Monday, July 16, 2012

Mango Lassi Ice Cream with Beet Halwa and Crisp Rice-Coconut Laddu

I love, love, love beet halwa -- so I was already thinking of making some from the beets we got from our CSA this week, but when I saw that the latest PPK Chopped/Vegan was a dessert challenge demanding beets as one of the four ingredients . . . I took it as a sign.  

The mystery ingredients were mango, red beets, dried unsweetened coconut, and crisp rice cereal.    I'm a sucker for a scoop of ice cream on top of warm beet halwa, so I made a mango lassi ice cream for the top and a crispy rice and coconut laddu for the bottom.  Here it is:

Not the prettiest picture -- the ice cream was starting to melt from the heat even before I scooped it onto the still-warm halwa -- but I'm just happy to have any picture with my broken camera.

The bottom layer is a coconut and crisp rice laddu.  I know that laddu with puffed rice are delicious, so I subbed crisp rice cereal for the challenge.  The laddu were made from crisp rice cereal and shredded coconut (two of the mystery ingredients), plus ginger, cardamom, cloves, coconut milk, vanilla, and agave nectar.  First you make a syrup over low heat with the milk, agave nectar, and spices  -- then remove from the heat and mix in the dried coconut and rice cereal.  Normally you would then roll the laddu into balls, but I flattened them out into a disc-shape so that they would be a better base for the rest of the sundae.

The middle layer is the beet halwa, made basically the same way as my recipe posted here -- except that I used coconut milk instead of s'milk, left out the cashews, added ginger, and used ground cardamom.  I also toasted a little of the shredded coconut to add to the beet halwa while it was simmering.

The melting top layer is the mango lassi ice cream.  I've been making crazy amounts of ice cream lately, but here's what's in the mango lassi ice cream: mango*, soy creamer, coconut milk, vanilla soy yogurt, tapioca starch, and sugar.  Some of the mango is pureed and mixed in with the rest of the ice cream base, and some is chopped up and mixed into the ice cream for nice little chunks.

In the end, the result was a crispy-crunchy layer, a warm-gooey layer, and a cold-melty-fruity layer.  In addition to the four mystery ingredients, I used the following ingredients: coconut milk, agave nectar, vanilla extract, canola oil, soy creamer, vanilla soy yogurt, tapioca starch, sugar, ground ginger, ground cloves, and ground cardamom.

After taking a few pictures with my broken camera (and hoping that my ice cream sundae would even be in one of them), I suddenly remembered that I was going to get to eat this thing -- how exciting!  Even though I'd been tasting all the parts separately, the combination was somehow different from any of the individual parts -- and in a totally good way.  I managed to secretly eat almost half of it before my daughter caught me and ate the rest.  Ah well.  At least she liked it!

* The challenge called for fresh mango, but I used frozen and thawed mango.  I am embarrassed to tell you how long this mango has been in our freezer, but I'm pretty sure this is the third apartment it's lived in.  Yikes!  Somehow, miraculously, it is not freezer-burned and still tastes just fine.  It's a Chopped/Vegan miracle!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Double Stuffed Peppers

Last week, I got three giant bell peppers from the farmers' market; when P brought home our CSA vegetables, he informed me that there were three tiny bell peppers in our share.  Instantly, an idea hit me -- I double stuffed peppers.  I was going to stick those cute tiny peppers inside the giant peppers like Russian nesting dolls.

I didn't have a chance to make the double stuffed peppers (or, as P likes to call them, stuffed pepper stuffed peppers) until tonight at my dad's house, but I have been thinking about them all week.  Let me tell you, it was worth the wait.

The big peppers were stuffed with a mixture of diced jalepeno, soyrizo, brown rice, and spices.  The little peppers were inspired by jalapeno poppers, since they were jalapeno-sized bell peppers; they were filled with a combination of vegan cream cheese and vegan pepper jack, with a little surprise at the bottom -- diced jalapenos!  The mixture in the big peppers was quite spicy, so the cheese in the little peppers was there to cool things off -- which it did, along with adding a rich creaminess to the whole dish.

Once both mixtures were made, I filled the three big peppers with the soyrizo mixture -- pressing the mixture to the sides and bottom to leave a space for the wee peppers.  The remaining space was still a bit big for the little peppers, so I added some salsa into the holes before sliding the little guys in there.  The double stuffed peppers were then baked at 350° for 30 minutes.

While they baked, I got the side dishes ready -- refried beans and a lovely salad -- and made a lime vinaigrette for the salad.  The salad was dressed with a bit of salsa and the lime vinaigrette; the spiciness of the salsa worked really well with the acidity and sweetness of the lime vinaigrette, resulting in a super-delicious salad to go with the super-delicious stuffed-pepper-stuffed-peppers.

The only downfall of this recipe was that the peppers were SO stuffed!  One complete pepper, plus the salad, plus the beans, was more than any of us could manage to eat!  Which means that the downfall is really also a secret bonus, since we all have another pepper-half to eat tomorrow for lunch!  Woo!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Cilantro Mashed Potatoes, Jalapeno Gravy, and Seitan Sausage

Tonight's dinner was awesome.  And I can say this without bragging, because I didn't do a single thing.  My wonderful husband, whose culinary repertoire to this point consisted of grilled cheese and english muffin pizzas, decided to make dinner for me tonight.  I teach until 10 pm, so by the time I get home I am totally exhausted and starving and not feeling like making dinner.  But!  Tonight!  I didn't have to do a thing but sit on the couch and play with our daughter while P was cooking up a storm.  I wasn't even allowed in the kitchen!

He made cilantro mashed potatoes with a white jalapeno gravy that was spicy and creamy and delicious.  He also made a mixture of chard, corn, jalapenos, onions, garlic, plus some tomato-coriander seitan sausages I made last week.  The mixture was cooked up with a base made from jalapenos and cilantro; it was pretty spicy, but the sweetness of the corn really balanced it out.  All of the vegetables are either from our CSA or the farmers' market, and the whole thing was delicious!  I was amazed by how fantastic everything tasted and how well it worked together -- and extra-thrilled that I didn't have to do a damn thing!

P had his in layers -- corn tortilla, potatoes, gravy, and the sausage mixture on top.  I made myself a taco, with a pile of mashed potatoes and gravy on the side.  We both had seconds . . . and I might've had thirds if there'd been anything left.  

He says he intends to cook like this once a week from now on.  I am totally excited -- and will be sure to post P's contributions to our seasons of Karen.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Green Bean French Fries (Roasted Green Beans)

We got the world's biggest bag of green beans from our CSA this past week -- and I had a plan for them! But when I got home from school, P rejected that plan, causing me to scramble at the last minute to come up with something else for dinner. What I finally settled on was roasting up the green beans, tossed with olive oil, salt, and pepper -- plus a little onion powder and garlic powder. It is super-easy to roast green beans; just throw them in the oven at 400° for about 12 minutes, periodically checking on them and shaking the pan around so they don't get crispy just on one side.

We were calling them green bean french fries, because that's basically what it tasted like! P said he would much rather have green bean french fries than the breaded zucchini sticks that are at diners everywhere, though that particular menu change doesn't seem all that likely. I had a hard time getting a good picture of the beans, because this kept happening:

So . . . I guess that's a good thing?

I think these pictures speak for themselves -- the green bean french fries were a hit!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Summer Squash Cakes

Last summer, I made some zucchini cakes -- a vegan version of crab cakes, the way I remember them from my childhood when we would head to the shore every summer. I've been a vegetarian for sixteen years now, but still -- in the summer, I think about crab cakes.

When we got our first summer squash of the season from our CSA this week, I instantly knew that it was time for some vegan crab cakes. Technically, these are squash cakes and not zucchini cakes -- since they are made with a green summer squash that isn't zucchini -- but it is basically the same thing.

These cakes might not taste exactly like crab cakes, but they definitely serve the role -- flaky, moist, buttery, and extra-delicious. The kelp gives it that sea flavor -- with almost a fishiness to it -- while the Old Bay calls on a classic crab cake seasoning.

The only time-consuming part of this recipe is grating the squash, but I took care of that as soon as I woke up this morning -- so at dinner time, it was a simple matter of throwing everything together in a bowl and then pan-frying. This recipe easily scales up or down, depending on how much squash you have -- but my one small green squash yielded the cup and a half of grated squash called for in the recipe. This amount of squash produced four big squash cakes -- plus one small one for Zelda.

Zucchini or Summer Squash Cakes

  • 1 1/2 c grated squash or zucchini, patted dry
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 c plain bread crumbs
  • 1/2 tsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 tsp kelp granules (I use this, but really any kind of powdered/granulated seaweed works)
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • oil for pan frying
Mix together the squash, olive oil, bread crumbs, Old Bay, and kelp in a bowl. Form into patties, then dredge in the flour on both sides. Drizzle some oil into a pan and let it heat up over a medium-high flame. Once the oil is hot, pan fry about three to five minutes per side, until it turns a lovely golden brown.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Kale Pesto

The other day, as I stared at a huge bunch of kale from our CSA, a thought occurred to me. I love basil pesto; I've heard of spinach pesto; why not kale pesto? We had two small sprigs of basil this week, so they were recruited -- along with said huge bunch of kale -- into pesto!

There wasn't anything fancy about the recipe itself -- it was a very standard pesto recipe, but with kale stepping in for the bulk of the greenery. It's extremely easy to make pesto; just put everything in the food processor and process the food until it has a nice smooth texture. This pesto was made of pine nuts, rice-parmesan, olive oil, garlic, kale -- with the stems removed and coarsely chopped, basil leaves, and a little salt and pepper.

It took just as long to wash and chop the kale, assemble the other ingredients, and prepare the pesto in the food processor as it took for my pot of water to boil and the pasta to cook. Quick and easy! And, to make it even easier next time, this recipe made three times as much pesto as I needed for tonight's dinner -- so I froze two individual servings of pesto for the next couple of times!

As easy as tonight's dinner was, I didn't have the energy even for this much work last night after I got back from doing work at school. I present you with a bonus photo of last night's dinner -- roasted CSA broccoli and farmers' market potatoes plus salt, onion powder, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper.

I love roasting -- you just throw your vegetables in the oven and forget about them, then -- BAM! -- dinner's ready! Despite my intense love for both roasting and broccoli, I'd actually never had roasted broccoli before -- but this will certainly not be the last time. Roasting the broccoli gave it a fantastically nutty flavor; I may have just found my new favorite way to prepare my favorite vegetable.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Indian Potato-n-Kale Stuffed Peppers

We got some tasty-looking green bell peppers at the farmers' market last week, but I wasn't sure what to do with them -- maybe stuffed peppers? -- and then inspiration struck. With some red-skin potatoes (also from the farmers' market) and a bunch of kale (from our CSA), I would make an Indian-flavored, spicy mashed potato and sauteed kale mixture to stuff the peppers with.

P chopped up the kale nice and small so that there would not be big chunks mixed in with the smoother texture of the potato, while I chopped and boiled the potatoes until they were soft enough to mash and got the peppers ready -- cutting off the tops and scooping out the seeds inside. I sauteed the kale in a bit of olive oil and some Indian spices, including the hot curry paste I use for just about everything. Once the kale was cooked and the potatoes were mashed, I mixed it all up together -- it already tasted delicious, but I managed to get (most of) the mixture into the peppers anyway.

Once stuffed, I stuck the peppers in the oven at 375 for about 20 minutes, until the peppers were nice and soft -- but not too soft! The texture of the peppers was perfectly balanced between tenderness and crispness, and the top of the stuffing peeking out the top got delightfully crunchy from being uncovered in the oven. Fabulous!

We have one pepper left, and you can bet that we are going to be fighting over it for lunch tomorrow!