Warm Brussels Sprouts Salad

Now that cooler weather is here, the Brussels Sprout crop is in and these cute little cabbage-like vegetables are at their peak. I know a lot of people don’t like Brussels Sprouts but I am convinced the reason is mostly because not much went into the preparation. I wanted to create something savory that had some sweetness but that still had some freshness. Overcooked Brussels Sprouts are not very appetizing.

A warm vegetable salad is just right!

BEAUTIFUL WARM BRUSSELS SPROT SALAD

Warm Brussels Sprouts Salad

  • Brussels sprouts
  • Red Onion
  • Olive Oil
  • Sea Salt
  • Crushed garlic
  • Red pepper
  • Olives
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Pepper

It is important when using Brussels sprouts that you cut them in such a way that the pieces will cook evenly. I washed about a pound and cut them in half and then split the exposed core. You will have half pieces of Brussels sprouts but the core will be cut in two so it will be tender when the rest of the half is. That way you don’t overcook your Brussels sprouts trying to get the core softened.

Slice one red onion into half moons, dice a red pepper, peel the garlic. Use as much or as little as you wish—I used 3 cloves.  Slice 6-8 pitted olives of choice—I used green Cerignolas. (If you’ve been reading my blog lately, you know that I’m going to invite you to click on the word and learn to say it like our Italian friends do!)

Begin sauteing the red onions in about a tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt until you see the onions begin to sweat. Add the Brussels sprouts and some more salt and saute for a minute or two. Add the crushed garlic and some spring water and put on a lid. Steam these for about 15 minutes so they are just tender but haven’t lost their freshness. Add the red pepper and olives and let them cook a moment. Add the fresh basil at the very end. I shredded mine (chiffonade).

Immediately remove from the heat and dress with balsamic vinegar. I used a basil-raspberry white balsamic. There are many choices of balsamic so please pick one that is available and that you like. Adjust with a bit more olive oil if you want and also pepper. Serve warm.

This became my main course for dinner. Sweet and satisfying!

Minestrone My Way

Who doesn’t love a bowl of thick and hearty soup?

I do! So I’m continuing my “Lighten it Up” challenge by putting together one of my all-time fave Italiano soups—Minestrone! Let’s all say this with the kind of passion and romance of a real Italian! Just click on the link and learn how!

Minestrone Soup typically does have a lot of veggies in it but it also has beans, pasta, sometimes potato, sometimes meat and often a chicken or beef-based broth. Today I am first of all making a vegan version of this soup which will lighten it up considerably and I’m going to tweek the basic recipe to lighten it further still without sacrificing flavor, thickness or richness.

SAUTE THE ONIONS

Start by sauteing one medium onion diced in one tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of sea salt.  Or, water sautee. Continue sauteing until the onions become translucent and start to brown.

ADD CELERY

Slice a few sliced cloves of garlic and dice about three stalks of celery and toss them into the saute action.  Add another pinch of sea salt. Add a bit of water if the pan gets a bit too dry.

ADD DICED TOMATOES

Check out the action shot! Add a can of diced tomatoes.

ADD PUREED CHICKPEAS

Now here’s a good trick . . . take half of a 15 ounce can of chickpeas and a little bit of vegetable broth and puree them with a blender. This nice thick puree helps make the soup rich, rich, rich! You may do this with any kind of bean you choose for your minestrone. Then add the rest of your chickpeas and vegetable broth. (I used one box of Imagine Foods Vegetable Cooking Stock. It is one of the only prepared soup stocks that does NOT have any sugar in it.  Instead of pasta, I added 2 cups of cooked wild rice that I had leftover from stuffed squash.  Season with salt and pepper to taste, oregano, pepper flakes or whatever sounds Italiano to you!

ESCAROLE

Now were going to really up the heartiness level with 5 cups of escarole! Wash the escarole and give it a rough cut before adding it to the soup. Don’t worry about how bulky it looks, it will cook down pretty fast.

MINESTRONE MY WAY!

Adjust your seasonings and—Mama Mia! That’s one beautiful Minestrone! Come on everybody! Let’s say “Mama Mia” just the way our Italian friends do!

Stuffed Sweet Dumpling Squash

Time to practice what I was preachin’ a couple of days ago when I wrote about how I’m a “meat and potatoes” type of vegan. If you’re puzzled and thinking, “What the heck is she talking about?” You can see that here.

I am talking about lightening up on the heavy, condensed food and adding in lighter, leafier food. But just to keep us both on our toes, I am featuring something a little more challenging than simply adding a salad.

I chose to stuff a cute little Sweet Dumpling Squash. [What! Is she kidding? “Sweet Dumpling” does not convey lightness!]  No, it doesn’t, but we’re going to lighten this up very nicely and we’ll have a very satisfying dish that is not extremely heavy.

MORE SWEET DUMPLING SQUASH

Stuffed Sweet Dumpling Squash (Makes four to eight servings)

  • Please use only organic ingredients whenever possible
  • Four cute little Sweet Dumpling Squashes
  • 1/2 cup cooked wild rice
  • 1 cup chopped Italian parsley
  • 1/2 cup carrots
  • 1 Tablespoon diced fresh ginger
  • 1/4 cup diced yellow onion
  • 1/2 cup diced green pepper
  • 1/4 cup corn kernels
  • 1/2 cup of dry roasted pumpkin seeds
  • 1-2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil (optional)
  • sea salt
  • pepper
  • soy sauce

Several things were lightened up here.

  • Less rice and more parsley and other vegetables
  • Less oil which is going to be added to the stuffing just before baking. This is effective in adding the wonderful flavor of toasted sesame oil with out using very much. You could take it a step further and don’t add the oil at all. I chose to mix the oil into the stuffing before baking and to saute the veggies in water.
  • Roasted seeds instead of pecans or walnuts
  • More onion, carrot and peppers, less corn. The corn will add color.

Wash the squashes and cut a circle around the top/stem as if it were a little pumpkin you’re going to carve. Set aside the top for later and take out the seeds and stringy part.

Wash the seeds by putting them in a strainer or colander and rinsing them in cold water. Heat up a cast iron or heavy pan and put the seeds in. They sizzle! Keep moving them around with a wooden spoon or other utensil until some of the seeds are just starting to brown and you hear little popping sounds. Take them out right away and put them into a paper bag. Sprinkle some soy sauce into the bag and shake to coat and season the seeds.

Cook the rice and wash and cut all the veggies up.

This part is up to you:  You can lightly saute the onions, carrots, ginger, corn and peppers in the oil and then use the other tsp of oil to flavor the stuffing.  Or if, like me, you really want to lighten it up, saute the veggies in a little water, adding a pinch of salt to bring out the flavors and just add the one tsp of oil into the stuffing. This is just a quick saute to soften the veggies for the stuffing. Make sure they don’t cook so much that they lose their bright colors.

Mix the wild rice, veggie saute, seeds together, add the chopped parsley and season as desired with a little more salt and some pepper. Now add the toasted sesame oil and mix that in to the stuffing.

Stuff the squashes. Put the tops back on! Stand the squashes up in a baking dish and put about 1 inch of water into the dish. Bake at 350 until the squash is tender but not falling apart—about 40 to 50 minutes.

When the squashes are done, let them cool a little before before serving.  You can decide if you need a whole one or a half. Serve with leafy greens such as kale, mustard, collards etc and a pickled vegetable and you’ll have a satisfying but not deadly heavy meal!

DELICIOUS STUFFED SWEET DUMPLING SQUASH

These turned out sweet and delicious and not too heavy. Half of one of these cuties was enough for me!

Helpful hints:

  • This combination of veggies will result in a distinct parsley flavor. If you don’t like that much parsley, try another green such as kale.
  • If you want to speed up the cooking time, you can cut each squash in half and then stuff it OR you can pre-cook the squash a little by steaming it a few minutes before stuffing and baking.
  • You can change the seasonings, try other veggies, use garlic with or without the ginger.
  • The idea is to include a lot of veggetables to lighten the stuffing.

Are You a “Meat and Potatoes” Type of Vegan?

I seem to be a “Meat and Potatoes” type of vegan!

I want to talk about a concept that is emerging in my own universe lately. The concept is “concentrated foods.” By that I mean, foods that are extremely nutrient dense and  packed with a large amount of macronutrients in a relatively small portion.  (Macronutrients: proteins, carbohydrates, fats)

I bring this up because despite eating very healthfully for nearly forty years—mostly vegan but a few of those years not so much—I have always struggled with my weight. It was because of this that as a young girl I began seeking to understand how the body works and what foods were best for it. I have written many times about those journeys so I won’t do that again here.

Suffice it to say that I learned a lot, became much more healthy as years went by, strengthened my immune system, found out how to use foods as medicine and overall became much more in control of things.

But darn it! It is still so very easy for me to put on too much weight!  I know many people who do not eat a Standard American Diet and who try their best to choose healthier more nutritious foods and even some who are vegetarians, vegans or macrobiotic who, like me, still struggle with this problem.

So I started looking at the broad sketch of how I have approached food and spotted something very interesting. No matter what I was eating, what  program I was following, or dietary lifestyle I was living including all the years I was macrobiotic I have always gone for the dense, concentrated foods and eaten too much of them. That worked fine when I was a young, busy nursing mother with two other toddlers to chase after but that’s the only time that worked for me.

There are gradients of how concentrated foods can be. It’s just common sense.  For example:

  • Peanut butter – concentrated fat and some protein. Easy to slather a heap of this stuff onto each cracker, rice cake or slice of bread.
  • “Healthy” breads. Not knocking them, No Sireee. But have you weighed some of these lately? They can be concentrated, condensed slices, can’t they? A vegan Triple-Decker Club sandwich made with this bread could sink a ship!
  • Brown rice mochi – very concentrated whole grains (sticky, sweet brown rice mashed down into a concentrated form and then often fried.) But how many of those do you need at one time? Especially in an Udon Noodle Soup with Tofu Broth?
  • Almonds. Innocent, wonderful Almonds. A great snack! But you’re not running a marathon or working the farm each day, exactly how many of those do you need for your mid-afternoon pick-me-up?
  • Rice and beans – probably about in the middle of the scale. But the whole-grains-and-beans thing can indeed be overdone if it isn’t balanced with veggies and other necessary dietary components.
  • Vegetables – mostly light. But watch this—do you head for the winter squashes, potatoes and the heavier vegetables more than the leafy greens?
  • Oils – yup, they’re concentrated aren’t they? How many olives does it take to make a tablespoon of olive oil, I wonder? (Estimates are 20-40 olives depending on their type and size.) How many sesame seeds to make that teaspoon of toasted sesame oil that I love to cook my mochi in?
  • Fruits – mostly pretty light but what’s the difference between say a banana and an apple or between grapes and dried fruit? Dried fruit is concentrated and pack a lot in a small portion. That’s why it is so easy to overeat them.
  • Some of those avocado-based mousses I’ve been making—Do I eat the same size slice of that as I would an apple pie? Hmmmm, I think not!

Please, please, please! I am not saying any of these foods are bad or shouldn’t be eaten.

My point is simply this:  Even if virtually all the food you eat is organic, plant-based very nutritious and good for you, you can still eat too much of the concentrated foods and too little of the lighter ones. That’s all I’m saying. That is what I’m looking at.

Why do you think the bloggers posting all the casseroles, rich desserts and thick hearty soups and stews are so popular? Because that’s what we like and that’s what we probably all overindulge in if we’re honest with ourselves. Okay, I’ll cut you a break. I’ll say, “If I’m honest with myself!” I love these recipes and try out many of them at home. But if they use dense or nutrient-concentrated foods, it is so easy for me to over do it.

When I’m not paying attention, I go for the concentrated food and skimp on the lighter ones. I can so easily fall into being the “meat and potatoes” type in the world of vegan food.

It all has to do with the question of balance. I learned how to eat a balanced diet but it seems that over the years with changes in my body and my age and other things, I’ve lost my balance and now I know I need to find it again.

I don’t know why this is exactly—this indulgence in concentrated foods. I have heard and read many explanations that I don’t find all that helpful or workable. Do we really have to be semi-experts in hormones? I don’t think so. I could just as well say it’s “The American Way” as an explanation.  I just know that I’ve spotted for myself a major underlying concept about how I have chosen to eat all my life no matter what the cuisine was.

This is a concept I can work with. This is a good beginning.

So for now, my own decision has been to eat at least 50-60% vegetables daily. That is a guideline I have set up for myself and I’m not saying that is what you need or what you should do.

And, I’m going to follow up with many more posts showing recipes and how-to’s for vegetables. Let’s see what I come up with!!!

In the meantime I would really love to know what your experiences are with this. I’d like to know:

1) What do you see as being an ideal way for you—as an individual—to eat and is it easy for you to be that? (i.e. be vegetarian, be vegan, be omnivorous, etc.)

2) Do you follow some kind of diet or weight-loss plan or do you “wing it?”

3) Are you successful with what you do?

4) What exactly are your successful actions?

5) If you have a “downfall,” what is it?

6) Do you encounter a similar problem of overindulging in the more dense, concentrated foods and skimping on the lighter ones?

7) What would you like to know or learn most about including a bigger percentage of actual vegetables in your daily diet?

8) What vegetables would you like to have more recipes or preparation ideas for?

Harvest Moon Tempeh Stew

Last night was the Harvest Moon.  The Harvest Moon is the full moon closest to the autumn equinox and it is said that this full moon is named “harvest moon” because it adds just a bit more extra light when crops need it most before harvest.

My own harvest moon was not particularly photogenic by the time I got to grab my camera for a shot.  So I found this lovely, golden, harvesty, autumnal moon photograph on Pinterest.

This sets the mood for our dish.

HARVEST MOON 2

Are you feeling a slight chill in the air in your neck of the woods?  We aren’t quite that far along here in central New Mexico, but we did have a gorgeous September day with bright, hot sun shining down through slightly cooler-than-summertime air.  That’s how it is most of the fall for us, the sun remains quite warm in this high altitude but it is tempered by gradually cooling air.

Finally it is not too hot to cook something! Maybe turn on the oven for a few minutes of baking. And with a beautiful harvest of late summer foods available, what comes to mind is a light stew.

Nothing heavy. Not cooked for hours. But wouldn’t a little sweetness and richness be nice to welcome the Harvest Moon?  I thought so.

FRIED TEMPEH

I cut up an 8-ounce package of tempeh and pan fried them in 2-3 tablespoons of avocado oil. Tempeh is a naturally fermented soybean product and this all organic one from Lightlife also contains brown rice, millet and barely.  They got nice and brown and the oil gave them a richness I’ve been craving!

I soaked 12 ounces of dried kombu seaweed (two pieces) and when it was softened, I cut it into one-inch squares. These went in the bottom of a roomy pot with the tempeh on top and enough water to cover the tempeh. I added soy sauce. I didn’t measure., but I can tell you that you just need enough to make a medium brown broth that definitely has the soy sauce taste but is not something that tastes really salty.  When I begin cooking for fall and winter, I do use a bit more oil and salty taste than I do in spring and summer.

I added a 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric.  Turmeric not only creates a fabulous, warm color and wonderful flavor, but turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties that I like.

ONION WEDGES

I layered in some quartered yellow and red onions. This will add a rich, sweet taste, too! I let them start to cook in the simmering tempeh and broth while I rough-cut the rest of the veggies.

STEW VEGGIES

Next comes, julienned ginger, roughly cut garlic cloves, celery and carrot chunks. Into the stew they went.

BUTTERNUT SQUASH

And finally, half-moon slices of butternut squash. Definitely inspired by the idea of a harvest moon!  I laid these on top of the stew and put a lid on.  I continued to cook the stew until the squash was tender—not a really long cooking time altogether—perhaps 30 to 40 minutes total and that is all you will need. I didn’t want my “moons” to fall apart!

PAINT HARVEST MOON TEMPEH STEW COMPLETED 002

And so on this Harvest Moon evening, with thoughts of the coming fall season while we yet cling to the beautiful late-summer warmth, we have something sweet, rich and warm to eat that still reflects the freshness of summer’s bounty.

Coconut Banana Chocolate Mousse Pie

This month I am stepping out with my dark chocolate mousse madness!  I have tried nearly every basic chocolate mousse recipe (I still have one more up my sleeve) and now I’m going to use what I’ve learned to incorporate dark chocolate mousse into some more desserts —-  All Vegan and No Sugar.

To start off, I’m going to take July’s avocado-based mousse and change it up a bit. That mousse was very good but not very sweet and though I did put it into a pie crust, it really begged for a sweeter, more complex crust so here it is!

BANANA COCONUT CHOCOLATE MOUSSE PIE 001

Coconut Banana Chocolate Mousse Pie

Make the crust

  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1 1/2 cups raisins
  • 4 tablespoons almond flour
  • 2 tablespoons almond milk
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 pinches of sea salt
  • stevia powder to taste (about a 1 teaspoon if you’re using something like Truvia.)

This crust could be done with just ground nuts and dried fruit plus the cinnamon and seasonings.  A mixture like that can be put into a food processor and then pressed into the pie plate to make a no-bake pie crust.

Pulse the nuts in your food processor until they are finely ground up but not so much that they turn into a nut butter. Add the dried raisins next. Any dried fruit could be used here. Pulse the raisins or bits of other dried fruit with  the stevia, salt and cinnamon and when it glops up, stop. Pour this glop into a bowl and add the almond flour. Blend the almond milk and the shredded coconut together and mix that in also. Once the mixture is pressed into place in the pie plate, bake it at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes to get excess moisture out of the crust.  When done, the hot crust will not be totally hard or crispy.

This method yields a different texture of crust that is slightly chewy.  Cool the crust completely on a rack if you have one. You want to cool the crust without putting it into the refrigerator.

Make the banana dark chocolate mousse filling

  • pulp from two avocados
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1/2 cup brown rice syrup
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup 100% cacao powder
  • pinch of salt
  • a few drops of liquid stevia (optional)
  • coconut milk as needed to get the desired texture and density

Put everything into a food processor or blender and puree it until it is thick and smooth. What you may run into with this is that the cacao powder makes the mixture very thick and possibly too dense to blend it well. That is why you’ll want some coconut milk or other non-dairy liquid to loosen the mousse up enough to blend it. I probably added about 1/4 cup—a little at a time—but I don’t measure. I also used a spatula to help keep the mixture moving in the processor.

Pour the mousse into the pie crust and spread it evenly. Lick the spatula and sprinkle some extra coconut flakes on top of the pie.

This version of the avocado-based mousse was a little sweeter than the last because of the banana and the combination of the crust with the mousse was much more satisfying than the one I made in July!

Vegan Chilled Cucumber Fennel Soup

Lately, it’s been too darn hot to cook!

Summer has hit very hard around here with temperatures over 100 degrees for the last several days. On top of that we are having the worst drought in history with no prediction of when relief will come.

What’s a cook to do?

One thing I have been doing is getting up early enough to cook something in the morning when the air is . . . well I wouldn’t go so far as to say “cool” . .  but I figure early a.m. is when the temp is as low as it’s going to get for the day. Even so, I do not want to fill our home with heat from my stove and oven!

The other evening I was through with work and even though it was rather late evening, it was still mucho calor fuera and even though I had not eaten since about 11 a.m. (only breakfast and second breakfast). I still didn’t want to eat anything. Just too hot! But I knew I would eventually get hungry.

(And that’s the thing about summer, don’t eat, don’t eat, too hot to eat, and then Wham! Starving! Eat Everything!. I mean, what’s with ‘second breakfast’ lately? What am I, a Hobbit?  I’ll let you know if I ever get that under control.)

Mucho calor fuera!
Mucho calor fuera!

I thought, “I should eat something at least. What could I possibly make that I might feel like eating?”

There it was! A visionary flash of the ultimate cool-as-a-cucumber but loaded with savory, satisfying flavors.
There it was—a visionary flash of the ultimate cool-as-a-cucumber-but-loaded-with savory-satisfying-flavors summer refreshment idea!

“How about a cold, creamy cucumber soup?”

So I got busy. There was a little cooking involved, but not much.

1. I minced a little red onion—very fine mince—and sauted that with a touch of olive oil until it was sweet and tender.

2. I added some soup stock. I used Imagine Foods Vegetable Soup Stock which is the only ready-made stock I have found that does not have cane sugar in it. (More notes about the soup stock later.)

3. I grated a bulb of fennel and a cucumber—both organic—and added that.  I added salt, white pepper and then a little unsweetened coconut milk and some nutmeg. I adjusted the salt and then chilled the soup. Surely you could play around with the seasonings. A bit of cardamom perhaps? Or go for a hit of hot chili pepper?

Lovely chilled soup in three four easy steps!

4. Use the fluffy end of the fennel as a garnish. (That is, if you can. The fluffy tips of the fennel look lovely when dry and seem like the perfect garnish. But as soon as they get wet they rapidly collapse and resemble a wet Shih Tzu.  So throw on that garnish and serve it fast!)

Now let me talk to you about the color.  If you buy one of these ready-made soup stocks it’s going to be orangey-yellow because they use a lot of carrots or squash. And the flavor of this stock is very nice but definitely affects the outcome of the soup.

If you think creamy cucumber soup should NOT look like pea soup, and you want a more traditional white-looking soup, you should make dashi as your soup stock.  This is not hard to do at all. Then you will have a clear broth to start with. Further, if you really want a whiter soup, you could peel the cucumber before grating it and then you would have much less green color.

I’m sure my photo of this soup would be much more picture perfect had I done that but I was looking for something very fast so used the packaged broth and I prefer to use whole organic foods whenever possible so I generally don’t peel my cucumbers.  There’s lots of good stuff (nutrients) right under that skin!

When the soup was chilled, I served it to my Hubbin’ and myself. I thought probably the soup would be too mild for him and he might not like it. Wrong!! He did like it very much! We both enjoyed the flavors and felt refreshed after eating it.

Another tip about this soup is that you can keep it chilled in a container for work or travel and enjoy it as is! How simple is that?

Chilled Soba Salad

Cold soba salad served with a couple slices of barbecued tofu.

Cold soba salad served with a couple slices of barbecued tofu.

So quick and easy!

  • Thin soba noodles cooked al dente
  • 1 bunch of raw, washed watercress, cut in half
  • sliced white onions
  • roasted red pepper
  • dressing of choice

The roasted pepper is easy squeasy. Turn on your burner if you have a gas stove and put a whole cleaned red pepper over a low flame. Turn the pepper occasionally to get all sides blackened. Put your roasted pepper in a paper bag and let it sweat. Then peel and slice—mmm good! No gas stove? Try the broiler.

I made my dressing with juice of two lemons, some umeboshi vinegar (a salty and sour vinegar made from a pickled plum—typically a Japanese condiment), some toasted sesame oil, some mirin and some garlic.

Toss it all together and chill. Takes about 10 mins.

Don’t have or don’t like these ingredients? No worries! Substitute with whatever sounds good to you and enjoy.

A Date With Chocolate

You might have noticed I missed the April entry of my Dark Chocolate Mousse quest. I was such a FOOL! (An April one, that is) April came and went so fast. (excuse #1) And I was debating if I really wanted to include any more sugar and dairy laden mousses on my blog. (excuse #2) And besides that I couldn’t make up my mind if I wanted to lay any more eggs into my desserts. (excuse #3) Not to mention April only has 30 days so I was gypped! (excuse #4) And I got freaked out thinking I still had a lot of months to go on this mousse quest thing and wanted to be more inspired before I posted another one. (excuse #5)

You know, when I started this whole mousse thing I truly had never made such a dessert before from scratch and because I think dark chocolate mousse is so, so very delicious, I assumed it was also complex.  But it really is not complicated at all. It takes more time to clean up the pots, pans, bowls and spoons from making mousse than it does to construct it. (And of course, it takes no time at all to inhale eat the mousse.)

But then spring fever hit me! The sultry perfume of the Russian olive trees wafting through the air, the emergence of flowers, leaves on trees, the warm breezes in the afternoon and the sharp smell of a light sprinkle of rain on an otherwise dry New Mexico day.

Love and romance are calling my name. So I made a date with chocolate

No really! Chocolate Mousse with dates as the sweetener. And tofu. You can’t get more veganiciously romantic than that! And guess what? This is by far the simplest and fastest mousse yet! And as a bonus–there will be hardly anything to wash afterwards!

The only caveat will be . . . . How will it taste?  I mean, this is a pretty dramatically different mousse recipie—tofu as a base and dates as the sweetener!

I went to a favorite standby website for the recipe, Christina Cooks.com, for her incredibly simple recipe. There are just four ingredients: silken tofu, 100% cocoa powder, medjool dates and pure vanilla extract—plus I added a little cinnamon.  You blend it all up and you’ve got yourself a dreamy, creamy chocolate mousse and only one blender or food processor to wash!

Mine came out way too thick at first and I added more tofu to get the right consistency. I would suggest having an extra container of silken tofu around just in case. When I added the extra tofu, everything blended up nicely. However the extra tofu reduced the proportion of cocoa and the outcome was a little less chocolatey than usual. I’m going to have to work on that adjustment.

I decked our mousse out with some raspberries and lit a romantic, naturally scented candle.  Ooooo La La! A Date with Chocolate!

A candlelit date with - sigh - chocolate! How romantical can you get?

A candlelit date with – sigh – chocolate! How romantical can you get?

Roasted Garlic Pesto

I love pesto and I adore roasted garlic! I was in the store the other day looking at the basil which was not quite fresh enough and seemed awfully expensive. Then I remembered that I have italian parsley at home and plenty of fresh garlic, and another ingredient that is not usually used that I thought would make an excellent Mediterranean-style pesto!

It is so very simple:

Roasted Garlic Pesto

  • about 2 tablespoons roasted garlic. Instructions for roasting garlic are here.
  • 1 bunch of italian parsley, finely chopped. About 2 cups.
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 3 tablespoons black olive paste
  • 2 teaspoons sweet white miso (this is not “sweetened” it is less salty)
  • olive oil (as needed & wanted)
  • finely sliced preserved lemon rinds, or lemon zest if you don’t have preserved lemons. Instructions for preserving lemons here.

1. Roasting the garlic takes the longest and you can do that ahead and even store some roasted garlic for a couple weeks. Take the roasted cloves off the bulb and squeeze out the garlic which should now be like paste.

2. I like to lightly roast my pine nuts by washing them quickly in cold water and tossing them around in a heated cast iron skillet until they begin to brown. It takes 3-5 minutes.

3. I enjoy a more traditionally made pesto instead of one that is machine blended into a paste. I like to see and taste the pine nuts and the parsley so I use my suribachi to make the paste. A suribachi is a ceramic bowl that is all grooved inside and you’d be surprised how well that works! Here’s what a suribachi looks like:

Groovy!

Groovy!

4. If you don’t have one of these (or don’t want one) you can hand-chop the nuts very fine and minced your parsley with a good sharp knife. Get the nuts and parsley all chopped up and mixed together. Add the black olive paste and miso and combine it altogether. Use a little extra olive oil if you wish—I just add a drizzle of water if I want to loosen it up. Garnish with the preserved lemon rind or zest at the end..

A note about the black olive paste . . .

I like using black olive paste because even though olive oil is a wonderful thing, it is very refined. Think how many olives it takes to make that oil! Think what is refined out of it including the fiber! Olive paste is less refined and closer to being a whole food as it is mainly crushed olives. I used store-bought “black olive tapenade,” but there’s no reason you can finely chop pitted olives. Think of the variations using different olives!

5. Use the pesto for whatever you want! I used it in a quinoa salad today. You could use it as a topping in soup, as a spread on bruschetta, as a seasoning for potatoes or cauliflower, or add a little lemon juice or vinegar and make a salad dressing. And of course, pesto is great for pasta!

PESTO PASTA