Saturday, July 28, 2012

Summer Vegetarian Tacos

I had an itch for tacos with fresh ingredients that were light and summery, and stumbled across this interesting sounding saute on Post Punk Kitchen.  It wasn't for tacos, necessarily, but I thought it might work well. 

It also had seitan (pronounced say-TAN, not satan, ha!) in it, which I was intrigued to try.  The meat-loving fiance was willing to give it a try (bless him and his tolerant taste buds).  I had to buy it at Whole Foods, but I never mind having an excuse to go there, really.  If you can't find seitan, feel free to use black beans instead.

The result?  Awesomely tasty.  Really.  They were fresh tasting, yet the seitan and mushrooms lend a wonderful savory and meaty flavor (and texture).  I wasn't sure what to expect with this experiment, but it turned out amazing.  Next time we might add some fresh slaw or rice, just to mix it up. It was very easy to throw together, so we will definitely be making this regularly!

Summer Vegetarian Tacos
(adapted from The Post Punk Kitchen)
Makes 4-5 tacos

Taco Filling
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium red onion, in thinly sliced half moons
1 jalapeno, thinly sliced (seeds removed if you want less heat)
8 oz seitan, thinly sliced
1 cup fresh corn kernels, from 2 ears of corn (you can use frozen corn, in a pinch, but not ideal)
8 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced into thin strips
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon salt
Fresh black pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Avocado Cream
2 ripe avocados
1/4 - 1/3 cup sour cream (to taste)
Pinch of salt

Small flour tortillas
2-3 small tomatoes, chopped
Queso fresco cheese, crumbled
Hot sauce (if you need more heat)
Fresh cilantro, chopped
Preheat a large, heavy bottomed pan over medium-high heat. Saute onion and jalapeno in two teaspoons oil and a pinch of salt, until translucent, 3 to 5 minutes.
Add the seitan and corn, and an additional tablespoon of oil and cook for about 5 minutes, until seitan is lightly browned, stirring often.
Add the mushrooms, cilantro, salt and pepper and cook for about 5 minutes.
Push everything to one side of the pan so that you have space to quickly saute the garlic. Put the remaining teaspoon of olive oil in the pan and toss in the garlic, stirring as it sizzles, for about 15 seconds. Then mix everything together and add the lime as well.

For the avocado cream, cut avocados in half and scoop out the insides and put into a bowl.  Mash (or use immersion blender) to smooth it out.  Add sour cream (to your taste) and salt, and blend.

To assemble tacos - spread some of the avocado cream on the tortilla, and top with filling.  Garnish with chopped fresh tomato, crumbled queso fresco cheese, cilantro, and hot sauce (to your taste).


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Mid-Summer Corn Chowder

Corn - a favorite summer food (especially for us Midwesterners!)  It was on sale at our local grocery store, and although we adore corn-on-the-cob, I wanted to try something else with fresh corn and this recipe was just the thing.

This is a great healthy recipe that's perfect for when you have lots of summery produce laying around, just waiting to be eaten.  Unlike most chowders, it doesn't use cream or anything for the smooth texture, so it's waistline-friendly.  It also makes a decent amount, so we had a tasty lunch to bring to work for a few days (always a plus).  I got this recipe from a vegan cookbook (my favorite), but I made it non-vegan with some chicken broth and added cheese.  However, it's easily made vegan/vegetarian and it's superb either way!

In addition to the garnish of tomatoes and basil, I also sprinkled on some queso fresco cheese, and it was even more delicious.  The fiance suggested some small (cubed) roasted rosemary potatoes for a different additional garnish, and I will try that sometime as well.

Mid-Summer Corn Chowder with Basil, Tomato, & Fennel
(adapted from Veganomicon)
Serves 6-8

6 ears fresh corn, husks and silk removed
3 Tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced finely
1 large onion, cut into fine dice
1 small bulb fennel (about 1/2 pound), diced
1 stalk celery, chopped finely
1 large carrot, diced
1 pound white, waxy potatoes - Yukon Gold is a good one (about 2 medium-sized), peeled and diced
1 tsp dried thyme (the original recipe called for 2, but thyme can be so pungent so I reduced it to 1)
2 quarts vegetable and/or chicken broth (or a fresh corn stock that I was too lazy to make)
Salt and pepper to taste

1 pound tomatoes, seeded and chopped finely
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, tightly rolled and chopped into thin strips
Queso fresco or panela cheese, diced/crumbled

On a large cutting surface or in a large bowl, hold an ear of corn by the thicker end and run a sharp knife carefully down the length of the ear, close to the cob, to slice off the kernels of corn.  Repeat with the remaining ears.  Note that kernels will fly all of the place, so have a nice, big work space.  Use the non-sharp side of the knife to 'milk' the cob to get the little bits and juice that you couldn't get while slicing off the kernels.  Set aside the kernels, break each cob in half to use in the corn stock, or add to the soup when simmering.

Preheat a large soup pot over medium-high heat.  Saute the garlic in oil for 30 seconds, then add the onion.  Stir and cover, sweating them for about 5 minutes. Add the carrot and celery, stir, cover, and cook for another 2 minutes.  Add the fennel, stir, cover, and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes; then add the chopped potato, stir, cover, and cook for 5 minutes.

Add the stock, salt, pepper, and thyme, stir, cover, and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat to medium and allow the soup to simmer, covered (with lid tilted so a small amount of heat can escape), for 45 minutes.  Turn off the heat and set aside to cool until only slightly warm.

Puree the bowl of soup with an immersion blender.  If you would like it to be a bit chunkier, reserve half of the soup, un-pureed, in another bowl, and puree only half of it.  Reheat all soup in pot until hot enough to serve, add tomatoes, and basil, and cheese (if using), and serve.


Monday, July 2, 2012

Blueberry Brownies (Vegan)

Summer has arrived everywhere else in the country...but not here in the Pacific Northwest.  So, bring on some chocolatey comfort food, but with a bit of a summery twist!

I had a brownie recipe that I had been itching to try in the vegan cookbook that the fiance gave me.  I've been wary of vegan baked sweet treats as I had some misadventures with some black bean brownies (weirdest texture ever) and some other adzuki bean/banana brownies (weirder still).  Expectations were low, to say the least.  But they turned out really well.  Fantastic, actually!

They texture is great, and more of a cakey brownie.  The flavor is really good and doesn't taste 'healthy' or 'odd.'  The the secret ingredient of blueberry spreadable fruit and whole blueberries is a fun surprise that adds to the yumminess.  In the book they also mentioned raspberry as an option (I'm sure we'd be game to try that as well!)

The plan is to bring some of them into work for treats (and independent taste testing)...that is if the fiance doesn't chase me down with a fork to eat them all!  (Don't fear for him, he'll get some in his lunch this week!)

Give this recipe a try, you won't miss eggs or butter!

Blueberry Brownies
(adapted from Veganomicon)
Makes 16 brownies

2/3 cup plus 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
10 oz. blueberry spreadable fruit
1/4 cup soy milk (I used almond milk and it worked great)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup fresh blueberries

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking pan.

Melt the 2/3 cup of chocolate chips, reserving the other 1/2 cup to fold in later.  Melt using a double boiler or in the microwave.

In a large mixing bowl, (or KitchenAid) combine the blueberry spreadable fruit, soy (or almond) milk, sugar, canola oil, and extracts.  Mix on high speed until no large clumps of the spreadable fruit are visible.  This could take a few minutes.

Sift in the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Stir until well mixed; we use a fork here because the batter is very thick and can clump up in a whisk or mixer.  Mix in the melted chocolate as well.

Fold in the remaining 1/2 cup of chocolate chips and the fresh blueberries.  Spread the batter in the baking pan.

Bake for 45 minutes.  A toothpick test doesn't work because of the melted chocolate/chocolate chips make it look wet and the top will appear soft.  It's done in 45 minutes - promise!

Remove from the oven and let cool.  Slice into sixteen squares (or three, or whatever!)  If you want to serve it warm, wait about 30 minutes, so it is still warm but not hot.  For true decadence, serve with vanilla ice cream (vegan....or not!)  and a little bit of blueberry syrup, plus some fresh blueberries for good measure.

(More fresh fruit makes it healthy, right?)