virtual vegan potluck: pasta with beet pesto and tofu ricotta

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Welcome to the fourth installment of the Virtual Vegan Potluck! I’m so excited to be a part of this fun event! I hope you have enjoyed all the amazing recipes you’ve seen so far. This is my first time participating and I am honored to take my place in the lineup. This fall’s potluck has a new twist — a featured ingredient — the glorious beet! I wanted to come up with something that was a little out of the ordinary. We’ve all seen or heard of beet salads, pickled beets, brownies with beets, beet ice cream, beet soup, and the like. I wanted something a little bit different.

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I used to despise beets. My mom would serve canned beets at dinner when I was growing up and I couldn’t stand them. I quickly learned that if I didn’t put a few on my plate, my mother would give me a huge spoonful and I would have to eat them all. It was easier to choke down a few than the giant spoonful! Once I left home for college, beets never came across my plate again until a few summers ago. My CSA boxes started arriving with bunches and bunches of beets. The first few weeks, I either gave them away to a friend, or ashamedly threw them away. It was a waste. I finally decided that I had to force myself to like them.

It turns out that fresh beets are much more flavorful than the horrible canned things. Roasted and drizzled with balsamic and maple syrup, served over greens with walnuts, dried cranberries, and avocado, I finally began to appreciate them. I found initially that I preferred golden or chiogga beets better than the standard red ones because the flavor isn’t as “beet-y” but I can now definitely eat them and actually enjoy my meal without feeling tortured!

So what to make for the potluck? I initially planned to make a recipe I stumbled across in a meal plan I subscribe to on my iPad. It was for beetroot, lentil, and brown rice patties, topped with sliced tomato, sautéed mushrooms, and smashed avocado. It looked interesting, but each time I set about to make it, I never really felt inspired and ended up making other things instead. Then all of a sudden, a few weekends ago while I was blog surfing, I happened upon a picture of a bowl of vibrant pink pasta. I knew instantly that this was the start of what I would make for the potluck.

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I turned to my trusty recipe file (i.e. Google) and finally settled upon this recipe for beet pesto, but I needed to find a substitute for the goat cheese. One of the many beet recipes I looked at mentioned topping the pasta with ricotta cheese so I decided to see if I could find a simple recipe for making tofu ricotta. I decided upon this recipe because I find the combination of miso and tahini so intriguing — it’s a flavorful collision of two vastly different world cuisines, two worlds that are both so integral in my food story. (This ricotta recipe, by the way, was so delicious on its own that I could have kept eating it by the spoonful. I’m anxious to see what other dishes I can come up with incorporating this ricotta).

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The end result? For starters, this was not a difficult dish to make at all. The ricotta takes about five minutes to measure, chop, and mash everything up. The beets need to roast for an hour, but after that, it’s the time needed to cook the pasta, and a few minutes of food processor magic. (And making sure you don’t turn your clothes and kitchen pink in the process). For something relatively simple to make, this was crazy delicious. I was actually surprised how little beet taste there was in it — I was expecting to be smacked in the face with beet flavor, but the garlic and walnuts must have mellowed it out. It is stunning to look at — I did very little to edit these photos. That really truly is the color of the dish. It is guaranteed to make your dinner guests ooh and ahh when you place this in front of them at the table! It might even make your children eat beets without realizing it — my sister’s kids love pasta with basil pesto, so if they’re already used to green garlicky pasta, I imagine they might be inclined to try bright pink pasta, too.

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pasta with beet pesto and tofu ricotta

ingredients

for the pesto

  • 3 to 4 medium-sized red beets, scrubbed clean
  • 6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup tofu ricotta (see below)

for the tofu ricotta (makes approx. 2 cups)

  • 1 block extra firm tofu (14 oz), drained and pressed
  • 1 1/2 tbsp tahini
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • a pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 tsp miso paste
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 pound pasta of choice

directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400˚F. Drizzle beets lightly with olive oil. Wrap the beets (individually) and garlic cloves (together) tightly with aluminum foil and place on a baking sheet. Roast 1 hour, or until tender.
  2. Meanwhile, make the tofu ricotta. In a medium bowl, crumble the tofu with your hands. Add the remaining ricotta ingredients to the bowl and mash with a spoon. Set aside.
  3. Cook the pasta according to directions. Reserve a cup of pasta water before draining pasta. Drain pasta and drizzle lightly with olive oil to keep from sticking and set aside.
  4. After removing beets and garlic from oven, remove foil and let cool slightly. Once cool enough to touch, use a spoon to peel skin off beets and coarsely chop. Squeeze roasted garlic out of the peel.
  5. In a food processor, combine roasted beets, roasted garlic, two tablespoons olive oil, and toasted walnuts. Pulse until smooth and creamy, adding reserved pasta water as needed. Add 1/2 cup tofu ricotta and pulse until combined. Season with salt to taste.
  6. Toss pasta and beet mixture until well combined. Top with more tofu ricotta, if desired.

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I hope you have enjoyed my dish in the Virtual Vegan Potluck. Please use the image below to visit the next dish in the lineup!

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japanese sweet potato cakes

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An old friend of mine from my high school days in Japan asked me today if I could take an old and familiar Japanese dessert and make it healthier and plant-based. The dessert is what the Japanese call simply “sweet potato” or “su-i-to-po-te-to”, to be precise. It’s a sweet and savory dessert that is full of sugar and butter, and tastes so good! While trying to find examples of this dessert to show you, I stumbled upon this hilarious Japanese cooking demo for the dessert where this lady cooks with her poodle (not literally cooks her dog, but you know what I mean). You can watch it here:

I wish I had found this video earlier because I definitely would have added rum to my recipe when I was trying to make it! Anyway, I had two slightly different recipes my friend and I found and I decided to make both. I used a recipe from Hungry Note for version 1 and a recipe from Kyoto Foodie for version 2. In order to make them plant-based, I would need to make substitutions for the egg yolk, butter, milk, and cream. After much research (i.e. googling), I decided I would use silken tofu, avocado, coconut milk and coconut “cream” as my replacers, in that order.

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One thing I was a little uncertain of was how the texture and taste would differ since I wouldn’t be using Japanese sweet potatoes. I can’t find those locally here so I used the regular orange flesh “yams” that I found at the farmer’s market. Japanese sweet potato, or satsumaimo, has a purplish peel and light yellow flesh. It’s a little sweeter than what we call a sweet potato in the States. I found a great article in the Japan Times written by the author of one of my favorite Japanese blogs, Just Hungry, that talks about the history and uses of satsumaimo.

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The verdict — both versions of the sweet potato cakes were very good, taste-wise. Not too sweet, a little caramelized on top, and very creamy. Texture-wise, they were definitely too soft. It was a little softer than sweet potato pie filling, and while it did firm up a bit as it cooled, I still think it lacks the traditional texture. Next time, I will probably keep all the ingredients the same but increase the amount of sweet potato. I would definitely add at least one extra sweet potato, maybe even two. I think that would give it the more potato-y texture that is missing. However, this recipe as it stands has really great flavor, both cooked and uncooked. I could eat it raw as a sweet potato pudding as well. And it’s pretty healthy as far as desserts go, so you could use it as a side with your dinner, or even for breakfast if you wanted. I also think it would make a really great pie filling. I might experiment with baking one of these versions in a pie for Thanksgiving this year. I can’t vouch for how close it is to the original since it’s been over 15 years since I’ve eaten suitopoteto, but since I really enjoyed the flavor, I would definitely not call this experiment a failure!

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japanese sweet potato cakes “suito poteto”, version 1

ingredients

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled
  • 1/4 cup coconut “cream” (place can of coconut milk in fridge for 15-20 min. Use the thickened “cream” off the top of the can)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 ripe avocado
  • 1/8 cup silken tofu
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425˚F.  Bring a medium-sized pot of water to boil on the stove top.
  2. Cut the peeled sweet potatoes in 1/4-inch rounds and then halve and quarter them. Boil for 4-5 minutes until fork tender.
  3. Drain the sweet potatoes and return to the pot. Mash them in the pot over low heat to evaporate a bit of the moisture.
  4. Add the avocado, tofu, and maple syrup to the pot and blend with the potatoes using an immersion blender. (Can also spoon into a food processor or blender)
  5. Gradually add the coconut cream and blend until smooth. Add the vanilla extract.
  6. Line a baking tray with parchment paper or foil. Spoon the mixture onto the tray in any shape you want. If it’s too runny, you can use line a muffin tray and use that instead. Mine made 9 little cakes.
  7. Brush the tops with a bit coconut cream.
  8. Bake for 20-30 minutes until set and golden brown. Place tray on a cooling rack for 10 minutes. Place a sheet of wax paper on top of cooling rack and use a spatula to place the cakes on the paper. Cool for another 20-30 minutes. They will firm up more as they cool. Enjoy!

*Notes: Next time, besides increasing the amount of sweet potato, I will also try the following: mash the sweet potatoes by hand, blend everything else in a blender or food processor, then stir the mixture into the hand-mashed sweet potatoes. That may help solve the texture problem and make it less runny.

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japanese sweet potato cakes “suito poteto”, version 2 “kyoto-style”

ingredients

  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 3 tbsp coconut milk (may substitute other non-dairy milk)
  • 1/4 cup silken tofu
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of salt, optional
  • sesame seeds

directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425˚F.
  2. Cut the sweet potatoes into 1/4-inch rounds and halve and quarter them. Steam for 10-20 minutes until fork tender.
  3. Place in a bowl and add the maple syrup and avocado and begin mashing.
  4. Add in the coconut milk, tofu, cinnamon, and salt.
  5. Form into balls and place onto a lined baking sheet, or spoon into a lined mini-muffin tray as I did.
  6. Top with white or black sesame seeds and bake for 20-30 minutes until set and golden brown on top.
  7. Cool in muffin tray or on baking sheet for 10 minutes before removing. Allow to cool for 10 minutes more on a wire rack. They will firm up a bit as they cool. Enjoy!

*Notes: Next time, besides increasing the amount of sweet potato, I will also try the following: mash the sweet potatoes by hand, blend everything else in a blender or food processor, then stir the mixture into the hand-mashed sweet potatoes. That may help solve the texture problem and make it less runny.

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miso udon with tofu, spinach, and shiitake

20130921-223659.jpgIt rained most of the day yesterday. A little on the chilly side, but not cold enough to light the fireplace yet. I’m looking forward to those days — not the colder temperatures so much, but the coziness of sitting in front of my fire curled up in a blanket with a glass of wine. And my cat plastered to my side, no doubt.

It was still a miserable enough afternoon that some comfort food was in order. I had a lot of spinach to use up and a fresh batch of home-sprouted mung bean sprouts so I thought I would make a vegetarian version of miso chanko-nabe. Chanko-nabe is a one-pot meal that the sumo wrestlers in Japan eat. It’s a hearty meal that consists of broth, vegetables and meat or seafood. There are really no rules to making chanko-nabe. You can put in whatever you want, make the broth however you like.

When we lived in Japan, we would often eat this in the winter months. My mom would cook it on the stove in the kitchen and then transfer it to a pot over a gas burner placed in the middle of the dining room table. Then we could serve ourselves and refill our bowls as needed throughout the meal. There are a lot of Japanese meals that are served in this way, a method of keeping warm in the winter months since most houses are without central heating. Many families sit under a kotatsu together in the evenings for food, television, games, and conversation. A kotatsu is a table covered with a futon, or heavy blanket, with a heat source underneath or built into the table itself. I think this table played a big factor in the creation of much of Japan’s cold-weather cuisine.

For my version of chanko-nabe, I used individually packaged, pre-cooked udon noodles — the kind that cook in 3 minutes. I find mine in the Asian section of my grocery store. If you can only find the dried noodles, you will need to cook them separately before putting them in the pot. Also, if you have leftovers, I recommend storing the noodles separately from the broth, otherwise they will absorb all of the liquid and become very mushy.

I sprinkled some shichimi togarashi over my bowl when serving. Shichimi is a Japanese seasoning blend that literally means “seven flavor chili pepper”. The brand I use contains orange peel, black and white toasted sesame seeds, cayenne, ginger, Szechuan pepper and nori (seaweed). It can be found in most Asian food stores. If you can’t find it, you could probably make your own mix, or just sprinkle a bit of cayenne on top.

Update: I’ve shared this post on Pure Ella’s Comfort Food Potluck Party http://pureella.com/potluck-party-comfort-food-recipes/. Won’t you join in the fun, too?

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miso udon with tofu, spinach, and shiitake

ingredients

  • 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and julienned
  • 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 3 packages instant udon noodles, seasoning packets discarded
  • 1 package firm tofu cut into 1/2-inch squares
  • 2 leeks, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
  • 8-10 shiitake, sliced
  • handful of snow peas, trimmed
  • 3 green onions, the whites sliced into 1 1/-2-inch pieces, the green tops sliced thinly
  • 1 bunch spinach, roughly chopped
  • 2 cups bean sprouts
  • 2-4 tbsp miso paste
  • dash of shichimi togarashi
  1. In a large pot, bring the stock to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and add the ginger and garlic. Add the leeks, snow peas, tofu and shiitake and cook for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the green onions, spinach and bean sprouts.
  3. Place the miso in a medium bowl and add a ladleful of hot broth. Whisk until the miso is completely dissolved, then stir the mixture back into the soup. I like a strong miso flavor, so I used 4 tablespoons. Start with 2 and taste the broth after you pour the miso back into the pot, and adjust as desired.
  4. Cook for a few minutes and sprinkle with shichimi togarashi, if desired. Serve piping hot.

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creamy polenta with spinach and mushrooms

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Tonight, I planned to make a mushroom, spinach, and lentil phyllo-wrapped thing for dinner. (Yes, “thing” is the technical name). When I finally got around to cooking, I decided that it would take too long since I’d need to cook the lentils before I could assemble and bake the whole thing. I started googling mushroom, spinach, and phyllo recipes but couldn’t find anything that would be quick and easy to make. I stumbled upon this recipe and decided I would vegan-ize it. Instead of scallops, I used tofu as my protein, but you could use sausage, chicken, beans, etc.

It was creamy, savory, and very filling. I’ve never really done much with polenta before this, but I will definitely be making variations of this dish again. Instead of spinach, you could stir in just about any vegetable you want and I think the end result would be great.

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creamy polenta with spinach and mushrooms

ingredients

  • 3/4 cup polenta
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 bunch spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cups mushrooms, sliced
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • firm tofu, cubed (optional)

directions

  1. Put polenta and vegetable stock in a medium-sized sauce pan and stir well to combine. Turn stove to high and cook until the broth starts to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and stir often to make sure the polenta doesn’t clump. Cook until polenta is creamy and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Add spinach and stir to thoroughly combine. Stir in nutritional yeast. Set aside.
  2. Heat a frying pan over medium heat and add about 2 tbsp of olive oil to the pan. Add onions to the pan and sauté until they begin to turn translucent. Add the mushrooms to the pan and sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper. If using tofu, add to the pan at this time (For chicken, sausage, etc., either cook separately and stir in at the end, or add to the pan after the onions and brown all sides before adding mushrooms). Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add wine to pan. Continue to cook until wine has reduced by half. Add almond milk to the pan and stir to incorporate. Cook for about 2 more minutes, then remove from heat. Adjust seasoning as needed.
  3. Distribute the polenta between 4 plates and top with mushroom mixture. Serve immediately.

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vodka sauce with heirloom tomatoes, eggplant, and mushrooms

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I’m pretty sure I broke just about every rule in Italian cooking tonight. I made vegan vodka sauce and I used heirloom tomatoes, almond milk, and nutritional yeast to do it. Not only that, I put eggplants and mushrooms in the sauce. I can just hear all the Italian grandmas rolling over in their graves! But since I’m not Italian (I’m American-Cypriot), I’m not going to worry about it, and I’ll just enjoy my pasta!

My kitchen counter was overflowing today with tomatoes from my garden. I have a few san marzanos, a ton of heirlooms, and even more little yellow pear tomatoes. I knew that I needed to do something about this situation pretty quickly before the tomatoes went bad. I’ve already given away so many that people run away from me when they see me coming… I initially decided to make a tomato sauce that I could freeze for later, but as I started looking up recipes, I started thinking about vodka sauce. I’m not a huge fan of tomato and marinara sauces, but I do love a good vodka sauce! If I order pasta with sauce at a restaurant, it is almost always vodka sauce. I love the creamy, tomato-y (is that a word?) taste and for whatever reason, it doesn’t give me heartburn the way any other tomato sauce does.

A lot of the vegan vodka sauce recipes I googled called for using a jar of spaghetti sauce (seriously?) or needed cashew cream, soy creamer, mashed beans, etc. , things I wasn’t interested in getting involved in tonight. I finally found a recipe that called for almond milk and nutritional yeast as a substitute for heavy cream. Did I mention that I already had the onions, eggplant, mushroom, and tomatoes cooking in the pan before I decided to switch to vodka sauce? Yeah, after spending all that time trying to find vegan vodka sauce, I decided to give up and make plain old tomato sauce. Then halfway through, I grabbed my bottle of vodka, dumped it into the sauce and then I didn’t have a choice! Shockingly, it turned out quite well. It was creamy and tomato-y and I loved it with the eggplant and mushrooms. I will definitely be making this again!

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vodka sauce with heirloom tomatoes, eggplant, and mushrooms

adapted from Tomato Vodka Sauce on about.com

ingredients

  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 medium-sized eggplant (or two small ones), diced
  • 10 crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 8-10 fresh heirloom tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 6 basil leaves, torn by hand
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper

directions

  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil, and have an ice bath standing nearby. Score an X into the bottom of each tomato. Gently lower the tomatoes into the boiling water. Boil for 30-60 seconds until skin begins to peel away. Remove and place in ice bath. When tomatoes have cooled, peel off the skin — you can use a paring knife for the hard to remove bits. Dice and seed the tomatoes and set aside.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until they begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the eggplant, mushrooms, and garlic and continue to sauté until lightly browned. Add the tomato paste and stir to incorporate. Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.
  3. Add the fresh tomatoes and torn basil and reduce heat to simmer. Simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes, until sauce begins to thicken. Add vodka and simmer for another 20-30 minutes. Sauce will continue to thicken. Stir in maple syrup and simmer for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Add almond milk and nutritional yeast and stir well to combine. Simmer for another 5 minutes until sauce thickens to your desired consistency, adjust salt and pepper as needed.
  5. Serve hot over pasta of choice and enjoy!

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baking with avocados

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I’ve come to the realization that in order for me to cook regularly, it needs to become a puzzle for me that I have to solve. In the case of vegan cooking and baking, it’s figuring out how to substitute for dairy, eggs, and other animal products in a way that is close enough to the original recipe, or turning it into something completely different and wonderful. Even though I’ve always loved to cook, I never really did so regularly for myself. My two main reasons are because it’s really not a whole lot of fun to cook for yourself, and when you’re done cooking, you’re the only person there to clean up after yourself, and I definitely don’t enjoy cleaning! But when it comes to vegan cooking, since I know I can’t run across the street to McDonald’s or Wendy’s from school for breakfast or lunch, I have to prepare food for myself in advance at home. This has forced me to spend a lot more time in my kitchen than I normally do, and I’m really enjoying being creative in trying and adapting new recipes. I still don’t enjoy cleaning up after myself, but if I’m going to keep cooking, I eventually have to wash the dirty dishes and clear off the counters!

Ever since I stumbled across the vegan muffin recipes in Forks Over Knives – The Cookbook, I’ve been obsessed with vegan baking. I’ve baked vegan ginger peach muffins and banana bread several times in the weeks since school’s started. They are both simple, tasty, and filling items for me to grab for a quick breakfast when I’m running out the door to work. (And are much better than the egg mcmuffin or sausage burrito I’d get from the drive-thru more mornings than I care to admit!) Several days ago, one of the blogs I follow posted a recipe for avocado, blueberry, and orange muffins. I’ll let you head over to Poppy’s Patisserie for the recipe. They were amazing. I had no idea that this funky looking green batter would turn into such delicious, orange-scented muffins. I’ve never cooked with avocado before. Sure, I’ve put it in a million salads and made guacamole hundreds of times, but I had no idea that it was such a versatile ingredient. This got me hooked — if it tasted this good in these muffins (and there was absolutely no hint of avocado flavor at all in there), what else could I bake with it? So the search began…

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I turned to my trusty recipe file (i.e. google) and began searching for baking recipes that used avocado. I eventually settled on making scones. I had trouble finding exactly the recipe I was looking for since most either used ingredients I didn’t have on hand, weren’t vegan, or were gluten-free. I’m not ready to dive head first into gluten-free baking yet — those require a little more science and accuracy than I care for at this point. Plus, I don’t have an issue with gluten, so whenever I make gluten-free stuff, it’s more a matter of wanting to experiment with alternative grains.

Anyway, I finally decided I wanted to make orange, cranberry, and ginger scones and would attempt to create my own recipe, adapting what seemed to be fairly standard ingredients and proportions in the scone recipes I found. The only thing I was really unsure of was how much butter or oil one avocado would replace. I couldn’t find anything specific online, but I decided to go for it anyway. The end result turned out pretty well. They looked amazing and the texture was definitely scone-like. The recipes I compared varied from 2 tablespoons to over a cup of sugar so I erred on the side of caution. Next time I’ll add more sugar or maple syrup or something–they just needed a little more sweetness. I also couldn’t really taste the ginger so I’ll either increase the amount of powdered ginger or add grated fresh ginger next time. I’m posting the recipe exactly as I made it, so be forewarned that it may not be sweet enough for your liking. Some recipes called for brushing the top with milk or sprinkling with sugar before baking, so those are some things I might try next time. This recipe could also be adapted to other flavors and mix-ins, so be sure to let me know if you come up with a great flavor combination!
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orange, cranberry, ginger, avocado scones

ingredients

  • 1 large, ripe avocado, peeled, pitted, and diced
  • 1 orange, juiced and zested
  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp powdered ginger
  • 1 tbsp ground flax seed
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup raw sugar
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup almond milk

directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400˚F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Put the diced avocado in the freezer for approximately 20 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, ginger, and flax seed.
  4. Place the frozen avocado into the flour mixture and work it in using your fingertips or a pastry cutter until the mixture is in small granules.
  5. Stir in the orange juice, zest, and cranberries.
  6. Gradually add in the almond milk until everything is moistened.
  7. Spoon the batter onto your prepared baking sheets (approx. 1/4 cup per scones). They will spread a little as they bake so leave some space in between.
  8. Bake for 10-15 minutes until scones are golden brown and firm to the touch.
  9. Leave on baking sheet for 5 minutes before placing on a cooling rack. Enjoy!

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corn, edamame, peach, heirloom tomato, and pickled red onion salad

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This is a really simple salad to throw together and is great when fresh corn is in season. You could use canned or frozen corn but fresh corn off the cob is simply the best! The flavors and colors are bright, you get a mix of sweet and sour from the corn and peaches versus the lemon and pickled red onion.

corn, edamame, peach, heirloom tomato, and pickled red onion salad

ingredients

  • 2 ears of fresh corn (uncooked), removed from the cob (approximately 2 cups)
  • 1 cup cooked shelled edamame
  • 1 peach, diced
  • 2 to 3 heirloom tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 cup pickled red onion (recipe below)
  • fresh basil, chopped
  • olive oil
  • juice of one lemon
  • red wine vinegar
  • salt
  • pepper

directions

  1. Add the corn through to the red onion to a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat.
  2. Squeeze the juice of one lemon over the salad, and drizzle with 1-2 tbsp of red wine vinegar and toss again.
  3. Salt and pepper to taste. Add the basil and toss again lightly.

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pickled red onion

ingredients

  • 1 red onion, sliced thinly in rings or half moons
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
  • 5 black peppercorns

directions

  1. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a tea kettle or small saucepan. Place the onions in a colander over the sink and pour the boiling water over them and let them drain.
  2. In a two-cup or other container, place the onions and all other ingredients. Stir to distribute the flavors evenly.
  3. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving. They will keep for several weeks in the fridge.

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takikomi gohan – brown rice with tofu, zucchini, eggplant, shiitake

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This was a spur of the moment meal that I started at 9:00pm Sunday night. I don’t recommend doing that since I added too much liquid to my rice cooker and after two-and-a-half hours, it still hadn’t beeped. I finally checked on it close to midnight and the brown rice was finally done. Learning from my mistakes, what I believe should be a faster recipe is below.

brown rice with tofu, zucchini, eggplant, and shiitake

ingredients

  • go of brown rice, rinsed
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 1 eggplant, diced
  • 1/2 block of tofu, cut into 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch cubes
  • 8-10 shiitake, sliced thinly
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp mirin (sweet cooking rice wine)
  • water

directions

  1. Put rice in rice cooker and enough water for 2 go according to your rice cooker’s specifications. Add all other ingredients.
  2. If your rice cooker has a brown rice setting, switch it to that, and press start.
  3. When your rice cooker beeps, it’s done! (You may want to check on it after an hour and see how it’s doing, and then every half hour after that. The vegetables will add extra liquid as they cook down, so make sure you don’t make the mistake I did of putting enough water to compensate for all the ingredients.)

fall harvest meal ii

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One of my friends recently moved to the neighborhood and last night we decided to cook a meal together. Her kitchen is teeny tiny and she also has the tiniest stovetop I’ve ever seen, so naturally we cooked at my house. When I invited her over to cook, I really had no idea what we would make. I started brainstorming based on what I had in my fridge and pantry and came up with a menu. And then I came up with a second menu that began to sound really amazing to me. Even though it was in the 90s yesterday, I just couldn’t put aside the thought of this second menu, so we decided to brave the heat and roast away in the kitchen. Here’s what we made: miso-ginger chicken thighs*, roasted asparagus, orange-balsamic glazed acorn squash, smashed crispy red potatoes, and stir fried shiitake. It was quite a sight to behold, all those trays lined up in the oven, roasting away right along with us.

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I’m still a little surprised we managed to fit everything in. The two recipes completely new to me were the miso-ginger chicken and the orange-balsamic acorn squash. They were both amazing. The chicken is quite possibly the best chicken I have ever eaten. As we were feasting away, I couldn’t help but comment over and over how amazing the chicken tasted. It was spicy and tangy, with the flavors from the miso and ginger melding together creating something quite wonderful. You really need to try this! The acorn squash was sweet and creamy and the citrus added a brightness to the flavor. I’m pretty sure I will be making everything on this menu many times again in the future. Having company over, not to mention a second set of hands in the kitchen, made all of this possible — I never would have gone to all the trouble for just myself. I need to have company more often so I can eat lots of yummy food!

*for vegan followers of my blog – everything on this menu is vegan except for the chicken. I am working on a tofu version of this recipe that I will post when I’ve perfected it.

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miso-ginger chicken thighs

from Guiding Stars

ingredients

  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 3 tablespoons miso paste
  • 2 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 1 lemon, zest and half of the juice
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon red chili paste

directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425˚ Fahrenheit.
  2. In a food processor, combine everything but the chicken into a paste. Toss over the chicken to coat. (You can marinate it overnight in the fridge, or cook right away — the flavor is very intense even without marinating).
  3. Place the chicken in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, flipping once after 15 minutes.

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orange-balsamic roasted acorn squash

from Miss Kitchen Witch

ingredients

  • 1 acorn squash, cut into 1/2-inch rings
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • juice from 1 orange
  • 1/2 an orange, sliced thinly
  • salt to taste

directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 425°F. Lightly oil a baking sheet and arrange the squash rings evenly.
  2. Mix together the vinegar, oil, and orange juice. Brush the squash with 3/4 of the mix and top with the orange slices. Sprinkle with a little bit of sea salt and bake for about 20 minutes.
  3. Flip the squash and pour the rest of the vinegar mix on top. Bake for another 10-15 minutes or until the squash is very tender. Allow to cool slightly, but serve hot with a little orange zest if desired.

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smashed crispy red potatoes

ingredients

  • 8-10 small red potatoes, scrubbed clean
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • optional: fresh rosemary, thyme, oregano, etc.

directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425˚F. Fill a large saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook until fork tender — approximately 15-20 minutes, depending on size of potatoes.
  2. Drain potatoes into a colander. Do not rinse. Using a towel or pot holder, take each potato and smash it flat with your hand onto a baking sheet. You can use a fork or potato masher if you want, just make sure they don’t completely fall apart.
  3. Drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. If you choose, you can add chopped fresh herbs such as rosemary or thyme.
  4. Roast for about 20 minutes, turning them over after 10 minutes. They should be brown and crispy on the edges. Roast longer if necessary to get the desired crunch.

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roasted asparagus

ingredients

  • 1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed
  • olive oil
  • juice of one lemon
  • salt
  • pepper

directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425˚F.
  2. Place the asparagus in a single layer on a baking sheet.
  3. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Use your hands or tongs to coat the asparagus completely in the seasonings.
  4. Roast for approximately 5-10 minutes, depending on the thickness of your asparagus and your desired degree of doneness. I like mine to still have a bite to it and I don’t like it too charred.

stir-fried shiitake

ingredients

  • 8-10 shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and ends trimmed
  • sesame oil
  • soy sauce
  • mirin (sweet cooking rice wine)

directions

  1. In a medium-size bowl, dress the shiitake with approximately 1-2 tbsp each of the sesame oil, soy sauce, and mirin. Stir to coat evenly.
  2. Over medium heat, sauté the shiitake for 5 to 10 minutes until mushrooms begin to wilt.

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korean-inspired lettuce wraps

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Clockwise from the top: lettuce, kimchee (fermented cabbage), sukju namul (bean sprout salad), seasoned soy bean paste, maple-glazed tofu, marinated shiitake

My grocery store carries kimchee in the produce section alongside tofu and spring roll wrappers. If you can’t find kimchee, you could maybe add some hot peppers or something else spicy with a bit of crunch. I got the recipe for the sukju namul here at Maangchi, a great Korean food blog. I used Japanese cucumbers from my garden and bean sprouts that I grew in my kitchen! The seasoned soy bean paste is a Korean brand I found in the Asian section of my grocery store. The recipe for Maple-Glazed Tofu can be found at Fried Dandelions, a vegan food blog with a lot of great recipes. The recipe for the marinated mushrooms is below. This is really a simple dinner to make — each element only takes 5 to 10 minutes to make and can all be made in advance.  I made extra of everything so I could take it to work for lunch tomorrow and Wednesday.

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marinated shiitake mushrooms

ingredients

  • 7 to 8 fresh shiitake mushrooms
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp mirin (sweet rice wine for cooking)
  • 1 tbsp sugar

directions

Clean the shiitake and cut them into 1/4-inch strips. Put all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes until most of the liquid is gone. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. (If using dried shiitake, rehydrate them in 2 cups of hot water (enough water to cover) for at least an hour. Reserve the soaking liquid and use 2/3 cup of it in place of the water).