Monthly Archives: November 2011

A return to normalcy… relatively speaking

Standard

Forgive me amigos, for I have sinned. It’s been nearly four days since my last post and nearly three since I even set foot in the kitchen to cook– blasphemy! Such a bad little chef I’ve been. Having mi papa’s familia in town for the past week has really messed up my whole routine and I apologize for taking so long to make a new blog appearance. So many new and different laps to sit on can really keep a guy busy. Not to mention all the delicious crumbs and spills to lick up off the kitchen floor… mmmm, gotta love the holidays.

Despite the usual amount of time I generally spend in the kitchen this past week, I do still have a yummy recipe to share with you. I’m sure you’re all pretty sick of pumpkin by now, but I promise you, these brownies will totally knock your socks off. Or least make you think twice about swearing off the orange stuff for awhile. Lord knows mi mama still hasn’t kicked the habit, as her recent trip to Costco definitely proved. Nine more cans of puree to try to figure out what to do with– oh woe is me.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Brownies

15 oz can pumpkin puree

1/4 cup canola oil or applesauce

1 cup brown sugar

2 eggs or 1/2 cup egg substitute

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1  cup rolled oats

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp allspice

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Directions:

1) Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

2) Mix pumpkin, oil, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium until blended.

3) Add flour, oats, baking powder, salt, cocoa, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg and mix on low until smooth.

4) Stir in chocolate chips and walnuts. Spread in greased 9×9″ square pan and bake 25-30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

5) Allow to cool on wire rack before cutting into squares. Best served warm and topped with vanilla ice cream. Or at least that’s what I’ve heard 🙂

Well there you have it people. Now I must go. I’m pooped from all the excitement of this week. In addition to all our guests being here and entertaining, I was also asked to act as Grand Marshall in this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Just another day in the life of a global culinary superstar.

The Pilgrims would be proud

Standard

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but there’s a holiday coming up this Thursday. Something involving turkeys, cranberries, drunken family fist-fights…. you know the usual holiday fare. This year mi familia is having a big get-together with most of mi papa’s family coming in from different parts of the country as well as a few of mi mama’s. Hopefully not the ones who end up throwing things and bringing up childhood issues of bitterness and resentment. I’d really hate for the cops to have to drop in for a little visit again this year and find my great-abuela tied up in the closet with a pair of socks stuffed in her mouth… it’s just embarrassing.

So as I look forward to this magical day, I try to stay de-stressed in the kitchen by cooking up delicious and easy recipes utilizing my slow cooker. With all the preparation that will be involved on Thursday, it’s nice to only dirty up one pot on the nights leading up to that day. Last night I made the familia a lovely Lentil Bolognese dish which was not only incredibly tasty, but allowed me plenty of time to visit with everyone as well as take a little snooze in mi abuela Martha’s suitcase which she so kindly left open just for me. Gracias Abuela!

Lentil Bolognese over Pasta

2 cups green lentils, soaked and drained

2 cups vegetable broth or water

2 large carrots, diced

2 large celery stalks, sliced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 large yellow onion, diced

2- 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes, undrained

6 oz can tomato paste

2 tsp Italian seasoning

1/4 tsp ground red pepper

salt and pepper, to taste

1 package pasta or potato gnocchi

Directions:

1) Put all ingredients in slow cooker. Cover, set heat to low and cook 5-6 hours or until lentils are tender.

2) Boil pasta or gnocchi according to package directions. Serve Bolognese sauce over hot pasta/gnocchi and top with parmesan cheese.

3) Enjoy!

Well mi amigos, I must be going now. There’s a turkey to be thawed, some furniture and glass objects to be nailed down, and some guests to greet at the boating dock. Have a bueno Thanksgiving, everyone!

They’ve gone bananas for doughnuts

Standard

Seriously, is there any combination more deserving of each other than bananas and peanut butter? Well besides Lindsay Lohan and an orange jumpsuit. I think not. There’s just something about a luscious ripe banana smeared with a hefty glob of peanut butter that makes me want to swoon with happiness. Well, I’ve never actually gotten the joy of getting to eat this delicious snack as I am on a strict diet of kibble and carrots, but I’ve definitely witnessed mi mama and papa oohing and ahhing over some PB-bananas on numerous occasions. Especially when slathered with my homemade peanut butter… hint hint. The other day I happened to come across two very ripe, very spotty bananas hanging out in the banana hammock <insert inappropriate comment here> just screaming to be used in some sort of baked good. I was actually very surprised and completely delighted to see these two bananas had made it this long in our house without being eaten. Both mi mama and papa have at least one banana a day, so we almost never have any hanging around that I can steal for a bread or muffin recipe. I often times have to hide a few bananas in places around the house that I know mi padres won’t be looking (like on a bookshelf or in with the cleaning supplies, in mi mama’s case) just so I can allow them to ripen to the point I can use them in a baked good.

So as I said, I was very delighted to find two bananas all ripe and ready to be mashed and stirred into some sort of yummy dough. Given the love mi padres have for bananas with peanut butter, I decided to surprise them with some muy delicioso baked doughnuts. They went over so well at mi abuelas birthday party, I figured they would be equally appreciated this time around too. And boy were they! I think I may have even detected a few tears of joy coming from mi mama’s eyes… although that might have just been her physical reaction to my licking her eyeball on accident. I can’t help where this tongue flails about sometimes. Lo siento, mama.

Baked Banana-Peanut Butter Doughnuts

1 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup quick cooking rolled oats

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1 tbsp baking powder

3/4 cup milk

1 cup peanut butter

2 ripe bananas, mashed

1 egg or 1/4 cup egg substitute

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1/8 cup applesauce

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup powdered sugar

4 tbsp milk

2 tbsp peanut butter

Directions:

1) Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a donut pan with Pam and set aside.

2) Combine flour, oats, baking powder and brown sugar in a large bowl.

3) Whisk together the milk, peanut butter, bananas, egg, oil, applesauce and vanilla in a medium size bowl.

4) Add the banana mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just combined.

5) Pour dough into individual donut cups about 2/3 full. Bake 15 minutes or until slightly browned. Remove from oven and allow to cool 5 minutes before transferring to wire rack. Repeat with remaining batter to make a total of 12 doughnuts.

6) Combine powdered sugar, milk and peanut butter in a small bowl until smooth. Drizzle over cooled doughnuts and enjoy!

Honestly, does it get any better than that? Now get in the kitchen and make yourself a batch of doughnuts to enjoy too instead of just drooling over pictures of mine. And stop licking your computer screen, mama. Typing on a wet keyboard is bad for my delicate paws. And it’s hard to see through the drool lines.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I really must be going. I’m the guest of honor at the Tau Lambda Sigma Gamma annual holiday party this evening and I still need to clip my toenails and apply my flea medication before I leave. Should be a fun little fiesta.

Tempeh– Not just a city in Arizona

Standard

Hola compadres! I have an important meeting this evening so I don’t have much time to write a long post. I do, however, want to share with you a tasty new fajita recipe I came up with the other night for mi mama and papa that I thought all you vegetarians and even non-vegetarians will enjoy. It contains an ingredient called tempeh, which is a soy-based product many vegetarians use in place of the meat in dishes. It has a firm texture and a somewhat nutty flavor. You can find it in most of your local grocery stores and health food stores. Here’s a link to a better description of what tempeh actually is: http://www.tempeh.info/

Spicy Marinated Tempeh Fajitas

1 8 oz package of tempeh, any variety (you could substitute chicken breasts or some other meat if you like)

1 cup pineapple juice

1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce

2 tbsp fresh lime juice

4 tsp canola oil

2 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp ground red pepper

1-2 garlic cloves, minced

1 medium red bell pepper, cut into slices

1 medium red onion, cut into slices

6  soft taco-size flour tortillas

sour cream, guacamole, shredded cheese, chopped tomatoes, lettuce, refried beans

Directions:

1) Cut tempeh (or chicken, beef etc.) into 2 inch long strips.

2) Combine pineapple juice, soy sauce, 2 tsp canola oil, cumin, red pepper and garlic in a medium size bowl. Add tempeh and toss to coat. Allow to marinate in refrigerator at 30 minutes to 1 hour.

3) Heat remaining 2 tsp oil in a large skillet over medium. Add tempeh, bell peppers and onions and cook until onions are softened.

4) Warm tortillas in microwave for 15 seconds. Top with tempeh mixture and whatever toppings you would like. Enjoy!

Well like I said, I have an important meeting I must attend this evening. Something about the war on terrorism or whatever. All I know is, this guy better get off the phone soon or else I might have a little accident on his pretty “Oval” carpet.

Sweet Mama! That’s a lot of squash!

Standard

Some women buy shoes and jewelry. Others buy purses and new handbags. Mi mama? She buys more pounds of winter squash than one family could possibly consume in a lifetime. In fact, she came home with enough pounds of Kabocha and Sweet Mama squash yesterday to balance out her weight if put on opposite sides of a scale. Not that she’s a large person or anything, but that’s still a whole lotta squash! Now I guess it could be worse. At least she’s buying items that don’t just sit in her closet, untouched with an enormous price tag still attached. And thankfully what she buys is only 79 cents a pound instead of $79,000 a carat. But still, this woman has obviously gone a little crazy in the squash department. First it was peanut butter, then it was Saigon Cinnamon, and now this. I can’t wait to see what will be next. Let’s hope it isn’t prunes. One person spending the majority of their mornings in the bathroom is bad enough. And I really don’t think our plumbing could take it.

So seriously, what is a TeenyLittleSuperChef to do when his mama brings home a small army of winter squash on a Sunday afternoon? I mean, besides making a call to a local addiction psychiatrist. Why, make muffins, of course. First, though, I needed to puree some of the squash in order to incorporate it properly into the recipe. You can easily skip this step and just used canned pumpkin or squash instead, but it definitely won’t have the same yum factor and you won’t be able to say that the muffins were completely homemade. Well I guess technically I didn’t grow my own sugar cane or hatch my own chicken eggs, but you get the point.

I pureed my squash by simply cutting, gutting and peeling my squash into cubes. I then placed them in a steamer basket which was in a large pot filled with about an inch of water. I covered the pot, turned the heat to medium high, and steamed the squash for about 8-10 minutes until it was nice and soft but not mushy. Then I took my hand-held mixer and pureed the squash on medium low until it was smooth but not watery, about 30 seconds. And voila! You’ve got yourself some squash puree. So much better than Libby’s… not to mention so much cheaper. The puree will keep in the fridge for about a week if you keep it covered, but why let it hang there when you could add it to a yummy muffin recipe.

Sweet Mama Ginger Nut Muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 cup Sweet Mama squash puree 

1/4 cup butter, softened

1/4 cup applesauce

2 eggs or 1/2 cup egg substitute

2 tbsp water

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp allspice

1/2 ground ginger

1 cup walnuts, chopped

1/4 cup candied ginger, finely chopped

Directions:

1) Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 12-cup muffin pan with Pam.

2) Sift together the flours, sugar, salt and baking soda in a medium sized bowl.

3) Mix the squash puree, butter, applesauce, eggs, 2 tbsp water and spices together in a large bowl. Add the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Do not over-mix. Fold in the nuts and candied ginger.

4) Spoon mixture into prepare muffin pan. Bake 25-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted into middle of muffin comes out clean. Cool in pan for 5 minutes before transferring to wire rack. Enjoy!

These make an awesome breakfast or afternoon snack and are not too overly sweet. If you love ginger, you’ll especially love these. Oh and candied ginger can usually be found in the bulk bins at most grocery and specialty stores. Don’t tell mi mama though. She obviously loves to buy everything in bulk and I don’t think we have the pantry space for 20 pounds of candied ginger. We may have to transfer one of the bedrooms in our house to her “impulse buy” room one of these days. Although I guess it’s better that than a nursery. Babies are attention-whores and always smell bad… then again, it is fun licking jelly off their fingers.

Oh and here’s a picture of what a Sweet Mama squash looks like before it gets “squashed” down into a puree for muffins.

Yeah, picture that but times 20. Oh well, I’m sure there’s a self-help group out there somewhere for her. Or maybe Valium.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I must be going. Aside from figuring out what to do with the 19 other Sweet Mamas hanging out on the counter, I’m currently training for our upcoming mountain climbing trip to Mount Everest. Here’s a picture of our most recent expedition to the Grand Canyon. I think I did pretty well, don’t you?

The Ragin’ Cajun

Standard

In keeping with the vegetarian theme from the previous post, I have a fun and slightly more complex recipe for you today. Only complex in the sense that it’s more time consuming than the Four Bean Salad, not complicated in a “Holy Chihuahua, who does he think we are? Emeril Lagasse?” kind of a thing. Funny I should mention Emeril as this meal is very Cajun inspired and we all know Emeril is the king of Louisiana Cajun cooking. BAM! But where he cooks with mostly pork fat and ham hocks (and where is this supposed hock located on a pig exactly?), I cook with much healthier non-piggy items like vegetable oils and robust spices– still provides all the flavor without all the hypertensive and artery clogging after-effects.

With the upcoming arrivial of mi papa’s family for Thanksgiving, I’ve been frantically trying to come up with meals to make while they’re here that will not only please their palates but also coincide with my passion for healthy lower-fat cooking. They live down in New Orleans, deep in the heart of fried chicken and waffles and the infamous Mardi Gras King Cake. Where vegetables are buried beneath a thick layer of oily breading, and Sweet Tea is easier to find in stores than fresh water. Ahh, yes, the South. Now don’t get me wrong. His family doesn’t exactly eat like that on a regular basis. It’s just that my type of healthier and sometimes vegetarian cooking has often been referred to as “diet food” by the elder male member of his family… not to name any names, of course.  I want to be able to cook for them without their feeling as though the meals lack in depth and flavor. Now I’ve been toying around the idea of trying my paw at making my own vegetarian sausage for awhile now, but always been a little nervous to take on this endeavor. For one thing, just the idea of a vegetarian sausage can make some people kinda skeptical or want to gag. For others, even the idea of real sausage makes them want to yack too. But once I decided that I would like to make mi Southern familia a big ‘ol pot of red beans and rice during their upcoming visit, my plan for concocting my own vegetarian sausage went into full swing. Now don’t let the ingredients or pictures scare you. It’s really quite simple and incredibly tasty, despite looking a little odd. And once added to the Red Beans and Rice, it ends up absorbing all the flavors from the sauce and spices and becomes just a nice accompaniment to the dish. Oh and did I mention, one serving of the sausage contains nearly 20 grams of protein. Yowza!

Homemade Vegan Sausage

2 1/2 cups vital wheat gluten

1/2 cup chickpea (garbanzo bean) flour

1/2 cup nutritional yeast

1 tsp paprika

1 tbsp onion powder

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp salt

1 3/4 cup water or vegetable broth

2 tbsp soy sauce or tamari sauce

2 tbsp Liquid Bragg’s Aminos

Directions:

1) Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.

2) Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.

3) Combine wet ingredients in a small bowl.

4) Add wet ingredients to dry and combine into a thick dough using your hands.

5) Roll out dough blob into a two long loaves and roll up in a greased sheets of foil like a Tootsie Roll.

6) Bake for 90 minutes. Allow to cool on a wire rack before slicing and adding to Red Beans and Rice recipe.

*If you have any questions about the ingredients in this recipe, please feel free to leave a comment or e-mail me. I would be happy to answer any concerns you may have 🙂

Louisiana-Style Vegetarian Red Beans and Rice

2 tsp olive oil

1 large yellow onion, chopped

1 medium size green bell pepper, chopped

2 celery stalks, sliced thin

2 large garlic cloves, minced

2 cups chopped homemade vegan sausage

14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained

1/2 cup vegetable broth

1/2 tsp ground red pepper

1 tsp dried thyme

1/4 tsp dried sage

1 tbsp dried parsley

1-2 tsp Cajun seasoning, I used Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning

4 1/2 cups water

2 cups long-grain brown rice

Directions:

1) Heat oil in large pot or Dutch oven over medium. Add the onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic. Saute until onion is softened, about 5-7 minutes.

2) Add vegan sausage, diced tomatoes, vegetable broth and seasonings. Adjust heat to low, cover and simmer 40-45 minutes.

3) Meanwhile, bring the rice and water to a boil in a medium-size saucepan. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 35-40 minutes or almost all the liquid is absorbed. Serve beans over rice and enjoy!

Mi mama and papa both really loved this dish. I’m crossing my paws and toes that the rest of mi familia will love it too. And if not, well I guess I could always throw in a couple ham hocks and brush up on my CPR in preparation for the ensuing heart attacks. Woohoo, I can’t wait for the holidays.

Well, mi amigos, I better be going now. Mi mama just got home and needs me to help her take off her shoes. I think she forgets that I don’t have any thumbs. I hope she doesn’t mind if I chew them off.

Beans, beans, the magical fruit…

Standard

If you’ve been following my blog for a while now (which if you haven’t, you really should start because I’m seriously quite adorable) you may have noticed that mi papa is the only one in this house that consumes the meals I whip up containing red meat, chicken or turkey. Why? Well, it’s not because he is too much of pig and won’t share these dishes with mi mama… although I have seen him do that when around a pan of brownies. No, it’s simply because mi mama is a vegetarian. Well actually, if you want to get more technical, she’s a vegetarian who once every two or three months will partake in a piece or two (or twelve) of salmon sashimi when out on a sushi date with mi papa. Overall, though, she does not eat any red meat, pork, chicken, turkey, dog, cat, antelope, kangaroo, etc. Many assume her refusal to eat animals is due to some sort of passion against animal cruelty or even for health reasons. No no, the main reason she stopped consuming meat many many years ago was simply because she no longer liked the taste of it. Over the years, her drive to maintain her vegetarianism has definitely been encouraged by those other factors and she enjoys knowing that both her body and those of farm animals benefit from her abstaining from meat.

One of the main questions mi mama gets asked the most when opening up about her vegetarianism (besides the inane “So do you just eat a bunch of lettuce) is, “But where do you get your protein?” I always love when she gets asked this question because it allows me the opportunity to step in and spout off a bunch of nutritional information I have studied and learned over the past 7 years. After all, I am not only a culinary genius but also a highly educated scholar in the field of nutrition and dietetics. Ever heard of Michael Pollan’s “In Defense of Food?” Yeah, I was his ghost writer. Not that I like to brag about it or anything… and Michael, I am still expecting my paycheck in the mail any day now… hmmm

So back to where mi mama gets her protein from. The majority comes from plant sources such as beans and legumes as well as some dairy sources like eggs, cheese and yogurt. Did you know that just one cup of cooked chickpeas or kidney beans contains almost 15 grams of protein? Or that one cup of nonfat Greek yogurt provides a whopping 25 grams? That’s almost the same as a 3 oz chicken breast or piece of steak. And no poultry or cow had to be harmed in the process. Something to think about, people. So basically, mi mama is not lacking in the protein department by maintaining a vegetarian diet. In fact, I think one of my next posts will be a more in-depth assessment of exactly what she eats over the course of a day and the nutritional breakdown of each meal and snack. This way one can see just how easy it really is to maintain optimal health while skipping the meat.

And I have a simple side dish recipe for you today that is not only tasty, but completely vegetarian and provides nearly 16 grams of protein per serving… and that’s just in a side dish! Hot dog!

Protein-Packed Four Bean Salad

15 oz can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

15 oz can kidney beans, rinsed and drained

15 oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1 cup frozen edamame, thawed

2 medium-sized carrots, diced

1/2 large red onion, diced

1 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped

1 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup honey or agave nectar

1/4 cup olive oil

salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

1) In a large bowl, mix the beans, parsley and rosemary.

2) In a separate bowl, mix the rest of the ingredients. Add dressing to the large bowl and toss to coat.

3) Chill in the refrigerator (the beans, not you) for several hours or overnight before serving.

Incredibly simple and oh so tasty. Bring this to your next potluck or picnic and it will surely be a crowd favorite. Trust me.

Well I truly must be going now. I need to go wait by the front door. I think mi papa is coming home soon.