Sunday, March 26, 2017

Quick & Easy Herb Bread

"The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight." ~ M.F.K. Fisher

There are few things nicer than bread fresh out of the oven, but too often the idea of actually making it conjures up images of long hours in the kitchen (see above, but without Zorn’s charming brushwork). Of course, the truth is that baking bread needn't be an arduous ordeal; with a little planning and minimal effort you can have a proper yeast-raised loaf in a couple of hours. 

But there are those times when even that level of forethought and/or organizational skill eludes us, and that’s where quick breads come in. Cornbread, soda bread, zucchini bread, and even savory muffins are handy on such occasions, and today’s recipe is a worthy addition to that list: a fragrant, flavorful, and eminently sliceable herb bread that can go from your imagination to your dinner table in just over an hour.

Quick & Easy Herb Bread
~ 1.5 cups plain, unsweetened soy milk
~ 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
~ 1 tbsp. ground flaxseed
~ ⅓ cup good quality olive oil
~ 2.5 cups white whole wheat flour
~ 1 tbsp. baking powder
~ ½ tsp. each: baking soda, garlic powder, white pepper
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, sage, thyme, marjoram, parsley
~ 1 tbsp. vegan margarine, melted (or more olive oil)

~ Preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit and coat a loaf pan with cooking spray.
~ In a bowl or beaker, whisk together the soy milk, vinegar, and flaxseed. Add the olive oil, mix well, and set aside.
~ In a separate mixing bowl, sift together all the dry ingredients (flour through dry seasonings) and combine thoroughly.
~ Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the soy milk mixture; stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until just combined.
~ Transfer the batter to your waiting loaf pan, smooth with a spatula to make sure it spreads evenly. Pour the melted margarine (or olive oil) over the top and add a few grinds of black pepper.
~ Bake in the center of the oven at 375 degrees fahrenheit for 45-50 minutes, or until a knife or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
~ Remove the bread from the oven and allow it to rest in the pan for 5 minutes before turning it out onto a board to cool for another 10 minutes before slicing.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Sweet Potato, Kale, and Peanut Curry

Sometimes you just need a hug in a bowl, and that's exactly what today's recipe delivers. My family has been going through a rough time, and I brainstormed this curry one recent evening when we were all in need of a little cheering up. The result is a warming, colorful one-dish meal that pushes all the comfort food buttons - the accompanying fancy rum drinks didn't hurt, either - with the bonus factors of being 1. ridiculously healthy, and 2. even better as leftovers. Since there are a lot of flavors going on here and people in our house like a variety of hot sauces, I didn't add too much heat to the dish itself, but you can obviously adjust the spiciness to suit your tastes.

Sweet Potato, Kale, and Peanut Curry
~ 2 tbsp. coconut oil
~ 2 large sweet potatoes, cut in cubes
~ 1 large red onion, diced
~ 2 stalks celery, diced
~ 1 red bell pepper, large dice
~ 4 cloves garlic, minced
~ 1 tbsp. fresh grated ginger
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, cumin, curry powder, chili powder, thyme
~ ½ tsp. each: cinnamon, allspice, turmeric, cayenne (more to taste)
~ Dash nutmeg
~ A few healthy grinds of black pepper
~ 1 can fire-roasted tomatoes
~ 1 can black beans
~ 2 cans coconut milk (lite or hight-test, your choice)
~ ½ cup smooth peanut butter
~ 1 small head kale, cleaned and chopped
~ Juice of 1 lime (2-3 tbsp.)
~ Handful of chopped, toasted peanuts or cashews

~ Place a nonstick baking sheet in the oven and preheat to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
~ Melt 1 tbsp. of the coconut oil and toss with the cubed sweet potatoes and a little salt and pepper. Spread the sweet potatoes out on the preheated baking sheet and roast for 20-25 minutes, until slightly browned but not mushy. Remove from the oven and set aside.
~ In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, melt the remaining 1 tbsp. of coconut oil and sauté the onion and celery over medium heat for 5 minutes.
~ Add the bell pepper, garlic, and ginger and cook another few minutes more before adding all the dry seasonings and stirring to coat.
~ Add the tomatoes and black beans (including their liquid), stir to combine, and continue cooking for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
~ Combine the coconut milk with the peanut butter and heat to almost boiling; whisk thoroughly until smooth and add to the pot along with the roasted sweet potato. Mix well and continue cooking another 10 minutes.
~ Stir in the chopped kale and cook for 5 minutes, until wilted but still bright green. Add the lime juice, taste for seasoning, and serve hot over brown rice topped with the chopped nuts and hot sauce(s) of choice.