Fall Flavors Series: Vegan Caramel Apples + Butternut Squash Curry

This fall, it’s my goal to go to the apple orchard (and to make the boy come with). Who doesn’t love to be surrounded by gorgeous fall foliage, delicious, freshly-picked apples and maybe an apple donut dipped into apple cider?

What’s even better, though, is when you get to take your freshly-picked, local apples and turn them into CARAMEL APPLES. And just in case you avoid dairy, are cutting down on sugar and/or avoiding corn syrup (often found in the caramel of caramel apples), are a vegan or just want a ridiculously easy, delicious, better-for-you caramel recipe — this caramel is perfect.

For a recent dinner party, I used Blissful Basil’s Five Minute Vegan Caramel as a part of a caramel apple “bar.” Imagine a sundae bar with all of the delicious toppings but instead of putting them on ice cream, you dipped your caramel apples in them.

Exciting, right?!

caramel_apples_with_toppings

Vegan Caramel Apples with Toppings

This is a fun, hands-on and healthified dessert that makes a great option for parties. Kids would love this as well — just change out the toppings with whatever you have on hand/enjoy best. Thanks to Blissful Basil’s amazing recipe for making this happen.

Ingredients:

  • 6 tart and crisp apples, such as Granny Smith, cut into wedges
  • Juice of one orange
  • 1/2 cup unsalted almond butter
  • 1/2 cup [real] maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup virgin coconut oil
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • Toppings: unsweetened coconut flakes, candied ginger, candied pecans, and sea salt

Directions:

  1. Add apple wedges and orange juice to a zip-top bag and store in the fridge until ready to use.
  2. Heat almond butter, maple syrup, coconut oil, salt and cinnamon in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down to low-medium and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool (ideally in the fridge) for 20-30 minutes. Note, you can enjoy the caramel hot but it will thicken up the colder it gets.
  3. “Skewer” apple wedges using wooden skewers, popsicle sticks, or in our case — chopsticks!
  4. Lay out toppings in small bowls with spoons.
  5. Once caramel thickens, let your guests dip their apple wedges in and then choose their toppings.

I’d say these are some happy apple sundae-goers…

vegan_caramelvegan_caramel_apples caramel_apples

BUT WAIT! It’s not all about the dessert here. There’s also an amazing, easy entree: vegan butternut squash and lentil curry over coconut-lime cauliflower rice. Unfortunately, the curry didn’t photograph so well in the nighttime lighting so there’s no beautiful picture to show you. But just because there’s no photo, doesn’t mean it’s not insane-good.

Also, why have I not made curry in the crockpot before? It’s so easy and the longer you let it chill in the crockpot, the more the flavors meld together and the whole thing turns into this amazing, warming curry.

Butternut Squash and Lentil Curry over Coconut-Lime Cauliflower Rice

The cauliflower “rice” helps lighten this dish up a bit, making it lower carb AND higher in fiber and nutrients.

Curry Ingredients:

  • 2 butternut squashes, peeled, seeded and cubed (1/2″ cubes)
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2 red bell peppers, seeded and diced
  • 2 cans coconut milk
  • 2 cups orange lentils (any color/type would work well here)
  • 1 Tbsp. yellow curry paste
  • 2 tsp. sea salt
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. turmeric

Curry Directions:

  1. Throw all ingredients in the crockpot and turn to high. Cook for 4 hours, or until butternut squash and lentils are soft.

Cauliflower Rice Ingredients:

  • 2 heads cauliflower
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • Zest and juice of 2 limes
  • 1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 2 Tbsp. virgin coconut oil
  • 1 tsp. sea salt

Cauliflower Rice Directions:

  1. Wash cauliflower, remove leaves, and cut in half. Remove cauliflower “core.” Chop cauliflower into chunks and add about 2 cups worth at a time to a food processor. Pulse for 1-2 second intervals until cauliflower is a rice consistency. You can also grate the cauliflower on a box grater or just chop it up really well for the same effect, sans food processor.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium. Add coconut oil and onions and saute onions for 2-3 minutes. Add cauliflower and saute for about 15 minutes. Add in lime zest and juice, shredded coconut and sea salt. Cook an additional 2-3 minutes.

Serve the curry over the cauliflower rice. And an expert tip here — make EXTRA and freeze the leftovers in individual containers for later enjoyment. I actually think it almost tastes better when re-heated.

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Fall Flavors Series: Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Hazelnuts

Brussels sprouts get an upgrade with toasted hazelnuts and orange juice and zest. This side dish is perfect for the holidays or a random weeknight.

Happy Friday! This has definitely been one of those weeks that feels like it’s never going to end and then, all of the sudden, Friday sneak-attacks and all is good. Isn’t that the best feeling?

A couple of weeks ago, I got to cook dinner for a group of ten awesome women as part of a fantastic event, Your Mat, Our Table. The event brought together women interested in healthy food and fitness by combining a one-hour rooftop yoga class overlooking Chicago and then a multi-course vegan, gluten-free meal made by moi, featuring dishes like my Kale, Roasted Butternut Squash and Pomegranate Salad and this yummy Brussels sprouts dish.

The menu utilized almost 100% local foods procured from the Evanston Farmers Market, mostly from Green Acres Indiana and Geneva Lakes Produce.

I was like a kid in a candy store that day at the market — was awesome getting to see, smell, touch and ultimately taste all that great produce whilst chatting with the farmers and other market patrons.

Did I mention the farmers market is my happy place? #nerdalert

brussels_sprouts

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Hazelnuts and Orange Zest

These Brussels are gluten-free, vegan and most importantly, delicious. Either buy a bag of them or, if you’re a glutton for punishment like me, get a stalk or two and saw those puppies right off (try not to cut yourself).

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. Brussels sprouts, washed with outer few leaves removed
  • Zest and juice of one orange
  • 2 cups hazelnuts
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425.
  2. Cut ends off of sprouts and then quarter them. Toss with olive oil and orange juice, then spread on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt. Roast for 25-30 minutes, or until slightly charred.
  3. Meanwhile, chop hazelnuts and lay on baking sheet. Toast in the oven for 5-10 minutes, until the hazelnuts become fragrant.
  4. Sprinkle roasted Brussels sprouts with orange zest and toasted hazelnuts and serve.

Stay tuned for more recipes from the event, including vegan caramel apples. This Sunday, I’ll be posting the recipe for {crock pot} Butternut Squash and Lentil Curry with Coconut-Lime Cauliflower Rice. Get pumped!

Fall Flavors Series: Kale and Roasted Butternut Squash Salad

Happy Fall, y’all! With fall comes brisker weather — which as someone who is always warm, I quite enjoy — along with delicious foods. Pumpkin, anyone? See also: Brussels sprouts, squash in all shapes and sizes, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, etc.

I recently prepared a multi-course vegan meal for a group of wonderful women. A couple of friends came up with the idea for an event, GATHER: Your Mat, Our Table. The event included an hour-long rooftop yoga class and then a delicious vegan meal prepared by yours truly using almost completely local ingredients. Here’s the menu lineup (and credit to the farms that supplied the goods, AKA the veggies):

Lacinato kale,  cinnamon-roasted butternut squash and pomegranate salad with candied pecans and a fig-balsamic dressing

Roasted Brussels sprouts with orange zest and toasted hazelnuts

Purple and sweet potato fritters with spiced apple sauce

Butternut squash and lentil curry over coconut-lime cauliflower “rice”

Caramel apple bar

*Lacinato kale, purple and sweet potatoes from Green Acres Indiana Farm; Butternut squash, red onions, red peppers, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts from Geneva Lakes Produce; Apples from K & K Farms*

This was my farmer’s market haul for the event:

fall_vegetabls_in_season

Many of the awesome ladies at the event were asking for recipes, so I figured I would do a series of posts. I want to first highlight my personal favorite dish of the night (and one of the easiest to make!): a roasted butternut squash and kale salad.

I’m all about color and texture in my recipes, and this one really offers it all. Crispy kale, the “pop” of pomegranate, the smooth, creamy texture of roasted butternut squash plus candied pecans on the side to add sweetness and crunch.

Drizzle it with a super-simple Mission fig balsamic vinaigrette and you’ve got a major crowd favorite.

fall_salad

Fall Kale, Butternut Squash and Pomegranate Salad

This salad is vegan but to add a little more protein, try topping with grilled chicken, salmon or to keep it vegan/vegetarian and up the protein, add some lentils or chick peas to the mix.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 2 Tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 2 bunches lacinato (AKA dinosaur) kale, preferably organic, washed and torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil plus 3 Tbsp. olive oil, preferably cold-pressed
  • 1 large pomegranate
  • 8 oz. pecan halves
  • 1 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • 2 tsp. coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp. fig balsamic (you can find at specialty grocery stores or olive oil/vinegar shops) Substitute balsamic vinegar if you can’t find fig balsamic 
  • 1 tsp. maple syrup

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Cut the ends off of the butternut squash then cut in quarters. Scoop out the seeds. Using a sharp knife, cut the peel off, then dice into 1/2″ cubes.
  3. Toss diced butternut squash and red onion with coconut oil, cinnamon and sea salt. Spread on a baking sheet and roast for 25-30 minutes, or until desired level of char (I like mine really charred).
  4. While squash and onions are roasting, add kale to a large bowl and drizzle with 2 Tbsp. olive oil. Using hands, massage oil into the kale. This will take out some of the bitterness and make the kale a better texture. Put the massaged kale in the fridge to marinate while you prep everything else.
  5. To remove the seeds from the pomegranate, roll the pomegranate gently around on the table (before cutting into it). You will hear and feel the seeds loosening. Then, cut the pomegranate in quarters and scoop out the seeds. Keep seeds refrigerated.
  6. Add 2 tsp. coconut oil to a pan and heat for 1 minute, then add pecans, 1 Tbsp. maple syrup and 1/2 tsp cinnamon to pan and toast, stirring frequently, for about 5-7 minutes.
  7. Using a whisk, mix vinegar, 3 Tbsp. olive oil and 1 tsp. maple syrup.
  8. On top of “massaged” kale, add pomegranate seeds, roasted butternut squash/onions and candied pecans. Drizzle with dressing.

Stay tuned for more fall recipes coming your way. And while I’m not generally a “vegan” cook, these recipes have mass appeal and include REAL foods that anyone can get behind. Hope you enjoy!

Olive and Red Wine Hummus {Sponsored Recipe ReDux}

I am currently blogging from #BlogBrulee at beautiful Smuggler’s Notch Vermont. I’m only half a day in and already I feel like I’ve learned so much and met the most amazing, inspiring bloggers. More on that to come – or if you can’t wait, check out my last post, which explains all about the awesomeness that is Blog Brulee.

I owe my ability to even go to Blog Brûlée to Recipe ReDux, which not only gives me creative recipe ideas every month and allows me to connect with fellow Recipe ReDuxers; it also means I get introduced to awesome foods/food brands/commodity boards like California Ripe Olives. They’ve challenged us ReDuxers to utilize and highlight California Ripe Olives in a unique and tasty recipe that also includes other flavors represented in the Mediterranean Diet e.g. vegetables, legumes, nuts, fish/seafood and more.

olive_hummus_with_wine

I received free samples of California Ripe Olives mentioned in this post. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by California Ripe Olives and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

 If you haven’t gathered from my blog/social media food posts (which make up about 99% of my posts), I am a HUGE fan of Mediterranean foods, and being half Armenian, grew up eating the best.

My favorite Mediterranean food – hell, my favorite food period – is hummus. Hummus has the perfect blend of lemony-garlicky-olivey flavor that works just as well as a dip, spread, condiment or to eat with a spoon (guilty). Beyond the deliciousness, hummus provides great nutrition. My clients often think that hummus is “fattening.” Grrrrrr, the “fattening” comment AKA one of my dietitian pet peeves.

[Stepping on soapbox] First off, foods that contain fats, specifically the good ones – monounsaturated, omega-3s, etc. – do not make you fat. In fact, those fats bring down inflammation in your body, which can make you feel better and also decrease your risk for various health issues such as diabetes, heart disease and inflammatory issues like rheumatoid arthritis and IBS.

Second, let’s compare hummus to other condiments such as BBQ sauce, ketchup, premade salad dressings and all the other junk. Hummus generally contains whole, real ingredients, barely any sugar and not much sodium. It is an infinitely better condiment than the other aforementioned sauces, which are generally LOADED with salt, sugar/high-fructose corn syrup, weird oils, preservatives and more. [Stepping off soapbox]

Okay, back to my love affair with hummus and also my love for olives, which I’m not sure I’ve mentioned yet but which is real and true.

Olives are an essential part of the Mediterranean diet and contain monounsaturated fat (1.5 grams per 4-olive serving) – the good fat, as we’ve discussed. California Black Ripe Olives are as nutrient-loaded as they are tasty. They contain vitamin E (0.25 mg per serving), iron, (0.49 mg per serving), vitamin A (60 IU per serving) and fiber (0.5 grams per serving). California Ripe Olives are extremely versatile in the pantry.
Since I love hummus already, I figured why not pump up the olive flavor with California Ripe Olives? Oh, did I mention there’s also red wine thrown in the mix? Because sometimes when you’re making California Ripe Olive Hummus and drinking red wine, you have crazy ideas like adding said wine to the hummus. And sometimes these ideas actually turn out great, as they did here. Cheers to that!

California Ripe Black Olive and Red Wine Hummus

Serve this savory, briney hummus with your favorite vegetables, cheeses and meats or enjoy it spread on a sandwich or “dilute it” with some oil and vinegar like I do to turn it into a salad dressing.

mediterranean_hummus 

Ingredients:

  • 2 (15 oz.) cans garbanzo beans, drained and well-rinsed
  • 1 can California Ripe Black Olives, drained, with 2-3 olive reserved
  • 1/3 cup tahini (sesame paste)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil plus 1 tsp.
  • 1/3 cup red wine
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp. sea salt

Directions:

  1. Add all ingredients, except for olive oil, to food processor and process until smooth.
  2. Drizzle olive oil through the feed tube and process until well-incorporated.
  3. Chop reserved olives and add to the top of the hummus as a garnish. Drizzle with 1 tsp. olive oil.

For more California Ripe Olive recipes, check out the link below.

Roasted Rainbow Carrots with Coconut Curry Beet Sauce {Recipe ReDux}

Who doesn’t love leftovers? Cook once, eat twice…or three, or four times.

Instead of just reheating the leftovers, though — c’mon, you know that gets boring — why not repurpose them into a completely new and delicious dish?

That’s what we were tasked with doing for this month’s Recipe ReDux:

Two for One

We’re all about cooking once and eating twice. In short, double dinners are better. Show us how you take a favorite recipe already on your blog – and ReDux the leftovers into a new dish. Or, whip up a new healthy recipe and give suggestions on how to make it a second meal. For example, slow cooker pot roast could become shredded beef tacos; or grilled chicken breasts might morph into chicken salad.

roasted_carrots_coconut_curry_beet_sauce

A few weeks ago I made this delicious {vegan} Coconut Curry Beet and Butternut Squash Soup, and I packaged the leftover soup into individual containers and then stuck the containers in my freezer for future soup-eating occasions.

Now, the soup was delicious, don’t get me wrong, but after eating it for a week straight, I was completely beet souped out. And I still had a couple containers left.

What’s a girl to do??

(#firstworldproblems)

roasted_carrots_beet_sauce

MAKE IT INTO A SAUCE! And drizzle that sauce onto the most perfectly-roasted rainbow carrots.

Did you know that carrots started off as PURPLE — not orange? Some think that orange carrots were first bred in the Netherlands to honor King William of Orange, but whatever the real story, the orange color has seemingly stuck since that time.

I like all carrots, but rainbow carrots are just so gorgeous! And the different colors mean that they have a variety of nutrients — beta-carotene (vitamin A) in the orange carrots, anthocyanins (powerful antioxidants) in the purple carrots and Xanthophykks and lutein (linked with cancer prevention and eye health) in the yellow carrots.

Roasting them brings out their natural sweetness and earthiness. I could eat them straight out of the oven (with a little sea salt), but the addition of this beet sauce completely elevates them and will totally impress your dinner guests.

roasted_carrots

Roasted Rainbow Carrots with Coconut Curry Beet Sauce

Serve this delicious veggie dish with grilled chicken or steak — or keep things vegan with marinated/roasted tofu. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. carrots, preferably organic rainbow carrots
  • 1 Tbsp. coconut oil, melted
  • 3/4 cup leftover Coconut Curry Beet and Butternut Squash Soup
  • 1 Tbsp. lime zest (from organic limes)
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecan pieces
  • 1/4 tsp. smoked sea salt (regular, non-smoked sea salt would also work)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Wash/scrub carrots and cut the ends off. Lay carrots on a baking sheet and drizzle with melted coconut oil. Toss the carrots a few times to evenly coat them with oil.
  2. Roast carrots for 30-40 minutes, or until tender. Transfer the carrots to your serving platter.roasted_coconut_carrotsroasted_rainbow_carrots
  3. Using a spoon, drizzle carrots with leftover beet soup, then sprinkle with lime zest and pecans.

roasted_carrots_coconut_curry_beet_sauce

Check out the link below for infinite leftover meal ideas from the members of Recipe ReDux. Enjoy!

Coconut Curry Beet and Butternut Squash Soup with Cilantro-Lime Pesto {Vegan}

Because you know I’m all about that beet, bout that beet, with pesto. I’m all about that beet, bout that beet, with pesto. I’m all about that beet, bout that beet, with pesto. I’m all about that beet, bout that beet, with pesto. Hey!

I’m bringing beet soup baaaaacccckkk!

I could totally continue on with my Meghan Trainor/beet soup song, but I have an important recipe that needs sharing. For soup, no less. And while this soup is totally about the beets, it’s also about the butternut squash, coconut, curry and THE PESTO. [Vegan] Cilantro Lime Pesto that I posted yesterday. The combination of that pesto and this soup is money.

coconut_curry_butternut_squash_beet_soup_vegan

Who calls a soup + pesto combination “money”? I called a sandwich “money” the other day while out to eat with the boy, who proceeded to tease me about using the phrase to describe food.

I guess that’s just how I roll.

Okay, back to soup.

I’m not generally a soup maker. I make big batches of chili all the time but for some reason I’ve neglected soup.

I think it’s because, until now, I didn’t appreciate the beauty of soup. Soup is a fantastic way to use up ingredients — produce, proteins, etc. — that are on the verge of going bad. While soups can take a little longer to prepare, they yield a giant pot of deliciousness that can then feed you for days. Soups also let you play around with flavor combinations and can be relatively fool-proof.

The curry-coconut-cilantro combo (with beets + butternut squash) is seriously delicious. The richness from the coconut is perfectly balanced by the acidity and freshness of the Cilantro Lime Pesto.

And while I’m not a vegan, the vegan principle of using real, whole ingredients is one that I totally get behind. If you haven’t noticed, I don’t really do processed foods.

coconut_curry_beet_squash_soup_vegan

Coconut Curry Beet and Butternut Squash Soup with Cilantro Lime Pesto

This soup would be perfect to serve at parties, for the holidays or just make whenever you want a warming, delicious and satisfying meal. If you’re not a vegan, I suggest pairing this with a grilled chicken breast for some protein.

Servings: 6, 10 oz. cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 large butternut squash
  • 2 large, fresh beets
  • 1 can (13.6 oz.) light coconut milk + 1 can (13.6 oz.) water
  • 1 1/2 tsp. curry powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. chili powder (optional)
  • Cilantro Lime Pesto for topping

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Cut butternut squash in quarters. Cut the ends off (the little nub at the top and tough part at the bottom). Scoop out the seeds (save these for delicious roasted squash seeds if you feel inclined).
  3. Wash/scrub beets well. Cut off top and bottom of each beet, then cut into quarters. No need to peel the beets — just make sure you scrub them well.
  4. Lay butternut squash, cut side down, and beets on a sheet pan and roast for about an hour, until they are soft. Peel the skin of the butternut squash off (it should easily come off). Let the squash and beets cool slightly.
  5. When beets and squash slightly cooled, add to a food processor and pulse mixture until smooth.
  6. Add blended mixture to a large pot, along with coconut milk, water, curry powder, salt, pepper and optional chili powder.
  7. Heat over medium until mixture starts to boil, then turn heat to low and simmer for at least 30 minutes.
  8. Top each serving with a spoonful of cilantro pesto and serve warm.

vegan_beet_squash_soup_with_pesto

Five-Minute Cilantro Lime Pesto {Vegan}

My memories of pesto go back to being a kid, when my mom grew basil in the herb garden and would make big batches of amazing pesto throughout the summer. Have you ever frozen extra pesto (or any sauce for that matter) in ice cube trays? My mom would do this and it’s brilliant — you can just pop out a cube anytime you need some pesto in your life.

Which is often.

vegan_cilantro_lime_pesto

Since getting the best gift ever — AKA my food processor — I have been known to make pesto out of any and everything. So, when I had some leftover cilantro from these Southwestern Sweet Potato Romaine Wraps with Cabot Pepper Jack Cheese, I made the obvious decision.

The only problem was that I didn’t have enough left to make full-blown cilantro pesto. Then I realized I had baby spinach in the fridge, and I could use it to extend the cilantro. And life was good again.

SIDE NOTE: I always have a giant box of organic spinach (I use Earthbound Organic) in my fridge and I recommend you do the same. I add it to eggs, use it as a salad base, add it to smoothies, soups and stir-fries, and more. It’s a great way to amp up the nutrition of your food and I find that the spinach in the plastic “boxes” stays fresh much longer than the kind packaged in bags.

Admittedly, this pesto was made to be a topper to a Coconut Curry Butternut Squash & Beet Soup that I’ll be posting later this week — I know, such a tease — but it is seriously delicious and can stand completely on it’s own. As in, I’ve been eating pesto by the spoonful. I’m not ashamed, though. You totally would do it too.

Vegan Cilantro Lime Pesto

Mix this in with eggs, add vinegar and serve as a dressing, use as a dip for veggies, eat it plain OR drizzle it over the Coconut Curry Butternut Squash & Beet Soup recipe I’ll be posting in a few days.

cilanro_lime_pesto_vegan

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup fresh cilantro
  • 3 cups fresh spinach (such as Earthbound Organic)
  • 3/4 cup walnuts (raw or roasted, whatever you fancy)
  • 1/3 cup grapeseed or olive oil
  • Juice of 1 1/2 limes
  • 2 tsp. lime zest (about 1/2 a lime worth)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. lemon peper (or ground black pepper)

vegan_cilantro_pesto_lime

Directions:

  1. Wash cilantro and remove last 2″ of the stems (you can keep some of the stems on — they’ll all get ground up anyway)
  2. Add cilantro and remaining ingredients to a food processor. Process until smooth.

vegan_cilantro_lime_pesto

This Thursday, I’ll be posting the most perfect, six-ingredient vegan soup recipe that is even better when topped with Cilantro Lime Pesto. Get ready, kids.

Vegan Moroccan Stew {Recipe ReDux}

Scary spices.

No, I’m not talking about your least favorite Spice Girl. I’m talking the theme for this month’s Recipe ReDux:

Spooky Spices: You know they are lurking there: Way in the back of your spice drawer. There lie the herbs, spices, or rubs that are getting dusty because you’re afraid to use them… you simply don’t know what to do with them! Well, pull them out and show us a recipe you created to deliciously conquer that fearful spice. (Or maybe the recipe was a flop – and the spice still give you nightmares?!)

I’d say I’m not scared of too many spices. I love to combine spices in unusual ways to completely alter/upgrade a recipe.

So at first, I was completely stumped.

Then, like a gift from the gods, my friend gave me some amazing saffron. I like the flavor and color that saffron brings to recipes, but I had never used it in my own cooking.

saffron

So, I started doing my research and one article gave mention of using saffron with cinnamon and cumin — SOLD! Saffron can give a bitter taste to dishes if not treated properly. To make sure I mantained the beautiful taste and depth that saffron can lend, I first ground the saffron using a mortar and pestle (my Grandma’s mortar and pestle, in fact — brought all the way from Turkey). Then, I steeped it — like you would tea — in hot (but NOT boiling) water for about 30 minutes, yielding the most beautiful golden liquid.

vegan_moroccan_saffron_stew

From there, it was time to make stew! Not just any stew…Moroccan-style, VEGAN, warming stew. Enjoy!

Recipe: Vegan Moroccan Stew

This dish is perfect for a cool fall day. If you need gluten-free, use one block of extra firm (crumbled) tofu in place of the tempeh.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pinch saffron (about 25 strands)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 white onion, sliced
  • 1 eggplant, cubed
  • 3 cups mushrooms, such as criminis, sliced
  • 2 Tbsp. coconut or olive oil
  • 2 blocks tempeh, crumbled by hand
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, preferably no salt added
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 pinch saffron
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 1/3 cup raisins

Directions:

  1. Heat 1/2 cup water until hot, but not boiling. While water is heating, grind saffron using a mortar and pestle, or even with your fingers if you don’t have a mortar and pestle. Add the ground saffron to a small dish and pour hot water over it. Let steep.
  2. In a large pot, saute onion in oil. Once onions are translucent, add mushrrooms and eggplant and saute for 10 minutes.
  3. Add tomatoes, crumbled tempeh, spices, salt, apple juice, steeped saffon/water combo and raisins and simmer for 30-45 minutes.
  4. Garnish with raisins or a sprinkling of ground saffron if desired.

vegan_tempeh_saffron_stew

Check out how fellow Recipe ReDuxers use “spooky spices” by clicking on the little blue guy below. Enjoy!

Mediterranean Cremini Mushroom Tacos with Tahini Sauce {Recipe ReDux Sponsored Post}

Mmm, umami.

What is umami you ask? It’s the fifth, and often unrecognized, type of taste bud. It’s the taste bud that senses savory deliciousness (and my personal favorite of all the tastes). Examples of umami-rich foods include meat/seafood, tomatoes, cheese — especially Parmesan, seaweed, soy, potatoes and of course, MUSHROOMS!

So imagine my excitement when I discovered that the folks at the Mushroom Council were sponsoring this month’s Recipe ReDux. They challenged us to use their “Trend to Blend” technique to either blend chopped, diced or minced mushrooms in place of at least half of the meat in a recipe using their blendability technique (you should seriously check it out, it’s genius!). Or, we had the option to forgo the meat altogether and make a purely vegetarian dish.

After some serious pondering, I took the latter route.

mushroom_tacos1

Side note: if you, too, love mushrooms, you can enter your own recipe in the Mushroom Council’s “Swap It or Top It” contest. Just submit your favorite burger recipe that either uses the blendability technique described above, swaps out meat completely for mushrooms or your favorite burger recipe topped with a delicious mushroom creation. The Mushroom Council is giving some top-notch prizes, like $5,000 cashola to the Grand Prize Winner. Not too shabby!

Besides delicious umami flavor, mushrooms are packed with nutrition. They’re low in calories (20 calories for 5 medium sized shrooms!), fat-free, cholesterol-free (that one’s kind of a no-brainer), low in sodium and also provide important nutrients, mainly selenium, potassium, vitamin D and more.

For vegans and vegetarians, mushrooms are a great way to bring some umami (read: satisfying) flavor back into meals. And for the meat-eaters, myself included, mushrooms can help you switch up your meals a bit (meatless Mondays, anyone?). I promise you won’t even miss the meat on these bad boys.

Recipe: Mediterranean Cremini Mushroom Tacos with Tahini Sauce

The tahini sauce is a perfect complement to lend creamy deliciousness without the use of dairy/animal products. You can find pre-made tahini sauce (Trader Joe’s has a new one that I’m OBSESSED with), or make your own as I did below by blending tahini (sesame paste) with lemon juice and garlic. A third option would be to top with hummus.

Mediterranean_Mushroom_Tacos

By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by The Mushroom Council and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

Yield: 4 tacos

Ingredients:

For mushroom blend:

  • 1, 10 oz. package Cremini mushrooms
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed using a garlic press
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt

For tacos:

  • Sauteed mushroom blend (ingredients above)
  • 1 plum tomato, diced
  • 1/2 cucumber, diced
  • 1/3 cup tahini (sesame paste)
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 4 corn tacos

Directions:

For mushroom blend:

  1. Wash mushrooms well and dice using a chef’s knife.
  2. Heat 2 cloves minced garlic in 1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil for one minute.
  3. Add mushrooms and saute until mushrooms are translucent, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add turmeric, basil, cumin, pepper and salt to mushrooms and saute an additional 1-2 minutes.

For tacos:

  1. Mix 1 clove minced garlic with lemon juice and tahini to form the tahini sauce.
  2. Heat corn tortillas in microwave for 15-20 seconds, until soft and pliable.
  3. Place 1/4 of the mushroom blend on each tortilla.
  4. Top with tomatoes, cucumbers and 1/4 of tahini sauce mixture.

mushrooms

Mushrooms all diced and ready to go into a saute pan…

diced_mushrooms

Sauteeing away — see how the turmeric gives the blend a gorgeous golden color?!

sauteed_mushrooms

In goes the mushroom blend…

mushrooms_tortillas

Then the tomatoes and cucumbers…

mushroom_tacos

Finish it off with delicious tahini sauce…

Mediterranean_Mushroom_Tacos

Check out more delicious ways that Recipe ReDuxers used mushrooms by following the link below!

Chai-Chia Seed Coconut Pudding {Recipe ReDux}

There are certainly a lot of chia seed recipes out there, especially for pudding. I have always been a fan of chia seeds — sprinkling them on salads, on top of my oatmeal, in my yogurt and smoothies — but had yet to get on the chia seed pudding bandwagon…

…Until this month’s Recipe ReDux theme was announced: “Tea cups around the world are bubbling up with bold new flavors: From cardamom chai and sencha green to bubble teas and veggie teas. We wish we could attend the World Tea Expo the end of this month – but in lieu of a plane ticket, we’ll be cooking and baking and stirring up tea-inspired healthy dishes.

chai_chia_pudding

Since I constantly type “chia” instead of “chai” or vice versa [seriously, does anyone else have this problem?? #foodbloggerproblems] and since I always have both chai tea and chia seeds on hand, I thought, “wouldn’t it be cute to make a chia-chai recipe?”

chai_chia_puddin

Besides being vegan, gluten-free and full o’ great nutrition, this recipe also whips up in 20 minutes (15 of that is the refrigeration time needed to thicken up the pudding).

Recipe: Chai-Chia Seed Coconut Pudding

This recipe makes a great breakfast, snack or dessert! While the mixture seems watery at first, it will thicken — a LOT! Chia seeds provide omega-3’s, protein and fiber, among other nutrients. Plus, they work as a binder and can be used in place of eggs in many recipes.

Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces unsweetened coconut milk (the kind that comes in soymilk-like containers AKA tetra paks, NOT the canned variety)
  • 1 chai tea bag
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • Nuts, such as pecans, for garnishing (optional)

Directions:

  1. Heat coconut milk in the microwave in a large bowl for 2-3 minutes, until milk is steaming.
  2. Add remaining ingredients (except for nuts) and give a good stir.
  3. Transfer the mixture to the fridge and let sit for at least 15 minutes to allow the pudding to thicken up.
  4. Top with optional nuts. Enjoy cold.

chia_seed_pudding

Check out the fantastically creative and delicious recipes from other Recipe ReDuxers by following the link below!