Warming Soup w/ White Beans & Pasta

Where did the sun go?  The weather changed considerably yesterday afternoon and it suddenly went from sunny and warm to cool, overcast, and threatening to rain!  Well, bring it on, says I!  I love me some great autumnal weather!  Rain?  Oh yeah.  That’s soup weather! 

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I was feeling cold and hungry and whipped this up for dinner last night.  If you find yourself in the same boat tonight, try it out!  It’s pretty easy and tasty.  Oh, and it’s cooked in one pot!  Um, I think I’ve mentioned my love for things cooked in one pot before, right?  😉

This soup really reminded me of minestrone.  With a side salad and piece of garlic toast I was a happy camper!  Nick, on the other hand isn’t such a big soup fan and fought the urge to request something more “filling” for dinner.  However, once he tucked in found that this was exactly what the doctor ordered to cure the dinner time hungers!  So, I present to you, Warming Soup – Vegan – With White Beans + Pasta!

Ingredients:

1/2 White Onion, finely diced

4 Large Cloves Garlic, finely minced

1/2 Cup Chopped Carrots

1 Can Crushed Tomatoes

4-5 Cups Veggie Stock

1 Can White Beans

2-3 TBS Olive Oil

3-4 Servings of Dried Pasta (I used penne, but you could use any other type you have on hand)

1/2 TBS Dried Basil

1/2 TBS Dried Oregano

1 tsp. Dried Thyme

1 tsp. Dried Parsley

1/4 tsp. Dried Rosemary

1/4 tsp. (or less) Red Pepper Flake

Salt & Pepper (to taste–I added what felt like quite a bit to get it tasting just right.)

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Directions:

In a large pot, saute onion and carrot in olive oil until softened.  Add garlic and saute a minute or two longer.  Add veggie stock, seasonings, and pasta.  Stir, cover, and return to a slow simmer.  Cook until pasta is starting to soften, about 6 minutes or so.  Add tomatoes and beans, cover and let simmer for another 10 minutes or so.  Taste your soup to make sure it doesn’t need any additional seasonings. 

And that’s it!  Easy, right?  Right.

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I’m going to enjoy the leftovers today for lunch!  What are some of your favorite rainy weather dinners?  🙂 

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Sweet Potato Stuffed Spud

Hi guys!  Guess who is getting her fall on?  Yep.  That’d be me!  Who is going to be SO sick of autumn inspired foods come spring?  Yep!  That’d be me!  I invite you all to join me in OD-ing on festive, healthy, fall inspired food with this idea I’ve been kicking around for a few days now.

So you know how you can have a stuffed spud with sour cream, chives, bacon, etc. etc.?  Well, I was wondering, what if you did a sweet potato that was stuffed with stuff?  And what if it was more of a hearty, healthy meal?  I’m on a real sweet + savory kick right now and I thought the spud idea could be included in this flavor pairing!  Plus, I’m kinda in love with cooking dinner in one pot these days.  So, three birds, one stone!  Winning! 😉

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Introducing the Sweet Potato Stuffed Spud!  Get your taste buds ready.

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Ingredients:

1/2 Peeled and Chopped Apple (Preferable something firm, tart, and tangy, like a Granny Smith, Fuji, or Braeburn)

1/4 – 1/3 Cup Peeled and Chopped Squash (like butternut or acorn–I used delicata, the trendy squash these days! Chop into bits about 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch)

2 Cloves Minced Garlic

1 Small Shallot, Minced

2 TBS Olive Oil (or oil your choice + a little extra for rubbing on potatoes)

1 Cup Cooked Lentils (I like to cheat, bad Jess! and use the pre-made ones from Trader Joes)

1/8 Cup Dried Cranberries and Raisins

1/2 Cup Veggie Stock

1/2 TBS Molasses

1/2 TBS Maple Syrup

1/2 TBS Apple Cider Vinegar

1/4 tsp Oregano & Dried Sage

Dash Nutmeg

1/8 tsp Ground Cinnamon

Salt & Pepper to taste

2 Large Sweet Potatoes or Yams, Washed Well & Dried

Optional:  Chopped walnuts/pecans

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Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Rub your washed potatoes with oil until nicely coated.  Place on a baking sheet lined with tin foil.  Pop in oven.  Depending on size, they will take upwards of an hour.  You can cut that time down if you want and up the temperature in the oven to 400 degrees.

In a large pot, drizzle olive oil and saute the shallot and garlic for about two minutes.  Add your chopped squash, a little salt and pepper, and cook over medium low heat until squash starts to soften; about five minutes.  Add veggie stock, molasses, vinegar, maple syrup, and spices.  Bring to a boil.  Stir in the lentils, cranberries, and raisin, and let come to a boil.  Lastly, add your apple, stir, and cover.  Turn heat down to a low simmer and let cook until apples and squash are soft, about twenty minutes.

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Sweet potatoes will be done when easily pierce through by a knife.

To plate, cut the sweet potato in half, then stuff with the lentil/apple/squash.  Top with nuts (walnuts are awesome!) and serve with a side salad.  Makes 2 totally stuffed sweet ‘taters!  Enjoy!

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Let me tell you, this meal was indeed the perfect blend of sweet and savory.  The sweet potato was creamy and when paired with the filling, became rich and took on an almost buttery quality.  All that was left were the empty skins.  The raisins and cranberries just added a happy, sweet note and balanced out the shallot/garlic combo.  Nick was skeptical about it, but tore into his dinner in rapid order, and was even vocal about how much he liked it!  All in all, I’m stuffed. 😉

Happy autumn eating y’all!

Deconstructed Shepherd’s Pie

Happy Saturday, Everyone!  I hope you all are getting into something fun, relaxing, and generative!

Since autumn has starting showing up all around (though not in the weather today–it is hot and sunny! Poor us, I know!) I have been inspired to make hearty, warming dishes.  When I was a kid, my mom used to make Shepherd’s Pie and since going vegan, it has been something I have tried to recreate.  But, as you other vegans already know, it can get tricky replicating “meat” in a believable and satisfying way. ‘Course, I’m still new to this vegan thing and I know I have lots to learn!

Anyway, I’m very pleased with this recipe–pleased enough to share with you all. 🙂

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May I present for your eating pleasure, Deconstructed Shepherd’s Pie!  When my mom made it, she would have the meat gravy under the mashed potatoes, then bake it.  I did not have the patience to do this last night, but I’m sure you could make it that way and bake it–or freeze and bake later when in a pinch for dinner.  This recipe is comprised of two parts–the gravy and the mashed potatoes.  The amounts of each ingredient are flexible, depending on your own person tastes, and I encourage you to play with it to get it just right.  Also, note that this made two large servings, so double the recipe if you want leftovers or have a family.

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Hearty “Meaty” Gravy

1-2 Tbs Olive Oil

1/2 Onion, Diced

3 Cloves Garlic

1/2 Cup Sliced Mushrooms (I like using crimini, but you could use whatever you have handy)

1/2 Package Lentils (I like these–a helpful little cheat when pressed for time!)

1/4 Walnuts

1 tsp Ground Sage

1 tsp Thyme

Small dash of Allspice

Salt & Pepper (to taste)

1 Tbs Worcestershire Sauce

1/4 Cup Veggie Stock

1/4 – 1/2 Cup Beer (Yes, beer!  I used an IPA, but a porter, stout, or even just plain old Bud would work.  Beer has gluten, but I’m sure you could use gluten-free beer and make the dish gluten-free, too.)

Several Ladles of the potato starch water, as needed.  The principle here is the same when cooking pasta and you want a creamier sauce so you add a little bit of the pasta water into your sauce.

Directions:

Sautee the onions in the olive oil in a large pot.  Add some salt and pepper.  When onions are mostly translucent, add minced garlic.  Sautee for a minute more, then add sliced mushrooms.  Sautee and stir until the mushrooms start to wilt and release their juices.  Then add in the lentils, walnuts, seasonings, and liquids.  Cover and simmer for as long as you want.

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While this is going you can also have your mashed potatoes getting ready, too!

Vegan Mashed Potatoes (Easy-Peasey!)

3-4 Peeled Russet Potatoes, Chopped into roughly 2 inch x 2 inch hunks.

Unsweetened Almond Milk (or veggie stock, or other nondairy milk)

2-3 Tbs Earth Balance

Salt & Pepper (to taste.)

Directions:

In a large pot place chopped potatoes.  Cover in water plus extra for use in above recipe.  Place lid on pot, and boil until potatoes are soft when pierced through the center with a fork or knife.

Drain off water, add in earth balance, salt, pepper, and milk (add gradually until you get the right consistency) as you rough mash with a handheld mixer.  Once you feel you have enough liquid, turn on mixer to whip up the potatoes.

Then, you put the whole thing together!

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Enjoy!  It is a pretty easy meal to make. I always serve with steamed green beans as my mom used to put green beans in between the layer of gravy and potato.  You can also serve with peas if you are feeling a bit more English pub-fancy.  🙂

And in other news, I got my first non-family/friend backer on Kickstarter!  I’m stoked!  I changed a few things, such as my photo (too serious!) and addressed the most important features/benefits by putting them first and foremost.  It’s like selling real estate, y’all.  😉  Hope my new approach works!  Keep my project in your thoughts, guys!  It’s all about building that energy that attracts the right people.  🙂

Anyway, peace out.  I have to go clean bathrooms.  Have a super fun day and let me know if you try this recipe out!  I hope you do!  But not while cleaning bathrooms.  That would be unsanitary.

Friday? Heck Yes. Sweet Potatoes with Caramelized Onions? Heck YES.

Everyone.  I have a most excellent recipe I’d like to share with you all to celebrate the weekly return of Friday and help usher in a fall-tastic weekend!

First, let me explain a bit about what inspired this recipe.

1. I wanted something yummy, vegan, and different to share on here!

2.  I wanted to experiment with the savory + sweet flavor combo.

3.  I wanted to create something fun and fall-tastic that could be a Thanksgiving side-dish contender.

Let me say, I achieved all these objectives.  Initially, my idea was to use butternut squash in place of the sweet potatoes.  But….when I went to grab my butternut squash….well, let’s just say it was long past the point of being edible.  Bummer.  But I was still tasting for this savory + sweet combo and grabbed my new bag of sweet potatoes and rocked it out.

Have you ever caramelized onions?  I haven’t.  But it sounded like a great start to the savory aspect to this dish.  For all of you out there that are like me and haven’t caramelized onions let me tell you this:  it. is. easy.  For this recipe I wanted to layer in the flavors, so I used coconut oil to saute the onions, and added a bit of maple syrup (instead of sugar) to get them nice and caramel-y.

Step One:  Slide/dice/chop up 1/2 an onion.

Step Two: Saute up in a pan with a Tablespoon or more coconut oil (you could use olive oil, too).

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Step Three:  Add a Tablespoon maple syrup, a dash of salt and some pepper.

Step Four:  Saute up over medium heat until the onions are soft and browned all over.

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I left my onions just a wee bit un-browned because I had big plans for them!  They were going to be a main highlight in my sweet potato dish!

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Sweet & Savory Sweet Potatoes w/ Caramelized Onions

Ingredients:

4 medium sized sweet potatoes, peeled & chopped into bite sized chunks

Caramelized Onions

1 TBS additional coconut oil

1 TBS additional maple syrup

Dash of nutmeg

1/4 tsp ground sage

salt & pepper

Instructions:

Put all ingredients into a large mixing bowl.  Toss to coat the sweet potatoes.  Place sweet potatoes in a tinfoil lined Pyrex and place in the oven.

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Bake at 375 for about 30 minutes (or until the sweet potato is soft and browned).  Toss at 15 minutes for optimal, even browning.

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I couldn’t stop eating this as evidenced by the slightly blurry photo here, that I stopped to take between mouthfuls of sweet potato bliss.  Between the caramelized onions and the baking sweet potatoes, the house smelled incredible.  Keep in mind that the amounts in this recipe are flexible and can be tailored based on your own personal tastes.  This recipe is pretty easy to make and I could see the leftovers being pureed up and turned into a savory tart filling.  ….That is, IF there are leftovers! 😉

Have a fabulous, fall-riffic Friday!  Try this recipe out and let me know if you are as delighted by the savory + sweet as I am!

Vegan Almond Joy Recipe Review + General Me Stuff

Hi guys!

Have you ever just had one of those moments where you are so grateful to just be alive?  Where the colors seem more vibrant, the sun feels like it’s hugging you, and you really feel connected to everything?  Sounds strange, but I had one of those moments today.  Everything was calm, beautiful, pure, and I was…present.  Not thinking about Kickstarter, or the business, or who I might need to get in touch with for a project; not thinking about my dog, or the piece of mail I forgot to send; no.  No thoughts. And no, I wasn’t on anything, either.  🙂

It was pretty awesome.  I’m honestly not even sure what triggered it–I guess I just got out of my car to have lunch with my dad today and was in that state of mind.  Anyway, lunch with dad was fun, and insightful, as per usual.  I was explaining to him that I struggle to be a hardass with our clients.  My preference is to be fair with everyone, and not see them from the place of, “What can I take you for?  What can I get out of you?” and rather, “What can I contribute here?  What can we create, together?”  I don’t like having to manipulate or play politics. I don’t like negotiations and I don’t like having to “sell” people on a design.  The longer I do this job, the more I realize everyone wants to play designer, but rarely anyone has taste, and because it’s all so subjective, people think their 2 cents matter when it really shouldn’t.  It just shouldn’t.  Trust the people you hire to deliver.  End rant.

My dad’s thoughts? “Well, that’s business.”

I’m seriously beginning to wonder if this business stuff is for me.  I feel I can’t trust anyone; that they are just working me (us) and I fall right into their trap. Every. Time.  Then I just get pissed off that we got taken advantage of, or could have negotiated a better price for our work.  I get anxious many times during the day when I have to “deal” with a client, over something simple.  I’m really beginning to think I really just suck at business and this has shaken my confidence to the core.  I can’t even make a simple email happen without considerable thought now.

Sorry to be such a Debbie Downer.  I just wish it were easier!  And that, to have the success I’d like to have, I don’t have to morph into a sneaky, raging a-hole.

Okay.  ….phew.  That’s a lot.  Let’s move on, shall we?

RECIPE TIME!  YES.  Best. Part. of. the. Day!

http://realfoodrealdeals.com/2013/09/21/almond-joy-truffles/

Found this totally yummy recipe for Vegan Almond Joy Truffles on a sweet little site called “Real Food.  Real Deals.” and I said, “Hell yeah, I wanna make THAT!”  So I did.  Photo!

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I give this recipe a solid 8.5 out of 10. (*note: reasons for point deductions have been clarified and the directions were not unclear.  I’m just an idiot, apparently. lol)

What I loved:

1.  5 ingredients.  (Winning!)

2.  Healthy ingredients.  (Woot.)

3.  Quick & Easy to make.  (Heck yeah.)

4.  Tasted great.  (Oh yeah, you know it!)

Why I deducted 1.5 points:

1.  Unclear directions.  Is the chocolate supposed to be melted?  The recipe doesn’t say.  I thought that for the sake of it be a truffle, the chocolate should be melted.  It’s only logical, right?  These kinds of things need to be clear for the idiots, like me.  I really dislike having to guess and potentially waste food.  If I had just added in the chocolate chips, not melted, it wouldn’t have turned out.  So, I’m sorry, but this whole chocolate issue cost ya one whole point, just for the stress on me and having to think.  I don’t want to have to think about a simple recipe.  No.  Do I LOOK like I want to think?  (If you could see my face, the clear answer would be, “No, you don’t want to think, Jessica.”)

*Update* So, you can just leave the chocolate unmelted.  The recipe is clear enough–I guess it just didn’t make sense in my little brain.  Hope you can forgive me, Real Deals Real Food!

2.  1/2 point was lost because these didn’t have the full, wow you in the mouth taste of a traditional, non-vegan almond joy.  They were good, don’t get me wrong!  And I fully suggest you all go out and make these!  Just be aware.  If you are thinking they are going to just like almond joys, don’t be fooled.  They are almond joy inspired.  But, that’s good enough for me!  I was just expecting it to be a little more similar to one of my favorite candies of all time.

3.  Last but not least, a little note.  I added just a touch of vanilla extract and a touch of almond extract.  It seemed like it was needed.  You don’t have to add it, and I don’t think it really made a difference in the price of rice in China, but it is something to consider if you agree with me on this point of view, which is: “If you are baking something, it should probably have vanilla in it, somehow.”

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These would make great little tea party treats or even dessert appetizers.  Um, I don’t know about this last photo.  Seemed like a good idea at the time!

Anyway, they are a nice little treat and I may have been to hard on ’em, so please know, I do give them a solid two thumbs up–make ’em.  They are pretty delightful–just make sure you melt your chocolate. 😉

Note:  Or don’t melt the chocolate.  🙂  As the original recipe intended.  But if you DO melt the chocolate, they come out dang tasty!

Weekend Round-up + Easy Dinner Recipe

I hope you all had a very enjoyable weekend!  I know I did!  It was nice to be busy on Saturday–having fun kept my mind off the Kickstarter stuff.  Son of Doo-Doo and Heather, Nick, Ruxin, and I went to Lizard’s Mouth Saturday afternoon to just hang out, have relax-y time, and watch the sun go down.  Little did I know that Ruxin is a mountain goat in dog form!  He scaled the rocks like a champion!  Lizard’s Mouth is crazy beautiful and has a glorious, sweeping view of the hills and ocean above Santa Barbara.  I’m amazed that I’ve lived in Santa Barbara most of my life and have never been there. 

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See what I mean?  Just beautiful.

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Goat Dog in action!  Look at him climb! 

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This is probably one of my favorite photos, ever.  🙂  Look at how victorious he looks!  So proud!  It was a total toss up for him–climb, or eat acorns, which there were a lot of, which he WOOFED down a lot of.  “They had a bunch of acorns; I ate a bunch of acorns.” 😉  Fortunately there were no adverse effects from all the acorn eating!  Yay!

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It was a little windy and started to get cold, so we packed up and headed back before the sun went down.

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After Lizard’s Mouth we headed back to Tingle Manor (Son of Doo-Doo and Heather’s place) and had veggie burgers and lost horribly at Catan. 

Yesterday Nick and I hung out here, went for a nice walk on Main Street, walked along the the ocean front, and had a long discussion on what we could do to get the word out about my Kicktarter project and just published book, “The Warkak and Snoozle.”  Guys, the few of you who read, if you have any suggestions here, I’d love to hear them.  Seriously.  Please message me and let me know if there is something else I could do, here.  🙂  Thanks!  My small victory was emailing the Dyslexic Kids facebook page to see if they’d share my book–it IS written in a dyslexic friendly font after all!  They did share the book on their page, wrote a very nice little introduction for their followers, and I’m so grateful–honestly, I don’t care about sales.  I care that people read and enjoy, like I did as a kid.  I think it is interesting that more people don’t publish using these sorts of heavy bottomed fonts.  They are so much easier to read, even if you don’t struggle with dyslexia.

Sunday dinner was not fancy, but I made one of my old stand-bys:  Tofu & Artichoke Couscous Medley. 

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Since going vegan I have had to create a couple of easy, quick, tasty, and healthy go-to recipes and this is one of them.  I keep my pantry stocked with the flavors and ingredients I enjoy, so that in a pinch, I can throw something together with relatively minimal effort.  I’d classify this recipe as more comfort food, vegan style, and often replaces mac-n-cheese around here.  On a side note, I know I give the things I make funny names, and if you have a better name, let me know!

Ingredients:

3 Cups Veggie Stock

1 Tbs Olive Oil (Optional, but tastier with it for obvious reasons!)

1/2 tsp Salt

1 + 1/2 Cup Trader Joe’s Harvest Grains Blend (it has Israeli Couscous, Orzo, baby garbanzo beans, and quinoa in it and makes a great base for many recipes.)

1 Can Artichoke Hearts, Rinsed, Drained, and Quartered

1 Package Tofu (Savory Kind)

Sun Dried Tomatoes

Toasted Chopped Pecans

Directions:

In a large pot, place veggie stock, olive oil, and salt.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Stir in couscous mix.  Turn heat down to low, cover, and let cook for about 7-8 minutes. 

Add tofu, stir, recover and let cook for another 2-3 minutes.

Add artichoke hearts and sun dried tomatoes, stir, cover, and let cook until all liquid has been absorbed; roughly another 3-5 minutes. 

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Serve with a salad and/or veggies.  I made peas and had some carrots and snap peas that I topped with a little Goddess dressing.  It was pretty tasty, hearty, and satisfying!  This recipe makes 4 servings and the leftovers are great cold, which I’m eying already, though it isn’t even lunch time.

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After dinner we went and visited our friend Matt (who is awesome!), brought a bottle of wine and some freshly baked pumpkin spice cookies (see last post!) and just hung out.  I should update that recipe as Nick and I felt that the cookies were better after the dough had been chilled over night.  The dough bakes fine without being chilled, however, but I’m not surprised that being chilled made it better, as this is the way with that type of dough! 

Visiting with Matt was a very nice end to a very nice weekend.  Now I guess it’s back to the grind!  I hope you all had a great weekend! If you have suggestions for how to help promote the Kickstarter or the book, please let me know!  🙂 

Friday Means The Weekend is Here! + Banana & Peanut Butter Yummies

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Happy Friday everyone!  What do you make when you want something sweet, semi-healthy, that is easy and quick to make?  Banana Yummies of course.  Well, I don’t know what else to call them, so you figure out the name.  I’ll just give you the recipe and directions!  Sure, this isn’t super original, but they are very tasty, so….here ya go.

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I also love the limited number of ingredients this recipe calls for!

Ingredients:

1 Banana (or more, depending on how many people you want to share the yummies with.  I find that if I make too much of a good thing, I eat too much of a good thing, and well, you guessed it!  It isn’t such a good thing in the end!  And by end, I mean MY end!) lol)

Peanut Butter &/or Almond Butter (I wasn’t sure which would be tastier, so I did half and half!  More on this to follow!)

4 TBS Chocolate Chips (I like the Enjoy Life brand, they are vegan, but if you aren’t vegan, use what you have around the house.)

1/2 Tsp. Coconut Oil (optional.  Makes the chocolate nice, smooth, and more melty.)

Directions:

1.  Slice up your bananas.  Lay slices on a small plate or baking sheet lined with wax paper.  Note:  I thought I was being all fancy to slice them diagonally.  I do NOT recommend doing this!  Had I thought about it better, I would have realized that trying to line up the tops with the bottoms down the road to make them sandwiched would be tricky.  Then, getting them all coated with chocolate would also be hard!  Boo!  Anyway, make them nice, coin shaped, about a 1/4 inch thick or so.

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2.  Put a little dollop of either peanut butter or almond butter in the center or 1/2 the slices.

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3.  Next, turn them into little sandwiches!

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See what I mean about how they don’t line up nicely?  Coin shaped, people!  Coin shaped! lol

4.  Put the little banana sammies in the freezer for about 10 minutes while you prep and melt your chocolate.

5.  Place the coconut oil in a small pan or pot.  Using medium low heat, melt the coconut oil.  Then add the chocolate chips and stir until the mix is nice and smooth.  Careful, vegan chocolate melts kinda funny sometimes!  It can burn much faster than regular chocolate.

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6.  Place semi-frozen banana sammies on a fork, then spoon chocolate all over them until they are completely covered.  Then place back on the wax paper.  Once all sammies have been covered in chocolate, put them back in the freezer.

7.  Let freeze for about an hour.  Eat, enjoy, share, eat…. 🙂

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Almond Butter vs Peanut Butter!  Which tasted better, you might ask?  BOTH were equally AMAZING.  I’d suggest try making both and have a taste test like we did around here.  Nick and I couldn’t decide which was better.  If you make ’em and have a preference, I’d love to know!

Next order of business:  KICKSTARTER UPDATE.  Well, I have SIX backers!  Um, yes, they are all friends and family.  So, at least I know who I’m giving a kidney to should they ever need one! 😉  I’m starting to get a little nervous that people may not “get” my idea, or something.  On my Kickstarter stats, people watch my entire video only 20% of the time!  Guys.  Watch the FULL video.  There are outtakes and they are funny; certainly worth sticking around for!

27 days left on Kickstarter!  Ah!  Okay, here is the link again, in case y’all missed it.

And here is the facbook page for Modern Pirate Quarterly!  Go “like” it!  You know you do! 🙂

https://www.facebook.com/Modernpiratequarterly?ref=hl

Last but not least, people, have a great Friday!