Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Antioxidant Super Hummus with Red Beans and Pecans

The word 'cancer' sounds completely different when it's used to describe someone close to you. It echoes in a way that never really fully dissipates until the word is again uttered and the echo starts over again. 

Regular readers of our Facebook page have figured out by now that my dad, Graham Burks Sr., has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Thankfully, he qualified for Whipple surgery, which he had a few weeks ago. Now he's recovering from that before starting chemotherapy next month. This, needless to say, has us all a bit shaken, but it has done something else as well.  It has us resolute and willing to fight.

In addition to the regular doctor-prescribed treatments, we are arming ourselves for a food fight. Not the kind you had in grade school that started when someone lobbed a greasy hash brown across the cafeteria, but the kind of food fight that starts with knowledge and understanding and then yields some truly healthy dishes that nourish the body and help to fight cancer from the inside out.

With this hummus, we are focusing on antioxidants. According to The National Cancer Institute, "Antioxidants are chemicals that block the activity of other chemicals known as free radicals. Free radicals are highly reactive and have the potential to cause damage to cells, including damage that may lead to cancer."

So we have loaded this with some of the top-performing antioxidant foods (according to WebMD) like red beans and pecans and paired them with some of the most potent antioxidant spices (according to Science Daily). The kicker is that it tastes great and is similar to a warm curry mixture like masala because of the cinnamon. 

All right, Dad: let's fight this together. 

Antioxidant Super Hummus with Red Beans and Pecans

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon sumac
1/2 cup toasted pecans
1 can red beans (drained)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Kosher salt (to taste)

In a small frying pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil and add the garlic, cinnamon, turmeric, and sumac. Cook until the rawness is gone from the spices and the garlic has softened. Into the work bowl of your food processor, add the oil and spice mixture from the frying pan, pecans, red beans, and lemon juice. Blend until smooth. Add salt to taste and blend until incorporated.

Serve with sliced zucchini, cucumber, or pita chips. Alternately, spread it onto a soft pita bread and top with lettuce, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, and feta. (Serves 4 as an appetizer or 2 as a sandwich spread.)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Pulled BBQ Spaghetti Squash

This is a continuation of our grilled spaghetti squash fascination. We love the stuff. This came about after some leftover Spaghetti Squash Ribs were chopped up and piled up high on a waffle for a super-quick lunch the other day. Loved it so much we just had to share it with you.

This is reminiscent of the ubiquitous BBQ jackfruit recipes that are out there on the internet, but it uses a readily available fresh product instead of a canned one. The texture is just perfect!  In addition, the hot grill adds that indescribable smoky awesomeness that BBQ needs.

Give this a shot! It's so easy, and we think everyone will love it.

Pulled BBQ Spaghetti Squash

1 medium spaghetti squash
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon TCV Memphis Dry Rub
1 cup BBQ sauce (warmed)

Preheat your outdoor grill to high. Using a serrated peeler or a sharp knife (and plenty of caution!), peel the squash. Cut the squash lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Cut into 1/2-inch slices and discard the ends. On a large sheet pan, toss sliced squash with the canola and sesame oil and then the dry rub until it's well coated.

Grill slices of squash for 4 to 5 minutes per side or until cooked through and well-marked by the grill.

Remove the squash and place it on a cutting board; allow it to rest for 5 minutes. Roughly chop the squash into about 1-inch pieces. Toss with the BBQ sauce and pulling some of the chopped pieces apart as you go. 

Serve more sauce on the side and some Purple Cabbage Slaw on soft white bread or on top of a cornbread waffle. (Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as an appetizer.)


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies

Inspired by the 3-ingredient peanut butter cookie recipe that's all over the internet, these take a bit more effort, but not that much more. They'll solve that annoying problem of too many jars of half-gone nut butters in the fridge -- any mix of different kinds works well.

Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies

1 1/4 cup peanut butter (or cashew, almond, or sunflower butter)
2 eggs
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon gluten-free baking powder (like Rumford)
1 tablespoon gluten-free flour
dark chocolate Hershey kisses (optional)

Microwave the nut butter for a minute to melt it. Set aside. Beat the eggs and then whisk in the brown sugar, honey, and vanilla. Combine this mixture with the nut butter and whisk it all together. Add 1/2 cup almond flour, salt, and baking powder and stir to combine. Chill the cookie dough in the fridge for at least 3 hours or overnight. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Use a small spring-loaded ice-cream scoop to portion out the cookies; next, score the middle of each cookie with a fork dipped in all-purpose flour -- or really go old-school and press chocolates into the middle. Bake for 10 minutes. (Makes 2 dozen medium-sized cookies.)

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Smoky Sriracha

Sriracha, that now-ubiquitous spicy red sauce with the rooster on the bottle, is one of our all-time favorite things. We use it in our spicy peanut sauce, on grilled corn, in soups, stews, and curries. Really, we just drizzle it on anything that needs a little flavor boost, even at breakfast! Why is this stuff so good? It hits hard on many fronts: it's salty, spicy, a little acidic, and a little sweet. In other words, it's nearly perfect. So, we messed with it, of course. Rather than add sugar, we roasted the red jalapeños to bring out their own natural sweetness. This process also adds a nice bit of smokiness, which really ups the ante by adding an additional note to traditional sriracha sauce's symphony of flavor.

This sauce is really simple to make, and the ingredients aren't hard to find. If red jalapeños aren't available -- I usually find them at the Asian market -- you can make a sauce that's just as delicious using green ones. The xanthan gum is totally optional. All it does it keep the sauce from separating in the fridge. If you don't add it, just stir it up before each use.

Smoky Sriracha

8 cups red jalapeño peppers
1/2 cup peeled garlic cloves
1/2 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum (optional)

Over a fire or under your oven's broiler, roast the red jalapeños until blackened just as you would do if you were roasting a red bell pepper. Place roasted red jalapeños and the raw garlic cloves into a covered container and allow them to cool. Once it's all cool enough to handle, use a pair of kitchen shears to trim off the stem and discard. Into the blender or food processor, place the trimmed jalapeños (blackened skin and all), garlic, vinegar, salt, and optional xanthan gum and blend until smooth. Store it in an airtight container in the fridge. (Makes 2 cups.)


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Spaghetti Squash Ribs

The texture of oven-roasted spaghetti squash has always bothered me a little bit. It's softer than spaghetti and always a little watery. I was pondering other ways to handle this vegetable when it hit me. The way it pulls apart -- okay, humor me here -- seems similar to a brisket or pork shoulder. I started to wonder what it would be like grilled and slathered with BBQ sauce. It's not an uncommon thing for this particular BBQ-loving Southerner to ponder. 

So, how was it? The answer is awesome…just awesome. 

We're calling them ribs for a variety of reasons: they're the same shape as little rib bones; it's fun to pick them up and eat them with your hands; and it's a messy good time. Seriously, this would be a fun thing to throw on the table at a party or to serve as a main dish at a picnic. People are always asking us what to serve vegetarians at a cookout. Here's a pretty cool answer.

Spaghetti Squash Ribs

1 medium spaghetti squash
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon TCV Memphis Dry Rub
1 cup BBQ sauce (warmed)

Preheat your outdoor grill to high. Using a serrated peeler or a sharp knife and plenty of caution, peel the squash. Cut the squash lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Cut into 1/2-inch slices and discard the ends. On a large sheet pan, toss sliced squash with the canola and sesame oil and then the dry rub until it's well coated.

Grill slices of squash for 4 to 5 minutes per side or until cooked through and well-marked by the grill. Arrange slices of squash on a plate and brush with BBQ sauce. Serve more sauce on the side for dipping and some Purple Cabbage Slaw(Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as an appetizer.)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Espresso Chocolate Chunk Bars

Chocolate chocolate chocolate, where is the chocolate runs like a cheetah through my mind most days. This is not a unique opinion, but really, there is something wrong with a day without
chocolate -- straight up chocolate, plain. I just don't want any interference.

However, chocolate chip cookies are the exception. I love this whole grain chocolate chip cookie recipe, and I grew up using the recipe on the back of the chocolate chip bag, but this bar recipe is something different. We have been dying to make this type of just-a-vehicle-for-the-chocolate dessert a bit healthier, less traditional, and easier to digest. We have been baking differently this year, and we are so excited to share this new way with you. Now go find some chocolate for these.

Espresso Chocolate Chip Bars

1/4 cup almond meal
1/4 cup coconut flour
2 teaspoons espresso powder
1/2 heaping teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup pecans (food processed)
2 eggs
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup coconut oil (melted)
1 tablespoon vanilla
2/3 cup dark chocolate chunks
1/2 cup walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together the almond meal, coconut flour, espresso powder, salt, and processed pecans. Set aside. Whisk together the eggs, agave, coconut oil, and vanilla. Stir the dry and wet ingredients together and then add the chocolate chunks and walnuts. Line a 9 x 9 pan with parchment -- some of it should overlapping the sides for handles when you remove the cookie. Spread mixture into pan and bake for 15-20 minutes until browned around the edges. Remove from oven and let it cool before cutting into about 12 bars. (These taste even better when stored in the fridge after cooling.)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Plantain Tortillas (Gluten-Free, Paleo, Vegan)

These plantain tortillas have so much to offer to those looking for a good, simple, healthy replacement for standard flour or corn tortillas. This is it! We actually made a version of them back in 2010 just for fun. This was way before we knew anything about gluten-free or paleo diets. Now, though we are not strict on either of those fronts, we do appreciate the challenges that people who chose to or have to follow a specific diet may face. We love to come up with easy, do-able solutions for you.

This is so simple. If you've ever made your own homemade tortillas, you are halfway there. The two secrets here are using ripe plantains, which look a little like large rotten bananas, and using the paddle attachment of a stand mixer to mash them rather than just blending them. Once you have the mashed plantains, you use them just like any masa or flour tortilla dough.

The best part is that they act just like flour tortillas. You can bend them and stuff them like a taco or roll them up for enchiladas. You'll really love their lightly sweet taste.

Plantain Tortillas

2 ripe plantains (peeled, roughly chopped, about 1 3/4 cups)
1/4 cup water
Kosher salt (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon olive oil

Place plantains, water, and salt into a covered, microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 2 minutes. Allow the plantains to rest, covered, for another 2 minutes. The plantains should be soft. Add the plantains to the work bowl of your mixer with the paddle attachment in place. Beat for 3 minutes or until all the lumps have disappeared. Gather the beaten plantains into a ball.

Preheat a non-stick frying pan to medium-low. Take a 15-inch sheet of parchment and fold it n half. Brush the inside with the olive oil to keep the plantain mixture from sticking. Line your open tortilla press with oiled parchment. Using a large ice-cream scoop, scoop 1/4 cup of the plantain mixture onto the parchment, fold the parchment over it, and use the press to gently flatten it to about 5 inches. Alternately, you may use a rolling pin to flatten it between the parchment.

Carefully remove flattened plantain and place into the warm non-stick frying pan. Cook on one side for 2 minutes or until it starts to blister, gently flip it using a spatula, and cook the other side for about 2 minutes. You want just that medium-low heat because the plantains have a significant amount of natural sugar that will burn over higher heat.

Remove tortillas from heat and cover with a clean dish towel. Repeat until all dough is used. (Makes about a half-dozen tortillas.)


Saturday, March 8, 2014

Amazing Almond Flour Biscuits (Gluten Free)

Making up our own gluten-free recipes has certainly been an amazing journey and a life-changing experience, all very similar to how it must feel to be a contestant on The Bachelor. Let's continue this lofty analogy: first, you go in with high hopes, not knowing what to expect or what will happen. Your wild expectations are soon dashed, and then you're forced to figure out what's next. You cry a lot and are embarrassed when everyone watches you spin out emotionally over this setback. Eventually, against the odds, you do find love again. 

This is the end of the story, the time when you know in your heart that it wasn't all for naught and it is all going to be okay. These are some light biscuits you'd never know were GF. They don't fall apart and they taste pretty great with honey. True love really can happen, y'all, even in a highly manufactured and stressful situation. This is the proof. 


Amazing Almond Flour Biscuits
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup almond flour (like Bob's Red Mill)
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter (grated)
1 large egg (beaten)
1/4 cup 2% Greek yogurt

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Mix baking powder, almond flour, and salt in a large bowl. Add the cold butter using your fingers to work the butter into the flour until there are no large clumps of butter. In a small bowl combine the egg and yogurt. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add the egg mixture. Using a rubber spatula, fold the mixture into the dry ingredients -- but use as few strokes as possible. 
Using a medium ice cream scoop, scoop up a 1/4-cup portion of dough and place it onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat until all dough has been used. (You should get about a half-dozen biscuits from this recipe.) Be sure to leave an inch or so between each biscuit, but don't be too particular about their shape -- drop biscuits are supposed to be rustic. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the craggy edges are brown and crispy.

Monday, March 3, 2014

TCV Kitchen Update: Before and After (and a little snack drawer)

We've been meaning to share our recent kitchen update with you! We've lived in our house here in Memphis for eleven years at this point, and after many years of learning to cook in weird apartment and rental house kitchens with features like peeling linoleum, brown wood cabinets, slivers of counter space, and no room for storage, it's great to have a room we spend so much time in look nice.

{ after }
It's easy to feel a bit nostalgic now, though. Before our current kitchen, our fourth and most long-term kitchen together was in The Belvedere Apartments on Union Avenue in Memphis, and as I type this, the building is in the midst of being demolished. We cooked our way through The Angelica Home Kitchen there, made simple spaghetti dinners for our friends, perfected our dragon bowl, spring rolls, and stir-fry, and figured out a foolproof lasagna. We cooked there for six years or so, and it's funny to remember that there was no way for two people to fit into that kitchen at one time, so any needed prep was done on the dining room table.

It's probably stating the obvious to say that one doesn't need to have to have a big kitchen or a pretty kitchen to cook well. But if you like to cook, having a kitchen set up just for you is quite a joy. We spend more time here than pretty much anywhere else in the house.

{ before }
Seven years ago, we did the big fix, first stripping layers of red paint, orange paint, and then wallpaper and then adding a drywall texture to the busted-up walls before the fresh paint. We installed basic new countertops and a cherry butcher block, replaced the 60's appliances, new cabinet fronts and pulls, new lighting and wiring, pretty much changed everything. It was our first big home project, and we learned that things have to get really messy and frustrating and gross before they get beautiful. We learned how to paint, how to do dishes in a plastic tub inside a bathtub, and how to be extremely patient. Still, there's something about destroying something tired to make it something better that's so worth it in the end.

After all of the renovation craziness that summer, we didn't do much else to the place besides reorganize from time to time. We've always spent a ton of time in our kitchen, and years later, it was showing signs of wear. Broken faucet, unorganized cabinets, dingy white paint, no backsplash, lights needing rewiring -- it was time for a few improvements. We decided to go with a modern and rustic look, and we're not completely finished yet with making it look like home, but it sure is nice to work in there these days.

{ the snack drawer }
We did the two-tone thing with charcoal gray lower cabinets and medium gray upper cabinets and walls, and cream-colored subway tile with gray grout. An inexpensive new kitchen faucet and soap dispenser combo similar to this one has been great; we've often had to replace faucets or have various parts of them repaired (probably due to how much use they get), and this one's held tight so far. Having a built-in soap dispenser on the sink for the first time in our adult lives was a serious thrill. Next, one of us added some under-cabinet lights as a Christmas surprise. Two separate projects -- organizing the spices and dedicating a cabinet to them and having pull-out drawers installed in the pantry -- also helped a lot in terms of knowing what we have at the ready and keeping like with like. Adding a 3-bin snack drawer in the cupboard was a cool, easy addition that has probably helped us snack a little more but also helped us choose better snacks. Two cabinets just for baking items and pans and a small cabinet shelf set aside for all our coffee stuff have both made life in the kitchen a lot easier, too.

We so love to cook, and it is even more a pleasure to work in this space now. We can't wait to show you what we'll create here next!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Gluten-Free Cauliflower Pizza Crust

Cauliflower flour, made by processing cauliflower and squeezing the water out…it's bound to be something pretty important in the near future. This stuff is like magic. You could never imagine that cauliflower could be transformed into a believable pizza crust. If you'd bet me money, I'd have thought it would fail, but then there I was eating a pizza with a crust made of cauliflower. It's bready and it's real!

So why go though all the trouble when regular old flour's waiting right there in the cabinet? For some, a gluten-free diet is a necessity, so we like to contribute to the cause when we can. For us personally, it's novel, an interesting cooking challenge. Plus, it's kind of fun to follow food trends when you develop recipes as often as we do -- it keeps things fresh. 

This is not a gluten-free house, by any means; we're not too strict about it. We still enjoy a real pizza or a sandwich on some great crusty French bread now and again. Let's just say we've cut back our gluten intake, which seems right and feels great. After all, like Thomas Jefferson said, "In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock."

Gluten-Free Cauliflower Pizza Crust

1 medium head of cauliflower
2 large eggs (beaten)

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)
1 teaspoon olive oil
Pizza sauce, cheese, and toppings of your choice


Remove the leaves and the end of the stem from the cauliflower. Wash, dry, and roughly chop it. In two batches, place the cauliflower into the work bowl of your food processor and grind it into a fine "sand." Place the processed cauliflower into the center of a clean kitchen towel and onto a microwave-safe plate. Microwave the cauliflower for 3 minutes. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Wring the water from the cauliflower by gathering the ends of the kitchen towel and turning the ball of processed cauliflower. Place the squeezed cauliflower into a large mixing bowl. You should have 
about 2 cups after it's processed and squeezed.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Throughly mix in the eggs, parmesan, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper until a dough-like ball forms. Line a pizza pan with a sheet of parchment paper and brush with the olive oil. Press the dough out into a 12-inch circle while keeping your fingers moist to prevent the dough from sticking to your hands. Make sure the edges are smooth; this is not only more attractive, but it'll help it stay together. 


Place the crust in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove the crust, bump the oven up to 425, add your sauce and toppings, and bake for about 7 minutes or until the cheese has melted on top.



Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Spring Roll Wrap with Spicy Sriracha Peanut Sauce

What's the only downside of a delicious spring roll? It's definitely the fact that they're so very small. When we get Vietnamese food, we each get an order of spring rolls because they're too good to share. We love them stuffed with noodles, seared tofu, avocado, and tons of fresh herbs like mint, basil, and green onions. This weekend, we made meal-sized spring rolls by wrapping all the tasty ingredients up in a brown rice tortilla.

Feel free to wing it a little here. There are tons of great ingredients that would be amazing in this dish. You're only limited by your own imagination, darlin'. Bean sprouts, tomatoes, and radish would be awesome here. In fact, you should never make them the same way twice. The real secret to a successful spring roll or TCV Spring Roll Wrap is tons of fresh herbs and our Spicy Sriracha Peanut Sauce.

Spring Roll Wrap with Spicy Sriracha Peanut Sauce

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 package firm tofu (sliced into 12 pieces, patted dry)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
Spicy Sriracha Peanut Sauce (recipe follows)
1 1/2 cups bean thread noodles (prepared according to package directions)*
4 brown rice tortillas (like Engine 2 brand)
1 1/2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce
1 large avocado (peeled, sliced)
1 medium carrot (julienned)
1 small cucumber (thinly sliced)
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 cup fresh mint leaves
1 cup fresh basil leaves
2 green onions (sliced)

In a large frying pan over high heat, add the oil. Once it starts smoking, carefully slide the tofu slices into the pan. Be careful, they will platter if not completely dry. Dry tofu and a hot pan assure that the tofu won't stick to the pan. Season the side of the tofu facing up with salt and pepper and allow it to cook for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes or until nicely browned. Flip tofu and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes or until browned. Remove tofu from the pan and set aside.

Prepare the Spicy Sriracha Peanut Sauce and bean thread noodles according to the instructions. Heat the tortillas in a dry pan until soft and pliable.

Assemble the Spring Roll Wrap by dividing the noodles, lettuce, avocado, carrot, cucumber, cilantro, mint, basil, and tofu among the tortillas and drizzle each with Spicy Sriracha Peanut Sauce. Roll them up and get to it. (Serves 4.)

Spicy Sriracha Peanut Sauce

2 tablespoons peanut butter (or cashew butter)
2 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Sriracha
1 clove garlic

Using an immersion blender or food processor, blend the peanut butter, mirin, soy sauce, Sriracha, and garlic until smooth. Add enough water to get a pourable but still thick consistency.

*Bean thread noodles are available at Asian markets and at Whole Foods. They are also sometimes called cellophane noodles. Just look for the thin, clear, bean noodles or use rice noodles in their place.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Winter Citrus Salad

Ah, supreming. It's so picky-picky but still worth it. Okay, so this salad takes a little bit of patience at the start, but after dealing with the oranges, the rest of it comes together in a flash. The payoff is how pretty it looks on the plate as well as how a few simple ingredients taste so killer together. So, there's that, but really, we made a salad mainly out of citrus say goodbye, winter, and garnished it with mint to say hello, spring! We're seriously done with the cold and dreariness, and we pine for the long, hot, lazy days of summer. A last winter salad is nice and all, but let's look ahead and bring that spring.

Winter Citrus Salad

6 citrus fruits (such as blood oranges, grapefruit, cara cara oranges, navel oranges)

1/8 cup macadamia nuts (toasted, chopped)

5 to 8 large mint leaves (minced)

Maldon sea salt flakes and cracked black pepper (to taste)

2 teaspoons good-quality olive oil

Supreme the citrus and set the pieces out in circles on the plate. Sprinkle with the nuts, mint, salt, and pepper. Drizzle the olive oil on top. (Serves 2.)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Pastrami-Cured Beets

There is nothing more romantic than eating something heart-shaped -- just ask anyone who has ever celebrated Valentine's Day. To mark this hotly anticipated occasion, we bring you a recipe for beets, the most human-heart-looking of al the root vegetables…and therefore, the most  swoon-worthy.

As a bonus, this dish is as easy as it is delicious; requiring only a few minutes of hands-on time, it can easily be made ahead of the big night. Serve it on a charcuterie plate before dinner with some spicy mustard and pickles or on a sandwich for a great picnic option. So really, Valentine's Day or any day, Pastrami-Cured Beets are great!

Pastrami-Cured Beets

1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 large beets (peeled)

Make the pastrami cure in a medium bowl by mixing the pepper, coriander, paprika, salt, and garlic together. Drizzle the olive oil over the beets so that they're evenly covered; this will allow the cure to stick to them. Liberally coat each beet with the cure on both sides and place in a covered container in the fridge for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Wrap each beet in foil and place into a casserole dish. Bake for 1 1/2 hours or until tender. Allow beets to cool completely. Slice thinly using a knife or a mandolin. (Makes 4 servings.)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Savory Seared Pear Salad with Honey-Tarragon Dressing

Here's a great and hearty salad to help get you through this dumb and annoying winter. The bright acidity of the dressing, the buttery, warm pears, and the big old punch of bleu cheese  make this dish a potent antidote for the winter blues. The pears are totally transformed by this process; when seared in a hot pan, they become smoky, softened, and almost, dare we say… meaty. 

We love to bring this to potlucks. No one else will have anything else quite like it. We brought it to our friends' house for Thanksgiving this year, and the savory pears stood out among a sea of sweet potato casseroles and stuffings. If you're struggling with the conundrum of what to make your sweetie for Valentine's Day, simply cut these pears into a heart shape and wow him or her with a beautiful presentation. 


Savory Seared Pear Salad with Honey-Tarragon Dressing

1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon minced fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon minced shallot (rinsed under cold water to remove any astringency)
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)
3 medium red or green Anjou pears (just ripe, but still firm)
1 medium lemon
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter (softened)
2 cups mache or other greens
1/2 cup chopped, toasted walnuts
1/2 cup crumbled, aged bleu cheese

Assemble the dressing in a small mason jar by adding the vinegar, olive oil, honey, tarragon, shallot, and salt and pepper to taste. Place the lid on the jar and shake until the dressing emulsifies. Set aside.

Trim each pear as if you are cutting the core into a triangle shape. This method will give you 3 good-sized pear pieces from each fruit. As you work, place pears into a large work bowl and squeeze a little lemon juice onto each slice to prevent browning. With a sharp paring knife, cut a series of cross-hatched slits into the flesh of each pear, but make sure not to cut all the way through to the skin. This method allows the dressing and seasonings to disperse nicely throughout the fruit. 

Heat a large frying pan over medium high heat. Add the butter and then quickly add the pears cut-side down. Allow them to cook undisturbed for 2 minutes or until they are nicely browned. Flip them and cook for both 2 minutes to warm them through. Set aside until ready to serve.

Spread the mache on a large platter and arrange the pears on top. Drizzle the whole thing with Honey-Tarragon Dressing. Top with walnuts and bleu cheese. Finish the dish with salt and pepper to taste. (Serves 4 to 6 as a first course.)

Monday, February 3, 2014

A Southern Vegetarian Cookbook Giveaway + Cauliflower Couscous with Sautéed Kale and Artichoke Hearts

+++ This contest is closed. Thanks for all the great comments! +++

CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR WINNERS:


Commenter #6, Joan
Commenter #9, Tofu Mom (aka Tofu & Sprouts)
Commenter #8, Liquid Extrovert
You have won your very own copy of The Southern Vegetarian cookbook courtesy of Memphis Fight OnPlease private message us on Facebook with your address and we'll get the book in the mail right away. Thank you for your compassion and support.

The Chubby Vegetarian is proud to partner with Fight On, a local community of cancer survivors, current fighters, and supporters sharing stories of survival and strength. The nice folks at Fight On are giving away three copies of our book, The Southern Vegetarian: 100 Down-Home Recipes for the Modern Table. To win your very own copy of the book, leave a comment below sharing your words of encouragement and support for those who are just beginning their fight and then go and 'like' the Fight On Facebook Page. We also encourage everyone to visit the Fight On website to learn more about this great organization. 



The three contest winners will be chosen through a random drawing and announced on Monday, February 10, 2014.  (Winners must be in the 48 continental United States. Only one winner per household. Winners will be chosen using a web-based random number generator. Enter as many times as you'd like. Comments are moderated. We will review and post them at the end of the day.)

Cancer has touched each of our lives at some point. When our friend Denny was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2010, we were all shocked. Cancer has the power to do that, you know? A tickle in the throat led to tests and more tests, which turned up the conclusion that no one wants to hear.

No one would have ever guessed that cancer would choose Denny. He's an absolute bad ass, a Marine, pilot, runner, and gym rat who is built like a brick mailbox and probably did more reps last Tuesday that I'll do all year. In addition, he eats healthier than anyone I know and always has. His plate is always loaded with fresh fruit and vegetables with a side of lean protein. So in this situation, it would be easy for anyone to throw their hands in the air and scream, "Why?" But he dug in and asked, "How are we going to fight this, and what do we need to do to win?"

"It's really a great time to have cancer," he once told me. As strange as that sounds, I understand what he means. We have so much research, information, and technology to assist us in the fight; now a diagnosis doesn't mean the exact same thing it used to mean. So he organized his game plan, which included treatment, chemo, and most of all, continuing to exercise and eat healthfully every single day.

Even when he felt weak from the treatment or nauseated by the chemotherapy, he'd show up at the gym and work out on the elliptical or train with weights. According to published reports, exercise during treatment not only doesn't harm the effectiveness of the treatment, but improves multiple aspects of one's quality of life including maintaining strength and range of motion and combating fatigue and depression. 

He knew he was on the right track. Even when he told us everything tastes "like I'm chewing on aluminum foil," he continued to eat healthfully because we all know that food is fuel for our bodies, and he was fueling up for his fight. This is where we knew we could help. To celebrate Denny's progress, we threw him a dinner party with dishes that displayed a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. On the menu: Green Pea Hummus, Watermelon and Tomato Gazpacho from our book The Southern Vegetarian: 100 Down-Home Recipes For The Modern Table (Thomas Nelson, 2013), and Cauliflower Couscous with Sautéed Kale and Artichoke Hearts, a dish we created just for him.

We came up with this dish after researching what one should be eating while undergoing treatment. The list wouldn't really surprise anyone. Multiple sources describe a diet overflowing with fresh vegetables as a great way to combat cancer. One thing I learned about after a tip from Denny is how to make sure the foods you're eating are alkaline as opposed to acidic. Alkaline foods supposedly don't cause inflammation in the body like acidic foods can. Admittedly, we got a very surface education in this before diving right in and cooking. Many of the favorite foods we already love are on the alkaline list, including cauliflower, mushrooms, artichokes, and kale.

We were thrilled that Denny loved our meal! Denny, his wife Nina, Amy, and I ate and laughed and forgot for a moment what we were celebrating…which was the whole point. We are so thankful for his spirit and his friendship. As you can see, he is a great inspiration in our lives. He's still fighting the good fight, and we hope hearing about him today has inspired you as well. 

Cauliflower Couscous with Sautéed Kale and Artichoke Hearts
(Vegetarian, Gluten-Free, Paleo, Alkaline)

2 large artichokes
2 organic lemons
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
1/4 cup Kosher salt (more to taste)
2 tablespoon olive oil (divided)
1 8-ounce package baby bella mushrooms (quartered)
1 large shallot (sliced, about 1/2 cup)
1 large head curly kale (stems removed, chopped)
1 cup roasted, salted almonds
3 cloves garlic
1 medium head cauliflower (leaves trimmed, roughly chopped, about 7 cups)
parsley and finely diced red pepper (to garnish)
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)

In a large soup pot, bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Halve one of the lemons, squeeze the juice into the water, and then add both pieces to the water. Add the Italian seasoning and the salt. Trim the top third off of each artichoke. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the stem and trim the end off of the stem. Cut each artichoke in half lengthwise and place each into the boiling water. Cover and cook for 20 minutes or until stem is tender. Remove artichokes from the water. Once the artichokes are cool enough to handle, pull the fibrous "choke" out of the middle using a spoon. It should slip right out. Set aside.

Discard water and lemons and use the same large pot for this part. Over high heat, add one tablespoon of olive oil and the mushrooms. Allow them to cook undisturbed for one to two minutes or until the mushrooms are nicely browned -- mushrooms don't burn easily because of their high water and low natural sugar content. Once mushrooms are browned, add the shallots and cook for one minute. Add the kale and sauté until bright green. Add 1/4 cup of water, use a wooden spoon to scrape up all of the brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pot, remove from the heat, and cover. Season with salt and pepper and set aside until ready to serve.

Into the work bowl of your food processor, add the almonds and garlic. Process until very finely chopped. Add 1/3 of the cauliflower and process until it's very fineley chopped and the cauliflower resembles sand. Repeat until all cauliflower is processed. In a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Add the processed cauliflower mix and stir with a wooden spoon; allow the bottom to brown before each stir. Cook for five to six minutes or until heated through. Add 1/4 cup of water and stir. Season with salt and pepper and set aside until ready to serve. The texture will resemble a fine-grained couscous.

To serve, place the warm Cauliflower Couscous on a platter and cover it with the kale. Next, position the artichoke hearts, which may be seared in a little olive oil to warm them, on the top. Garnish with the juice and zest of one lemon and some parsley and red pepper. (Serves 4.)

*It should be mentioned that eating healthfully doesn't always have to break the bank.The ingredients for this whole dish only cost about $15!

Friday, January 31, 2014

The Chubby Vegetarian Mushroom Debris Po' Boy at The Second Line

We are super-pumped to be a part of the po' boy menu at Chef Kelly English's brand-new restaurant, The Second Line. You see, my dad always told me, "Son, surround yourself with good sandwiches, and you can't go wrong!" Wait, maybe it was 'people' not 'sandwiches.' I forget! 

Well, in either case, both things hold true here. When you go to The Second Line, you'll be surrounded by good sandwiches named after good people. There's the Johnny Snack that's inspired by Chef John Currence, and The Verno that's named for sports talk show host Chris Vernon, and The Besh BBQ Shrimp which is Kelly's mentor John Besh's own recipe. And lastly, there is a sandwich called The Chubby Vegetarian Mushroom Debris (pronounced day-bree), which is our recipe we developed and tested with Kelly. We feel blessed to be in such good company!


It all stared with a conversation with the chef. "I've never had a po' boy that was intended to be vegetarian, but still rang true," Chef English told us. "I don't want a sandwich that's been so gussied up it no longer resembles a po' boy," he continued."That's exactly what I want, and I know you are up to the task!" 

With that vote of confidence, we got to work making lots and lots of sandwiches! First there was the Andoullie Eggplant Po' Boy, a sandwich stuffed with grilled and spiced eggplant which was a close runner-up, then there was the "K.O.," which was beer-battered king oyster mushrooms and sea beans. We briefly toyed around with the idea of using jackfruit, then got weirded out by the fact that it was a canned product. 

So, we tried the same jackfruit preparation on mushrooms…bingo! I don't want to oversell it, but it really is amazing! Fresh portobello or crimini mushrooms are braised in red wine with celery, carrots, garlic, thyme, and bay leaves. The mushrooms form their own meaty and flavorful broth during the braise, which is then spooned generously onto a pistolette and garnished with pickles, lettuce, tomato, and mayo.


 "A po' boy has to drip down your arm with the first bite," Kelly is fond of saying. So we wanted to deliver just that. It's a wonderfully messy thing! "What we ended up with," he said, "I couldn't be prouder of, and it is one of my first recommendations I make, to any type of 'vore: carnivore, herbivore, or omnivore." So, go and gather up some good people and surround yourselves with good sandwiches at The Second Line!

Here are a few insider tips. The filling itself is vegan, as is the bread, and there's no cheese on it, so the sandwich can easily be ordered without mayo -- if you are into that sort of thing. The O.G. po' boy from the menu can be made with the Chubby Vegetarian Mushroom Debris gravy, and that makes it a T.C.V.O.G. It comes with French fries piled on the sandwich -- if you are into that sort of thing. 




The Chubby Vegetarian Debris Po Boy at The Second Line

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large white onion (thinly sliced into half-moons)
2 medium ribs celery (thinly sliced)
2 medium carrots (thinly sliced)
6 cloves garlic (smashed)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried, crumbled porcini mushrooms
2 bay leaves

1 1/2 cups dry red wine
2 cups vegetable stock
4 to 5 large portobello mushrooms or 3 8-ounce packages of crimini (*thinly sliced)
1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon vegetarian Worcestershire
Hot sauce to taste

3 12-inch crispy French rolls (split)
Pickles, sliced tomatoes, mayonnaise (vegan or regular), Creole mustard, and thinly sliced iceberg lettuce (to garnish)


In a stock pot over medium heat, add the olive oil and heat until it starts to shimmer. Add the onions, celery, and carrots and cook until nice and brown. This takes about 20 minutes with some occasional stirring, but it's worth it. The flavor gained from all those brown bits is amazing!

Add the garlic, thyme, porcini, bay leaves, and red wine to the pot. Scrape up any bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pot, and cook until it looks dry, about 1o minutes. Add the stock, sliced portobellos, vinegar, tomato paste, and Worcestershire. Once the liquid starts to simmer, reduce to low heat, and cook, uncovered, for 45 minutes. The liquid should have reduced significantly at the end of the cooking time.  Serve heaped onto several French rolls garnished with pickles, sliced tomatoes, mayonnaise, Creole mustard, and cabbage. (Serves 6.)

*I slice the raw mushrooms about 1/8-inch thick on my meat slicer. I lay the mushrooms flat and slice disks. This way there are lots of large slices and tons of great bits and pieces.


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Portobello Wiener Schnitzel with Smoky Cabbage (Vegetarian, Gluten-Free, Paleo)

If you hate mushrooms, maybe it's just that you took a wrong turn somewhere on the internet and ended up here at the mushroom-adoring The Chubby Vegetarian site. We heart mushrooms, and we really aren't ever shy about it. Whenever we cook for folks at an event, we always hear the same thing: "I don't even like mushrooms, but this is fantastic!" 

Like, well, anything else in the world, the secret is in the preparation. If you toss a few white button mushrooms into a stew and then they come out all slimy and weird-looking, it just reinforces the very thing that people don't like about our favorite fungi. There's a bunch of stuff you can do to make them really good: spice 'em and grill 'em over high heat; stuff' 'em into tamales; smoke 'em on a cedar plank; braise 'em in red wine; or give them a flavorful coating of almonds (like in this recipe). Basically, treat 'em like a piece of meat!


Here we served the Portobello Wiener Schnitzel over our Smoky Cabbage. The cabbage is cooked over high heat in a dry pan to sear the edges of some of the shreds, which lends a pleasant, slightly smoked flavor to this humble vegetable. Add a few caraway seeds and garlic for something old made new again.


Portobello Wiener Schnitzel with Smoky Cabbage 


1 small to medium head green cabbage (cored and shredded)
1 teaspoon caraway seed
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 large portobello mushrooms
1/2 heaping cup almond flour
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt (more to taste)

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme 
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper (more to taste)
2 large eggs (beaten)
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
Celery leaves (to garnish)
1 lemon (quartered)

Heat a large frying pan (not the nonstick kind) over high heat until it begins to lightly smoke. Add 1/3 of the cabbage and allow it to cook until the bottom layer has browned. Add a second 1/3, toss, and repeat. Finally add the last of the cabbage, the caraway, garlic, and vinegar, and toss to incorporate. Cook until all cabbage is just wilted. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat, cover, and set aside until ready to serve.


Scrape the gills from the portobellos and trim the overhanging portion of the cap to make it flatter. Save trimmings for another use. Place into a covered microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high for 3 minutes. Remove and place mushrooms between two sheets of plastic wrap. Pound them gently with the bottom of a pot or a meat tenderizer until they are about 1/4-inch thin. Allow them to cool completely.


Set up two bowls. In one, place the almond flour, salt, dried thyme, and pepper and toss to incorporate. In the other bowl, place the beaten eggs. Dip each mushroom in the egg, then the almond flour mixture, then the egg, then the almond flour mixture to ensure a good coating. 


In a medium frying pan over medium-low heat, melt the butter and add the olive oil. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes per side or until nicely browned. Serve on cabbage garnished with celery leaves and lemon slices. (Serves 2.)


Friday, January 24, 2014

Baked Cauliflower Wings with Black and Bleu Dressing

*We will be doing a demo of our Mushroom Meat at the new Whole Foods Market in Memphis this Saturday, January 25th at 1:00 pm. We'll stick around until 3:00 p.m. to chat and to do a book signing. Stop by and see us and check out the new store!

Wings: we love 'em. Problem is, they're usually chicken. Coming up with a suitable non-processed substitute has been tough, to say the least. Today, we tried cauliflower. It soaked up the flavors nicely, and it had plenty of texture. I think it's a winner!


This would be a great and sort of amusing thing to set out on the table at the Superb Owl (that's the 'Super Bowl' for those without autocorrect). Everyone will love this app, maybe even a few of those meat-eating football fans, because it's spicy and rich, but far less so than its fried, feathered cousin.

(Oh, and we hope your team wins! Um…who's playing again?)


Baked Cauliflower Wings with Black and Bleu Dressing

1/2 cup crumbled bleu cheese
1/2 cup Greek yogurt (2% or 0%)
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
Kosher salt (to taste)
1 head cauliflower (broken into large florets)
2 tablespoons canola oil
3/4 cup wing sauce*
1/4 cup ketchup

2 carrots (peeled and cut into matchsticks)
2 ribs of celery (peeled and cut into matchsticks)


Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together the bleu cheese, yogurt, vinegar, and pepper. Add salt to taste and set aside in the fridge. 

In a large bowl, toss the cauliflower with the canola oil and place onto a large parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes. 

In the same large bowl, whisk together the wing sauce and the ketchup. Toss roasted cauliflower in the wing sauce mixture. Return the cauliflower to the parchment-lined baking sheet and cook for another 15 minutes. 

Serve with the "Black and Blue' dressing, carrots, and celery. (Serves 4 as an appetizer.)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Taco Salad with Cumin-Spiced Mushroom Meat

Growing up, one of my favorite nights of the week was when my mom would get out the big soup pot, fill it with peanut oil, and fry up a bunch of tortilla bowls so we could make taco salads. It was one of her specialties, and I was always in the kitchen helping out as much as I could. It was a bit of a dangerous undertaking, but she had it down pat. She'd toss a large tortilla into the oil, grab a metal bowl with a pair or tongs, and press the tortilla down in the center until it crisped. All the while, the thing was bubbling and making a ton of noise. I probably ate two of those things while we put the other ingredients together.

Back then, the components for this salad were iceberg lettuce, pre-shredded cheddar, a jar of salsa, some sliced black olives, sour cream, and ground beef. Today, we tend to incorporate more vegetables into dinnertime, and we bake our tortilla bowls rather than frying them. You are likely to find sliced avocado, sautéed poblano peppers, homemade salsa, cilantro leaves, and our cumin-spiced Mushroom Meat as a healthier alternative to the ground beef. 

The best part about this recipe is that it's infinitely customizable. When I was a kid, we would set everything out buffet-style. Everyone would grab a tortilla bowl, fill it with lettuce, and head on down the line adding whatever they liked and leaving off anything they didn't want. So feel free to throw in some black beans, quinoa, queso fresco, Greek yogurt, or pickled jalapeños. It's your taco salad…make it how you want it!


Taco Salad with Cumin-Spiced Mushroom Meat


Cumin-Spiced Mushroom Meat (recipe follows)

4 large whole-wheat tortillas
1 tablespoon olive oil
Honey-Lime Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
6 cups chopped romaine
2 sliced avocado, 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, 1 1/2 cups of your favorite salsa, cilantro leaves, hot sauce, and 2 sautéed sliced poblano peppers (to garnish)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Make Cumin-Spiced Mushroom Meat according to the recipe and set aside. Brush the tortillas with the olive oil and drape them over a medium-sized heat-proof bowl. Place the bowls on a large baking sheet and place into the oven for 10-15 minutes or until the shell is golden and crispy. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.


Make the Honey Lime Vinaigrette according to the recipe. Toss the romaine with the dressing and assemble the salads. Divide the dressed romaine among the bowls and top with 3/4 cup mushroom meat. Garnish with avocado, cheese, salsa, cilantro, hot sauce, poblano peppers, and anything else you see fit. (Makes 4 servings.)




3 cups finely chopped portobello mushroom (about 3 medium)
3 cups finely chopped eggplant (peeled, about 1 medium)
2 cups finely chopped white onion (about 1 medium)
2 bouillon cubes (like Not-Beef)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
1/2 teaspoon chipotle pepper powder

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Add roughly-chopped mushrooms one at a time, stems and all, to your food processor and pulse 3 times or until finely chopped -- you do not want to turn the vegetables into a fine paste; the pieces should be about the size of a black-eyed pea. Place processed mushrooms onto a large, parchment-lined, 17 x 12 inch rimmed baking sheet. Pulse the roughly chopped eggplant in the food processor in the same manner. Place eggplant onto the sheet pan beside the mushrooms. Repeat this process with the onion. 

Crumble the bouillon cubes into the pile of processed vegetables. Drizzle the mound of mushrooms, eggplant, and onion with the olive oil and vinegar. Using your hands, toss it all together. Spread the mixture evenly over the sheet pan. Sprinkle the mixture with garlic powder, black pepper, cumin, ancho chili powder, chipotle pepper powder. Bake it for a total of 20 minutes. Remove the mixture and allow it to cool in the pan. (Makes 4 cups.) 

(Some eggplants will contain more water than others. If there is excess moisture in the bottom of the pan, drain it off using a colander. Reserve the liquid -- since it’s very flavorful -- to add to soups or stews.)


Honey-Lime Vinaigrette

juice of 2 lime (about 1/4 cup)

zest of 1 (organic) lime
2 tablespoons local honey
1/4 cup olive oil
scant 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)

Place the lime juice, zest, honey, olive oil, cayenne, salt, and pepper in a small jar with a lid and shake it until the dressing emulsifies. Set aside until ready to use.  (Makes 1/2 cup.)