Saturday, May 28, 2011

Stuffed Shells with Roasted Red Pepper Marinara

Lately its been raining a lot here, even for springtime. So I've been cooking a lot and made up this recipe.  It's a very rare occurrence that I write down a recipe after having just made things up as I went along.  This time I didn't even print out other recipes for inspiration.  I just decided I wanted stuffed shells one day, and I wanted them to be vegan stuffed shells. I wish I could say this made four servings (probably would if you ate normal portions) but my significant other and I polished this off for lunch.  It was awesome.

This was really good.  So good in fact that I forgot to be patient and just piled the shells into a bowl.  The smell is warm, and intoxicating.  The roasted red pepper really hits the spot.

1 box large Shells
1/2 Package Follow Your Heart Mozzarella, shredded

*Cook a box of shells according to the directions on the package minus a minute or two.  You want them to be a bit al dente so after they are baked they are perfectly cooked.  Drain after cooking.

Finished Roasted Red Pepper Marinara

Roasted Red Pepper Marinara
29 ounce can tomato puree
1 red pepper, roasted, skin removed, or 3/4 C pepper pieces from a jar.
4 Garlic Cloves
1 T. Italian Seasoning
1 t. Hot sauce
Salt and Pepper to taste.

1. Put everything into a blender and blend until velvety smooth. 
2. Pour into a small sauce pan and simmer for 10-15 minutes

Had to get a close up of the super creamy "ricotta" stuffed shells.

Tofu  "Ricotta"
1 Package extra firm tofu
4 T. Vegan Mayonaise
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 T. Nutritional Yeast
1 T. Italian Seasoning
1.5 t. Ener- G- Egg Replacer
Salt and Pepper to taste.

1. Drain the tofu and crumble into a bowl.  Add all the other ingredients and use a fork to mix them well.
2.  Using a spoon stuff each shell with the ricotta mixture.  Put any damaged shells into a separate bowl (you can eat them with some leftover sauce later)
3. Line up each stuffed shell in a greased 8x8 pan.  Pack them in kind of tight.
4. Pour the marinara sauce over the finished stuffed shells.  Move the shells around a little bit to make sure that some sauce gets in between them and that each shell is coated in sauce.
5.  Sprinkle shredded mozzarella on top.
6. Bake at 375 F for 20-30 minutes, uncovered.

Someone asked what the package looked like.  Of course now that I have posted this I believe they have changed the packaging. 

Fully Assembled, about to be baked!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Sauerkraut: Its Finally Done!

So after about 8 weeks of fermentation (our house stays pretty cold in the winter months) the Sauerkraut is finally done.  I canned it this weekend and now we have access to our dining room.  Before I give you the recipe let me first say that this is the best sauerkraut I have ever had and I come from a very German family who used to make lots of sauerkraut.  That being said I believed certain online sources when they said that the smell was minimal.  Let me tell you that I would say that next time I would do this outside or in a secluded part of your basement because there is a distinct smell which is not very pleasant. However do not let me discourage you from taking this project on because it was very rewarding and also not very time consuming which is nice.

Cooling after their Water Bath!
This process is really pretty easy so I'll just lay it out for you.

1. Make sure you use fresh cabbage.  I got mine at a steep discount around St. Patty's day at my local grocery store.  I bought about 10 pounds, maybe a little more.  The goal was to have 10 pounds of cabbage going into the fermentation process so make sure you get a little extra to account for the parts of the cabbage you will not use.

2. Get some crocks or use a large non-reactive pot.  I used a crock that went to a crock pot I had and the canner that I had which was enameled.  Both of these worked really well.  You will need a plate or something large, and round to hold down the cabbage under the liquid you will add. I used dinner plates of different sizes.  They don't have to fit the exact diameter of your container, they just have to be big enough to hold down the cabbage under the liquid.  Also, you will need some kind of weights to hold this down.  I used old water bottles that I washed well and filled with water but you can also use canning jars you have around. 

3. Wash the cabbage and cut it into thin strips, place this in the containers you have chosen.  Massage the cut cabbage vigorously to release all its liquid. Don't be shy!

4. Most likely you will need to add liquid in order to ensure that the cabbage is completely covered.  What is not covered will rot and that is bad.  You should add a saltwater mixture.  I used sea salt because I did not have canning salt and my kraut turned out great.  The liquid its in is a touch cloudy, but once I canned it you couldn't tell.  Whether you want to use sea salt or pickling salt dissolve 3/4 of an ounce into two quarts of warm water and pour it over the cabbage. 

5. Place the plate and weights on the cabbage and make sure all the cabbage is well covered in brine. Cover container with a towel. Keep in mind that over time some of the water might evaporate and you might need to add more brine.

6. So this is the part where Im supposed to tell you to skim off the bloom or mold or scum (whatever you get on top, each batch is different) every day.  Well, I didnt do it every day, or even every other day.  I did it maybe twice a week, sometimes once a week.  I would say this last batch was pretty active in making stuff appear on top but I just skimmed it off and everything was cool underneath.  I even ate some of the kraut raw and I did  not get sick or anything.  So lets just take a minute and tell ourselves that if our kraut grows mold its a good thing, it means good, wholesome fermentation is occurring and we like that. Just make sure to remove any cabbage that wasn't covered by the brine.  Also its ok if there are tiny little dots of "stuff" left over after skimming the mold/ scum/ bloom.  These go away once you can them.

7. Let your kraut ferment for 4-6 weeks at 70-75 degrees or longer if it is fermenting in a colder area.  Our area was around 64 degrees and I let it ferment for about 8 weeks and I think its delightfully crunchy yet soft enough.  You can always taste test and see what you think.  Keep in mind that it will soften slightly during the canning process.

My Water bath canner (also used for fermentation) and finished Sauerkraut

Hot Pack Canning Method
1. Prepare everything you will need for water bath canning.

2. Put the kraut in a non reactive pot and get it hot, but not boiling.

3. Pack the hot kraut into hot sterilized canning jars.  I sterilize my jars in the oven at 275 F for 15-20 minutes.  Make sure to use a spoon and pack the kraut down into the jars a bit, that way you can fit more in.  Add some of the brine until there is 1/2 inch of head space.  I used a funnel and tried not to get any on the outside of the jars.  If you do get some on the outside you should wipe it off with a damp paper towel. Put the lids on, lightly tighten.

4. Process in the water bath for about 15 minutes for quart jars, and 10 minutes for pint jars.  Once time is up, turn off the heat, remove the lid, and let stand for 5 minutes before removing from the water.  As the jars cool they will seal.

Finished Sauerkraut minus the one I opened to eat some of.

I have to admit that this was fun to do and canning it really didn't take much effort. With ten pounds of cabbage I got about 5 quarts of sauerkraut.  Total cost = about $10! The effort I put in was really minimal and I'm really happy with the result. Don't be afraid! Make some today!

Proof that I ate some and lived!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Winning Alfredo with Broccoli

I decided to make this for dinner on a whim.  I read a lot about how fellow vegans were having trouble making a good alfredo sauce and I was eager to try my hand at it. The trick here is to resist the urge to add any liquids such as soymilk or water.  That way you will get a delightfully thick and creamy sauce, packed with flavor.

Winning Alfredo with Broccoli

1 block of Mozzarella (I use Follow Your Heart brand) cut into centimeter sized cubes.
2T Vegan Butter
3 Cloves of Garlic, minced
1/3  C Nutritional Yeast
2 T Parsley Flakes
1 t Fine Sea Salt (or to taste)
½ t Fresh Cracked Black Pepper (or to taste)
1/3 C Veganaise (I use Follow Your Heart, the variety made with Grape seed oil but the original also works)
¼ C Olive oil
1 Head of broccoli, cut into small florets, discard stalk and stems (or freeze them for making stock later)
13.5 oz box of curly pasta such as rotini
5 Green onions, white and light green parts thinly sliced (optional garnish)

1.       Begin heating water to cook the pasta.  Start on the sauce while you wait for the water to boil and the pasta to cook.  Do not discard the water you cooked the pasta in.  Use a slotted spoon to remove the pasta from the sauce pan and place it in a colander to drain. Move to a large bowl or serving dish.

2.       In a medium saucepan melt butter and add garlic.  Saute until the garlic becomes fragrant (a few minutes).  Add olive oil and mozzarella and mix together making sure no garlic is left sticking to the bottom of the pan.

3.       Continue cooking mixture on medium heat, stirring frequently.  Once the cubes have melted slightly (about 3 minutes)  add the nutritional yeast, parsley, Veganaise, salt and pepper (add less salt and pepper than you think you need, you can always add more once you taste).

4.       After you have removed the pasta from the water it was cooked in, add warm water if necessary and bring it back to a boil.  Add the broccoli and cook for 3-5 minutes (depends on the size of the florets).  They should be soft but not mushy.  Drain and add to pasta.

5.       Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper if needed.  Pour over pasta and broccoli and stir to combine.  Serve hot.  Optional: Garnish with the green onions by sprinkling them on top just prior to serving.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Apple Dutch Baby

The weather is still not great and once again I am stuck inside.  While browsing around the food sites I found a recipe for a "dutch baby" which sounded kind of naughty to me but it was on a food blog so I figured it couldn't hurt to click on it.  I am so glad I did!

This is really a go-to dessert in our house because its so quick and easy and we always have the ingredients to make it around our house.  Its kid friendly, adult friendly, and is also cooked in my very favorite cast iron pan which makes me like it more I think.

Apples Cooking in the cast iron skillet.
Apple Dutch Baby

4-8 Apples (depending on size and how thick you want your filling), any type, my favorite is granny smith
Cinnamon, to taste
1 T Apple cider vinegar
1 T Water
2-3 T Palm Sugar

1 C Flour
1/2 t Salt
1/2 t Lemon Zest (optional)
6 Eggs worth of Ener-g Egg Replacer (with the 2T of water per egg)
1 C Soymilk
1/2 t vanilla
1 t Cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 425 F.

2. Slice apples and place them into a 9 inch cast iron skillet.  Saute them on medium high heat, making sure they do not burn for 4-5 minutes.  Add the rest of the ingredients in the filling to the skillet and continue to saute until the apples are just soft. Remove from heat. Spread evenly on bottom of the pan.

3. In a separate bowl mix all the ingredients for the topping.  It will be a little runny. Pour over the apples and immediately put in the oven.  Bake for 20-22 minutes or until the top is slightly browned.  Allow to cool slightly before serving.

I use a spoon to scoop servings out of the skillet and then flip each scoop upside down so the filling is on top.  This is great with some vegan ice cream or with a splash of soymilk.  Makes a very satisfying late night treat!

The little white spots are baking soda that came out of the bottom of the jar I had in little rocks.  Time for a new jar! 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Sweet Saturday Morning Muffins

So its been raining a lot lately and I've been finding myself checking the weather daily, waiting for the next sunny day that I can go outside and garden.  Most days start with dewy mornings and end in afternoon rain which leaves me very little time for gardening and yard work and lots of time for cooking!

These muffins take a little bit of prep but they are well worth it.  Three of these is easily a meal and since they are whole wheat, and packed full of carrots, raisins, and apple I dont feel guilty.  They make great snacks, and would be wonderful to have at a brunch.

Sweet Saturday Morning Muffins
Yields 2 Dozen Muffins

2 C Whole Wheat Flour
3/4 C Raisins (black or golden)
3/4 C Palm Sugar
2 t Baking Soda
3 t Ground Cinnamon
1 t Ground Ginger
1/2 t Salt
2 C (generous) Peeled and Grated Carrots (used the food processor for this)
1 Large Granny Smith (or other tart) apple, grated
1/2 C dessicated coconut
1/2 C (generous) Chopped walnuts or pecans, lightly toasted
4.5 t Ener-g Egg Replacer (add 2 T water at the end if needed)
2/3 C Olive oil
1/4 C Fresh squeezed orange juice
2 t Vanilla Extract
Zest of one orange

1. Preheat the oven to 375 F.  Grease muffin tins or line with the papers (I used the papers).

2. Put raisins in a small dish and cover with hot water and allow to soak while you prepare the other ingredients.

3. Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl.  Add carrot, apple, coconut, nuts, apple, and zest. 

4.  Add all of the wet ingredients plus the drained raisins and mix until combined.

5. Fill the muffin tins 3/4 of the way full.  They will look pretty full, but these muffins do not "puff up" like some other muffins do so don't be shy about filling them up.

These muffins were a hit with vegans and non- vegans alike and as usual barely made it 2 days until they were devoured.  These muffins are great even with out butter and keep well as long as they are in sealed containers so they can be made a day or two ahead if need be.  Enjoy!