Monday, August 25, 2014

The HappyCow Road Trip Stops in Portland

Everybody knows about HappyCow, right? But did you know they've just come out with a cookbook filled with fabulous recipes from restaurants featured and reviewed on the website? It's true! And you're invited along on the HappyCow Road Trip, where each stop takes you to a different blogger's kitchen to sample something wonderful from the book. Check out the Road Trip on their Facebook page.

Today we're at my place in Portland, Oregon, where I'm making Crostini Italiano from Veggie Grill in Hollywood, CA. We're so lucky to have our very own Veggie Grill here in Portland, just a short walk from our apartment. I'm very familiar with their food and can personally recommend everything I've tried on the menu - which is just about everything.

"My" Veggie Grill doesn't offer the Crostini Italiano, so I was pretty tickled to have the opportunity to sample the recipe at home. It was fast and easy to make - even in my little studio kitchen. Rick and I liked it so much we made it twice. I'll share my variation below!

From Veggie Grill in Hollywood, CA

Crostini Italiano
Serves 4–6

1 package Field Roast Italian Sausage*
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon crushed garlic
3 tablespoons chopped chives
Pinch salt
Pinch freshly ground pepper
1 French bread baguette, sliced
1 4-ounce jar of olive tapenade
1 8-ounce container Tofutti cream cheese, at room temperature

* Vegan, available at Whole Foods.

Remove casing from Field Roast Sausage. In a skillet over medium-high heat, warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the sausage and brown evenly on all sides, for approximately 5 minutes. Remove the sausage from skillet, pat it dry with a paper towel, and let it cool for 5 minutes. Chop it coarsely.

In separate bowl, combine crushed garlic and chives with the salt and pepper and mix thoroughly. Slice the baguette in ½ "-thick rounds. Brown in toaster oven at 375 degrees (or under the broiler) for approximately 2 minutes.

To assemble: Take a toasted baguette round, top with 1 teaspoon of olive tapenade, 1 teaspoon of coarsely chopped sausage, and 1 dollop of vegan cream cheese. Repeat with the remaining slices of 
bread. Serve and enjoy.

Follow the same instructions as above for the Field Roast Sausage. Skip the garlic and chives if you want to, and mix in a little fresh or dried oregano or basil.
Lightly oil both sides of the bread slices, and gently toast one side in a large skillet over medium-low heat.
Flip the bread slices and spread each with Tofutti Cream Cheese.
Instead of the tapenade, add a layer of cranberry sauce.
Top with the sausage and garnish with another dollop of cream cheese and a sprinkle of herbs.
We loved the combination of sweet-and-sausagy!

This cookbook is a keeper. Get yours by following the link below, and I'll get paid a little bit. Or get it anywhere you like. Just get it! Thanks HappyCow for this terrific addition to any vegan kitchen. And here's an idea for your next cookbook - how about recipes from all your favorite bloggers? Oh, I know just what to make... :o)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Pizza Bruschetta

I'm all about simple edible delights these days. A kitchen as small as mine can feel limiting, and I'll admit to wistfully reminiscing about my big, funky Taos kitchen from time to time. But I would't go back, and I'm excited about my new "project," which is to show you what wonders can come from a tiny kitchen and a few simple tools.

I make a lot of pizza, right? There are so many ways to do it. I hope I never run out of inspirations for this most marvelous of foods. I've already shared two of my favorite with you - the Tortizza, and the Cauliflower Crust Pizza. Now I'll add a new favorite, the Pizza Bruschetta. It's ridiculously easy to make, and only requires one skillet on the stovetop.

Pizza Bruschetta
crusty whole grain bread
fresh mushrooms, sliced
fresh garlic, chopped
pizza (or pasta) sauce
Daiya mozzarella
fresh baby spinach
fresh basil, chopped
olive oil

Cut the bread into nice thick slices - about 3/4 inch or so.
Lightly oil both sides of the bread slices with olive oil. (I use a Misto)
Heat a skillet to medium-high, and quickly cook the mushrooms until they lose some water and start to brown a little bit. Throw in some chopped garlic and let it cook for about a minute.
Place the mushrooms in a bowl, wipe out the skillet if needed, reduce the heat to medium-low.
Let the pan cool down for a few minutes, then gently warm the bread slices in the skillet.
Flip the bread over, and spoon on some sauce, followed by the Daiya, spinach, basil, and mushrooms.
Top with another little sprinkle of Daiya.
Cover the pan and let them cook for a few minutes, until the bottom of the bread is golden brown.
Serve with a dusting of Magic Sprinkles.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Better Gluten Free Bread

This one has been a Recipe Box exclusive for a long time, but I'm sharing it with all of you now! I have only made this bread in Taos, at that crazy 7,000 ft. elevation. It worked great as written, but I don't know how it will do at sea level, or anywhere in between. You might have to experiment a bit, and I will too, once the weather cools down some and I can face the oven again.  Enjoy!

I've been making (and eating) bread for days, trying to perfect the vegan, gluten free recipe I posted back in March. It was good, but not good enough. It was also much too complicated and had too many different types of flour in it for me to bother with very often. So I've been tinkering with it, and followed a tip from a reader who suggested using an electric mixer. It worked! And it's worked consistently for four batches in a row. Keep in mind that your oven, elevation (I'm at 7,000 ft here), and even the weather can play big roles in your baking success. You might need to make adjustments. Or you might not!

This is what happens when you use the wrong knife. The inside gets crumbled and mushed.
It still tastes heavenly, but it's not as pretty as it could be, and it can even appear to be under-baked.
See below for a bread knife tip!

Simple Gluten Free Bread
makes 2 loaves

2 cups brown rice flour
2 cups millet flour
2 cups tapioca flour
1/2 cup ground flax seeds
1/4 cup guar gum (or xanthan gum)
1 T salt
1 T baking powder
2 pkg dry yeast
6 cups warm water
1/4 cup maple or agave syrup
1 T apple cider vinegar

Preheat the oven to 350º and oil two loaf pans.
Whisk the dry ingredients, including the yeast, together in a large mixing bowl.
Measure 2 cups of the water, and stir in the maple syrup and vinegar. Pour it into the dry ingredients, then add the remaining 4 cups of water.

Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for about a minute, scraping the sides of the bowl once or twice. Once everything is blended, continue to mix on medium speed for another 2-3 minutes. What you'll have is more of a batter than a dough. You won't be kneading it, but it will begin to thicken a little bit, and to become kind of stretchy and sticky. Don't add more flour!
Divide the batter between the two oiled loaf pans. Smooth the tops with a rubber spatula, then make a shallow slit down the center of each loaf with a sharp knife.
Immediately place the loaves into the preheated oven, where the yeast will quickly begin to activate and the bread will rise without any further help from you.

It's true, no kneading. Be patient and watch the show, but don't open the oven!!!
Bake at 350º for about 1 1/2 hours, or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center. Some days I've had to leave it in for closer to 2 hours.
Remove the loaves from the pans and onto a cooling rack. It's best to let them cool almost completely before slicing, but I know that's asking a lot. Do try to wait at least 15-20 minutes though.

Variation: For cinnamon-raisin bread, add 3 T cinnamon and 1 to 1 1/2 cups raisins to the batter.
 I'm practically in a bread coma from all I've been eating.
It's just ridiculously good, and I have no intention of stopping any time soon.

TIP! A good bread knife is worth it's weight in vegan butter. Hacking through a soft bread with a regular knife will only mash it in the center. I've just bought this nice, inexpensive knife from Amazon and I love it. I can't believe it took me so long to get the right tool for the job! Look at how nicely the raisin bread is sliced.

Like this recipe? There are over 100 more in the Recipe Box!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Salad Bar Week

Rick is out of town for the week, so I decided to keep my food super simple while I'm here hanging out with the dogs. Like a lot of people, I don't really like to go to much trouble cooking for just myself. I do, however, like to eat good food that's good for me. Every day. It's been hot in Portland, so turning on the stove or oven aren't appealing. Going out is easy, but not much fun on my own. Smoothies are great for my everyday breakfast, so I don't try to complicate that. I needed a solution to lunch and dinner, and I decided to create my own salad bar.

I spent about an hour prepping vegetables and toppings, and making two dressings. Now I'm set for several days. It can easily take 15-20 minutes to make a single salad, but when you do a bunch of prep ahead of time, all you have to do is arrange what you like in a bowl, and add dressing. Poof! Instant salad! And I don't know about you, but when it's all ready and waiting in the refrigerator, I'm much more likely to actually eat that big salad than to think about it while I grab a bag of chips and a tub of salsa.

I like to use a variety of things so I can make my meals different each time. I use pre-washed baby greens, and sometime cut them up a bit, although it's not necessary. Also chopped, grated, and stashed in the fridge are cabbage, red bell peppers, carrots, mushrooms, olives, and pepperoncini. I even drained and rinsed two cans of beans, and thawed some frozen corn, shelled edamame, and green peas. Other things I'll use as the mood strikes me are some leftover steamed potatoes, raisins, cooked hot peppers, sunflower seeds, and even a few of those tortilla chips. As the week goes on I can replenish favorites as I use them up, or change it up with new ingredients.

I make my own dressings because they're always far better than the store bought kind. I've also drifted away from using oil in my dressings (and almost all my cooking), so this way I know exactly what I'm getting. By making two dressings I can have either one by itself, or mix them for even more variety. I made my own recipe for Cheesy Basil Dressing, as well as a new favorite of mine, created by Jane Esselstyn, called 3-2-1 Dressing. It's ridiculously easy, and also quite versatile. The original recipe is 3 T balsamic vinegar, 2 T prepared mustard of choice, and 1 T maple syrup. Mix it up, pour it on. It's really that simple. This time I used the vinegar "juice" from my jar of pepperoncini, Dijon mustard, and maple syrup, for a nice spicy-zippy dressing. I made a triple batch, and I absolutely love it mixed with a dab of the Cheesy Basil Dressing.

Other possibilities for variation are to add cooked grains to any salad, or wrap the whole shebang up in a whole grain tortilla for a more portable salad. Or make Sushi Spring Rolls filled with salad! I don't get bored eating this way, and sometimes I really like knowing that most of my cooking for the week was done in an hour. I can fuel myself with healthy, satisfying meals, while taking a summer break from the kitchen. I'm on Day 5 as I post this, enjoying every bite, and finding plenty of time to walk the dogs and work on new projects. This might stick even after Rick gets home!