Baked Chickpeas

bakedchickpeas2I try to have a batch of these around as often as possible.  They are so flavorful and easy to make.  Great to have on hand to grab when you need something quick.  They don’t quite come out crunchy but they are firm, and the sauce hardens somewhat as the chickpeas cool.  If you want them crunchy, I would try cooking them longer, at a higher temp or use a dehydrator.

BBQ Black Bean and Sweet Potato Patties [vegan, gluten-free, oil-free]

PepitaAvocadoSauce1This recipe came to me while I was working out, as many recipes do (I should be thinking about the workout and not food, I know!). I wanted to throw something together for an easy lunch and this is what I came up with.  They are easy to make but taste like they were a lot of work. They’re moist but hold together well.  Really yummy.  I like serving them with avocado and Sour Un-Cream, or my Toasted Pepita Avocado Sauce as pictured.

Low-Fat Cheesy Sauce [vegan + gf + no nuts + no oil]

cheesesauceI think I’ve finally done it and I’m really excited.

I have made a LOT of cheesy sauces over the years.  I mean, it’s crazy how many; recipes I’ve found and tweaked, recipes I’ve created, etc.  After all, mac-n-cheese was my favorite food before I went vegan 10+ years ago.  While I don’t crave the real thing, I still really love comforting foods like noodles with a creamy, cheese-like sauce.  Anyway, all the recipes I tried were similar to each other, all yummy, but all left me feeling like I wasn’t there yet;  that my quest for the perfect sauce wasn’t complete.  Getting the perfect combination of texture, mouth-feel, flavor and nutrient profile was beginning to seem impossible.

Sure, there are rich and amazingly delicious sauces out there but many of them call for a ton of nuts or a bunch of oil.  Any vegan food can taste delectable when adding a bunch of fat – there’s no creativity or skill in that.  The real challenge and test lies in making something that’s healthy, rich and delicious without exceeding your daily fat quota in one meal.

Yep.  I think I’ve finally done it.

Chili Chowder

ChiliChowder This delicious, hardy dish has flavors similar to chili, with the texture and consistency of a thick chowder.  I love it! Top with avocado and/or Sour Un-Cream.

I have made this using both canned black beans and beans I made from scratch with the pressure cooker.  As is usually the case, I preferred the version with the homemade beans.    If you have a pressure cooker, it’s SO easy.  Soak 1 pound of dried black beans overnight or 6 hours (some say soaking isn’t necessary but I always do).  Rinse and place in your pressure cooker and add just enough water to cover the top of the beans – the water should be just touching the beans.  Add 4 cloves crushed garlic, a few bay leaves and 2 tsp cumin seeds.  Cook at high pressure 14 minutes, and let the pressure come down naturally.  Beans are done! Makes about 5 cups of black beans. Remove the bay leaves, stir and add the whole batch to the rest of the Chili Chowder ingredients.

I order my dried beans online from Rancho Gordo, a farm in Northern California.  They are heirloom beans, which are open-pollinated seeds that can be planted and you’ll get the exact same bean. They tend to have a lower yield and can be much more difficult to grow but the pay off is in the unique flavors and textures that you don’t find with bland commodity beans.  They are always fresh too, which is great.  You never know how old the beans at the grocery store are, and old beans can take forever to cook.  I highly recommend Rancho Gordo beans.  It’s fun to experiment with all the different varieties they offer. Now get cooking!

Mesquite-Lime Hummus

Honestly, I don’t know anybody who doesn’t l like  hummus.  I’m sure they exist but I’ve never met them.  Such a simple thing – chickpeas and a handful of ingredients, whirled through a blender.  And so many ways to eat it: with raw veggies, crackers, chips, on a sandwich or wrap, thinned out as gravy to top greens or grains…so many possibilities.  There are also many flavors of hummus, and this one is really delicious.  I love anything with a smoky flavor and the smoked paprika does a great job here, but the lime really makes this hummus come to life.  I used about 2.5 TBS of lime juice and it’s pretty limey….use more or less depending on your tastes.  Same with the cayenne.  1/8 tsp is quite mild.  Now go make some hummus.  🙂

Cheesy Sprinkle (vegan, gluten-free)

This sprinkle is a great way to add a cheesy/salty flavor to any food.  The main ingredient is nutritional yeast which is a deactivated yeast, unlike the type used in breads.  It is a source of protein and vitamins, especially the B-complex vitamins, and is a complete protein. It is also naturally low in fat and sodium, and is free of sugar,dairy, and gluten.

I sprinkle this delicious mixture on steamed greens, broccoli, salads, baked white and sweet potatoes, popcorn…basically everything savory.

Savory Pumpkin Soup Recipe! Heavy on the Rich Flavor, Not the Fat!

I had never made pumpkin soup before.  Shocking, I know, considering what a pumpkin freak I am.  Well, I gave it a go recently.  As per normal, I was determined to listen to my culinary instincts rather than follow a recipe…not sure if that’s big ego or just a can-do attitude talking :).  Either way, my instincts paid off, big time!!!  This soup rivaled any pumpkin soup I’d ever had, including the non-vegan, really fattening varieties I’d had in years past.  Try it!  As you know, I don’t cook with oil as a rule, but the small amount of truffle oil stirred in just prior to serving MAKES this soup, in my opinion.

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes Recipe! My New Favorite Meal!

Recipe ideas come to me at odd moments, usually when I’m not even thinking about food (which, if I’m being honest, isn’t all that often).  The idea for this one came to me on an airplane in the middle of reading a novel.  Pretty random considering the story took place in 1940 Nazi Germany. Anyway, it occurred to me I’d never seen or heard of a recipe for twice baked SWEET potatoes, only russet.  I’ve since done some searching and found many recipes (can’t believe I’d never seen any before) but most of them have more fat than a cheeseburger, with ingredients that just didn’t sound appealing to me (I will never understand adding brown sugar to sweet potatoes, especially when consuming them as an entree not a dessert.  Hello!?! They’re already sweet!).

This recipe has the right combination of sweet, savory, tangy, spicy and salty.  Honestly, it turned out better than I could have hoped.  I was so excited for leftovers today.  It’s a more time consuming meal since baking of the potatoes is required before anything else, but it’s not difficult by any means; just takes some planning ahead.  Note:  I prefer the lighter colored sweet potatoes as opposed to orange yams.  I will be making this again VERY soon!

Creamy Hummus

I realize hummus recipes are a dime a dozen, and store-bought versions are widely available. However, the one thing they all have in common is a lot of fat.  The average prepared hummus contains 4 grams of fat for 2 tablespoons.  I don’t know about you, but I could eat that much in a few bites!  Most varieties contain oil, which as I’ve said before, is not a health-promoting food.  It’s concentrated fat and calories (14 g of fat for just a tablespoon), and truly unnecessary in a dish like this.  Prepared hummus also contains tahini, or sesame seed paste.  My recipe does too, but only 1-2 tablespoons for the whole batch, which is much less than other recipes or store-bought versions. Use 1 if you want a really low-fat version, or 2 for a little more fat.  You’ll see I list truffle oil as an optional addition.  You don’t need it but it adds wonderful flavor.   I like mine on the lemony side so I use 3 tablespoons lemon juice.  Also, the amount of water you add is dependent upon how thick/thin you want the hummus.  I always have a batch made up and ready to go.  Recently, I spread about 2 TBS on a piece of whole grain bread, laid sliced tomatoes and sweet onion on top, drizzled with balsamic, and sprinkled with basil and pepper.  I broiled it for 6-7 minutes.  DELISH!  See photo below.

2/21/13 UPDATE: I’ve always known cooking your own beans, as opposed to using canned, was a nutritionally superior way to go but I didn’t fully grasp how much better a dish would taste!! Oh my.  I recently got a pressure cooker (best. thing. ever.), and after soaking my chickpeas during the day (8 hours), I cooked them with water in the PC for 14 minutes.  Then I made my hummus.  SO creamy and flavorful.  I really had no idea there would be such a marked difference.  You don’t need a PC to make your own beans, but you do need to plan ahead.  The forethought and time is worth it, trust me.  If you use your own beans, use about 2 cups cooked for this hummus.