Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Apple Pecan Upside Down Cake - Vegan

Winter came to Seattle before Fall left this year...everything is white outside and it is really beautiful! When it snows in Seattle it creates certain chaos and calmness. I feel sorry for the ones who got stuck in chaotic snow traffic last night and spent many hours trying to get back to home. I hope everyone gets to enjoy the calmness today. We are snowed in today and not planning on risking our lives to go somewhere, so I thought it was a good day to bake!

With the holiday season approaching, whether you are a vegan or not, I know you are looking forward to all the great food but dreading counting the calories and fat grams you are going to put into yourself... This is a healthier alternative to your typical holiday desserts and it is delicious!! No refined flower. No refined sugar. Only a good kind of fat from nuts... can it be true? 

What goes in your body:
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1 apple, diced into small pieces
  • 1/3 cup non-dairy milk
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 tbs baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup apple sauce
  • 1/2 cup agave nector
  • 1tbsp vanilla extract

You are going to:
  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. Lightly grease a cake pan and lay pecans on the bottom of the pan, then make another layer with apples.
  3. Pour non-dairy milk and maple syrup on top.
  4. In a mixing bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together ,add all the remaining wet ingredients and mix well to make batter.
  5. Pour batter into the cake pan and bake 40-45 minutes or until the center of the cake is cooked.
  6. Take it out from the oven and let it sit for 10-15 minutes to settle.
  7. Cover the cake pan with a serving platter you want to use and flip it upside down!

Secrets from the chef:
  • It is very unfortunate that we don't have any ice cream at home now and we can't go to the store to pick some up... this will certainly go well with ice cream!
  • I used Almond milk as my non-dairy milk choice.
Bon appétit! 

Monday, November 22, 2010


As I had mentioned in my last post, I challenged myself to cook Indian food everyday for a week. Luckily, there are several Indian grocery stores in Seattle area since we have a good-sized Indian community here. I was able to get all of the ingredients from one of the Indian grocery stores. I also found my favorite Indian flatbread there. One of the Indian restaurants I go to usually gives a crispy flatbread with some dipping sauce to every customer as we wait for our food. It's like the equivalent of bread sticks at the Olive Garden or tortilla chips in a Mexican restaurant... One day, I asked the waiter what the name of this bread was and all I remembered was that it sounded like 'paper.' As it turned out it's called 'papad' or 'papadum'. According to Wikipedia, "they are typically made from flour or paste derived from either lentil, chickpea, black gram (urid flour), rice or potato.

This is how the package for the one I bought looks like. (There were several varieties.) The picture of the kid on the package makes me think that eating this is some sort of punishment... but it really tastes good. (I don't know what the creepy bunny has to do with this bread either...)

My Indian friend taught me that the easiest way to prepare it is to just microwave them piece by piece. It's fun to watch this paper like dry dough turn into nice crispy flatbread. It's kinda like popping popcorn...?

I particularly like the ones with cumin seeds. If you have never had one of these, I hope you'll give it a try!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Spice Box

Last week, I challenged myself to cook Indian food everyday for a week. Why?
  1. I love Indian food.
  2. My husband is half Indian and grew up eating delicious curry dishes made by his mom.
  3. I wanted to learn how to incorporate a variety of spices into my cooking
  4. Since I had to buy several new spices, I wanted to make it worthwhile by using them for several dishes at least.
As a starter, I followed recipes exactly from my cookbook. Most of the dishes turned out just okay, not great. The best way to describe them was 'something is missing...', so I'm not ready to post any recipe here on my blog yet. I think I can do better now that I've tried different recipes and have a better understanding of the flavors of spices. Maybe I'll have another week of Indian food between holidays...

When I visited my Indian friend a while ago, I saw her using a beautiful spice box to store all of her basic spices. Since she uses so many different kinds of spices in one dish, I thought it was really practical that she didn't have to open and close spice jars for each spice. The spice box has always been in the back of my mind, so I finally got one for myself!

As I expected, it is very handy! The fact that I have most (not all) of my spices in one container and don't have to open/close each spice jar makes this spice box very practical. I'm sure this is probably a standard kitchen item among Indian families...

I put cumin seed (center), then clock wise from a red one; chili powder, turmeric, mustard seeds, onion seeds, cumin, garam masala.

I don't know if there is some kind of standard to which seven spices go into a box. I'm thinking about buying another one to create my Italian cooking spice box as well.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Braised Lebanese Eggplant with Chickpeas - Vegan

This dish was so good that just thinking about it makes my mouth water... I forgive you if you haven't tried any of the recipes from my blog, but you must try this one! (If you don't, it's your loss!) Okay, I'll stop... so that you can start cooking...

What goes in your body (4 vegan):
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 6 medium Japanese eggplant, quartered lengthwise and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp ground allspice
  • ¼ tsp ground cumin
  • 1 cup marinara sauce
  • 1 tbx red wine vinegar
  • 1 15-oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 2 large int springs, plus 2 tbs chopped mint
  • Karam's garlic sauce

You are going to:
  1. Preheat oven to 325F
  2. Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté 7 minutes or until soft.
  3. Stir in eggplant, and cook 5 minutes or until beginning to brown.
  4. Add garlic, allspice, and cumin, and cook 1 more minute.
  5. Stir in marinara sauce, vinegar and 2/3 cup water, and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 5 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat, and stir in chickpeas. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Lay mint springs on top of eggplant mixture, cover, and transfer pot to oven. Cook 45 to 50 minutes, or until eggplant is tender.
  8. Remove mint springs, and stir in chopped mint. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Secrets from the chef:
  • I don't have a Dutch oven, it turned out fine with my oven-proof stainless steel pot.
  • I didn't have any mint handy... so I replaced water with mint tea to add a minty flavor. It's probably much better with fresh mint, but I didn't feel like spending any money on mint which grows like a weed in my yard during summer time...
  • You MUST have Karam's garlic sauce!
  • This can be served with brown rice, quinoa or flat bread.
  • The original recipe is from the Vegetarian Times
 Bon appétit!

    Monday, November 8, 2010

    Araya's Place - Thai Vegan and Vegetarian Food

    "I should like just to remember the order of the houses here. It is a hobby of mine to have an exact knowledge of London. There is Mortimer's, the tobacconist, the little newspaper shop, the Coburg branch of the City and Suburban Bank, the Vegetarian Restaurant, and McFarlane's carriage-building depot. That carries us right onto the other block. And now, Doctor, we've done our work, so it's time we had some play...."

    Can you guess where this is quoted from? This is Sherlock Holmes in "The red-headed league", one of "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" which was published in 1892. The plot was set in London, 1890... did you notice that he mentioned a Vegetarian Restaurant? I thought it was quite interesting! Well, I know that the vegetarian diet has been around since much earlier, but the thought of a vegetarian restaurant's existence in London  in 1890 is intriguing.

    My husband and I went to Araya's Plate for lunch last week. It is a Thai Vegan and Vegetarian restaurant located near the University of Washington. It is a good size restaurant but almost all the tables were occupied during their lunch hour. We decided to do their lunch buffet, so that we can try a variety of food. There was Phad Thai, Coconut Curry, Fried Rice, Stir Fried Vegetables, Tom Yam Kung, Spring Rolls, Steamed Vegetables, Fresh Salad, Brown Rice, Fresh Fruit, Black Sticky Rice with Coconut, etc.

    It's a little hard to judge the quality of food from lunch buffet, but they were all tasty. (They also offer regular menu items during lunch hours.) The only thing I didn't care for was their Black Sticky Rice with Coconut Sauce. It was way too sweet for my taste.

    This was my first plate...

    And this was my second plate...

    I have to say that the big plus of this restaurant is that they have a good size parking lot which is not typical for the University District. I also recommend visiting their restrooms... you'll find all sorts of interesting vegan & vegetarian information just outside of the restrooms.

    Location: 1121 NE 45th St. Seattle, WA 98105
    Hours: 11:30am-9:00pm (Mon-Thu)
                11:30am-10:00pm (Fri & Sat)
             11:00am-3:00pm (Sundays)

    Sunday, November 7, 2010

    Tapioca Pudding - Vegan

    I was just browsing through some items at a local oriental grocery store the other day and I saw a bag of tapioca for $0.99. I've never bought or cooked tapioca before, so I don't know if it's a good price or not, but... I thought, "hey I could make some tapioca pudding and it's only ninety-nine cents even if it doesn't turn out to be good!" The instructions on the bag were written in poorly translated English, but I think I got the essence of how to cook it. I understand some people are absolutely turned off by tapioca's texture... so this may not be for everyone. But, if you like something light for a dessert, you may want to give it a shot!

    What goes in your body (4-6 vegan):
    • 1/4 cup of small tapioca pearls
    • 1 can of coconut milk
    • 1-2 tsp sugar
    • 1 tsp cinnamon powder (optional)
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
    • 2 tbsp flaked coconuts (optional) 

     You are going to:
    1. In a medium sauce pan, bring 4-5 cups of water to boil.
    2. Add tapioca to boiling water, cook for about 5 minutes, turn off the heat and let it stand for an hour.
    3. Using strainer, rinse tapioca under cold running water. If the pearls get stuck together, separate them into individual pieces with you finger.
    4. In a bowl, mix tapioca with coconut milk. (Add some water if needed to achieve desired consistency.)
    5. Mix in sugar and optional ingredients.

      Secrets from the chef:
    • Stirring frequently while re-hydrating tapioca will prevent them from sticking together. 
    • Tapioca is made out of starch extracted from cassava ( a root vegetable commonly used in Southeast Asia and South America) and is gluten free.
    Bon appétit!

    Thursday, November 4, 2010

    For the love of garlic...

    If you have been following my blog, you have probably figured out how much I love garlic! (Didn't I just post a recipe for Peperoncino yesterday?) I usually throw in a few more extra cloves of garlic than what the recipe requires, so I go through my garlic pretty quick. Good thing they are fairly inexpensive... Around here, Fred Meyer has the best price for garlic, three for $1. Their size varies, but I guess it's true with any other stores.

    Besides using fresh garlic for cooking, I also make garlic paste which is a really easy way to add garlic flavor to curry, soup, sauce, etc. All you have to do to make garlic paste is just to blend 4 ounces of garlic and 1/2 cup of water in the blender. You can keep it in the refrigerator in a glass jar for about a month. Whenever I feel like something is missing from my cooking, I just add a drizzle of this paste and it's an instant fix! I also have a secret recipe for a delicious garlic sauce, but that one remains a family secret... sorry.

    Pickled Garlic from McSweet is another of my favorite! I sampled their pickles at a farmer's market this summer and I had to have them. The farmer's market season is over, but you can order samples from McSweet website for a small shipping charge. (They make variety of delicious pickles.)

    Oh, and don't forget about Karam's Garlic Sauce!!

    Wednesday, November 3, 2010

    Peperoncino - Vegan

    This has been one of my favorite pasta dishes for many years, and it happens to be one of the easiest and cheapest meals to cook. It only requires five ingredients from your pantry!

    What goes in your body (4-6 vegan):
    • One bag of whole wheat spaghetti
    • 1/3 cups of extra virgin olive oil
    • 8 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
    • 4 dried red chili pepper
    • Salt to taste

    You are going to:
    1. In a large pot, boil water and cook spaghetti according to the instructions on the package.
    2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil over medium heat in a large pan.
    3. Cook garlic in heated oil until crisp and golden.
    4. Using kitchen scissors, cut red chili pepper into small rings, add them to the pan and cook for a minutes. Turn off the heat.
    5. Drain spaghetti, add to the pan along with salt and mix well with oil.
    6. Serve immediately. 

    Secrets from the chef:
    • You can use more (or less) garlic depending on your perferences.
    • To make it less spicy, de-seed chili before cutting.
    • Please be careful not to overcook garlic to avoid bitter taste to develop.
    • I usually serve it with fresh green salad. 
    Bon appétit! 

    Tuesday, November 2, 2010

    Chipotle Chili - Vegan

    I like Chili because I can throw a lot of nutritious and tasty ingredients into one pot! It's so easy to make and pretty inexpensive and satisfying. There are so many varieties of Chili recipes out there, this one has a nice smoky flavor from chipotle.

    What goes in your body (4-6 vegan):
    • 2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
    • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
    • 2 large carrots, chopped
    • 2 large stalks of celery, chopped
    • 1 medium green bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped 
    • 1 medium red bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped 
    • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
    • 1 to 3 tablespoon finely chopped chipotles in adobo
    • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
    • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
    • 1 tablespoon chili powder
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
    • 1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes, with liquid 
    • 2 cups cooked red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
    • 2 cups cooked black beans, rinsed and drained
    • 1 avocado, chopped (optional)
    • Green onion to garnish (optional)

    You are going to:
    1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, celery, peppers and garlic and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, until vegetables are softened but not browned. 
    2. Add chipotle, oregano, cumin, chili powder and salt. Stir to blend. Add tomatoes and water. Gently simmer over low heat, uncovered, for 45 minutes.
    3. Add beans and simmer an additional 30 minutes. Garnish individual bowls with green onions and avocado, if desired.

    Secrets from the chef:
    • You can use vegan sour cream and cheese as optional toppings.
    • I served with my favorite tortilla chips - 'Veggie and Flaxseed Tortilla Chips' from Trader Joe's.
    • The original recipe can be found here.
    Bon appétit!