Sunday, August 25, 2013

White Bean and Leek Soup

This a lower-glycemic, higher protein take on the classic potato-leek soup (vichyssoise). I found it very tasty and satisfying. The white beans gave it an excellent texture without any of the glueyness of the potato version. If you've never experimented much with leeks, you should give them a try. They have a unique mild onion flavor.

White Bean and Leek Soup
White Bean and Leek Soup

3 large leeks
2 15 oz cans white beans, rinsed and drained (or 3 cups cooked from scratch)
5 cup water or veggie broth
2 bay leaves

1-2 Tbsp olive oil

1 tsp salt
1 tsp lemon pepper or other salt free seasoning
¾ tsp dill weed
½ tsp dried tarragon
½ tsp dried thyme
3 tsp veggie broth powder or bouillon (omit if using veggie broth instead of water above)

1 Tbsp lemon juice (optional, brightens flavor)

Prepping the leeks
Prep the leeks: Cut off a ¼ inch or so of the scraggly root end, wasting as little as possible. Cut off 3-4 inches of the dark tops and set aside. Take the rest of the leek and cut it in half lengthwise, then slice into very thin half-moons. Separate the layers with your fingers, then place in a large bowl. Fill the bowl with water and swish around to clean off any dirt from between the layers. Pour off the water, refill with fresh, and repeat until you are satisfied with the cleanliness of the leeks. Drain thoroughly. 

Sauteing the leeks

Oil the bottom of a large soup pot. Add the leeks and the salt and cook over medium heat until tender (but not necessarily brown). This will take at least 10 minutes, maybe 20.

Making the leek-top broth

Take the leek tops that you set aside and wash them, separating the layers. Place them in a saucepan with the water/veggie broth and bay leaves. Simmer for anywhere from 10-30 minutes, whatever is convenient—I stopped when the other leeks were done. Strain, and discard the leek tops and bay leaves.

Add the white beans and remaining seasonings to the large soup pot. Add the leek-top broth from the saucepan too. Take an immersion blender and partially puree the soup, leaving a few chunks for texture.

Stir in the lemon juice. Let simmer for a few minutes to blend flavors, then taste and adjust for salt and other seasonings.

You can serve the soup hot with crackers or croutons.  This soup would also be very good served in a bread bowl.

White-Bean Leek Soup with crumbled saltine crackers

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Easy Lemony Glazed Carrots (Low-Cal)

This is a nice way to make vegetables more interesting without adding a bunch of calories. The tangy, lemony sauce is a good balance for the sweetness of the carrots--a better one, in my opinion, than the super sweet and buttery traditional version of glazed carrots.

I like having cooked vegetable dishes like this in the fridge; I find I’m more likely to eat healthy when it’s convenient and already prepared.

Lemony Glazed Carrots

Easy Lemony Glazed Carrots

1 lb carrots

½ cup water
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup sugar or sweetener
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1/8 tsp turmeric
a dash of cinnamon
a dash of ginger
Salt and pepper (optional)

If you’re using big carrots, slice them into coins or sticks. If you’re using baby carrots then just leave them whole.

Steam the carrots until tender (about 10 minutes). You can cook the carrots by an alternate method such as roasting, sauteing or microwaving if you prefer.

Lemon Sauce
While the carrots are cooking, whisk together all sauce ingredients. Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook until thickened. You can use either the stovetop or microwave for this.

When the carrots are done, transfer them to a serving bowl and pour the sauce on top. Stir to coat. Season with salt and pepper if you wish; the lemon makes it taste fine with no salt though.

Stirring in the lemon sauce

Note: The sugar free version of this recipe (using a sweetener such as stevia or splenda) is very good, and so low calorie it's virtually equivalent to eating plain vegetables—just tastier.

Tasty and healthy

Friday, August 16, 2013

Curried Apple and Onion Pan Sauce

A pan sauce is usually a quick sauce that you can whip up in the same pan you cooked your main dish in. Multitasking with two pans is a lot faster if you can manage it, though :)

I served this spooned over Mashed Tofu Cutlets, but other baked or sauteed tofu dishes would work too.

Curried Apple-Onion Sauce

Curried Apple and Onion Pan Sauce

1 large apple
1 medium onion
1 Tbsp minced garlic
2-3 tsp oil
1 tsp curry powder
1/4-1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
salt & pepper

1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar or sweetener
2 tsp cornstarch
6 Tbsp water
1/8 tsp turmeric


Sauteing the apples and onions
Slice the apple and onion into 1/4 inch strips, then halve the strips down to a more manageable length. 
Saute the garlic in the oil over medium heat until fragrant and very lightly browned. Add apple and onion and saute until softened and browned. A minute or two before the apple and onions are done, stir in the curry powder, ginger and cinnamon and let them toast but not burn.

Whisk together all the rest of the ingredients (lemon juice through turmeric) in a small bowl, making sure to mash out any clumps in the cornstarch.

When the apples and onions are done, pour in the lemon juice mixture. Stir continuously as it thickens to your liking; this should happen quite quickly (possibly less than a minute). Taste and adjust salt and pepper.

Spoon over tofu or seitan.

Curried Apple-Onion Sauce over a Mashed Tofu Cutlet

If you'd like a juicier sauce, you could double the lemon juice mixture while keeping the amount of apple and onion the same.

You could dice the apple and onions finely and add a little dried fruit or crystallized ginger for a chutney-like effect.

Other fruits and vegetables could be used in place of or in addition to the onions and apples. I think a red bell pepper would add a nice splash of color.

The sugar free version of this recipe, using stevia or splenda in place of the sugar, works very nicely.

A good sauce can really round out a nice meal

Vegan Chocolate Éclair Cake (with Vegan Vanilla pudding and Chocolate Glaze)

Vegan Chocolate Eclair Cake
If you’ve never heard of a Chocolate Éclair Cake before, I must warn you that it is neither an éclair nor a cake. Instead it is a one of those classic assembled desserts that combine various types of instant pudding, whipped topping and other prepackaged foods to a very tasty if not necessarily nutritious or sophisticated effect. These nostalgic recipes are often somewhat troublesome to veganize because of all those inflexible prepackaged ingredients.

The traditional recipe involves mixing prepared instant vanilla pudding with whipped topping, and then layering the mixture with graham crackers and finally topping the whole thing with an entire jar (!) of melted chocolate frosting and chilling overnight.

To veganize it, I whipped up a quick from scratch vegan vanilla pudding in place of the instant pudding (although you may actually be able to find a vegan brand if you like) and replaced that jar of frosting with a light, not-too-sweet chocolate glaze. For the whipped topping, I actually have a local source for a store-bought vegan whipped topping called Smackin’ Whip, so I used it. However, homemade would have worked okay for that too. For a discussion of homemade vegan cool whip strategies and a recipe, look here. I also replaced the graham crackers, which are sometimes difficult to find honey-free, with gingersnaps. Any other thin, crunchy cookie would work too.

With all these homemade components, there’s the issue of taking a very quick and easy recipe and making it much harder and more involved. I compensated for this by making some of the components (such as the pudding) on different days in larger batches, and then assembling the leftovers into this dessert. The final result was therefore not too time or energy intensive.

Vegan Chocolate Éclair Cake

2 cups chilled Vegan Vanilla Pudding (recipe follows)
1 ½ cups vegan whipped topping
30-36 gingersnaps (enough to line the pan three times)
1 recipe Chocolate Glaze (see below)

1st layer of cookies

Line the bottom of an 8 by 8 inch baking pan with 1/3 of the gingersnaps, breaking some of them if necessary.

Mixing the pudding and whipped topping

Fold the vanilla pudding and whipped topping together.

Spread half of the resulting mixture in an even layer over the gingersnaps. Lay a second layer of cookies over the pudding. Pour on the second half of the pudding mixture.
Arrange the final layer of cookies on top, then pour on the chocolate glaze and smooth with a spatula. The top can be decorated with sprinkles or toasted coconut if you like.

Covered with glaze and ready to chill

Chill overnight and cut into squares to serve.

Vegan Vanilla Pudding:

Vegan Vanilla Pudding
2 cups vanilla or plain soymilk
1/3 cup sugar or sweetener
2 ½ Tbsp cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
1 ½ tsp vanilla
2 tsp oil (margarine would be okay too)

Mix together sugar/sweetener, cornstarch and salt in a saucepan. Add about ¼ cup of soymilk and stir into a smooth paste, mashing any clumps. Whisk in the rest of the soymilk and bring to a simmer over medium heat (or medium low if your stove runs hot). Stir constantly. Simmer 3-5 minutes, until thickened with large bubbles forming. The pudding should be a little thinner than you like because it will continue to thicken as it cools
Simmering away
Take it off the heat and stir in the vanilla and oil. Transfer to a bowl and chill for at least a few hours.

The flavors, such as spices and extracts could be varied as much as you want. Ground cinnamon or coconut extract would be particularly nice.
The amount or type of thickener can be changed as well if you prefer a different texture or have a corn allergy. Potato starch or arrowroot can be substituted for the cornstarch 1 for 1.

Chocolate Glaze:

1 cup water
½ cup sugar or sweetener
¼ cup cocoa or carob powder
2 Tbsp cornstarch 
pinch of salt
½ tsp vanilla
1-2 Tbsp vegan chocolate or carob chips (more if you like)

Vegan Chocolate Glaze
Whisk together sugar/sweetener, cornstarch, salt and water. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring continually. Simmer about 2 minutes, or until thickened. Pull off the heat and stir in vanilla and chocolate chips. Stir until chocolate melts, then pour on top of the éclair dessert.

This recipe can also be used as a cake glaze, or a hot fudge sauce.

I like this Chocolate Eclair Cake quite a bit. It was creamy and refreshing on a hot day, and convenient to make ahead. 

Chocolate Eclair Cake