Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ready-to-Go Guac

Ready-to-Go Guac

I love me some guacamole.  But I like my guacamole full of cilantro, red onion, jalapeno, salt, and lime, and as I am not what you would call a neat cook, I do not like what the involved process of mincing, squeezing and mashing does to my kitchen:


So I'm left with the choice of making a large batch and fighting against it all turning brown, or cleaning this mess up every time I get a hankering.

No more.  I decided to try prepping a big batch of all the mix-ins, but keeping it separate from the avocado and just mashing a spoonful into a ripe avocado whenever I want some fresh guac.  It worked surprisingly well for my first try - the proportions still need a little tweaking, but I love the idea and it seems like the mix will keep and freeze well.

You could easily do this with whatever flavors you like in your guac - tomatoes, chiles, spices, go nuts.  You'll have to play with the amounts to get the proportions just right, but it's much less work than chopping everything up each time.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Baked Mac un-Cheese

Baked Mac un-Cheese

Pretty much every vegan cook is convinced they make the best vegan mac and cheese - I think it's a rite of passage, sort of like buying your first pair of faux-leather stiletto boots.  (Maybe that one's just me.)  It's also very personal: some like theirs full of gooey Daiya or FYH cheddar, while some prefer the creamier nutritional yeast sauces.

So I'm not going to call this dish "Seriously For-Real Ultimate Best Mac & Cheeze EVER!!!"  I'm also not going to claim that it tastes just like "real" mac and cheese, because let's be honest - nothing tastes like cheese except cheese.  What this does taste like is a fabulously rich, creamy, cheesy mess, with all the homestylin' goodness I crave and without the icky dairy.

Oh, and mine has tempeh bacon in it.  So that means it wins automatically, right?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Roasted Tomato Soup

Life outside the Campbell's can is good, people.  Homemade tomato soup is pretty damn easy and so, so much better, it's well worth the extra effort.  Plus, I pretty much don't believe that anything from a can is real food.  This soup is made sweet and creamy with the addition of an acorn squash in lieu of any dairy-type product, which worked beautifully.  Probably any sweet, creamy squash would work, such as butternut.

Know what else is super easy and makes everything way better?  Roasting vegetables.  It brings out sweetness and flavor, even in those not-so-super winter roma tomatoes.  If you're going to make a vegetable soup of some kind, roast the vegetables beforehand to really make it out of this world.

This soup was, quote, "the best tomato soup ever."  I even snuck up to have a late-night snack, cold and straight from the tupperware.  'Nuff said?

Roasted Tomato Soup

  • 3 lbs tomatoes, cored and halved
  • 8-10 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 yellow onion, cut into wedges
  • 3 T olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 acorn squash
  • 4 C vegetable broth
  • 1 bunch fresh basil, de-stemmed and roughly chopped
  • 1 T fresh rosemary, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • agave nectar (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 425° F.
  2. Place tomatoes (cut side down), garlic, and onion on a big ol' baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast for 45-60 minutes, until everything is browning and delicious-smelling.
  3. At the same time, roast the squash.  I cut it in half, seeded it, and put it right on top of my veggies. You could also leave it whole and pop the whole thing in the oven.  The squash is done when a fork will easily pierce the skin.  Don't worry about over-cooking it; everything's getting pureed later.
  4. Toss all the roasted veggies into a soup pot.  Scoop out the flesh from the squash and toss it in, too.  If bits have stuck to the pan, use the veggie broth to deglaze and/or scrape them off.
  5. Add the broth, herbs and spices to the soup pot.  Heat until boiling, then simmer covered over medium-low heat for 10 minutes or so to combine flavors.
  6. Use an immersion blender to puree everything to a smooth and creamy texture.  Add salt and pepper to taste, and if it's not as sweet as you like, a little agave nectar.
Serves about 8.  Serve hot, with a yummy crusty bread.

Roasted Fennel Salad with Asparagus, Carrots and Pear

This is the fanciest salad I've ever made, and probably also the best - it received rave reviews from my Dorothy-Lynch-loving family, including The Boy who likes neither asparagus nor fennel.  So there you go.

Roasted vegetables are awesome.  Fresh fennel bulb is awesome.  Fresh green herbs are awesome.  Salads comprising all of the above are triple-awesome.  I challenge any naysayers to a fight to the death.  I will win, because I'm all hopped up on nutrient-rich vegetables, so I recommend that you just eat the salad and shut up about it.

Roasted Fennel Salad with Asparagus, Carrots and Pear and Basil Vinaigrette

Roasted Vegetables
  • 1 fennel bulb, sliced into 1/4"-thick wedges
  • 1 bunch asparagus, tough ends snapped off
  • 8 small carrots, sliced lengthwise 1 or 2 times (you want the slices about the same width as the asparagus stalks)
  • 3 firm pears, each cored and cut into 8 wedges
  • 1/4 C balsamic vinegar
  • 3 T olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 425° F.
  2. Toss all ingredients together in a really big bowl until everything is evenly coated.
  3. Spread out over a low-walled baking sheet - unless your sheet is huge, you may need 2.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes, until asparagus and carrots are crunchy-tender.
  5. Allow to cool to just warm before topping the salad.

Basil Vinaigrette
  • 1 bunch basil, de-stemmed and roughly chopped
  • 1 shallot, roughly chopped
  • 1 T dijon mustard
  • 3 T white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 C olive oil
  1. Combine all ingredients except olive oil in a blender or food processor.  Pulse until chopped and combined.
  2. With blade running, stream in olive oil until emulsified.

  • 6 oz flavorful greens, such as mixed herbs, baby greens, arugula
  • fennel-roasted vegetables
  • basil vinaigrette
  • fresh lime wedges
  1. Plate the salad by laying down  a handful of greens, then stack a few asparagus and carrot spears on top.  Top with a few fennel and pear wedges, and drizzle with vinaigrette.
  2. Just before eating, squeeze a fresh lime wedge on top.
Makes about 8 servings, or fewer if your family keeps stealing the roasted vegetables out of the pan before you can plate the salads.  You could also chill the vegetables before serving.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Chickpea Salsa

This non-winter winter we're having here in Colorado is really messing with my taste buds.  Rather than craving nice winter stews or vegetable pot pies like I usually do, I'm hankering for citrus and tang and fresh, summery salsas.

This chickpea salsa (so called because you eat it with a chip, not because it contains tomatoes - it doesn't - or is a sauce - it isn't) is so pretty and hits the spot on top of some fresh-baked pita chips.  I served this at both a summer barbecue and a winter party, and it was a hit both times.  Best of all, it's easy as pie - actually, no, it's way easier than pie.

Chickpea Salsa

  • 2 cans (or 3 C cooked) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can (or 1-1/2 C cooked) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 large mango, peeled and diced
  • 1 red or orange bell pepper (or 3-4 sweet mini peppers - I love those things!)
  • 2 scallions, sliced thinly on the diagonal
  • 1 tbsp parsley or cilantro, finely chopped
  • 2 large limes (for juice and zest)
  • 1/4 C olive oil
  • salt, to taste
  • 1 avocado, diced
  1. Rinse the beans and combine in a large mixing bowl.  Mix in the rest of the ingredients through the herbs.
  2. Zest one of the limes, then squeeze in juice from both.  Add olive oil and salt, and mix well.
  3. Gently fold in the avocado.
  4. Chill at least 30 minutes for flavors to rest.
Makes 24 1/4-cup servings (90 Calories, 3 WW points).  Serve chilled with toasted pita chips.