Friday, March 30, 2012

Day 84: Burgers and Ice Cream

This week has been really hectic, hence the long gap in between posts. However, tonight I will make it up to you by giving you some healthy solutions to some typically really unhealthy foods. I liked the challenge of coming up with a salubrious way to tackle these doozers, and in the end, it was so worth it and I hope that it will be for you too! Burgers and ice cream--two classic American calorie and sugar-packed food items. You may be thinking, "Yeah right, how can I make THESE recipes healthy?" Well, I will prove your negative thoughts wrong and show you and you never know, maybe you will like my sugar-free, low calorie alternatives better, or at least that's my hope. Also, I should mention that there's no real meat in the burgers so this meal can actually be kosher too as you wouldn't be mixing milk and meat.  Plus, I found out a way through another blog how to make ice cream without an ice cream maker, which is another plus, especially since I don't have one and don't want to have to buy one! So don't be a wuss and take the challenge--you will thoroughly enjoy the results, I promise!

Mini Spicy Black Bean-Mushroom Burgers on Grilled Artichoke Buns
Makes 12 mini cakes

2 tbsp soy chorizo (Trader Joe’s brand)
1 c. black beans
5-6 mini Portobello mushrooms
1/4 block light firm tofu
1 c. collard greens
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp Spanish olive juice
1 tbsp capers and pimentos from Spanish olive jar
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
1/4th chickpea flour
¼ c. sunflower seeds grounded
½ c. walnuts
½ c. EVOO (olive oil) 
2 tbsp red pepper flakes
1 tbsp cumin powder

2 slices vegan cheddar cheese (I like Vegan Gourmet brand)
1 tbsp vegan Bac’un bits, grounded

Artichoke Buns with Vegan Egg Substitute:
2 fresh artichokes
3 tbsp flax seed powder
1 tbsp red pepper flakes
1/8th tsp black pepper
1 tsp seafood seasoning (Le Flor brand)
6 tbsp water

1) Gradually blend the mushrooms with the rest of the ingredients in a food processor until creamy.
2) Place in the refrigerator for about 2-3 hours (can be made the night before).
3) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
4) Line a muffin pan with foil liners and pour the bean mixture into each cup.
5) Bake the bean burgers in the oven for about 30 minutes or until they feel slightly firm to the touch.
6) Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the artichokes for about 30 minutes on medium-high setting.
7) Drain the pot and remove the leaves from the artichoke, reserving them for a side dish or snack later--they're good with mayonnaise or light Italian dressing. Note: Make sure you remove the 'hairs' with a spoon from the hearts--these are NOT edible and you will choke on them if you try to eat them. 
8) Grease a medium-sized skillet with Pam olive oil and set the heat to a medium setting.
9) Whisk together the vegan egg mixture (flax seed powder, water and spices).
10) Saturate the artichoke hearts in the vegan egg mixture and place into the pan, placing the lid on top for it to steam for a few minutes.
11) Flip the artichoke hearts on the other side carefully and pour some of the vegan egg mixture on top, covering the skillet with the lid again.
12) After the egg mixture looks browned, remove the hearts from the skillet.
13) Layer 1 slice vegan cheddar cheese onto one artichoke heart with some vegan bacon bits on top.
14) Place a burger on top, along with another slice of vegan cheddar and some vegan bacon bits.
15) Top with the remainder artichoke heart and serve immediately.

Enjoy and Bon Appetit!

Lemony Ricotta Cream With Candied Almonds & Toasted Coconut
Makes about 5 cups

2 c. light coconut milk
1 ½ c. part-skim ricotta cheese
1 ½ c. unsweetened almond milk
1 ½ tsp raw stevia extract (comes in a small bottle with a dropper)
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp lemon zest
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp almond extract
2 tsp ground basil leaves (can use fresh)
2 sprigs of fresh lavender leaves
2 sprig fresh thyme
1 tsp ground mint leaves (can use fresh)
4 egg yolks
1 ½ tsp guar gum

3/4-1 c. light coconut milk

½ c. slivered almonds
½ c. unsweetened coconut flakes
3/4 c. coconut vinegar 
3/4 c. white Balsamic vinegar or Pinot Grigio vinegar (I used Bertoli brand)
2 packets of raw stevia


1 handful sliced almonds
1 handful unsweetened coconut
1 square bittersweet or extra dark chocolate (I'm talking at least 70%--the darker, the healthier and tastier in my opinion: I like Scharffen Berger brand of bittersweet chocolate because the whole bar is only 2 servings so one small piece is really not that may calories! Lindt 85% is also pretty tasty.)
1 tbsp unsweetened almond milk + 1 packet raw stevia

1) Soak the herbs in the coconut milk in the refrigerator overnight or for at least several hours 
2) In a large pot, mix together the ricotta, almond milk and herbed coconut milk and turn the heat onto a medium setting.
3) Add the stevia extract, lemon juice, lemon zest, vanilla and almond extracts, guar gum and the ginger.
4) Whisk the egg yokes with a fork in a small bowl and then dump them into the pot with the creamy mixture.
5) Now I want you to whisk the bejeezus out the ricotta cream for at least 5 minutes, until the mixture thickens. Not only will you get a good upper arm workout doing this, but you want to make sure that the guar gum fully dissolves and doesn't clump up in the mixture (something I learned from thickening soup--it acts like corn starch and will clump up and become 'gluey' if you don't really whisk it into the mixture, and nobody likes eating glue...unless you're 5 years old). 
6) Once mixture is thickened, pour the ricotta cream into ice cube trays (I filled about 3 trays) and place in the freezer overnight.
7) Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil.
8) Place the coconut on the sheet and bake it for about 15 minutes (until it looks browned and toasted).
9) Meanwhile, heat up a large skillet on medium heat and pour in the vinegars with the 2 packets of stevia, stirring them together for about 5 minutes.
10) Add the slivered almonds and cover the pot with a lid for a couple minutes or until the vinegar starts to boil and become syrupy.
11) Turn down the heat to medium-low setting and stir until the syrup thickens slightly.
12) Place toasted coconut and candied almonds in separate bowls in the refrigerator to cool down a bit while finishing the ice cream.
7) Put the frozen cubes of cream into a food processor starting with 3/4 cup of the coconut milk.
8) Blend throughly, adding more coconut milk if necessary. Note: The air from the processor will act like an ice cream maker and whip the mixture into soft ice cream and yet, you didn't even have to use an ice cream maker (which I don't have)! Thank you, Food Lab! It won't however, make hard ice cream, because that machine does keep it consistently cold while you're churning it. I might try to emulate this process next time by placing the food processor in a big bowl of ice to keep it cold as it's blending the ice cream. And it'll be vegan since my sister can't have dairy. 
9) Once ice cream is smooth, pour into a large container and stir in the coconut and candied almonds.
10) Heat up bittersweet chocolate, almond milk and stevia in a small bowl in the microwave on high for about 1 minute and stir until it's melted completely.
11) Place sauce on top of ice cream, along with the sliced almonds and unsweetened coconut. Serve immediately or place in the freezer again. Note: If you put it in the freezer, just place the container in the microwave on high for about 1 1/2 minutes and scoop out the ice cream into a bowl. 

Enjoy and Bon Appetit!

I gladly used my adorable skulls and cross-bone ice cube trays leftover from Halloween to freeze the cream mixture:
                                                            Aren't they cute???

    Finished product topped with sliced almonds, coconut and melted bittersweet chocolate

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Day 78: The Salubrious Palate Goes To Israel (Well Almost)!

I'm going to start off by saying that I'm not a club girl--I think clubs are a waste of money and I don't like being charged the same amount for alcoholic drinks when I just order a club soda with lime. My preferred way of meeting people is at quaint dinner parties, which brings me to to divulge about the delectable feast I enjoyed at my friend Jaclyn's apartment last night. Since she just got back from a free trip to Israel sponsored by the infamous Birthright organization (for those of you gentiles out there, it's basically an organization that sponsors various free trips for young Jews between the ages of 18 and 26 who've never been on an organized trip to Israel as they believe that it's every Jew's birthright to visit Israel). A lot of colleges and universities' Jewish clubs such as Hillel and Chabbad send students but there are also themed trips not affiliated with any institution, such as the one that Jackie went on, which was a culinary tour of Israel. Afterwards, Birthright will pay you to host a small dinner party with the people from your trip, and even though I did not go on the culinary tour (I went 7 years ago after my freshman year of college at Syracuse with a group from the university), Jackie knows about my blog and invited me to her party anyway, which I thought was especially sweet considering there's a limit to the amount of dinner guests you can host. Therefore, I obviously had to bring some side dishes, so I brought two vegan and gluten-free dishes (nobody was a vegan but I thought, what the hell, some of us can't have dairy or wheat, and there was already going to be meat and chicken dishes). I also wanted to show people that eating vegan food is not as scary as some people make it out to be, and my dishes were a huge success, with the people I met there begging for the recipes! I took pictures of the whole spread (which included Jackie's Israel couscous salad, a mixed green salad she made, her meat-stuffed eggplant, baked brie and goat cheese, and roasted chicken from a local Mexican joint. I forgot to take pictures of the desserts which consisted of banana bread, chocolate toffee bark and Egyptian kanafeh).  So take a look and enjoy:

Israeli Veggie Tofu Salad Mediterranean White Bean Dressing
Makes 8-10 servings

1 c. chickpeas
1 c. green chickpeas
1 orange bell pepper, chopped into ½ inch pieces (about 1 cup)
1 red bell pepper, chopped into ½ inch pieces (about 1 cup)
4 palm hearts, sliced thinly
1 medium cucumber, chopped into ½” pieces (about 1 cup)
1 c. yellow cherry heirloom tomatoes, chopped into ½” pieces
1 c. kumatoes (that’s a fancy word for brownish-green tomatoes), chopped into ½” pieces
1- 14 oz. can artichoke hearts, with the hearts separated from the leaves (these are the “bottom stem part” that you can chop off)
½ block light extra firm tofu

Mediterranean White Bean Dressing :
Makes about 4 cups

3/4  c. Bobbi’s Tuscan White Bean Dip
½ c. Tofutti sour cream
2 bunches of fresh parsley
2 bunches of fresh cilantro
1 c. light silken tofu
2 tbsp lemon juice
5 slices of sun-dried tomatoes
6 kalamata olives, pitted
leftover hearts from canned artichoke hearts

1) Combine all the veggies and legumes (beans) in a large bowl.
2) Slice the tofu into 1/4 inch strips and toss into the salad.
3) Place the dressing ingredients into a food processor or blender and blend until smooth.
4) Pour the dressing over the salad and mix together with a large wooden spoon.
5) Place in the refrigerator to marinate for several hours (can be made the previous night) and then serve immediately.

Enjoy and Bon Appetit!

Super Protein-Packed Quinoa Salad
Makes 8-10 servings

2 c. quinoa (I used tri-colored organic quinoa from Trader Joe’s)
1 c. sunflower seeds
1 c. chopped walnuts
1 c. slivered almonds or sliced almonds
1 c. unsweetened coconut flakes
2 c. golden raisins
1 c. white onions
½ vegan spicy sausage link (I used Trader Joe’s Soy chorizo and they also have “Sausageless Italian sausage—both are extremely tasty, and are gluten-free, unlike a lot of vegan sausages, which use wheat gluten)
½ c. water
½ c. Balsamic vinegar
½ c. coconut vinegar (yes, they make coconut vinegar and it’s actually popular in Southeast Asian cuisine)
1/4 c. unsweetened almond milk
¾ c. coconut water
1 tbsp agave nectar

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2) Dump the quinoa and golden raisins in a large pot.
3) Pour in the coconut water, almond milk, water, Balsamic vinegar and agave nectar and stir with a large spoon.
4) Turn on the burner to medium-high heat and cook the quinoa and raisins for about 5-7 minutes, until most of the mixture has boiled off, stirring occasionally with a large spoon. 
5) Turn down the heat and let the mixture simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the quinoa plumps up.  
6) Meanwhile, grease a small skillet with Pam olive oil and cook the onions on medium heat until they look translucent and then stir into the quinoa mixture.
7) Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil and spread the coconut mixture and the slivered almonds onto one sheet and the sunflower seeds and walnuts on the other sheet.
8) Toast in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until they look lightly browned and then stir into the quinoa.
9) Cut half the vegan chorizo and crumble it into the mixture as well and stir for a couple minutes.
10) Turn off the heat and place the salad in the refrigerator to marinate for a couple hours (can be made the night before) before serving.

Enjoy and Bon Appetit!
                         My Quinoa Salad (L) and Israeli Tofu-Veggie Salad (R)
Jackie's Baked Brie with Apricot Jelly (L) and Baked Goat Cheese With Fig Jelly (R)

  The Spread with Jackie's Israeli Couscous Salad (L) and Mixed Salad (R):

                             The Mexican Roasted Chicken (Well, some of it)

                                                Jackie's Meat-Stuffed Eggplant:

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Day 75: Chicken Soup For The Soul: Take Two

Earlier this week, my sister's stomach was upset (as you may have figured out by now, our stomachs are very sensitive, which is in part, why I started a healthier diet low on dairy and nuts, processed sugars/carbs, and with no gluten-based products or red meat). As most doctors will tell you, ginger is a very good natural aid for upset stomachs. So is garlic. Therefore, I decided to combine the two for a Chinese version of the feel-good chicken noodle soup! However, instead of just adding fresh ginger, I've joined the bandwagon of drinking kombucha tea (a fermented kelp based tea), and I love GT's brand of raw organic kombucha teas. For this soup, I used about half a bottle of the 'gingeraid' that he makes with fresh ginger and very little sugar (only 2 grams per 8 fl. oz.)! Some people don't like the taste of kombucha--it's rather strong depending on the length of fermentation, but I love it and Hannah couldn't even tell that there was kombucha in her soup! Plus, it did make her feel better, which was the initial goal. For those of you under the weather, check out this recipe and warm the cockles of your soul with chicken noodle soup!

Chinese Ginger-Garlic Chicken Egg Drop Soup with Tofu Noodles and Bok Choy
Makes about 8 cups

5 small frozen chicken breasts or 10 large breasts cut in half
1 bok choy, chopped into large pieces
1 c. minced garlic
2 c. GT’s raw organic kombucha gingeraide (kombucha tea with fresh ginger in it) OR 2 tbsp ginger pieces + 2 cups water 
2 c. low-sodium vegetable broth or chicken broth
1 c. light silken tofu
1 c. white onions, chopped into 1/2” chunks
2 large eggs
1- 8 oz. package of tofu noodles (I used House Foods’ Tofu Shirataki spaghetti)
1 tsp guar gum for thickening
2 tsp Chinese five-spice
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp Sriracha sweet chili sauce
1 tbsp lemon juice

1) Defrost the chicken breasts in the microwave for about 6-8 minutes and using a sharp knife, cut them into small strips and set aside.
2) In a large pot, pour in the kombucha, vegetable broth, and the "juice" from the defrosted chicken, and bring to a slight boil on medium-high heat.
3) Add in the Sriracha sauce, lemon juice, silken tofu and the spices.
4) Rinse off the bok choy and dump into the soup, turning down the heat to medium-low setting.
5) Cover the pot with a lid to let it simmer while preparing the onions and garlic.
6) Grease a small skillet with Pam olive oil and stir-fry the onions on medium heat with the minced garlic until they become translucent.
7) Add the mixture along with the chicken pieces into the soup and turn up the heat again until the broth starts to boil slightly.
8) Whisk together the eggs in a small bowl before stirring them into the soup.
9) Add the guar gum and really stir in so it doesn't congeal in the soup--this will thicken it a bit.
10) Once the chicken and eggs look cooked, turn off the heat and serve immediately!

Enjoy and Bon Appetit!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Day 70: Scrumptious Salubrious Squash!

Being on a diet low in complex carbs, I admit, I do miss bread, pasta, and other foods traditionally deemed as 'poisons' for people with low-metabolisms such as myself. That's why I've been creative in the kitchen to come up with some tasty alternatives that will make the losing with so much the better! My dad's been on the same quest to change his life around because as he said, if you can't control what you put into your mouth, what can you can control in life? You wouldn't consume poison, so that's how I motivate myself not to eat the delicious pasta/pizza/bread baskets I've encountered at restaurants and grocery stores. Anyway, back to the squash: Even though it hasn't really felt like a true winter in New York City, it has been a lovely season for squash and there are so many kinds to choose from, it's not even funny! My new favorite is called spaghetti squash. That's right--I said spaghetti--but lo and behold, it's a much healthier alternative to the high-carb pasta you may be thinking of. Spaghetti squash has the look of spaghetti (if it were a squash), with yellow strands that you peel away from the rind and you can pretty much substitute it in any recipe that would normally call for traditional spaghetti, like spaghetti and meatballs, noodle kugel, etc.  However, I used it in replace of noodles along with some thinly sliced tofu for some gluten-free, vegan Mexican lasagna tonight. My sister agreed that it was most definitely scrumptious and salubrious! Along with this recipe, I'm also including a second take on celiac pancakes that uses pumpkin instead of coconut. Take a look:

Vegan Mexican Lasagna
Makes 8 servings

2-3 cups Swiss chard, chopped
2 cups of kale, chopped
2 c. yellow and brown cherry tomatoes, chopped
1 cup white onions, chopped
1 3/4 c. spaghetti squash
3/4 block light firm tofu (I used Nasoya brand)
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp lime juice
4-6 squirts Tabasco sauce
1 packet raw stevia
1/4 c. Tofutti sour cream
1/8 c. unsweetened almond milk
1/8 c. low-sodium vegetable broth
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp vegan pesto sauce (Bear Pond Farm's)
1/3 cup black beans
3 tbsp Toffuti sour cream
1/2 c. grated vegan cheddar cheese (I used Vegan Gourmet, which was actually tasty and melted just like regular cheese, unlike most vegan alternatives)
1/4 c. lactose free cheddar cheese (optional, since it's not vegan)

1 tbsp soy bacon bits (Bac'Uns brand) for garnish
1 tbsp ground oregano for garnish
1 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped for garnish

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2) Rinse off the kale, swiss chard, and tomatoes in a colander and set aside.
3) Layer 1 cup of kale and swiss chard onto the bottom of the pan, topping it with 1 cup of cherry tomatoes.
4) Place the onions in a small skillet and caramelize with the raw stevia and balsamic vinegar, stirring them on medium-high heat until they appear translucent, about 5 minutes. 
5) In a small bowl, combine vegetable broth, garlic, pesto sauce, almond milk, 1/4 c. sour cream and lime juice.
6) Cut the tofu into thin 1/8" slices and cover the veggie mixture with about half the amount.
7) In a small food processor, blend the beans with the 3 tbsp sour cream and Tabasco sauce until smooth. 
8) Spread 1/8 c. of the mashed beans on around the tofu slices on the veggie layer.
9) Layer on the rest of the kale and Swiss chard, topping it with the remaining tomatoes and caramelized onions.
10) Place the remainder of the tofu slices on top, pouring the creamy mixture from before on top of the tofu.11) Sprinkle the vegan cheddar on top of the mixture, garnishing with the cilantro, oregano and vegan bacon bits.
12) Cover the dish with aluminum foil and place the dish in the oven to bake for about 30-35 minutes. 
13) Divide and serve immediately.

Enjoy and Bon Appetit!

Mini Pumpkin Pancake Muffins
Makes about 16 mini pancake muffins

½ c. canned pumpkin
4 tbsp flax powder
4 tbsp almond meal/flour
4 packets of raw stevia
2 tsp baking powder
4 eggs separated
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp Chinese five-spice

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2) Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl and sift together with a fork.
3) Whisk in the egg yolks along with the vanilla extract and the Chinese five-spice.
4) In a small bowl, beat the egg whites until they form foam peaks.
5) Fold the egg whites into the batter.
6) Line 2 8-cup muffin pans with aluminum cupcake liners and spray them lightly with Pam Buttery spray. (I used a heart-shaped muffin pan along with my regular pan, which I obviously couldn't line with cupcake liners, so that's part's optional as I discovered later).
7) Bake pancake muffins in the oven for about 1-15 minutes, until they bounce back to the touch and are slightly browned on top.
8) Serve with the balsamic syrup from the previous pancake recipe!

Enjoy and Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Day 68: Edible Lavender...Who Knew?

While perusing the herb section at Whole Foods the other day, I noticed lavender leaves and thought to myself, this seems to be a not-so-new food trend but kind of uncommon, unless served in fancy restaurants. So being the gourmet goddess that I am, I decided to tackle this challenge and create a dish using the sweet-smelling herb. There are some rules when using lavender as I was told my by mother and after reading various food blogs: It's meant to be a subtle flavor and overusing it can remind the consumer of eating soap, which as some of you may know from the old school cursing punishment, nobody likes a mouthful of (my parents never used this technique when disciplining me, though). Since I still have a lot leftover, I will be experimenting in the future with lavender ricotta ice cream (stay tuned), and am excited for the results! For now, I just included my take of a chicken dish that is pretty popular in France, especially in the Provence region where the lavender fields grow. I didn't include a photo with this recipe because I didn't beautify the dish enough for my photographic standards, but according to my my sister, it was delicious! 

Lavender Herb Baked Chicken with Roasted Vegetables and Arugula Salad
Makes 4 servings

4 small frozen chicken breasts or 2 large breasts cut in half
16 Brussels sprouts
1 c. frozen collard greens
4 c. arugula for salad

Lavender Herb Marinade:
½ c. brewed Tazo cucumber-white tea blend (I just made a large pot and poured out what I needed for the marinade, saving the rest to drink later—tea’s healthier than coffee anyway!)
1 packet of raw stevia
1 tsp dried parsley leaves
1 tsp chopped lavender leaves
1 tsp ground sage
1 tsp fresh thyme
½ tsp Chinese five spice
2 tsp lime juice
1 tsp vanilla extract

1) Combine the ingredients of the marinade in a small bowl. 
2) Place frozen chicken breasts in a small casserole dish lined with aluminum foil.
3) Surround the chicken with the brussels sprouts and frozen collard greens.
4) Pour the marinade over the chicken and close the aluminum packet.
5) Place the dish in the refrigerator and let it thaw and marinate for 4-5 hours (You can prepare this before work and it'll be ready to bake after you come back! Or you can make it the night before and cherish the extra snooze time in the morning--take your pick!)
6) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
7) Place casserole dish into the oven and bake for 30 minutes.
8) Remove from oven and serve immediately.

Enjoy and Bon Appetit!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Day 62: The Celiac Pancake Adventure

For those of you who regularly follow this blog (not many, I know--I'm not in Public Relations, what can I say?), you'll probably remember my celiac cupcake adventures. This time, however, I tried to tackle one of the America's most popular comfort breakfast foods: pancakes. Now my mother has this truly amazing sourdough starter from Alaska that she's been using for years (no joke--she's had it for a while) that she uses for her waffles and pancakes, but unfortunately, that has gluten in it, which my beloved sister can't have anymore. 

SO, while doing my research, I adapted a glutenous recipe for ricotta pancakes which didn't use a lot of flour anyway, so I just substituted coconut flour. The thing you should know about coconut flour though, for those of you culinary inventors, is that it reacts much differently than other gluten-free flours, such as almond flour and garbanzo-bean flour, which you can pretty much make a clean substitute with no adjustments in the other recipe ingredients. Coconut flour (which has more fiber than the others) is much denser, so you have to adjust the liquids accordingly; otherwise, you will end up with a crumble mixture which is fine for molding into pie crusts, but not smooth enough for other batters such as cupcake batter and pancake batter. 

Therefore, if you truly wish to tackle this doozer of a recipe (my sister loved the results, even though I accidentally forgot to label my container of pancakes and she didn't take her Lactaid pills, resulting in some gastrointestinal problems later that day), keep that lovely tidbit of information in mind while you follow my recipe and you can add more liquid if you like your batter to really be smooth or just work with what you have. For those of you fellow Jews out there, my sister described them as a combination of pancakes and the Jewish cheese-filled crepes called 'blintzes,' hence the name of the recipe.

Gluten-Free Coconut Ricotta 'Blintz' Pancakes
Makes about 8 small pancakes

3/8 c. coconut flour
3/8 c. almond meal/flour
1 c. unsweetened almond milk
¾ c. unsweetened coconut flakes
¼ c. raw stevia
4 eggs separated
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp guar gum or xanthan gum powder
½ tsp almond extract
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp ginger paste
1 tsp lemon zest
2 handfuls chopped walnuts (about ½ cup)

1 tbsp vegan buttery spread, margarine (Earth Balance is a good brand), or Pam's non-fat butter spray

Topping 1: Lemony Yogurt Cream (Dairy option)
1 c. 0% plain Greek yogurt
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp vanilla

Topping 2: Balsamic Syrup (Non-dairy option)
1/2 c. Balsamic vinegar
1 packet raw stevia

Garnishes (per pancake):
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1/8 c. chopped walnuts

1 packet of stevia

1) Combine the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl with a fork to remove the crumbly bits.
2) Beat the egg whites in a small bowl until they become frothy and form stiff peaks.
3) Add the ricotta, almond milk, egg yolks vanilla and almond extracts, ginger paste, lemon zest, and walnuts into the bowl with the dry ingredients and whisk together.
4) Fold in the egg whites with a large spoon.
5) Spray a large skillet with Pam's butter spray or the margarine to coat the bottom of the pan and turn the burner onto a medium heat level.
6) Spoon in about 1/4 c. pancake batter into the skillet with a large ladle and press down the pancakes with a large spatula--the batter won't be as liquidy as normal pancake batter unless you add more almond milk.
7) Cover the skillet with a lid and let the pancakes bake for a few minutes in the skillet.
8) Using the spatula, carefully flip the pancakes to bake on the other side (it may help to use two spatulas--that's how I tackled not having the pancake crumble while flipping, which occurred with the first pancake flip). 
9) Cover the skillet again and let the pancakes bake on the other side--repeat for the rest of the batter, letting the pancakes cool on a large plate before serving onto individual plates.
10) Prepare the first topping option by combining the ingredients in a small bowl and set aside OR
in a small skillet or sauce pot (I have a small pot for sauces but a skillet/saucepan will work as well), heat up the balsamic vinegar on medium high heat until it starts to bubble slight, stirring it with a wooden spoon so it doesn't burn, and then adding the stevia when the mixture turns into a syrup on the spoon.
11) Divide the pancakes onto separate plates and top with either one or both of the topping options (I used just the dairy-free, balsamic syrup before I thought of the dairy one after photographing the pancake). 
12) Sprinkle the lemon zest, chopped walnuts and stevia on top and serve immediately!

*Note: These are hearty pancakes, so one pancake is pretty filling and may be the right portion size per person--they should be about the size of the palm of your hand (well, I have small hands, but you get the picture--they're the size of a small bagel, like Lender's brand of frozen bagels, not the enormous-sized ones you see at bakeries today). 

Enjoy and Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Day 59: Thanksgiving in March

Pumpkin pie is widely known as the traditional favorite dessert on the American Thanksgiving holiday. However, who says it has to be reserved for November? I personally love pumpkin--toasting the seeds, using it in a pie for dessert AND as I experimented a few nights ago, in a dinner pie. Since I'm trying the South Beach Diet for the next couple weeks, I've been trying to come up with creative ways to tackle not eating any complex carbs and actually, catering to my gluten-free sister does help a lot, but I can't even have quinoa or rice in this first phase, so I gladly used a nutty bean crust with the savory filling that not only included the pumpkin, but also some spaghetti squash and peas. Spaghetti squash is amazing because not only can you eat it like regular spaghetti, which I'll be a recipe for as well, but you don't have to feel as guilty about consuming the hearty vegetable. It's also another cheaper alternative to my beloved gluten-free tofu noodles which, although are healthy, are kind of expensive and not practical on my budget when used to often. Anyway, enjoy these delicious guilt-free treats and happy dieting--although these recipes will make it a whole easier and should definitely be added to your salubrious diet, not just for dieting purposes.

Mini Savory Pumpkin Vegetable Tarts
Makes about 8 mini tarts

Teriyaki Gluten-free Crust:
Makes 8 mini crusts

1/3 c. sprouted sunflower seeds (I used Kaia Foods teriyaki flavor)
¼ c. almond meal/flour
¼ c. sesame seeds
1/3 c. walnuts
1/3 c. garbanzo bean flour
1 tbsp flax powder
2 tbsp low-sodium vegetable broth
4-5 tbsp chilled vegan buttery spread or margarine
2 tbsp unsweetened almond milk (optional)

Savory Pumpkin Veggie Filling:
Makes about 4 cups

1 c. canned pumpkin
1 c. frozen peas
1 c. spaghetti squash
1 tsp flax powder
1 tsp guar gum
¾ c.  c. low-fat silken tofu
1 tsp gluten-free teriyaki marinade (San J brand)
½ tsp seafood seasoning
½ tsp dried marjoram

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees and a muffin tin with 8 aluminum cupcake liners.
2) To prepare the crusts, sift together the flours with the flax powder and mix in the sesame seeds.
3) In a food processor, grind up the sunflower seeds and the walnuts and then combine with the flour mixture.
4) Add the vegetable broth and almond milk and whisk together until the mixture becomes crumbly.
5) Mash the vegan buttery spread or margarine with a fork until the mixture forms a soft ball of dough.
6) Lightly grease the muffin tins with Pam olive oil and then spoon in the dough, using your fingers to form a crust within the muffin cups.
7) Bake in the oven for about 10-15 minutes--until the crusts looked slightly browned.
8) Meanwhile, defrost the peas in the microwave and use your fork to mash them together or grind in a food processor until smooth.
9) To cook the spaghetti squash, use a knife to create some slits into the rind of the squash and in a medium bowl, bake in the microwave on high for about 12 minutes and then leave it to cool while you prepare the rest of the filling.
10) Beat together the pumpkin and mashed peas in a large bowl with the silken tofu, flax powder, guar gum, teriyaki sauce and spices.  
11) Cut open the spaghetti squash, careful not to cut yourself or burn yourself. 
12) Scoops out the guts along with the seeds and try separating the seeds with a fork to reserve for toasting later--yes, you can toast spaghetti squash seeds like you would for pumpkin seeds!
13) Add in 1 cup of spaghetti squash into the filling and mix in with a spatula or large fork.
14) By now, the crusts should be pre-baked, so remove the muffin tin from the oven and spoon in the filling into each muffin cup. 
15) Sprinkle some additional sesame seeds on top for a toasted garnish and bake the mini tarts for about 35-40 minutes. 
16) Turn off the oven and keep the tarts inside to cool down before serving.

Enjoy and Bon Appetit!

Gluten-Free Cheesy Pesto Spaghetti
Makes 1 serving

1 c. cooked spaghetti squash
1/8 block of extra-firm tofu
1/4 c. grated lactose-free cheddar cheese
1 tbsp Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp vegan pesto sauce
1 slice sun-dried tomato
1 handful arugula
oregano and red pepper flakes for garnish

1) Thinly slice the tofu with a knife to 1/8" slices (like sliced cheese).
2) Chop the sun-dried tomato slice into small pieces.
3) Top the spaghetti squash with the tofu slices, followed by the pesto sauce and grated cheese.
4) Rinse off the the arugula and arrange around the squash mixture.
5) Top the whole thing with the sun-dried tomato and Parmesan cheese and g
arnish with some ground oregano and red pepper flakes.
6 Heat up spaghetti in the microwave on high for 1 minute and serve immediately.

Enjoy and Bon Appetit!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Day 55: Homage to The Swiss

Who says cheese can't be healthy? Cheese is the reason why if I ever became a vegetarian, that I would never become a vegan, because although I've made some delectable vegan dishes in the past, I could never give up cheese. It's too delicious and so far, I haven't really found a tasty vegan alternative. That's not to say that you should go crazy and overload on cheese, but it really gets a bad rap by many health gurus when if used in the right proportions and preferably reduced-fat, it can be just as a salubrious as other protein-packed meals. The dish I prepared can actually be made vegan too, and as I found out the next day, congeals to a thick, creamy consistency, pretty much the same as the traditional creamy French dish that inspired me. However, I made an homage to the Swiss not by using Swiss cheese (har har), but rather by using Swiss chard, which has lately become one of my favorite vegetables to cook with. This dish can serve as a moderate portioned entree or a smaller side dish. 

Tofu-Swiss Chard Au Gratin 
Makes about 6 servings 

4 c. Swiss chard chopped
6-8 Brussels sprouts, leaves separated
1-2 dried kale chips (I used New York Naturals in the 'Vegan Cheese' flavor)
1/2 c. unsweetened almond milk
3 tsp tofutti cream cheese
1/2-3/4 c. low-sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
5 tbsp vegan buttery spread (I used Smart Balance)
1/2 c. silken tofu
1 tbsp whole grain mustard
3 tbsp Parmesan or Romano cheese OR some finely chopped walnuts (vegan alternative)
1 c. lactose-free, reduced-fat cheese, grated (I used McAdam's reduced-fat cheddar, but Cabot makes some as well) OR some vegan cheddar 
1/3 block extra-firm tofu, sliced thinly

2 tbsp grated cheese for garnish
1/2 tbsp. dried oregano to garnish
1 tbsp Parmesan cheese to garnish

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a small casserole dish with Pam olive oil.
2) In a small microwavable bowl, heat up the almond milk, silken tofu, cream cheese, chicken broth, buttery spread and the 3 tbsp. of Parmesan cheese until blended and creamy.
3) Rinse the kale and Brussels sprouts and place into the casserole dish.
4) Pour the creamy mixture over the greens and sprinkle the grated cheddar on top.
5) Lay the extra-firm tofu on top of the mixture and crumble the kale chips over the tofu.
6) Sprinkle the extra cheddar cheese on top of the kale chip crumbles along with the oregano and red pepper flakes for garnish.
7) Bake the gratin for about 30 minutes, until you see it bubbling in the oven, with the cheese melted on top.
8) Remove from oven and serve immediately--can also be refrigerated, which will actually solidify the mixture a bit.

Enjoy and Bon Appetit!