Thursday, December 22, 2011

"Drunken" Rum Balls

Just wanted to wish everyone Happy Holidays!  My husband and I will be heading down to San Diego for a week and we're looking forward to warmer weather and spending time at the beach.  I'll be back in the New Year with really healthy and nutritious recipes that will definitely help shed all the unwanted excess from the past two months!  Until then, I wish you and yours a safe and wonderful holiday, wherever your travels take you.

The reason why I call these rum balls "drunken" is because if you were to eat more than one and drive and a police officer pulled you over--you would probably fail a breathalyzer.  So not advisable.  

Rum balls are usually made with finely ground vanilla wafers, but I made a small batch of vegan snickerdoodle cookies and used them for the base.  Other ingredients that I used were the usual...dark rum, toasted pecans, unsweetened cocoa powder, confectioner's sugar, agave syrup (instead of corn syrup) and vanilla extract.  To garnish I rolled them in finely ground pistachios, powdered sugar and cocoa powder--but they are also good dipped in dark chocolate and sprinkled with toasted coconut!    

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Mexican Pozole Soup

As you can see I'm still on my soup kick.  Soup is perfect for December when you're really busy running around shopping and it's cold outside.  And it has been really chilly in the Bay Area this past week.  It's also inexpensive and nutritious.  I was going to make udon soup but hubby wanted pozole.  I've never been a big fan of pozole because I don't like hominy--it's a texture thing for me.  But this soup has so many other textures with the addition of pinto beans and the cabbage salad that I don't mind the hominy.  Also, I love the flavor and color of this soup from the dried chilies--really looks festive with the brick red broth and bright green salad. 


6-8 dried New Mexico Red chilies, depending on size, stemmed, seeded, soaked
2 dried Ancho chilies, stemmed, seeded, soaked
1 dried Chipotle chili, optional, stemmed, seeded soaked
3 cups filtered water
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
1 medium yellow onion diced small
1 green pepper, seeded, diced small
2 tbsp minced garlic
3 cups low-sodium vegetable stock, or more depending on consistency
1 tsp ancho chili powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 1/2 tsp cumin powder
1 1/2 tsp Mexican dried oregano
3/4 cup dried pinto beans, soaked overnight, cooked until tender, or 1 14oz can rinsed
1 28 oz can white hominy, drained
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Tapatio Hot Sauce, optional

  • Bring water to a boil, remove from heat, add dried chilies, cover and soak for 30 minutes until tender.
  • Place chilies and liquid in blender and blend on high until smooth.  If you don't have a high-speed blender such as a Vita-Mix, you may need to strain the mixture.
  • Add diced tomatoes, and blend on high again.  Set aside.
  • In a dutch oven or stock pot, add olive oil and saute onions and garlic for about 5 minutes until onions are soft.
  • Add green peppers, spices, chili/tomato sauce, vegetable stock and salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes for flavors to combine.
  • Add pinto beans and hominy and cook until heated through for about 5-10 more minutes.  Reason with salt and pepper if necessary.
  • Ladle into bowls and garnish with cabbage/radish salad.
Cabbage & Radish Salad:

1 1/2 cups thinly shredded green cabbage
1/4 cup thinly sliced red radish
1/2 avocado, finely diced
1-2 tbsp finely minced jalapeno
2 tbsp fresh mint, cilantro or parsley
Juice of 1 lime
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Monday, December 12, 2011

Grilled Portobello Mushroom, Pepper & Onion Sub

When my sister and I were growing up my father was the maintenance contractor for an apartment complex about a mile from where we lived.  Since our apartment complex did not have its own pool my sister and I were given permission to swim at the other complex during the summer.  I remember that we would be the first kids to arrive at 10:00am when the lifeguards unlocked the gates and the last to leave at 7:00pm when they closed.  Needless to say that sometime around 2:00pmish we would be starved and so we would walk another mile to an Italian sub shop in Irvington, Baltimore.

They had the best subs/hoagies (whatever you want to call them) that I've ever tasted in my life.  Now I've never been a big fan of eating meat and so I would order mine with just grilled peppers, onions, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and their "SECRET" sauce.  The sauce totally made the sub--and I would of been happy just eating the sauce alone.  I don't know what ingredients they used but I think that I'm pretty close with this recipe.  Funny how certain memories remain with you your entire life...really good memories that I shared with my sister!

My Secret Sauce:

1 cup Follow Your Heart Vegenaise
1/4 cup organic ketchup
1/4 cup Louisiana Hot Sauce (more or less to taste)
1 tbsp vegan worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup minced dill pickle
1/4 cup minced pickled jalapeno or hot cherry peppers (more or less to taste)
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

  • Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and chill until ready to use.


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Moroccan Marinated Tofu with Fruity Couscous

I love North African, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine.  The combination of flavors are amazing, especially when you mix several regions together to create a dish that is spicy, sweet, and tangy.  I know from my photo it's hard to see, but the tofu has been marinated and then threaded on wooden skewers, pan seared and then served over the couscous.  The plate I used has a lot of detail and makes it hard to see the food, but I love my Moroccan plates and use them whenever I can!

To marinate the tofu, I used extra firm tofu and pressed it for about an hour to remove any excess moisture.  I then made a marinade using ground cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, pimenton, saffron, fresh garlic, chopped marcona almonds, minced preserved lemons, sliced green olives, lemon juice, olive oil, vegetable stock and salt and pepper.  I then marinated the tofu for about an hour and then threaded it on skewers alternating it with sliced olives and then pan seared it until golden brown.

For the whole wheat couscous I used toasted pistachios, currants, ground sumac, fresh mint, fresh parsley, olive oil, and salt and pepper.  I then made a sauce with the reserved marinade, adding additional vegetable stock to thin it and simmered it for a few minutes until the garlic was tender.  I then poured the sauce over the tofu, and garnished with additional mint....Just delicious!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Apple & Maple Tempeh Breakfast Patties

Frustrating...I woke up early and decided to make a nice weekend breakfast.  I have never made Apple & Maple Tempeh Breakfast Patties before and so I was measuring and writing down the recipe so that I could post it this evening.  Well, I had a bag of whole grain spelt four (for the pancakes) and a bag of vital wheat gluten (for the breakfast patties) right next to each other on the counter and I kind of lost track how much gluten I added to the patties.  I think that I added a cup, but I could of added some spelt by mistake.  Anyway, the patties had great flavor and texture, but I need to make them again next weekend before I post the recipe.  In the meantime if you're interested in making the whole grain pancakes, here's the recipe.  

Friday, December 2, 2011

Butternut Orecchiette Pasta with Sage Cream

Cashew cream...I love this stuff...all the pleasure of eating a creamy sauce without any guilt.  When we would serve cream-based pasta dishes at the restaurant I would dread having to continually taste the sauce because I knew that it was bad for me, but not with cashew cream.  This doesn't mean that you should consume it every day because it may contribute to a few pounds, but at least it won't cause high cholesterol and artery clogging heart disease.  Best thing about it though, you really can't tell the difference in terms of consistency and it actually tastes way better.  Another thing--to this day I still can't spell orecchiette--I always need to look it up in google!...:-)

You can use any pasta you like, but I prefer orecchiette (little ears in Italian) because the sauce pools within the pasta and you get a little sauce with every bite.  For an extra health benefit look for a whole wheat/grain version.  Also, you can use any type of squash that holds up well to roasting.

(Serves 4-6)

1 lb orecchiette pasta, cooked according to package directions
1 medium sized butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, diced into 1" pieces (yields 4-6 cups depending on size--mine yielded 4 cups)
1 large leek, white and light parts only, diced, washed
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp minced fresh thyme
2 tbsp minced fresh sage
1/2 cup white wine, or brandy (brandy and sage/cream is a match made in heaven, but I didn't have any and so I used Pinot Grigio)
2 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable stock (I used Whole Foods 360 Brand), plus more for thinning if necessary
1 1/2 cups cashew cream (see below)
1 cup organic baby arugula or wild rocket
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
12 small-medium fried sage leaves (see below)
2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
Juice of 1/2 lemon

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees and toss squash with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and roast for about 15 minutes (tossing once) until tender and golden brown.  Remove sheet pan from oven and set aside.
  • In a large saute pan, add olive oil, leeks, garlic, thyme and sage and cook on medium-low for about 5 minutes until leeks are tender, stirring frequently to prevent garlic from burning.
  • Deglaze with white wine or brandy and cook for a couple of minutes until alcohol has reduced.
  • Turn heat up to medium and add vegetable stock and cook until stock has reduced by half about 15 minutes.
  • Add cream and cook until lightly thickened about 5 minutes longer.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta until al dente.  Drain pasta, rinse well under water, and drain well again.
  • Start off by adding 3/4 of the cooked pasta to the pan, along with roasted butternut squash and arugula and toss to heat through.  
  • Depending on how much sauce you have, add the remaining cooked pasta--you may need to add a little more vegetable stock if sauce is too thick.
  • Serve immediately garnished with toasted pine nuts and fried sage leaves and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
Cashew Cream:

1/2 cup raw cashews soaked overnight, drained
1 cup filtered water

  • Drain cashews and add to a blender.  Add filtered water and blend on high for about 4 minutes (with ear plugs...:-) until creamy.  Strain cream and set aside.  You'll need 1 cup for this recipe.  Use any remaining cream in your morning coffee.
Fried Sage:

12 small sage leaves
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt

  • Heat a small saute pan on medium heat, add sage and cook for about 1 minute, turning once until darkened and crispy.
  • Remove from pan and place on a paper towel.
  • Sprinkle with kosher salt.



Thursday, December 1, 2011

Cajun Gumbo with Farro, Black-Eyed Peas & Kale

Gumbo's are normally made with a roux consisting of oil and flour that is slowly cooked until it develops a deep chestnut color.  The purpose of the roux acts as a thickening agent for the gumbo.  I don't find roux's to be very healthy and so I don't use them in my cooking.  I prefer to thicken my gumbo's the natural way using a starchy grain such as farro perlato or hulled barley.  Another option is to use okra or filĂ© powder to thicken the gumbo--but I'm not a big fan of these either.  Also, I like a spicy gumbo and so I make my own Cajun seasoning blend.  If you purchase Cajun seasoning in the store, read the label and choose a brand that does not contain salt, or make sure that salt is listed at the bottom of the ingredient list.  Some brands are just too salty and can ruin your soup.  You can always add more heat, but you can't remove salt.


1 medium yellow onion, diced small
1 organic green pepper, diced small
1 cup organic celery, sliced 
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 tsp Cajun seasoning (more or less to taste)
1 14 oz can tomato puree
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
1 bay leaf
10 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
1/2 cup black-eyed peas
1 cup farro or hulled barley
4 cups organic chopped kale or collard greens, stems removed, washed
1/2 cup cut blanched green beans or okra, optional
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Louisiana Hot Sauce, optional

  • Using a dutch oven or stock pot, add olive oil, onion and garlic and cook for about five minutes until onions are soft.
  • Add Cajun seasoning, tomato puree, diced tomatoes, bay leaf, vegetable stock and bring to a boil.
  • Add black-eyed peas and reduce to a simmer and cook for about 10-15 minutes.
  • Bring soup back up to a boil and stir in farro, green pepper, celery, salt and pepper to taste and stir to combine.
  • Reduce heat and simmer soup for 30 minutes until farro and black-eyed peas are tender.
  • Just before serving, add chopped kale and green beans/okra, if using and heat through for about 3 minutes until kale is wilted.
  • Remove bay leaf before serving and serve with Louisiana Hot Sauce.