Friday, October 25, 2013

Spinach Miso Soup with Tempeh Croutons

I've made some recent posts bragging about the lovely Indian summer in San Francisco.  Apparently, it's now over because it's been freezing cold here!  I know San Franciscans are notorious for complaining about cold weather that would be considered warm in other parts of the world, but still.  It's cold and all I want to do is eat soup.  So, here's a quick and easy soup recipe for the cold fall/winter days to come.

Makes 4 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided use
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium onion, sliced
4 cups of water 
2 bouillon cubes
4 cups of spinach, coarsely chopped (I used Bloomsdale spinach; you can use any leafy greens)
2 tablespoons miso paste (I used brown rice miso)
1 8-oz. package of tempeh, cubed
Shredded red cabbage, for garnish (optional)
Cashew cream, for garnish (optional) -- I used this recipe and thinned it out with some water so that it could be easily drizzled.
  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a pot over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and onion and sauté for a few minutes until fragrant and soft.
  2. Add the water and bouillon cubes and bring to a boil.
  3. Add the spinach, cook for 2 minutes or so, and then stir in the miso paste.
  4. Transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. (I did this in batches)
  5. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat.  Add the tempeh cubes and sauté for 2 minutes or so, until crispy and browned on all sides. 
  6. Add a few pieces of shredded red cabbage to the tempeh and sauté for a minute, until soft.
  7. Pour some of the soup into bowls, drizzle with cashew cream, and top with the tempeh croutons and red cabbage.  

I suppose this soup doesn't really have to be blended, but I preferred the texture that way.  It also creates a soup thick enough to prevent the tempeh croutons from instantly sinking to the bottom of the bowl.  The cashew cream didn't really add much flavor here, since the soup is super savory.  But it made for a nice presentation and color contrast.  And as I mentioned above, you can use any leafy greens that you have on hand...Swiss chard, bok choy, or the ever popular kale.

I really loved this soup.  It would make a great base for other soup creations.  Try adding in some rice, pasta, lentils, etc. to give it some more bite.  I ended up drinking most of it out of a cup.  So, I guess we can call this a warm and savory green smoothie. :)

Ok, maybe not.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

White Bean Chocolate Chip Cookies

I was super excited when I got my pressure cooker last year.  Within a week of getting it, I had made almost every bean dish that exists in the world.  And then for some reason, I fell out of love with my handy little pressure cooker and didn't touch it for months. It's a sad thing when kitchen gadgets lose their novelty. :(  Of course, this is total crazy talk because pressure cookers have been around forever and they make cooking dried beans so darn easy.  So, I pulled out my pressure cooker and went a little overboard with the white beans this week.  I'll be eating white beans for a while, which is a good thing in my book.  

Luckily, white beans can be used in so many dishes, including dessert!  I decided to play around with my previous lima bean cookie recipe.  I just thought I'd make a few small adjustments.  Don't you ever look back at one of your recipes and think, "What was I thinking?"  I thought the lima bean cookies were great, but I probably didn't give it due diligence in terms of recipe testing. I still don't know if this iteration is ready for prime time, but here it is anyway.  :)

Makes 1 dozen cookies

1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup coconut palm sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup cooked white beans (I used navy beans)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups spelt flour (or other whole grain flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips
1/2 cup sliced or chopped almonds (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Blend the oil, sugar, maple syrup, beans, and vanilla extract in a blender or food processor.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. 
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
  5. Fold in the chocolate chips and almonds.
  6. Using a cookie scoop or your hands, form tablespoon-sized balls of dough and place them on the baking sheet. Flatten each ball slightly using your fingers.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the edges are lightly browned.
  8. Leave the cookies on the baking sheet for a minute before transferring to a wire rack to cool.
As you can see from the ingredient list, these are basically your standard chocolate chip cookies, but with white beans added to the mix.  These were cakey cookies, which is the opposite of what you'd expect from cookie dough that's partially made of beans.  I didn't increase the amount of beans used in the original recipe, so I'm still curious to see what will happen if I do.  A third of a cup of bean purée isn't really much...but then again, we're not trying to make bean burgers here.  :)

I know half a cup of sugar, in addition to maple syrup, for only a dozen cookies may seem like a lot of sweetness, but coconut palm sugar isn't really that sweet. If you make these with another type of granulated sugar, you can probably decrease the amount to 1/4 cup.

The verdict? These cookies were a delicious and near guilt-free treat.  I love the fact that white beans are included because I'm a big fan of using typically savory ingredients in desserts.  Texture-wise, these may not satisfy chocolate chip cookie connoisseurs who swear by the crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside combo.  But all in all, I'd definitely make these again, especially since I've fallen back in love with my pressure cooker and foresee an abundance of beans in my kitchen. :)


Monday, October 7, 2013

Raw Kiwi Chocolate Cheesecake Bites

I know autumn is the time for pumpkin baked goods and I usually try to cook with the seasons.  However, it was such a hot Indian Summer day in San Francisco yesterday, there was no way I was turning on the oven!  Plus, I was in the mood to make a raw cheesecake.  It's so fun figuring out which fruits to use, the color combos, how many layers, the shape and size, etc.  If you're in search of a flexible dessert, this is it.

This time, I went with a kiwi topping since I thought the dark seeds would match well with a chocolate crust. Cooking is like choosing an outfit, you know. :) And who doesn't love a burst of green in desserts?  At first glance, you'd think these were minty green grasshopper pies. But alas, these are tiny bites of cashew creaminess topped with cool and refreshing kiwi purée.

Makes 12+ pieces 

12 mini silicone muffin cups (like these) or a 12-cup mini muffin pan lined with paper baking cups

1/2 cup raw almonds (or other nuts such as pecans or walnuts)
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 cup raisins (or pitted dates)
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (or cacao powder)
1 tablespoon maple syrup, optional -- if you want a sweeter crust!
A pinch of salt
  1. Grind the almonds in a blender or food processor for a few seconds. Not too long, just enough to break them down a bit.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and process until a sticky mixture forms.
  3. Divide the mixture evenly among the bottoms of the mini muffin cups and press down well to form a crust. Set aside.
Cheesecake Filling
Heaping 3/4 cups raw cashews (soaked in water for at least an hour or overnight, and then rinsed)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
A pinch of salt
  1. Blend all the filling ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth.
  2. Place the mini baking cups on a large plate or baking sheet. (if using the silicone cups)
  3. Spoon the filling evenly over each crust, making sure to leave some room on top for the fruit topping.  Use the back of a spoon to flatten out the tops.
  4. Cover with foil and place in the freezer to firm up for 30 minutes before adding the fruit topping.
Fruit Topping
2 kiwis, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon maple syrup, optional -- my kiwis were a little tart, so I added some maple syrup.
  1. Purée the chopped kiwis and maple syrup (if using) in a blender or food processor until smooth. 
  2. Spoon the kiwi purée over the top of each cheesecake.  Use the back of a spoon to flatten out the tops.
  3. Cover again with foil and freeze for at least an hour or overnight.
--> Let the cheesecakes thaw in the refrigerator for 15 to 30 minutes before serving.

Depending on the crust to cheesecake ratio that you used, there will likely be some leftover crust and/or filling.  For immediate gratification, eat the leftovers as is (that's what I did!). Or if you have some extra molds or mini tart pans, you can probably squeeze out a few more little cheesecakes.  It's up to you! Alternatively, you can also use an 8-inch square pan and use this recipe to make one large cheesecake, which will look just as pretty cut up into squares. Just remember to line the pan with foil or parchment paper for easy removal.

No kiwis? Try fresh or frozen mango, pineapple, or berries for the fruit topping. Or leave the fruit out completely and top the cheesecakes with chopped nuts, shaved chocolate, raw caramel, or nothing at all.  Sometimes, simple is best! :)


Friday, October 4, 2013

Tempeh, Avocado, Tomato, and Dill Croquettes

I left the farmers' market this week with an abundance of cherry tomatoes and dill.  I think dill has got to be my favorite herb.  Eating it is like biting into a vegetable garden. :)  Since I had so much dill on hand, I thought I'd use it instead of nori in the Tempeh Avocado Nori Cakes recipe that I previously posted.  For more color and flavor, I also added chopped cherry tomatoes.  I'm realizing now that these should be called croquettes instead of cakes.  Similar to potato croquettes, they're soft and mushy inside, but crispy on the outside.  The best of both worlds!

Makes about 8 croquettes

1 8 oz. package of tempeh, crumbled (I used Lightlife)
1 large ripe avocado
1/2 cup fresh dill, chopped or ripped by hand
1/2 cup tomatoes, finely chopped (I used cherry tomatoes)
1 cup panko bread crumbs
Salt, to taste
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, for frying
  1. In a medium bowl, mash the tempeh and avocado together until well combined. (If it looks too wet, like it won't hold together, add a few tablespoons of bread crumbs)
  2. Fold in the dill and tomatoes. Season with salt, to taste. 
  3. Place the bread crumbs on a plate or shallow bowl.
  4. Form the tempeh mixture into 8 patties (or more or less, depending on your preferred croquette size). Dip each patty in the bread crumbs, covering all sides well. Set aside.
  5. Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat.
  6. Fry the croquettes for about 1 minute on each side, until golden brown. (I did this in 2 batches of 4)
  7. Drain on a paper towel and serve immediately.
There's nothing that really has to be cooked here.  The bread crumbs just have to brown, which doesn't take long.  I haven't attempted a baked version, but if you have or plan to, please report back!  

Tomato-wise, the cherry tomatoes worked well since they don't contain much pulp.  Other meaty tomatoes, such as Roma tomatoes, would also work well here. You can also leave the tomatoes out completely if tomatoes aren't your thing. Between the avocado and dill, these are loaded with flavor. 

I originally thought that I'd stick these in mini slider buns, but I don't think they'd stand up well as a burger. They're fantastic served alone, topped with your favorite sauce, or eaten on top of salad greens.  The crunch is the best part!


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Miso Lime Green Tea Noodles with Tempeh, Kale, and Watermelon Radish

Have you ever meandered through a grocery store, not really looking for anything in particular, and with no clue what to make for dinner? I'm sure you have. :)  Sometimes, I just buy ingredients based on their 'wow' factor, but have no idea how (or if) the pieces will fit together.  The other day, I picked up two interesting looking ingredients:  green tea noodles (cha soba) and a watermelon radish.  I hadn't cooked with either ingredient before.  I just thought green and pink would look really great together! I knew kale and tempeh would also be involved, because kale and tempeh are always involved these days.  As for the sauce, I wanted something creamy and proceeded to throw a bunch of things in my personal blender.  Freestyle cooking at its best!

These Hakubaku green tea noodles really smell like green tea once you open the package.  But after boiling them, they taste pretty much like regular noodles...that happen to be green.  They're made of wheat flour, buckwheat flour, green tea powder, and water.

Here's the inside of a watermelon radish.  Beautiful, eh?  I'm so amazed by the vibrant colors of some fruits and vegetables!  Eaten raw, watermelon radishes taste similar to regular radishes...very peppery, but milder. They're also as big as beets.  Although raw watermelon radishes taste just fine to me, I thought I'd steam them to buffer some of the peppery-ness in this dish.

Makes 2 servings

1/2 cup raw hemp seeds
1/3 cup water
Juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons white miso paste
1 tablespoon tamari
2 teaspoons (or more) sriracha sauce (or other chili sauce), optional
1 7 oz. package of green tea noodles
1 watermelon radish, thinly sliced
1 small bunch of kale, de-stemmed and coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil, for frying
1 8 oz. package of tempeh, cut into cubes
Black sesame seeds, for garnish
  1. Prepare the sauce:  Blend the hemp seeds, water, lime juice, miso paste, tamari, and sriracha sauce (if using) in a personal blender or mini food processor until smooth.  (You can heat the sauce if you'd like, but I just ate it at room temperature)
  2. Boil the noodles according to the package instructions (about 4 minutes or so).  Drain the noodles in a colander and set aside.
  3. Place the radish slices and chopped kale in a steamer basket/pot over boiling water, cover, and steam for about 5 minutes, or until tender.
  4. While the vegetables are steaming, heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the tempeh cubes and fry on each side until golden.
  5. Plating:  Place 2 to 4 radish slices on a plate.  Add a layer of noodles, followed by some kale, and then some tempeh cubes.  Drizzle everything with the sauce (I like to use a squeeze bottle for this). Garnish with black sesame seeds.
If you're an Instagram user like me, you'll take about a million photos of the dish before digging in.  When you're ready to eat, just mix everything together on the plate and go for it!  I ended up cutting up the radish slices so that I could have a piece with each bite.  The radish will bleed into the sauce and noodles, so be prepared for a little pretty in pink action. :)  The sauce was reminiscent of some peanut-based and cashew-based sauces that I've made.  Hemp seeds are great because there's no need to soak them beforehand and because they're so small, you'll have hemp seed butter within seconds to add creaminess to your homemade sauces.  

I thought the green tea noodles were tasty, but no different from other soba noodles.  They make for a great presentation, for sure.  I love creating colorful meals, so I see myself using green tea noodles again in the future. As for the watermelon radish?  I'm in love.  Pink is the new yum. :)