Broccoli – UPDATED

This is a dish that I first read about in an article about  Alice Waters and Chez Panisse in Berkeley California. People mentioned that sometimes they had this amazing dish on the menu and many people tried to replicate it. Eventually Alice herself offered up the recipe, but I have to admit that my first go at it did not yield the best results.

I felt that it was unpleasant to look at and had lost that rich broccoli flavor  That being said, when you cook broccoli for 2 hours (yes, the recipe does call for two hours), what do you expect? 

I felt there was a better way and after some experimentation, I have come up with my version which I really like. The key is to cook it very slowly and not to bother it too much.

Ingredients

1lb Broccoli, cut into 1 inch pieces, stems and florets

4 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 cup Vegetable Broth, or 1/4 cup White Wine and 1/4 cup broth
2 Lemons zested and then juiced
4 cloves of Garlic, sliced
1 Shallot, thinly sliced
1 tsp Salt
Freshly ground Black Pepper
1 tsp Chili Flakes

Begin by slicing  your broccoli, garlic and shallots. Put into a saucepan, and add olive oil, juice and zest of lemons, broth, salt and chili flakes and bring to a soft simmer. Cover and cook for 2 hours, stirring occasionally adding more broth if it starts to dry out. 


Serve over pasta of your choice with Galaxy cheese substitute or Parmesan cheese. I particularly like it with orecchiette.