Saturday, January 31, 2009

Moroccan Lentil Soup

I got an immersion blender for Christmas so I'm always excited when recipes like this come my way and I find a new excuse to use it! It's quickly becoming one of my favourite kitchen gadgets!

I loved all the flavours in this soup - it was almost a little smoky. It's full of great low-fat protein from all the beans and lentils and the veggies and spices add all their own health benefits.

This is a really easy, low-maintenance dinner. Other than all the chopping and the occasional stir, this stuff cooks itself! Great for rainy weekends (because we have so many of those in San Diego!)
I wouldn't really suggest this for a weeknight dinner because it has to simmer for so long. You could make it one night and let it simmer while you cook/eat something else. Store it in the fridge and then re-heat it the next day. That would make it suitable for a busy weeknight since all the work is done! Just pair it with a crisp green salad and some crusty bread (or toast if you always seem to forget to pick up crusty bread for soup nights!)

This will make a lot - I'd say 6-8 servings

1 cup dried lentils
2/3 cup dried chickpeas (aka: garbanzo beans) or 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2/3 cup dried navy beans (or other white beans) or 1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped carrots
4 medium-sized fresh tomatoes, chopped (include the seeds) or 1 (28-oz) can diced tomatoes (include the juice)
2 cups vegetable broth
2 cups white wine
1 1/2 tsp. garam masala (I make my own - see the note below)
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1/2-1 cup button mushrooms, sliced (however many you like)
Freshly squeezed lemon juice (couple tablespoons)

Link Method:
1. First things first, you'll need to soak the beans if you're using dried ones. There is a quick-soak method that I got from the Moosewood Low-Fat Favorites Cookbook down below in the "My Changes" section. Otherwise, soak the beans overnight. Once soaked, just drain them and give them a quick rinse before adding them to the rest of the ingredients.

2a. If you have a crockpot, you can dump everything except the lemon juice in and set it on low to cook for 8-10 hours. Something about leaving something with heat on all day while I'm at work scares me so I refuse to buy a crock pot! Besides, I think of them as tools for roasting chickens and it's not like I'll be doing that anytime soon. ;) Hmmm... I will admit, I miss a good roasted chicken... not enough to go back to eating meat, though.

2b. If you don't have a crockpot, dump everything except the lemon juice in a Dutch oven and cook it on the stove-top. Bring the mixture to a boil and then turn down to very low heat and let it all simmer for 3-4 hours. Stir occasionally.

3. Once it's done simmering, stir in the lemon juice. I let mine sit on the hot burner (turned off) for a couple minutes after adding the juice.

4. Just before you serve the soup, use an immersion blender to blend it all up. If you prefer, you can pour the soup in a regular blender or food processor and pulse. Probably best to do it a little at a time if you go that route. Oh, and be sure to put a towel over the top so you don't scald yourself with hot soup steam. Ouch!

This was posted a while back by one of the ladies on the Nest cooking board (thank you!) There are a couple other sources for it, though. This one from the blog A Year of CrockPotting and this version from AllRecipes (cited on the Year of CrockPotting blog).

My Changes:
I made a few!
First, I'm not the proud owner of a crock pot so I just made this on the stove in my Le Creuset.
Ingredient changes:
*I used dried beans instead of canned. I just quick-soaked them by bringing the dried beans to a boil and then letting them sit in the hot water (off the heat) for one hour. They'll cook the rest of the way while the soup simmers.
*I used fresh tomatoes instead of canned.
*Rather than using all veggie broth, I halved the amount and then used white wine to make up the total amount.
*I added some mushrooms and lemon juice, just because. :)
*I'd really like to try this with a dollop of Greek yogurt next time. Of course, that will make it non-vegan...
*I make my own form of garam masala by mixing the following together:
4 tbsp. cumin (or coriander seeds if you happen to have those)
1 tbsp. curry powder (or cumin seeds)
1 tbsp. freshly-ground black pepper
1 1/2 tbsp. dried ginger
3/4 tsp. cloves or allspice
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. crushed bay leaves
3/4 tsp. cardamom
I modified this recipe to get the garam masala version that I use. It makes a ton but you can store it in an air-tight container.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Lickety Split

It has been muffin madness in my kitchen lately with three new muffin recipes this last week! All successful despite some weird yield amounts (which may have a lot to do with all the additions I made to each one). These ones are probably my favourite of all of them!

These started out as a banana-split muffin recipe s
o I wanted to keep the ice-cream parlour theme going as I made a couple changes. To do that, I added in some extra nuts and flaked coconut. Next time I may try some crushed pineapple and I'd also like to add some wheat germ (nothing to do with the ice-cream theme!)
I can't wait to enjoy these for breakfast during the week.

This made 12 standard-size muffins (even though I halved the original 12-muffin recipe!)

1 1/2 very ripe bananas, smushed up
1/4 cup firm tofu, smushed up (egg substitute)
1/4 cup turbinado (raw) sugar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (butter substitute)
1/2 tbsp. vanilla
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour

1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tbsp. aluminium-free baking powder
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
3/8 cup non-dairy, semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/8 cup dried Bing cherries
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup coconut

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan with unbleached cupcake papers or lightly grease with vegetable oil or non-dairy butter.

2. In a large bowl, stir together the flours, baking powder, cinnamon
, and salt. In another bowl, combine the mashed bananas, mashed tofu, turbinado sugar, olive oil, and vanilla.

3. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour the banana mixture into the well. Stir to combine but be careful not to over-mix. Gently stir in the chocolate chips, nuts, cherries, and coconut.

4. Scoop the mixture into the prepared muffin tin, filling each muffin cup about 3/4 full. Bake the muffins at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let them cool on a wire rack (but make
sure you try one while they're still slightly warm!)

This recipe is based on the Banana-Split Muffins recipe from the November/December 2008 issue of VegNews magazine.

My changes/additions:
*I used half-and-half on the flours - 1/2 cup whole-wheat and 1/2 cup all-purpose (original called for all whole-wheat flour).
*I added the pecans, coconut, and cinnamon.
*I changed the method around a bit.

Really make sure you smash that tofu up! My taste-test muffin had little white chunks in it :) Hmmm... I wonder what that could be? Obviously, it won't change the taste at all but you'll want to try to avoid that, especially if you're serving these to others.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Pasta with Fresh-Herb Pesto and Green Leafies

I love discovering new pesto recipes, especially ones that don't include cheese! Yes, I love cheese but with a family history of not-so-wonderful cholesterol, I have to cut back when I can. Take it from this cheese-lover, you won't miss it here! :) I'm sure all that oil has something to do with that... Oh well, isn't olive oil supposed to be good for your heart? Either way, it's not as cholesterol-laden as some pestos.

This dish is low in sodium and has only 13 grams total fat with a scant 2g sat. fat (and, what do you know? 0mg cholesterol! yeay!) Additionally, it's a good source of plant-based proteins, complex carbohydrates (esp. if you use whole wheat pasta) and fiber. Plus, dark green, leafy veggies are full of goodies like calcium and vitamins.

I made this with spinach but the original recipe called for kale (black kale to be precise). I've never actually tried kale but I seriously need to branch out and use more greens in my cooking! I know all the health benefits of them and I'm sure they all taste great. That can be a goal for the year.

Make all the pesto, even if you're only cooking the pasta part for one or two people. Pesto freezes well and is great to keep on hand for quick lunches!

Fresh-Herb Pesto
Serves 6
3/4 cup fresh parsley
1/4 cup walnuts
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp. fresh thyme, strip the leaves from the stem
1 tsp. fresh rosemary, strip leaves from the stem and chop them up a bit
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. lemon juice

Serves 2-3
1/2-1 cup spinach, chopped (or kale..)
5 or 6 mushrooms (oyster, baby bellas, button, cremini), cut in half
1 cup onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
1 large sprig thyme (do not remove the leaves)
1 large sprig rosemary (do not remove the leaves)
1/2 cup organic white wine (organic wines are usually vegetarian/vegan-approved)
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
6 oz. capellini, spaghetti, or fettuccine noodles
A little additional olive oil

1. Pulse the parsley, walnuts, 2 cloves garlic, 1 tbsp. thyme, 1 tsp. rosemary, 2 tbsp. olive oil, and lemon juice in a food processor until well-blended.

2. Cook the pasta according to package directions but add the whole sprigs of thyme and rosemary plus the sliced garlic clove to the cooking water. During the last 5 minutes of cooking, remove the herb sprigs with a tea strainer or tongs and then add in the spinach. Drain pasta.

3. While the pasta cooks, heat a little olive oil in a small skillet. Add the onion and mushrooms and saute until tender. Add the wine and let it reduce for a few minutes (to about half the original amount of wine).

4. Pour the wine-mushroom-onion mixture into the pasta-spinach mixture and stir to combine. Toss in some of the pesto along with the sun-dried tomatoes. You can sprinkle some freshly-shredded Parm on the top but you won't need it (this is vegan if you leave the cheese off. To keep it vegan but add some "creaminess," try grinding up some almonds in a coffee grinder and sprinkling those on top).

Based on the recipe "Fettuccine with Three-Herb Pesto, Black Kale, and Oyster Mushrooms" from the February 2009 issue of Vegetarian Times magazine.

I made it my own by...
*Using white wine in place of veggie broth
*Adding lemon juice in place of some of the oil in the pesto
*Tossing in the sun-dried tomatoes
*Using cappelini in place of fettuccine
*Using spinach in place of black kale
I also switched around the method quite a bit since I thought this way would be faster and would use fewer dishes!

Ooh, bonus! I just read that while spinach is a source of iron, it also contains these pesky iron-absorption inhibitors.. but, if you add in iron-absorbing helpers like, oh, white wine, you can help keep those inhibitors at bay and get more of the iron from the natural, whole-food spinach source.

While I'm on the iron note, I just read somewhere else (it was either Veg Times or VegNews) that non-heme iron, while not as bioavailable to the body (meaning it isn't as well absorbed as meat-based heme iron), is actually better for you since the human body is able to better regulate its non-heme iron absorption. God, what a sloppy sentence! To think, they gave me a Masters! In teaching of all things! lol :)
Anyway, get back to your point, blondie! That all means that our bodies are able to put up a big "Stop" sign to prevent us from absorbing too much non-heme iron. That isn't the case with the iron from meat-based foods - the body will just keep on absorbing it with no overdose protection. I realize iron deficiencies are bad but so are iron overdoses so I'll take my plant-based iron and just make sure I have a glass of OJ (or wine!) along with it. :)

Now I have to find the source of all that so I can blame someone else if it is wrong! heh ;) Made me feel better to read that, though, since iron is one of those "but where will you get your...?" questions I hear all the time (and I do not like to get nutrients from supplements).

Who needs salt?

This is a really great roasted veggie recipe. It's fairly low-fat (11g total; 1.5g sat. fat. - at least according to the original recipe) in addition to being low-sodium, vegan, and gluten-free. Oh yeah, and fricking delicious! ;)

Serves 2

1 cup cauliflower florets, cut up into bite-sized pieces
1 cup halved Brussels sprouts
1 cup broccoli (I'm not sure that's such a "winter vegetable" but DH went with all the carrots and I needed something to add in!)
1/2 medium sweet potato, diced
1/2 cup onion, cut up into large dice
1/2 parsnip, cut into sticks
5 or 6 small mushrooms (button, cremini, or baby bellas), halved
1 clove garlic
1/2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tbsp. fresh rosemary, stripped from stem
1 tsp. fresh thyme, stripped from stem
1 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
Pinch dried lavender
Pinch dried tarragon
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1-2 green onions, thinly sliced (optional)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

1. Toss the Brussels sprouts, broccoli, parsnip, sweet potato, cauliflower, and mushrooms in a large bowl along with 1 1/2 tbsp. oil, the garlic clove, rosemary, thyme, lavender, tarragon, and a couple grinds of fresh black pepper.

2. Spread the veggies out in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast for 20 minutes at 450, turning 3 times with spatulas. Save the bowl! You'll need it in step 4.

3. Turn up the heat to 475 or 500 (I left mine at 475) and roast for an additional 10 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. You can add the sliced green onions at this point if you like.

4. Grab the bowl you used earlier and add the parsley, lemon juice, and the remaining olive oil. Throw in the roasted veggies and toss it all together. Serve hot on a bed of rice, quinoa, couscous, or pasta (rice or quinoa would be gluten-free; couscous and pasta are wheat-based so they would cancel out that but you can find GF pastas if necessary).

Based on the recipe "Herb-Roasted Winter Veggies" from the January 2009 issue of Vegetarian Times magazine.

How I made it my own:
I added in the 'shrooms, parsnip, onion, green onion, lavender, and tarragon. I also used plain olive oil mixed with a clove of garlic in place of garlic-infused olive oil (which I'm sure is fantastic but in this economy [and on my teacher salary], I'm using what I have already! lol)
Oh yes, due to an unexpected lack of carrots, I also subbed in broccoli :)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

New Name :)

I've been trying to come up with a more creative title for my blog for months and finally came up with the age-old question "but where do you get your protein?"
I have my omnivorous friends and family members to thank for that. :) It's really one of my favourites... maybe someday I'll write a post on all the reasons I think I actually do far better in the iron/protein/calcium/Omega-3 departments now than I ever did when I ate chicken and fish. To think someone once tried to tell me that vegetarianism was an eating disorder..! :)

Anyway, it's still "Gillian's Goodies" just with a new name for the new year (I'm just a bit late on the new year thing given that it's January 21 already... already! 3 weeks into 2009.. yikes!)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Fruit and Nut Muffins

These have all sorts of things going on - it's like every bite has a new flavour to taste! These muffins are based on a recipe for muffins using just two types of dried fruits so I added in another fruit and some chocolate chips for a little extra oomph!

Despite being really tasty, these also have tons of nutritional benefits. While dried fruit often gets a bad rap for being so full of sugar, it is natura
l sugar and none of that high-fructose corn crap or over-processed refined sugar. Plus, dried fruits are a decent source of non-heme iron which is important for vegetarians and omnivores alike.
The nuts add healthy fats; the dark chocolate has antioxidants; and the lack of dairy makes these suitable for people who cannot tolerate lactose.
All that makes these a yummy, portable, and healthy breakfast treat!

Makes somewhere between 12 and 24 muffins
(Again with the funny amounts! I halved a recipe that said it would yield 12 and still got 12! Thank goodness I like them... and muffins freeze well!) The amounts below reflect those from the original recipe, they are not reflective of my halved amounts.

1/2 cup almond milk or other non-dairy milk
1/4 cup crushed pineapple, include the juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup pure maple syrup (I like the dark amber variety)
1/4 cup agave nectar
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/2 cup dried Bing cherries, cut up into quarters (if using whole cherries)
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup non-dairy semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-hole muffin pan with unbleached cupcake papers or grease with a little non-dairy butter or canola oil spray.

1. Combine the almond milk, pineapple (don't forget the juice), olive oil, maple syrup, and agave nectar in a large bowl.

2. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice. Make a well in the dry mixture and then pour in the milk and pineapple mixture. Stir until just combined, being careful to not over-mix. Gently stir in the fruit, nuts, and chocolate chips.

3. Spoon the muffin mix into the prepared muffin pan. Bake 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Let cool for 5 minutes in the pan and then transfer the muffins to a wire rack to cool completely.

This is based on the Fruitcake Muffins recipe from the November/December 2008 issue of VegNews magazine.
My changes included adding in the cranberries and chocolate chips; using half maple syrup and half agave nectar (instead of just maple syrup); and using all-purpose flour in place of a mixture of oat flour and whole-wheat (next time I might try it with half whole-wheat, half AP).
I'd like to try adding in some rolled oats in place of some of the flour.

Spicy Double-Chocolate Muffins

Another success in the vegan baking department. :)
I have today off work (hence all the blog updates) so I decided to try out some new recipes. I made these and another (equally yummy) batch of muffins that I'll blog in a little bit.

These are nice and light with just enough spiciness (I actually might add just a drop more of each one next time). I didn't really notice the cayenne in the muffin I taste-tested but then again, I am one of those who loves spicy pepper with dark chocolate (mmm... mole sauce). If anything, it probably works to bring out the chocolate flavour (as would a bit of espresso or other strong coffee). The cayenne is optional so if you're a bit sketchy about hot pepper and chocolate combinations, you can leave it out. :)
The nuts and chocolate chips are a nice surprise (especially when the chips are still melty!)

This will make anywhere from 12-18 muffins
(I halved a recipe that supposedly yields 12 and got 8... I seem to have that problem with vegan baking recipes! The amounts listed below are based on the whole [yields 12 muffins] recipe).

1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/8 cup agave nectar
6 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder (check the label to make sure it is non-dairy)
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper (you know you want to try it!)
1 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. freshly-ground flax seeds (buy them whole and grind them using a coffee grinder)
6 tbsp. water
1 cup low-fat almond milk (or other non-dairy milk: soy, hemp, rice, etc.)
1/2 cup non-hydrogenated, non-dairy butter, melted (I always like original Earth Balance)
1/2 cup non-dairy semi-sweet chocolate chips (most semi-sweet chocolate chips are dairy-free but do a quick label check to be sure)
1/4 cup finely chopped pecans
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan with unbleached cupcake papers (or lightly grease the cups with non-dairy spread or canola oil spray).

1. Sift together the flour and cocoa powder into a large bowl. Add the baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, cayenne, and salt.

2. Whisk the ground flax and water together in a small bowl (a fork or mini whisk will do the trick). The mixture should be light and creamy.

3. In a medium bowl, mix together the flax and water mixture, almond milk, melted butter, and agave nectar. Add this combination to the dry mixture and stir until they are just combined (see those ugly pointy tops on my muffins? Those are the result of over-mixing! I'm always guilty...)
Gently stir in the chocolate chips and nuts.

4. Spoon the mixture into the muffin pan cups (it will be runny). The cups should be about 3/4 of the way full of muffin mix. Bake about 15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let them cool in the pan for 5 minutes and then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Based on the recipe Hearty Spicy Cocoa Muffins from The Joy of Vegan Baking.
I made these my own by subbing agave nectar for granulated sugar and ground flaxseed and water for the Ener-G egg replacer and water (flax adds healthy omega-3 fats and is a more "whole" ingredient than commercial egg replacer). I also used both pecans and walnuts (as opposed to just one or the other).
I'll try adding some dried fruit next time!

Pasta e Fagioli (e tons of other stuff..!)

This started out as a recipe that sounded like it was lacking a few things so I threw in a bunch of other things I found in the fridge/pantry and made it my own :) I think I remembered to write down everything I added!

I cheated and added some freshly-grated Parmesan to the end product making mine non-vegan. If you are actually serving vegan friends or just want to be adventurous (you only live once, right?) you can add some finely ground almonds to this dish. Sounds a bit odd but the almonds actually add a nice creaminess and work as a natural cheese substitute for vegan meals. A coffee grinder makes easy work of grinding up the nuts.

2-3 servings

1/4 cup navy beans (I used dried beans that had been soaked/cooked. That measurement is after soaking/cooking the beans)
1/4 cup kidney beans (also dried. Use canned if you like).
1/2-3/4 cup (dry) small pasta shells
1 tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 can tomatoes, drained and diced
1/4 cup mushrooms (any kind you like - button, cremini, or baby bellas work well), chopped
1/4 cup chopped onion (red or white)
1/2 cup chopped spinach
1/8 cup white wine (if you don't use alcohol, you can sub veggie broth for the wine)
1/2 tbsp. fresh thyme (remove the leaves from the stem)
1/2 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 tbsp. fresh rosemary, stems removed and needles/leaves chopped up a bit
1/4 tsp. dried oregano (or ~1/4 tbsp. fresh, leaves removed from stems)
1/4 tsp. dried basil (or ~1/4 tbsp. fresh, chopped)
Freshly ground black pepper
Sea salt
Additional fresh parsley to garnish

1. If you are using dried beans, remember you'll need to start hours in advance so they have time to soak. You can also quick-soak them by bringing them to a boil in enough water to cover them by 3-4 inches. Once they are boiling, immediately remove them from the heat and let them sit, covered, for 1 hour. Drain, rinse, and cook as usual.

2. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and keep warm once it is done. While the pasta is cooking, saute the mushrooms, onion, and garlic in the olive oil until lightly browned.

3. Pour the tomatoes, spinach, wine or broth, black pepper, sea salt, and herbs into a medium-sized pot. Add in the mushroom and onion mixture. Bring this to a boil and then let it simmer until the sauce is thickened.

4. When the sauce is reduced, add the beans and pasta and carefully mix it all together. Let the beans and pasta get heated through then serve immediately. Sprinkle a little fresh parsley over the top as a garnish if desired.

Based on the Pasta e Fagioli recipe from Veganomicon.
I added the mushrooms, onion, spinach, basil, parsley, and rosemary. I also used dried beans instead of canned (and used two kinds instead of just one as suggested in the original recipe). Additionally, I subbed in canned tomatoes for fresh and used fresh thyme in place of the dry.

Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells with Sauteed Mushrooms and Onions

Phew, quite a name! :)

DH loves stuffed shells but he has been deprived of them for almost a year now since I just haven't had time to fuss around making a decent vegetarian version. I tried it once a couple months ago after he commented on how much he missed them. I figured I could just leave out the sausage and they'd be OK. Wrong.. they were so blah. I may be English, but I do not do bland! ;) Anyway, now that I'm finished with my Masters and have a bit more time to play around in the kitchen, I came up with the following for dinner on Saturday. These are really tasty and have some great nutrition boosts thanks to the mushrooms and spinach.

Makes 4 large shells (I eat two with a big salad and save the remaining two for lunch the next day)

4 large pasta shells
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1/2 egg (you could either whisk the whole egg and then measure approx. half of that or separate the egg and use just the white or, if you're feeling indulgent, just the yolk ;)
3 oz. low-fat ricotta (or cottage cheese)
1/8 cup freshly-grated part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/8 cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped spinach
Olive oil
1/8 cup chopped onion
3 or 4 mushrooms (button, cremini, baby portobellas), chopped
1 tbsp. fresh parsley (or 2 tsp. dried)
1/4 tsp. dried fennel, crushed
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1/8 tsp. dried oregano
2 tbsp. panko (or other dry breadcrumbs)
1/2-1 cup marinara sauce
A little extra freshly-grated Parm or mozzarella to sprinkle on top

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
1. Cook the pasta shells according to the package directions. Drain and set aside.

2. While the pasta cooks, sautee the mushrooms and onion in a little olive oil over medium heat. Remove from heat and scrape into a large bowl.

3. Add the ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan to the onion-mushroom mixture. Mix together. Add the egg, panko, and spinach and mix to combine. Stir in the fennel, garlic, parsley, oregano, and red pepper flakes.

4. Spread some marinara sauce on the bottom of a baking dish. Spoon filling into each of the shells and then place them in the marinara-covered dish. Top the shells with the remaining marinara sauce and cover the dish with foil.

5. Bake the shells for 15-20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake an additional 10-15 minutes. Sprinkle with additional mozzarella or Parmesan as desired during the last 5 minutes of cooking.

I started out with this recipe as the base and then added other items based on the manicotti recipe. The mushrooms and fennel were last-minute "ooh, I have mushrooms and fennel" additions. The idea to saute the mushrooms and onion also came to me as I was getting ingredients out.

Disappearing Brownies

These are quite possibly the best fudge brownies I've ever made. They have this wonderful crispy top that adds an unexpected crunch to this otherwise very fudgy treat!
I do still love the old brownie recipe that I've used for years but something about not having to chop up chocolate (I always thought that was such a PITA) is really refreshing!

Hubby's aunt actually gave me the recipe - she found it in one of those in-flight magazines on her plane trip over Christmas (lol - of all places to find a new favourite recipe!) Unfortunately, I never found out which airline the magazine was from so that's the best I can do for a reference. Given that, I probably shouldn't be blogging these but they were so fantastic, I have to share them! ;)

These got the name since we made a pan and they disappeared within 30 minutes! I don't think the poor things had time to cool completely! :) Needless to say, we made another batch the next day (they are really easy to make). There was a joke going around that if you leave the clean, empty brownie pan out on the counter, more brownies magically appear overnight. Yeah, don't we wish! :)

I haven't tried this yet (believe me, it's on the to-bake list), but I think these would be really easy to convert to a vegan brownie recipe. As far as I can tell, all you'd have to do is to change the butter into 4 cups of non-hydrogenated vegan spread (Earth Balance is my fave) and the eggs to any egg substitute (4 eggs worth). Since they are bars, the egg subs should be pretty easy - you could use ground flax and water, Ener-G egg replacer and water, smushed up silken tofu, applesauce, bananas, or (one I've never tried but am rather intrigued by) vinegar and baking soda.

No photo, sorry! Darn things disappeared too fast! But, hey, that's just another excuse for me to make these again (and to try some of the add-ins I listed below!) :)

1 cup unsalted butter, melted (2 sticks)
2/3 cup unbleached flour
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs (at room temperature)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. aluminium-free baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
Feel free to add in walnuts, pecans, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, chopped up Heath bars (yum!), toffee bits, dried fruits, etc... (or any combination of those ingredients! I'd say 1/2 cup to 1 cup total would do it)

Ooh, how yummy would these be if you subbed in pure peppermint extract for the vanilla and then crushed up some peppermint candies and added those in? :) I also have to try this base for amaretto brownies.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
1. Grease a 9-inch by 9-inch baking pan. I like to rub the butter wrappers on the pan so nothing is wasted. Dust the buttered pan with a little flour.

2. Whisk the sugar and melted butter together in a large bowl. Add in the eggs one at a time and then the vanilla extract.

3. In a separate bowl, blend together the flour, baking powder, cocoa, and salt. Add this mixture to the sugar and butter mixture and stir just until blended (do not overmix).

4. Spread the brownie mixture into the prepared pan. Bake 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Oops.. see note above. Thank you airline magazine! And DH's aunt! :) I have a feeling it may have been United... or US Airways (DH might know so I may be back to update this)
The ideas for adding in all the nuts, chips, etc., subbing in the peppermint, and making these vegan were my own. At least nobody can sue me for that part! ;) Thank you to Colleen Patrick-Goudreau and her book The Joy of Vegan Baking for the baking soda and vinegar egg substitute idea.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Lower-Sugar Cookies

These were surprisingly very tasty. Unlike the first recipe I tried (that I found on a popular recipe website), these did not have a nasty Splenda after-taste. After that un-presentable disaster, I decided to modify a tried-and-true recipe to make them lower in sugar for a diabetic family member.
This version is also vegan but you can make them non-vegan by subbing in 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter for the non-dairy Earth Balance and 1 egg for the Ener-G substitute.

Makes about 30 cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup Earth Balance non-dairy spread
1/4 cup agave nectar (lower glycemic index than regular sugar)
1/4 cup Splenda Brown Sugar Blend
1 1/2 tsp. Ener-G egg replacer
2 tbsp. water
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, oatmeal, and cinnamon. Stir well to mix. Whisk together the water and Ener-G powder until combined and slightly thickened.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the Earth Balance, agave nectar, and brown sugar substitute until well mixed. Beat in the Ener-G mixture and the vanilla.

3. Lower the mixer speed and beat in the flour and oatmeal mixture. Add in the chocolate chips.

4. Drop tablespoons of the batter on the prepared pans. Flatten the mounds with the back of a fork.

5. Bake 12-15 minutes or until they spread and color evenly and become firm. Cool on wire racks and then store in an air-tight container.

Based on the Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies recipe from the book Cookies Unlimited by Nick Malgieri.

That's more like it...

Remember my failed attempt at thumbprint cookies with the candy cane Hershey Kisses? Well, after figuring out how to actually make thumbprint cookies, I had another go at them later that week. The results were much better! :)
(I just can't believe it took me this long to blog the new photo!)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Menu - January 17-23

I fell off the blogging wagon for a while there but I am back and all excited about my menu for this week :) DH's stuff is boring so I won't even bother putting that on here.

Saturday - Stuffed Shells (I'm going to try to add some zing to my veggie version.. last time they were a bit blah); huge salad; yummy dessert thingy DH brought me from DZ Akins :) He doesn't know what it is (lol) but it looks fantastic!

Sunday - Pasta e fagioli from Veganomicon

Monday - Quinoa, black bean, and corn stuffed tomatoes; probably a big salad on the side

Tuesday - Pasta with 3-herb pesto and mushrooms (another pesto to add to the collection!)

Wednesday - Herb-roasted winter veggies and rice

Thursday - "Tofu au Vin" (based on a Tempeh au Vin recipe) with some amazing walnut-cranberry Brussels sprouts concoction (can't wait!) Oh, and quinoa on the side

Friday - We'll probably go out for Italian (it's sort of a tradition)

Other things I'm going to try out soon (I may try one on Monday since I have the day off!)
*Banana Split Muffins (vegan)
*Fruit Cake Muffins (vegan)
*Cherry Garcia ice-cream (absolutely not vegan - heh - but I "need" an excuse to use the leftover dried cherries from the two muffin recipes and I have some absolutely fabulous organic super-dark chocolate that I can throw in there... yum!)

I actually have a couple recipes to post but I'll get to those at some point soon! :)