Thursday, January 31, 2013

Butternut Squash Hummus

Okay, okay, I promise I'll cool it with the butternut squash recipes soon! I swear, it's been my best friend (along with a variety of grains and beans) during the dairy and meat free challenge. That said, I made a version of this to bring to a party a couple months ago, and it was a huge hit! It's a riff off of a version that calls for just the squash and no chickpeas. I love the starchy thickness that the chickpeas offer, so I had to put them back in!

Butternut Squash Hummus
Adapted from Butternut Hummus from Whole Foods Market 

2 cups roasted butternut squash (i like to trim the top and bottom off a small squash, half it, seed it and roast face-side down in a baking pan with a little bit of water on 400 for 45 minutes)
1 can chickpeas
1 garlic clove
2 teaspoons cumin
8 green olives
Juice from 1 lemon
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Note, if you have tahini on hand (I'd just run out when I made this) add a few tablespoons for more true hummus flavor. It's fine without!

Add the first 6 ingredients (through lemon) to a food processor and pulse until smooth. Turn processor on and stream oil in through feed until desired consistency is reached. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with favorite dippers (I love with bell pepper slices and pita chips!)

Friday, January 25, 2013

Homemade dog treats

Unsuspecting puppy, doesn't know what's coming!
Surprisingly, we've never really blogged about Luke's homebrewing, even though he's been doing it for nearly four years! He built a beautiful kegerator (pretty enough that I allow it to be displayed in the house) that can hold four kegs. He even brewed the beer for our wedding, with the help of a couple groomsmen! He's often commented what a waste it is when he would discard the spent grain from the homebrew process, especially after we got Benji. It looks like the only catalyst we needed to actually make dog treats was to receive some cute dog-shaped cookie cutters. These were super easy, and Benji LOVES them!

Homemade dog treats

4 cups spent grain
2 eggs
1 cup peanut butter
2 cups flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients together until combined. Lay out a large sheet of parchment paper and pat the dough out to 1/2 inch thickness. Use cookie cutters to get desired shape, and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  
Dog bones and fire hydrants!

Bake for 30 minutes in 350 degrees, then reduce heat to 200. Bake another 2 - 2 1/2 hours, until dry. Store in the fridge and feed to your favorite canine friend!

Benji can't wait!

Satisfied :) He was nice enough to share with his favorite dog friends though!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

How to Make Spring Rolls

I love eating spring rolls - something about them makes me feel like I'm being super healthy. And what's not to love? Fresh veggies & flavor with none of the deep-fried guilt. Since we'd never tried them before, I was keen to give it a try. The first round we did was the Wintery Spring Rolls from 101 Cookbooks. Holy wow, these were amazing! I made a simple peanut dipping sauce to go with them. If you have a little time and a mortar and pestle, I highly recommend giving her recipe a try. If not, then proceed with the below!

I realized that once you have the technique down, you can stuff them with whatever you like. So, here's what we did to create our own version with what we had on hand with the fridge. Just make sure you have:
  • one protein (such as shrimp or tofu)
  • fresh herbs (I use a mix of cilantro/basil/mint depending what I have on hand)
  • crisp veggies (like grated carrots, lettuce mixes, etc.)
  • optional: roasted/sauteed veggies for added flavor (such as squash or mushrooms)
  • optional: sauce
  One more note - mis en place is crucial for this. In other words, make sure you have all your ingredients prepped and out so that you can have a quick assembly line.

Tofu and Butternut Squash Spring Rolls

8 rice paper wrappers
1 12-ounce block extra firm tofu
1/4 cup soy ginger sauce (or any other Asian sauce you love)
1 cup roasted squash cubes or sticks
1/2 cup roasted bell pepper
1/2 cup sauteed mushrooms
1 cup mixed greens
1/2 cup grated carrots
1/2 cup cilantro
8 basil leaves

Pat the tofu dry with paper towls and cut into 6 slabs. Brush on your sauce liberally on all sides. Heat a non stick skillet to medium high and spray with cooking spray. Cook tofu until golden brown on each side. Remove and let cool slightly, then cut each piece into 3 long slabs.

Fill a large baking dish or bowl with warm water. Dip the rice paper in for 3-4 seconds (no longer!) then set on a clean surface. In the middle off to one side, layer in 2 slabs of tofu and add a stick or two of squash, a couple bell pepper slivers, 2-3 mushroom slices, 3-4 green leaves, a sprinkle of carrots and cilantro and a basil leaf. Starting on the short side, begin rolling the spring roll. After one full rotation, fold int he sides and continue rolling until tight. Continue with the remaining spring rolls. 

Serve with your favorite dipping sauce (I did a version of my peanut sauce that I do for Asian noodle salads). If you're bringing some for lunch the next day, I recommend wrapping each one individually in wax paper and securing with a bit of tape to prevent sticking to each other.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Butternut Squash and Black Bean Tostadas with Avocado "Cream" Sauce

One of my favorite things about the dairy-free experiment is that I finally get to try some interesting recipes/techniques I never bothered with before. Case in point - cashew sour cream. Why would I bother making my own nut-based sour cream when I could just pick up a container of Daisy? I'd had my eye on the recipe for a while, so I decided to look for a dish that called for sour cream so I'd have a chance. 

The sour cream is DELICIOUS (Luke and I were instantly hooked) though we agreed it wasn't super like sour cream. It has the lactic sour tang, but the texture isn't there. It almost reminded me more of hummus in texture. Either way, it's delicious, and I recommend you try it! 

Butternut Squash and Black Bean Tostadas with Avocado "Cream" Sauce 
Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod's recipe

1 cup raw cashews
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 medium butternut squash (you'll want 4 cups cubed squash)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon cumin
Salt and pepper to taste 
1/2 red onion, sliced 
1/3 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1 avocado
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/2 jalapeno (or whole if you like things hot!)
1/2 cup cilantro, plus more for garnish
 Juice of 1 lime
2 15-oz cans black beans
4 ounces mixed greens
8 tostada shells

Start by making the cashew sour cream. Place cashews in a bowl and cover with an inch of boiling water. Let stand 30 minutes. Drain cashews, reserving water, and place in a blender. Add in 1/4 cup water along with vinegar, lemon and salt and pulse until smooth. Add additional water as needed. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss butternut squash with olive oil, cumin and salt and pepper. Roast 30 minutes, adding red onion half way through and tossing to combine.

Meanwhile, in a small-medium sauce pan, toast pepitas. Set aside. In the same pan, add black beans and warm up.

To make Avocado "Cream" sauce, add 1/2 cup cashew sour cream to a food processor with avocado, garlic, jalapeno, cilantro, lime and remaining tablespoon olive oil. Pulse until smooth.

To assemble, spread a thin layer of avocado cream sauce on a tostada shell. Top with greens and then squash and black beans. Finally, top with pepitas and cilantro and additional salt and pepper as needed. Enjoy!

Apologies for the worst photo ever. Trust me, doesn't do it justice! Courtesy of my iPhone at my desk at work...

Monday, January 14, 2013

Colorful Breakfast Hash with Sriracha

How are your New Year resolutions going? Being dairy free has been surprisingly easy for Luke and I, especially since I've allowed myself to cheat a few times here and there (a latte with milk when no other option was available, tasting a bite or 4 of wedding cake samples with a friend, yogurt in a mango lassi - all things in moderation, right?!) I'm looking forward to reintroducing it into my diet next month, with moderation, and am glad that this experiment is teaching me that I don't need dairy - cheese especially! - to be happy.

In other news, I still have a few miscellaneous boxes of items that never got unpacked from the move (9 months ago!), but I dug out this chalk board and took time to write out this week's menu on it. I typically just cut out the tiny corner of my shopping list where I write the week's menu and stick it on the fridge, so this is a big step up. Never mind my childish handwriting :)
So, onto a tasty breakfast! I know I've already posted a breakfast hash, but this one was just so colorful and fun, I had to share another. We loved not only the color, but the heat a little sriracha contributed. 

Colorful Breakfast Hash with Sriracha

1 pound fingerling potatoes - different colors if you can get them
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped (or 1/2 red bell and 1/2 yellow like I already had on hand, for more color)
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 cup rinsed black beans
2-4 eggs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut potatoes into bite-sized pieces and spread out on a baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, warm up a skillet on medium heat. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Add onion and bell pepper to skillet and saute 5-6 minutes. Season with cumin and cook another minute. Add black beans and cook until warmed through. Add cooked potatoes and stir to combine, then season to taste.

While veggies are cooking, bring a medium sauce pan half-way full of water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add 1-2 eggs and let poach 3-4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and place over hash. Drizzle with Sriracha and enjoy!


Yolk attack!!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Pear, Pomegranate and Pistachio Salad with Quinoa

I swear all the "P" alliteration wasn't intentional, but the awesome flavor was! I feel like I've been seeing pomegranate recipes everywhere, and I really started craving them. This salad was made in a flash since I already had some prepared quinoa on hand. Give it a try!

Pear, Pomegranate and Pistachio Salad with Quinoa

1/2 cup dry quinoa
2 ounces kale
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon walnut or olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
4 ounces spinach
1/3 cup pomegranate arils
1 ripe pear, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/3 cup pistachios

Prepare quinoa according to package instructions. Meanwhile, rinse kale and tear into bite-sized pieces. Whisk together garlic, mustard, vinegar, lemon, oil and salt and pepper. Add to kale and toss to combine, let sit 10  minutes.

In a large bowl, add spinach, pomegranate, pear and pistachios. Add cooled quinoa, then kale once 10 minutes is up. Toss to distribute the dressing, and enjoy!

Note, this would be equally lovely with a balsamic or any other vinaigrette, if you already have one on hand.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Spinach Noodle Salad with Peanut Dressing

If you're like me, New Years means new beginnings for your fridge and pantry. I was cleaning out my pantry when I found half a bag of thin egg noodles and remembered how much I like making Asian-inspired noodle salads. With my new pledge to ditch the meat and dairy (except eggs!), I thought this would be a great way to ease into things.

Spinach Noodle Salad with Peanut Dressing

1/2 cup cilantro, divided
1/4 cup natural creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon water
2 cloves garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
4 ounces thin egg noodles
1 cucumber, chopped
1-2 carrots, grated
2 green onions, chopped (light and dark green parts only)
1/4 cup peanuts
4 ounces spinach

For the dressing, combine 1/4 cup cilantro with peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar, honey, sesame oil water, garlic and salt and pepper in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Pour in a large bowl and set aside.

Set a pot of water to boil, then cook egg noodles, just 3-4 minutes. Drain and add to the dressing. Toss in cucumber, carrot, green onion, peanuts and remaining cilantro and toss thoroughly. Add spinach and toss, then serve.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Somewhat Shocking 2013 Resolutions

Instead of my annual new ingredients to try (though trust me, there are plenty of those!), I'm making a much larger effort this year at a New Year's resolution. My hope is that this drastic move will not only shed some pounds, but also challenge me to become a better cook and experiment with new flavors, ingredients and techniques. Though there will be less mac and cheese and more greens and grains, I hope you'll stick with me!

1. Ditch the dairy: that's right, this is a pretty bold move for me. Luke and I are giving it a month to see how sustainable it is for us. I've decided that this large step should help kick start greater consciousness every time I sit down to eat, not just the 75% of the time I'm usually careful countered by 25% splurges. Remember my Vegan Week? Will be channeling those efforts, but I know I've learned a lot since then too!
2. Goodbye to meat: Well, mostly. I'm not saying farewell, just bye for now. And expect seafood to keep popping up, along with my beloved eggs.

3. Eat more lentils. Tasty ideas from FitSugar along with my ever-trusty employer, Whole Foods Market should help me on this.
4. Eat even more leafy greens: Our garden has helped exponentially increase our leafy green consumption. Having fresh chard, spinach and kale at our disposal, along with those tasty beet greens before they got harvested, really helped in 2012. I let my daily green smoothie habit die when we moved to our new house, so my goal is to drink green at least 2 days a week again.
5. Make friends with tofu: I've managed to avoid it thus far, but with cutting down my meat intake, it's time to get creative and make friends with this vegetarian stand-by. Any tips are welcome :)

Here are some recipes I'm planning on trying or adapting in the coming weeks.

What's inspiring you for the New Year? Any resolutions you care to share? Have any resources for me?