Friday, July 17, 2015

Morning Glory Muffins

I was never a huge muffin fan growing up, but then everything changed. When I was pregnant, muffins became my absolute favorite food group. After every normal check-up I stopped by the Panera down the street for a Pumpkin Muffy, and a few days a week in the afternoon I opted for a low-fat blueberry muffin from Dunkin' Donuts. But I said yes to any muffin at any time. I don't consume quite as many muffins these days but my love for them hasn't waned a bit over the last four years.

I know muffins can get a bad rap as breakfast or even a snack food because there can be so much hidden sugar and fat, but these muffins are a bit on the healthier side. Muffins have become a rare brunch treat for me, but they can certainly be a more common breakfast given the right ingredients.

I first made these muffins about 8 years ago with the Tuesdays with Dorie blogging group, and have tweaked the recipe and made them many times since. I know, who tweaks a Dorie recipe? I felt there was a bit too much sugar, plus I like more whole wheat in my baked goods, and finally I upped the carrot substantially. Over the years as I've tested out Carrot Cake recipes and Oatmeal Raisin Cookie recipes (my husband's favorite cake and cookies, respectively) we've discovered that we do not care for cinnamon and vanilla extract paired together. I also prefer to give my cinnamon a little oomph with a slight hint of ginger, but nutmeg is also lovely with the right recipe.

I've since made these muffins several times for family and friends and they're always a big hit!

Morning Glory Muffins
adapted from Dorie Greenspan Baking From My Home To Yours

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp. molasses
2/3 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
2 cups loosely packed shredded carrots
1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 cup raisins (or cranberries or a mix)
1/3 cup pecans, toasted and chopped

Preheat the oven to 375* degrees
Line 12 muffins tins with liners or grease if not using liners
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda and salt
Whisk to combine
In the bowl of a stand mixer combine sugar, molasses and canola oil
Add in the eggs and beat until incorporated
Add in the dry ingredients in two additions, alternately with the milk, mixing each addition just until incorporated
Mix in the shredded carrot
Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the coconut, raisins/cranberries, and nuts.
Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups
Bake for about 20 minutes, then remove the muffins to a wire rack to cool completely

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Baked Samosa Patties

When we moved to Michigan I didn't know a single person here. I'm no stranger to moving to a new city, so I got right down to friend-making business. I joined several meet-up groups, my sorority alumni group, a great church, and gained friends as I began working. After a few months I became good friends with a woman I met and we decided to start a book club. After a few more months of collecting new friends and inviting them to join, we created a great group of 5 - soon to be 6 members.
After chatting over email we discovered that in our group there was a vegan, 2 vegetarians, a gluten-free woman and 2 omnivores. We knew we wanted to have our book club meetings at each others homes and make it a pot-luck, so we all had our work cut out for us with regard to food choices. Then one woman suggested we theme each book club so the food matches the book! It's been a culinary challenge that I am happy to take on!
For the last meeting we read my selection, The Martian, which I highly recommend. So obviously for the theme, it had to be potatoes! My first instinct was baked samosas with wonton wrappers... but they're not vegan or gluten free! Then I saw gluten-free prepared dough at the store, but that's not vegan! So finally I decided to buy GF flour and use Earth Balance and olive oil in my dough. Sadly, the dough was a bit brittle and I was unable to mold it, so we had samosa tostatas.
With a few pounds of potatoes left and a strong craving for more samosas it finally hit me - samosa patties! I wish I had the idea before book club, but I'm glad it occurred to me because these were delicious! The filling is all that really matters in a samosa, so the absence of a wrapper was no big deal. They're also much healthier without the dough and being fried. We topped these with a bit of leftover mango chutney and served them alongside some crispy chickpeas and roasted cauliflower.

Our next theme is "heavenly food" - and vegan/GF suggestions?

Baked Samosa Patties

2 lbs. russet potatoes, peeled and diced
2 c. cauliflower florets
2 tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 small yellow or red onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 serrano pepper, seeds and ribs removed, minced
1" of fresh ginger root, grated
3 tsp. curry powder (I love TJ's)
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. groud turmeric
1/2 tsp. fennel seeds
1 c. frozen peas
1 lime, juiced
Kosher salt
Fresh black pepper
1-2 tbsp. earth balance buttery spread (optional)

Preheat oven to 425*
Place potatoes in a pot of cold water, salt generously, cover and bring to a boil.
Uncover and cook for 5 minutes, add cauliflower and cook for another 5 minutes.
Drain in a colander and set aside.
While potatoes cook, add 1 tbsp. olive oil to a saute' pan over medium heat.
Add onion, garlic and serrano pepper, season with salt and cook for 5 minutes, until onions begin to brown.
Add drained potato/cauliflower mixture to a mixing bowl, mash with a potato masher until vegetables are all slightly broken down.
Add onion mixture, ginger, curry powder, cumin, turmeric, fennel seeds, peas and lime juice, gently fold ingredients into potato mixture.
Taste and adjust seasonings, adding pepper and if desired, earth balance.
Mixture should  be a bit pasty but still have small chunks of potato and cauliflower, mash with a spatula as needed.
Line a cookie sheet with foil, grease with remaining 1 tbsp. olive oil.
Form mixture into about 8 patties, shaping into discs with hands (if it's still too hot to handle, refrigerate for 10 minutes), place on cookie sheet.
Bake for 15 minutes, then flip patties gently and cook for another 10 minutes.
Remove from heat, serve with chutney or raita.

*Another option is to pan-fry the patties in a bit of oil rather than bake

Monday, July 13, 2015

Baked Falafel

I can remember when I had falafel for the first time, it changed my life. I was 22 and living in Bloomington, IN (such a wonderful place to live, by the way). I was starting to try more and more ethnic food and found that the possibilities were endless when you stepped outside Italian (what I grew up eating) and American style cooking. My husband and I grabbed lunch at a Lebanese restaurant and after perusing the menu, falafel sounded like something we'd like. They were absolutely amazing, crunchy with so much flavor! I immediately went home and tried to recreate them with canned chickpeas. I attributed the mushy texture to the fact that I baked them rather than fried them. From then on I decided it was best to just buy falafel.

Fast forward a few years to my husband and I watching Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives before bed one night. It's our guilty pleasure, what can I say? I wouldn't eat half the things showcased, but there are occasional gems and we always try to make it to those restaurants when we are in a new city. Guy was at a falafel joint and as the chef was showing him his falafel recipe it all made sense - you don't use cooked chick peas! You start with dried, soak for 12-24 hours, and throw them in the food processor to get the little nutty bites. My mind was blown, and it made total sense! The only problem? I had the world's worst, loudest, and smallest food processor in the world. So I mostly continued to buy falafel.

Then last December for our 7th wedding anniversary, my parents bought JJ and me the mother of all food processors. I was elated, finally a chance to make proper falafel! Since then I haven't looked back, they're a weekly staple in our home. And the baked version tastes almost as crisp and flavorful as the fried, a win in my book! I serve these with many different sauces and sides, such as baba ganoush, tahini sauce, tzatziki or chutney (pictured here).

Baked Falafel

1 3/4 c. dried chickpeas
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 small onion, quartered
1 tbsp. cumin
Cayenne to taste
1 c. flat leaf parsley
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 c. olive oil

Place chickpeas in a large bowl and cover with about 5-6 c. of water, cover and periodically check on the beans for 12-24 hours, until soft enough to squish with your fingers.
Preheat the oven to 400*
Drain chickpeas, place in a food processor with the garlic, onion, cumin, cayenne, parsley, salt, pepper, baking soda and lemon juice.
Pulse until the ingredients are finely minced, but not pureed. 
Stop and scrape down sides as needed, add 2 tbsp. olive oil.
Taste and adjust seasonings
Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment, grease with olive oil.
Use a 1/4 or 1/3 measuring cup, pack the mixture in then release into your hands to roll into a patty, place on the baking sheet and continue until you're out of chickpeas. 
Brush the tops of the patties with oil then place in the oven.
Bake for 10-15 minutes, then flip and bake for another 10-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the falafel.
Remove from the oven and serve with pita and accompaniments.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Vegan Stuffed Cabbage Casserole

Hello out there! Thank you so much for sticking with this blog during my 1 year hiatus (or maybe you just forgot to delete me from your reader - either way, thanks!)

It's been quite a year and I'll skip the details but we moved away from Idaho in August and landed in Michigan! I definitely left a huge piece of my heart there and vow to one day have an 208 area code once again. However, we're close to family now and west Michigan really is a treasure trove of beautiful nature and some amazing produce. We have truly enjoyed settling into life here and I feel fortunate and comfortable calling it home.

My cooking and eating habits have also evolved a bit more over the last year and I'm leaning much more toward vegan. I hope to take the leap soon and become 100% vegan at home with small variations for eating out, but it's a work in progress. I've also been in therapy for my eating habits (as many of you might remember, I'm maintaining an 85-90 lb. weight loss). Most of the time I'm in a healthy place where I don't over analyze each morsel of food that I consume. It's quite freeing to not be in a "constantly dieting" mindset. If you have an eating disorder, whatever it may be, I cannot tell you how beneficial therapy is. I'd also be happy to chat with anyone with questions, feel free to email me!

So I'm sure in the coming months I'll delve more into Michigan, veganism, EDs, our amazing travels out west and more. I recently accepted a part time job as my baby is now in pre-k and my hope was to be part time once she started kindergarten. I'm trying to slow down a bit and be more mindful of what I devote my time to. My blog brings me happiness, a creative outlet, so I decided it was time to resurrect it!

So on to this recipe! For the last 8 months I've subscribed to an organic produce delivery and almost every week there is a head of cabbage in my green box. I love slaw salads, but my husband and daughter do not. I googled cabbage recipes and of course stuffed cabbage was most common. Making stuffed cabbage rolls can be daunting, so I decided to do a deconstructed casserole version. And since I made it the first time, I've made it with a few variations, such as quinoa for the rice (we prefer rice) and quorn or beyond meat crumbles for the tempeh (we prefer tempeh). I also have found a great use for leftover Chinese take-out rice - this casserole! It's very hearty, filling and comforting and can take as little as 15 minutes to make, depending on your ingredients (quick rice, no bake-off). I top mine with a vegan "parm" made with walnuts and nutritional yeast (hence the green looking topping), but we've also had it dolloped with goat cheese or parmigiano reggiano. You can truly customize this with pantry staples and your taste.

**I'd love to be more active in the blogging community. If you'd like to leave your blog in the comments, I'll be sure to add you to my reader and start some conversations**

Stuffed Cabbage Casserole
Veggie by Season original recipe

1 tbsp. olive oil
1 head of cabbage, about 3 lbs., diced 
1 large onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 28 oz. can tomatoes (I prefer whole San Marzano with basil)
2 c. prepared brown rice (or quinoa, I use short grain brown)
1 package of tempeh, crumbled (or faux beef crumbles)
2 tbsp. dried oregano
1 tbsp. fennel seeds
Salt and pepper
Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
Parmigiano-Reggiano, Goat Cheese, or omit for vegan

Preheat oven to 400*
Preheat large, deep, oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat with olive oil.
Add cabbage and onion, toss and cook frequently until vegetables begin to caramelize, about 8-10 minutes. 
Add garlic and a heavy pinch of salt and continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes. 
Add tomatoes (if whole, squish by hand or use a blender to reach desired consistency), rice, tempeh, oregano, fennel, crushed red pepper flakes and fresh ground black pepper. 
Turn heat to low, stir well to distribute, taste and add salt as necessary.
Top with cheese, if desired, and place skillet into the oven. 
Bake for 20 minutes, or until edges crisp and mixture is bubbly.
Serve immediately with additional pepper flakes and cheese.