Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Recipe ReDux: Vegan Cheesecake

This month's Recipe ReDux theme is Spring Cleaning. It's all about using those things you find in the back of your cupboard that you've maybe been ignoring for a little too long. For me, this usually includes an insane amount of nuts and some chocolate that has "bloomed" some time ago. Well, that's a pretty good place to start, don't you think?

Another item I've had in my pantry forever and rarely use is coconut oil. I know, I know, it's a wonder ingredient that you can use anywhere, blah blah blah. But the thing is, I don't like coconut. Like, at all. So I use the oil sparingly, and occasionally I'll try it out in a recipe and the flavor is so strong and overpowering to me that I simply cannot eat it. This is not one of those recipes. This recipe hides the coconut flavor wonderfully, allowing me to slowly use up this pantry item, one spoon at a time.

Anyway, I took one of the many bags of cashews I usually have on hand, soaked them, and put them through a food processor with some maple syrup, vanilla, coconut oil, and lemon juice. Then I poured the mixture over some melted then re-hardened chocolate deliciousness (you'd never know that chocolate had looked all funny just a few moments before!), stuck it in the freezer, and called it cheesecake. Surprisingly, it does feel a lot like cheesecake. Just chalk it up to the magic of cashews.

I've made this cheesecake as a single, whole pie before, as small individual sized cakes, and this time, as something in between. The cashews and chocolate make for an incredibly rich cake, so I highly recommend lightening it up with fresh strawberries. I also strongly suggest eating it in the sunshine on a warm day. But that's just me.

What's been hanging out in your pantry? 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Mushroom Lentil Ragout with Grilled Polenta and Sweet Pea Pesto

I'm on vacation this week. I have been vacation-less since September, and any small break I've gotten has been for Jewish holidays, which I promise are hardly vacation. The problem is that last week was Passover, and basically everyone I know took vacation last week, leaving me out in the cold. So I'm spending my week seeing all the doctors I might possibly need to see and being outside as much as humanly possible. Oh, and I'm taking full advantage of my parents' kitchen and cooking up a storm.

But even though this vacation seems very un-vacation-y, I can still treat myself. I figured now would be the perfect time to feature a fancy, resort-like recipe. In collaboration with Wynn Las Vegas resorts, I did exactly that. You see, Wynn Las Vegas recently launched their own recipes for vegan food options in their various restaurants. I love that vegan diets are being accommodated everywhere these days, and vegans (and vegetarians) aren't constrained to the side dishes and salads. I decided to make my own spin on the Mushroom-Polenta Cake with lentil ragout and sweet pea sauce from Switch Steak. I plated it up all fancy and I pretended that I was treating myself to dinner at a resort (instead of, you know, dinner in the backyard with my dad).

Now, I have to admit, this recipe is freaking awesome. I mean, I'm not usually one to toot my own horn. I like my food, I think it's pretty tasty, and I would certainly never share a recipe that didn't work. But this recipe...Oh my. It's on the same level of my Creamy Tomato Pasta. I just can't get enough of it! It is, without a doubt, Vegas-worthy.

The mushroom and lentil ragout is hearty and filling, with just a hint of spice. The grilled polenta rounds have a subtle smoke to them. The sweet pea and mint pesto just lightens everything up and perfectly fit the beautiful spring weather yesterday. Get a little bit of everything in one bite and you will be in heaven - vacation resort heaven.

This is my Vegas recipe. What's yours?

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Sweet Potato Noodles with Cauliflower and Spinach

I recently purchased a spiralizer. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s exactly what it sounds like; it makes spirals of things. And by spirals I mean long, spiraled strands. You can use it to make noodle-like strands of vegetables like zucchini, carrots, beets, rutabagas, and other harder vegetables. There are a few versions of it, and the one I got looks vaguely like a medieval torture device, but that’s totally beside the point. 

Unrelated, I was contacted by Tuttoroso asking if I was interested in helping them “Inspiralize the Spring” and promote the newly released Inspiralized Cookbook, by blogger Ali Maffucci. I can’t tell you how excited I was to 1) have an excuse to play with my spiralizer, 2) try to bring out my inner Ali (seriously, check out her site, everything looks AMAZING), and 3) help to “inspiralize” others!

Now, all of this happened right before Passover, so I knew that I wanted to create a spiralized recipe that not only helped me work through my pantry and freezer in preparation for the holiday, but also create a satisfying recipe that is totally Passover appropriate. So, I grabbed the sweet potato that I had bought the day before and went to work. I have to say, this recipe alone made my new spiralizer worth every single penny.

This dish starts with a variation of my absolute favorite tomato sauce. The sauce recipe already called for cinnamon, which makes it pair especially nicely with the sweet potatoes. Next came some (frozen) cauliflower florets, mostly because I already had them hanging around and thought they would work well in the dish. Then came the spiralized sweet potatoes, which I let cook up in the sauce where they got all coated in deliciousness. I then threw in some spinach for good measure, and later, when I reheated the leftovers, I added a handful of toasted walnuts for crunch.

What I love about this recipe is all the flavors. The sweet potato and the cinnamon-touched tomato sauce pair wonderfully together, while the spinach and cauliflower just add a little flavor to the background. The toasted walnuts that were added to my second edition are highly recommended.

Have I inspiralized your spring yet? Check out the Inspiralized blog for more vegetable noodle ideas, and enter the Inspiralize the Spring sweepstakes for your chance to win a free cookbook!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Avocado Toast 3 ways

Guys, I think I have a problem. My avocado obsession has taken a whole new turn. Living in NYC, I’ve gotten really spoiled by the fruit and vegetable vendors on the streets. I mean, where else can you get 4 pomegranates for $5? Or 3 avocados for $4? These being two of my all time favorite foods, I’ve been buying them a lot lately, since I cannot resist that kind of deal.

As a result, I’ve been eating avocado toast pretty much every day. Now I know I’ve posted a recipe for avocado toast before, but this time I want to break it down for you. We’re going to start simple, then get fancy, then pack a powerful punch. These toasts are great for snacks, easy meals, or if you’re just feeling fancy.

My classic avocado toast is simple and delicious. Smash avocado on bread, squeeze lemon juice, sprinkle salt, and dig in! But since I’ve also been noshing on pomegranates lately (see above), I decided to incorporate those into my toasts. Add a little feta for a salty bite and the result is something that feels luxurious but takes almost no time to assemble. Finally, for days when I need a heartier meal, I like smashing my avocado with chickpeas to add some protein. Usually I leave it alone, but sometimes I’ll go all out and add toppings to make it a full blown sandwich.

Whatever way you dress up avocado toast, you really can’t go wrong. How do you like your avocado toast?

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Recipe ReDux: Peanut Butter Chocolate Mug Cake

I don't know about where you are, but it's been pretty freezing here in NYC. The other day I went to an early morning exercise class and it was NEGATIVE 15 degrees outside. It's insane.

When it gets brutally cold like this, I turn to warm drinks and comfort foods. That happens to coincide nicely with this month's Recipe ReDux theme: Chocolate Matches. My immediate instinct when it comes to mixing flavors with chocolate is chocolate with nuts, fruit, and my all time favorite, peanut butter. So why not mix up these flavors and satisfy my sweet tooth all at the same time?

Chocolate and peanut butter are a match made in heaven. I actually have yet to meet a single person who doesn't like this combo, therefore I assume this person doesn't even exist. This cake is mixed together and then "baked" in the microwave, making for a super quick dessert. I made the recipe in glass jars which both look pretty and keep the portion size in control. You could also easily dump one recipe's worth in a large mug and bake yourself a bigger cake. It's totally up to you. I find the smaller portion is perfect, especially with a scoop of ice cream on top, because this cake is dense and amazingly rich.

What do you like to pair with your chocolate?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Recipe ReDux: Maple Chipotle Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you rang in 2015 in a big way. I'm starting with a bold new snack for this month's Recipe ReDux.

The first Recipe ReDux of the year is "Start Smoking in the New Year" and it's all about smokey spicy goodness. To me, the very first thing I think about when you say "smokey" is chipotle chili. It's spicy, as chili peppers usually are, but it's also distinctly smokey. It adds depth of flavor that red pepper flakes or regular chili powder often lack.

I love pairing this smokey spicy flavor with something sweet to balance it. I love using it on butternut squash or sweet potato. This time I paired it with maple syrup. I added just a touch of cumin to round out the flavor, a dash of salt, and a bit of olive oil to help it stick. Then I drenched raw pumpkin seeds with the mixture and baked it off. The result is crunchy, sweet, spicy, and smoking hot - the perfect snack.

What's your favorite smokey spicy pairing?

Monday, December 29, 2014

Roasted Chickpeas

These days, I am too often torn between eating tasty food and cheap/free food. It’s the dilemma every student faces. Do I save money or eat healthy? The last two weeks have been especially challenging for me as I am doing a rotation in a smaller hospital that has no cafeteria. Instead, they provide staff with hot lunch every day, but few options for vegetarians. I can pretty much always count on there being white rice and steamed vegetables. That combination is boring, bland, and does not have any protein, but it's so hard for me to justify not eating the food provided. Rather than bringing in my own lunches, or spending a fortune eating out for lunch every day, I’ve been getting creative while still minimizing costs.

I’ve been bringing in things to mix into my rice and veggie plate. This usually includes salted pistachios for seasoning and crunch and a sauce or dressing of some sort for flavor. Or I would go one step further, roasting some chickpeas to provide that crunchy texture I’ve been missing, along with some much needed protein.

I love roasted chickpeas. They’re ridiculously easy to make, can be done with any flavor combination, and are addictively delicious. I love how crunchy they get and how the flavors you mix in with them stick so nicely. This batch is full of garlic, basil, red pepper flakes for some zing, and nutritional yeast (though Parmesan cheese would also be great here). They make a great snack or a fantastic addition to salads. I’ve been adding these to my rice and veggie plate, then topping everything with some version of my balsamic vinaigrette. Suddenly my bland, boring lunch seems pretty gourmet.

How do you dress up your lunch?