Thursday, December 20, 2012

Lussekatter Muffins

This is my muffinization of Lussekatter, the Scandinavian saffron buns associated with Advent in general and with St Lucy's (or Lucia's) Day in particular. This feast falls on December 13th, and my youngest son's birthday is the 12th; since we are usually deep in holiday mode at that time - which inevitably entails the consumption of seasonal treats - I always associate these tasty yellow pastries with him. So when Lucia Day rolled around this year I decided to reinterpret them as something a busy and/or lazy person could throw together without being arsed about yeast, rising times, etc. One of these days I will get around to veganizing a more traditional recipe, but in the meantime, these totally hit that saffron/cardamom sweet spot that tells your mouth that it's almost Christmas. (NB this recipe makes a dozen muffins, which disappeared in about 12 hours, so you might consider doubling it if you are, like me, surrounded by hungry people.) God Jul!

Lussekatter Muffins
~ 1.5 cups plain, unsweetened soy milk
~ 1 tsp. saffron threads
~ 3/4 cup currants or raisins
~ 1/4 cup canola oil
~ 1 tsp. vanilla extract
~ 1/2 tsp. almond extract
~ 2.5 cups white whole wheat flour
~ 1 tbsp. baking powder
~ 1 tsp. cardamom
~ 1/2 tsp. each: baking soda, salt, ground ginger, cinnamon
~ 1/4 tsp. mace 
~ 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
~ 1/3 cup slivered almonds (optional)
~ 1 tbsp. sugar mixed with 1/4 tsp. nutmeg

~ Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit and coat a muffin tin with cooking spray.
~ In a bowl or beaker, combine the soy milk, saffron threads, and raisins. Cover and microwave about two minutes; leave covered and set aside for at least 15-20 minutes to allow the raisins to plump up, and the saffron to infuse them and the milk. (You could obviously do this in a pot on the stovetop, too.) After that's done, add the canola oil and the vanilla and almond extracts.
~ In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cardamon, mace, brown sugar, and slivered almonds, if using.
~ Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and stir until just combined, being careful not to over-mix.
~ Spoon the batter into your waiting muffin tin, and top with a sprinkle of the sugar/nutmeg mixture.
~ Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.
~ Remove from the oven and allow the muffins to rest in the pan for about 5 minutes before transferring to a rack; these are equally good served warm or at room temperature.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Tempeh, Kale, and Potato Skillet with Cheezy Sauce

Strictly speaking, this isn't really a "skillet meal" because some of the components are cooked in the oven, but I figured that since everything winds up in a skillet, what the hell. Besides, this woman is so blissed out about having a frying pan so shiny she can check her lipstick in it that I just had to share; who knew stainless steel could bring such joy? (Hubby looks pretty satisfied with himself out there, too: "the family that 'buffs' together," etc.!)

Anyway, it occurs to me that this dish would be absolutely perfect for a lazy weekend brunch; this is because it was conceived on of those "breakfast for dinner" kind of nights, following a long day of staring down my last seminar paper ever. (O, brave new world of comprehensive exams!) And you know what? The leftovers made a perfect breakfast the next day! In fact, this stuff is so damned good that I say go right ahead and make a panful for breakfast, dinner, or even - yes, say it! - lunch.

And I recommend that you do so soon, because at this festive time of year we need all the strength we can muster, and between the tempeh, the veggies, and all that nooch in the sauce you'll be ready to take on the most abominable holly jolly crap the Blessed Holiday Season can dish out!

Tempeh, Kale, and Potato Skillet
~ 3-4 tbsp. olive oil
~ 8 oz. package tempeh, cubed (I love Henry's)
~ 3-4 good-sized potatoes, cut into 1" wedges (sweet potatoes would also be nice)
~ 5-6 large carrots, cut diagonally into 1" slices
~ 1 large head of kale, cleaned and chopped
~ 1 large onion, diced
~ 1/2 lb. mushrooms, sliced
~ 1 tbsp. garlic, minced
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, chili powder, marjoram
~ A few generous grinds of black pepper

~ Heat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit and spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray.
~ In a large bowl, combine the salt, paprika, marjoram, and garlic powder with 2-3 tbsp. of the oil. Add the tempeh, potatoes, and carrots, and coat thoroughly (I use my hands for this). Transfer to the baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 25-30 minutes, shaking things around occasionally so they brown on most (if not all) sides. Please remember that ovens vary and you might need more or less time; just keep an eye on them!
~ In a large, deep skillet, heat the remaining tbsp. of oil and sauté the onion over medium-high heat about 5 minutes, until starting to brown. Add the mushrooms and cook another 7-10 minutes, until they are getting a bit crispy. If things start to get sticky you can add a splash of water or - if you're feeling chefy - white wine to get things moving again.
~ Add the kale and a few grinds of black pepper, stir to combine, and cook another 3-5 minutes, until wilted but still green.
~ Add the roasted potato, carrot, and tempeh cubes and mix thoroughly. Serve hot topped with...

Cheezy Sauce (adapted from Isa's Easy Breezy Cheezy Sauce)
~ 1 cup nutritional yeast
~ 2 tbsp. all purpose flour
~ 1 tsp. each: white pepper, paprika, garlic powder, dry mustard
~ 1/2 tsp. turmeric
~ 2.5 cups hot "no chicken" broth
~ 1 tsp. each: Marmite, prepared English mustard, vegan Worcestershire sauce

~ In a medium-sized saucepan, whisk together all the dry ingredients.
~ Stir in the hot broth and turn the heat to high; add the Marmite, mustard, and Worcester sauce and mix thoroughly.
~ Once the mixture comes to a boil, lower the heat to simmer and cook about 5-7 minutes, whisking pretty much constantly, until you have a smooth, thick, "cheesy" texture. Serve hot on everything!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Fassolokia (Greek Style Green Beans)

These stewed beans are a dead ringer for the Greek-style ones my dad used to make; he occasionally added leftover lamb or beef, but they usually appeared as you find them here. (Treplicate the "meatier" version, I think marinated, sautéed soy curls, or the Viana veggie gyro stuff would do the trick. I'll report back and update if I ever get around to trying it!) This recipe is a delicious way to cook green beans, and as part of a spread including moussakalemony roasted potatoessquash with tahini and za'atar, rice pilaf, and a big, beautiful salad, these babies will be right at home on this year's Mediterranean-themed Christmas table. Highly recommended!

~ 2 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 large red onion, chopped
~ 3 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 1 red bell pepper, diced
~ 1 lb. green beans, washed and snapped in half
~ 2 tsp. oregano
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, marjoram, dill, parsley
~ A good pinch of cinnamon
~ Fresh black pepper
~ 1 28 oz. can diced, fire-roasted tomatoes, including liquid
~ In a large, deep pot, sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes.
~ Add the bell pepper, green beans, and seasonings; continue cooking another 5-7 minutes.
~ Stir in the canned tomatoes, including their liquid, and combine thoroughly. Cover the pot and bring briefly to a boil before lowering the heat to a simmer. Continue cooking on low heat for about an hour (stirring occasionally), until you have thick, aromatic stew. 
~ Serve hot, and be sure to have some bread on hand to sop up the sauce.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Eggplant and Red Lentil Dal

A Pot of Red Lentils
simmers on the kitchen stove.
All afternoon dense kernels
surrender to the fertile
juices, their tender bellies
swelling with delight. 
~ Peter Pereira

There are few things more comforting and nutritious than a bowl of spicy lentils, but between schoolwork, my Vegan Mofo austerity theme, and the traditional podgy foods associated with Thanksgiving, it's been awhile since I made a nice, big cauldron of dal. I decided to correct this situation on a recent snowy afternoon, when a craving for red lentils coincided with the presence of a large and lovely eggplant in our vegetable bin; the rest, as they say, is history (or at least dinner). Alongside a pile of mashed sweet potatoes and some garlicky greens, this was a super healthy and satisfying meal that - best of all - made more than enough to feed off for a few days. (And as everyone knows, leftovers are always even better, because they're already cooked!)

Eggplant and Red Lentil Dal
~ 1 tbsp. canola oil
~ 1 large onion, diced
~ 2 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 1 tbsp. grated ginger
~ 2 carrots, diced
~ 1 red or yellow bell pepper, diced
~ 1 medium-large eggplant, diced
~ 1 cup diced, fresh tomato
~ 1-2 tbsp. good curry powder
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, cumin, garam masala
~ 1/2 tsp. each: cinnamon, turmeric, cayenne pepper (more to taste)
~ Pinch of mace or nutmeg
~ 1.5 cup red lentils
~ 5-6 cups vegetable broth (depending on the thickness you want)
~ 1/2 lb. frozen, chopped spinach

~ In a large, deep pot, sauté the onion over medium heat for about two minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and cook about one minute more, until fragrant.
~ Add the carrots, bell pepper, and seasonings, and cook until just softened; about 5 minutes. You can add a splash of broth or water if things start to look dry or sticky.
~ Add the eggplant, tomato, and 1 cup of the broth. Stir to coat and cook for 5-7 minutes.
~ Add the lentils and remaining stock, raise the heat to high, cover, and bring to a boil.
~ Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about an hour, until the lentils are smooth and the eggplant has broken down completely.
~ Stir in the frozen spinach and cook another minute or two, until it is bright green and just wilted. If the mixture seems too thick, add a little extra broth; if too thin, uncover the pot and cook a bit longer.
~ Allow the whole business to stand for about 10-15 minutes to let the flavors blend; return to heat and serve over basmati rice.