Sunday, January 30, 2011

Crunchy Coconut French Toast

Breakfast time!  I actually made this recipe while spending the weekend with my lovely brother and sister-in-law.  As a "thank you" for their wonderful (and often frequent) hospitality, I whipped up some delicious, vegan french toast one Saturday morning.  Unlike most vegan french toast recipes, there's no mashed banana or other nonsense in here, so the batter actually tastes pretty authentic.  The battered pieces are then coated in a mixture of coconut and crushed cereal, and pan-fried until golden brown.  This stuff is GOOD.  No, seriously.  Even if you've never actually tried one of my recipes before, I urge you to try this one because everything came together literally perfectly.  The french toast is so good that it doesn't even need maple syrup (although syrup couldn't hurt either!) and we were even eating cold pieces of it as finger food for the rest of the day and into the evening.  Roast some potatoes and onions while you're cooking the french toast and you have yourself one amazing breakfast.  Onto the recipe!

Crunchy Coconut French Toast

 Special "thank-you" to Michelle for FINALLY sending me this pic!


1 12oz box of firm silken-type tofu (the shelf-stable boxed kind, not the water packed kind)
6 teaspoons cornstarch
2/3 cup non-dairy milk
4 teaspoons pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 1/2 cups flake cereal, crushed 
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut
non-dairy butter and canola oil for pan-frying
1 baguette, cut into 1" slices

Heat oven to 300 degrees F.  Put the tofu and the cornstarch in a blender, and blend until smooth.  Add non-dairy milk, maple syrup, cinnamon, ginger, and cayenne, and blend again until everything is incorporated.  Pour batter from blender into a medium bowl.  Mix crushed cereal and coconut in a small bowl.
Heat 2 Tablespoons of the non-dairy butter and 1/2 Tablespoon of canola oil in a large skillet or griddle over medium-high heat until the butter is melted.   Dip slices of bread into the batter, making sure bread is coated on both sides and fairly saturated.  Dip battered bread in coconut mixture to coat.  Cook in skillet/griddle for 4-6 minutes, or until golden brown, turning once.  Place cooked slices in an oven-proof dish and place in warm oven until all bread is cooked and ready to serve.  Continue battering and pan-frying remaining bread, adding non-dairy butter/oil to the pan in the same ratio as needed.

Tips and Tricks:

1. Silken tofu - make sure you're buying the right kind.  You do NOT want the water-packed tofu that you find in the refrigerated section of the grocery store.  You need the non-refrigerated kind that is usually found wherever they keep the Asian foods.  The only brand I've ever seen around here is Mori-Nu, but I'm sure there are others.  It's confusing, because the water-packed type comes in different styles (x-tra firm, firm, soft, etc.) and one of those styles is "silken," and silken can also refer to the boxed type of tofu in general.  You want the boxed type of tofu here; firm is what I usually buy, although any type would likely work.  Yes, I know tofu is confusing, scary, and downright weird to people not used to working with it, and most people who are skeeved by any recipe containing tofu usually had a bad experience of being forced to choke down some slimy, tasteless jiggly white stuff by some well-meaning veg-head without an ounce of cooking know-how.  DON'T BE SCARED BY TOFU.  It can be an integral ingredient in many recipes (in this one it's replacing the eggs that would be traditionally found in a french toast batter, and also adds to the golden-brown color of the finished product) and can be delicious in many dishes if it's handled correctly.  It's unfortunate that this misunderstood food has been so mistreated as to make people turn up their noses at its very mention.  Please try my recipes with tofu, despite its inclusion.  I promise, no jiggly white goo here.  Please feel free to contact me with any tofu (or any other) questions :)

2. I've already berated you in other blog posts with the fact that real ninjas don't eat sweetened coconut or fake "maple syrup," so I won't get into that again here.  But don't forget.  Fur Ninja is watching you.

3. Flake cereal - I used flax (the cereal is called Flax Plus to be exact) because it's natural and tasty and flax flakes have a nutty flavor that was delicious here.  Plain ol' corn flakes would probably work as well, although I'd stay away from bran flakes because they might not be as crunchy.  Rice flakes might also work.  Basically any cereal that you think would be tasty here and would stay crunchy when put on top of french toast batter and fried would be great.  Don't go blaming me though if you try some weird cereal and it turns out awful.  Definitely stay away from anything that's not just plain flakes/cereal; I don't think your Crunchberries will work here; although heck, if you've tried it, I'd love to hear how it worked out....

4. Frying mixture - non-dairy butter AND oil???  I found this ratio in a cooking magazine and I've gotta say, it's perfect.  The non-dairy butter adds flavor to the finished product, and the touch of oil mixed in keeps the french toast from sticking better than the butter alone could.  I had zero problems with bread sticking to the pan, overcooking, batter falling off, etc.  Every single piece came out as a heavenly slice of crunchy golden-brown perfection.  If you'd prefer though, you can use just non-dairy butter, or just oil, but I'd recommend against plain cooking spray, because you wouldn't get everything browned well enough.  The butter/oil combo is great though, so if you have both ingredients, go for it.

5. Cooking to perfection - I used a large skillet here due to being at my little bro's place, but if I was making this at home I would have used my electric griddle.  I also used a non-stick pan, despite my abhorrence for the stuff, but most of my brother's cookware is non-stick.  I hate to say it, but I think the non-stick surface is part of the reason that the french toast came out so well.  When I started cooking, I was half-expecting the cereal/coconut mixture to be falling off all over the pan, but it really wasn't an issue.  If you're going to be cooking on stainless steel cookware, make sure that you have plenty of oil/non-dairy butter to avoid sticking, and flip your pieces carefully.  Better yet, use an electric griddle (mine isn't Teflon, but it's some type of anodized dark metal that resists sticking but won't flake off into your food) or a well-seasoned cast iron pan.  Whatever your cookware, I'd recommend flipping your pieces with tongs rather than a spatula.  It's just easier and will keep you from accidentally scraping off your batter when flipping.

6. Bread - The bread works best if it's day-old or slightly stale.  Notice I said slightly; if you've got hockey-puck slices, no amount of french toast batter or ninja skill is going to magically turn them into tender, yummy french toast.  Check your grocery store to see if they sell day-old breads at a discount.  Mine has a "f-ed up food shelf" and it's my favorite part of the store.  Dented cans, smushed cereal boxes, and yep - day old baked goods for super, super cheap.  Most of the bread they have there is around $1.00 a loaf.  You need a baguette for this recipe, but pretty much any chewy-crusted bakery-style bread will work; your slices might just be different sizes.  The baguette will give you little palm-sized pieces, while an Italian bread might give you bigger ones.  I prefer the baguette for texture and also sheer cute-ness of the little pieces, but whatever bread you can find will most likely work.  If your bread isn't day-old, you can either wait a day, or fresh will work almost as well too.  Don't use sliced sandwich bread here.  It's not thick and chewy enough to stand up to a hard battering/frying.

Well that's all the advice for today - go out and make this stuff!  Serve the french toast with roasted potatoes and vegan sausage (recipe coming soon) with lots of real maple syrup, ketchup and hot sauce (for the potatoes, silly!) and hot coffee, and I guarantee your ninja skills will be in tip-top shape all day long.

More recipes soon; I've got apple-butter cinnamon swirl bread cooling on the counter as I type this!

<3, The Fur Ninja

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Coconut Rice Pudding with Poached Oranges

Happy Saturday!  Here's a recipe I whipped up the other day because I was trying to figure out what to do with this enormous bowl of oranges that my mom gave to me.  I went diving into the backs of my cupboards and also found a can of cream of coconut.  That with some rice, soymilk, and other basic ingredients, and this recipe was born!
There's likely quite a bit of fat in it because of the coconut, and definitely a good amount of sugar, but really everything is relative.  This pudding is sweet, creamy, and decadent to the point where it's as satisfying as ice cream, but definitely healthier (or at least less-unhealthy) than your average dessert.  It's also easy to make, so whip this up some night when you're craving a sweet treat.  If you're pressed for time, you don't have to make the orange topping.  The pairing of oranges and sweet coconut is a perfect tropical treat to help you forget how damn frigid it is outside.

Coconut Rice Pudding with Poached Oranges


5 navel or other variety of seedless oranges
2 Tablespoons orange juice or orange liqueur 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup water

3/4 cup uncooked white rice (I used Jasmine)
1 1/2 cups water
1 15oz. can cream of coconut (not coconut milk)
1/2 cup soy milk
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

First, make the poached oranges.  Peel the oranges and make sure that all of the white pith is removed.  I found that the easiest way to do this is to cut off the top and bottom of each orange with a sharp knife, so that it can sit on a cutting board without rolling.  Then, using a very sharp knife, start removing the skin and pith in about 1" strips, moving the knife from the top of the orange to the bottom.  Continue working your way around the orange until most of the peel is removed, then use your knife to go back and cut off any spots that you missed.  You will lose a little bit of the fruit this way, but it is much faster and far less messy than trying to peel with your hands.  Once the oranges are peeled, cut them into segments.  Mix the 1 cup water and 1 1/2 cups sugar in a large saucepan over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved.  Add the orange juice/liqueur, vanilla, and oranges, and simmer for 15 minutes.  The oranges should be starting to fall apart into the syrup, but there should still be some whole pieces left.  Remove from heat and chill in the syrup until ready to use.

While the poached oranges are chilling, begin the rice pudding.  Boil the 1 1/2 cups water in a medium saucepan.  Once the water is boiling, add the rice, stir, and immediately turn the heat down to low.  Cover and simmer 20 minutes.  Once the rice is cooked, add the cream of coconut, soy milk, sugar, and salt.  Raise the heat to medium and cook 20 minutes or until thick and creamy.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.  Serve either warm or cold. 

For a fancy-schmancy presentation, spoon some of the syrup from the poached oranges into the bottom of a small bowl or glass.  Fill glass with rice pudding and then top the pudding with some of the poached oranges and another drizzle of syrup.  Garnish with mint to make it super pretty!

Note: you will most likely have a ton of extra oranges/syrup after all the pudding is gone.  If you don't feel like making more pudding, the poached orange mixture is also great as a pancake/waffle topping.  I'll probably be whipping up some kind of delicious orange breakfast treat myself this weekend to use up the extra - possibly another recipe using the poached oranges is on the way!

Hope you enjoyed that little tropical escape!  This fur ninja will be cooking up a storm this weekend so more recipes will be posted soon.  Everyone keep warm and happy cooking!

<3, The Fur Ninja

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Special Post - Middle Eastern Feast!

Hello, lovely ninjas :)  Today is a very special multi-recipe Vegan Fur Ninja post.  Last week, when the weather man was calling for an epic snowstorm, I decided to whip up a Middle Eastern feast, because my favorite thing to do when there's a blizzard outside is to cook up a far more pleasant and tasty storm inside.  Nothing like wind howling and blowing snow to make the warming oven and delicious smells filling the house even more amazing.  I'd never tried making Middle Eastern food before, with the exception of hummus, but it all turned out so delectable I just had to share it with you all.

Before we get on with the recipes, let me first preface this by saying that I can in no way vouch for the cultural authenticity of any of this food.  I found recipes for some Middle Eastern dishes on the internet, veganized them, and tweaked them to my own tastes as well, so if you're from a Middle Eastern country and are annoyed at me because I'm getting it all wrong, please forgive me!  I think you'll find these dishes to be wonderfully tasty in their own right, no matter how inauthentic they may be.  Now, on to the recipes!

First, the menu:

Muhammara (hot pepper dip)
Yogurt with Roasted Eggplant
Pita Bread
Middle Eastern Rice with Black Beans and Chickpeas
Mahshi Bassal (stuffed onion rolls)
Sweet Egyptian Couscous (dessert)

First, the dips:

From left to right: hummus, muhammara, yogurt with roasted eggplant.  The muhammara and yogurt were my own recipes, but the hummus was made with the recipe from Veganomicon by Isa Moskowitz.  I won't re-print the recipe here, since A. it's not mine and B. you should go out and buy this cookbook.  Seriously.  It's hands-down the best vegan cookbook I've ever used.  Until I started making my own recipes, it was the bible of my kitchen, and I still return to it often.  It's actually the book that inspired me to start experimenting with my own vegan recipes, and I can only hope that mine reach as wide an audience as Isa's delicious genius does someday.  But I digress....if you don't have a copy of Veganomicon and aren't going to go pick one up, there's a billion and one hummus recipes online.  Google is your friend.  I do encourage you to make your own hummus rather than buying it in the store though, because it's ridiculously easy, much cheaper, and the homemade stuff tastes worlds better.  Now, onto some delicious dips!

Muhammara (Hot Pepper Dip)

3 medium onions, chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
3/4 cup plain breadcrumbs
2 whole dried red chili peppers
1/2 cup boiling water
1/8 teaspoon cumin
1/2 - 1 teaspoon chili powder, depending on tastes (see below)  
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon pine nuts

Place the chili peppers in a shallow bowl and cover with the 1/2 cup boiling water.  Place a plate on top of the bowl and allow the peppers to soak for at least 10 minutes to soften.  Place peppers with the soaking water in a food processor and add the bread crumbs.  Process until the mixture resembles a smooth paste, adding more water if necessary, 1 teaspoon at a time.
Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the 1/2 cup olive oil and chopped onions.  Saute until onions are tender and slightly golden, about 8-10 minutes.  Add the walnuts, cumin, chili powder and salt, and saute 5 more minutes.  Add everything to the pepper/breadcrumb mixture in the food processor, and process until smooth.  Taste for salt and spices and adjust if necessary.  Garnish with pine nuts.

Depending on the size of your chili peppers and the amount of chili powder you use, your muhammara can get VERY spicy.  Start off with just 1/2 teaspoon of the chili powder, and add more into the final product in the food processor if necessary.

Serve the muhammara either warm or cold.  It is excellent as a dip for pita or other bread, as a condiment for vegetables, or as a wrap/sandwich spread.  Great anywhere that you'd use hummus.

Yogurt with Roasted Eggplant

1 medium-sized eggplant, about 3/4 lb
1 medium onion, chopped finely
1 16oz block of firm tofu  
3 cloves garlic
5 T minced fresh mint leaves with extra for garnish
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
3 teaspoons lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon coriander

***Note: roasting the eggplant can also be done on a grill, and would probably yield even more delicious results.  However, there's a ridiculous amount of snow outside and it's positively frigid out, so there's no way I was venturing onto the deck to mess with the grill.  If any of you readers tries the grill method though, let me know how it turns out!

Preheat your oven on broil.  Prick the eggplant in several places with a fork and place on an oven-safe cooking tray sprayed with a little cooking spray or olive oil.  Place the whole eggplant on the top rack of the oven and roast under the broiler until the outer skin is charred and the eggplant is very limp.  You will need to check the eggplant every 5-10 minutes for charred skin - when one side gets charred, turn the eggplant using tongs so that all sides cook evenly.  The whole roasting process should take 30-45 minutes, depending on your oven and the size of the eggplant.  The eggplant is done when all sides of the skin are charred and the eggplant is very limp and squishy.  Once done, remove the eggplant from the oven and place in a colander in the sink.  Run cool water over the eggplant until it is cool enough to handle.  The skin should peel away from the flesh easily.  Discard the skin and allow the flesh to drain while you blend the tofu.
Drain tofu and crumble into a food processor.  Process until smooth and creamy.  Add the eggplant flesh and process again to combine.  Add garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, and spices.  Process until very smooth, scraping down the sides to make sure everything is incorporated.  Remove from processor bowl into a medium-sized bowl with lid.  Stir in chopped onion and mint.  Cover and refrigerate for several hours until ready to serve.  If moisture starts to separate during storage, just give the yogurt a stir before serving.

The yogurt is great as a dip for flatbread, as well as a cooling condiment for spicy dishes.  It's especially good with the Middle Eastern rice and beans recipe that follows.

Next, the main course dishes:

Counter-clockwise from top: Mahshi Bassal, extra filling from the Mahshi Bassal, Middle Eastern Rice with Black Beans and Chickpeas.

Mahshi Bassal (Stuffed Onion Rolls)

3 very large sweet onions
2 Tablespoons tamarind paste  
3 Tablespoons sugar, divided
3 Tablespoons canola oil

1 lb brown lentils
5 cups vegetable broth
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
large bunch of parsley, chopped

Put a large pot of lightly salter water on to boil.  Cut the tops and bottoms of onions off so they sit flat on a cutting board.  Peel the onions, and then taking a sharp knife, make a vertical cut from the top of the onion to the bottom on one side to the center of the onion only, but no further.  Place the onions in the pot of boiling water and boil for 15-20 minutes, until the onions are very soft and the layers separate easily.  Drain the onions in a colander and run cool water over them to stop the cooking process.
While the onions are cooling, make the stuffing.  Bring 5 cups vegetable broth to a boil and add the 1 lb. lentils.  Cover and boil for 30 minutes until tender.  Put the lentils in a large bowl and add all the other stuffing ingredients and mix well.
Separate the layers of the cooled onions.  Put any small or torn pieces in the bottom of a large stock pot.  Take a walnut-sized lump of the stuffing mixture and place at one end of one of the separated onion layers and roll up tightly.  Repeat for the remaining onion layers (you will have extra stuffing).  Pack the onions tightly in the stockpot with the smaller onion pieces.
Dissolve the tamarind paste in a small bowl in 1 1/2 cups boiling water.  Add 1 Tablespoon of the sugar and canola oil and mix well.  Pour over the onions in the stockpot.  Add more water to cover the onions, if necessary.  Weigh them down with a plate and simmer gently over medium-low heat for 30 minutes until the onions are very tender and most of the water is absorbed.  If the onions start to look dry during the cooking process, add a little more water.
Pre-heat your oven to broil.  Place the cooked onions on a large, oven-proof dish that is lightly oiled.  Sprinkle with the remaining sugar, and broil for 5-10 minutes, or until the onions are golden brown and slightly carmelized.  Check them frequently to avoid burning!

Onions can be served either hot or cold, with any extra filling eaten on the side.

Middle Eastern Rice with Black Beans and Chickpeas

***This makes a very spicy rice; if you are sensitive to spicy dishes, you may want to halve the spices and add more to taste if necessary.

2 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup uncooked jasmine or basmati rice
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cayenne
2 cups vegetable broth
1 15 ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 15 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
6 cups fresh spinach leaves
1 tightly-packed cup cilantro, chopped
1 tightly-packed cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
several dashes freshly ground black pepper

Put one Tablespoon of the olive oil in a large pot and preheat over medium heat.  Sautee the garlic in the 1 Tablespoon olive oil for 1 minute.  Stir in the rice and spices.  Cook, stirring constantly for 5 minutes.  Pour in the vegetable broth and bring to a boil.  As soon as the mixture is boiling, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.
While the rice is cooking, add the remaining Tablespoon olive oil to a large skillet.  Cook cherry tomatoes in the oil over medium heat for 5 minutes.  Add the spinach by handfuls, waiting until the previous handful wilts slightly to allow room for the rest.  Once all of the spinach is added to the skillet, cook until bright green and wilted, moving the spinach around with tongs.  If you cook your spinach for a few minutes and it hasn't started to wilt yet, up your heat.
Once the rice is done, fluff the rice with a fork and then add black beans, chickpeas, spinach, tomatoes, parsley, cilantro, and pine nuts to the rice.  Season with salt and pepper and mix well.  Serve hot.

And finally, cool down the fire in your mouth from all those spicy dishes with something cooling and sweet for dessert.  This recipe requires you to steam your couscous rather than boiling it, which is the traditional method of cooking it in Middle Eastern countries.

Sweet Egyptian Couscous Dessert

1 cup uncooked couscous (NOT instant)
1/2 Tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cups mango nectar or other fruit juice, divided
2 Tablespoons rose water (available at gourmet markets and health food stores), divided
7 Tablespoons non-dairy butter, divided
5 teaspoons sugar, divided
1/4 cup ground pistachios
1/4 cup ground almonds
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1 Tablespoon cinnamon

You have a few different options when it comes to steaming couscous.  The easiest is if you have a contraption made specifically for the task - it's called a couscoussier.  I'm going to assume that pretty much no one has one of these (if you do, I envy you your well-stocked kitchen and advise you to simply follow the instructions that came with the device), so let's discuss other methods.  You're going to be steaming the couscous using a method similar to steaming vegetables, so if you have a vegetable steamer, a steamer basket that fits over a pot on the stove, or a rice cooker with a vegetable steamer that fits on top (this is what I used), you shouldn't have any difficulty.  In a real pinch, you can use a colander rigged over a pot of boiling water on the stove, but this creates some difficulties because the colander will not fit snugly over the pot.  Basically, no matter what apparatus you are using as your steamer, you need the steam from the boiling water below to rise up through the couscous and not escape through any cracks or openings anywhere else.  So if you're trying to do this with a colander rigged over top of a pot of boiling water, make sure that the pot is small enough that the colander can rest on the rim pretty snugly.  No matter what setup you're using, be on the lookout for steam escaping out the sides.  You should ONLY see the steam rising from the top of the couscous, nowhere else.  If there is steam escaping in a space between the container of boiling water and the basket holding your couscous, long strips of material tied around where the two containers meet can help this problem.  I personally recommend using a steamer that is made for vegetables; the steamer attachment with my rice cooker worked brilliantly.
So once you have your setup figured out, onto the recipe.  This recipe is time-consuming and you have to watch the couscous, but it's ridiculously easy, so don't be scared.  First pour your dry couscous in a wide, shallow bowl.  Add 1/2 Tablespoon vegetable oil and toss with the dry couscous using your hands until it is well distributed.  Add 2/3 cup of your mango nectar or whatever juice you are using and 2 teaspoons of the rose water to the couscous.  Toss again until the moisture is evenly distributed.  Now, line your steamer basket with several layers of cheesecloth - enough so that the small grains of couscous won't fall through.  I used 4 layers.  Overlap the cheesecloth with the sides of the basket and have them spill out the top.  This will allow you to use the cheesecloth to lift the whole mound of couscous out of the steamer and transfer it all at once.  This isn't totally necessary, but it makes things faster, easier, and less messy.  Once you've got your cheesecloth liner ready to go, add the mixed couscous to the basket and start your steamer.  Watch the couscous carefully for steam.  Once you see steam rising from the top of the couscous, set a timer for 15 minutes, and then you can pretty much leave it unattended.  
After the couscous has been steaming for 15 minutes, remove from the steamer basket by picking up the four corners of the cheesecloth to form a kind of pouch and transferring the whole thing to a bowl.  Add to the couscous another 2/3 cup of the fruit juice, 2 teaspoons of rose water, 3 Tablespoons of melted non-dairy butter and 2 teaspoons of sugar and mix well with your hands.  Pick up the couscous using the cheesecloth again and transfer the whole thing back to the steamer.  Once you see steam rising from the couscous, steam for another 15 minutes.
Transfer the couscous to a bowl using the cheesecloth, as before.  Add the remaining fruit juice and rose water, 4 Tablespoons melted non-dairy butter, and 3 teaspoons sugar.  Transfer the couscous in the cheesecloth back to the steamer basket for the final steam.  Again, once you see steam rising from the top of the couscous, steam for 15 minutes without disturbing it.
After completing the third steam, transfer the couscous into a bowl (you can throw away the cheesecloth now) and mix in the ground almonds and pistachios.  Before serving, sprinkle with the confectioners sugar and cinnamon.
This is excellent both warm and cold, and tastes better the next day.  I was eating it for breakfast moistened with a touch of vanilla almond milk.  Delish!  This recipe sounds like a lot of work, especially if your only experience with couscous is throwing it in some boiling water and waiting 5 minutes, but the lightly sweet, creamy-textured couscous with the richess of the nuts is totally worth it.  Once you get the hang of it, it's really not terribly hard, so show your true ninja skills and try it out!

So I hope you enjoyed my Middle Eastern feast!  It makes a LOT of food, so if you're planning on having a few guests over there will be more than enough to go around.  If you're pressed for time, you may want to leave out the Mahshi Bassal (stuffed onions) and couscous, because those are the most labor-intensive, but the rest of it actually comes together rather quickly.  You can even make the dips the night before, as the flavors actually improve as they have time to meld.  For a quick dinner, make one or both of the dips, the rice and beans, and serve with store-bought flatbread.  You can have a great dinner on the table in about 40 minutes with enough leftovers to last for days.  The dips especially are great to keep around for dipping raw veggies into, or just packing into a wrap or pita with some greens and fresh, sliced tomato.

As always, feedback is welcomed!  More recipes to come soon - be on the lookout for crunchy coconut french toast, coconut rice pudding with poached oranges, Andy's "Curry of Doom," and a hearty and satisfying butternut squash and barley soup bursting with fresh vegetables.  Until then, much love and good eats!

<3, The Fur Ninja

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Broccoli and Sun-dried Tomato Casserole

Good day, ninjas!  Here's a new recipe that's easy, quick, and sure to chase away those chilly winter blues.  Broccoli and sun-dried tomatoes are mixed with black olives, white beans, herbs, and crunchy, cheesy-tasting breadcrumbs and then baked to deliciousness in the oven.  I used canned beans and canned, chopped black olives and everything came together in a snap without dirtying a lot of dishes.  Enjoy!

Broccoli and Sun-Dried Tomato Casserole


2 lb fresh broccoli florets (about 10 cups)
1/4 cup non-dairy butter
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
1/2 cup + 1/2 teaspoon nutritional yeast, divided
1/3 cup vegetable broth
1 15oz can of white beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup chopped black olives
5 sun dried tomatoes (not the oil-packed kind), chopped finely
1/4 teaspoon rosemary
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Fill a large pot with lightly-salted water and bring to a boil on top of the stove.  Add the broccoli and cook 3 minutes.  Drain broccoli in a colander and run some cool water over it to stop the cooking process.
Melt non-dairy butter in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Continue to cook until lightly browned but not burnt, about 7-10 minutes.  Remove from heat and immediately stir in breadcrumbs and 1/2 cup nutritional yeast.
Place broccoli in a large, oven-safe casserole dish that is lightly sprayed with cooking spray or olive oil.  Add beans, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, rosemary, salt, and pepper and mix all ingredients well.  Sprinkle the 1/2 teaspoon nutritional yeast over everything and mix again.  Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture over the casserole.
Bake the casserole in the upper third of the oven for 15 minutes or until the topping is golden-brown.

As always, feedback is appreciated :) 

I've been cooking up a storm the last few weeks, so be on the lookout for lots more recipes and a special multi-recipe "Middle Eastern Feast" blog post!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Orange Tea Scones and back in NJ

Hello and happy new year!  Well, ninjas, here I am back in New Jersey.  The move went okay; Lucy and Skye are happily terrorizing all break-ables now that they have more space to play in, and I'm now in a better-stocked and more comfortable kitchen, so hopefully I'll be posting recipes a lot more often!  I've also just started a Facebook fan page for this blog, so "like" me and suggest me to friends - especially any friends that cook.  I'm really looking for people to test these recipes and give me feedback, so spread the word to any fellow ninjas/veg*ns/foodies that you might know!

And now on to the newest recipe.  I got up this morning with a hankering for baked goods, and whipped up this recipe to use up some orange marmalade that's been sitting in the fridge since forever.  These not-too-sweet, golden-brown scones with a yummy hint of orange flavor are perfect for a chasing away the cold on a January morning!

Orange Tea Scones
* makes 8 scones


2 1/4 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar + 1 teaspoon for sprinkling on tops of scones
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup non-dairy butter, chilled
1/2 cup orange marmalade
1/2 cup boiling water
2 tea bags (strong black tea works best)
6 Tablespoons flax seeds, ground
1/3 cup soy milk + 1 Tablespoon for brushing the tops of the scones

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. 
Steep the two tea bags in the 1/2 cup boiling water for at least 10 minutes and then let cool slightly.
In a large bowl, mix flour, 1/3 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Cut in the non-dairy butter using a pastry cutter or two knives until the butter resembles coarse crumbs.
In a small bowl, whisk together the orange marmalade, flax seeds, soy milk, and tea.  Add to the flour mixture and mix well using a wooden spoon and then form into a ball with your hands.  The mixture will be slightly sticky, but should form a firm ball.  Add more flour, 1 Tablespoon at a time, if the mixture is too moist.
On a lightly floured surface, pat the ball into a roughly rectangular shape, about 3/4 inch thick.  Cut into 8 triangles - do this by cutting the rectangle into two smaller rectangles, then each of the small rectangles twice diagonally into 4 triangles.  Brush triangles with the 1 Tablespoon soy milk and sprinkle with the 1 teaspoon sugar.  Place onto 2 lightly-oiled baking sheets, about 1" apart.  Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly golden brown. 
Serve warm or room temperature with lots of hot tea or coffee.  Yum!

Tips and Tricks:

1. Flour - what kind?  I use white whole wheat flour for most of my baked goods.  It's got all the goodness of whole wheat flour with a lighter texture that's more like all-purpose flour.  Of course, all-purpose or a half-and-half mix of all-purpose and whole wheat flour would work well also.

2. Flax seeds - The flax seeds MUST be ground for this recipe.  They are used as a binding agent and also add lots of lovely omega-3s :)  You can sometimes find containers of pre-ground flaxseed at the grocery store, but I buy them whole and grind them in a coffee grinder. 

That's all for today; I'm off to un-pack all of my recently-moved stuff.  Remember to "Like" me on Facebook, and, as always, feedback is appreciated!