Strong Arms for Kids

 
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This granola has lots of little secrets that help make it some of the best granola I have ever eaten.  I like my granola on the "not so sweet" side, so feel free to add more agave nectar if you like your granola on the sweeter side of life :-)

Ingredients

3 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/4 cup flax seeds, ground
1/4 oat bran
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup agave nectar
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup dried mango, chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped


Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix together first 8 ingredients in a mixing bowl.  Spread out onto a baking sheet and place in oven, once the oven is hot.  Bake in oven for about 25 minutes, until the oats are nicely toasted brown.  Make sure to mix the granola mixture every five minutes while baking.  Once granola is baked to perfection, take out of oven, let cool and add the last three ingredients.  Enjoy!
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This recipe is for anyone who doesn't believe that vegetarian food can be as delicious and satisfying as non-vegetarian food.  Of course, all you vegetarians can make it and enjoy too!  I got the recipe for the tempeh and the onions from the Delicious TV Podcast that I love, and decided to make it into a spinach salad.  Its delicious, spicy and filling.

Spicy Caramelized Onions

Slice 2 medium onions. Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a sauce pan.  After a minute add the onions and lower the heat to medium-low.  You want the onions to cook slowly.  Sprinkle some salt over the onions.  Toss the onions frequently.  Once the onions start to brown (it should take at least 10-15 minutes), add 1/2 tsp tomato paste and 1/2 tsp hot sauce (you can add more if you like).  Heat for 1-2 minutes more and your onions are done.

Dijon Tempeh

Cut the block of tempeh into quarters.  Take each quarter and slice it down the middle to make each quarter thinner.  To make the sauce:  in a bowl add 1/2 cup of water, 1/2 cup of white wine, 2 heaping spoonfuls of Dijon mustard and 2 cloves of mashed garlic (I used a mortar and pestle but you can also use garlic paste).  Whisk all the ingredients together.  Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a sauce pan.  Once the oil is super hot, add the tempeh.  When the tempeh is golden brown on one side, flip them over and let them brown on the other side.  When the tempeh is cooked on both sides, add the sauce to the pan.  Let the tempeh cook in the sauce, on medium heat, for 12-15 minutes. 

You can either eat this on top of spinach greens, or Toni (from Delicious TV) also suggests making a sandwich with the tempeh and onions which also sounds really good.  Enjoy!
 
 
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After reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver made me so jealous of her fresh asparagus that I went out to a local farmstand and bought the freshest asparagus that they had available.  It still didn't taste the way she describes the taste of her asparagus but it was definitely less bitter than the stuff you buy in the supermarket.  The recipe for this soup was completely random, well there is a method to my madness, sort of, but I definitely didn't know what I was getting myself into when I started roasting the asparagus soup.  I started out wanting to make the Roasted Asparagus soup from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen until I realized I didn't have any cashews to make the soup creamy.  I thought about using walnuts but then decided that might make the soup gritty/ gross.  I was a bit stuck and almost desperate enough to use milk, until my mom thought about using tahini.  That didn't seem like such a bad idea, but I originally wanted to use thyme as my spicer-upper but I thought the thyme wouldn't go well with the tahini, so I decided to go with a hummus themed soup and it actually turned out pretty well.  BTW I had no idea how easy it is to make asparagus soup!!


RECIPE

2 lbs asparagus
1 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled
olive oil

2 cups vegetable stock or water
1 heaping spoonful tahini
1 tsp cumin

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
grated peel of 1/2 lemon
grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450F. Place the asparagus spears on a baking sheet and drizzle some olive oil over the spears. Roast for 10 minutes. Turn asparagus and sprinkle the onion and garlic over it. Roast for about 10 more minutes, until asparagus is very tender. If anything looks like it’s browning too much, take it out. (Important Note: These directions are for thicker asparagus. Thin asparagus may take much less time so start with 6 minutes, turn and add onions and garlic, and check again in 5.)

While the asparagus is roasting, blend 1/2 cup of the broth with the tahini until smooth.

When the asparagus is done, select several of the best-looking spears, remove the tops, and set aside to use as garnish. Cut the remaining asparagus into pieces and put it and the onion and garlic into the blender, along with the remaining broth. Cover the blender and blend on high until perfectly smooth.

Pour the soup into a saucepan and heat until hot, stirring frequently. Once its hot, turn off heat and add the lemon juice and grated lemon peel.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Pour into bowls and sprinkle with parmesan cheese and garnish each bowl with the reserved asparagus spears and serve hot.

Servings: 4
Yield: 4 cups
 
 
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This recipe was inspired yet again by my new favorite book that I blogged about recently, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.  Conveniently enough, after making this recipe and adding some of my own touches, I noticed that the next No Croutons Required contest is all about zucchini.  Well I just figured that I was meant to post this recipe and enter it in this months challenge.  So here goes...Its a delicious pasta salad where the zucchini and carrots practically melts into the pasta creating a delicate texture.  The tomatoes add some extra color and a bit of moisture to the dish.  The portabellos on top give this salad a whole extra dimension allowing it to stand on its own as a main dish instead of just an interesting side.

The photo above was taken the first time I made this recipe.  That time I only added zucchini, but lately I have been adding lots of other fun things which I have added to the recipe below.

 Recipe:

3⁄4 lb pkg orzo pasta
Bring 6 cups water or chicken stock to a boil and add pasta.  Cook 8 to 12
minutes
 
1 chopped onion, garlic to taste
3 large zucchini 
2 carrots
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
olive oil for sauté

Use a cheese grater to shred zucchini and carrots, sauté briefly with chopped
onion and garlic, add chopped tomatoes and sauté until zucchini is lightly golden.

slice portabello mushrooms, spread out evenly in baking dish.  Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar over mushrooms and place under broiler on low for 8-10 minutes.  Take out baking dish, flip over mushrooms and broil on low again for another 8 minutes.


Add some thyme and oregano to zucchini mixture, stir thoroughly, and then remove mixture from heat.

Combine with 1⁄4 cup grated parmesan and cooked orzo, salt to taste, sprinkle chopped parsley on top and serve cool or at room
temperature.
 
 
I literally just finished reading the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver and am thoroughly impressed.  I truly enjoyed reading this book.  I was jealous of her exploding cherry trees, inspired by her homemade cheese-making and left motivated to try and eat more locally and seasonally.  There are tons of delicious recipes in the book shared by Barbara's daughter Camille.  Luckily, since I borrowed this book from the library, you can find all her delicious recipes and download from the internet at www.animalvegetablemiracle.com.  The first recipe I borrowed from her book, was her incredibly easy pizza dough recipe.  This, hands down, was the easiest pizza dough recipe I have ever tried, and didn't taste so bad either.  I thought it was so cute how Barbara and her family have pizza and movie night every Friday night. 

Even though the pizza dough recipe was simple enough, the idea for the toppings took me a while.  The first pizza was simple enough, I had an extra eggplant in the fridge, so I just worked around the eggplant.  The second pizza wasn't as simple.  I wanted to work around the seasonal theme and since strawberries are the thing at the moment, I tried to somehow make a pizza using strawberries a culinary success story.  I don't know how it happened, but it worked. 

The Easiest Pizza Dough EVER!!! by Barbara Kingsolver and family

FRIDAY NIGHT PIZZA  (Makes two 12-inch pizzas)
 
3 tsp. yeast             11⁄2 cups WARM water           3 tbs. olive oil
1 tsp. salt                21⁄2 cups white flour               2 cups whole wheat flour
To make crust, dissolve the yeast into the warm water and add oil and salt to that
mixture.  Mix the flours and knead them into the liquid mixture.  Let dough rise for
30 to 40 minutes.

  Once the dough has risen, divide it in half and roll out two round 12 inch
pizza crusts on a clean, floured countertop, using your fingers to roll the
perimeter into on outer crust as thick as you like. Using spatulas, slide the crusts onto well floured pans or baking stones and spread toppings.
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Pizza #1
     This pizza lacked a little flavor but with a few minor adjustments I am sure I could make it really tasty. I think next time I will use a little more cheese, a little more garlic and some salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  First slice up an eggplant in about 1/4 inch slices.  Brush some olive oil on both sides and sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides, as well.  Put in the oven for 10 minutes.  When the ten minutes is up, flip them over and put them in for another 10 minutes. 

In the meantime, slice four tomatoes, 3 cloves of garlic (in thin slices), 1/2 green pepper (in thin slices), slice mozzarella (in thin slices) and finally chop some parsley. 

Once the eggplant is ready, spread out your pizza dough and start by spreading out the tomatoes.  Next spread the eggplants over the tomatoes.  Add the peppers, then the cheese and finally the garlic.  Once all that is on, drip some olive oil over everything, and add some extra salt and pepper.  Put in the oven for 25 minutes on 450 degrees.  After about 15 minutes in the over, sprinkle the parsley over the pizza and put back in the oven until the full 25 minutes is up.  And presto...delicious pizza.
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Pizza #2

Start by thinly slicing strawberries and some peaches.  Next chop up some fresh basil.  After the prepping is done, spread out the pizza dough and start by spreading out the strawberries.  Next add the peaches to the mix.  Sprinkle feta cheese all over the pizza.  Spread out the basil and then drizzle balsamic vinegar all over the pizza.  Place in a 450 degree oven for 25 minutes and you will have a surprisingly delicious pizza, that is delicious hot and just as good the next day straight out of the refrigerator. 
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That's right!  Crepes!  Not just any crepes, but whole wheat crepes with fresh tomatoes, spinach, mushrooms, and a secret ingredient.  This is one of the best breakfasts I have had in a long long time.  Not that I could ever get sick of having smoothies for breakfast but when I need to take a short break from them, this is a fabulous substitute.  This can also make an excellent dinner, that's easy but tastes like you spent hours working on.  I adapted this recipe from a random website I found called Vegetarian and Vegan France

Recipe:

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup white flour

pinch of salt

1 large egg

1 cup soymilk

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 bunch spinach leaves (washed and trimmed)

2 garlic cloves

1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg (this is the secret ingredient)


1 large tomato, chopped


1 cup sliced cremini mushrooms


3/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled

fresh chopped dill

Put the flour and salt into a bowl and add the egg. Gradually whisk in the milk until smooth. Add 2 teaspoons of the sunflower oil.

Heat a little oil in a  frying pan, pour off the excess and then quickly pour in about 3 tablespoons of the batter. Tilt the pan so the base is evenly coated with batter, then cook for a couple of minutes until the underside is browned.

Loosen the crepe, then over with a long palette knife and cook the other side for 1-2 minutes until browned.

Slide the crepe out of the pan onto a plate and keep hot. Don’t worry if the first one isn’t perfect, the other ones will be better!

Repeat with the remaining oil and batter mixture to make 8 crepes in all.

To make the filling, heat the oil in a large pan. Add the spinach, garlic, nutmeg, tomatoes, mushrooms and salt and fry for 2-3 minutes, tossing the spinach until it just begins to wilt and the mushrooms are soft. Stir in the feta cheese and warm through.


Divide the filling between the crepes – spoon it on to one half of each crepe and fold over loosely. I added a fried egg on top and sprinkled it with fresh dill.  They are good both with and without the egg on top, all depends how hungry you are.

 
 
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I don't know about you, but I love podcasts.  Especially when I lived abroad (and hope to do again someday), I got most of my news and entertainment from podcasts.  Now I get all of my news from the Daily Show, and don't have much time to listen to podcasts but there are still two podcasts I listen to/ watch religiously.  The first one is "Stuff you Should Know".  If you haven't heard of this podcast, seek it out as soon as humanely possible.  The two guys that make the show could be talking about how to unstick gum from the bottom of your shoe and they would still be entertaining.  I am just waiting for them to get their own radio show and become the next "Opie and Anthony" but not as jaded and obnoxious.  The other one is a video podcast called "Delicious TV".  A couple of times a month, she comes out with a short 3-5 minute video on how to make something vegetarian, healthy and delicious (hence the name).  When I watched the video for the polenta casserole, it looked really interesting.  Polenta always sounds like such a good idea and I try really hard to like it, but I usually never do.  And once again, I didn't really enjoy the polenta, but I think if I used only a thin layer of polenta, instead of the inch on the bottom and inch on top that was recommended in the recipe, I would have enjoyed it much more.  Don't skip out on the yogurt sauce when making this recipe.  It is the key ingredient (for me anyway).  Also, I think making a Mexican version of this casserole would be really delicious, as well, with beans, peppers, tomatoes, avocado and cilantro.  

Here is my adapted version of Delicious TV's Eggplant Polenta Casserole:

Ingredients

For the polenta:
6 cups water
2 tsp salt
2 cups yellow cornmeal
2 tbsp olive oil

Boil the 6 cups of water.  Add the 2 tsp of salt.  Slowly whisk in the cornmeal.  Reduce the heat to low and cook until mixture thickens and the cornmeal is tender, stirring often, about 10 minutes.  Once it is done, turn off heat and mix in the 2 tbsp of olive oil. 

1 eggplant
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups mushrooms, sliced
1 can stewed tomatoes
fresh chopped basil
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cut the eggplant into one inch cubes.  Place cubes on baking sheet and place in oven.  Bake the eggplant until the cubes are brown and soft, about 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, heat olive oil in frying pan.  Add the onions, saute a few minutes until onions soften and add garlic.  After a minute, add the mushrooms.  Cook for a couple of more minutes then finally, add the stewed tomatoes.  If the tomatoes are whole, use a spatula to chop the tomatoes into smaller pieces.  Once everything is done, take the eggplant out of the oven and mix all the ingredients in a bowl, with the fresh basil and salt and pepper. 

Now lightly oil a casserole dish.  Place a thin layer of the polenta on the bottom.  On top of the polenta put the eggplant mixture.  Finally add a top layer of polenta over the eggplant mixture.  Cover loosely with aluminum foil and place in the oven for 20 minutes.  Once the 20 minutes i up, take of the aluminum foil and bake for another 10 minutes.  Once the polenta has a nice golden color, take it out of the oven. 

While the casserole is baking, put 1 cup of yogurt in a bowl.  Add 1/4 cup of soymilk, to make a thinner consistency.  Add 1 tsp of granulated garlic, 1 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp of nutmeg and whisk together. Place sauce on top of casserole before serving. 
 
 
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I am always excited to find a new way to cook with my new favorite food item (tempeh) and when its a lot different from a new marinade and it actually comes out as well as it sounds, it makes me even happier.  I adapted this tempeh pie from the website 500 Vegan Recipes.  The pie is packed with flavor and holds together perfectly. 

Tempeh Pie

For the filling:
2 teaspoons orange zest, about 2 oranges
1/2 cup (120 ml) fresh orange juice, about 2 oranges
1 tablespoon (15 ml) toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons (30 ml) soy sauce
3 cloves garlic, grated
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional, to taste
2 teaspoons ground ginger
8 ounces (227 g) tempeh, crumbled
1 tablespoon (15 ml) peanut oil
2 cups (380 g) frozen chopped spinach

1/2 package frozen peas

For the crust:
1/2 cup rolled oats
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly milled black pepper
1 tablespoon unflavored soy milk or water
1/3 cup light sesame oil or pure olive oil
1 tablespoon (75 ml) fresh orange juice


To make the filling:
In a medium bowl, whisk zest, juice, sesame oil, soy sauce, garlic, optional red pepper flakes, and ginger.
Stir in tempeh. Marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes, stirring once halfway through.
Heat oil in a large saucepan. Cook marinated tempeh, along with marinade, on medium heat until it browns up, for about 8 minutes. Add spinach and peas and cook until heated through, about 5 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C, or gas mark 5).

To make the crust:
To make the crust, spread the oats and sesame seeds on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 8 minutes. 3. Transfer the toasted oats and sesame seeds to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper, and process until the oats are finely ground.

4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the soy milk, orange juice and oil. Using a wooden spoon, mix in the dry ingredients to form a dough.

5. Lightly brush a 9-inch or 10-inch tart pan with oil. Put the dough in the tart pan. Place a piece of plastic wrap on the dough and press down evenly, making sure to fill in the fluted sides of the pan. Trim the tart of any excess dough and refrigerate while you make the filling.



Yield: 4 servings
 
 
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I adapted this recipe from 101cookbooks.com.  I remember making this quiche a long time ago in Japan.  I followed the directions word for word (well as best as I could) and I don't remember it coming out that well.  I am sure it wasn't the recipes fault.  I am sure I did something wrong, and that is exactly why I wanted to try it again.  It just sounded so delicious and healthy for you, that I had to give it another try.  And I am glad I did.  I didn't follow the recipe exactly, but only due to the fact that I just wanted to use up what I had in the refrigerator.  It came out soooooo good, that I must say I was quite impressed with myself.  The crust still wasn't perfect (it may have been the flour I used, or my lack of experience) but it didn't seem to effect the quiche at all.  The photo is from heating it up in the oven the second night, hence the big piece missing.  And I can't wait to have it again tonight!

Broccoli Asparagus Tofu Quiche

For the crust:
1/2 cup rolled oats
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour or whole spelt flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly milled black pepper
1/3 cup unflavored soy milk or water
1/3 cup light sesame oil or pure olive oil plus more for brushing the pan

For the filling:
7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup finely diced onion
10 ounces white button mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons dry white wine or water
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
3 garlic cloves, slice crosswise into 1/8-inch rounds
10 to 12 fresh oregano, chopped
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 pound firm tofu, rinsed and patted dry
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 cups broccoli, lightly steamed and chopped
1 cup asparagus, lightly steamed and chopped
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
Paprika for dusting

1. Preheat the oven to 350.

2. To make the crust, spread the oats and sesame seeds on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 8 minutes.

3. Transfer the toasted oats and sesame seeds to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper, and process until the oats are finely ground.

4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the soy milk and oil. Using a wooden spoon, mix in the dry ingredients to form a dough.

5. Lightly brush a 9-inch or 10-inch tart pan with oil. Put the dough in the tart pan. Place a piece of plastic wrap on the dough and press down evenly, making sure to fill in the fluted sides of the pan. Trim the tart of any excess dough and refrigerate while you make the filling.

6. To make the filling, in a wide saute pan over medium heat, warm 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the onion and mushroom, raise the heat to high, and saute for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring and shaking the pan until the vegetables are caramelized. Add the wine and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Season with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and continue to cook until dry. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the vegetables into a mixing bowl and set aside.

7. In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the remaining 5 tablespoons of oil. Add the garlic, oregano, and thyme. Simmer gently for 3 to 4 minutes or until the garlic is golden. Do not let the garlic brown or it will become bitter. With a rubber spatula, scrape the garlic oil into the bowl of a food processor.

8. Crumble the tofu into the bowl of the food processor. Add the lemon juice, vinegar, and remaining 1 teaspoon of salt and puree until smooth. With a rubber spatula, scrape the puree into the mushroom-onion mixture.

9. Quickly steam the broccoli and asparagus.  Once its done, rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process.   Chop into small pieces.  Add to mushroom-onion mixture, along with the fresh dill. Mix everything together, and adjust the seasoning.

10. Fill the tart shell with the tofu and vegetable mixture and smooth the top with the back of a spoon. Dust with Paprika. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes,until firm.

11.Let the tart cool for 8 to 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
 
 
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After returning from two years of Peace Corps in Nicaragua, I remember searching high and low for cuajada (farmer's cheese) and corn flour to make tortillas.  Luckily there is a large population of Central Americans that live on Long Island and the simple ingredients needed in order to make an authentic Latin feast is not too difficult to find. 

Now that I have recently returned from Japan, I have been doing a lot of Asian cooking.  I feel like my body craves these foods because it has become accustom to eating them for the past two years.  Its very strange having your diet completely change about every two years and it takes my body a while to adjust, even if everything that I am eating is healthy. 

Looking back at how much I knew about food before I left the United States and seeing what I know now...wow! I can't believe how much I have learned.  Now, with ease, I can go into the kitchen, see whats in the refrigerator and make a healthy, creative and delicious meal.  I am so grateful for all the experiences I have hand the culinary education I have received from these adventures. 

While making this miso soup, I was thinking to myself, how I would have never been able to put all these ingredients together on my own, just five years ago.  I wouldn't have even known what some of these ingredients were, five years ago.  And now, I have created a delicious soup just from pulling stuff out what was already in my refrigerator.

Miso Soba Soup

1/2 package buckwheat soba noodles
2 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1/2 cup dried shitake mushrooms (pretty much any mushroom could be used)
2 tbsp dark miso
2 cup baby bok choy
1/2 block firm tofu, cubed
soy sauce, to taste
4 green onions, chopped
fresh mint, chopped

Boil salted water and add in soba noodles.  Let boil until noodles are soft, drain water and rinse noodles under cold water.  Set aside noodles

In a pot, add 4 cups water, ginger and the mushrooms.  Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer.  Let simmer for 15 minutes.  While it is simmering, take out some of the water, put it in a bowl, with the miso.  Mix the miso and hot water until it is well-blended and set aside.  After the 15 minutes, add the tofu and bok choy to the soup.  Let cook for another 5 minutes.  Turn off the heat, add the miso to the soup.  Then add soy sauce, to taste.

Split the soba noodles between two bowl.  Pour the soup on top of the noodles.  Sprinkle some mint and green onions on top of both bowls. 

This makes a very big portion of soup, and can be used as an entire meal or split into four servings and used as an appetizer.
 

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