Fresh Tomato Tomato Sauce

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My niece runs an urban farm in the middle of Bridgeport, CT. She is doing some amazing work – raising crops, managing the both the working farm and the community farm plots, running the farm stand in the middle of the longest standing food desert in the country, and educating the local community. It is pretty amazing. We brought our drone to take some fun pictures for the farm’s website too!

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She and her team have grown over 2 tons of food this season. When we went to visit the farm last weekend, we harvested cherry tomatoes, kale, rainbow chard and ground cherries. I also got to bring home some beautiful zinnias that I cut myself! As we were leaving, my niece handed me 2 lbs. of fresh Roma tomatoes that were just harvested that morning.

As I have been doing all summer, when I have too many tomatoes, I turned them into sauce. I can’t believe I haven’t posted this sooner!

Note: In order to make this sauce work, I use my Foley Food Mill which is one of the best kitchen tools ever. When I run the sauce through it and “foley,” I can get all of the skins off without losing a drop of saucy goodness. If you don’t have a Foley mill, you can take the skins off before cooking the tomatoes by blanching them, shocking them, and then peeling tem.

2 lbs. fresh Roma tomatoes
2 tablespoons good olive oil (enough to cover the bottom of the pot)
1 big clove of garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt

Coat the bottom of a heavy pot with olive oil. Add the tomatoes. Press the garlic right over the tomatoes and add the salt.

Bring the heat up to medium and when you start to hear the tomatoes sizzling, stir around. Then lower the heat just a touch and cook down until the tomatoes are all popped and it looks saucy and delicious.

Run the sauce through the food mill and then use immediately or store for when you are ready for some saucy sauce!

Oil Free Baked Eggplant + Eggplant Pesto Stacks

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I recently read a post on Instagram from someone who baked eggplant without oil and of course I had to try it because roasted eggplant is usually so greasy and mushy. These little beauties come out crispy and are great plain but they are also fabulous stacked with tomato sauce and pesto!

The key is to salt the eggplant, much like salting zucchini, to get the natural water out. I find this works best on a cooling rack set over a baking tray. I am sure you can do this on paper towels, so don’t sweat it (haha!) if you don’t have a cooling rack. Although you should get one because it is great for baking.

Baked Eggplant
1 eggplant
Salt, as needed
1 chickpea flour egg (1 chickpea flour egg = 1 tablespoon chickpea flour + 3 tablespoons water)
1/4 cup breadcrumbs (homemade is best)
1/4 cup nutritional yeast (nooch)

Cut the eggplant into rounds. Set a cooling rack on a baking tray. Sprinkle the tops of eggplant rounds with salt. Turn them over and sprinkle the other side. Let them sit for 15 to 20 minutes. Pat them dry with paper towels.

Set up a breading station. Whisk the chickpea egg in a shallow bowl. Mix the breadcrumbs and nooch.

Preheat the oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with nonstick foil.

Dredge the eggplant rounds in the chickpea flour and then into the breadcrumb mixture. Coat all around. Gently place on the baking sheet. When they are all coated, bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden.

Eat as is right out of the oven or stack with tomato sauce and/or pesto. You can also reheat leftover rounds and then make the stacks, which is what I did in the picture below. Either way, enjoy!

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Blue Plate Special #59: BBQ Tofu with Roasted Potatoes, Corn on the Cob & Purple Cabbage Slaw

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BBQ tofu with easy sides makes for a perfect dinner! It’s all about the sauce and my homemade barbecue sauce does the trick. Make it ahead of time and use it whenever you feel like a little BBQ flavor for din din.

For this meal, I used half a box of extra firm tofu, roasted some potatoes and heated up some fresh corn on the cob. I also made purple cabbage slaw. But you can easily make this with tempeh and any sides that you have around. Just make as much as you need for the number of people you are serving.

Lisa’s BBQ Sauce (makes about 1 cup)
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons coconut sugar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon each onion powder, mustard powder, and garlic powder
Salt, a pinch

Whisk all of the ingredients together. Taste and adjust to your liking. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

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Cabbage Slaw
1/2 a big purple cabbage
1/4 cup vegan mayo (or homemade mayo)
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon coconut sugar
Salt, a big pinch

In the bottom of a big mixing bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. Shred the cabbage and toss it with the dressing. Slaw is always better when it has a little time to chill out so the flavors come together.

BBQ Tofu (serves 2)
1/2 block extra firm tofu
1/2 cup BBQ sauce
1 teaspoon sunflower oil

Press the tofu for as long as you have time for. Heat the oil in a nonstick pan and add the tofu. Brush the tops with sauce and flip them over. Brush the tops again with sauce and cook until it starts to smell good. Flip them over and cook the other side. The sauce will start to caramelize a little. It is ready when it is hot!

Roasted Potatoes
Potatoes
Sunflower oil
Salt, a pinch

Cut the potatoes. Coat in oil and salt. Roast in a 400 oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until done.

Corn
Boil and serve.

Plate it up and enjoy!

Spaghetti Squash with Lemon Herb Oil, Tofu, Corn & Scallions

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This is a recipe that I call a happy accident. I had the ingredients on hand from other dishes I had made and put this delightful meal together. I love the lemon herb olive oil that I usually use on top of tofu – it is one of my favorite flavor combos. So here, it gets tossed into this dish, as the sauce, for amazing flavor!

Note: This is one of those meals that you can prep ahead of time. The squash can be roasted a few days in advance. And the lemon herb oil can be made a few days in advance too!

Makes 2 nice portions

1 small spaghetti squash
1/2 block extra firm tofu
Lemon herb olive oil (recipe below)
1 cup of corn (fresh off the cob, canned, or frozen)
2 scallions
Salt and fresh pepper, to taste
Olive oil, a few teaspooons

Preheat oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with nonstick foil. Cut squash in half lengthwise and place cut side down on baking sheet. Roast for about 30 minutes or until a sharp knife can be easily inserted. Let cool enough to touch and then use a fork to scrape out the flesh.

Lemon Herb Olive Oil
1/3 cup fresh chives
1/3 cup fresh parsley
1/3 cup fresh dill
The zest of 1/2 lemon
The juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil

Place all of the ingredients into the processor and process until the herbs are chopped up.

To make the dish, cut the tofu into squares and add to a pan with a little olive oil and sauté until it starts to brown. Add the cooked spaghetti squash, cooked corn and lemon herb oil, a pinch of salt, and mix with tongs until everything is mixed through.

Thinly slice the scallions and toss them and just cook long enough for them to just start to get soft. The only real cooking at this point is to heat everything through.

Plate it up and grind some fresh pepper over the top. Enjoy!

Recipe Redux: Pizza

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We are now professional pizza makers around here! I stopped making it for a while because it was such a hassle, but now, with the Jim Lahey no knead technique, we are all in. The recipe is all over the internet so I feel comfortable posting it here.

This can’t be easier and of course you can top it however you like. This recipe makes either 2 big pizzas or 4 little ones. We like the little ones because that way we can each design our own toppings. The key to this pizza is baking it for 10 minutes before putting anything on top. Otherwise the toppings dry out too fast.

Also,  the dough freezes really well. In fact, I usually make it ahead of time and store it for when we decide it is a pizza kind of day. I brush a piece of plastic wrap with a little olive oil and drop the dough onto it. Then I wrap it up tightly and put it into a freezer bag. When I want to use the dough, I defrost it in the refrigerator overnight and bring it to room temperature before making the pie.

For one big pie, use a baker’s half sheet. Or make two on one sheet. Or use a quarter sheet for each little pie.

500g bread flour (3 3/4 cups)
10 g instant or active dry yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)
5 g salt (3/4 teaspoon)
3 g coconut (or other vegan) sugar (3/4 teaspoon + a pinch)
300g room temperature water (1 1/3 cups)
Olive oil, for baking

Measure out the flour, yeast, salt and sugar. Mix together with a fork. Add the water and mix well with a wooden spoon. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit until the dough has doubled in size, at least 2 hours.

Flour a clean work surface and form the dough into a ball. Cut the dough in half with a bench scraper. If you are not using now, wrap in the oiled plastic and freeze. Otherwise, continue.

Cover the dough with a kitchen towel and let sit for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 500 with the rack in the middle. Brush the baking sheet(s) liberally with olive oil.

With floured hands, stretch the dough the length of the baking sheet and gently pull and stretch it apart and try to get it to the edges of the baking sheet. It doesn’t have to go all the way. But the objective is to make an even layer. If the dough tears, pinch the holes together.

Bake for 10 minutes. Take out of the oven and top your pizza as you wish. I could give you a million ideas…but it’s pizza. It’s personal. We like pesto, sauce, and Kite Hill ricotta. We also love pizza bianca which is just olive oil and salt. Whatever you top your pizza with, put it back in to the oven for 5 or 10 minutes depending on how well done you like your pizza. Enjoy!

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Lentil Salad

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This is that dish. The one I make for parties. The one I bring to the beach. The one that, if it lasts a day, tastes better the next. It is delicious and so simple to make. It’s lentil salad!

I’ve been making this for years and so I kind of don’t have exact measurements, but I will offer some here. The truth is, it is all about the red wine vinegar anyway, and you can’t really go wrong! I don’t pay attention to the old oil to vinegar ratio, usually said to be 3:1, because I always like more vinegar than oil. So, try it and see what happens. I bet you will love this salad as much as I do!

2 cups of cooked lentils (French, brown or green, doesn’t matter, use your fave!)
1/2 each red, orange, and yellow pepper, or more if needed
2 carrots, or more if needed
2 scallions, white and green parts, or more if needed
Olive oil
Red wine vinegar
Salt

Note: you decide the lentil to vegetable ratio. Add more peppers, carrots and scallions if you like!

Cook the lentils according to the package. Let cool.

Chop the peppers and carrots into a small dice, about the same size. Thinly slice the scallions.

Toss the lentils and the vegetables together.

Start slowly with the oil and vinegar, but pour some of each onto the salad. Add a pinch of salt and toss around. Taste and adjust.

This is great immediately and after it has had time to sit. Enjoy!

Book Report: Easy. Whole. Vegan. + Bonus Recipe

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I just got my copy of Easy. Whole. Vegan. 100 Flavor-Packed, No-Stress Recipes for Busy Families by Melissa King. Do you know her? She is the voice behind My Whole Food Life. Her story is pretty amazing – she healed her children with a whole food, plant-based diet – and she as become a successful recipe developer, blogger and writer.

I first learned about Melissa’s work when I got DIY Nut Milks & Nut Butter and I have been making my own almond butter, peanut butter, macadamia butter, and tahini ever since. It is pretty amazing because I had been so intimidated and now I am a pro.

With this new book, Melissa focuses on easy recipes that the whole family will love. Many of the recipes are quick to prepare, some are slow cooker meals, and some you can make ahead of time. We are talking about Sweet and Spicy Warm Pepper Salad, Veggie Enchilada Soup, Apple Cinnamon Quinoa, Blueberry Chia Pudding, and Lentil Shephed’s Pie. There are also recipes for snacks and desserts. I don’t want to give it all away because this is one of the few cookbooks that I actually want to make more than half of the recipes. Seriously, that is high praise because usually I go through a cookbook and like maybe 2 recipes.

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I made the Kale and Wild Rice Salad with Tempeh. And we loved it! I forget how much I love wild rice. This dish was good hot, right of the stovetop, and good cooled off later in the afternoon. Here is proof!

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And I loved it so much, I got permission to share it! And seriously, go buy the book. It is really great!

Note: I have to admit that I didn’t exactly follow the recipe directions. I got the rice going. Sautéed the kale in pan with a little oil and garlic. And then I used the rest of the ingredients like a marinade and sautéed the tempeh until it caramelized. Then I tossed it all together.

Kale and Wild Rice Salad with Tempeh
Tempeh is one of my favorite plant-based proteins. Like tofu, it’s made from soybeans, but it differs in that it’s made by fermenting cooked soybeans. It also has an earthier flavor than tofu, so it happens to pair nicely with the wild rice in this recipe. The baby kale provides an unexpected sweetness, and the ginger adds a little spice to make this dish truly memorable. I suggest cutting the tempeh into smaller pieces to allow it to be better coated with the sauce.

Makes 4 to 5 servings
Prep and cook time: 50 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (480 ml) water
  • 1 cup (160 g) uncooked wild rice blend
  • One 8-ounce (227 g) package tempeh
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) mirin (see Notes)
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil (see Notes)
  • 1 tablespoon Bragg Liquid Aminos (see Notes)
  • 2 teaspoons freshly minced ginger
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder (or 1 garlic clove, minced)
  • 3 cups (50 g) baby kale or spinach, loosely packed

Steps

1. In a large saucepan, add the water and wild rice blend and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, then cover and cook for about 40 minutes, until all the liquid is absorbed.

2. Add everything else except the kale and cook for 5 to 7 minutes.

3. Add the kale and mix until it’s slightly wilted.

4. Serve immediately or refrigerate for later. This will last at least a week in the fridge.

Notes

  • If you can’t find mirin, check the Pantry section on page 12 for a good substitute.
  • If you don’t use oil, you can probably omit the toasted sesame oil, but I think it adds great flavor.
  • If you avoid soy, you can use coconut aminos in place of the Bragg Liquid Aminos.

Credit line: Recipe from Easy. Whole. Vegan.: 100 Flavor-Packed, No-Stress Recipes for Busy Families © Melissa King, 2016. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available wherever books are sold.

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Blue Plate Special #58: Lemon-Herb Tofu Over The Creamiest Mashed Potatoes Ever & Roasted Orange Cauliflower

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Back in the swing of school and that means I will be making lots of Blue Plate Specials, you know a plate that has a protein, a starch, and a vegetable. This kind of meal reminds me of the plates I grew up with and so there is some nostalgia but with different ingredients. Tonight, I did a different take on tofu by topping it with a mix of fresh herbs, lemon and olive oil. Of course, you can serve it with anything you love like rice or millet or broccoli or green beans!

This is one of those meals that happens fast and all at the same time. Here is how I get it all done in about 30 minutes. First, I prep the cauliflower and get it in the oven. Then I prep the potatoes and get them boiling. Then I make the herb topping and prep the tofu. At this point, the potatoes will be done, so I drain them and put them back in the pot to dry, where they will also stay hot. Then, I get the tofu started in the pan and mash the potatoes at the same time. When this is all done, the cauli will be ready. I declare victory and eat!

Note: I don’t prep anything beforehand. This is a chop and drop job which means my kitchen looks a little crazy afterwards but who cares! I am the one who cleans it up and I am not tv!

This meal serves 2 to 3 people.

Lemon-Herb Tofu
1/2 block extra firm tofu, cut into 4 slices
1/3 cup fresh chives
1/3 cup fresh parsley
1/3 cup fresh dill
The zest of 1/2 a lemon
The juice of 1 lemon, divided
1/4 cup olive oil + 1 tablespoon more for pan searing
Salt, a pinch

Press the tofu for as long as you have time for. Cut half the block and then cut that into 4 slices.

Add the chives, parsley, dill, zest, the juice of 1/2 the lemon, 1/4 cup olive oil and a pinch of salt to the food processor. Process until the oil looks emulsified and the herbs are chopped up.

Heat the oil in the pan. Add the tofu and cook until the first side is seared. Add the other half of the lemon juice and as that sizzles brush the tops of the tofu with the herbs. Gently but quickly flip the tofu over and sear the herb side. Then flip it right back over so that the herbs don’t get too well done. (You could also cook them so the herbs get well done if you prefer that!)

Roasted Cauliflower
1/2 head cauliflower or 1 small cauliflower
2 teaspoons sunflower oil

Preheat the oven to 400. Cut the cauliflower into bite size pieces. Toss with oil and roast for 20 to 25 minutes or until they start to brown.

Mashed Potatoes
4 to 6 yukon golds
Water
Vegan butter, homemade or store bought
Vegan cream cheese, I love Kite Hill

Peel and boil the potatoes until fork tender. Drain the water and put the potatoes back in the pot. Mash and add vegan butter and cream cheese in equal parts. Add water and mash again. Taste and adjust.

Plate it up and enjoy!

Heart Healthy Raw Macadamia Cashew Snack Balls

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This recipe is inspired by a recipe in Allyson Kramer’s book, Naturally Lean. These raw little snack balls are like “buttah” and they are a great heart healthy to-go snack for a long car trip or a snack right after school!

All of the ingredients are heart healthy because everything contains magnesium which is super important for heart health and is often depleted in many people. In addition, cashews are full of copper, magnesium and zinc and Vitamins E and K. Macadamia nuts are full of Vitamin A, iron, protein and selenium. Almonds are full of fiber, protein, magnesium and Vitamin E. Dates are full of calcium, fiber, Vitamins A and K.

This recipe makes about 26 snack balls using a 1 tablespoon ice cream scooper.

1 cup cashews
1 cup macadamia nuts
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons almond flour
12 medjool dates, pitted

Place all of the ingredients into the food processor and let it go until everything comes together and the mixture balls up like dough. It should look like this. Don’t go too long or you will have nut butter!

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Squeeze the mixture together with your fingers and if it sticks you are ready to make the balls!

Use the small ice cream scooper and form the snack balls. They might be a little oily but that is the natural oil in the nuts so don’t worry about it!

Place on a plate and then into the refrigerator. In about an hour, they will be cold and sturdy. Store in an air tight container and enjoy at will.

Note: when traveling with these snack balls, they will get a little softer than when eaten right out of the refrigerator. They are great either way!

Fight Colds/Feel Better Shots

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My friend Colleen decided to recreate one of the best shots the old Organic Avenue used to offer: Dragon’s Breath. It’s ginger, turmeric, lemon juice and cayenne pepper. When Colleen told me how it easy it is to make them, I jumped right on board! And then when my husband took a shot and said he likes them better than anything else he has EVER had, I knew we are onto something!

We named these fight colds/feel better shots because that is exactly what they are. All of the elements do their jobs including but not limited to:

Ginger: immune boosting, detoxing, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory
Turmeric: anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, detoxing
Lemon Juice: immune boosting, detoxing
Cayenne Pepper: anti-cold, anti-flu, anti-fungal

And now that we are about to leave our summer vacation bubble and head back to the city, we need to make sure we are fortified for the school year!

I had to buy some new equipment for this project but it is well worth it. I got a dozen of these cute little 2oz. bottles and these little stainless steel funnels so that we could properly portion out our shots and not waste a drop! I made these in the Vitamix and I can’t vouch for them if made in a blender. So you know what I say? It’s time to get a Vitamix!

This recipe makes about 11 2oz. shots. The size of ginger and turmeric varies but really some amount like what is pictured below is fine.

1 3/4 cup filtered water
The juice of 4 lemons
1 piece of big ginger
3 pieces turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
11 2oz. bottles
1 funnel
1 fine mesh strainer

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 Pour the water into the Vitamix. Squeeze in the fresh lemon juice.

Peel the ginger and add it to the Vitamix. Next, add the turmeric, unpeeled. Add the cayenne pepper.

Start the Vitamix on low and then turn it up and let it rip until it is yellow and you don’t hear any more grinding.

Set the fine mesh strainer over a 2 cup measuring cup and pour the mixture through. Press the remaining pulp with the back of a spoon and get out as much as you can. There will be only a small amount of pulp left. You an also skip this step.

Set the bottles up in an assembly line and get the funnel ready. Have a spoon handy to mix the measuring cup every few pours to make sure the pulp doesn’t settle and it is evenly distributed among the bottles.

Pour the shots and then twist the covers on tightly. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week. Shake them up before shooting them and enjoy!