Tangy Shrooms & Greens

Buying fresh spinach is a big commitment for me. I take into consideration the expiration date, and make sure I have smoothies, wraps/sandwiches, salads, and/or dishes like these planned. Organic spinach is expensive, and while I want to get a good value on an economy bag of organic greens, I just hate to waste any food (yet alone costly organic produce)!

Actually, raw spinach and kale freezes well, in my experience. I leave it in the original bag and if I want small pieces of the green, I wait until the leaves are frozen, then squeeze the bag all over.

I’ve made other’s recipes similar to this dish that called for balsamic vinegar and lemon juice. Today I decided to improvise without lemon juice, and give apple cider vinegar a try…and it was delicious!

Recipe:
Preheat nonstick skillet over medium-high. Add raw sliced mushrooms. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to release their juices. Then add apple cider vinegar, soy sauce, chipotle Tabasco, minced garlic, and spinach or kale. Cook, stirring often, until liquid is absorbed. Yum!

Catboy doesn’t like mushrooms and didn’t try it, but Hunny Bunny asked for seconds. They cook down and reduce in size, so don’t be afraid to throw plenty of shrooms and greens into the pan.

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Easy Mediterranean Garlic Marinara

I love Farmer’s Market! In my area I can get tomatoes, zucchini, and basil there (which I did, and used for this recipe). I’ve also seen garlic, bell peppers, and probably parsley, so you (or me, but probably you) could do some tweaking and use 100% locally grown super fresh Farmer’s Market finds.

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Savory zucchini muffins

In my quest for a sugar-free zucchini muffin, I started thinking about getting away from sweet altogether. It doesn’t even have to be breakfast-y. In my search results for “savory zucchini bread,” one stood out–Namely Marly!

She is local to me and vegan. So of course I had to click on it and see if her recipe looked good.

It had no sugar, only a small amount of oil, and was already vegan! It did call for all-purpose flour rather than a whole grain. But I decided to give it a shot. Continue reading

Don’t Be Cruel Mini Muffins

Vegan, sugar-free, oil-free, dairy-free, egg-free!

Banana and peanut butter were Elvis’s favorite toasted sandwich fillings for a reason–they just go together! The recipe is without any animal products for a cruelty-free breakfast experience. These muffins are filled with whole foods instead of sugar or oil…but do NOT taste like it. The ripe bananas provide just the right amount of sweetness for breakfast (rather than tasting like a sugary dessert). They are made with whole grains and don’t have the gummy texture most oil-free baked goods take on, thanks to the peanut butter! Continue reading

Zucchini muffins–no sugar, no grating

It’s August, and zucchini is quite prevalent this time of year. I can find a variety at almost every stand at my local farmer’s markets for pretty cheap. I love squashes prepared a variety of ways, but lately I have been on a quest for a good healthy breakfast muffin. I used to make these, then started replacing ingredients when I went vegan, but now I’m interested in less oil and sugar and more whole ingredients (like whole grain flour and fruit). I also always pureed the zucchini, rather than grating. I heard pureeing will change the texture, so I decided if I was going to find new recipes, I’d start with as few changes as possible (replacing oil and sugar).

I picked out some zucchinis that didn’t look too fat (and full of bitter seeds), and brought them home to my hand grater. It wasn’t really working for me. I could have gotten out my food processor and used the grating attachment, but it doesn’t work that well and I did not feel like washing all those dishes. So I got out my knife and minced. I had done so before, years ago, to make zucchini bread, and I felt like it did well. Fingers crossed, I put the minced squash into the fridge for the next morning’s baking experimentation.

Chocolate Covered Katie’s pancakes:

I went with the pinch stevia and the spelt flour options, and I added a few tablespoons extra milk; maybe even 1/4 cup. I skipped the chocolate chips on all these today–in the interest of a conservative food budget and phasing out sugar, they stay at the store these days. The pancakes were great dipped in sugar-free pancake syrup (I know it’s best to avoid the sweetener, but if I add a little on the side instead of mixing it in, it tastes so much sweeter, so I can use a lot less). The whole batch made 6 pancakes, although I could have easily made 7. I ate all of them, so no word on how they freeze.

Savory, gluten-free Zucchini Muffins:

I used flax not chia, and pureed avocado replaced half the coconut oil. I did need the almond milk. I made a half batch and due to the next batch of muffins, I turned the oven down to 350 degrees after they baked awhile (maybe 15 minutes). These were good dipped in syrup, too. They might have been a little underdone, but I had no problem eating one. Perhaps adding less almond milk would have been prudent. I froze the rest and Hunny Bunny and I ate one the next day. I think they are more at home alongside soup rather than breakfast, but they also work as a syrup-topped breakfast. The reheated one got homemade raisin syrup (raisins soaked in unsweetened almond milk, then pureed).

Vegan Zucchini Bread:

I initially made a half batch of these too. I used a combination of applesauce, coconut oil, and pureed avocado instead of the same amount of applesauce and coconut oil. No walnuts. I used the raw cacao nibs I had instead of roasted and a little extra milk in half of the batch. The half recipe filled 6 regular size muffin cups. I just skipped the sugar altogether and hoped it wouldn’t affect the texture or anything, as there were no instructions to cream the fat and sugar together. The muffins with added milk took longer to cook, although I forgot to time it.

I still had more zucchini and cacao nibs I wanted to use up, so I made it again to use the rest, this time pureeing the zucchini and cacao nibs (probably and extra tablespoon or two cacao) with the wet ingredients, and added raisins. I used homemade nut butter (just peanuts and almonds) rather than avocado. I made a full recipe and filled 10 regular size muffin cups. This batch was actually good enough to eat without syrup–the raisins added just enough sweetness to get by. I did not add any extra milk; just kept the batter really thick. I found they cooked very evenly this way and the texture was perfect. I couldn’t taste much chocolate, but maybe that’s due to lack of sweetener.

What’s your favorite way to bake with zucchini?

Nyan Cat Birthday Cake and Other Vegan Party Snacks

My son Catboy turned 11 recently. He wanted a Nyan Cat cake. I don’t know what Nyan Cat is all about but you are welcome to google it.  I chose fruit kabobs as the rainbow trail behind the cat, and The Everything Vegan Cookbook has a simple vegan cake recipe I decided to make for the body.

On the day of the party, I followed the recipe for the Pineapple Cherry “Dump” Cake with my beautiful new extra-large rectangle cake pan. As I poured everything in, I had a sneaking suspicion it would not be the kind of cake I could frost, especially spread out in my stupid huge pan. I was right. Fortunately, it was delicious, so I decided to call it a cobbler and stick it in the fridge. Also fortunately, I had time to find a box of accidentally vegan cake mix and just follow directions. I actually got 2 so they’d fit and be big enough for Nyan’s pop-tart body.

I also made Chocolate Obsession Cake from Chocolate Covered Katie (already vegan, I used steamed carrots pureed with water instead of carrot juice) as the cat head, cupcakes tail, and cupcakes legs. The gray fur frosting was hand-crushed Oreos mixed into simple icing (powdered sugar + a little milk and vanilla extract). I smoothed it onto the cooled cakes right away, and it hardened quickly into a perfect fur effect.

The pop-tart body cake ended up being a “butter” cake. Vegan margarine stood in for the butter, and the “egg” was half pumpkin, half Ener-G. On top I did peanut butter frosting that I mixed in my stand mixer with paddles instead of in a blender. I just made sure to blend it for plenty of time and it got very smooth! I spread that on the sides and the edges of the top of the cake. The “pop tart’s strawberry icing” was accidentally vegan store-bought white frosting + ground freeze-dried strawberries. This gave the frosting a wonderfully strong strawberry flavor and bright pink hue. Fresh slivered strawberries acted as the “sprinkles”.

My mom offered to bring some food, so I suggested chips and salsa. I figured even without Mom making any effort whatsoever, they’d end up being vegan. My plan worked! Bwahahahah. I had carbonated water (cheap) and juice to mix instead of pop, plus homemade stevia-sweetened lemonade. There were also plenty of fruits leftover, even after I made plenty of kabobs. In rainbow order, I used: strawberry, orange, banana, kiwi, blueberry, grape.

All the cakes tasted moist and tender. The frostings were great, the fruit was fresh, the cobbler was sweet and buttery, and the salsa was slightly spicy (and provided a much-needed relief from all the sweets!). None of the partygoers were vegan or vegetarian, but no one had any complaints about the food and I got plenty of compliments.

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Do your prefer baking birthday cakes for your loved ones from scratch, from a box, or buying ready-made?

Muffins!

I had a collection of muffin recipes before I went vegan. They were pretty traditional, with all-purpose (AP) flour (which I’d haphazardly exchange for whole wheat as I felt like it/had it available), egg, and sometimes milk. I did like to use pumpkin puree or unsweetened applesauce, but they always included sugar and CHOCOLATE CHIPS. We lloooovvve chocolate chips!

More recently my baking efforts have been a little more sophisticated, in that I want to use a recipe that is specifically designed for the particular flour that I use. But I don’t like the idea of using AP flour–I seek out whole wheat recipes. I have found some good ones:

Dark chocolate banana bread: I’ve never been a fan of bananas. This includes smoothies that include bananas, banana flavored candies, and banana bread. But, I’m a vegan now, I eat plants, so I think I should try to get on board the banana train if I want to eat muffins. I made this quickbread as muffins, so it counts. I decided to try it because my kids like bananas and muffins, I had new star-shaped muffin molds, and chocolate (it can’t be that bad with all that chocolate, right?). It was ok. The kids liked them, but I had a hard time with the banana. The second time I made it, I had a cold and a stuffy nose, and couldn’t taste the banana. I loved them that day.

Sugar-free banana muffins: I used molasses instead of honey, vegan margarine as the butter, and some sort of egg replacer (I don’t remember–either pumpkin puree, aquafaba, or Ener-G, I’m guessing). I also left out the walnuts. These were super delicious, but unnecessarily sweet. Also, I get her point, but it irks me when people say “sugar free” when you just sub a liquid sweetener or xylitol for the sugar. Really, with overripe bananas, you can get by with very little sweetener.

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread from Chocolate Covered Katie: This recipe was already vegan, so I didn’t make changes, other that omitting the additional sweetener. I went with canned pumpkin puree, sugar over xylitol, spelt flour over AP, and my milk of choice was unsweetened almond. I don’t have pumpkin pie spice; I just used a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves (in ascending order) to make up the 1/2 teaspoon called for. I had to bake it for a little longer that the recipe specified. This doesn’t have any fat like butter or oil, but it was still pretty good for me and the kids. And chocolate chips are in it, so ya know…:-D

Those chocolate chips got me thinking…they are sweet enough that whatever I throw them into doesn’t need to be so sweet. Maybe I could find an “unsweetened” muffin recipe rather than “sugar free”. More on that later!

What attributes do you look for in a muffin recipe?

TVP-stuffed spaghetti squash

Have you ever been stuck paying for a library book because you accidentally ruined it?

Have you ever turned on the wrong burner on the stove and burnt an item that had no business being on the stove in the first place?

In other news, I bought a book recently….It’s called The Everything Vegan Cookbook. It has more processed ingredients than I care for, but there are many good recipes scattered throughout–in fact, I had checked it out from the library for the second time this year before my little “incident”.

I made TVP Stuffed Peppers because I still had TVP from making chili. I’m not all that big on bell peppers, and I thought spaghetti squash might be a good sub. So, I skipped the rice and salt, threw in a little extra celery, decreased the oil to only 1 tablespoon, and used a pound of fresh mushrooms rather than measuring by cup.

I used the whole recipe to top a whole spaghetti squash (cooked separately, strands scooped out to plate). It was delicious! Catboy enjoyed it, too. I put half of it in the freezer, reheating it another day at work for lunch. Perfection! Half of the whole thing was a very generous, but fairly low-calorie, serving.

Jackfruit Carnitas

I was so excited to find jackfruit at my local natural foods store, Terra. It was in a can on the bottom shelf. I had wanted to try cooking jackfruit ever since sampling some at similar store, Natural Grocers, in their deli section. I enjoyed a similar BBQ sandwich more recently at Mud Pie Vegan Bakery (along with a delicious cupcake!!). It was very surprising that a fruit could resemble a traditional meat dish so closely.

I found a recipe for Jackfruit Carnitas online, and chose the simple version. I accidentally poured in more than a teaspoon of cinnamon, looking at “2t cumin”. So it was a bit more than a “pinch cinnamon.” Oh well–I just went with it, figured I’d see what happens. After everything seemed about ready in the pan, I added some drained, rinsed white beans (I had already used the aquafaba and had been waiting for an opportunity to use the beans!) and sprinkled on some garlic powder and taco seasoning, then mixed and let it heat in the pan.

I served it for myself and catboy, who was quite pleased with the dish. I mentioned the cinnamon mistake after he tried it, and we agreed it wasn’t such a bad mistake (although I wouldn’t intentionally use that much cinnamon again without changing some other things). I asked him to rate how similar to the corresponding meat dish he believed the jackfruit to be (0=nothing like meat at all, 10=there is no way this isn’t 100% authentic animal flesh) and he gave it an 8. I then asked him to rate how much he liked it, just in general (0=the worst thing ever, 10=his new favorite, he’ll eat it all day) and he said he didn’t love it, but he liked it and I should make it again, solid 6. Then just for fun, I requested he rate it within his known vegan repertoire (so don’t compare it to chipotle with actual meat, or anything else with animal products) and he gave it an 8.

I loved that it was low-calorie enough to be able to add beans or a tortilla. I hope to find a recipe that is more like the BBQ sandwiches I have had before, but I’ll make this again (minus most of the cinnamon!). I will probably bring this to a family BBQ and see what my meat-loving parents and siblings think of it. I wonder if I could trick them into thinking it’s not vegan/vegetarian…

Have you ever passed of a vegan dish as omnivore-friendly?