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Archive for the ‘Appetizer’ Category

Kale chips have been the rage recently and with good reason.  Compared to the potato chip, kale chips knock the spud flat when it comes to nutritional value.  Dress them up with some healthy olive oil and sprinkle with protein-rich nutritional yeast and you have a brilliant snack!  I like to marinate mine overnight prior to baking so that they are exceptionally crispy and satisfy that potato chip craving completely because the olive oil has time to permeate the kale.

Kale Chips

Ingredients:

1 bunch green kale

2 T olive oil

1 T apple cider vinegar

nutritional yeast

garlic powder

Directions:

Cut kale into potato chip-sized pieces and put into a gallon-sized ziplock bag.  Add the olive oil and apple cider vinegar.  Close the bag while deflating it of excess air.  Massage the kale with the olive oil and vinegar until it is well dressed.  Place in the refrigerator overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Place the kale onto cookie sheets, making sure to leave space around the pieces so that you do not steam, but rather roast them.  Sprinkle with a desired amount of nutritional yeast and garlic powder.

Bake for ~20 minutes or until crispy.  Enjoy fresh out of the oven while they are still warm and crunchy!

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Hummus is a true comfort food in our house.  We love to make wraps with it or use it as a healthy and filling vegetable dip.  This version is sweeter than traditional hummus because of the roasted carrots, but it’s fabulous, especially for youngsters who tend to have a sweeter tooth.  It’s also a great way to tuck the goodness of a vegetable into a dish where you’d least expect one to be lurking!

 

Roasted Carrot Hummus

[Makes ~4 cups]

Ingredients:

3 cups cooked garbanzo beans

3 cups carrots, roasted [Cut into large chunks and toss with olive oil.  Roast at 400°F for 45 minutes.]

½ cup roasted tahini

¼ cup olive oil

juice of two large lemons, zest of one

1 ½ T cumin

½ tsp coriander

½ tsp sweet paprika

4 cloves garlic

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Add all ingredients to a food processor and pulse until smooth.  [You can adjust the thickness of the hummus by adding in water to thin it out if desired.]

Serve garnished with sesame seeds and a dusting of paprika.

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This “cheese” has enabled me to take my vegan cooking to another level, creatively.  I used to absolutely love goat’s cheese and that creamy, tangy textural flavor has been something I’ve truly missed.  By fermenting raw cashews with probiotics this already amazing seed/nut gains new heights of culinary glory in my book.  It’s also an incredibly tasty way to boost your digestive system’s probiotic population.

I’d heard of the technique of using probiotics to ferment nuts, and my first attempt used a homemade rejuvelac as the probiotic source because I wanted to keep it as natural as possible.  Using rejuvelac, which is obtained by soaking grain sprouts in water overnight and allowing them to ferment, worked really well and I loved the end product.  The only problem was that I didn’t want to have to plan ahead for a week in order to make the fermented nut cheese.  That led me to an investigation of commercially available probiotics.  My requirements were pretty straightforward:  It needed to be a quality product that came in a powdered form and packaged in gelatin-free capsules.  After looking into myriad brands and formulations, I felt most comfortable ordering a blend from Udo’s. 

 

Soured Cashew Cheese

This recipe makes @ 2 cups of soft cheese.  After it is made, you can divide it up into portions and freeze for later use. 

Ingredients:

2 cups raw cashews, soaked for one hour in filtered water

2 cups filtered water at room temperature, not chilled

1 capsule Udo’s Adult Advanced Probiotics

Cheesecloth or nut milk bag [The nut milk bag works great for this!]

Directions:

Drain the cashews and rinse.  Place the cashews and water into a blender and purée until smooth.  Empty the probiotic capsule into the blender.  [Throw away the capsule.]  Blend briefly to combine.  Pour the contents into a nut milk bag that has been placed in a bowl large enough to accomodate it.  Set aside and let sit out at room temperature overnight to ferment.

The next morning, lift the nut milk bag out of the bowl and place in a colander.  Depending upon the size of the colander either place within a bowl or over a baking sheet.  [You are going to be draining the fluid away from the cashew cheese and will need a resevoir to catch it.  Alternatively, you could place in the sink.]  Place a weight over the nut milk bag to help compress the liquid away from the solids.  [I used a bowl that fit inside the small colander I used and filled that bowl with water to give it added weight.]   The longer you leave it to drain, the denser the cheese will become.  [I let mine sit for about 4 hours.  If you won't be around to tend to it, you could place the cheese with the weight in the refrigerator and deal with it when you get home later in the evening or even the next day.]

Remove the nut cheese from the bag and place upon a piece of plastic wrap.  Form into a log and roll it tightly in the plastic.  Place in the refrigerator until it has chilled enough to be able to cut it into even slices. 

At this point it is ready to eat as is, or you could do as I did above and roll the log in some freshly chopped herbs and/or nuts prior to cutting into slices.

 

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Vegan RO*TEL Dip

Ingredients:

2 cups hemp or oat milk [I prefer one of these more full-bodied milks for this recipe]

10 oz can RO*TEL

¾ cup nutritional yeast

2 T flour

2 T oil

1 T Bill’s Best Chik’Nish

1½ tsp chili powder

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp garlic powder

½ tsp chili flakes

½ tsp paprika

½ tsp cumin

Optional garnishes:

cilantro

freshly diced tomato

jalapeño

Directions:

Place the oil in a pot over medium heat.  Stir in the flour to create a light roux.  Cook for a few minutes until the color darkens a little bit and there is a nutty scent.  Stir in the seasonings and cook for another minute or so.  Slowly add in the milk while whisking to prevent clumps.  Add the nutritional yeast and RO*TEL.  Bring to a low simmer then remove from heat.  Serve warm.

 

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This makes a really nice quick and easy lunch or dinner entrée.  When cut into smaller triangular pieces and paired with some spicy cocktail sauce, they make a great appetizer. 

 

Sesame Bay Tofu Points

Ingredients:

1 block firm tofu

½ cup sesame seeds [I prefer to use un-hulled seeds because they have a greater nutritional content]

¼ cup rice flour

2 T Old Bay Seasoning, divided

1 T ground flax seed

½ cup water

neutral oil for pan searing [I used rice bran oil]

Directions:

Blend water, flax seed meal and 1 T of Old Bay together.  Transfer to a bowl and set aside to thicken.

Mix the rice flour and remaining 1 T of Old Bay together and pour onto a plate.

Pour the sesame seeds onto another plate or wide-mouthed bowl.

Cut the tofu into ½ -inch thick slices and then cut diagonally to create two triangular pieces from each slice.  Dredge in the seasoned rice flour and then dip into the flax seed slurry.  Dredge through sesame seeds to coat fully.

Pan sear over medium heat until the tofu is heated through.  Take care not to burn the seeds by adjusting the temperature accordingly.

 

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Kharcho Bites

 

 

It occured to me that in the midst of the holiday party season, people would be clamoring for new, unusual and easy to make  appetizer variations.  This nosh is basically a potato skin with an eastern european flavor thrown into the mix that will undoubtedly delight the taste buds of your holiday guests.  Kharcho has become one of my favorite spice blends and I’m sure it shall become one of yours as well. 

 

Kharcho –Spiced Eggplant and Pear Stuffing

I stuffed small new potatoes with this filling, but you could just as easily use zucchini or a pastry cup as a vessel.  If you want to use the potatoes, select smaller, bite-sized potatoes and after washing, poke once with a knife.  Steam for ~20 minutes until softened and set aside to cool.  Once cooled, cut in half and use a small spoon or paring knife to cut a well in each half.  Lightly mist with olive oil and pan-sear until the cut side is golden.  Stuff with ~one teaspoon of filling and place on a platter.

[Yields ~3 cups]

Ingredients:

2 cups eggplant, small dice

1 medium onion, small dice

1 pear, small dice

½ cup frozen petite peas, thawed

¼ cup pistachios, chopped

¼ cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

12 dried apricot halves, small dice

6 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp Kharcho

¼ tsp dried red pepper flakes

sea salt

freshly-cracked black pepper

olive oil

Directions:

Drizzle a small amount of olive oil in a pan over medium heat.  Sauté the onion, garlic, eggplant, pear and apricot halves until softened.  Add the peas, pistachios, Kharcho, red pepper flakes and parsley.  Season with salt and pepper. 

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Supplí Alla Veganese

Supplí are a Roman street food.  The first time I had these was when I visited my mother and younger brother who were living in Rome.  They were, quite simply, amazing.  What isn’t to adore about a fried Arborio rice ball filled with cheese?  Americans really have nothing that compares.  I’ve been making them for years; however, no longer willing to eat dairy cheese, I had to improvise.

Break into the hot and crispy fried rice balls and find an oozy creamy cashew cheese tucked inside.

Ingredients:

Risotto, cooled enough to handle comfortably in your hand [The recipe I used from an earlier post.]

cashew cheese [recipe]

panko bread crumbs, seasoned with salt and pepper and any dried Italian herbs your fancy

vegetable oil

Directions:

Mold some risotto flat in your hand and place some cashew cheese in the center.  Fold the risotto around the cashew cheese, encasing it completely.  Roll the rice ball in the seasoned bread crumbs.  Fry at 350 degrees until golden brown.  Serve while hot.

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So, it has been occurring to me lately that there are so many things we, H and I,  buy commercially that I could easily make from scratch.  Not only would they taste better and be more nutritious but I’d know exactly what I put into them.  Imagine that.  I get weary of having to look at microscopic fonts that are printed upon reflective plastic and tucked behind the flap on a wrapper to see what’s actually in a product.  Seriously, I don’t want my foods full of industrial chemicals and preservatives because a company wants its product to sit pretty upon a shelf for years.

There are so many foods that we consume on a  regular basis that can easily be made at home.  For me, the major epiphany was tofu, but pasta, jams and jellies, bread and crackers are in the lists.  Guess what?  I’m in the kitchen and I’m experimenting.  It’s hella fun.

I modified a recipe posted on the Food Network.  The first cracker is slightly modified; the other two strayed well off the beaten path.

Seven Seed Flatbread Crackers

Ingredients:

5 oz 10-grain flour [Bob's Red Mill]

4-3/4 oz unbleached flour

2/3 cup seeds  [I used 1/3 cup black and white sesame seeds and then 1/3 cup of mixed poppy, flax, chia, millet and dill seeds]

1.5 tsp sea salt

1.5 tsp aluminium-free baking powder

3 T olive oil

6.5 oz water

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Mix dry ingredients then add oil and mix well.  Slowly drizzle in the water and knead a few times on a floured surface.  Cut into 8 equal sections and let rest for 15 minutes.  Using a pasta machine, roll out to a 1/8-inch thickness for a thicker flatbread-style cracker.  Roll through a higher setting for a thinner cracker.  Bake until slightly browned, turning once during cooking.

Dilled Yease and Flax Seed Flatbread Cracker

I wanted a savory cracker with a slight cheesy flavor.  This one worked out nicely.

Ingredients:

2/3 cup nutritional yeast

5 oz 10-grain flour

4-3/4 oz unbleached flour

1 T Bill’s Chik’Nish vegetarian seasoning

1.5 tsp aluminium-free baking powder

1 T dill weed

1 T dill seed

1 T flax seed

1 T turmeric

1/2 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp dry mustard

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1.5 tsp sea salt

1.5 tsp freshly ground black pepper

3 T walnut oil

6.5 oz water

Directions:

Same as above.

Carrot, Roasted Garlic and Walnut Crackers

I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to make a variety using our vegetable of the month.  I’m jazzed that I found a use for the carrot pulp left behind from making fresh carrot juice.  [A thinly-rolled version is pictured above.]

Ingredients:

5 oz 10-grain flour

2-3/4 oz garbanzo flour

2 oz  unbleached flour

one head roasted garlic

1/3 cup ground walnuts

2 T ground flax seeds

1.5 tsp aluminium-free baking powder

1 T caraway seeds

1/2 tsp onion powder

1/4 cup carrot pulp [from freshly juiced carrots]

3 T walnut oil

3 oz fresh carrot juice

Directions:

Same as first cracker recipe.

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Use as a hearty dip with plantain [pictured above] or corn chips,  fill a pita pocket  to bulging for a satisfying sandwich or roll some up in a tortilla for a burrito.   Whatever way you choose, it makes for a healthy and delicious nosh.

Ingredients:

2 avocados

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 red bell pepper, diced

vegan caesar dressing [Recipe]

edamame

corn kernels [roasted corn would be so good in this, I did not have fresh corn to roast]

fresh lime juice

salt and pepper

cilantro

Directions:

Simply smash the avocado in a large bowl and squeeze fresh lime juice over it.  Add a few tablespoons of the caeser dressing and mash into the avocado.  Toss in all the ingredients in the amounts you would fancy; I used about 1/2 cup of each vegetable.  Let it chill out on the counter for about 30 minutes.  Taste and season with salt and pepper and lime juice if needed.
 
Serve with plantain chips and fresh lime.  Or anyway you choose.  The possibilities are endless.

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So yes, I’ve been playing with my food again.  I don’t expect to stop anytime soon.  The dish above [potatoes and zucchini stuffed with the star of today's post and a  lemony cashew cheese] could be constructed in a far simpler way and be just as tasty but I wanted to express the inner child for a while.  I had a great time playing with my building blocks, heh.   I wonder how difficult it would be to create the Playskool jumbo jet…
Sundried Tomato and Basil Seitan

This seitan is very moist and wonderful as a ground meat substitute.   I personally do not like the commercial varieties available for they taste far too processed and artificial to me.  I wanted to create a seitan that not only tasted wonderful but that could be used as a meat substitute in many different Italian dishes when I wanted to use something other than lentils.    I have since  used it as a ravioli filling [pictured below] and in a pasta sauce as well as in some appetizers [pictured above].  It  freezes well so it can be stored  in allotments to be used in future recipes that call for a meaty textured filling. 

Ground Italian-style Seitan

Ravioli with Fresh Tomato and Basil Pesto

Crumbly Sundried Tomato and Basil Seitan

Dry Ingredients:

1 cup vital wheat gluten

Wet Ingredients:

1 cup lentil bolognese sauce

1 large shallot

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped

2 T sundried tomatoes, chopped [I used strips packed in oil]

zest of a lemon

Directions:

Sauté the shallot and garlic in a drizzle of olive oil until softened.    Add the lentil bolognese, basil, shallots and garlic, sundried tomatoes, olive oil and lemon zest to a food processor and pulse about a dozen times until well combined but not completely without texture.  Add the mixture to the vital wheat gluten in a bowl and mix with your hands until well combined.  Place the dough on a sheet of aluminum foil and roll into a log,  twisting the ends to seal it.  Steam in a steamer basket for 30 minutes.  Allow to cool.  Pulse in a food processor to yield a ground texture.

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