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Monday, August 26, 2013

Curry Tempeh Loaf with Plum Chutney + Whole Grain Mustard

My plums finally ripened! And what do you do with ripe plums? Make a delicious chutney, of course. You'll need:

2 cups chopped Plums (2-3 plums)
1/4 cup Golden Raisins or Currants
1/2 - 3/4 cups Apple Cider Vinegar
2 tsp Ginger paste or freshly grated
1/2 tsp Red Chili Powder or Flakes
1/2 tsp whole Brown Mustard Seeds
1/4 tsp Ground Cloves/Nutmeg
1 clove Garlic or 1 tsp hing
1/2 cup Onion, minced
1 cup Brown Sugar
1 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Sea Salt

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.
Let simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes (will reduce by 1/3). As the chutney begins to thicken, stir more frequently to assure it does not burn. It should be syrupy within another 10 minutes.
To test for readiness, dip a cold metal spoon into the chutney. If the chutney evenly coats and sticks to the spoon, it is done. Can or serve.


Whole Grain Mustard

1/2 cup brown mustard seeds
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup basically any beer
1 tbs organic brown sugar

In a glass bowl, mix everything but the sweetener. Cover with a lid or plastic wrap. Refrigerate for a minimum of 12 hours to 2 days.
In a food processor, blend your mixture. Add in a heaping tablespoon of brown sugar. This balances out the acidity of the vinegar. For a sweeter mustard, add more sugar. Store in a small glass jar: last months in the fridge.
Side note: for alcohol-free chefs, simply omit the beer. You can also play around with adding herbs, spices, etc. This is just your basic recipe. You want an equal ratio if seeds to vinegar. You can also use black or yellow mustard, and white balsamic vinegar. Have fun!

Now chutney is a South Indian condiment that pairs wonderfully with various curries and breads. I was going to make something along those lines, but my dad was out of town, and I really needed to use up some of the tempeh I bought. So why not modify one of my old meatloaf recipes? This one pleases even my animal-eating parents!

Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 25 minutes | Serves: 4 (2 slices each)

1 (8oz) package tempeh
1 small onion, minced
1 large carrot, minced
1 cup instant oats
2 tsp ginger paste
1 tbs liquid aminos
2 tbs spicy mustard
3 tbs curry powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
1-2 tsp red chili powder
1 tsp liquid smoke (optional)
1 green chili, minced (optional)
4 tbs (no-HFCS) tomato ketchup
1 tbs Worcestershire sauce (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a glass loaf pan. In a mixing bowl add everything but the tempeh. Chop your tempeh or mash it with a fork in the bowl. Mix everything. Press it into your baking pan. Rest 5 minutes. Bake 25-30 minutes. Let cool before slicing. I served this with blanched broccoli, spiced with chili powder and cumin plus lemon juice. And drizzled everything in chutney!

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Making Kombucha, Lemon Sugar and GF Cupcakes!

It was a day in the kitchen! I made some delightful treats and decided to separate it into two posts. Keep reading for some sweeties :)

Making Kombucha

This is a fermented tea beverage from China. It is made using a bacterial culture that feeds off the sugar in the tea anywhere from 7-28 days. You then remove the layers of scoby and drink the tea. I prefer it ice cold from the refrigerator. It is tangy and usually fizzy. I first had it in Germany and fell in love. This is my first attempt making it. I purchased a kit on Amazon from OK:

The tea bag is on the left and the scoby culture in some pre-brewed tea is on the right. It wasn't hard to make. Basically like making tea normally, except a gallon of it! Also you don't drink it or want it hot.
You need a cup of refined white sugar, which sounds like a lot, but as I mentioned the bacteria are utilizing this as food during the fermentation process. So when you are ready to drink your kombucha, a serving only has about 25 calories and few grams of sugar.
After you let the tea cool to room temperature, you add the scoby and cover it with a cloth (something that keeps debris out but allows air in). I keep it in a warm part of the kitchen so the bacteria can grow (the directions recommend 85F). I'm gonna let this baby do it's magic for probably 10 days. Really simple, and the health benefits of kombucha as well as most fermented foods (sauerkraut, tempeh, kimchi) are many. Another cool thing is once you've purchased this kit, you have the culture to keep making kombucha. You just save the scoby in a cup of the tea in a baggy until you need it :)

Making Lemon Sugar

1 cup white sugar
1-2 lemons (depending on size)

I cannot remember the last time I used refined sugar, but since I had taken it out to make the tea, I realized it was going to expire soon. I've never seen lemon sugar made with coconut sugar or any other alternatives I use, so I decided to make some. All you need to do is zest the lemon over a bowl of sugar so the peel and oils coat it. Mix and spread thin on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Let dry for 1-2 hours. You don't want any moisture in the sugar or it will spoil. Your sugar will now have a light taste and perfume of lemon :)

Gluten-Free Lemon Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache & Raspberries

Prep time: 5 minutes | Cook Time: 30 minutes | Yields: 12 cupcakes

Coconut (or other gluten-free) flour, 1 3/4 cups 
Non-dairy milk (I used Almond vanilla), 1 1/4 cups
Earth Balance butter or coconut oil, 1/2 cup
Apple Cider or white Vinegar, 2 Tbs
Lemon Juice (fresh), 1 1/2 Tbs
Flax Meal & Water, 1 + 1 Tbs
Turmeric Powder, 1 1/2 tsp
Pure Lemon Extract, 1 tsp
Lemon Sugar, 3/4 cup 
Baking Powder, 1tsp 
Baking Soda, 1 tsp 
Zest of Lemon
Salt, 1/2 tsp

Dark Chocolate Chips, 1/4 cup
Coconut Oil (virgin), 1 Tbs

Preheat your oven to 350F. Melt your butter or use oil. In a small bowl add your water and the flax meal or ground chia to form our egg-like binder. Stir together your vinegar and milk in a small bowl, letting it rest for 5 minutes. combine your flour, baking powder, soda and salt in a large mixing bowl. Mix your milk, oil, sugar, lemon juice and zest in another bowl. Side note: if you don't have turmeric, it can be left out (bet you never heard of turmeric in a dessert before). I added it because it gives the cupcakes a lovely yellow color, doesn't affect the flavor, is a very healthy spice, and a natural food dye. Add your wet ingredients. Use an electric mixer or your hands. Add in your flax egg and stir. 
Spray a muffin tin with non-stick oil or use liners. Spoon your cupcake mix into the tins. Bake for 30 minutes, or whenever a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool for 5-10 minutes in the tin. Meanwhile...
In a glass bowl add your chocolate chips and coconut oil (or butter). You can microwave them or use a double boiler. I decided to boil because the chocolate reaches a perfect consistency and stays creamy for a long time this way. Find a pot that is small enough so the bowl doesn't fall inside and deep enough so it doesn't touch the pot. Add water to the pot only a few inches deep (you don't want it to touch the bottom of your bowl).
Put your pot on the stove over high heat with a lid, bring to a boil. When boiling, turn the heat to low and put your bowl on the pot. The water should just simmer, you will see trapped steam and maybe condensation. Stir the chips as they melt until the mixture is smooth and thin.
Now you can either spread the chocolate on your cupcakes with an icing spatula or hold them upside down and dip them. I tried both and they worked well. Serve hot topped with raspberries (or any fruit sliced) or put in the fridge for 10 minutes for the chocolate to harden.

Enjoy :)

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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Black Bean Veggie Pizza with a Special Spinach Crust

Today was a busy day in the kitchen! I had been planning to make a plum chutney, but half of my plums are ready and the others are stubbornly hard. I decided to dig around in the fridge for things that needed to be used up. I found cilantro, a peeled sweet potato, and lemon juice. If you Google or Youtube anything, you can find a recipe. I decided to make a Crispy Potato Sandwich. It is easy to find substitutions and veganize things in a pinch too.

It was super yummy and pretty healthy. To clean it up, you can bake it in the oven or toaster instead. You can also melt cheeze on top, if desired. Personally I really liked grilling it in the pan because it reminded me of childhood. The spread has a lot of vitamins and is a nice way to get some veggies in. I'd also recommend trying this with a GF or multigrain bread - I just used the standard vegan wheat we had in the house (I don't eat much bread besides the rotis I make).

This can also be viewed on Instagram.
I had more potato spread but couldn't eat any more so I saved it to use at another time (I'm thinking a cold sandwich with lettuce, tomato, mustard, etc).
After that deliciousness I was satisfied all day. Around dinner time I started toying with ideas to use tempeh, but figured after the seitan yesterday I'd rather go low protein.

I decided to modify a recipe for Vegan Black Bean Pizza because I love using our veggies from the garden. Because the recipe used premade dough and salsa, I decided to have some fun making my own.

This is full of tomatoes, onion, green chili pepper, garlic, basil and cilantro with fresh ground pepper and salt plus cumin powder! While that was infusing, I pondered a dough. I wanted something new and was inspired by spinach parathas from India. I watched a few videos and figured I could make it into a pizza dough.


This is a blend of spinach, baby arugala, a little cilantro and basil. I wanted kale but didn't have any.

So after a few substitutions and a little Tofutti, plus tons of kneading, I made this beautiful dough.

After resting for 15 minutes, I dusted it in all-purpose flour/maida and rolled it out (the dough is atta/whole wheat and a little besan/chickpea).

I then brushed the edges really lightly with evoo just so they wouldn't get hard, cake, or burn. I topped it with lots of awesome veggies. No cheese. The toppings were very light since the crust is kind of heavy from being nontraditional wheat.

Popped this baby in the oven at 450F for 15-20 minutes (I'll never know because my dad accidentally turned the timer on the microwave off).

Look at it! I ate half the pizza myself...but I don't feel weighed down afterwards like you would from a traditional American pizza! This is full of vitamin-rich veggies. It is plant-based, green health food! Not meats and dairy products packed with saturated fats. I feel very happy about this.
I ate some pretty awesome things today.

And the day ended with this sunset :)

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A Special Meal: Curried Seitan, Jeweled Couscous, and Veggie Fries with a Spicy Dijon Aioli

I call this a special meal because not only does it taste and look great, but it can also take a long time if you make everything from scratch. I decided to make seitan for the first time. I first had this "wheat meat" in Munich Germany and it was love at first bite. It was served in an Asian take-out box on a skewer with spiced chickpea couscous and a curry satay sauce which inspired this more Middle Eastern version. If you want, you can simply buy a package of seitan at the store, but I never get to Whole Foods, so I decided a science experiment was in order! Although I generally avoid gluten, this treat is packed with Vitamin C and protein, so I'm digging in. Read below for directions or skip right to the cooking preparation and other ingredients :)

Homemade Seitan

Prep: 5 minutes | Cook time: 45 minutes | Yields: 1.5 lbs (enough to serve 3)

1 package of Vital Wheat Gluten (8oz)
3 TBS Nutritional Yeast Flakes
1/2 cup cold vegetable broth
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced

For the simmering broth:
6 cups vegetable broth
1/4 cup liquid aminos
1 tbs liquid smoke
1 tsp ginger paste
2 tsp chili powder
3-4 slices onion

In a broth pot, bring the simmering ingredients to a boil. Meanwhile, mix the dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately. Pour the liquid into the flour and begin mixing immediately. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes. You can't overwork this stuff. Press the dough out flat on a cutting board. You can either cook it in blocks or strips. I did both. The seitan will swell while cooking, so make it thinner than you want your finished product to be. Turn the broth to simmer and add carefully. Crack the lid and cook for 45 minutes. You want to check every 15, turn, and make sure everything looks good (this broth smells great, so save it for soup!).

While this is cooking, prepare your marinade.

1/4 cup curry powder
1.5 tsp garlic powder
1 onion, minced
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbs salt
2 tbs red curry paste (adjust to taste)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves

Whisk and let the flavors begin to infuse at room temperature.

When the seitan is done, remove with tongs and let it sit in a strainer for a few minutes (this is more to cool off than dry). Mine was quickly cool enough to handle. Place on your cutting board and cut into strips, then dice into 1-inch cubes. In a Ziploc gallon bag or tubberware, toss your seitan in your marinade. Refrigerate for 2 hours, turning halfway through.

While this was marinating, I chopped my veggies. Honestly, this was kind of fridge cleaning. I had veggies from the garden that I wanted to use and veggies that were gonna go bad if I didn't. I used approximately:
2 large carrots
2 cups of green beans
and part of a giant wild zucchini that makes it impossible to determine how much

While your seitan is still marinating, go over here and read this awesome recipe for Zucchini Fries that I utilized. I also used her killer flax mayo recipe, but forewarning, if you're gonna half it you'll need to doctor it up with ener-g egg replacer and a little liquid lecithin.

Now that you've made the fry coating, and your seitan of epicosity is ready, pour it in a baking pan with half the marinade. It should look something like this.

It is beautiful, I know. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Follow the directions to prepare the zucchini fries. They are simple and yet so delicious. I had leftover crumbs so after cutting my carrots and green beans which were lightly tossed in evoo and spread on a smaller baking sheet I poured the almond meal over the green beans.

Each item requires a different cooking time, but by staggering when you put them in the oven, they can all be cooked at the same temperature and finish at the same time. When your oven is ready, put the zucchini fries in (these take the longest, at 40 minutes). The carrots and green beans will take about 15-20 minutes, and the seitan will take about 20 so just keep an eye on things and use your nose. With 15 minutes left I flipped all my veggies (except the green beans) and stirred my seitan, adding the rest of my marinade.

Now about this glorious Jeweled Couscous:

Prep: >5 minutes | Cook: 10-15 minutes | Serves: 4

1 cup dry couscous
2 cups water
1 small onion, minced
1-2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup pistachio nutmeats and almond slivers
3/4 cup raisins, preferably golden but I only had red
4 tbs of red or white wine
4 tbs of vegan butter
1/2 tsp saffron threads
1-2 celery stalks (depending on size)
1/2 an Orange bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Soak your raisins in the water. Wash and cut your veggies. In a medium-large pot, sauté them in a little evoo. When onions are transparent and fragrant, add your saffron. Stir and add butter. When melted, add the wine and water (reserving raisins). Let this simmer a bit and bring to a boil. Stir in your couscous, cinnamon and other spices. Cover and simmer for 5-8 minutes. When most the liquid is absorbed, stir in the nuts and raisins plus cilantro. Cook uncovered for a few more minutes, if necessary.

When everything is done, plate it as artistically or hungrily as you want. Drizzle some marinade or fry sauce on your seitan. If you want a couscous dome, use a small ramekin or glass bowl that fits in your palm and pack down the couscous with a spoon back. Place the plate over the top of the bowl and flip it, then lift up the bowl carefully. I like this method of presenting the couscous because it is like treasure when you dig in and the "jewels" fall out.

Enjoy :)

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

My Favorite Version of Jeera Rice

Prep: 30 minutes | Cook: 10 minutes | Serves: 4

1 cup Basmati rice
1.5-2 cups of water
1 tsp oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp turmeric or saffron coloring
1 tsp coconut oil or Earth Balance butter
1/4 cup chopped mint (optional)
1 tbs minced fried onion (optional)
1 green chili, minced (optional)

Soak your rice for 30 minutes, then drain. In a rice pot, heat your oil and toast your cumin seeds over medium heat. Add your green chilis and mint. Stir and add warm water. When boiling, add salt and rice. Cover for 10 minutes on a low heat. Add onion, coriander, turmeric or saffron, and coconut oil or vegan butter. Stir and cook on high (uncovered) until the liquid is mostly absorbed. Enjoy :)

Black-Eyed Pea Curry

Prep time: 5 minutes | Cook time: 40 minutes | Serves: 4

3 cups of soaked (1 cup dry) black-eyed peas or 2 15-ounce cans
1 cup basmati or jasmine rice
3 tbs coconut oil
3 tbs garbanzo bean flour (besan/gram)
1 tsp brown mustard seeds
3/4 tsp cumin seeds or ground cumin
1 tsp hing/asafetida or 1 clove minced garlic
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 thumb fresh ginger, diced
2 vine-ripped tomatoes, chopped
1 cup vegetable broth
2 tbs lemon juice, squeezed
1-2 bay leaves
1 tsp coconut sugar
1 can coconut milk
2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp sea salt + 1 tsp extra
1 jalapeño or green chili (optional)
4 tbs or 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped (extra for garnish, if desired)

I soaked my black-eyed peas overnight for 7 hours. Drain and rinse the beans, remove floating shells and debris. Add to a medium pot with just enough water to cover and 1 tsp sea salt. Cook on high for 15-20 minutes. Similarly, follow the directions on your package of rice. Meanwhile...

Chop your onion, cilantro, ginger and tomatoes. Heat 1 tbs of oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add mustard and cumin seeds, stirring until they pop. Add more oil and then the flour, keep it moving so as not to burn. When slightly golden and aromatic, push to the side and add 1tbs more oil. Add your hing or garlic, stirring until fragrant.

Add onion, ginger and tomato plus the veggie broth. Boil for 5 minutes and then add your lemon juice plus bay leaves. Simmer with lid for 15 minutes. Remove the leaves, add sugar and salt. Once thick, add your coconut milk and rest of spices. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add your beans and cilantro, then remove from heat. 

Serve with plain or jeera rice and rotlis.

This is a really fantastic recipe because even though it has a lot of ingredients, it is very simple. The stove does most of the work, you just need to give it the goods. When I first started making Indian food, I thought everything was supposed to burn your mouth and have curry powder in it. I have come a long way! A few great things I've learned since exploring this cuisine: it's full of healthy ingredients, I get to learn some Hindi, it's really easy to make vegan, and it can be as complex or simple as you have time for :)

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About Me

Hello and welcome to my food blog,
This is a look into the food I create, my cooking philosophy, and the fun I have eating it all!

I would like to tell you a bit about myself first. I'm a full-time college student studying Psychology, Sociology, and Women's & Gender Studies. I have a passion for reading, writing, outdoor photography, and cooking. I grew up in a generally traditional white American family, and it was clear pretty early on that I was gonna be the rebel. Still, all the time spent cooking in the kitchen stuck with me. Although I didn't enjoy it then, when I would've much preferred to be off reading a book or exploring the woods, today I find cooking an absolute joy: It can be exciting, relaxing, and hectic all at once. Plus you get to do science experiments and make artistic creations simultaneously!

I feel starting to cook on a regular basis has truly transformed my life. A lot of the food I ate growing up seemed healthy, but always left me feeling unsatisfied or crappy. I had a lot of minor health issues that no doctor ever suggested could be related to diet which have all but disappeared since then (recurring headaches, acid reflux, chronic backaches, fatigue, etcetera). I have not studied nutrition at an academic level, but my personal experience with this lifestyle change has been amazing. Not only do I feel better physically, but I enjoy my food so much more. Since starting to think more about what I consume, and putting in the time to make a great meal, I am eating the best food of my life. Plus all those healthy things I used to hate - asparagus, kale, mushrooms (with the exception of raw tomatoes, I just can't do it, haha) - taste great now (yup, my tastebuds have actually matured)!

Furthermore, I want to tell you about my journey to my current veganism. It has been a long and topsy turvy road! As I mentioned earlier, I am kinda the rebel in my family. In high school, I watched a video on industrial farm practices and knew right there I had to do something. The suffering and immorality brought me to tears, and I became a pescetarian that day. My parents were unsupportive of the change. My dad is a big hunter, and my mom works hard to make dinner - neither of them were interested in what they saw as a teenager's "phase". Prior to this, I had never realized how much meat we actually consumed. We were never one of those family's who had bacon or sausage with eggs in the morning and yet suddenly it seemed like I could not escape the dead animals. Although it was hard, I did not eat meat for almost two years. This changed when I went to college. It was a combination of a lack of options and personal weakness on my part that made it seem easier to eat meat a couple times a weak. I also ate a lot of unhealthy college food - processed, not enough plants, all that. At my annual check-up we discovered I had developed hypertension. It was no wonder considering how often I felt crummy - the only thing that miraculously stayed strong was my immune system. I realized my body was telling me I had to change. I cut back on sodium, drank more water, and stopped eating all meat.

I feel this was the right choice physically and emotionally, but I learned in a class about the environmental damage caused by our out-of-control meat consumption as a nation so it was intellectual too. I never realized how crappy I felt until I realized how could you could feel on whole grown foods! I successfully tested my veg resourcefulness during my travels to France and Germany, and was inspired to learn more about world cuisines with vegetarian options. I had the privilege of dating a Hindu guy from India who opened my eyes to some of the best food I have eaten in my life. And this is also when something very interesting happened. Most Hindus do not consume eggs, for matters of believing ovulation which is now dead is impure. This led to some personal and philosophical exploration that helped me make the decision to remove dairy products from my diet. When I had a glass of almond milk, it was love at first sip! I have began finding alternatives for ingredients I used to use. Now here is where it gets tricky, because there is a lot of vegan junk food out there, and just because it did not come from an animal does not mean you should eat it. When I first cut out dairy, I thought I had to put fake cheese on everything. As an Italian, it was unthinkable to have pasta without it. But now I cannot tell you how much I love a big bowl of al dente noodles covered in a rainbow of vegetables and herbs - you can really taste everything! I have also started making my own cheezes and mylks with nuts and I know everything that is in them. It can get as pricey or affordable as you choose. Personally, my body and my health is something I consider worth spending on, but I am also a college student, so I cut back in other areas to make it work.

That's enough about me. Let's get cooking!

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