Oil-Free Vegan Arugula or Basil Pesto

I went a little arugula crazy at the farmer’s market last Saturday. The market we visit almost every week has the most amazing organic produce vendor, Worden Farms. The bag of fresh, organic arugula is a steal at $4.00, but sometimes I have trouble finishing the bag before it’s past its peak!

So…here I am experimenting with some recipes and I thought, how about a creamy pesto, similar to the white bean and basil pesto that I make? I wonder how it would taste if I subbed the arugula for the pesto, Well…let’s find out, shall we?

Oil Free Arugula/Basil Pesto

  • Servings: Makes One Cup of Pesto
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Ingredients:

  • One 15 1/2 ounce can of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • One lemon juiced. (Zest is optional if you want extra lemony flavor)
  • 1 cup of arugula OR Basil (very tightly packed)-I may have used closer to a cup and a half
  • 4 cloves of peeled garlic
  • 3-4 T. of nutritional yeast
  • 1 t. kosher salt
  • 1/2 t. Aleppo pepper
  • 1 T. water

Directions: Add all of the above ingredients to a food processor and blend well. Stop and scrape down as needed. Depending on your processor, you may need to adjust the water if you want your thicker or thinner. Mine was just right with one tablespoon of water. Chill your pesto and serve with veggies or serve as a sauce with pasta. Enjoy!

This is a great alternative to a creamy vegetable dip. It’s completely guilt free because you aren’t adding any oil. The cannellini beans add a creamy, smooth texture and the nutritional yeast gives it just enough cheesy flavor without overpowering it.

Arugula ranks among the top 20 foods on the ANDI scale (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index). It is considered a cruciferous vegetable in the same family as broccoli, kale and Brussels sprouts. It is also high in nitrates which has shown to be helpful in lowering blood pressure and with only 10 calories in 2 cups, you are getting a lot of bang for your buck!

Let me know how you like this by leaving me a comment. If you make it yourself, please tag me @heidicooksplants on Instagram!

See you in the kitchen soon,

Heidi

Oil Free, Crispy BBQ Tofu Sticks

You’ve probably heard the phrase FOMO (fear of missing out), but there’s a lesser known acronym out there-FOT (fear of tofu).  Tofu can be a little bit intimidating if you don’t usually cook with it. There are many varieties: soft, silken, firm, extra firm, and it can be packaged in water and refrigerated or it may be in a shelf stable aseptic package. For this recipe, I am using the tofu that is found in the refrigerated section of the grocery store. It comes in a plastic box and the tofu is packed in water. For those of you who have been uncomfortable cooking with or using tofu, this is the recipe for you.

I’m calling this an “entry-level” tofu recipe. You do not need to be an experienced chef to pull this off! This would be great to bring as an appetizer to any holiday gathering you might have.  It’s a healthy alternative to buffalo wings or mozzarella sticks so commonly found on the party table.

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This recipe came together literally in minutes. Six ingredients–(actually five, if you don’t count the seasoning) that’s all! You may even have most of these ingredients in your pantry already. I used a salt free seasoning, but you can certainly change the seasoning to your preference.

You could make your own bbq sauce from scratch-but this Stubbs brand that I use is low in sugar and is perfectly fine in this recipe. I would have liked to have used whole wheat panko-but they are really hard to find, so I amped up the nutrients by adding in some ground flaxseed meal.

Here’s how these little crispy fingers are done:

 

 

Preheat your oven to 375 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. On a large plate, mix your panko, yeast, flaxseed and seasonings. Pour the bbq sauce in a small to medium bowl. Open the tofu in the sink so that you can drain the water from the package and pat the block dry with some paper towels. The Earth Fare brand that I used was extra firm and that variety seemed to work really well. Slice your tofu in half so you have two slabs and then slice into even slices. I ended up with 12 finger-like pieces. Next, dip each piece in the bbq sauce and then roll in the panic mixture to coat each side. Repeat until you have them all coated. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes-turning each piece at the half way mark.

 

 

 

So, while your tofu is baking away in the oven, here’s the nutrition run down. Tofu is a good source of protein and contains all nine essential amino acids. It is also an excellent source of iron and calcium and the minerals manganese, selenium and phosphorous. In addition, tofu is a good source of magnesium, copper, zinc and vitamin B1. A 3 1/2 ounce serving is only 70 calories, which makes it a highly nutrient-dense food. And remember, we are making these crunchy snacks without any added oil.

Wow! These just came out of the oven and I wish you could taste them right now. Crispy and crunchy and that 21 Salute Seasoning has a little bit of a kick! And you know when you cook with tofu-it’s all about making sure the tofu is well seasoned. This spice did not disappoint. I could also see using a smoked paprika and some chili flakes instead of the blend I used. I’m going to serve mine with some extra bbq sauce on the side.

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So, don’t fear the tofu. Give these a try and bring them to your next party.  Let’s see how long they last on the buffet. I think they’d also make a great dinner with some steamed broccoli and some brown rice or noodles on the side. Leave a comment and let me know how you liked them.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving everyone and I’ll see you in the kitchen soon,

Heidi

Best Crunchy Oil Free Granola You Will Ever Eat—-Vegan

Crunchy. Oil Free. Dairy Free. Sweetened with just date paste—no other sugars.  You just found the best granola recipe ever with no added calories from oil.  The secret (magic) ingredient is aquafaba, which is the liquid that’s in a can of garbanzo beans (chickpeas). Yep, you read that right-chickpea juice.

I’ve seen a few recipes online that use aquafaba in baking. I made a vegan challah last year by whipping the aquafaba to replace the eggs and I also tried another oil free granola recipe that replaced the coconut oil with aquafaba. It really does work as a great substitute for oil or eggs, depending on how it’s used.

 

 

Last week, I came across a recipe from The Lazy Cat Kitchen and I tried her method, which seemed to be the easiest one I have come across. Today, I tweaked her recipe to make an oil free and nut free version of granola. So many people these days have nut allergies, so I wanted to try a nut-free version of this typically nut laden snack.

Trail Mix Granola is the best of all worlds, in my opinion. You have the sweet and salty and crunchy too. I blended old fashioned oats and buckwheat groats and mixed in raw peanuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds and a heavy dose of cinnamon. After the granola cooled I stirred in some raisins and some dairy free chocolate chips. Unbelievably good!

Crunchy Oil Free Granola

  • Servings: 6
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Heres the recipe:

Preheat the oven to 325 and cover a sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine oats thru salt and mix well. In a small bowl or glass measuring cup, combine the date paste, peanut butter, aquafaba and extract. Whisk to mix well. Pour the wet mixture into the dry and make sure it is well coated. Spread the mix onto the sheet pan and flatten into a single layer. Bake for a total of 30-35 minutes–but at 15 minutes, turn the pan around in the oven so that it cooks evenly. It’s done when it looks brown all over. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool-without stirring so that the granola clumps up. When the granola is cool, mix in the raisins and chocolate chips and try not to eat the whole pan at once!

 

 

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This will be your new favorite too!

I think this is my new favorite granola!  It’s got the crunch-it’s got the sweet and salty. The only thing that’s missing is the oil and calories, and who needs that? Hope you give it a try and love it as much as I do! Leave me a comment and let me know.

See you in the kitchen soon,

Heidi

 

Easy roasted brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes

Time to clean out the fridge! I found some less than desirable looking brussels sprouts lurking in the veg drawer, so it was time to bring them to life. I decided to pair them with a couple of not so pretty sweet potatoes that were also nearly past their prime. Today I am going to show you how to easily roast vegetables without using any oil. This technique works with ANY vegetable. I use this method with broccoli, asparagus, zucchini, squash-you name it!

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Veggies all cut up and ready for seasoning

I sliced the brussels in half and chopped the sweet potato into small chunks in order to cook evenly. I then spread all the veggies on a parchment lined baking sheet, drizzled them with some vegetable broth and covered them with Zatar seasoning. You can use any seasoning that you like. The Zatar spice blend is a middle-eastern blend that contains sumac, thyme, sesame seeds and salt. Next, I placed the pan in a preheated 400 degree oven. After 20 minutes, I stirred everything and continued cooking for about 15 more minutes. When they were finished, I removed the pan to cool and before serving, I drizzled them with some balsamic glaze.

When you cook without oil, your vegetables still get that crispy texture and you avoid all the added and unnecessary calories from the oil. You can see from the picture that “no oil roasting” in the oven still produces a crispy vegetable. Many of us were led to believe that oil was needed and was a”healthy” fat. It’s just not true. Oil is a processed food that provides no nutrients, only calories, which consist of 100% fat. In other words, eat the olive-not the olive oil!

I hope you give this technique a try. Brussels are a terrific green to add to your diet. They are considered a dark leafy green and they are rich in Vitamin C. Just one serving of brussels sprouts provides you with half of the daily recommended allowance for Vitamin C. And lets not forget the healthy benefits of sweet potatoes.  That beautiful orange vegetable is full of Vitamin A (beta carotene), and just delicious, too!

Leave me a comment and let me know what vegetable you decided to roast!

I have a new Facebook page. Please visit and “like” my page for more tips and cooking hints.

See you in the kitchen soon,

Heidi

 

Keeping it Simple

Maybe that’s easier said than done, but today I’d like to talk about a few simple ways to add more whole foods into your daily food rotation.

Obviously, I am going to start with breakfast. I like to eat in the morning. There, I said it…I like to eat. And I do eat.  A lot. I stay away from processed, refined foods and stick with whole grains, like oats and lots of colorful fruits and veggies. The message hasn’t changed-breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It is your fuel. Have a banana. Have a piece of whole grain toast with some nut butter. Just eat! If you are used to starting your day with just coffee, just try some fruit or some oatmeal and see how that makes you feel. Jump on the avocado toast bandwagon-you will thank me later!

Let’s move on to lunch. Are you having a salad? Does the salad have some nice leafy greens or is it just iceberg or romaine lettuce? Try adding some dark, leafy greens to your salad. Chop up some kale very finely or throw in a few handfuls of broccoli slaw to amp up the nutrients. Cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts) will fill you up and provide much needed fiber in your diet.

Maybe you’ve decided to have a sandwich or a wrap for lunch. Try swapping the white bread or wrap for a 100% whole wheat bread, pita or wrap. There are so many great breads in the stores. I love Dave’s Killer Bread (the green wrapper is my favorite). Trader Joe’s also sells a delicious 100% whole wheat pita. Again, that whole grain will fill you up and provide some fiber too.

And don’t be afraid of potatoes. Potatoes get such a bad reputation as being too carby or unhealthy. Believe me, potatoes are magic food. It’s not the potato, it’s the unhealthy toppings that most people put on top that make them a poor choice. I absolutely love Yukon Gold potatoes. They have a super creamy taste. Try topping them with your favorite salsa-you will love them!

What’s for dinner tonight? Whether you are eating in or dining out, it is possible to make some easy swaps for healthier options. If you’re cooking pasta at home, try whole wheat pasta instead of white pasta. If you’re making a stir fry, use brown rice instead of white. Cauliflower rice is also a great option to replace traditional rice. It’s becoming much easier to find in the grocery store. Swapping cauliflower rice is a great option and is a great way to amp up your daily vegetable intake. Spiralizing your veggies is also a great option as a pasta replacer. You can buy spiralized veggies in the grocery store or make them yourself. A quick saute of zucchini spirals with some pasta sauce is a healthy and filling dinner.

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Spiralized zucchini with sauce, beans and mushrooms

When you’re dining out, “just say no” to the bread basket. It’s usually highly processed white bread.  I would only break this rule if the restaurant is known for its homemade, scrumptious bread. If it looks like dinner rolls from the freezer, skip it!  Scan through the menu and look for key words like “steamed” or “braised”. Try to avoid “pan-fried” or “crispy” anything. Ask a lot of questions if you want to know how foods are prepared. Oftentimes, substitutions can be made, it’s just a matter of asking for what you need.

You may have read this and thought to yourself, oh, Heidi, this is all common sense, I’ve heard all of this before. You’re right, it is. But I’m asking you to try one thing at a time. Maybe tomorrow you will just make a change to your breakfast. Try that for a week. Next week, add some new veggies to your lunch and do that all week. And finally, start incorporating some whole grains to dinner. Before you know it, you will start to crave and need those whole foods. Believe me, your body is going to thank you. Feed your body what it needs. It’s as simple as that.

Leave a comment and let me know what you’ve done to add whole foods into your diet. What would like to see next on my blog?

See you in the kitchen soon,

Heidi

I scream, you scream,

we all scream for “NICE CREAM”! I am back in the kitchen today with, yet again, another banana recipe. This time, I am featuring the frozen bananas that keep accumulating in my freezer. I keep a supply ready to make smoothies, but I haven’t been making them very often. In trying to clean out my freezer a little, I discovered a great frozen dessert option involving said frozen bananas.If you are trying to lose weight or maintain a weight loss, this is a great way to enjoy a frozen dessert and have it truly be a guilt free treat.

A few weeks ago, I watched one of my favorite You tube videos featuring Ann and Jane Esselstyn. They did a segment on the Yonana machine and demonstrated how easy it was to make “nice cream” with frozen bananas and other frozen fruits. It looked fabulous and I quickly went to the Yonanas website to look at the machine. It’s BIG! And I don’t know about you, but I absolutely have no room whatsoever for another kitchen gadget. Especially one that has pretty much only one function. In the past, I have watched other  videos showing nice cream recipes. Most of those involved using a standard food processor. I  did try using my food processor, but I was never really happy with the results. So, I tested out a few batches with my Nutri Ninja. My Nutri Ninja is really the workhorse of my kitchen. I use mine almost daily for blending dressing and sauces and now it is my go-to for making delicious, creamy, amazing nice cream.

Nice cream

  • Servings: 1
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Ingredients:

  • One banana, sliced and frozen
  • 1-3 T. unsweetened plain almond milk (depends on how thick it blends)
  • 1 T. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1-2 T. pure maple syrup
  • 1-2 T. fresh ground peanut butter (or almond butter)
  • 1 t. vanilla, almond or mint extract

Here’s how I made this decadent looking banana, chocolate and peanut butter nice cream. I placed one frozen banana in the ninja cup. (Make sure you slice the bananas before you freeze them). Next, I added 1 T. of unsweetened plain almond milk, 1 tablespoon each of unsweetened cocoa powder, maple syrup and fresh ground peanut butter. (I may have snuck in an extra tablespoon of peanut butter).  A personal note about peanut butter. I honestly feel that the fresh ground peanut butter you can get at the grocery store tastes the best. It is the only kind I buy now. Set the ninja up and hit start and you will have a creamy, rich, chocolatey dessert in about a minute.  If the mixture is too thick or doesn’t blend well, then add a little more almond milk. If you don’t want to enjoy your dessert right away, you can place the nice cream in a container in the freezer and have it anytime.

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Creamy, chocolatey deliciousness

You can use other fruits along with the banana to make other flavors. Try adding some frozen strawberries for a more fruity treat or mango for a tropical dessert. You can find a lot of recipes for nice cream on Pinerest or other recipe sites. You’re only limited by your imagination (and frozen fruit supply!)

Leave me a comment and let me know how your nice cream turned out. See you in the kitchen again soon,

Heidi

Wouldn’t you love to save some time?

If you spend a few hours in the kitchen today, I promise it will be worth it  later in the week. It’s batch cooking time! (Insert very energetic emoji here)  I have referred to my “batch cooking Sundays” in previous posts and I felt like it was time to finally get around to showing you, dear readers, how I accomplish all this work. It really is fairly easy and worth a couple hours of effort. Follow my easy steps and you will be thanking me on Wednesday when you are tired and can’t think of anything to prepare for lunch or dinner.

The first thing I do is roughly decide what types of things I’ll want to eat in the coming week. Breakfast is the simplest do-ahead meal. I eat steel cut oats pretty much each weekday morning. If you make them from scratch in the morning, they take over 30 minutes. No one has time for that, but you can make a pot of oats on Sunday and refrigerate them. Every morning, just scoop out what you’d like and pop them in the microwave for about 2 minutes.  Some mornings, I mash in a banana and blueberries. If you like savory oats, you can add some chopped tomato, chopped mushrooms or any other veggies you have on hand. Presto–sweet or savory breakfast oats.

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A breakfast staple

For lunches and dinners, I like to have a grain prepared ahead of time. Some weeks, I’ll cook short grain brown rice or maybe some brown basmati rice. Other weeks, I’ll bake 6 potatoes. These grains become the “base” of a meal. Once you have a grain, you can build on it with steamed vegetables, or a stir fry or beans for a Mexican-style meal. This week I decided to make farro. If you haven’t tried farro, you need to. It is a very hearty grain, similar to barley. The one I use is from Trader Joe’s and it cooks in only 10 minutes.

Next on the menu is butternut squash. For dinner tonight, we are having a new salad recipe that I found in the latest issue of the Forks over Knives magazine. It calls for butternut squash, so I decided to keep the extra cubed squash for meals later this week. Once you cube the squash, place on parchment paper and roast in the oven at 400 degrees for about 20-25 minutes. You don’t need to add any oil. If the squash seems a little dry, just brush with some water. I seasoned mine with smoked paprika, but you can try cinnamon or curry. The squash will be delicious later this week mixed with the farro and drizzled with some balsamic vinegar.

To round out my afternoon of cooking, I steamed a big pot of broccoli and I made a batch of dragon dressing. The dragon dressing is a staple in my kitchen. I make a batch almost every week. You can find this peanut-ty, absolutely delicious dressing in the Engine 2 Cookbook. 

Once you have all of your prep work done, just put everything in containers for easy access all week in your fridge. If you like asian flavors, make a bowl with farro, broccoli and dragon dressing. You can add in some water chestnuts and snap peas. If you’re in the mood for tex-mex, try heating up some black beans and salsa to mix with the farro and throw in some chopped spinach and some avocado and corn.

I hope that you give batch cooking a try. If you feel overwhelmed, just start with one thing. Cook your oats today and see how that works for your morning routine. Next week, try some grains or potatoes. This method of food prep really helps me stay on track during the week. Leave me a comment and let me know how your meal prepped worked out.

See you in the kitchen soon,

Heidi

Fall in Florida??

I’m a midwestern girl…(that must be the start of a song lyric somewhere) and probably one of the hardest adjustments is not having a change of seasons.  Honestly, I’m truly not that sad about it. I typically have no complaints about our weather, but when the temperature is steadily in the 90s, it really is a little difficult to get into the “pumpkin spice and baking” mode.

Today I was out and about running some errands and found my way into TJ Maxx, cuz why not? I only needed one thing, which I found pretty quickly but then I couldn’t leave without a trip into the cookware aisle. I found this pretty, bright red silicone muffin pan. It was only $3.99 and had the original Bed Bath and Beyond price tag of $12.99, so that was pretty much a no-brainer!

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I had to put this beautiful pan to the test and today’s fall inspired recipe is an Oil-free, Dairy-free, Pumpkin Apple Cinnamon Muffin. Here’s how I made them:

  • 1 C. oat flour
  • 1 C. whole wheat flour
  • 2 t. baking soda
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/2 T. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 T. Vietnamese Cinnamon (any cinnamon is fine, I just prefer these because they have a lot more “spice”
  • 1 C. unsweetened plain almond milk
  • 1 C. canned pure pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
  • 3/4 C. pure maple syrup
  • Equivalent of 2 eggs (I used Bob’s Red Mill Egg Replacer)
  • 2 peeled, chopped apples (I used Fuji-but any crunchy apple should be fine)
  • 2 T. oat flour mixed with 1 T. coconut sugar

Preheat your oven to 350 and prepare your muffin pan. If you’re not using a silicone pan, line the pan with muffin liners and set aside.   Peel and chop your apples and toss with the oat flour and coconut sugar to coat the apple pieces and set that aside for the batter. Prepare your egg replacer and set aside. Combine all the dry ingredients (flours through spices) in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Place all the wet ingredients (almond milk through maple syrup) in a large bowl. I used an immersion blender to mix the wet ingredients. You don’t need to, but it seemed easier than mixing by hand. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and combine to make the batter. When it is well mixed, stir in the apple pieces and if you’d like, save a few pieces to add to the tops.

I used an ice cream scoop to fill each muffin cup, and I filled them to the top. Place some apple pieces on top and sprinkle with a little more cinnamon and sugar (optional). Place in the oven and bake for 34 minutes. Every oven is different, so you may want to start checking at 28 minutes. These seemed to take longer than I thought because the batter was wetter than many muffin recipes.

Let them cool (I know that’s the hardest part). Pop them out of the pan and enjoy! They are moist and not too sweet and perfect for a fall morning with a cup of coffee!

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Enjoy and let me know in the comments how you liked them!

See you in the kitchen soon,

Heidi

 

An Homage to Apple Cookie Cake

NEW AND IMPROVED-UPDATED RECIPE FOR 2020

I decided to update this classic recipe to reflect my commitment to eating a whole foods, plant based diet and eliminating processed and refined sugars. In order to do that, I changed the sugar ingredient to date paste.

Date paste is quite simple to make. I typically make a batch about once a week. All you need to do is combine one cup of pitted medjool dates with one cup of warm water and blend in a high speed blender. If your dates are on the firmer side, it’s always a good idea to soak them first. You can use the date paste one for one in measurement for any sweetener like sugar or maple syrup. Blended date paste will last in the fridge in a sealed jar for about a week.

Next Sunday night marks the beginning of the Rosh Hashanah holiday. In my family, aside from worrying about what everyone will be wearing to Temple, it is all about the food. Growing up in my house, no Jewish New Year was complete without my mom’s Apple Cookie Cake. I’m not certain it was her original recipe, but she gave me a handwritten copy of it many years ago and I have used it so often that it has food stains from dripping batter and eggs. My favorite part of the recipe is “You can make a streusel topping as it looks nice” Honestly, I don’t even know how to do that!

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My mom’s handwritten recipe complete with food stains!

This year, as I continue with my plant based lifestyle, I am challenged to re-create the famous apple cake and hope that it becomes a new tradition in my home.  Instead of the cup of oil and 4 eggs, I used egg replacer and unsweetened applesauce. My mom is a fabulous cook, and she taught me many of my skills. I still cannot compete with her Thanksgiving stuffing or master the famous cranberry Jello mold!

Here’s my recipe:

Apple Cookie Cake

  • Servings: Makes one 9-inch square cake
  • Print

Dry Ingredients

  • 1/2 C. whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 C. all purpose flour
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1 1/2  t. cinnamon

Wet Ingredients

  • 1/4 C. unsweetened applesauce
  • 3/4 C. date paste
  • 3 T. unsweetened plain almond milk
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • equivalent of 1 egg  (I used Bob’s Red Mill egg replacer: 1T mixed with 2T water)

Other: 3 C. chopped, peeled apples (I used honey crisp)

I first mixed the egg replacer and set it aside to thicken. I then used an electric hand mixer to blend the applesauce and date paste. The applesauce replaces the oil in the original recipe. I then added all the other wet ingredients and mixed well. Next, add in all the dry ingredients and combine. Lastly, stir in the chopped apples. Pour into a 9 inch square baking pan.

Your oven should be preheated to 350. I used the convection bake setting on my oven and it was done (golden brown) in 30 minutes.

The verdict? My husband and I patiently waited for the cake to cool enough to taste and we both agreed that it is just as delicious as the original. Apple Cookie Cake Redux for the plant based holiday table!

Give it a try and let me know what you think. See you in the kitchen soon,

Heidi