White Bean and Sage Dip


I was originally not going to post this recipe because I whipped it up in a hurry and thought it was too simple. But then I took it to a party with me last night and was surprised to find that it was a huge hit! I guess simple is often better.

Originally I was inspired to make this because I have a sage plant growing in my kitchen that was looking a little scraggly, and was desperately in need of a trim. As I’m sure you are aware, pruning your herb garden means cooking with the cast-off trimmings. I think most people think of sage primarily for things like turkey and stuffing, but since we are vegan and gluten-free, I had to come up with another way to use it. I remembered that sage pairs really well with white beans, and since I knew I had a party coming up, I figured I’d make a dip to stand in for the ubiquitous hummus platter.

Working with sage is a really enjoyable experience. If you’ve never played with fresh sage in your kitchen before, I think you will be pleasantly surprised. Not only does it smell amazing, but the tactile experience is fun too. Sage is furry! And it chops up really fine without getting crushed and soggy like some other herbs can.

This dip is great with veggie crudites, the same way you’d eat hummus. But also really does well as a spread on crackers or bread. I spread my leftovers on a raw gluten-free “bread,” topped it with lettuce, onions, tomatoes, and a tiny bit of fleur de sel for an open-faced sandwich. Heaven.

I used cannellini beans for this, but I think navy or great northern beans would work great too. I also opted to use garlic oil instead of putting raw garlic into the dip because I wanted only the tiniest hint of garlic, and I didn’t want it to overwhelm the sage. If you are a garlic nut, go ahead and toss a few cloves in and see how it goes.

NOTE: You can easily make your own garlic oil by slicing the cloves from a bulb of garlic and warming them gently in about a cup of oil. You don’t want them sizzling violently and jumping out of the pot, just heated through enough to infuse flavor into the oil.

White Bean and Sage Dip (or Spread)

Ingredients

  • ½ pound (1 cup) white beans, soaked and cooked OR 2 cans beans, drained and rinsed
  • Juice of 1 lemon (meyer lemon if available)
  • ½ teaspoon salt, or more to taste
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • ½ cup garlic oil or fruity olive oil
  • A large palmful of sage leaves, chopped fine

Method

Place the beans, lemon juice, salt, and pepper into a food processor and process until a thick paste forms. Using the feeder tube and with the food processor still running, add the oil. Continue to process until the texture is very smooth. Add the sage leaves and pulse a few times just to mix them in.

Serve as a dip or a spread. Will keep in the fridge for several days.

Makes about 3 cups

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Spicy Ginger Peanut Noodles


I cannot tell a lie: this is one of my favorite noodle recipes to eat.

It’s not because I love peanut butter, and ginger, and sesame. It’s not because I love that you can make this as spicy or as mild as you like. It’s not because it’s super easy, although all those things are nice too.

It’s really because every time I make it, it’s a little different. Depending on what fresh ingredients I have in my fridge or growing in my herb garden, I can always change it up a little, and it always tastes amazing and fresh. And because of that, it’s easy to customize the recipe to include ingredients that you love, so that you can make it just the way you like it. Like a little extra heat? Just go for the max number of thai chilis. Like it a little milder? Seed one jalapeno and use that instead. Hate carrots? Leave ’em out. Crazy for ginger? Up the quantity to two tablespoons….

TIP: Smaller chilis are more potent than larger chilis of the same variety. Chilis grown in a hotter, more humid climate are spicier than those grown in a cool, dry climate.

TIP: If using the optional vegetarian “chicken,” read ingredients carefully before you buy to make sure that your variety is vegan. Also, look for brands that are made in the USA; brands made in taiwan or china may not include all ingredients on the label, and may not be vegetarian at all. If I am using vegetarian “chicken,” I go to my local asian mega-mart and look there. They carry US brands, and they are typically much cheaper than popular grocery store brands such as Morningstar Farms.

What other fresh ingredients would YOU add to these noodles?

Spicy Ginger Peanut Noodles

Ingredients

  • 12 oz spaghetti, preferably whole wheat
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup white sesame seeds
  • 3 tbsp peanut butter (chunky, smooth, or other)
  • 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, finely diced
  • 5 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 -4 thai chilis, chopped (or 1 jalapeno, chopped, or 1 tsp tabasco sauce)
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2-3 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp black (or white) sesame seeds
  • 2 carrots, peeled and grated
  • 4 spring onions, sliced on the bias
  • 8 oz vegetarian “chicken” shreds, or strips sliced into long, thin pieces (optional)
  • Any other veggies or herbs  you want to add (i.e. celery or chilis sliced on the bias; shredded raw kohlrabi, turnip, or jicama; fresh parsley, mint, or chives; etc.)

Method

Break spaghetti in half before cooking (this will make it easier to distribute the rest of the ingredients evenly at the end). Cook pasta to al dente in salted water according to package directions. Drain, and place in a very large bowl. Add toasted sesame oil to the pasta, and use tongs to toss the spaghetti in the oil; this will keep it from sticking.

Meanwhile, place 1/4 cup sesame seeds in a dry pan, and toast over medium heat until aromatic and just starting to brown a little. Set aside to cool a little bit.

Place peanut butter, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, rice vinegar, chilis or hot sauce, brown sugar, and toasted sesame seeds into your blender. Blend until smooth. Add water 1 tablespoon at a time, until the mixture is the consistency of cream.

Pour the dressing over the noodles. Add the black sesame seeds, carrots, spring onions, veggie  chicken, and any other veggies or herbs to the bowl. Use tongs to toss. Serve room temperature or cold.

Makes about 8 servings.

Baked Flour Tortilla Chips

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My husband and I used to eat at a local restaurant where they’d always present a lovely bread basket at dinner time. It featured some kind of crusty white bread, some corn bread, and some delightfully crispy and spicy baked tortillas. For me, it was the tortillas that always stole the show, and so I decided to figure out how to make them.tortilla chips-091010-0001

I was happy to find that they are deceptively easy. The texture is so light and crispy, and you can really dial them in by playing with the spices any way you like. These are great for rounding out a bread basket, dipping into hummus or guacamole, or as an impressive garnish for a hearty soup or stew.

They are also great for straight-up snacking, and beat the pants off store-bought flour chips!

Have I mentioned they are EASY??

Baked Flour Tortilla Chips

Ingredients

  • 1 package fresh flour tortillas (white, whole wheat, or whatever you like)
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • Spice blend from my pumpkin seed recipe, OR chili powder and a little salt

Method

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.tortilla chips-091011-0003

Use a pastry brush to lightly brush just the top side of each of the tortillas with olive oil, and then dust liberally with several dashes of spice blend or chili powder and salt. Place the tortillas in a stack as you go. When you are done, move the bottom tortilla to the top of the stack (this puts the bottom of that tortilla in contact with the oil and spice from the tortilla below it).

Cut the stack in half, then in half again, and then again to make wedges (a bread knife works best for this, cut gently). Arrange wedges in a single layer on cookie sheets.

Bake for 8-12 minutes, rotating the pans half way through baking time. When I rotate the pans, I also like to move the chips that are on the outside to the center of the pan for even baking.

These are done when they are lightly puffed and crispy (if they start to turn a little brown, they have gone too far so try to pull them out before that happens). Let them cool on a wire rack, and store in a large glass or plastic container.

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Spicy Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

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It’s that time of year…everyone I know is cracking open pumpkins and carving them into spooky visages. This was a favorite ritual of mine as a kid, and one of the best parts about carving a pumpkin is the gorgeous seeds that are harvested from the innards. I remember trying to roast the seeds once or twice as a kid; I didn’t really know the best way to go about it and I ended up with burned, salty, unpleasantly chewy bits. But I didn’t know better so I ate them anyways.pumpkin-seeds-091010-0002

I forgot all about roasted pumpkin seeds until last year when I went to make a vegan pumpkin pie. I got a fresh pie pumpkin from the farmers market, and pulled out the seeds. I hate to throw anything away, so I did a little research on the best way to roast the seeds. Of course I had to give it my own twist and up the ante with a little kick.

These are the perfect pumpkin seeds. They are crisp and crunchy, and the spices really make them something special. My husband actually thinks they taste a little like bacon bits, but neither of us has had bacon in years, so I think he is saying that because of the combination of salt and crunch.

One of my favorite things about this recipe is listening to the crackling of the pumpkin seeds as they’re cooling; for some reason it is a very satisfying sound.

TIP: If you don’t have fresh pumpkin on hand, you can always buy your pumpkin seeds online.

Spicy Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Ingredients

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  • 4 cups pumpkin seeds, washed and squeaky clean
  • 4 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
  • cooking spray
  • spice mixture (see below)

Method

Preheat your oven to 400°F, and adjust your oven racks to accommodate 2 cookie sheets.

Put a large pot of water on to boil (around 4 quarts water). Put the salt into the water.

When the water is at a rolling boil, add pumpkin seeds and boil for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, brush a tablespoon of oil onto each of your cookie sheets.

When time is up, drain pumpkin seeds and transfer to your lubed cookie sheets. Give them a stir to coat them with some of the oil, then spread them out into a single layer on each sheet. Pop the cookie sheets into your hot oven for 20 minutes. When time is up, pull the cookie sheets out one at a time, stir the seeds, and redistribute into a single layer. Rotate cookie sheets, and cook for another 20 minutes. The seeds will start to crack and pop and jump in the oven. Enjoy the show.

When time is up, remove cookie sheets from oven, turn off the oven heat, but close the door to keep as much heat in the oven as possible. Working quickly, spray each sheet with cooking spray, and then dust generously with the spice mixture. Stir the seeds, repeat one more time with cooking spray and seasoning, and then spread them back out into a single layer on each sheet. Return to the hot oven for 5 minutes. Remove the pans from the oven and let cool completely before eating.

Note: If the oven is still roaring hot, the spices that are left on the pan may produce a little smoke; but if so, don’t worry about it, that will actually add to the flavor.

Spice Mixture

  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt (or table salt)

Combine all ingredients in a small jar, an empty spice jar would be ideal. Shake to combine.

Here is where you can really get creative with this. Add some turmeric, play around with the heat by adjusting the cayenne, reduce the cumin, or add some crushed thyme or oregano. It’s up to you! Make it the way you like it.

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Little Tomato, Garlic, and Basil Salad

tomato-091002-0001Tomato season is almost over! We might have one more good week left here on the mid-Atlantic east coast before it’s gone.

This makes me sad. But fortunately for me, it’s been a great season for tomatoes.

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And fortunately for me, I’ve been getting these lovely bags of tomatoes the past few weeks from my CSA. There have been abundant heirlooms, romas, beefsteaks, cherry, and pear tomatoes. They have all been amazing, but it’s these little bitty cherry and pear tomatoes that really inspire me.

They have been showing up in mouth-watering shades of red, yellow, orange, and tiger striped. They are intensely sweet and delicious; I’d have to say that on the Tomato Flavor Scale™ of one to ten, these go to eleven. I love to eat them plain, but mixing them with a few other ingredients out of my CSA delivery really brings up their flavor.

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When I make this little salad, I tend to just leave it out on the counter and snack on on it as the mood strikes. Taking a few minutes to treat your tomatoes this way also makes them great to use for pizza topping or in wraps.

Also, I think it pays to take the time to chop your garlic by hand for this one. The texture and appearance is better than pressing it. It won’t take too much time to do this, I promise…it’s just one clove!

Trust me, your taste buds will thank you…

Tip: If you weren’t already aware, you should store your tomatoes at room temperature whenever possible for best flavor and texture.


Little Tomato, Garlic, and Basil Salad

Ingredients

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  • 1 generous pint cherry, pear, or small roma tomaotes
  • 1 generous handful basil
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • Olive oil (optional)

Method

Quarter your little tomatoes and put them in a bowl (romas may need to be cut into smaller pieces). Sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt to start pulling out some of the juices.

Chop your basil and mince your garlic, and add it to the bowl. Give the whole thing a splash of red wine vinegar, a splash of olive oil (if using), and a grind of pepper. Toss to combine, taste for seasoning and add a little more salt if necessary.

Let the mixture sit in its own juices on the counter for about 30 minutes, if you can wait that long. (I often cannot!)

When ready to use, strain out the juices and set aside. Enjoy your tomatoes at room temperature.

tomato-091002-0001-2Tip: You can also add a few other things to play with the flavors here. I’ve tried this with different combinations of herbs, including parsley and mint. I’ve also tossed in some diced roasted red pepper when I’ve had it on hand, and a little diced jalapeno for some kick.

BONUS TIP: Don’t throw away that liquid once you’ve strained your tomatoes! Everything that has been sitting in the bowl and marinating has given some flavor to that juice. You can use the liquid to replace some or all of the cooking liquid in your pizza dough or a savory bread. Use it to make a light salad dressing. Or add it to your next batch of soup or stock. If you don’t think you’ll use it right away, freeze it and it will be ready when you are.

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Happy Road Fudge

lemon-091004-0003Fudge. Vegan fudge. Vegan fudge that I fed to mixed company today, and which made everyone squeal with chocolatey delight. No one said, “I can’t believe this is vegan!” They just smiled happily as they tucked away piece after piece. Except for Michelle, who called my fudge stupid because she couldn’t stop eating it, despite her diet.

This recipe is modified from an America’s Test Kitchen recipe. Theirs is called Rocky Road. Mine is called Happy Road.

It keeps well in the fridge for up to a week, although you will probably notice that by the end of the week, the texture changes somewhat. It becomes a little denser and the marshmallows are a little less springy. But who am I kidding…it is so good that you won’t have any left by the end of the week anyways! So it is kind of a moot point.
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Happy Road Fudge

Ingredients

  • vegan shortening (or margarine), for greasing
  • 2 tablespoon non-dairy milk
  • 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
  • 1 1/4 cup non-dairy creamer (I like MimicCream for this but have used others as well)
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoon corn syrup (or agave nectar or simple syrup)
  • 16 ounces dairy-free semisweet chocolate , chopped fine
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate , chopped fine
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon chocolate extract (optional)
  • 1 cup vegan marshmallows, chopped into small pieces (I like Sweet and Sara)
  • extra powdered sugar (optional, for working with vegan marshmallows which can be sticky business)
  • 1 cup chopped salted peanuts
  • 1/2 cup dairy-free semisweet chocolate chips

Put a pot of water on to simmer with 1-2 cups water.

Line an 8 inch square baking dish with foil, and use vegan shortening to generously grease the sides.

Whisk arrowroot powder into soy milk thoroughly, and set aside.

Toss chocolates, baking soda, and salt in medium heatproof bowl until baking soda is evenly distributed.

In a small saucepan, heat soy creamer and corn syrup until it just begins to boil. Remove from the heat and whisk in the arrowroot/soy milk slurry. The mixture will thicken a touch. Pour over chocolate.

Whisk soy milk/creamer mixture, vanilla, and chocolate extract (if using) into chocolate, and set bowl over the saucepan containing simmering water. Stir with rubber spatula until chocolate is almost fully melted and few small pieces remain, 2 to 4 minutes.

Remove bowl from heat and continue to stir until chocolate is fully melted and mixture is smooth, about 2 minutes. Fold in marshmallows, peanuts, and chocolate chips. Transfer fudge to prepared pan and spread in even layer with spatula. Refrigerate until set, about 2 hours. Remove fudge from pan and remove foil. Cut into squares. To cut nice neat squares, keep a clean damp dishtowel or paper towel handy and clean the knife before each cut.

Anything that doesn’t get eaten right away can be stored in the refrigerator. Use wax paper between layers to keep the fudge from sticking to itself, and enjoy within one week.

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Simple Savory Avocado

food-090930-0003Avocados were not a food that I grew up eating. In fact, I don’t think that I even tasted an avocado until well into my 20s. I wish I could remember the first time my face encountered a perfectly ripe avocado’s rich, velvety smoothness and clean taste, which has now become something I absolutely adore.

While guacamole is a pretty well-known and DELICIOUS way to serve avocados, I also like them more simply done up: they really come into their own when roughly chopped and sprinkled over a hot bowl of chili, sliced thin and laid out over a veggie pizza in lieu of cheese, or mashed into some crusty grilled bread with just a pinch of coarse sea salt.

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One of my favorite ways to serve avocados is this easy dish. It takes just a few minutes to prepare (you could probably even get to sub-minute times if you really practiced) and the dressing can be made days in advance.

You can make your own variation by subbing in ginger, or another kind of vinegar, or some hot sauce. No matter how you go about it, this is a really impressive way to showcase any creamy ripe avocados you can get your mitts on. I like to make up the dressing and keep it in the fridge, so that I can pull it out and splash it over avocado halves as the mood strikes. You really couldn’t ask for a quicker, more elegant, or more satisfying small dish.

TIP: If your avocados are hard when you buy them, leave them on the counter for a day or two until they yield slightly to gentle pressure. They should retain some firmness and NOT feel squishy. As soon as you think you’ve got one at the height of its ripeness, you can toss it into the fridge for a few days to halt the process so that it will stay perfect until you need it. I actually prefer to buy my avocados on the hard side so that I can control how soft they get before they make it onto my plate.

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Simple Savory Avocado

Ingredients

  • Juice of one lemon (you MUST use fresh)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed or minced
  • Ripe avocados

Method

Prepare the dressing first. Combine the lemon juice, soy sauce, vinegar, and garlic in a small jar (or bowl). Shake (or whisk) to combine. Use immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to a week.

When ready to serve, halve, pit, and peel your avocados. Place in a bowl or on a platter, drizzle with the dressing, and garnish as desired (chopped parsley or a sprig dill are nice). Enjoy right away!

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