Thursday, May 31, 2012

Creamy Zucchini Noodles with Edamame

A couple of months ago, Groupon ran a special on the World Cuisine Tri-Blade Plastic Spiral Vegetable Slicer. These puppies normally run for around $50, but "Groupon Goods" offered it for a mere $24.

Naturally, I immediately ordered one. The only thing I love more than kitchen gadgets are kitchen gadgets at bargain prices. Really, I can think of very few things I love more than bargain kitchen items.

The best part about this particular purchase is that, despite being a (some might say) superfluous impulse buy, I actually use it and I absolutely LOVE the thing.

It makes VEGETABLES into NOODLES. And it works like a freakin' charm. It's glorious and it's inventor should be rewarded with a special place in vegan heaven. Seriously...if you don't have one of these things GET ON IT because - I don't know if you heard me before - but it allows you to NOODLE YOUR VEGETABLES.

I have found zucchini works particularly well in this contraption and, because of its mild flavor, makes a particularly awesome tasting noodle that you can pair with almost any kind of sauce/flavor.

For this recipe, I made a super basic alfredo-esque sauce and poured it over zucchini noodles along with some fresh arugula and sauteed edamame, corn + roasted red pepper trio for a beautiful, light spring dinner.

Creamy Zucchini Pasta w/Edemame
Serves 3-4

For the "Pasta"
  • 3 large zucchini, pushed noodled in your fabulous vegetable spiral slicer
  • 1 package Trader Joe's edamame, corn and red pepper succotash (frozen section), sauteed lightly
  • 2 cups fresh arugula
  • 1 large handful Italian Parsley, chopped
For the Sauce
  • 1/4 cup plain soy milk
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 Tbsp prepared yellow mustard
  • 1 Tbsp agave nectar
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
Whisk together the cold soymilk and the cornstarch and bring up to temperature over low heat in a small sauce pan, whisking constantly.

Slowly whisk in the nutritional yeast.

Whisk for 3-4 minutes and then add the mustard, agave and spices.

Simmer, whisking occasionally, for an additional 5-6 minutes.

Mix all pasta ingredients in a large bowl and then spoon the sauce over the top and mix until fully combined.

So satisfying! Next time I make this I will do it 100% raw with a cashew cream sauce and other fresh veggies. Stay tuned for that!

Live long and prosper! And indulge in fun kitchen gadgets!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Rave Review: Natural Selection

Not too often can I definitively state that something is my favorite.
I don't have an overwhelmingly favorite pair of shoes or a favorite song or even a favorite color.
Today I discovered a new favorite. A favorite restaurant to be exact: Natural Selection.

With all of the phenomenal vegan restaurants in Portland, I didn't ever think I'd be able to pick a true favorite. One week it's Portobello, the next week it's Vita and the next, Native Bowl. But Natural Selection takes the vegan cake. It was hands down one of the best culinary experiences I have ever had (and I have had multiple Prix Fixe meals, including places like Gramercy Tavern in the pre-vegan days so I DO have something to compare it to :)

I was absolutely blown away by the ambiance, quality, freshness and overall experience of the dining at Natural Selection. It really was unmatched by anything else I have seen on the vegan restaurant circuit and it was glaringly obvious why is has such fabulous critical acclaim. Aaron Woo is a master.

Pretty, huh? And my wonderful boyfriend had that stunning vase of flowers delivered to our table. I'm a lucky little chick pea.

The menu changes weekly, rotating options to reflect seasonal selections and incorporate locally sourced ingredients.

This week, the menu was as follows:

cardoon soup v/g
spring garlic, meyer lemon, celeriac, mint oil
strawberry & thyme risotto g
roasted ramps, fennel, balsamic, basil   
baby beet & orange salad v/g
field greens, pear, dates, radish, pistachio
wild watercress & strawberry salad g
apple, endive, blue cheese, raisin croutons 
asparagus & artichoke caponada v/g
olives, capers, peppers, turnip, quinoa 
morels, fiddleheads & trofie pasta    
carrots, pimenton, spring garlic, parmesan
strawberry & passionfruit parfait v/g
almonds, white chocolate & orange mousse
chocolate & cinnamon pots de creme 
kumquat, vanilla cream, cookies

v = vegan  g = gluten free

Naturally, my course progression was made easy because I just went with the straight vegan option, but the Chefs were super cool and made most of Colin's dishes vegan as well so I could try them :)

Plus there were lots of "in-between" courses to keep you busy. The whole experience took just over 2 hours and I loved every second of it.

 This endive and shaved onion mini-salad was one of the first "in-between" courses I was referring to (aka not on the menu). Fabulous. And topped with little purple flowers so it was cute, too :)

The Cardoon soup. I think I may have licked the bowl to get every last drop.  Mmm mmm good.

Colin and I both got the baby beet and orange salad. Because we both love baby beets. And oranges. Solid selection.

Another little "in-between" course - strawberries, marcona almonds and a little leek? I can't remember what all comprises the delectable little morsel on this plate.

The strawberry and thyme risotto (without the creme fraiche- keepin it vegan!)

My main course - the asparagus and artichoke caponada. I think I may have actually shed a tear at this point, this meal was so incredible.

 Aand last but certainly not least - the strawberry and passionfruit parfait. I ate every bite. There was not a single part of this meal I was going to sacrifice. Even those candied almonds.

So happy with my tiny carrot!

In sum - an incredible experience. I don't know how any anniversary will ever match up to this one, but we have a lot of years left in us so we'll have to figure something out :)

Live long and prosper, lovers! Enjoy all that Portland and Aaron Woo have to offer!

And Happy 2 year anniversary to my wonderful boyfriend.

Awww. Warm fuzzies.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Chocolate-Brownie Cupcakes

One night after a beautiful summer BBQ on the patio, I had a spontaneous urge to bake.

I was a couple of glasses of wine in so I decided just to get crazy and bake these puppies with no recipe and no measurements. Sometimes the best baked goods are completed just by feel.

I had no idea how these would turn out but the gist of the recipe includes:

About double the cocoa powder you would normally put in a fluffy chocolate cupcake.

A soymilk/flaxseed/vinegar egg (see prior cupcake recipes for the breakdown!)

No oil or butter (I know...weird...but it made them super dense and brownie-e for some reason)

Basically, I made the batter super chocolately and super thick and scooped it with a giant ice cream scoop into the cupcake liners.

Topped em' off with some fluffy vanilla vegan buttercream and chowed down.

I don't know how, but these turned out beautifully!

That's what happens when you drink wine and bake! Next time I will have to try putting some of the wine IN the cupcakes ;) New recipe idea! And I promise to record that one so you can try it at home!

See how much they look like brownies?! So good. It's like two wonderful desserts in one!

Live long and prosper! And use that happy-wine place to inspire your baking!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Parsley-Onion Slaw

Nothing says Cinco De Mayo like a non-authentic Mexican dish made vegan!

But regardless of the faux-holiday inspiration - this coleslaw is bomb and can be made any time of the year!

We have a bunch of italian parsley growing like weeds in the garden so I've been trying to incorporate it as much as possible. It gives the slaw a bright, fresh taste and combining that with the Amy's light goddess dressing and a kick of dried herbs means this slaw is not only healthy but tastes great on almost anything :)

Parlsey-Onion Slaw
  • 1/2 head of green (or purple!) cabbage, shredded
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 2 handfuls of parsley (Italian if you have it), finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup Amy's "Lite" Goddess Dressing
  • 1 Tbsp Vegenaise or other vegan mayo substitute
  • 1 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh cracked pepper

Add all ingredients to a bowl and toss until fully combined!

Best when served immediately but because this slaw isn't as runny as some others, it also makes great leftovers :)

Live long and prosper! And happy (late) Cinco de Mayo!!!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Marathons and Margaritas!

Finals are officially complete! That means I now have time to re-focus on things that have been majorly on the backburner for the past few weeks. Like updating my blog. And buying toothpaste. You know, the little things.

On the bright side, since my last post I raced in two races - a 10k and a half-marathon and they were both and absolute blast.

Plus I made fresh fruit mango margaritas. You tell me which is more exciting.

(Shhh - they are actually pretty healthy too. Minus the tequila. Which is healthy is small doses I always say...)

A half marathon action shot. Proof that I've actually been doing something over the past two weeks :)

But back to the margaritas. I am not a huge fan of sugary drinks or really mixed drinks in general but these margaritas are nothing short of a religious experience. And they are actually not bad for you - always a plus when it comes to mixed drinks!

Mango Margaritas
Serves 4
  • 3 cups frozen mango 
  • 2 cups ice
  • 1 cup Trader Joe's Low Calorie Lemonade (sweetened w/Stevia and cane sugar)
  • 1/2 can FRS Peach Mango Energy Drink 
  • The juice from 1 lemon + 1 lime
  • 8 oz (or 5-6 shots) Milagro Tequila

As a general rule I'm not a fan of juices from concentrate and I'm especially not a fan of "low-cal" juice options, however, I think juices have a special purpose (like in these margaritas) and I am particularly partial to this Trader Joe's interpretation.

The ingredients are as listed: Water, Organic Lemon juice, Organic Cane Sugar, Citric Acid, Organic Lemon Extract + Juice, Organic + Natural Flavors, Stevia Rubiana Extract

Compare that with the ingredients in Crystal Light's Sugar Free Lemonade: Citric Acid (Provides Tartness), Potassium And Sodium Citrate (Control Acidity), Aspartame (Sweetener), Maltodextrin, Magnesium Oxide (Prevents Caking), Contains Less Than 2% Of Natural Flavor, Lemon Juice Solids, Acesulfame Potassium (Sweetener), Soy Lecithin, Artificial Color, Yellow 5 Lake, BHA (Preserves Freshness).

Gross. Usually I see the word "Aspartame" and I immediately chuck whatever product it is that happens to contain the nasty stuff without giving the rest of the ingredients and second glance but, in the name of blogging, I will go ahead and further critique this stuff.

1. What is a "lemon juice solid"? How does one go about creating a lemon juice solid?
2. Artificial Color is too ambiguous of an ingredient to be an ingredient and that worries me
3. If an ingredient is so scientific that it requires an acronym, it should not be an ingredient (i.e. Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA))
4. Why is there soy in my lemonade?

It's like night and day difference between the Trader Joe's Stuff and the Wal-mart original.

So all I'm sayin' is - if you are going to use and drink juice (never as a complete substitute for good old fashioned H20 of course) - READ the ingredients. Don't end up with soy in your lemonade.

Anyway - back to the reason we are all here:

Place all of the margarita ingredients in the blender as listed and blend until smooth. Add more ice if necessary. Same goes for the tequila...

Pour the delicious frozen concoction into glasses, add a little fresh lime and enjoy!

Live Long and Propser! And ALWAYS read ingredients.