Recipe Post: Zesty lemon, garlic and dill dressing

All summer, I’ve been experimenting with lemon in dishes ranging from roasted potatoes to stir fry. The sharp, citrus tang of lemon is unparalleled (except maybe by lime, but that’s neither here nor there). It offers an amazing boost of flavor to pretty much anything, savory or sweet, and it’s super easy to add to any recipe for that extra kick.

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I’ve discovered that one of the easiest ways to add lemon to savory dishes — including kale salad, crispy tofu, fried rice, roasted potatoes, and zucchini pasta, to name a few — is to whip up a batch of the homemade dressing I first made a few months ago by throwing together some spices in my pantry and hoping for the best.

This dressing has a sharp, tangy flavor to it that will make your mouth water. It’s become one of my favorite toppings and my partner requests it regularly, to the point that we now have to buy full bags of lemons almost every week so that we always have some on hand for when we want lemon dressing on our meals.

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I’ve tried making batches of this dressing to last for a while, but we end up going through it in just days. It’s just so good. I often end up making single or double servings for individual meals in order to keep us from just dousing everything in this dressing. When we have it around, it ends up in every dish. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but mouth sores from too much citrus are very real and very painful, so limiting our intake a little is probably a good idea.

The proportions for this recipe vary a little depending on the size of the lemons and whether you’re making a jar or just a serving of dressing. You may have to adjust accordingly. Ideally, you just want the flavors to marry in way that’s appetizing to you. For us, that means lots of lemon for a ton of zest. For you, that might mean a little more oil to temper the tang. Regardless, everything you need to make this incredible condiment can be found in the recipe below.

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Zesty Lemon, Garlic and Dill Dressing
Prep time: 10 minutes | Total time: 10 minutes
Makes about one jar

What you’ll need:

  • 3 large lemons
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • 1-2 tbsp. dill seeds
  • 3-5 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

What you’ll do:

  1. QUICK METHOD: Juice the lemons (preferably by hand, to get every last bit of delicious lemony goodness). Add all ingredients to a food processor and blend for 1 minute. Serve and enjoy!
  2. SLIGHTLY SLOWER METHOD: Juice the lemons (preferably by hand, to get every last bit of delicious lemony goodness). Mince the garlic. Add all ingredients to a mixing bowl and whisk rapidly for 2-3 minutes. Serve and enjoy!
  3. Store extra dressing in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. It will stay good for 1-2 weeks (if you can hold onto it for that long)!
Recipe Post: Zesty lemon, garlic and dill dressing

Recipe post: Oreo Dream Pies

The one sweet snack that gas station gods have granted us vegans is Oreo chocolate cookie sandwiches. Whenever my partner or I crave chocolate, it’s super easy to walk to a convenience store and pick up a package of these delicious morsels and then gorge ourselves until we don’t want to even look at an Oreo cookie for at least a week. Co-workers and friends are usually pretty shocked to discover that Oreos are vegan, but then I point them to this list on PETA’s website and they realize vegan food is everywhere. (That makes veganism sound like a cult thing. It’s not. I swear.)

IMG_2897Recipe post: Oreo Dream Pies

Sometimes stuffing our faces with Oreos isn’t quite enough, though. Sometimes we need more chocolate, or a more filling sweet snack. Lucky for us, Oreos are excellent for baking. If you’re a fan of chocolate mud pies or any kind of chocolate cream, then I’ve got the perfect recipe for you.

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A few days ago, we had some friends over for dinner and I had the rare opportunity to cook a three-course meal. When it’s just my partner and I, going full stop on a massive meal and using tons of dishes isn’t always practical; although our new apartment does have a dishwasher (fondly named Steve), we prefer to dirty as few things as possible and then wash them by hand once we’ve eaten and digested. However, when we have friends over, it’s a perfect excuse to try new recipes and even revisit some old favorites, which we did the other night.

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For dessert, I whipped up some of these Oreo Dream Pies (so named because my phone autocorrected the word “cream” to “dream” when I posted about them on Instagram, but also because they are dreamy). They went over very well, but I’ve since tweaked the recipe just a little in order to perfect it. The raspberry topping not only make these pies look adorable, they add a tartness to the flavor that is absolutely incredible.

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The crust is spongey and rich, which marries it well to the light, creamy top layer. Altogether, these pies are a chocolate lover’s dream. I recommend having a glass of non-dairy milk handy to accompany the rich, decadent flavor. (After all, Oreo is “milk’s favorite cookie”.)

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This dessert is wicked easy, but it does need to be prepared ahead of time so that each component has time to set up. Both times that I made these pies, I gave myself at least four hours prior to when we planned to enjoy them. Keep that in mind! These pies are sweet and creamy, but they require a little extra love, space and time to reach their full potential.

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Oreo Dream Pies
Prep Time: 10 minutes | Chill Time: 3-4 hours | Total Time: 3-4 hours
Serves 4

What you’ll need:

Crust:

  • 10-12 Oreo cookies
  • 1 Egg Replacer egg or 1 flax seed egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Cream filling:

  • 1/4 block silken tofu, rinsed and patted dry
  • 3 tbsp. agave nectar or pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 4 oz. semi-sweet vegan chocolate, melted
  • fresh raspberries for topping

What you’ll do:

  1. Add Oreo cookies to a food processor and blend until they create a fine dust. Then, add “egg” and vanilla extract and blend until smooth, about 1 minute.
  2. Using a rubber spatula or spoon, evenly divide mixture into four ramekins or small bowls, leveling until flat. Put ramekins in the freezer for at least 2 hours to chill. When removed, the crust should be spongey but firm.
  3. About five minutes prior to removing ramekins from the freezer, add your tofu, agave nectar, vanilla extract and salt to a food processor and blend until the mixture is smooth but still a little lumpy, about 30-45 seconds.
  4. Melt your semi-sweet chocolate using a double boiler (I have a set of metal bowls that are perfect for this: I heat water in my electric kettle and pour it into the biggest bowl, then add the unmelted chocolate to the medium-sized bowl and let it float in the water until the chocolate starts to melt). You will likely have to stir the chocolate for 2-3 minutes until it is all melted and creamy.
  5. Add the chocolate to the food processor and blend until mixed with the rest of the ingredients, usually 1-2 minutes.
  6. Remove ramekins from the freezer. Using a rubber spatula or spoon, evenly divide tofu mixture into the ramekins and level until flat. Top with raspberries (as many as you like!) and put in the fridge to chill for at least 1 hour.
  7. Serve and enjoy!
Recipe post: Oreo Dream Pies

Recipe post: Crispy, crunchy tofu

Tofu is tough to enjoy. It’s the first thing non-vegans ask about whenever the subject of diet comes up in conversation, and it’s a food that lots of people — vegans and vegetarians included — just can’t get behind. Tofu, on its own, is flavorless and fleshy and usually sopping wet. I’ve spent the last several years learning how to make tofu enjoyable for myself, but in the last few months I’ve been faced with a new task: making tofu enjoyable for other people.

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With the help of my partner (who prior to this prep method wouldn’t touch tofu with a ten-foot pole and now actually requests it in meals), I’ve finally found a way to consistently prepare tofu so that it tastes good every time. As a bonus, this recipe is quick and easy (if a little messy). It’s also easy to alter to fit various flavor profiles, depending on the meal you’re making.

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Admittedly, some of the nutritional value is probably lost with this preparation method, but it can’t be denied that this is a quick, easy, delicious way to get the protein punch tofu provides without sacrificing any flavor or texture. Plus, it’s super versatile*. We’ve had it with rice and homemade dressing, on breakfast sandwiches, chopped up in salads, as a protein in faitas, and even on its own. I personally like to have it solo, dipped in a little sriracha. The crunch and flavor are awesome.

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Crispy, Crunchy Tofu
Prep Time: 5 minutes | Cook Time: 10-12 minutes | Total Time: ~15 minutes
Makes multiple servings

What you’ll need:

  • a block of firm or extra-firm tofu
  • 3-4 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2/3 cup of flour
  • 1/3 cup of ground cashew meal
  • 2 tbsp. nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1.5 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. lemon pepper
  • pinch of salt

What you’ll do:

  1. Start by draining and pressing the tofu. To do this, cut open the package and let all of the liquid drain. Then take the block of tofu and place it on a food towel (I purchased a 10-pack of dish towels at IKEA for a few dollars and use those towels specifically for food). If you don’t have a food towel, you can use several paper towels, but the process will be quite a bit messier that way. Wrap the block of tofu in the towel and press firmly with your hands on all sides until most of the liquid is soaked into the towel. You don’t want to soak up all of it. Make sure the tofu is still somewhat moist when you’re done.
  2. Using a sharp, smooth-edged knife, slice the tofu into 1/4 inch slices. Depending on the meal and how many you are feeding, you may need more or less. Discretion is up to you, but if you have leftover tofu, store it in fresh water in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to seven days. Let your slices sit while you prepare your flour mixture.
  3. Combine flour, cashew meal, nutritional yeast, paprika, lemon pepper and salt in a small bowl.
  4. Spread a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper over a portion of your work area. Make sure it’s large enough to hold all of your slices once they’re breaded.
  5. Take individual slices of tofu, place them in the flour mixture and use your hands to coat. (Note: tofu is fragile when it’s sliced thin! I’ve found it’s best to put the slice directly in the center of the bowl and then use my fingers to toss flour mixture over the top. It puts less strain on the tofu and makes it less likely to crumble when you try to handle it.) Rest each slice on the plastic wrap or parchment paper while you heat your oil.
  6. Coat the bottom of a non-stick frying pan with olive oil. 3-4 tbsp. works for my pan, but you may need to adjust depending on size. You want a very thin layer of oil to fry your tofu slices in. Heat the oil over medium until it gets a liquid-like sheen to it; then, add your slices of tofu in a single layer to the pan.
  7. Fry the tofu over medium heat until crispy and golden on both sides, about 5-6 minutes per side. For a less crispy finish, fry for less time; for a more crispy (but potentially burned! be careful!) finish, fry for more time.
  8. Once slices are cooked, set on a paper towel to soak up excess oil, then serve.

 

* Keep an eye out for recipes featuring crispy, crunchy tofu in the future! If there’s one you’d like in particular, comment below and I’ll get to it!

Recipe post: Crispy, crunchy tofu

Recipe Post: Buttery breadcrumb pasta with fresh tomatoes

Before going vegan, my go-to comfort food was cheesy pasta, a cheap homemade version of macaroni and cheese that basically involved melting a ton of cheddar over some elbows and throwing in my favorite combination of spices, then stirring it all up with some butter or a little milk. Since going vegan, finding a substitute has been hard — while I enjoy vegan cheese substitutes, they just don’t melt quite the right way to make my classic cheesy pasta.

Yesterday, I had a sudden craving for a dish my stepdad makes: browned butter noodles. I decided to take his concept and twist it a little (in addition to making it vegan). I ended up with a new favorite comfort food that’s quick, easy, and absolutely delicious. We’ve had it two nights in a row for dinner and honestly, I could continue to eat it for the rest of the weekend without complaining.

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This dish is savory and fresh with a texture that will make your mouth water. The breadcrumbs add a flavor and crunch that can’t be denied and the tomatoes bring a nice pop of color that brightens the whole dish. It also works as a great starting point for someone who isn’t super comfortable in the kitchen, and it’s basic enough that you can add your own twist to it. If tomatoes aren’t your thing, try zucchini or mushrooms for a different flavor!

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 Buttery Breadcrumb Pasta with Fresh Tomatoes
Prep Time: 10 minutes | Cook Time: ~15 minutes | Total Time: ~25 minutes
Makes 2 servings

What you’ll need:

  • 1/2 pound elbow macaroni
  • 1/2 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs
  • 4 tbsp. Earth Balance
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 2-3 tsp. paprika
  • 2 tsp. nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1 tbsp. dried basil or 9-10 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

What you’ll do:

  1. In a smallsauce pan, melt 2 tbsp. of Earth Balance, then add breadcrumbs. Toss until breadcrumbs are coated with the butter, then add garlic, paprika, nutritional yeast flakes, and hefty pinches of salt and pepper. Stir until combined, letting the breadcrumbs toast on low heat for 3-4 minutes. Watch them carefully so that they don’t burn! Once the breadcrumbs are toasted, remove pan from heat and set aside.
  2. Fill a large pot with water. Salt and bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package instructions. Once pasta is al dente, strain it and let it sit so excess water can drip off.
  3. While pasta is straining, add remaining 2 tbsp. of Earth Balance to pasta pot and stir. Add pasta slowly, while stirring, until pasta is lightly coated with Earth Balance. Add basil, breadcrumbs, and tomato. Mix everything together, serve, and enjoy!
Recipe Post: Buttery breadcrumb pasta with fresh tomatoes

Über Sriracha Grilled Cheese

According to several news sources, the popular fast food chain Chipotle might take guacamole off its menu if climate change continues to worsen. According to others, no such Chipotle Guacamole Crisis is forthcoming. Either way, all this talk of avocados and spicy foods has had me craving nothing but for weeks on end. An actual trip to Chipotle earlier this week didn’t even quench my craving (though the new Sofritas option — a.k.a. Spicy Tofu — is absolutely incredible). Today, all I thought about all day was craving spicy, avocado-y goodness.

Since I’m in the middle of moving, I’m a little short on cash. That meant I couldn’t make another Chipotle run tonight when I got off work. Instead, I went home, opened the fridge, and realized I had all the ingredients to make an old favorite: Sriracha Grilled Cheese. That didn’t quite hit the spot for what I was craving, though. It was missing a key component. Deciding it was time to experiment a little in the kitchen, I took out a handful of other ingredients from the fridge and started cooking.

I know I said in my recipe post for Sriracha Grilled Cheese that it was the best damn grilled cheese I’d ever eaten, but… The sandwich I made tonight has it beat. It really, really does.

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Über Sriracha Grilled Cheese

You will need: butter (or Earth Balance), Sriracha, two slices of crusty bread, cream cheese (or a vegan substitute), several thin slices of cheese (or shreds of Daiya), half an avocado — sliced, a frying pan, and a stove.

  1. Soften butter in the microwave for about 20 seconds, until it’s easy to break up and mix and stir. (I used about 2 tbsps.) Mix Sriracha sauce into softened butter (as much as you want, keeping in mind that it’s Very Hot) and stir together until mixture is a light orange color. Spread Sriracha butter on one side of each slice of bread.
  2. Set your frying pan over a burner, but leave the stove off for the time being.
  3. Flip over one of your slices of bread and spread cream cheese (or a vegan substitute — I used Trader Joe’s) over the other side. Lay the bread, Sriracha buttered-side down, on the frying pan.
  4. Layer slices of cheese (or sprinkle shreds of Daiya) over the cream cheesed side of the bread. Layer sliced avocado over the cheese. Then add another layer of cheese over the sliced avocado. (Keep in mind that the more cheese you use, the longer it will take to melt, so take it easy!)
  5. Repeat step three with your other piece of bread. This time, lay it cream cheesed side down over the rest of the sandwich.
  6. Turn on the stove. Bring your burner to medium-low heat.
  7. Cook until butter starts to bubble at edges of the bread crust, then flip. Carefully press sandwich down with spatula to press cheese and avocados tightly together. Continue to cook, flipping as needed, until both sides of the sandwich are lightly browned.
  8. Enjoy!

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Über Sriracha Grilled Cheese

Twice-baked breakfast for dinner

20140116_214918When it gets really cold outside, I tend to crave a lot of protein, a lot of vitamin c, and a lot of warm, hearty foods. I especially crave savory breakfast foods, like omelettes with greens and pan-fried whole wheat toast. As I’ve continued to learn new things about food and different methods of cooking, I’ve discovered a lot of really amazing recipes that have improved my life tenfold.

On Thursday, after a day of extreme productivity, I had no inclination to make “proper” dinner food. I just wanted a nice, filling breakfast. So thanks to the ladies at A Beautiful Mess, I did exactly that. I’ve been eyeing their recipe for Breakfast Twice-Baked Potatoes for a while now, and I finally decided to try it that night. I made some slight alterations to their recipe (to better suit my taste buds) and the end result was fantastic.

You can read the original recipe at A Beautiful Mess, but I’m going to talk about what I did a little differently. I used a large russett potato, because I like them best for baking. After washing the potato, I poked tiny holes in it using a knife (rather than a fork — I’ve found that it allows the potato to breathe easier) and coated the whole thing in a thin layer of peanut oil. (You can also use canola oil. Try to avoid olive, because it burns at a fairly low temperature.) I baked the potato for about an hour at 400 degrees in a convectional toaster oven, flipping at the 30 minute mark so the skin would be crispy all around.

When the potato was finished baking, I took it out of the oven and sliced it in half. Then I let it cool for about five minutes, so that I could hold it while I scraped out the insides. This part was familiar to me — I love making potato skins and twice-baked potatoes, so leaving the skin in tact while scraping is a skill I’ve developed over time. If it’s your first time, be careful! It’s easy to rip a potato apart and have to start all over.

20140116_214901I mixed the potato flesh with 3 tbsps of milk, about 1/8 cup of shredded cheddar cheese, a pinch of salt and a lot of pepper. Then I put the mixture back into the potato halves and used my spoon to make craters for the eggs to sit. Because my potato was large, I had plenty of room to use full eggs, though a bit of the whites did drip over the sides of my potato halves. (It made them look messy, but it didn’t affect the taste negatively at all.) I sprinkled both halves with paprika and put them back in the oven, still at 400 degrees.

According to the recipe on A Beautiful Mess, I only needed to put the potato halves back in the oven for a few minutes if I wanted runny yolks. I wanted yolks more like one would get with hardboiled eggs, so I left them in for about 15 minutes. It made the potato halves even crispier, melted the cheese so that it was nice and gooey, and made the eggs a nice solid texture which was really enjoyable. I served the potatoes with sour cream and Sriracha (my favorite). They were delicious.

Unfortunately, because I’d gone so long without eating that day, my eyes had definitely gotten bigger than my stomach. Though I devoured the entire potato (as in, both halves), I almost immediately felt too full to move, let alone finish my to-do list for the evening. I think, next time I make this dish for just me, I’ll refrigerate one of the potato halves pre-egg and then reheat it the next morning for actual breakfast.

All in all, this experiment was a successful one. As always, have a glass of milk ready to smother the spice of Sriracha, if you choose to serve your twice-baked breakfast potatoes with it (and why wouldn’t you?). And enjoy!

Twice-baked breakfast for dinner

Sriracha: The only condiment that matters

Last month, news of a potential Sriracha shortage put lots of people into a panic. I was just recently introduced to the chili sauce, made by Huy Fong Foods in Irwindale, California, and I have to admit I became an immediate addict. (Despite health issues that should make me want to stay far, far away from spicy foods, I can’t help but love them.) So when I heard that there might be a shortage of the product, I went out and bought a bottle at the local grocery store.

I’ve been eating it with pretty much everything, since. It makes an awesome dipping sauce for MorningStar Chik’n Nuggets, the perfect topper for super crispy french fries, a great addition to pasta dishes. Basically, Sriracha is the only condiment that matters.

20140106_172550Enter: an intense grilled cheese craving, hardly fulfilled by a half-sandwich for dinner after a late, long, exhausting work shift. Enter: my brain wondering how to incorporate Sriracha into grilled cheese. What happened at this point was, in my humble opinion, one of the best damn ideas I’ve ever, ever had.

The picture to the left may not look like more than an average grilled cheese, but let me tell you: it is the best damn grilled cheese I’ve ever eaten. (I pride myself on my grilled cheese sandwiches, so I consider this proclamation to be very serious, indeed.)

Sriracha Grilled Cheese

You will need: butter, Sriracha, two slices of bread, several thin slices of sharp cheddar cheese, a frying pan and a stove

  1. Melt butter (I used about 2 tablespoons, because I like my grilled cheese sandwiches to be as bad for my arteries as they are delicious) in the microwave — should take about 20 seconds.
  2. Mix Sriracha sauce into melted butter. (I eyeballed this amount too — I used maybe two teaspoons? You can use more or less depending on how hot you want your sandwich.) A butter knife should work fine, but make sure to mix thoroughly, until the mixture is a light orange color.
  3. Let the mixture sit for a minute or two to harden into something spreadable. This is a great time to slice your cheese, if you haven’t already! You can also start to heat your frying pan (on medium heat is best).
  4. Spread Sriracha-butter mixture over one side of each slice of bread. Once pan is hot, lay one slice of bread, Sriracha-buttered side down, in the pan. Layer with slices of cheese and top with the other bread slice.
  5. Let bread toast and cheese melt (this process can be sped up by putting a lid on the frying pan, which will trap the heat and melt the cheese faster). Flip sandwich over and toast the other side.
  6. ENJOY.

There are many, many things I learned today. The first is that Sriracha is, quite literally, the only condiment that matters, as it can improve anything and everything (except for maybe sweets). The second is that when eating a Sriracha Grilled Cheese, one should have milk handy to smother the burn when it’s too much. And the third is that I’m really not a very good food blogger, but this sandwich was so damn good that I had to share it anyway.

Sriracha: The only condiment that matters