cooking

Zucchini Tian with Vegan Parmesan Cheese

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I recently acquired a humongous zucchini. This zucchini could not be controlled.

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(Side note: apparently huge zucchinis aren’t all that uncommon, at least according to my gardening friends. But this east coast girl still hasn’t got a handle on how most foods grow, so bear with me.)

I made it into tian, at the advice of my regular chef of a mom. Tian is French dish made by chopping various vegetables and cooking them au gratin in an oven. By using breadcrumbs, butter, cheese, or eggs (nearly all of which can be plant-based!), you can achieve a nicely browned effect when all is said and done.

Behold.

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This dish is fun because you can arrange the vegetables in any way you choose. I like the spiral look, so that’s what I did. It took a lot time because I’m not very creative. But here’s what it looked like before I popped it in the oven.

 

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Remember to be creative and make this dish your own — if you don’t love zucchini, how about summer squash or sweet potato?

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I didn’t make a recipe card for the vegan parmesan because it’s so easy: simply take about a cup of raw cashews and mix in with 1/4 cup of nutritional yeast. Put this in a food proccesser/blender and give it a few pulses. It won’t take long at all to blend up. You can sprinkle this on nearly everything, because cheese.

 

And in case you were wondering…I still have about half of that zucchini left.

 

 

The easiest pumpkin pie you’ll ever make. Period.

Who else is loving fall?!

I think that I’ve finally figured out, after almost 24 years, that fall is my very favorite season. It just calls for oversize sweaters, colorful scarves, piping hot coffee to go, and of course…

Pumpkin pie!

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But how do you make pie vegan? Don’t you need eggs and butter?

My friends, “veganizing” your food is so easy to do. I know the holidays are all about gathering and sharing food with your friends and family. But vegan food doesn’t have to be a burden to make or a step-down for your taste buds. I tested this recipe last weekend and now that I’ve perfected it, I’m confident you could serve this at Thanksgiving dinner!

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-007Wait a minute…tofu in my pie?

Don’t be nervous. Embrace the wonders of tofu! In this recipe, it simply serves as a binder for the pie and gives it that distinctive ‘soft-yet-solid’ pumpkin pie mouth-feel. You will not taste any tofu in your pie.

*As an added bonus, all the protein you’re getting from the tofu will keep your body from metabolizing the sugar too fast, and help you to avoid a spike in your blood sugar, which will keep your insulin response in check. Aaaand end dietitian-talk!*

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To make this recipe even easier, I used frozen pie crust. And if you don’t own a rolling pin, a cold bottle of wine works just as well!

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So whether you have a fall potluck on your calendar, or you’re just craving a night alone with a delicious pumpkin pie, you can whip this up in about 20 minutes. It’ll stay in the oven for around 50 minutes, or until the middle is somewhat firm. Let it cool, then serve with some Coconut Bliss Salted Caramel ice cream (I’m dying over their new flavors!) or in its own solo pumpkin-y goodness 🙂

There’s just nothing better.

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Snack Time: Kale Chips with a Kick

I know, I know–kale chips have been done. But I got a huge bunch from my local produce service, and figured it was time to spice things up a little bit around here…can you tell by the site’s new look? 🙂

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Kale chips are super easy to make and take just about 20 minutes to crisp up in the oven. But I like them the best because they are a perfect reflection of your personality! I guess I was feeling spicy when I made these because I was pretty liberal with my chili powder and nutritional yeast. Talk about an afternoon pick-me-up!

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So go ahead and put your own spin on these! Minced garlic? Sriracha? A pinch of paprika? It’s your food, and you do what you want.

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As I noted in the recipe card, it’s best to eat these as soon as you make them. Storing them is tricky and they tend to get a bit soggy in a container if you haven’t used a dehydrator (something I haven’t invested in). Also, be sure to flip them a couple times during the baking process to ensure an even texture.

Kale is a powerhouse ingredient in my diet because it’s full of vitamins and minerals that my body needs to function. It’s a great source of that non-heme (non-animal source) iron, vitamin C (this helps the iron to be absorbed in your body), vitamin A, and calcium. Like most vegetables and fruits, kale will help keep you regular and acts as a natural detoxifying agent because it’s packed with fiber.

A lot of people ask me what nutritional yeast is all about. This delicious product is a flaky add-on to anything that needs a  boost of (vegan) cheesy goodness. In fact, it’s used often in vegan cheeses and sauces to mimic that cheese flavor. If you’re vegan, make sure you pick up a nutritional yeast that is fortified with B12! This can be a difficult nutrient for us to obtain since it comes almost exclusively from animal sources (exception: algae, yeast). I like Bragg’s. At just about $6 a bottle, it’s a real bargain.

So if you’ve got half an hour to spare and a head of kale waiting to be munched on, go ahead and try these chips! You won’t be disappointed.

Weekend BBQ: Charred Chickpea Burgers with Chipotle Mayo Aioli!

Sometimes you just gotta have a burger.

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My friend Ashley Klees, RD over at Healthy.Easy.Yum! knows that just as well as I do, so she came over to help round out my burgers with a side of cole slaw and sweet potato chips! Check out her page to learn how to make these oh-so-delicious sides! Ashley and I went through our dietetic internship at OHSU together and she kept a smile on my face the whole time!

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These burgers were really easy to make. I ran into a problem with keeping them from falling apart, but throwing some breadcrumbs into the “batter” fixed them right up. Try them at home! They’re easy, fun, and bursting with flavor. I topped my burgers with a drizzle of the aioli (it packs quite a punch–you’ve been warned!) and some sliced avocado for a creamy texture and pop of color.

IMG_0513 IMG_0521Pro tip: don’t be shy with the olive oil! It’ll help to get the outside of your burgers rich and crispy.IMG_0546 IMG_0553

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The finished product! PS — I used Dave’s Killer Bread whole grain burger buns because they’re free of additives and other junk. They also make sliced bread and other goodies and you can find it at your local Safeway, Whole Foods, etc!

Thanks Ashley for letting me collaborate with you on this delicious, easy, and FUN summertime meal!

And how many courses are we having tonight?

Buzzfeed recently posted an article aboutwhat big-name companies notice about millennials (Generation Y), or people born from the 80’s onward. In addition to the commentary about how much we love our wine culture and how social-media savvy we are, I found one statement to be particularly telling:

 

“Millennials, along with baby boomers, have a high demand for convenience when it comes to making dinner.

Today, consumers devote less than 30 minutes to prepare and cook the evening meal. So convenience is very important, right after taste, in deciding what to make for dinner.‘”

The American people like their daily life activities to be fast, easy, and fun. Preparing and enjoying food is no exception. It’s not surprising, then, that encouraging clients to prepare wholesome meals à la Sunday Italian family get-together is simply not effective counseling. This doesn’t mean that Americans are hopeless in the culinary department — spending a couple hours preparing a mouthwatering menu with some friends can be some great food therapy. But in the day-to-day slog, after getting home from work or the gym, spending more than thirty minutes preparing a meal is just not on the menu.

But here’s the good news: eating on the fly doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice taste, quality, or nutrition. Here are some tips for your day-to-day grind with mealtime.

1. Join a CSA or a local fruit and veggie delivery service and batch cook the spoils. Throughout my internship, my commute home took anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour, and some of my internship sites didn’t have lunch options for me. Having my produce box delivered every other week allowed me to batch cook all those delicious veggies, and scoop them into my lunch container (or dinner plate) every day, with the fruits to snack on at work.

Sample recipe idea:

  • boil two cups of dry lentils (making well over four cups total)
  • chop veggies, drizzle with walnut oil, salt & pepper, and whatever spice you fancy at the moment
  • bake veggies in the oven until crispy on the outside and tender on the inside
  • store all the cooked food in the fridge until you need it
  • scoop meal-sized portions into a travel container and drizzle with a fun vinaigrette or soy sauce
  • enjoy your delicious meal that you so cleverly assembled

2. Save your leftovers. If only we could go out to eat all the time, am I right? Unfortunately, eating out tends to get fairly pricey, especially in the lovely city of Portland. I’ve found that if I’ve chosen a well-balanced meal at my restaurant du jour, saving it not only saves me money, but provides me with a no-brainer meal for the next day.

3. Keep your staples on hand, and write down dishes you thought were tasty and easy to make. It can be overwhelming to choose what to make for dinner. Salad? Pasta? Sandwiches? If you have a backlog of things that worked for you, and the staples for them — think rice, canned beans and chickpeas, nuts, bread — it can be less intimidating to make some food once you get back home. Pro tip: if you’re absolutely starving and just want to scarf everything in the kitchen, start out with some almonds, or some peanut butter on toast. This should satisfy your hunger long enough to make some dinner and actually enjoy it.

I’ll leave you with yet another Buzzfeed article (I’m obsessed with this site), called “Thirty Delicious Vegan Meals You Can Make in Under 30 Minutes.” I might have to try some of these myself! Just remember: making lunch and dinner easy, fun, and tasty doesn’t mean that you have to resort to packaged frozen meals, or fast food and take-out. Try the batch cooking idea, save your leftovers, and keep staples on hand to save yourself time and stress when it comes to mealtime.

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It’s all about that oooo, mami!

As a vegetarian of six years and a vegan for one, I get a lot of this:

Don’t you miss bacon and eggs?

I could never live without cheese.

Do you just eat a lot of fruits and vegetables?

I do fondly remember the tastes of bacon and cheese, but I also know that meat and dairy products are not for me, because I don’t believe in making animals and the planet suffer to fill my belly when there are healthy and satisfying alternatives.

What I do believe in is umami! If you’re vegetarian or vegan, you get how it’s hard for people to wrap their heads around giving up the rich, hearty, and filling flavors of cheeses and meats. That’s because these products are what dietitians categorize as “umami” flavors.

Umami is synonymous with “meaty,” “savory,” and “mouthwatering,” with a hint of salt. The actual compound responsible for the umami flavor is glutamate, a salt derivative of one of the non-essential amino acids humans eat. Naturally-occurring glutamate is found in fish, meats, mushrooms and tomatoes, cheese, soy sauce, and fermented products like kimchi and balsamic vinegar.

If you’re a new vegan, you might have a hard time figuring out what’s “missing” from your plate. And how annoying are those vague food cravings–you know, the ones where you don’t really know what you want, but you know it’s a) not sugar and b) really important that you figure it out or you might eat your entire pantry’s worth of food?

That craving is for umami.

I can guarantee that if you include enough umami items in your daily meals, you will not miss meat, eggs, cheese, or any animal-derived product.

The other day the umami craving hit me hard, so my lady and I decided to try our hand at some hearty Italian pasta. Take a look!

IMGP9412-001Umami ingredient #1: Carrots. Thinly sliced, they added a delightful pop of color.

IMGP9422-001Umami ingredient #2: Oyster mushrooms. I’ve never cooked with these, but they were easy to tear up and simmered down nicely, adding a savory element to the pasta sauce.

IMGP9437-001Fact: it is illegal to not drink wine while cooking Italian food.

IMGP9439-001I have to highlight this pasta — normally I’ll go for the 88 cent package, but I was seduced by this Montebello Capellini (just say that out loud a few times. Don’t be shy.). I don’t know if I’ve ever had a more delicate, melt-in-your-mouth pasta.

IMGP9440-001  IMGP9447-001There you have it, folks. A red pasta sauce simmered with oyster mushrooms, carrots, squash, garlic and onions, heaped onto a hearty portion of pasta. Oh, and don’t forget the side of bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar (umami item #3!)

IMGP9449-001Last step? Eat like a queen, with Game of Thrones there to help you claim your rightful umami.

What are YOUR favorite umami flavors?