Month: May 2013

No-Bake Chocolate Chip Cookies

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cookies

It doesn’t get easier than no-bake desserts and snacks. They are mostly vegan and save you a lot of electricity (except the part where you need to let them chill for a while in the refrigerator).. Chocolate chip cookies are one of my favorite cookies.  I’m a sucker for cookie dough. Who isn’t? I am in the process of fighting off a bad baking habit which I have that involves nibbling more than my share of cookie batter. Baking cookies usually requires eggs and eating batter with raw egg in it is probably not the best idea. That is where these no-bake chocolate chip cookies come in. They are a gooey, unbaked form of blondies. Since eggs are not necessary for this recipe, these cookies are safe to eat. Can I get a hurray? Rather than using copious amounts of oil and butter that a lot of cookie recipes require, I used chickpeas and a bit of almond butter. These ingredients give these no-bake chocolate chip cookies the chewy and soft texture we all crave for. If you have a nut allergy, you can replace almond butter with a bit of trans fat-free margarine or coconut oil.  If you don’t feel like making cookies, this recipe makes a great cookie dough dip. You can eat a couple spoonful of those.  I can’t seem to get enough of that gooey goodness. Fortunately (for my waistline) I used up all the chickpeas I had left and am too lazy to buy more. Stay tuned for my no-bake brownies recipe 🙂

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 1 1/2 cup of cooked chickpeas or white beans with reserved water
  2. Pinch of salt
  3. 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
  4. 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  5. 1/4 cup of almond or peanut butter
  6. 2/3 cup of brown sugar
  7. 1/4 cup of flour
  8.  Bag full of bitter-sweet chocolate chips
  9. 1/4 cup of oats (you can omit that for a thinner dough

Instructions

Add all ingredients (except for chocolate chips) to a good food processor , and blend until very smooth. Then mix in the chocolate chips and oats.  Form cookies and lay them on a baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and allow it to chill in the refrigerator for an hour or 2.

Yields 8 -10 cookies

Vegetarian Submarine Sandwich

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veggie sub

Are you looking for a quick,nutritious, and a vegetarian dinner idea? This vegetarian submarine sandwich is the perfect solution for you. I generally enjoy submarine sandwiches stuffed with a variety of cold cuts. Cold cuts and various deli slices, by in large, contain an excess amount of calories, fat, and sodium.  This vegetarian submarine sandwich is very easy to make and a delicious simple sub for veggie lovers. You can make it at home easily with vegetable patty along with your favorite veggies wrapped in your choice of bread. Rather than using vegan bologna, I used Portobello  mushrooms and eggplant. For some added bit of dairy, you can sprinkle some crumbled goat cheese or tofu for some protein.  I generally love sandwiches as they are easy to prepare, very filling and open many doors to creativity. You can take the traditional route or non-traditional route and it will still be delicious. Since most restaurants seem to have the same and very few vegetarian sandwich options on the menu, a creative meatless (and sometimes cheese-less) sandwich is something you need to create from your own home. While there is a variety of vegetarian submarine sandwich recipes, I stuck to the basics. I used a bit of schug and humus and condiments which worked pretty nicely with this sandwich but you can use any condiments of your choice. I’d like to hear your vegetarian sub sandwich ideas. Feel free to share a recipe. I may give it a try 🙂

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 2 crusty sub rolls, preferably multi-grain or whole wheat
  2. 1 onion sliced
  3. 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  4. 2  large bell pepper cut into stripes (use any color you want)
  5. 4-6 Portobello mushrooms cut into thick slices
  6. 1 medium-small eggplant sliced
  7. 1 teaspoon of dried thyme leaves
  8. 1 teaspoon of oregano
  9. Humus
  10. Schug
  11. Salt and pepper for taste

Instructions

Preheat oven to 425° F. Lightly spray a shallow-sided sheet pan, large enough to hold the vegetables in one layer, with cooking spray. Place the peppers, onions, eggplant and mushrooms on the pan. Drizzle with the olive oil, adding a little more if needed to lightly coat. Add the garlic, thyme, oregano, salt and pepper. Toss well to combine. Roast until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, halve the rolls horizontally. Remove some of the extra bread from the centers of both halves to form a boat. Place under the broiler, cut side up, and toast slightly. Spread each half with a little hummus and a bit of  schug. Put a generous amount of the vegetables in the bottom halves.

Yields 2 to 4 servings

 

Lemony Herb Linguine

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Linguine

Pasta and cheese normally go well together like a marriage. I have a bad habit of drowning my pasta or grains with cheeses or sauce.  Who can resist a bowl of pasta with gooey cheese? I barely could. I’ve been trying to keep my temptation for cheese in check. I’ve used a bit of veggies, mostly mushrooms seasoned with herbs as a healthier alternative to cheese and heavy sauces. This lemony herb linguine is a vegan solution to any of my favorite dairy ridden pasta dishes. A bit of lemon zest adds from freshness and a semblance of Spring to this linguine dish. Mushrooms, fresh  basil, and baby spinach give this dish some flavor as well as balance. You can use other vegetables as well such as tomatoes, peppers, or zucchini. You can throw is some tofu or fish for some protein.  Add some pecans (not the candied ones) to this lemony herb linguine for some crunch. When using linguine, whole wheat linguine is a healthful choice.  I haven’t given up cheese for now. This experience has taught me that butter, cheese, heavy cream, and milk are not crucial to creating a creamy yet flavorful pasta dish. For parents who are struggling to encourage their kids to eat more vegetables, this recipe may be your saving grace.

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 6 ounces of uncooked linguine (preferably whole wheat)
  2. 1 lbs of mushrooms sliced
  3. 1 onion chopped
  4. 1 clove of garlic minced
  5. 1 lbs of baby spinach
  6. 1 cup of fresh basil chopped
  7. 1 teaspoon of oregano
  8. 1 tablespoon of fresh parsley chopped
  9. 1 tablespoon of lemon zest
  10. Salt and pepper for taste

Instructions

Cook linguine according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, saute the, mushrooms, onions and garlic in a greased skillet for 3-5 minutes. Add the spinach, basil, oregano, salt and pepper; cover and simmer for 3 minutes. Drain linguine; add to vegetable mixture.  Toss in lemon zest and pecans (optional). Season with salt and pepper. Top with parsley.

Yields 6 servings

 

Turkish Chicken

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Chicken

Turkish chicken is similar to Tandoori chicken in terms of using a yogurt marinade. Rather than using drumsticks, Turkish chicken requires chicken breasts.  And there is no curry. The acidity of the yogurt and lemon juice helps tenderize and keep the chicken breasts moist.  A bit of hot paprika or cayenne pepper adds some kick to this Turkish chicken. Due to my dietary restrictions, I am unable to use dairy yogurt wit this chicken and non-dairy yogurt is hard to find where I live. I used soy milk instead which worked just as well. Like Tandoori chicken, Turkish chicken requires at least an hour of marination. Turkish chicken serves well with grains and pasta. You can serve each chicken breast whole like I did or cut them up into pieces. Although not necessary, I added some sauted onions to this chicken. If you decide to cut them up, reduce the cooking time as chicken breasts are vulnerable to drying out very easily. Stuff leftovers in a pit with some salad.

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 4 lbs of  skinless and boneless chicken breasts
  2. 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  3. 1 cup of soy milk, yogurt  or non-fat plain yogurt
  4. 2 cloves of garlic minced
  5. 1 tablespoon of fresh minced ginger
  6. 2 teaspoons of hot paprika or cayenne pepper
  7. 1 1/2 teaspoon of cumin
  8. 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  9. 1 tablespoon of fresh mint chopped
  10. Salt and pepper for taste

Instructions

Pound and butterfly chicken breasts. Place chicken breasts in a bowl. Add lemon juice and toss to coat. Whisk soy milk, garlic, ginger, paprika, cumin, mint, salt and salt in a separate bowl. Pour the yogurt/soy milk mixture over the chicken and stir to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.  Position rack in upper third of oven; preheat broiler. Remove the chicken from the marinade. Place the chicken on a broiler rack and broil until browned on top, about 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 400°F and bake until the chicken is juicy and just cooked through, about 15 minutes longer. (Thigh meat will appear dark pink, even when cooked through.) Serve immediately.

Yields 4 servings

 

 

 

Root Beet Soup

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beet soup

Whenever I think of beets, borscht is the first thing that comes to my mind and not in a positive way. As a matter of fact, the word beet makes me grimace. My maternal grandmother, God rest her soul, would live on this cold Russian beet soup every Passover. After having a couple sips, I couldn’t fathom why. Most Russians I know and those from the Soviet Union claim that my dislike for borscht stems from the processed canned stuff which everyone unanimously agrees is total crud. Having root beet soup at a friend’s house slightly made me have a change of heart. Honestly, I was a little hesitant to try it when she mentioned that she was serving this soup. Just out of morbid curiosity, I tried a bit of it and it wasn’t as bad as I was anticipating it to be. It was actually downright good enough for me to want to replicate this soup.  I forgot to ask for the recipe but decided to improvise my own version based on the ingredients I was able to memorize. Beets are bland when eaten alone. A bit of tomato paste and balsamic vinegar adds some kick to this soup. When made right, this root beet soup is rich and velvety. I especially love the deep purple and red hue.

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 4 beets peeled and chopped
  2. 1 large potato peeled and cubed
  3. 1 large leek chopped, washed, and rinsed
  4. 2 cloves of garlic minced
  5. 2 large celery stalks chopped
  6. 1/2 cup of tomato paste
  7. 1/3 cup of balsamic vinegar
  8. Salt and pepper for taste

Instructions

Place all ingredients in a stock pot. Fill it up with 4 to 6 cups of water or vegetable stock. Cover and bring to a boil. Uncover and let it simmer for 30 minutes or until vegetables are soft and tender. Puree with a hand blender or in batches with a blender. Season with salt and pepper.

Yields 4 to 6 servings

 

Yemenite Spicy Relish – Schug

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Schug

If you have been to a Middle Eastern  theme party, you will notice an array of spiced spreads from hummus, eggplant spreads to tahini and more. Most Middle Eastern cuisine is by in large spiced with cayenne pepper, cumin, tumeric, chili peppers, and jalapeno peppers. Unlike my previous dips, making this schug does not require prior cooking or roasting. This Yemenite spicy relish, or schug, is basically made with raw chiles, garlic, jalapeno, cilantro, or parsley. Schug is comprised of 2 different colors – either bright green or brick red, depending on which pepper you decide to use. I initially intended to use a bit of both but couldn’t find chili peppers as they were sold out by the time I went to look for them. Instead, I’ve used a red bell pepper and a bit of chili oil along with jalapeno pepper and garlic. Unless you have an iron stomach or a fire-proof palate, schug is not meant to be eaten in copious amounts. Its flavour, even in the smallest amount, can be very fiery from a miniscule amount of dried chiles to black pepper.  While schug is spicy, it is one of the easiest dips to make. I find jalapeno peppers not to be as overwhelmingly pungent as chili peppers but you can use hotter chili peppers if you prefer.

Yemenites serve this spicy relish as an accompaniment for soup. Most people usually spread this Yemenite spicy relish on bread or pitas and eat it with the soup. Others like to add it to their pita and felafel. I like to add a bit of it to my salad or use it in a sandwich. Indeed, you can use it like pesto and mix a small amount of it with pasta and add a little olive oil. Or you can use it as a marinade for chicken. Since schug is easy to prepare, I generally make it in small quantities so the flavours stay fresh. You can remove the seeds and membranes of jalapeno and chili peppers for mildler effect but I leave them in so they give their heat to this spicy relish. Since cilantro gives plenty of flavour to the relish, I use them. If you don’t like cilantro, however, you can always substitute them for flat-leaf parsley instead or omit them entirely.

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 2 jalapeno peppers quartered
  2. 1  small red bell pepper diced
  3. 4 cloves of garlic peeled
  4. 1/2 cup of cilantro sprigs or flat-leaf parsley
  5. 1 teaspoon of chili oil
  6. 2 to 4 teaspoons of water
  7. Pinch of salt

Instructions

Combine jalapeno peppers, red bell pepper, garlic, chili oil, cilantro, 2 teaspoons of water and salt in a mini-food processor. Process ingredients into a smooth puree, stopping every few seconds to push mixture down so ingredients are grounded evenly. Add a bit more water if necessary.

Yields 1/3 to 1/2 cup of schug

Spinach Broccoli Goat Cheesecake

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quiche

Most people associate cheesecake with dessert. They will seldom think of it as as a savoury side dish. Truth be told, a savoury cheesecake isn’t much different than a quiche, per say. As a matter of fact, this spinach broccoli goat cheesecake recipe is practically a vegetable crustless quiche. I merely sauted the vegetables, used 2 eggs and cottage cheese for the filling, and used goat cheese as a topping. I normally enjoy quiches with the crust but I figured that I could make some sacrifices on the excess amount of oil and butter fat that is normally embedded in most pie crusts. It doesn’t necessarily need it. Leftovers make great breakfasts.  If you use the salty goat cheese, however, I do recommend that you use additional salt very sparingly as too much can overpower the flavour of this savoury cheesecake.

For this recipe, you will need:

  1.  1 onion chopped
  2. 1 clove of garlic minced
  3. 1 lbs of baby spinach
  4. 2 cups of fresh broccoli florets
  5. 2 large eggs beaten
  6. 1  1/2 cup of low fat cottage cheese
  7. Crumbled goat cheese
  8. 1/2 teaspoon of ground pepper

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 inch pie pan. Saute onion in a greased skillet over medium high heat for 5 minutes. Saute garlic for another minute. Add the spinach and broccoli florets and saute till soft. In a bowl, mix pepper, eggs and cottage cheese.  Pour in vegetables and mix well. Transfer to pie pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Sprinkle crumbled goat cheese and bake for another 5 to 7 minutes or until browned on the edges.

Yields 8 servings

Melon Cucumber Mint Drink

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drink

Hot weathers are usually conducive for cold drinks. Even though the weather has been quite pleasant, temperatures are expected to rise next week. That means its time to put away your boots and put on your sandals. Well, wait another month for that. Anyhow, if you are looking for a drink that is not only cool and refreshing but good for your skin as well, I have the quasi-perfect solution for you. This recipe I’m about to share with you is very easy to prepare provided that you have a blender. With no added sugar or any artificial flavours for that matter, the ingredients only consist of melon, cucumbers, a bit of lemon juice and mint leaves. It may sound weird to some of you but the longer you chill this drink, the more refreshing it tastes.  I don’t mind the pulp but if you do, you can always strain it. Why buy summer drinks when you can make your own using natural ingredients?  It is thought that melon helps clear up blemished skin. After taking a couple gulps, I noticed that my skin is less oily. You don’t have to take my word for it though. I like melon regardless.

 

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 1 lbs of melon seeded and cut into cubes (you can scoop it out with a spoon)
  2. 2 large cucumbers chopped
  3. 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  4. 2 tablespoons of fresh mint leaves chopped

Instructions

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend till smooth. Add a bit more water if too thick. Serve cold.

Yields approximately 6 servings

Homemade Hummus

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hummus

Popular in Middle Eastern and  Mediterranean countries, hummus is slowly finding its way in the West. Made from mashed chickpeas and tahini paste, you can find hummus in a dizzying array of many flavours at most natural food stores and supermarkets. From eggplant, sun-dried tomatoes, Turkish salad, to toasted pine nuts with zhatar, the list is endless. A while ago, I was at a friend’s house for one weekend dinner and she served hummus with grounded beef. It was lip smacking good. While I do appreciate the variety flavours in hummus, like hummus mavens, I prefer it plain as it is tastier and fresher when homemade.  It is healthier too because you can always adjust the fat and salt contents to your needs. It is very easy to make as well. Hummus makes a wonderful vegan and gluten-free spread for bread.

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 1 large garlic clove peeled
  2. 2 cups of cooked chickpeas drained, liquid reserved
  3. 2 tablespoons of tahini paste
  4. 2 tablespoons of strained fresh lemon juice or more to taste
  5. 1/2 teaspoon of cumin
  6. 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  7. 1/4 cup of water
  8. Salt and pepper for taste

Instructions

Mince garlic in a food processor. Add chickpeas and process to chop. Add tahini, lemon juice, cumin, 2 tablespoons of water or chickpea cooking liquid and puree till well blended. Add more water if mixture is too thick. Season with salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper.

 

Lemon Cheesecake with Blueberry Sauce

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cheesecake

Shavuot, or the Festival of Weeks is one of my favourite holidays. Not only it is the holiday where you get to enjoy a myriad of dairy culinary delights, it falls out during the time of year where the weather is still pleasant.  It is also a sweet but short holiday (maybe a bit too short for me) making it more relaxing on my nerves. While I normally enjoy traditional and more meat oriented meals, I can always appreciate a “non-traditional” dairy meal every once in a while.

When people often describe a healthy dessert, cheese cake doesn’t always pop up on the radar. I happen to love cheesecake, especially New York style cheesecake. Cheesecakes are normally dense, rich, and loaded with high fat and sugar content. This light but luscious cheesecake recipe that I’m about to share with you is healthier than your normal bakery bought cheesecake mainly due it is beneficial ingredients. The yogurt and ricotta cheese contribute calcium to this cheesecake. The blueberries are a star companion to this lemony cheesecake because of their fine color, flavour, and nutrition value. A bit of  fresh lemon juice and zest adds a refreshing flavour to this cheesecake. Chocolate cheesecake is my favourite but this lemon cheesecake is a great break for chocolate lovers such as myself and hubby. He didn’t fuss over the blueberry sauce which is a plus for me. 😉

For the crust, you will need:

  1. 5 oz of low-fat graham crackers or tea biscuits
  2. 1/4 cup of slivered almonds (optional)
  3. 1 tablespoon of sugar
  4. 3 tablespoons of almond oil, olive oil or vegetable oil

For the cheese filling, you will need:

  1. 3/4 cup of sugar
  2. 15 oz container of low-fat or non-fat ricotta cheese
  3. 1/2 cup of non-fat sour cream or leben
  4. 2 large eggs separated
  5. 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
  6. 1/4 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice
  7. 1 tablespoon of grated lemon zest
  8. 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  9. 1/3 cup of low-fat or non-fat vanilla yogurt

For the blueberry sauce, you will need:

  1. 1 cup of fresh or frozen blueberries
  2. 1/2 cup of water
  3. 2 tablespoons of honey, maple syrup or brown sugar
  4. 2 teaspoons of cornstarch
  5. 2 teaspoons of lemon juice

Instructions

To make the crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Process crackers, sugar, and almonds in a food processor. Process to fine crumbs. Add just enough oil to barely moisten the mixture and mix well. Lightly grease a 9 inch spring form pan. Press crumb mixture in an even layer and about 1 inch up sides of pan. Bake for 7 minutes. Let it come to a complete cool. Leave the oven on at 350 degrees F.

To make the cheese filling: Set aside one tablespoon of sugar to beat into the egg whites. Beat ricotta and leben until very smooth. Gradually beat in sugar. Then beat in egg yolks, lemon juice, lemon zest, flour, and vanilla. Stir in yogurt. In a small bowl, whip egg whites to soft peaks. Add in the reserved sugar and continue beating egg whites till stiff. Fold them into ricotta mixture. Carefully pour into cooled crust. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until top center is firm but still sakes when you gently move the pan; cracks will form in the cake. Allow it to cool at room temperature.

To make blueberry sauce: Puree 1/4 cup of blueberries in a blender. Transfer to a small saucepan. Add water, syrup, and cornstarch. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, constantly stirring. Stir in the remaining blueberries and simmer for 2 minutes or until thickened. Stir in lemon juice. Taste and add more lemon juice or syrup as needed.

Yields 10 servings