Monthly Archives: July 2011

Of Wine and Zucchini

Wine tasting in the summer = perfection.

I just got back from a glorious three day holiday in the sunny, wine-drenched Okanagan. Three whole days of lake swimming, wine touring and eating with two of my dearest friends was just what I needed to come back all fired up for my move and for recipe posts galore!

My dishes are all packed up, however, so here’s just a little sneak peek of some Okanagan-inspired recipes to come. My friend Elly and I dreamed up a vegan Thai basil pesto that I am really excited to make. We are also going to try our hand at pickling and canning, so expect some apricot jam and pickled cucumbers and green beans to come your way!

Once I am all moved in, of course.

And then there is this:

Big honkin' zucchini.

I’m not sure if the photo does this monster justice. As you can see, I can barely hold on to the thing and it is twice as big as my arm. I bought it at a fruit stand in Keremeos for 39 cents!

Any ideas of what to do with this puppy? My friend Julie also bought one and is thinking of barbecuing it, or putting it in lasagna. Two stellar ideas, I think!

Anyway, happy cooking and happy summer everyone!

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A Tale of Two Dips: Hummus and Salsa

Salsa and Hummus, snug as two bugs.

It has been a very busy and exciting few weeks chez The Keen Kitchen, hence the tragic lack of posts. Meals have been hurried
slapdash  affairs, consisting mostly of brown rice pasta, jarred plain tomato sauce and pesto from the last big batch that I thankfully made a couple weeks ago. Highly un-blogworthy  stuff.

Why so busy? Well, I am pleased to announce that we are moving! Just 2 blocks away, our new place is an adorable top floor suite that has oodles of natural light, partly thanks to a skylight in the kitchen (!). This is good news for The Keen Kitchen as I will no longer have to trudge outside every time I want to take pictures of the finished product. It also means I can blog all winter long!

Anyhow, to make amends for the recent lack of recipes, I offer you two solid dip recipes that are my potluck standbys– hummus and salsa. I am making them for my dear friend Nelinda’s upcoming engagement party, and they are, fittingly, recipes that I learned to make while living with her family and have adapted slightly. They are nothing fancy. You won’t find any trendy specialty ingredients in either dip. Instead, they are delicious classics that you can make using cheap stuff from the pantry and are always crowd-pleasers. They are also somewhat forgiving– I always just eyeball the ingredients but I’ll do my best to measure them today so I can pass them on to you!

Hummus: a creamy, garlic and lemon-infused classic.

This recipe yields approximately 2 cups of hummus. I usually double the recipe, as it disappears suspiciously quickly from the fridge. This time around, I tripled the recipe as there will be 45 people at the engagement party! I think a food processor is crucial when making hummus, although I have made it many times in a blender. The hummus will be creamier and smoother if you use a food processor and you won’t cuss as much throughout the process.

Hummus Ingredients:

1 19 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 lemon, juiced

1 large or 2 smallish cloves garlic

1 heaping tbsp tahini

1/8 cup olive oil

1/4 cup water

1 tsp. salt

a generous amount of freshly ground pepper

Directions:

Place all ingredients in food processor and blend until very smooth, stopping the machine to scrape down the sides if necessary. If you desire a fluffier or runnier hummus, simply add a little more water or olive oil and adjust the salt. The longer you process, the smoother it’ll be!

Best served at room temperature.

Enjoy!

Hola, salsa mexicana.

I also tripled this recipe, but I usually just make one can’s worth of salsa for taco night. This salsa is so fresh, easy and yummy, there really is no point in buying the store-bought stuff! This blends up perfectly in any old blender.

Salsa Ingredients:

1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes, liquid drained out

1/3 cup chopped white onion

1 large garlic clove

1/2 – 1 jalapeño, seeded or not depending on how hot it is. Test it.

1/4 lime, juiced

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 tsp salt

1/2 – 1 bunch cilantro

freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions:

Throw everything in the blender. I put the onions, garlic and jalapeño first, then tomatoes, then liquids and seasoning, then cilantro.

Pulse on a low setting, such as “chop” or “mix” until desired consistency. The salsa can be as chunky or blended as you like!

Taste for vinegar and salt, and adjust accordingly. Keep in mind, however, that the flavours will intensify as the salsa sits.

Best served at room temperature.

Eat it.

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Vegan Strawberry Milkshake

"This tastes like dessert." Mission accomplished!

 

To those of you who have been requesting lentil soup and lasagna recipes: I am sorry. I realize a milkshake recipe is a bit of a cop-out. Those will come, I promise! For now, here’s a creamy vegan strawberry milkshake to sip on while you wait ever so patiently.

I have strawberries on the brain and in my freezer big time since I went strawberry picking with some of my family. We spent a delightful afternoon trekking out to Ladner and picking about $40 worth of perfectly ripe sun-warmed strawberries.

The little ones with us were expert pickers!

After we packed up our overwhelming amount of strawberries, everyone had a strawberry milkshake. Except me, of course.

A well-deserved treat after a hard afternoon's work!

Do not despair. I certainly did not miss out on the strawberry fun. After we cleaned the ridiculous amount of strawberries, we decided to have a strawberry themed meal. We had salad, garlic mashed new potatoes, salmon and tofu with strawberry salsa (amazing!), strawberry crisp and strawberry basil spritzers.

Vodka, Strawberries and Basil. A winning combination!

All in all, it was a great way to spend the day. Even though we didn’t actually grow the berries ourselves, there was something really satisfying about picking, cleaning, cooking and enjoying them together.

The next day, however, I still wanted my darn strawberry milkshake!

So, without further ado, here is my take on a strawberry milkshake.

A delightful summer sip.

 

Ingredients:

15 small frozen strawberries (Mine were quite small. Use less if they’re the monster ones from California.)

1/3 cup + 2 tbsp. canned coconut milk

1/3 cup + 2 tbsp. soy milk or other non-dairy milk

1 tsp. vanilla

1 tbsp. agave (add more if you want it more dessert-y)

5 ice cubes

 

Blend it up ! Serves 1.

 

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Strawberry Banana Muffins

Ultra-moist and not too sweet, these fruity muffins think they ought to be served on a sunny patio somewhere.

Baking on a hot sunny day?

Yep. I came home from work today to find three very overripe bananas in the fruit bowl and the aforementioned strawberries lolling about in the fridge begging to be used. Then I remembered that I’ve been wanting to combine these things in vegan and gluten-free muffin form. Strawberries and bananas go together, after all, like peas and carrots. Or like bananas and strawberries, really. I think they make a better team than peas and carrots.

So now that the muffins are baked, tested for taste (I ate two for my dear readers, just to make sure), and deemed moist and fruity by yours truly, I will share my recipe with you. And then return to the backyard with an apricot beer (not wheat-free, sadly).

Bananas love strawberries, and so do I.
These muffins are very moist and fruity and are best eaten fresh out of the oven. I recommend eating them within a day or two, or freezing them. Pop one one in the microwave for 20 seconds and marvel at its freshly-baked texture!
Dry Ingredients:
1 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup quinoa flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
a pinch of salt
Wet Ingredients: 
1/4 cup light-tasting oil (this time, I melted coconut oil)
3/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1 tbsp. vanilla
1 tsp. lemon extract
3 overripe bananas, mashed
1 1/2 cups sliced strawberries
Directions:
Preheat oven to 375° and line a 12-muffin tin with baking cups.
Whisk all dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
Whisk all wet ingredients in a liquid measuring cup, except the mashed bananas and strawberries.
Slowly pour the wet mixture into the dry, mixing a little at a time with a wooden spoon. Stir until just combined. Do not over mix as this will result in a sad, flat muffin. The batter will be somewhat stiff; do not be alarmed.
Fold in mashed banana until the batter is uniform.
Fold in strawberries. Do not overmix.
Fill baking cups almost to the top with batter. Smooth batter with a wet finger so the muffins look pretty. Optional: place some additional sliced strawberries on top.
Bake 25-30 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Mine took 30 minutes.
Cool in pan for about 10 minutes, then transfer muffins to a cooling rack.
Enjoy!

Hi. I am full of strawberries and bananas. Soon you will be too!

Makes 12 muffins. 

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Vegan Pasta Primavera with Creamy Tomato Sauce

Pasta Primavera: Because the Italian word for "summer" just didn't sound as good.

Summer finally made an appearance yesterday in Vancouver and my neighbourhood came alive in the way that only Commercial Drive can. While my next-door neighbours were busy hula hooping and juggling to throbbing dance music, I basked in the sun and gorged on the first batch of local strawberries I’ve bought this year. The rest of the afternoon was spent lazily wandering to the grocery store, iced soy latte in hand, with the intention of stocking up on some more strawberries. I ended up buying a boatload of fresh basil, strawberries, rhubarb, and asparagus. Feeling this was a grocery bag worthy of a warm summer day, I returned home with pasta on the brain. Thanks, fresh basil, you get me every time.

I’m not sure why, but I wanted Pasta Primavera. Is this something that turns up on restaurant menus a lot still? Maybe it was a food fad in the 90s, maybe not. The early 90s are but a distant hazy memory now. I ordered it a lot as a vegetarian kid, as often the only meat-free thing on restaurant menus was some sort of pasta dish. In my mind, the 1994 version of Pasta Primavera consists of some sauteed veggies and a creamy rosé sauce. Something vaguely Italian that turned up on menus in non-Italian restaurants. Sort of like the ubiquitous Fettucini Alfredo, my all-time childhood fave.

So, here it is! My memory of Pasta Primavera, veganized and without gluten: Brown rice pasta tossed with garlic and basil-infused spring vegetables and drizzled with a creamy tomato sauce. It was pretty darn yummy.

Now that I think about it, one could make this more 90s-ish by serving it with tricoloured rotini noodles or something. While listening to Ace of Base.

More sauce, please. Thanks.

This is a three pot meal, so it takes a little coordination. Make the vegetables and sauce at the same time, but don’t forget to whisk! Serve it with your favourite pasta, enough for 4 people. I love Tinkyada brown rice pasta.

Tomato Cream Sauce Ingredients:

2 tbsp. olive oil

3 tbsp. brown rice flour (another flour would be fine, but I like rice flour for its neutral flavour)

2 1/2 cups unsweetened rice milk, or other unsweetened non-dairy milk

3 tbsp. nutritional yeast

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. onion powder

1/2 tsp. dried basil

1 tsp. salt

pepper

splash white wine (optional, but adds depth)

3/4 cup plain Hunt’s tomato sauce

1/4 cup Daiya vegan mozzarella (optional, but adds more creamy yumminess)

Directions:

Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan on medium heat. Add rice flour and whisk. Let cook a minute or so to infuse your roux with a nice toasty flavour.

Whisk in rice milk a little at a time, letting the sauce thicken between additions. Once the sauce has thickened, add nutritional yeast, garlic and onion powder, dried basil, salt, and a generous dose of freshly ground black pepper. Cook for a few more minutes.

Add wine, Hunt’s and Daiya, whisking well to melt the Daiya.

Taste for salt and pepper. Set aside, keeping warm while you boil your noodles.

Vegetable Ingredients:

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 small white onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups sliced mushrooms

1 yellow bell pepper, cut into bite-size pieces

10 asparagus spears (about half a bunch), cut in 2″ pieces

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

In a frying pan that has a lid (you’ll need it later), heat olive oil on medium-low heat. Add onions and a little salt and cook until softened, around 10 minutes or so.

Add garlic and mushrooms and a little more salt. Turn the heat up to medium and fry until the mushrooms release some liquid.

Add bell pepper and asparagus and cover. Cook until the vegetables are softened.

Remove lid and cook off excess liquid. Stir in chopped basil. Add freshly ground pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Turn off heat and set aside while you boil your noodles.

To serve: This recipe makes enough for 4 people, so make enough pasta accordingly. For presentation purposes, I plated the pasta, then drizzled some sauce, then added a couple scoops of sauteed vegetables, topped with another drizzle of sauce and garnished with a fresh basil chiffonade.

Bon appetit!

Go ahead, unleash your inner vegan pasta monster!

Serves 4 average appetites. Served 3 in my house, as I was trying to fill up before going to work where I serve real Italian food and am tortured by it for 6 hour stints.

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Filed under Condiments and Sauces, Dinner, Pasta