Posted by Noelle on May 29th, 2012
Categories: Desserts
Tags: ,,,,

It's the start of strawberry season where I live in the rolling mountains of eastern PA. Roadside stands are popping up with strawberries for sale, the farmers markets are coming to life again, and all this leaves me feeling like I am on cloud nine. Nothing speaks to my vegan eating sensibilities more than fresh, local fruits and veggies. My absolute favorite time being that all too brief period when strawberries, in all their cheery, bright red glory, are available in abundance. And the flavor... enough to make my toes curl in happiness. So all winter when I see the sad, drab, flavorless imported strawberries in their sterile plastic containers stacked at the grocery store, I dream of warmer weather and real, luscious strawberries. And of course what to make with all the quarts and quarts I bring home and then battle to use before they *gasp* go bad. I know, let's not think of it! One of the flavor combinations I love is peanut butter with strawberries, strawberry jam to be exact. So I had been devising this recipe in my head for awhile and this weekend, with quarts of strawberries piled on my counter, it was time. I wanted to keep these bars light, cool, and refreshing... something for the summer, and for picnics 🙂 The crust is crunchy and salty, the peanut butter is fluffy and creamy, the strawberry jam a fresh pop of sweetness and all of this together is... orgasmic. There, I said it. It literally invokes that involuntary moan upon the very first bite. Normally I would say that could be trouble, but this is refined sugar-free, gluten-free, soy-free, corn-free, etc - so moan away people 🙂 Happy strawberry season to all! Mmmmmm...

Peanut Butter and Fresh Strawberry Jam Bars

Peanut Butter Mousse & Strawberry Jam Bars

Ingredients:

Crust:

  • 1-1/3 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 7 dates
  • 3/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 cup almond meal or almond flour, packed
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted

Peanut Butter Mousse:

  • 2 cups creamy peanut butter
  • 1 - 13.5 oz can of coconut milk, refrigerated at least 2 hours
  • 1/8 cup agave syrup, I used light
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar, or brown sugar (optional)
  • salt to taste, only if your peanut butter isn't salted, mine was

Fresh Strawberry Jam:

  • 1 quart of strawberries, stems removed and quartered
  • 1/4 cup + 1/8 cup agave syrup, I used light
  • 2 TBS lemon juice, fresh squeezed
  • 1 TBS agar-agar flakes

Topping:

  • 1/2 cup of chopped, salted peanuts

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 8 x 8 non-stick square cake pan with cooking spray. Place the oats, shredded coconut, dates, and salt into a food processor and process for a minute or two until everything is flour-like consistency. Add almond meal and pulse 4 to 5 times to combine. Next add the coconut oil and pulse until it just starts to come together as a dough. Sprinkle this mixture evenly into the prepared pan. Then use your fingers to gently press the crust down, leveling as needed. Make sure it is pressed in pretty well and then transfer to the oven. Bake for 13-18 minutes until the edges are golden. Set pan on a wire rack to cool to room temperature.

When crust has cooled, place the 2 cups peanut butter, coconut milk, agave syrup, vanilla, and coconut sugar into a medium bowl. A quick tip for an easy way to measure the peanut butter is to spray your measuring cup with cooking spray first, then the pb will come out easily. The coconut sugar is optional, I know it's not readily available out there yet, add more agave or even stevia for a sweeter mousse. Using a mixer with a whisk attachment, beat for a couple of minutes, scraping the sides down occasionally, until everything is combined and light and fluffy. You could also use a high powered blender for this step. Scoop and pour the peanut butter mousse onto the top of the crust. Place directly into the fridge to chill.

Next, in a large saucepan, mash the strawberries (I used a potato masher, but you can use whatever you like). Add the lemon juice, agave, and agar, stir well. Bring mixture to a slow boil. I used medium heat to achieve this. Once the mixture comes to a rolling boil, set a timer for 10 minutes. Reduce heat a bit (medium-low), and let the mix boil for 10 minutes, whisking occasionally to keep agar from sticking to the pan. After 10 minutes remove from heat and let it cool for about 20 minutes, whisking occasionally to help it cool down. It doesn't need to be room temperature, but it should only be just warm as you don't want to melt the peanut butter mousse. Pour the fresh jam carefully over the top of the cooled mousse and place in the fridge to set and chill through. I let mine chill for about 3 hours. Then remove it to serve or cover with plastic wrap and place back in the fridge to enjoy later. To serve, sprinkle with the peanuts. These are best kept chilled, and only add the peanuts right before serving as they will turn greasy and brown if left in the fridge (they still taste good though). Cut bars into 2" squares, this makes 16 evenly sized bars.

PB&J Bars

Peanut Butter & Jam Bars

Posted by Noelle on May 20th, 2012
Categories: Appetizers, Entrees
Tags: ,,,

One of the things the hubs misses most about his pre-vegan/pre-vegetarian days are those things they serve in bars, deep-fried, and covered in hot sauce. I refuse to say what they are because what they are makes me want to cry. Especially considering the fact that they sell these by the dozens, it's heart-wrenching to my animal loving, vegan soul. And yes, I am one of those people that cries when I pass a truck full of cows, pigs, chickens or any farm animal as I know that wherever they are going it's sure to be a sad ending. I send my prayers up to the universe that they please have an amazing and safe place in heaven to be free, play in the sun, mud, or even just to feel the grass at their feet. And I also ask that if there isn't a special place in heaven for them, that I want them to go to mine. I promise that I will take care of them when my day comes. So maybe sometime when we all cross over into the next journey you'll be able to find me surrounded by thousands of animals. That would surely be heaven. So it's my duty to give you something so good that whenever you think of Buffalo hot sauce, it's complete with a vision of vegan beer-battered covered, deep-fried seitan... or shall we say seitan Buffalo bites? Either way it equals yumm. The batter, by the way, is also awesome to make onion rings with. The recipe that inspired us came from Saveur Beer Batter. The batter recipe makes a lot, so you may want to make rings regardless 🙂 I like to promote healthier recipes, but honestly this isn't one, so please eat sparingly. But if it saves a few sweet chickens then I have to support it and share it. Especially in case there are any of you out there who want some traditional bar food deep-fried yumminess to scarf down with a nice cold summer pale ale. And the best part is that this is bar food with compassion. Cheers!

Ingredients:

Ingredients:

  • 1-3/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1-1/2 T hot paprika
  • 1 T dry mustard
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp agave syrup
  • 16 oz beer, whatever kind you like
  • 12 or 16 oz container of seitan
  • 1 bottle of your favorite buffalo or hot sauce
  • canola oil for frying

Directions:

Rinse seitan well under cold water, drain, and pull into 1/2" to 3/4" chucks or strips. You don't need to be exact even the shape, just try to get similar sized portions. Next dry the seitan very well with paper towels. Try to get as much of the moisture off as possible. In a large bowl whisk together the dry ingredients, flour through salt. Add agave and beer and whisk until smooth. Add more beer if the batter is too thick, it should be similar in consistency to pancake batter. Let sit for 10 minutes. While batter is resting, preheat 2" of oil to medium-high heat in your favorite frying pan, the oil should only come about halfway up the pan or less so there is room for the bubbling during frying. We actually use a medium soup pan, as it has high sides and we just fry up small batches of 3 or 4 at a time. The ideal temperature is 375 degrees, but you can test the oil for correct temperature by adding in a small drop of batter, if it instantly sizzles and floats to the top you are ready.

Depending on the size of your pan, dredge 3-4 pieces of seitan in the batter and add carefully to the hot oil, one at a time. You don't want to crowd the pan, leave lots of room for these to swim around. These will cook quickly, so after a minute or two flip them over and cook again another minute or two until they are golden and crisp. Transfer to a wire rack with paper towels or a dish towel underneath to catch any crumbs or oil drips. Repeat the dredging and frying process until all the seitan is cooked. Now you can either toss them gently in a bowl with the hot sauce until they are well coated or you can just serve them with the hot sauce in a dipping bowl on the side. Completely up to you. They will lose their crispness quickly after being drenched in the sauce, but they are still melt-in-your-mouth amazing. Serve these up with some celery and carrot sticks and don't forget the beer! Serves 6-10 people (depending on how many everyone eats).

Posted by Noelle on May 13th, 2012
Categories: Entrees
Tags: ,,,

I still love pizza. Granted it's no longer the grease laden, cheese filled, pizza of the past, but I still love it. For me, the idea of making pizza from scratch is so romantic. It reminds of me of Italy, even though I have never been... *sigh*. When I think of Italian cuisine, it's handmade patiently and with love. That is pizza, pizza is love. Well, it should be anyways and I think vegan pizza most certainly is. Pizza is also art, it's one of those foods that can suck you in instantly just based on how beautiful it is. So I embrace vegan pizza made from scratch, it's compassionate, thoughtful, and delicious! Plus you get to play with your food and be creative, hello!? 🙂 As some of you know already, I don't enjoy the faux cheeses that are available out there now (I know, apologies to Daiya)... instead I aim for pizzas that are so orgasmically good you never even give a passing thought to cheese, whether it's faux or real. And folks, this pizza is all grown up. Bitter broccoli rabe, paired with spicy cherry peppers, and sweet caramelized onions with garlic in the supporting role makes for one piece of amazing adult pizza. Call the babysitter, invite some friends over, and uncork a good bottle of wine... It's pizza night! Ciao!

Ingredients:

Ingredients:

  • pizza dough, enough to make 2 - 12" to 14" pizzas, I used this recipe
  • 2 large sweet onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 TBS canola oil
  • 1/4 tsp agave syrup, I used light
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 bunch of broccoli rabe, the bottom 3" of stems discarded and the remaining chopped into 2" long pieces
  • 3/4 cup of sliced hot pickled cherry peppers, more or less as desired, seeds and stems discarded
  • 3/4 cup of sliced mild pickled cherry peppers, seeds and stems discarded
  • 1 - 28oz can of chunky tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes
  • 2 TBS minced garlic
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • olive oil
  • handful of basil leaves
  • salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Heat 2 TBS of canola oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add onions, salt, and agave cook stirring occasionally for 20-25 minutes until onions are golden and caramelized. Set aside. While onions are cooking, bring about an inch of salted water in a large skillet to a rolling boil. Add the broccoli rabe and cook for 2-3 minutes. Remove from pan and put into a metal colander. Rinse the broccoli rabe with lots of very cold water to stop the cooking process and the keep the bright green color. Let the broccoli rabe drain in the colander until ready to go on top of the pizzas.

Next form your pizza dough into 2 - 12" or 14" diameter pies. Place each round on a sheet of parchment. Drizzle a little olive oil over each pizza, add 1 TBS garlic to each pie and use your hands to smear the garlic and oil evenly across the top. Do this liberally and make sure you hit every nook and cranny so every piece is infused with garlic. Next spoon the tomato sauce onto the pizzas making sure to leave a nice edge for the crust. Use as little or as much sauce as you like. Sprinkle on the Italian seasoning and pepper flakes. Now you are ready to add the broccoli rabe. Grab a handful and squeeze it over the sink or above a paper towel. You want get as much juice out as you can so your pizza does not become watery. Distribute the broccoli rabe evenly between the 2 pies. Now add the cherry peppers, pat them dry with a paper towel if they are wet. Next up is the caramelized onions. I like to add these in little spoonfuls to the top, but add them however your creativity sees fit. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and you can drizzle a little bit more olive oil over the top, but it's not needed.

Carefully put pizzas into hot oven, leaving them on the parchment. I use a pizza peel to do this as it makes life so much easier, but you could also flip a cookie sheet upside down to help you slide the pizza into the oven. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the crust is crisp on the bottom. Alternate the pizzas after the first 7 minutes, they should switch places in the oven. That way they will cook more evenly. When done, remove from oven and sprinkle each pizza with basil leaves. Cut into slices, I usually cut mine into 6 slices each, and serve while still hot. Serves 4-6 people. If you only have a single serving of dough for one pizza, just cut the remaining ingredients in half and it will turn out perfect.