Sunday, April 7, 2013

Vegan Black Bean Chili

You can find a lot of recipes for vegan black bean chili. This is my version. It's my "go-to" meal when I want something fast and delicious. Recently I've updated it by eliminating the use of the food processor, adding olive oil and fire roasted tomatoes. It's easier and better tasting. You can play with the heat by adding jalapeno peppers just before serving.

Black Bean Chili

4 (15.5 oz.) cans of black beans, rinsed and drained
2 C. water
1 cube of vegan bouillon (I use the Rapunzel brand)
2 T olive oil
1 small onion, chopped (at least 1 cup)
2 stalks celery, chopped
½ red pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (14.5 oz.) fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 1/2 t. cumin
1 1/2 t. chili powder
1 t. dried oregano leaves
1/2 t. sea salt

Scallions, sliced
Jalapeno pepper, sliced
Avocado, chopped

Pour olive oil into a soup pot and add the onion, celery, red pepper and garlic. Cook the vegetables over low heat for about 5 minutes, or until tender, stirring often. Add the fire roasted tomatoes with its juices, 2 cans of the rinsed and drained beans, water, bouillon cube and spices. With a potato masher, mash the beans breaking them up to help thicken the broth. Add the remaining black beans and bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Serve garnished with scallions, peppers and avocado.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Strawberry Sorbet with Blueberry Syrup

Strawberry Sorbet

1 C simple syrup*
4 C fresh sliced strawberries (approx. 1 1/2 lbs.)
2 T vodka (optional, but vodka produces a soft less icy sorbet)
1 T reduced Fustini's Sicilian Lemon Balsamic Vinegar**

In a blender, puree the strawberries, simple syrup, vodka and Sicilian Lemon Balsamic Vinegar until smooth. Cover and refrigerate until cool. Churn in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions. Freeze until firm, about 2 hours. 

*To make the simple syrup, combine 1 1/2 C sugar with 1 1/2 C water. Bring to a boil and cook until the sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally. Set aside to cool or refrigerate. You will use this for both the sorbet and the topping.

**To get the reduced vinegar, pour 1/2 C vinegar into a small saucepan. Simmer on low until reduced in half to 1/4 C. Set aside to cool or refrigerate. You will use the Sicilian Lemon Balsamic for both the sorbet and the topping.

Blueberry Syrup

1/2 C simple syrup (from above)
1/4 C reduced Fustini's Wild Blueberry Balsamic Vinegar
1 t reduced Sicilian Lemon Balsamic Vinegar (from above)

2 pints fresh blueberries

In a bowl thoroughly mix all the liquids together.

To Serve:
Scoop the sorbet out into serving bowls. Spoon fresh blueberries over the top. Drizzle the Blueberry Syrup over the berries and sorbet. Serve.

Here's a link to Fustini's:

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Tuscan Herb Focaccia

This is far and away the best focaccia I've ever tasted, and it's all about the oil! The recipe may look like a lot, but it's not difficult. The hardest part will be keeping yourself from eating the focaccia as soon as it comes out of the oven! I encourage you to wait, but don't hesitate to cut into it while it's still warm!!!

Note: You need to begin the starter (or biga) the day before. Then, begin making the dough about 4 - 5 hours before you want to bake it off.

Tuscan Herb Focaccia

1/16 t. active dry yeast (you will need one package total, so set the remaining yeast aside for use later)
1/2 C. water
1/2 C. plus 2 T. all purpose flour

In a small mixing bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the water. Let it rest for 5 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the flour until thoroughly combined. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and set aside until the sponge becomes bubbly and thick. This will take 12 - 24 hours.

 Just after mixing

After 20 hours

Focaccia Dough
1 C. water
1/4 C. Fustini's Tuscan Herb Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 C. of the biga
The remaining yeast from the package
3 1/3 C. all purpose flour
1 T. kosher or sea salt

In a mixer fitted with a dough hook, put the water, Fustini's Tuscan Herb Olive Oil and 1/2 C. biga into the bowl of the stand mixer. Begin mixing on low. Add the yeast and mix for 2 minutes. With the mixer still running, slowly add the salt then increase the speed to medium. Mix on medium for 8 minutes.

While the dough is mixing, lightly oil a large bowl with the Tuscan Herb Olive Oil. Once the dough is mixed, turn it out into the oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm part of the kitchen until doubled, about 2 hours.

Lightly dust the counter and turn the dough out onto the floured surface. It will be rounded but pretend it has four sides. Gently stretch the left side and fold it over toward the center. Gently stretch and fold the top of the dough over onto itself and to the center. Do this same stretch and fold for the bottom and right side. Then turn the dough over and put it back into the bowl folded side down. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm part of the kitchen for 1 hour.

Toppings for Focaccia
1/2 C. Fustini's Tuscan Herb Olive Oil divided, plus more for brushing on top
30 - 40 Kalamata Olives
2 - 3 T chopped fresh rosemary
Coarse salt for sprinkling over the top

Using 2 cake pans, pour 1/4 C Fustini's Tuscan Herb Olive Oil into the bottom of each pan. Make sure the bottoms and sides are coated with oil. Lightly dust the counter and carefully turn the dough out onto the floured surface. Divide the dough in half and put it into the cake pans gently pulling the edges to make it round. It does not need to fill the pan. It's more important that you do not deflate the dough.  Cover and set aside for 30 minutes.

In the meantime, preheat the oven to 450 degrees.Chop the rosemary and put into a small bowl with 2 - 4 tablespoons of oil.

Before baking, start in the center and push the olives into the dough while pushing the dough outward. As you do this with each olive, the dough will begin to fill in the cake pan. Push them deep. You will use 15 - 20 olives for each loaf. Again, the dough will most likely not fill the cake pan.

Brush the top of each loaf with the rosemary oil. Sprinkle with salt and set the loaves aside to rise one last time. They should sit for 30 minutes.

Bake the loaves in the center of the oven for 30 - 40 minutes. Remove from the pan and brush with a little more oil.


 Here's a link to Fustini's:

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Sourdough Bread

Well...I've been busy baking bread and I want to share a piece of it with you. A piece of my journey, that is. I was introduced and inspired to the art of baking bread by a dear friend and his wife, Kari and Roberta. Kari is an enthusiastic maker of bread and other delectable baked goods. Roberta happily praises his love for the art of bread baking, and when you taste his fare you can't help but be impressed and inspired. So it all started in their cabin up north when Kari introduced us to the art of baking bread at home.

But to say that was my only inspiration wouldn't be true. Each of my daughters have problems with wheat and as I researched this growing issue, another friend of mine pushed me in a similar yet different direction... that of sourdough. She gave me a copy of the 2012 September issue of Whole Living magazine. In it was an article written by Todd Oppenheimer titled Our Daily Bread

In the article, Oppenheimer  reports that several studies have found some people with gluten issues can tolerate fermented wheat. The studies are small and some believe the data is weak, but in one, it was found... "that when wheat bread was thoroughly fermented, it reduced gluten levels from roughly 75,000 parts per million to 12 - a level that technically qualifies as gluten-free."

The article has a lot of information about the use of ancient grains, long fermentation time and the increasing rise of Celiac Disease around the world. So I've put a link to the article here if you're interested in reading more:

I've spent more time on this one thing than I ever dreamed. I've read, experimented and shared. I've gone from using organic wheat to heirloom. I've fussed and taken notes and fussed some more... and I've loved it all. You will too. Because at the end of the road there's always a delicious loaf of bread with a very satisfying experience attached to it. I recommend it to anyone! 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Basil Oil Bruschetta

I came up with this recipe two summers ago, but I've improved it with the use of a flavored olive oil. My family likes this version much better. I buy my oil and balsamic from Fustini's, a Michigan based company that has a crazy variety of fantastic tasting oils and vinegars.

(Just follow this link for a look... )

I'm sure you know that bruschetta is an antipasto from Italy. But did you know that it's origin dates to the 15th century? There are many variations on this starter, much more than we're used to seeing, including toppings of beans and cured meats. Mine is the tomato version. The flavored olive oil deepens and intensifies the flavor. It's a great recipe for entertaining when you don't have a lot of time because so much of it can be done in advance, and it tastes better if you do!

Basil Oil Bruschetta

1 baguette
10 oz. of cherry tomatoes
1/2 C. Fustini's Basil Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1-2 garlic cloves, finely minced (I like garlic, so I use 2 cloves)
3 fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
1/4 t. fresh rosemary, finely minced
1/8 t. crushed red pepper
1/2 t. sea salt

1/2 C. Fustini's 18-Year Traditional Balsamic Vinegar
extra basil leaves for garnish

The night before (or 3-4 hours before serving) mix together the Fustini's Basil Extra Virgin Olive Oil, garlic, basil leaves, rosemary, crushed red pepper and sea salt in a bowl large enough to hold the oil mixture and all of the tomatoes. Slice each cherry tomato in half, then quarter and add them to the olive oil marinade. Cover and set aside until ready to serve.

Pour the Fustini's 18-Year Traditional Balsamic Vinegar in small sauce pan and heat over a low setting until reduced to a thick syrup. This can also be done in advance.

When ready to serve, slice the baguette in to thin rounds. Grill the rounds if you can. The flavor is so much better. If you can't grill, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lay the rounds out on a cookie sheet. Toast the bread in the oven checking every few minutes so it doesn't get too dark.

Lay the grilled or toasted bread out onto a serving plate. Spoon the tomatoes and some of the olive oil over the top. Drizzle the reduced balsamic over or near the bruschetta. Add the whole basil leaves. Serve!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Green Juice

I'm trying to juice more often. Specifically, with green vegetables. I have a sister that has promoted it for years, and you can't watch TV or read anything about health without realizing how popular green juices are. So I decided to read up on the benefits.

Certainly juicing any fruit or vegetable packs an array of vitamins, minerals and enzymes, but green juices have the additional benefit of not messing with your blood sugar. Green juices are very nutritious. All the sunshine that vegetables require to produce chlorophyll help provide us with more oxygen.

When juicing, it seems the most important thing is to use fresh produce. So use the best quality you can, and it's great if it's organic or sustainably grown. If that's not the case, just wash it gently or peel it. I've read that you need to be careful when combining vegetables with fruits because they require different enzymes for digestion. Still, I always include fruit when I juice greens to make it more palatable. Apples are a good choice because they are more neutral than most fruits, but I also use pears.

Green juice enables us to rid toxins and help cleanse the digestive system. And, as with all juices, it’s quickly absorbed and easily digested. Is it a fad? I don't know, but if you read about juicing greens, it's hard to discount it. So try to make it simple, easy and delicious. You should probably change up the veggies from time to time in order to provide different nutrients, but this recipe is easy for me because I can find these ingredients, all organic, at a local grocery store.

Green Juice 

2 stalks of celery
1 cucumber
1 apple
1/2 lemon, peeled
1 inch of ginger
a handful of parsley
5 kale leaves

Juice the ingredients and enjoy!