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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Balsamic-Soaked Apples with Arugula and Macadamia Nuts

Because appetizers are fun and fancy!

It's that time again: Time to start throwing TONS of recipes into contests.  So, the good news is, I have lots of good ideas for new recipes.  The bad news is, I'm losing my job.  Again.  So I'm hoping one (or more!) of these recipes hits it big again soon!  There's a hefty contest going on at Better Recipes and this month's theme is appetizers.  So let's start there, shall we?  [You can vote for this recipe here.]

I actually came up with this recipe idea while driving home from visiting family last weekend.  The funny thing is, I don't even like arugula.  But it's a buzz word, a trendy ingredient.  So I used it anyway.  As it turns out, when you put the hot apples over the arugula, the leaves begin to wilt and soften, and are laced with the balsamic vinegar, and turn from bitter and weird into totally flippin' awesome.  True story.

This would make a lovely appetizer for Thanksgiving.  Not that any of you reading this are still trying to come up with what to serve for the big meal in less than 24 hours.  Even I finished all of my grocery shopping yesterday!  Success!

I won't be making this tomorrow, but I will be whipping up spaghetti squash with balsamic veggies as well as this risotto and some kind of potato/corn/ranch dressing hodgepodge.  It's going to be epic.

 1 Tbsp vegan butter
1 large apple, cored and sliced 1/4"
1 large shallot, diced
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cloves
1/4 cup chopped macadamia nuts
1 cup fresh baby arugula

 In a large saute pan, melt butter and add apples and shallots.  Simmer on medium heat for 5 minutes.  Add balsamic vinegar and stir in brown sugar, cinnamon, and cloves.  Continue to simmer over medium heat until vinegar has reduced and slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.
Divide the arugula among four small plates, top with apple mixture and sprinkle with macadamia nuts.  Serve immediately.

Serves 4

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Spaghetti Squash with Balsamic Veggies and Toasted Pine Nuts

Because I'm running out of time to plan holiday food!!!

It's not like I didn't know Thanksgiving was coming up soon, it's just that I kind of forgot.  And I really haven't had much time lately to work on any new holiday recipes anyway.  So instead, it is quite likely that this year, I'll be recreating this fantastic little number.

I've mentioned before that many of the recipes on this blog are the result of recipe testing for various online contests.  When I first moved to Kalamazoo, I was broke as a joke, and found myself sitting alone in my studio apartment one night, frantically brainstorming ways to make extra money.  A couple of Google searches later, and I found a whole list of cooking contests.  Some of the prizes for each contest were monetary, some resulted in free product, some involved fancy vacations.  Let's get serious- I wanted, no, needed the money.  So I just started throwing any recipe I had into these contests, hoping I might some day win a $50 third place prize.

I hit the jackpot- literally- with this recipe, however.  The contest theme was "Healthy Cooking" and the prize was $1,000!!!  That money was almost gone before I ever got it, but I was riding pretty high for a while after getting the news that I won.  Knowing that I won once has fueled my passion for cooking (and entering contests) even further.  Hey!  Who knew that vegan food could be so rewarding?  ;)

So anyway, enough about me.  This is hands down the best spaghetti squash dish I have ever had.  And it's quick to make!  And elegant!  And healthy!  And...  Alright, so it's settled, I'm making this for Thanksgiving this year. 

 1 large spaghetti squash, halved and seeded
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 large red onion, sliced
1 cup chopped carrots
4 cloves garlic, minced
15 oz can diced tomatoes
14 oz can artichoke hearts, drained and rinsed
15 oz can Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 medium zucchini, chopped
2 tsp fresh thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup pine nuts

 Poke several holes in the shell of each squash half several times. Microwave each half on a plate for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, heat oil, onion, garlic and carrot on medium high heat for 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, artichokes, beans, balsamic vinegar, thyme and zucchini, then simmer on low for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Scrape the cooked squash into a large serving bowl and cover to keep warm. In a small frying pan, toast pine nuts over medium low heat for 3-4 minutes, being careful not to burn. Remove from heat and set aside. When second squash half is done, scrape cooked squash into serving bowl. Top squash with cooked vegetables. Top entree with toasted pine nuts and serve hot.

This is the fancy pic the website used when they featured my recipe.   :)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Spicy Pumpkin and Black Bean Chili

Because soup weather is upon us!

I have a feeling there will be several soup recipes to come on this blog in the next few weeks.  I love soup.  I could eat soup for every meal in a day (and absolutely have before).  If I had to choose only one food to eat for the rest of my life, hands down it would be soup.  Soup makes me happy.  And it's so simple to make!  And the possibilities are endless!  And anyway, the weather is quickly turning to winter in Michigan- it definitely rain-snowed today.  So soup is totally appropriate.

I was in the mood for chili and cornbread yesterday.  Mmmm, good old fashioned comfort food.  I'm always looking for a new way to change up chili, and I have to admit, this version is pretty fantastic.  Of course, in true Deanna fashion, I ran out of some spices while coking (hey, way to plan ahead, lady!), and had to sort of make it up as I went along, but I'll post the measurements for the ingredients as if I hadn't run out of them.  It's just easier that way.  The pumpkin flavor is subtle and the spice is just right: not too mild, not too melt-your-face-off hot.  The cornbread recipe I used was from "The Joy of Vegan Baking" by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau.  The bread was delicious and the cookbook has a ton of yummy recipes, I would recommend checking it out.

Another reason to love one-pot meals: the prep time was minimum and the whole meal was done in less than 30 minutes.  Which was nice, since I had a dinner companion and there was much conversation to be had, and I didn't want to be stuck in the kitchen all night.
And, as my official taste-tester for the evening, he approves of this chili.  Which is nice.

1 medium onion,diced
1 bell pepper, diced 
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 jalapeno, finely diced 
28 oz can diced tomatoes
15 oz can pumpkin puree
15 oz can tomato sauce
3 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp (or more, if you like the heat!) chipotle chili powder
1 tsp coriander
dash of cloves (optional, but most excellent)
15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups corn
Salt and pepper

In a large soup pot, saute onion and garlic in a little water on medium heat for about 5 minutes.  Add bell pepper and jalapeno and cook for another 5 minutes, until soft.  Add diced tomatoes, pumpkin, and tomato sauce, and stir to mix well.  Stir in the cumin, chili powder, coriander, and cloves, if using.  Add the black beans and corn, and continue to cook on medium heat for 10-15 minutes until all ingredients are heated through.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Devour with cornbread.


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Pumpkin and Cauliflower Curry

Because it's so much more fun to cook with friends!

OK, so I have had this recipe idea rolling around the ol' noggin for quite some time now.  But I just knew that it would be more fun to prepare this with/for friends, so I put off testing this recipe until I found some willing victims taste-testers.  Which, given my busy schedule, and the fact that most people who showed interest don't even live in the same city as me, was much more complicated than I had anticipated.  So I was thrilled when my buddy Mikey said that he and his wife would be kind enough to allow me into their kitchen to create a huge mess, as well as some deliciously awesome curry.  And I'm so glad they did!  It was a blast!

Mikey helped by making the brown basmati rice and pouring us each a glass of his very own home-made wine.  The curry itself came together pretty quickly.  I measured out the spices I used, but wasn't satisfied so I kept adding a dash more here and there.  I'll post measurements for what I think I ended up putting in.  However, since it was sort of last minute that I planned to cook at Mikey's, and I was a hundred miles away from home- and the ingredients I had already purchased!- I will be making this again soon.  Any adjustments I make to the spices I'll note in an updated version of the recipe.  I'm also thinking I might add cinnamon or cloves next time.  Hmmmm....

In any event, this dish was a real crowd pleaser, so if anyone's interested in joining me for round two, I'd be happy to cook for you!

Oh, also, I really wanted to serve naan with this, but store-bought naan is not vegan.  So I improvised!  I bought whole wheat pita bread, spread 3 pieces with butter and chopped garlic, and baked in the oven at 350 for about 10 minutes, until crisp-ish.  Ta-da!  Homemade pretend pita bread naan!  It was delicious.

1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups canned pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
15 oz can light coconut milk
2 Tbsp curry powder
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 lb cauliflower florets
15 oz can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
Salt and pepper

In a large saute pan, cook onion and garlic on medium heat until onion is soft, about 6 minutes.  Add the pumpkin and slowly whisk in the coconut milk until well combined. Stir in the curry, cumin, coriander, and cayenne.  Add the cauliflower and garbanzo beans, and continue to cook on medium heat for about 15-20
 minutes, stirring occasionally.  The curry is done when the cauliflower is cooked through.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste and serve with rice.