Vegetable Paella

paella

Paella is a Valencian rice dish that is traditionally cooked in a very large pan over an open fire fueled by orange and pine branches. According to legend, this infuses the rice with the smoke. Paella also uses lots of meat and seafood. Neither of these is very practical for many. So here is an easy vegan version that does the trick.

This paella has a seemingly infinite capacity for saffron and the hot red pepper flakes. It just keeps developing a deeper and deeper taste. It’s perfect for warming up the tummy and the soul.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup paella rice (or arborio rice)
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 cup peas
  • 1/2 cup corn
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1/2 green bell pepper
  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 clove garlic
  • a generous pinch of saffron (optional)
  • Thyme, ground black pepper, crush red pepper flakes and salt, as needed
  • 1/4 cup parley, chopped (optional)
  • 1 bay leaf

Directions:

In a large frying pan under medium heat, add the olive oil followed by the chopped onions. Cook for a few minutes. Add the carrots, peas,corn, tomatoes, bell peppers and garlic. Turn the heat down to medium/low and cook for 7 minutes.

Rinse the rice and put it in a separate pot. Add the vegetable broth and bring to boil. Once boiling, add the bay leaf and the saffron (crush the saffron with your finger tips). Combine with the vegetables that you cooked in the previous step and stir. Turn the heat to very low and cover the top of the pot with foil so as to make a tight seal. After 20 minutes of cooking, remove the cover carefully. If the rice is still too moist, keep cooking uncovered for an additional 5 minutes. If you’d like, sprinkle some chopped parsley over the plate when serving.

Carrot & Beet Soup

evolution-fresh_carrot-beet-soup_food52_mark_weinberg_14-05-06_0708

Meet this wonderful recipe by Paris at Avocado Please. Not only she has amazing vegan creations herself, she also finds and compiles the most creative and yummy recipes. Definitely one to follow.

I am a soup person. It is what I call comfort food which means I crave soup badly when I am away from home. So browsing through Paris’s recipes, I found myself staring at this one and I just had to share it.

Ingredients (serves 2):

  • 6 medium to large beets
  • 4 medium carrots
  • 4 parsley stems
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • A small knob of ginger
  • Half a cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 cups of vegetable stock
  • Soy yogurt or Coconut milk
  • Organic Sea Salt

Directions:

Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Peel the beets and carrots and cut them into 1/2-inch pieces. Spread them on a rimmed baking sheet, toss them with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and sprinkle them generously with salt. Roast the vegetables until they’re soft (the carrots should brown a little), turning them once or twice with a spatula; this should take about 45 minutes.

Put the stock or water in a medium saucepan, add the ginger and parsley stems and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and let the stock infuse while the beets and carrots cook.

Drizzle the remaining olive oil in a large saucepan and set it over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until softened and lightly caramelized, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, cook for another minute, and then add the beets and carrots.

Remove the ginger and parsley stems from the stock and add the stock to the pot with the vegetables. Bring to boil and lower the heat so the soup is simmering. Cook for 5 minutes.

Puree the soup until smooth, adding a little water if it seems thick. Add salt and pepper to taste.

In a small bowl, combine the soy yogurt / coconut milk, lime zest, chopped parsley and a generous pinch of salt. Serve the soup in individual bowls with a dollop of the mix.

Whole Wheat Almond Marble Cake

Vegan Marble Cake

This is a cake that gets baked in our home when we make almond milk since the recipe uses some of the milk and the pulp (almond meal). The almond meal is a side bonus of making your own almond milk but if you are not into that, it is sold in grocery stores as well. This cake also happens to be my son’s favorite one which is saying something!
This marble cake uses no eggs, little oil and sugar (none refined) and a reduced amount of whole wheat flour. All this while still featuring a delightfully full flavor and moisture. Interested? Read on for the recipe:

Ingredients: (Serves 2, use a small loaf pan)

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup almond meal
  • 1 tbsp ground flax seeds
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup dutch process cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350F. Mix all the dry ingredients except cocoa and set aside. Mix the liquid ingredients separately. Join the dry and liquid mixes and whisk together.

Set aside half of the batter, and mix in the cocoa powder.

Pour the white batter in an oiled cake loaf pan. This recipe makes enough for about two good sized servings. So use a small loaf pan. Add the cocoa batter over it. Then with a spatula, gently mix the two layers with a spiral motion, moving from one end of the loaf pan to the other. Bake 45 minutes at 350F.

Red Bell Pepper, Tomato and Saffron Sauce

red_pepper_sauce

This is a very easy pasta sauce with an impressive taste. Plus, pasta can use something different from the usual marinara, pesto or alfredo right? Read on for the recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts
  • 1/4 cup red wine or water
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1/4 tsp saffron
  • 1/4 tsp each of red pepper flakes, black pepper and oregano
  • Salt, as needed

Directions:

Crush and soak the saffron in hot water to release its flavor. In a frying pan, cook the chopped bell peppers in olive oil until it caramelizes (medium-low heat though, olive oil can won’t take high heat). Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, wine and the saffron water together with the rest of the spices and garlic. Adjust the salt as needed. Keep cooking for 15 minutes. Turn the heat off, mix in the walnuts and the garlic. Serve over your favorite pasta.

Delicata Squash Boat

delicata_squash

This is the first year that we signed up for a CSA box (farm box) and I must say, we are absolutely hooked. It is nice to know that everything is local and organic and as fresh as it can be. It is also nice to pick it up from the farmers’ market where we can get additional things to cover our massive veggie need for the week. But perhaps the best of all was the surprise element for me. Getting a box of fruits and vegetables that someone else picked for us kicked up the variety and creativity in our kitchen. Since the start of fall season, we have been getting a constant stream of various squash and pumpkins. It’s hard find those varieties organically grown, mostly you will come by the decorative ones . So the ones that showed up in our farm box were saved to be a special course in the thanksgiving dinner. I did decide to use up one of them tough for a delicious test and to be able to share with you. Judging by the sounds emanating from my husband when he was eating it, it was a pretty successful test.

One bonus takeaway from this recipe is that you can use the same stuffing for traditional mediterranean stuffed bell peppers. As always, it is vegan.

Ingredients (serves 2):

  • 1 Delicata squash
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup brown rice
  • 1/4 cup quinoa
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp each of cinnamon, ground cloves, black pepper
  • Salt as needed
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh dill
  • 2 tbsp dried wild blueberries
  • 1 shallot, chopped

Directions:

Cut the squash in half longitudinally and clean the seeds. Barbecue the two pieces, skin side down, with closed lid until the skin chars and the flesh softens.

For the stuffing, boil and drain the brown rice and the quinoa. In a stir fry pan, roast the pine nuts in the olive oil until the nuts start browning slightly. Add the finely chopped shallots and once they soften add the lemon juice and the maple syrup. Add the boiled rice and the quinoa and stir fry for a few minutes. Add the spices and adjust the salt as needed. Turn the heat off and mix in the chopped parsley, dill and the wild blueberries.

Add the stuffing over the delicata squash halves. You typically want to serve this at room temperature. Letting it wait overnight in the fridge will also improve its flavor.

Jalapeño Boats

jalapeno_boats

As food bloggers, our Sunday routine starts with a visit to the farmers’ market. We show up there with a rough idea of what we will cook in the coming week but that plan can significantly change right there on the spot as the seasonal produce and bi-weekly rotation of some vendors makes it a little unpredictable and interesting. When we get home, majority of the vegetables and fruits make the voyage from the shopping bags to the fridge safely. Some though find themselves on the lunch table. This awesome fresh lunch is generally accompanied by chatters about cooking plans, photography setups and blog posts for the week. We try to keep the lunch a little light as we know the afternoon will be spent cooking and photographing with constant snacking on the foods we keep preparing. That helps set the mood, serving and styling for the subsequent photography.

We end up working on our feet for almost the entire Sunday until we lose the natural day light. But don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t quite feel like work. Shopping, hauling and cooking for the week is what we have been doing for years. It is a familiar and intimate habit. A special part of our week that we love sharing with each other and ultimately with you in this blog.

One of the creations that came out of this Sunday’s kitchen session is the jalapeño boat shown in the picture. We happen to love jalapeños but if you are not into hot as much, mini bell peppers or other small peppers will work just as well. I am including the recipe below. The ingredient list may be long for essentially an appetizer but you can easily adapt the recipe according to your taste and what is available in your kitchen.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup farro
  • 1/2 cup black beans
  • 1/4 cup crushed walnuts or toasted pine nuts
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and dried peppermint
  • A few sun dried tomatoes, green olives and a little dill and/or parsley for garnishing on top

Directions:

Cut the jalapeños in half and grill them in a barbecue. I did this in medium-high heat with the lid closed. Be careful though, the perfectly grilling window for peppers is pretty narrow and you can get them overly charred easily. So I suggest attending the barbecue frequently. Start grilling with the outer skin part down. Once you are happy with the charring, flip them and briefly grill the other side, just about enough to get grill marks.

Cook the farro and the black beans separately. Add the olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the dried (crushed) peppermints and cook until they start darkening a little. Add the farro and salt and continue cooking for a few minutes. Turn the heat off, add the black beans and the nuts.

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Swirl Bread

cinnamon_swirl_bread

There is much stigma out there about bread baking. I think it is a common belief that making breads from scratch is a time consuming and complex process that requires patience and precision. That may be true for some of the artisan bread kinds out there like a good sourdough, but there are lots of easier, quick and delicious options. Once you get over the gooey, messy business of kneading by hand (some might even enjoy that), homemade breads can become very practical meals. There is simply no substitute for bread fresh out of the oven.

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Watercolors, Pepper Grinders and Rain Puddles

pepper_grinder_illustration

Apparently I am now obsessed with pepper grinders and watercolor illustrations, besides food.

I am lucky to have many passions. It’s true that they all compete violently for my time and I can get stressed if I feel like I am not pursuing a particular one enough. But still, this all keeps life interesting and flavorful.

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Swiss Chard Pesto

chard_pesto

I try to keep the amount of leafy greens in our diet very high by using them in every possible way that I can conceive. If that way doesn’t involve cooking, that’s an additional bonus. This is especially true for the greens like Swiss chard, which taste just perfect when raw. Apart from salads, I use the Swiss chard to make veggie wraps or pesto.

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