March 28, 2013

Coconut Easter Bunny Cake

Ahhhhhh spring is in the air.....

FINALLY!

I feel like this has been the never-ending winter here in the Northeast.  Not bitterly cold, no huge blizzards....but the thermostat just does not want to go above 40 degrees!!

This week, however, the sun is shining and the temperatures are slowly climbing into the 50s.....which may not be super warm to some of you, but for us here in the freezing Northeast?  We'll take it!!!

And just in time for Easter this weekend!


Easter egg hunts, jelly beans, visiting the Easter bunny, baskets full of chocolate bunnies, spring-like air.........all the wonderful aspects of this holiday.  But for me, Easter reminds me most of those epic 80s Easter dresses my mother used to dress me in....and that annoying plastic grass.  Hate that.

Last year, I was an Easter scrooge and decided to post about how toxic sugar is, and the alternatives to candy that you could use for baskets.  This year, however, I'm all for the Easter sugar splurge. 

Because of this cake.


Isn't he adorable!?

I made this cake years ago before I was a plant-based rock star.  This year, I wanted to make it again, but veganize the cake and icing.  The cake is relatively healthy - no oil.  However, both the cake and icing contain more sugar that I have probably consumed all year. 

Oh well, it's Easter!  The kids will be on a temporary sugar high, inevitably resulting in the sugar crash, which is when you will get a chance to pick up all that plastic grass from every crevice of your home. 

Or eat jelly beans. 


Love & Kale,
Ali


Coconut Easter Bunny Cake

Print here.

Ingredients:
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut (optional)
  • Coconut icing (recipe below)
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut, jelly beans, Twizzlers, chocolate chips, etc., for decorating

Instructions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray two 8-inch round pans with cooking spray, and set aside.
  2. Place your dry ingredients (flour through salt) in a large bowl.  Whisk until combined.
  3. Place your wet ingredients (applesauce through extracts) in a medium bowl and stir until combined.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, in 3 batches, stirring just until combined in each batch.  When everything is incorporated, add your coconut (if using).
  5. Pour half the batter into one pan, the other half into the other pan.
  6. Bake for about 22-25 min, depending on your oven, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  7. When cakes are completely cool, place them on a large baking sheet or serving platter.  Cut one of the cakes as show below, to make two ears and a bowtie. 
  8. Spread icing on the cakes and top with more shredded coconut.  Decorate the bunny with jelly beans, Twizzlers, chocolate chips - you're only limited by your imagination!
Icing Ingredients:
  • 6 - 6 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
Icing Instructions:
  1. Combine sugar and milk until a thick icing forms - adjust with more sugar or milk as needed.
Combine dry ingredients

Combine wet ingredients and slowly add to dry in batches

Add shredded coconut and stir just until combined

Pour into two round pans

Bake until golden brown

Cut one of the cakes as shown, to create the bunny ears and bow tie.  So adorb.

Place bunny together as shown on a baking sheet or large platter.

Make your icing.

Spread icing over cake and top with coconut

Decorate as you wish!

Easter Bunny Cake!

March 22, 2013

Cranberry Coconut Oatmeal Bites

It's that scary time between lunch and dinner.....

...That time of day when you need something, anything, to hold you over until dinner time...

...The cravings start, and you could end up ruining your whole day of good eating by snacking your way through this tempting, seemingly never-ending time of day...

...And if you snack on one more piece of fruit or see one more carrot or celery stick, you just might go postal....

...You need something quick, easy, satisfying but still healthy, and you need it now.  The solution?



I based this recipe on the Banana Chocolate Chip Bites I made last spring, in another attempt to satisfy my afternoon snack attacks.  However, I wanted something that was easier, with less ingredients.  I saw an idea on Pinterest, and married the two ideas to create Cranberry Coconut Oatmeal bites.

These little bite-sized cookies are ridiculously easy to make, using ingredients you most likely have on hand.  Throw the ingredients together, place them on a baking sheet, and bake for just 15 minutes.  You could get a few things done while they bake; but if you're like me, your eyes will eagerly go back and forth between watching the oven, and watching the timer count down, like a starving, famished lunatic...



These are also ideal for a quick, healthy snack to feed the kids after school when the inevitable, "I'm hungry," or "There's nothing to eat!" mantras start.  These yummy little bites are the perfect things to shut them up make them happy.

So here's your solution for those afternoon cravings.  Crisis averted. 

TGIF :)

Love & Kale,
Ali


Cranberry Coconut Oatmeal Bites

Yield: 2 dozen small bites

Print here.

Ingredients:
  • 3 medium bananas (or 2 large - the riper the better)
  • 1 1/2 cup quick oats
  • 1/2 cup Craisins (or raisins)
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
Instructions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Line a large baking sheet with foil, sprayed with cooking spray (these little things stick!).
  2. In a medium bowl, mash the bananas until smooth.  Add all of the remaining ingredients, and mix until everything is evenly distributed.
  3. Place mixture by the tablespoon onto baking sheet.  Bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown on the edges.  Allow them to cool (or don't and burn your mouth like I did - it was worth it).  ENJOY :)
Ingredients - that's it

Mash your bananas

Mix everything together

Bake until golden brown on the edges

Aren't I cute?


March 20, 2013

Yemista - Greek Stuffed Peppers

I posted a picture on our Facebook page last week of this fabulous Yemista I was eating for dinner. 


When I say fabulous, I mean out-of-this-world, can't-stop-eating, dream-about-it delicious.

I was planning on making it sometime in the near future, but y'all couldn't wait!  I had demands left and right for the recipe.  And trust me, you need this recipe.

As I mentioned before, I was lucky enough to spend some time with an amazing Greek family a few weeks ago.  My boyfriend's mother happens to be an incredible gourmet cook - probably one of the best cooks I have ever known.  Have you ever met someone who is able to make absolutely everything taste amazing - even things you didn't think you even liked!?  And never uses a recipe!?  And makes it seem effortless!??  AND keeps a kitchen so clean you could eat off the floor!!??

My idol....

Among so many amazing dishes (including biscotti, spinach rice, lemon potatoes, and this amazing onion dip that I am determined to re-create), she made Yemista - aka Greek stuffed peppers.


Typically, this dish includes ground beef - however, many Greeks make it without the beef, especially this time of year, when it's time to fast (no meat or dairy) before Easter (Greeks fast for 40 days before Easter - I fast for 364 days before Easter).

The inherently vegan stuffing is usually a combination of rice, tomato, and herbs.  This stuffing is used to fill not only peppers, but also tomatoes, zucchini, or eggplant.


I used a combination of both long grain white rice, and a little brown rice - just to vary the texture a bit.  My boyfriend's mother also adds craisins (or raisins) to give a little texture - the combination of savory and a touch of sweet is amazing.  If the savory and sweet combo is not your thing, you could add pine nuts for added texture (which is what I plan on doing next time I make this - which will be soon because it's so yummy).  For the herbs, she uses a combination of fresh parsley and dill. 


If you've eaten Greek food before, you've probably had dill.  I love this little herb - so flavorful and so fresh tasting.  I can't get enough of it.  But there are some people out there that don't love dill - feel free to just add more parsley, or use a little fresh mint (but lessen the amount).  I would highly recommend the dill though - in my opinion, it's one of the flavors that really make this dish pop. 

But wanna know the flavor that absolutely makes this dish pop?? 


Greek olive oil.

Oil?? 

*gasp*

I know what you're going to say - "Ali, you always talk about not using oil because it's virtually nutritionally devoid, and all fat."  Yes, thank you, I know.  However, if you don't have severe health issues, and consume an otherwise low-fat diet, a little olive oil here and there is fine. 

Plus, the reason I make the exception here, is because this happens to be the most amazing olive oil I've ever tasted.  Straight from the olive trees on the Greek island of Karpathos. 

Lucky me, huh?

If you're not lucky enough to have access to such amazing, pure Greek olive oil, I highly recommend using a very good quality olive oil for this dish.  It truly makes it.  And remember, although you might be spending more on the oil for this recipe, the remaining ingredients are very inexpensive - a few peppers, tomatoes, herbs, and rice??  C'mon - splurge on the oil people!!  As a whole-foods, plant-based rock star, it'll probably last you forever anyway.....

Now here is one last disclaimer before I present you with the recipe - this is a time consuming dish to make.  I'm not gonna lie.  Just like the Butternut Squash Risotto, you will need to give this dish time, patience, and love (and most likely blood, sweat, and definitely tears). 

It's really not that bad, actually - just involves a bit of babysitting.  Just grab your laptop or iPad, re-pin recipes from Project Kale on Pinterest, enjoy the amazing aroma that fills your home......and smile :)

Love & Kale,
Ali


Yemista - Greek Stuffed Peppers

Serves:  4
Print here.
 
This simple, yet flavorful dish is absolutely delicious.  You could use just peppers and tomatoes, or a combination of peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, and eggplant (if using zucchini, add the flesh in with the tomato flesh).  The Craisins add a hint of sweetness to the savory stuffing.  Alternatively, you could use pine nuts for added texture.  Also, if you don't love dill, you could add fresh mint instead (just increase the amount of fresh parsley and reduce the amount of mint to 1/2 cup because mint is more potent than dill).  Be sure to use high quality Greek olive oil - it really makes this dish!

Ingredients:
  • 4 large green peppers
  • 4 large tomatoes
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 3/4 cup Greek olive oil
  • 2 cups white rice
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 1 cup fresh dill, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 cups vegetable broth (a little more as needed)
  • 1 cup Craisins (or raisins)
  • 1-6oz can tomato paste
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1-8oz can tomato sauce + 1/4 cup Greek olive oil
Instructions:
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 
  2. Cut tops off of the peppers and tomatoes - set tops aside.  Remove seeds and membranes from peppers and discard.  Remove flesh from tomatoes, and put in a food processor.  Pulse a few times until finely diced.
  3. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add onions and sauté until translucent, about 8 minutes or so.
  4. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, and broth, and stir until combined.
  5. Add the herbs, salt, pepper, rice, and Craisins.  Stir until combined, and sauté for about 5 minutes.
  6. Remove the mixture from the heat and set aside to let the rice absorb the liquid for 20 minutes.  In the meantime, combine the tomato sauce and olive oil and set aside.
  7. When the stuffing is done (it won't be cooked), stuff your peppers and tomatoes until almost full - but don't fill to the top!  Place the peppers and tomatoes in a large casserole pan, and fill the pan with about a 1/2" of water.  Pour the tomato sauce and oil mixture over the top of the peppers and tomatoes, and add a dash of salt and pepper to taste.  Place the tops back on the peppers and tomatoes (so adorable!).
  8. Cover the pan tightly with foil, and bake for about 35-45 minutes, depending on the size of your vegetables.
  9. Uncover, reduce heat to 350, and bake an additional 30-45 minutes, (again, depending on the size of your vegetables and accuracy of your oven temp). 
  10. When cooked, the peppers should be tender - check this with a knife.  The outside of the vegetable should be slightly charred, and the sauce should be reduced. 
  11. Serve with a large salad, bread, and wine - ENJOY :)
Lovely veggies

Saute onion in oil until translucent

Add tomatoes and tomato paste

Add herbs and seasonings

Add rice and Craisins, set aside


Ready for stuffing!

Ready for the oven!


Aren't the tops adorable?
 
Yummy Yemista
 

March 18, 2013

Spinach Risotto

You know those evenings, when you look at the clock, notice it's almost dinner time, and you have no idea what you're going to freaking make?

This is not typical for me - I am a planner in every sense of the word.  I think if I lost my ability to make lists, I would die.

However, once in a great while, dinner plans fall through and you have to whip something up in a hurry.  This can be both exciting and terrifying for a plant-based planner. 

On the one hand, it's exciting to see what you can make with ingredients you have on hand - to tap into your innate creative abilities, and apply them to cooking a great dinner. 

On the other hand, the thought of deviating from the plan, or not having an ingredient you need, is terrifying.

But, as it usually does, it all worked out in the end.



I've never shied away from sharing with the world my love for risotto.  Whether it's our Mushroom & Asparagus Risotto, or my favorite, Butternut Squash Risotto - I really haven't met a risotto I didn't like.

Well, except for the ones loaded with cream, butter, and cheese.

You see, that's the best part of making risotto - you don't need any of those fat-laden dairy products to make it creamy!  The starch that comes from cooking the Arborio rice slowly, makes the risotto rich and creamy all on its own.  No need to add that garbage.  It's just perfect the way it is.

I had some onions, garlic, and spinach on hand that night - so Spinach Risotto it was.

I love it when a good plan comes together....

Love & Kale,
Ali

**Comment below and tell me - what's your go-to dinner to make when you haven't planned and have no time?? **

Spinach Risotto

Print recipe here.

Ingredients:
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped
  • 2 tsp poultry seasoning
  • 1/8 tsp red pepper flake (or more if you want it spicier)
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp Earth Balance (optional, I omitted)
Instructions:
  1. Heat broth in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low, and cover. 
  2. Add a few tablespoons of veggie broth in a large heavy saucepan. Add onion and garlic, and cook about 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent (add more water or broth as needed to keep from sticking).  
  3. Stir in poultry seasoning and crushed red pepper and cook another minute or two. 
  4. Stir in rice. Cook for a few minutes to toast the grains. 
  5. Begin adding the broth, a ladleful at a time, stirring gently until each one has been absorbed.  Continue stirring until rice is tender and creamy, but the grains are still firm – this should take about 20 minutes (it also serves as your arm workout for the day!).
  6. Stir in chopped spinach, and cook until spinach is wilted and incorporated.
  7. Remove from heat and stir in Earth Balance (optional - I omit it, but if you're just starting out, use it).  Adjust seasonings as needed and ENJOY :)
Dice your onions, mince your garlic

Arborio rice - uh oh, I'm almost out!

Saute onions, garlic - then add seasonings

Toast rice for a couple of minutes

Add your broth slowly, and stir, stir, stir! 

Add spinach, a touch of Earth Balance, and serve.  YUMMY!

March 14, 2013

Vegan St. Patrick's Day - GO GREEN!

As I've mentioned before, I'm really not into St. Patrick's Day.  I'm not Irish, I don't drink beer, and I obviously don't eat corned beef. 

However, green is my favorite color and I love green fruits and vegetables.  So I will be celebrating St. Patrick's Day by enjoying all the green paraphernalia in the stores, and eating all the green food I can get my little non-Irish hands on!!


Green paraphernalia - love it
Here are some ideas on all the GREEN foods a plant-based rock star can eat this St. Patrick's Day (recipes at the bottom of the post):

Avocado & Spinach Toast
 
Kale Salad
 
Spinach Dip
Walnut Pesto Pasta
You could also snack on these green foods:
  • Baked Chips & Guacamole
  • Baked Chips & Avocado White Bean Dip
  • Green grapes
  • Green Apples w/Peanut Butter
  • Pear Slices
  • Kiwi
  • Honeydew Melon
  • Zucchini Sticks
  • Celery Sticks, Green Peppers, Cucumbers, Broccoli Florets w/ Hummus

One of our most popular posts was last year's St. Patrick's Day post, where we shared our Vegan Shamrock Shake!


Here's the deal on this awesome shake:

"This shake puts those other non-vegan ones TO SHAME.  Plus, it has less than half the calories, half the fat, none of the cr*p, and a lot of nutrients.  With 2 cups of spinach (that you absolutely, positively cannot even taste), you've got calcium, protein, iron, etc.  With the almond or soy milk, you've got your Vitamin D, Vitamin B12 (fortified), protein and calcium.  With the ground flaxseeds, you've got your omega-3, omega-6 fatty acids, fiber and some protein.  And with the banana, you've got your potassium, Vitamin C, and fiber.

So, yeah, needless to say, it's way better than the other yucky Shamrock Shake.  And it tastes AWESOME.  We did add some Hershey's Dark Chocolate syrup (just for garnish) and Newman Mint O's for fun - it's our St. Patty's Day "splurge."  The cookies are totally vegan, made of more natural ingredients than Oreos, but still packed with sugar.  Again, only for special occasions."

So there you go - even a plant-based rock star can have fun on St. Patrick's Day!  And if you're drinking green beer with all of these green foods?  Then you'll have even more fun! 

So this Sunday, snack on your greens, do an Irish jig, and make a Shamrock Shake Monday morning when you're hungover....

Love & Kale,
Ali


Avocado & Spinach Toast

Serves: 1

Ingredients:
  • 2 pieces whole grain bread, toasted (I used brown rice bread)
  • 1/4 avocado, sliced
  • 1 cup baby spinach
  • Salt & pepper to taste
Instructions:
  1. Put your spinach in a bowl and microwave for one minute (alternatively, you could boil it on the stove, but that would involve more time and work - so go with the microwave!).
  2. Add salt and pepper to your spinach.
  3. Top each piece of toast with a few avocado slices, and half of the spinach.
  4. Eat it.  ENJOY :)

 

Kale Salad

Serves: 1

There is really no recipe for this one - just take some chopped kale, mix in any other greens you want, top with a few mushrooms and tomatoes (or whatever veggie you like!), and top with dressing of your choice!  I love just plain lemon juice, salt, pepper, and garlic powder!




Spinach Dip

This dip is literally the filling I use for my Spinach Lasagna and Stuffed Shells.  I just threw it on some toasted garlic bread and VOILA!  Awesome (and healthy) spinach dip!

Ingredients:
  • Garlic toast, or bread of choice
  • 2 - 15oz cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 oz (a couple handfuls) of fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 - 3/4 tsp salt (depending on your taste)
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 lbs frozen, chopped spinach (I used three 9oz containers) OR 1 lb frozen kale, defrosted, drained with all the liquid squeezed out
Instructions:
  1. Place the garlic cloves and cashews in the food process and process for a few seconds. 
  2. Then, throw everything else in!  Puree until smooth (you might have to scrape down the sides of the food processor a few times to get it all smooth).
  3. Top each piece of toasted bread with the dip and ENJOY :)


Walnut Pesto Pasta

Recipe here.