necessity is the mother of invention {& that's why we're here, friends} we dance to the music, we play in the kitchen & sometimes that means one of us breaks the wine glasses {we're not saying who} the cook is a cubicle-warmer/learning & development specialist by day, & a writer/photographer/kitchen goddess by night who has fun inventing healthy things she can actually eat we seriously both need capes & a kick-ass theme song & the baker is a catering delivery superhero; no job too big or too early or too floral not to come home & make magic with a mixer & an oven we are always gluten-free, dairy-free, & magically delicious now, somebody turn up the music! we're about to get our dance on!

30 June 2008

vegan challenge: lentil burgers

As I mentioned in a previous post, I've been challenging myself to prepare meals that (while still abiding within the already gluten-free and dairy-free parameters of this blog, because if I can't eat it, I'm not gonna cook it) are:

  • vegan (no animal products of any kind including: meat, eggs, dairy, casein, honey, etc.)
  • do this while limiting my use of tofu or other soy-based food items
  • the food is tasty & satisfying, and finger-lickin' good (my apologies to the Colonel)
Ilse asked a really good question about the why behind limiting the use of tofu or other soy products. Since it's a darn good question, here's a few [hopefully] darn good answers:

1. It is a challenge, after all. In general, tofu is an easy protein "fallback" in vegetarian cooking (and for good reason: the stuff is incredibly versatile and really good for you!!). I want to broaden my horizons, think outside the box, embrace the challenge aspect of this & see what other options are out there for healthy vegan cooking that also provides the protein our bodies need.

2. Allergy awareness. I know at least a few people now who have soy allergies. Thankfully, I am not one of them, but I wanted to challenge myself to make healthy, delicious, vegan meals that my soy-sensitive friends could enjoy too.

3. Global thinking. I learned from a friend of mine who has Brasilian heritage that a lot of the deforestation in Brasil may be because of the soy crop that is planted there. I think much of this may be to produce alternative fuel, but I still want to be mindful of how I might be contributing to that. There seems to be some debate about whether or not the soy crop is actually having a detrimental effect on the rainforests, but still ... it can't hurt to explore alternative protein options!!

Anyway ...

so, why this recipe?
Something I've missed sorely since learning I cannot tolerate gluten is veggie burgers.

I know!! You'd think those would be safe, right? But all those veggie burgers you see in the grocery store contain wheat flour and/or whole grains (including wheat) to act as a binder and to improve the texture. I have made a tofu-based version a few times that only took four or five attempts to perfect and satisfy my rigorous standards, but after some tweaking, I think I'm enjoying this recipe even more!!

totally-good-for-you ingredients:
2/3 c. green lentils (or your favorite lentil variety)
2 c. vegetable broth (I prefer No Chicken Broth by Imagine Foods), or water
2-3 tbsp. of your favorite salt-free herb blend
1/2 finely chopped yellow onion
2 tbsp. wheat-free tamari (or soy sauce, or worcestershire if you can handle gluten)
2/3 c. sunflower seeds (raw and shelled)
rice flour
olive oil

bring broth to a boil, add herbs
after lowering to medium heat, add lentils
cook until almost all the liquid is absorbed (about 15 minutes)

place in blender or food processor
add chopped onion, tamari sauce
puree until mixture reaches desired smoothness
** you may need to add a bit of additional liquid to ease the pureeing process**

NOTE: don't worry about the lentils being pureed until perfectly smooth. So long as it's a bit "doughy", you're good to go!!

empty lentil mixture into a large bowl
pour in whole sunflower seeds, stir well into lentils
add and fold in rice flour a few tablespoons at a time until lentil mixture sticks together well and forms a nice ball, not sticking too much to your hands (I think I used 2/3 - 3/4 cup).
with your hands, separate into balls and press into desired size of patties

in a large skillet, add a good pour of olive oil and heat skillet to medium heat
add lentil patties to skillet and cook on both sides until lightly browned and slightly crispy on the outside.

make 4-6 patties, depending on size.

Enjoy on a bun or by itself, with avocado slices (I ate mine before i took this photo!!) or your favorite condiment and a side of healthy veggies.

Making it your own? Tell me how you improved upon it!!

more more more ...
  • See another delicious recipe with lentils here.
  • Check out the health benefits of lentils here.

23 June 2008

vegan challenge: orange tofu stirfry

Can I just say yum?!

Far be it from me to toot my own horn, but I must say this dish had me making noises usually reserved for good, long massages and hot baths on a cold day. This dish totally brings the yum!!

NOTE: As the header of this post suggests, I am undertaking a self-imposed challenge to cook within the following parameters:
  • the food is vegan (no animal products of any kind including: meat, eggs, dairy, casein, honey, etc.)
  • do this while limiting my use of tofu or other soy-based food items
  • the food is tasty & satisfying, and finger-lickin' good (my apologies to the Colonel)
  • also stay within the gluten-free parameters of this blog (duh!!)

So without further ado ...

The ingredients in this dish are pretty much all repeats of others that have been used previously, so I won't repeat myself. Suffice it to say this is something that your body will thank you for and that will have your tastebuds begging for another bite.

tasty ingredients:
firm tofu (1 package)
wheat-free tamari
grated orange peel

red curry paste
large green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 large red onion, chopped
carrots, cut into medallions
fresh cilantro
olive oil

easy as gluten-free pie instructions:
after opening package of tofu, drain and cut into cubes, place in a bowl
cover well with tamari sauce
grate orange peel into bowl from about 1/2 large navel orange
cover and place in fridge, allowing to marinate for a minimum of 2-4 hours (or ideally, overnight)

** and I will just say ... tofu is an amazing sponge when it comes to flavor, so the longer you let it marinate, the more bang you're going to get for your buck.**

heat oven to approximately 400 degrees
place cubed tofu on cookie sheet and place in oven, stirring periodically until most of the liquid is cooked away (about 15 minutes)
**this step is entirely optional, but makes the tofu cook faster when preparing the stirfry**

in a large skillet, heat olive oil to medium-high heat
chop veggies: carrots, pepper, and onion and place into hot skillet
add tamari
stir frequently, cooking until onions are translucent
if veggies are done before tofu (see next step), set heat to low to keep warm
add fresh cilantro to veggie mixture and stir in just prior to serving

in a separate skillet, add olive oil and put burner on high heat
add tofu and about 1 tsp (or more, to taste) of red curry paste
cook tofu until golden and crispy on the outside

to enjoy:
place veggies in a bowl and top with tofu.
grab your fork & dig in!!

20 June 2008

cucumber lime salad

happy first day of summer!!

Summer is my favorite because I can snatch up all sorts of fresh and fragrant produce at the Co-op and at the local Farmer's Market. Seriously ... it's a shame there's not some kind of widget I could install so you could smell my kitchen right now. I just came home with bags full of delicious fresh produce. Mmmm ...

I'll admit, I think today's recipe could use some perfecting. Some fresh basil maybe? Or would cilantro be better? How about some freshly-grated ginger?? I'll try it out and let you know, how does that sound?

As you have probably guessed, we've got some crisp and cool cucumbers in this recipe, as well as plenty of other fresh produce. And just what makes them so cool?

Cucumber: The reason you'll see these covering the eyelids of the tragically chic and well-to-do spa-going types is that they contain Vitamin C and caffeic acid which help reduce puffiness and swelling. The skin of the cucumber is chock full of fiber and minerals like potassium, magnesium, and silica too (which is an essential component of healthy connective tissue). The potassium/magnesium/fiber combo present in cucumbers has also been shown to help reduce blood pressure.

tasty fresh ingredients:
2 large cucumbers, peeled & chopped
1/2 c. finely chopped red onion
1/3 c. pine nuts
1 can white kidney (cannellini) beans
1/2 shallot, finely chopped
1 dry pint cherry tomatoes, sliced

simple lime vinaigrette:
1/4 c. olive oil
1/4 c. fresh squeeze lime juice (about 2 limes), or bottled lime juice
pinch sea salt
fresh ground pepper
whisk together well in a small bowl.

oh-so-easy directions:
if desired, peel cucumbers and chop into desired size & add to large bowl
drain beans & add to bowl
add all other ingredients: onion, shallot, tomato, pine nuts
dress with vinaigrette

cover & chill for about 2 hours, or ideally overnight.

salad photo by kirsten.michelle

19 June 2008

check it out!!

All sorts of baked-in ooey-gooey goodness going on over at Confectionery Conceptions ...

WARNING: Buckets may be required.

09 June 2008

yo ho!! yo ho!! a pirate's life for me ...

Late last week, Kaari and I were both in agreement that we needed a lazy day.

Our timbers were thoroughly shivered, you might say.

And what better way to spend a lazy day at home than to invite Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom to the party?

Our mission:
1. Stay home.
2. Wear pajamas all day.
3. Make it through all three Pirates of the Caribbean movies.
4. Eat pirate-appropriate food while doing it (that also happens to be gluten-free and dairy-free).

Arrr, mateys!!

Every good pirate starts her
day with Starrrrrrrrbucks. Arrr ...

... and really bad eggs
(aka, "breakfast")

For our breakfast, Kaari made gluten-free pancakes with chocolate chips. Sticking with our pirate theme, we christened them Black Pearl Pancakes.

Arrrr ...

Black Pearl Pancakes
1 cup rice flour
1 cup soy milk
1 egg
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Mix it together with yer pirate hook or a whisk will do just fine, whatever floats your boat or pirate ship.

Pour the batter onto the hot skillet and add a few chocolate morsels (aka Black Pearls) and "avast"... you have yourselves some tasty Black Pearl Pancakes for you and yer mateys.

Arrrr ... do I sound like a swashbuckling, Buccaneer baker to you?

Treasure Chest Snacks
Because we were nibbling throughout the day, we really didn't have much of a lunch. But we did have some seeded treats appropriate to our Caribbean theme. Using the same recipe that is posted here, I used chopped dried papaya, chopped dried pineapple, coconut shreds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, and sunflower seeds.

We also had also plundered some slightly-less-than-healthy booty because hey ... pirates wouldn't be pirates if they followed the rules all the time.

Pieces of Eight Seeded Treats

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and coat well with brown rice syrup.

Add a splash of tropical-flavored juice.

Bake for 20 minutes at 300 degrees.

Once cooled, cut into desired size and turn over.

Bake for another 10 minutes and 300 degrees and allow to cool.

World's End (because if you're headed to Davey Jones's locker, you might as well have a good time on your way down)

Drink up, me harties, you're home!!

What pirate party would be complete without rum?? These fizzy orange drinks may be a bit too foofy for Jack & his crew (it's probably written somewhere in the pirate code that rum should not be mixed), but they do contain the required pirate ingredient, so in my mind ... they pass!

{Girlie} Pirate Drinks

1/2 c. rum
1/4 c. coconut-pineapple juice
3/4 c. carbonated mango-orange juice
Splash of lime juice
Shake well with ice.
Serve in chilled glasses and pour it down your gullet, you scallawags!!

pirate day photos by kirsten.michelle