vegan “spaghetti & meatballs”

There is no spaghetti in this recipe, nor are there any meatballs. But if you’re in the mood for something with the same sort of flavor without all the weight of a bowling ball in your tummy afterwards, try this healthier alternative! (Note: the “meatballs” don’t really taste like meatballs; I’d say they’re closer to falafel, but if you’re not expecting a meaty taste you won’t be disappointed).

I’ve been really into this vegan recipe website Oh She Glows lately. That’s where I got the idea for the “meatballs” – Italian Bean Balls really. Not only are her recipes awesome and creative, but the food photography is outstanding, and she’s all self-taught. Ok, so onto the bean balls!

Preheat the oven to 350. Take 3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts and either toast in the oven for 7-9 minutes until fragrant or pan-toast (this is what I did) & set aside in a bowl. Put 3/4 cup oats into a food processor and pulse until it resembles coarse flour, then add to the bowl with the walnuts. Add 1 cup shredded carrot, 1/2 cup chopped parsley, 1/3 cup chopped basil (I used a little extra), about 2 large finely chopped oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, and 3 large minced garlic cloves. Stir. Then drain and rinse a 15-oz can of kidney beans and toss them into the food processor until finely chopped and stir them into the bowl with the mixture. In a mug or little bowl, whisk together 2 tbsp ground flax seed and 3 tbsp warm water and let it sit for 15-20 seconds, then stir into the mix. Add 1/2 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp oregano, 3/4 tsp salt, some ground pepper, and (optional) a dash of red pepper flakes. Shape the mixture into 18-20 balls (golf-ball size), packing them tightly between your hands. Place onto a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 20 minutes on each side.

I served mine with zucchini “noodles” but you could also do spaghetti squash – I didn’t, only because we just had spaghetti squash a few days ago. If you go the spaghetti squash route, just cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds and strings, brush with olive oil, salt and pepper, and bake face down on parchment paper at 375 for about 45 minutes. Then scoop out the contents, and add your toppings. For the zucchini noodles, use a mandolin with a tooth attachment (or grater, or food processor with some kind of shredding attachment) to create long ribbons of raw zucchini. Then either stir fry or microwave (about 2-3 minutes) until tender!

We had our “noodles” and bean balls with our favorite Arrabiata tomato sauce from Russo’s, a little Italian shop down the street. We’re completely obsessed with their homemade sauces. And if you’re not vegan, a little grated asiago cheese on top really takes it up a notch. So good…

Zucchini "noodles" with Italian bean "meatballs"

Zucchini “noodles” with Italian bean “meatballs”

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squash & sweet potato tagine

Fall veggies – I could eat them all year long. Sometimes I think if everything contained butternut squash, the world would be a better place (the fact that trying to chop a butternut squash almost cost me a finger once doesn’t deter me). It just tastes like hearty sweet nutritious comforting perfection to me. So when we got butternut squash, acorn squash, and sweet potatoes in our CSA bag this week, I was really excited to get cooking! I came across this recipe for a vegetable tagine, which didn’t include acorn squash but I figured I could throw it in anyway. I also didn’t have a tagine, which is sort of a traditional Moroccan clay pot, or a dutch oven or terra cotta substitute, but I do have a beautiful Le Creuset french blue stoneware baking dish that my dad and stepmom got me for my birthday and I don’t get to use nearly enough. So I prepped the first part of the recipe in a pan and transferred it to the Le Creuset for the baking part, which seemed to work out just fine!

If you also don’t have a tagine, or something similar that can go from stovetop to oven, do this: Preheat the oven to 375. In a pan, saute one chopped onion in 2 tbsp olive oil until it turns golden. Then add 2 cloves of minced garlic, 1 tsp ground ginger, 1/8 tsp crushed saffron threads, and a pinch of cayenne pepper, and cook for another minutes. Then transfer this to your baking dish with 1 butternut squash, 2 sweet potatoes, and 1 acorn squash (chopped into cubes) or any ratio of these veggies you want (I personally would have gone with more butternut and less sweet potato if I did it again). You could also add carrots. Slowly stir in 2 cups of hot vegetable stock, top with a 1/2 cup of raisins, and drizzle with 1 tbsp of agave (or honey). Stick a cinnamon stick in the middle, cover and bake for an hour. Remove the cinnamon stick, sprinkle with cilantro leaves, serve on its own, with bread for dipping, or over brown rice or cous cous. Now I have to admit (and I LOVE cilantro), I was skeptical of how the cilantro would taste with this… but it was great! Such a nice flavor contrast. Definitely don’t skip it (if you tolerate cilantro). We ate it as a main course over brown rice (Lundberg, my favorite) with sauteed snap beans. Delish…

Squash and sweet potato tagine right out of the oven

Tagine with brown rice and snap beans

 


coconut avocado brownies

So at the beginning of this semester, I spent several weeks writing a proposal for my food science class on avocado as a fat-replacer to make healthier brownies, only to have it deemed not worthy of being tested out for real in the lab! (Only 6% of recipes were chosen, but still. Bitter.) So I figured since I’d put all that work into the idea, I might as well test it out at home. But if you’re going to get experimental with brownies, why not get really experimental?

Those of you who know me know that I hate wasting anything. I had a bag of shredded coconut in the fridge left over from cookies I made in February, and it had gotten all dry. I didn’t know if there was anything I could do with dried-out coconut, so I decided to throw it into the spice grinder and see if I could make coconut “flour.” Well, I wouldn’t call the consistency of what came out “flour” exactly, but for this it seemed to serve its purpose. I also used agave nectar instead of refined sugar and tried egg whites instead of eggs. Also, many of these amounts were sort of eyeballed, so I apologize if you have to adjust. Precision isn’t exactly my thing. (Hmm, why didn’t my recipe didn’t get picked in food science class?). So here’s what I did: In a big bowl, mix the following with a hand blender (or you could puree in a food processor): 1 small/medium avocado, 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 1/2 cup coconut “flour,” 1/3 cup light agave nectar (you could use honey instead), 3/4 tsp baking powder, tiny pinch of salt, 1/3 cup egg whites (if you’re vegan, as I’m sure you know, you can make flax eggs) and 1 tsp vanilla. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.
Warning: these will be fudgy. Almost non-brownie-like, and they don’t rise very much at all! The flavor was good but this batch came out a bit salty, so in this recipe above I already adjusted for that, which hopefully fixes the problem. Try it! And feel free to change things and give me feedback. You pretty much have nothing to lose when playing with chocolate.

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chickpea burgers with yogurt tahini sauce

So there isn’t much of a story behind this recipe, besides the fact that I have a whole lot of tahini in my fridge right now and a desire to use it, and I have a new love for this blog – Fat Free Vegan Kitchen. The recipes are not fat free by the way; they’re just made without extra added fats such as butter & oils.

I made chickpea burgers with yogurt tahini sauce from this recipe last night, although the sauce I made wasn’t vegan, as I chose to use Fage greek yogurt instead of nondairy yogurt. I’ve tried a few nondairy yogurts and haven’t been a huge fan so far. We ate them with lettuce & tomato on multigrain Kaiser rolls with a side of baked sweet potato “fries” with cayenne pepper.

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Chickpea burgers with yogurt tahini sauce


healthy chocolate oat banana coconut almond cookies

ImageMy favorite food blog, 101 Cookbooks, does it again. These little dollops of cookie heaven are moderately guilt-free, delicious, and if you made a few adjustments, they could easily be made gluten free and vegan.

To make them gluten-free, just look for a gluten-free variety of rolled oats such as Bob’s Red Mill or substitute quinoa flakes (I’ve never tried them so I can’t vouch for taste). To make the cookies vegan, just substitute the dark chocolate chunks for carob chips or any chocolate without added milk fat, milk solids, whey, or casein, such as Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s chocolate chips, Organic Equal Exchange chocolate, or Green and Black’s Organic Dark Chocolate.

You can also try adding a number of other ingredients to play with the recipe: peanut butter, chopped nuts, dried cranberries, blueberries… the possibilities are virtually endless and I will definitely make this again and try some variations!

The original recipe is in the link above – I followed it exactly and used olive oil instead of coconut oil.