Roasted Carrot & White Bean Hummus

Roasted Carrot & White Bean Hummus | Delectably Free

One of the benefits of living in Metro Detroit is the amazing Middle Eastern cuisine. Dearborn, Michigan is home to a large Middle Eastern population, and thus, an amazing selection of Middle Eastern restaurants. It’s no wonder that when Anthony Bourdain visited Detroit to film No Reservations, Al-Ameer restaurant in Dearborn (one of my family’s favorites) was featured in his segment. The food is good. The hummus? Incomparable. Actually, it is comparable – but only if you’re comparing it to any of the other great Middle Eastern restaurants in the area. Otherwise, good luck finding anything to live up to it.

For this reason, I’ve been highly reluctant to post any of my homemade hummus recipes on Delectably Free. Sure, I make homemade hummus from time to time. It’s good. Not always great. But it works in a pinch when I need something to dip my gluten-free crackers in or to dollop on salads. But for the most part, I tend to not make hummus, because I know I can venture not too far from my neighborhood to find the best hummus you can get outside of the Middle East. I lived in New York City for 4 years, and even there, I never had hummus so good. It’s probably an understatement to say that when it comes to hummus, I have high standards and am a bit spoiled.

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Grain-Free, Vegan Layered Vegetable Lasagna

Grain-Free, Vegan Layered Vegetable Lasagna | Delectably FreeWhile I own a growing collection of vegan cookbooks — a collection that my tiny kitchen is increasingly struggling to contain — I admit that I rarely make recipes directly from any cookbooks. That’s because I usually find myself trying to think of new recipes rather than make someone else’s. I collect cookbooks because they give me inspiration and help me with the thinking part more than anything else.

That said, there are a few cookbook recipes that fall under my all-time favorites — ones that I will gladly make and share with others, with no shame in that it wasn’t my idea to begin with, because it’s just that good. Ok, maybe there’s a touch of shame that I couldn’t think of the idea myself. But I love these recipes so much, they’re among the rare meals I make without trying to change a thing.

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Jamaican Jerk Bowls & Creamy Cilantro Dressing

Jamaican Jerk Chickpea BowlsBowls. They’re more than just dinnerware; they’re like an entire subculture of vegan meals. In fact, I would rank bowls — again, not the dinnerware kind, but the stuff inside it — high on the list of things every new vegan should learn about fast. Along with nutritional yeast and cashew cream, bowls might be the single biggest staple in my diet. And the fun part of this staple is that it’s entirely customizable — maybe that’s why I’m so in love with them.

And yet, for a recipe blog highlighting some of my favorite vegan meals, bowls have been completely underrepresented, if not entirely forgotten, on this forum. I feel like a bit of a fraud, in fact, in that my weekday meals usually consist of at least one or two big bowls of beans, grains, tofu, veggies and some sort of sauce — yet very rarely have I shared those meals here. It is apparent to me that a good, hearty “bowl” recipe has been long overdue.

This Caribbean-inspired dish is a great excuse for me to break my habit of not sharing my kitchen sink bowls here, as it’s not quite kitchen sink, but still captures the spirit of what a meal bowl should be. It’s simple, but also just fancy enough to impress, should you need to. And even though I’m sharing the central components of this recipe here, the rest is —  again — entirely amenable to variation. For example, while I used steamed kale as a base in this dish, you might opt for a grain such as cooked quinoa, millet or rice. Or you could just turn this into a salad, using fresh salad greens as a base.

Jamaican Jerk Bowls

I’ve long been a fan of anything Jerk seasoned. In my pre-vegan days, that something was usually chicken. And it was usually dry and overcooked and would have been lackluster had it not been for the seasoning. So it didn’t quite come as a surprise to me when I first tried the Jerk-chickpea combo and loved it more than I ever loved Jerk chicken. In fact, I’m thinking this is going to be a staple in many meals to come. These chickpeas are the perfect salad-topper, high protein snack and, of course, addition to your Jamaican or Caribbean-themed bowls. The dressing is equally versatile. You can use it as a nice change-of-pace dressing, as I plan to do in the future. It also makes a nice alternative to ranch as a veggie dip. I used Brazil nuts for a healthy twist and selenium boost, though I am sure raw cashews would work as well.

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Vegan Curried Yellow Split Pea Soup

Curried Yellow Split Pea Soup (Vegan)People tend to say many different things when you tell them you’re from Detroit. Often, adjectives and descriptive phrases come to mind. Usually, “Vegan Haven” isn’t one of them. In fact, I doubt anyone has ever used that term to describe the city of Detroit and its surrounding areas. And there’s probably fair reasons for that. But I’d venture to say it would come as a surprise to most people that Detroit as a whole — the “food desert” pockets of Detroit make for a different story, entirely — does not exactly present a dearth of vegan options, either. While not New York, San Francisco or Los Angeles, Detroit has plenty to boast about in the world of plant-based cuisine. Without getting too ahead of myself, it’s difficult for me to not be optimistic when I look at the upswing of vegan options in this city since I moved back 3 years ago.

Not only are there two exclusively vegetarian restaurants within walking distance of my house in Royal Oak, but another mostly vegetarian and Macrobiotic restaurant is no more than a 7 minute drive away. All offer many vegan options. And that’s not even considering downtown Detroit, where things are getting even more exciting. Since I moved back to the area, a longtime favorite vegetarian restaurant out of Ann Arbor, MI opened a second outpost near Woodward avenue in downtown Detroit. Then recently, an entirely vegan soul food restaurant made its mark on the city. Not to mention that Whole Foods Market famously opened its first location in the city, also right off of Woodward. I’ve been there several times since it opened, and love reporting that it seems to be enjoying continued success. I’m so excited about the growing number of vegetarian and vegan options around here that I’ve long been considering doing an entire blog post with reviews in the near future. So stay tuned!

Curried Yellow Split Pea Soup

But that’s not even where I’m going with this post. See, I told you I can get a bit excited. Hence, my tangent. No, the real point of this post is that in addition to the many exclusively vegetarian and vegan restaurants, there are also many non-veg restaurants in the area that have begun catering to us vegans, including local pizza places offering vegan (and sometimes gluten-free and vegan) pizzas, vegan sushi options popping up at Japanese restaurants (and not just the usual asparagus or avocado rolls) and make-your-own kale bowls topped with veggies and Daiya cheese with Shiitake bacon at the latest local “it” spot.

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Hearty Vegetable Marinara

hearty vegetable marinaraSimple need not be boring. That’s the slogan I would use if I were to bottle this stuff and sell it.

I’ve long had a visceral aversion to boring foods. And by boring, I’m thinking those measly garden salads that are on every average restaurant menu in America. I’m thinking plain white bread. I’m thinking marinara sauce — not every marinara sauce, but the ubiquitous kind that’s plopped out of a jar and poured over spaghetti and called dinner. As long as I’ve been cooking, and as many short-cuts as I like to take at times, I’ve never brought myself to accept a jar of sauce and some noodles as dinner. This may explain why, even when faced with little time and a jar of sauce, I do my best to jazz it up, like I did with this spicy chorizo sauce from a few years ago.

It’s not that I am being a food snob (OK, maybe I am), but that I really just LOVE food so much that I can’t imagine wasting a meal on something that doesn’t really excite me. I guess that’s the difference between someone like me and someone who “forgets” to eat lunch (we all know those people, and no, I don’t understand them one bit).

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Single-Serving Banana-Omega-Chia Pudding

banana-omega-chia puddingI am approaching this first post of the new year with a bit of trepidation, as this would normally be the obligatory resolutions and reflections post, and I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the fact that 2013 went by so fast. Resolutions? I’m not there yet. I’m still wondering where all the time went. This has me thinking. By the time I’ve figured out my resolutions for this year, it will probably be 2015.

Time passes quickly. I learn that more and more each year. As my dad says, it’s because the older we become, each year is a smaller proportion of our lives thus far.

What I have learned is that, the older I become, the more keenly aware I am of the importance of caring for my body. I marvel at the things I seemingly got away with doing to my body while in college. All-nighters cramming for tests or writing papers, diet sodas, beer at tailgates and 2 a.m. pizza delivery were not uncommon occurrences in my college days. And judging from the number of people still in the school computer lab at 4 a.m. or by the crowds at tailgates and bars over the weekends (and sometimes during the week), I am pretty sure I was not alone.

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Raw Avocado-Citrus Bars with Strawberries

Raw Citrus-Avocado Bars with strawberriesI’ve been thinking for awhile about creating a healthy(ish) holiday dessert option that would still evoke some of the spirit of the holiday season. Ideally, I wanted to create something using traditional Christmas colors, but without resorting to any artificial coloring or non-edibles to get the job done. I have also been thinking of creating an all-raw variation of my Avocado-Lime Tart. As the filling of that tart was raw to begin with, I figured it would make sense to make an entirely raw version for those who prefer to eat that way.

And so, these all-raw Avocado-Citrus bars were born. They marry the idea of a Christmas-themed treat with an all-raw tart. The light, minty green coloring of the filling combined with the strawberries on top makes a lovely pairing. And even though I used the same filling as in my avocado-lime tart, I changed the name to Avocado-“citrus” bars — because it’s my blog, and I can do stuff like that.

I tested these bars on Gennaro and a friend of his who was over the night I made them — both of whom gave their approval and urged me to post these. Sometimes I can be such a perfectionist when it comes to my recipes that I’m not sure when to stop tweaking things. So it’s sometimes nice to be told something is really good as-is, so I don’t have to think about it too much.

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Easy, Fat-Free Green Bean Salad

fat free green bean saladSo, I realized that this past Thanksgiving was my 4th — 4th! — annual vegan Thanksgiving. And for the first time ever, as I mentioned, the entirety of my extended family joined along in the spirit of the vegan Thanksgiving and there was no turkey to be found.

At one time, I would have thought that a turkey-less, entirely vegan Thanksgiving would mean I’d feel lighter and not stuffed to my breaking point after eating. I was wrong. And I’m here to set the record straight. It is entirely possible to way overeat  and induce a food-coma even if all of the food you’re putting into your body came from plants.

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Raw Fruit and Nut Kale Salad

raw fruit and nut kale saladI am going to make this post short and sweet, as I am not feeling so well and have a long day ahead tomorrow. But I wanted to share this amazing kale salad that is a new favorite in our house. It was inspired by the kale salad I frequently get for lunch from a macrobiotic place near my office called Om Cafe. Their genius combination of dried apricots and walnuts in their raw kale salad sort of rocked my world the first time I tried it. Now I’m in love with the combo and Gennaro is, too.

My take on this salad includes grapes in addition to the dried apricots to round out the fruit component. Other fruits would also be great here. Instead of dried apricots, try fruit sweetened dried cranberries or golden raisins. I’ve also added pomegranate for an antioxidant boost and extra crunch.

raw kale salad with fruit and nuts

This salad would be a great addition to Thanksgiving dinner. It’s pretty and colorful and delicious. As far as serving size goes, it’s hard for me to tell how many it serves, as Gennaro and I can polish off this salad between the two of us. But I’m thinking 4 servings is probably appropriate for those eating this in addition to other parts of a meal. This recipe can be multiplied as needed for crowds.

Raw Fruit and Nut Kale Salad:

Ingredients:

1 bunch kale (any variety), washed and chopped

pinch of sea salt (about 1/8 teaspoon or less, can add in more salt later to taste)

1/4 teaspoon olive oil

1/2 cup red grapes, halved lengthwise

1/3 cup raw walnuts, roughly chopped

6 dried apricots (I use unsulfured), cut into strips

1/2 red bell pepper, diced

Dressing:

2 tablespoons tahini

2 teaspoons Bragg’s Liquid Aminos

1 tablespoon water

1 tablespoon raw apple cider vinegar

Directions:

1. Add kale to a large salad bowl with a pinch of sea salt and olive oil. Massage gently with hands (I like to put bunches of kale between my palms and rub together). Do this until kale is softened just a bit and dark green in color.

2. Using a spoon or small whisk, mix dressing ingredients in a small bowl until smooth and set aside.

3. Add remaining salad ingredients to salad bowl with kale and top with dressing. Toss everything together until well coated and serve.

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Chocolate-Pumpkin Mousse Pie

pumpkin chocolate mousse piePumpkin season may have started awhile ago, but I was sort of blanking out when it came to anything new I wanted to tackle in the pumpkin department. But then I got inspired by a vegan pumpkin-chocolate cheesecake I saw at Whole Foods and was immediately determined to make one of my own without any processed sugars or gluten.

When I first made this, I thought it was good. But it didn’t taste much like cheesecake. So I decided I would have to tweak it. But I liked it. And Gennaro liked it. “But it doesn’t taste much like cheesecake” I argued, explaining why I couldn’t post it on the blog. “No. It’s more like a chocolate mousse” Gennaro said. “I like chocolate mousse”, he added.

Who doesn’t?

And so it was confirmed, a fact I’ve long suspected: taste is in large part dictated by expectation. Ever taken a sip of, let’s say, orange juice, thinking for some reason you were drinking apple juice? Your brain will immediately alert you that something’s wrong, and you’re lucky if you don’t end up spitting it out. Because you weren’t expecting it!

While I didn’t spit this out at first, I took my first few bites disappointed that it didn’t taste like cheesecake as I’d hoped. But the more bites I took the more I decided I was liking this non-cheesecake concoction. And when Gennaro mentioned that it was like a chocolate mousse, I nodded in agreement. This was a description I could wrap my brain around. And suddenly, realizing that I was eating a chocolate mousse, I was loving this concoction and wanting more. Funny how the brain works, huh?

As I mentioned in my last post, my diet has shifted from more processed and higher-fat foods such as fake meats and cheeses to lower fat, whole foods. This pie definitely reflects that shift. While I did use tofu in this dish — which is technically a processed soy food — I tend to use soy overall in moderation, and always opt for organic, non-GMO soy. Even though I use soy in moderation (meaning I don’t have it daily, let alone for 3 meals a day!), I find that tofu is incomparable to other products when it comes to getting a really creamy texture without adding a lot of fat. Keeping the fat content of the filling relatively low was especially important to me considering that I used walnuts in the crust. Sure, walnuts are a very healthy monounsaturated fat sources that are high in omega-3s, but they’re still a high-fat food. And whenever using a high fat food in one part of a dish, I make an effort to keep the remainder of the dish lighter to balance things out. If nothing else, it’s for the simple purpose of keeping me from having a massive stomach ache after eating.

The pumpkin adds more to this dish texturally than it does flavor-wise. It’s certainly not the star of the dish, but I do taste it in a subtle way. Plus, it’s always nice hiding good sources of Vitamin A into delicious food (which seems to be a theme for me in these last few posts).

Note: For this photo, I took some extra crust that stuck to the bottom of the pan and used it to top the pie for serving. Feel free to make extra crust to use for topping if desired. 

Below are a few more of my pumpkin-based recipes you may wish to try:

Chocolate-Pumpkin Mousse Pie:

Crust:

1 1/2 cups raw walnuts

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

9 medjool dates, pitted

Filling:

14 oz. extra firm tofu, drained of excess liquid

1 15 oz. can organic pumpkin

2/3 cup coconut nectar

2 tablespoons arrowroot powder

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tablespoon coconut oil

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Add all crust ingredients to a food processor fitted with sharp steel (S) blade. Process until ingredients begin to clump together in small clumps.

3. Pour crust ingredients into a 9″ springform pie pan or regular pie dish and distribute evenly. Press down until evenly covering bottom of dish.

4. Bake crust in preheated oven for 10 minutes. Remove and let cool.

5. While crust cools, add filling ingredients to a high-powered blender (such as Vitamix) and blend on medium to high until extremely smooth, like the texture of a thin mousse. Once crust has cooled, pour filling ingredients into crust and bake again at 350 for 30-35 minutes, until edges darken and begin to crack.

6. Let pie cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least two hours or overnight before serving. Filling will firm up as it cools.

 

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