Posted by Noelle on March 27th, 2012
Categories: Appetizers, Entrees
Tags: ,,,,

We love Mexican flavors in our house...you will always, always find my house stocked with cilantro, peppers, canned chipotles, avocados, tortillas, spices, etc. We usually do 2-3 meals a week that our based in these flavors, and love to experiment with them. I had polenta in the pantry and had been dreaming of making a polenta cake...so why not Mexican style? For the cake I wanted a smokey chipotle infusion with a touch of sweetness, sort of play on tamales, which I also adore. The cakes are actually super easy to make as the oven does most of the work. The beans are really easy too, just throw everything in the pan and let it hang out until you are ready. If you're short on chopping time, you could easily replace my salsa fresca with a store bought fresh salsa, I won't tell. The avocado crema is what really makes this special though. It's creamy, sweet, and cooling...which is the perfect match to the smokey cakes, warm beans, and the fresh bright salsa. Plus it's the most beautiful shade of green and if you have a squeezy bottle to put it in, you can really go gourmet and artistic with your presentation. After all, we eat with our eyes first. This one is a showstopper, so invite some friends over and break open the tequila. Olé!

Ingredients:

Polenta Cakes:

  • 2 cups coconut milk, I used SoDelicious unsweetened
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp agave syrup
  • 1 TBS nutritional yeast
  • 1 TBS chipotle, minced, from a can of chipotles in adobo sauce
  • 1 tsp adobo sauce, from a can of chipotles in adobo sauce
  • 1/4 tsp garlic, minced
  • 1-1/3 cups quick cooking polenta
  • 1/2 tsp olive oil

Spiced Beans:

  • 1- 15 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1- 15 oz can of black beans, entire contents
  • 1/2 cup water, more as needed
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1 bay leaf, dried
  • salt to taste

Salsa Fresca: (or you can use store bought fresh salsa)

  • 1-1/4 cups tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 cup sweet onion, diced
  • 2 green onions, minced
  • 2 TBS cilantro, minced
  • 2 tsp jalapeno, minced, use more or less depending on how much heat you like
  • 1/4 tsp garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

Avocado Crema:

  • 1/2 a ripe avocado, chopped
  • 4 TBS coconut milk, I used SoDelicious unsweetened
  • 1 tsp agave syrup
  • 1/2 tsp cilantro, minced
  • 1/2 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt

Directions:

For the polenta cakes...Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a glass 13 x 9 casserole dish with cooking spray. Bring water, coconut milk, salt, and agave to a boil over medium high heat. Add chipotle, sauce, garlic, and yeast whisking to combine. Add polenta and whisk constantly until the polenta starts to thicken and everything is well incorporated, just a minute or two. Remove from the heat and spoon polenta into prepared dish. Use a spatula to make the top smooth and to be sure the polenta is spread evenly. Drizzle with the olive oil. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes until the polenta starts to get golden on the edges. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool. When ready to serve, use a round biscuit cutter to cut out the individual cakes, for a total of 12. If you don't have one, just cut the polenta into 12 equal pieces.

While the polenta is baking, add all of the spiced bean ingredients to a medium sized pot, mixing gently with a wood spoon or spoonula (so you don't break the beans up) and heat over medium heat until bubbling. Then reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally. If the beans start to get dried out, add more water. I usually like to let them simmer for 8-10 minutes so the flavors have a chance to combine. Remove the bay leaf before serving.

While the beans and polenta are cooking, combine all of the ingredients for the salsa fresca in a medium glass bowl and set aside.

To make the avocado crema, add all the ingredients to a food processor (I use a small or mini one for this), and puree. I like to put the crema into a squeeze bottle for ease of presentation (available at most stores), but if you don't have one, transfer to a small bowl and press plastic wrap right down onto the top surface of it to keep the avocado from oxidizing. One tip for the squeeze bottle, if you have trouble getting the crema out, cut more of the tip off to make a larger opening.

Lastly, to assemble everything. Place 2 polenta cakes onto a plate. Using a slotted spoon (so some of the juice runs back into the pan) smother the cakes with beans. Next add a healthy spoonful of the salsa fresca, then creatively drizzle the avocado crema over the top. You might want to garnish with a sprig of cilantro, but otherwise these are ready to enjoy. These really make a beautiful presentation, we feel extra special every time we sit down to a plate of these. Serves 4-6 as an entree.

Posted by Noelle on March 21st, 2012
Categories: Appetizers, Entrees
Tags: ,,

Sometimes I wish I never tasted cheese (please don't throw things at me). It's the one thing that kept me from going vegan for almost 10 years. "I just could not live without cheese" I'd say. And I believed it. Until one day I realized my auto response should actually be a little bit alarming. Then that three-letter word popped in my head...Why? Seriously what is wrong with me that I think life would not be worth living based on the lack of cheese? Wow, I delivered myself a hard reality slap. *Sigh* So I had to face my cheese demons. You may not have cheese demons, but they have tormented me for way too long. Turns out after going vegan they pack their bags and head out on the open road to find someone else who'll appreciate them better. I don't miss them...but there are still days when I remember the delicacies that I enjoyed so much back in the old days...mac and cheese, lasagna, and pizza. No, not just pizza, Margherita style pizza. That light pizza which is smothered in sweet tomato sauce, topped with fresh mozzarella slices, and sprinkled with basil leaves. Part of the amore, if you will, of that pizza is purely visual. It's a work of art, the Italian flag, a la natural style, right there on your plate. So after discovering the joys of agar agar (if you haven't discovered them yet you need to get cooking), I decided to try my hand at a vegan fresh mozzarella. I was so happy with how this came out. Let's get real for a moment... this isn't cheese, it's not ooey-gooey, stringy, melty, or slowly clogging your arteries. But this is a beautiful stand in. It captures the taste that I remember, has a creamy consistency when warm, and is visually beautiful. And artfully arranged on mini pitas, it is easy pizza perfection, vegan style.

Ingredients:

Fresh Mozzerella:

  • 2c coconut milk, I used SoDelicious unsweetened
  • 2 TBS agar agar flakes
  • 1 tsp salt, I used Pink Himalayan
  • 1 tsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 - 6 oz container of plain nondairy yogurt, I used SoDelicious Greek Style
  • 1/4 tsp agave syrup
  • 1/4 tsp olive oil

Pizzas:

  • 6 pocketless pitas or other mini pizza crusts of your choice
  • 1 - 15 oz can of tomato sauce, no salt added
  • 2 small tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 16-30 small slices of fresh mozzerella, about 4-5 per pizza
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup of basil, thinly sliced (chiffonade style)
  • 2-3 tsp olive oil
  • Italian seasoning to taste
  • salt to taste
  • black pepper to taste

Directions:

You will need to make the fresh mozzerella ahead. Spray a 9 x 13 glass casserole dish with cooking spray. In a medium saucepan, combine the coconut milk, agar, salt, and yeast. Bring to a slow boil over medium heat. Once boiling, set a timer for 10 minutes. Boil, whisking frequently until the timer goes off and all the agar flakes have melted. Remove pan from heat and stir in yogurt, agave, and oil, whisking to combine well. Pour mixture into the prepared casserole and refrigerate until set, about 45 minutes to an hour. You can also make this days ahead, just cover with plastic wrap once it is set, it can last for several days in the fridge. When ready to use, remove from the fridge and use a biscuit cutter to cut small circles of the fresh mozzerella out for use on top of your pizzas.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Have 2 large cookie sheets handy, you may want to line them with parchment for ease of cleaning. Please 2-3 pitas on each cookie sheet. Drizzle about 1/4 tsp of olive oil over each pita, add a little garlic and smear into oil and all over pita tops with your hands to evenly distribute. Next spoon some tomato sauce onto each pita, again being sure to evenly coat. Use as little or as much as you like. Now distribute the tomato slices between all of your pizzas, then add the mozzerella slices. Sprinkle each pizza with a little Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Drizzle tops with another 1/4 tsp of olive oil each. Bake for 8-10 minutes until pitas start to get golden around the edges. remove from the oven and then sprinkle some basil over each pizza and cut them into 4-6 small slices for easy eating. Add hot pepper flakes, garlic powder, or any of your favorite seasonings if you wish. Serve while still hot.

Posted by Noelle on March 18th, 2012
Categories: Entrees, Pasta
Tags: ,,

This recipe is a super simple and easy go-to dinner during the warm summer season when corn, basil, and tomatoes grow in abundance. This has been a family favorite for years and I still have relatives who request that I make this. It's something about the simplicity of the whole dish that makes it so great. Especially when the tomatoes are sweet and ripe, the basil fragrant, the corn crisp... you get the idea. It's a mouthful of summer goodness. I love to pair this with a fresh salad or grilled asparagus. Here's hoping that your garden is brimming with fresh herbs and veggies this year. If having a green thumb is not your thing, please consider joining a co-op or at the very least heading to your nearest farmers market to buy good organic veggies and support your local farmers. Peace 🙂

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz medium shell shaped pasta, or pasta of your choice, cooked al dente
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 1 pint of cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cups of fresh corn, trimmed from the cob or frozen corn*
  • 6 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/8 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced (chiffonade cut)
  • 3/4 tsp sea salt
  • black pepper, to taste

Directions:

While pasta is cooking, combine the remaining ingredients, oil through salt, in a large serving bowl. *If using frozen corn, add to the cooking pasta a few minutes before it's ready. Drain pasta (and corn) well and add to large bowl with other ingredients. Toss gently with a wooden spoon or spoonula until the pasta is fully incorporated with the other ingredients. Let sit for a couple of minutes so the flavors meld then serve warm. This is also wonderful chilled and served as a pasta salad at picnics. Serves 4-6 as an entree.