Friday, December 30, 2011

Our Favorite Recipes of 2011

2011 was a really fun year here at The Chubby Vegetarian blog. We created some great recipes, got to appear on the Food Network, and (with a lot of help from Kelly and his staff) pulled off an all-vegetarian brunch for 100 people at Restaurant Iris. All of this and we also signed a contract with Thomas Nelson to publish our first cookbook, which will hit the shelves in March of 2013. 

We feel very fortunate for all of this, and it's all because of the support of friends like you. So, we'd just like to end this year by saying thank you to everyone who reads the blog, supports what we do, and especially to those of you who inspire us to be creative. We love y'all, and we look forward to a great new year.

Below is a list of some of our favorite recipes from 2011. Enjoy! Here's to a happy, healthy 2012 as well. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Lime Zest Cookies with White Chocolate + Cashews

Sometimes a cookie idea hits me, and I'll act on it even if I'm not really in the mood for cookies at the moment. Even when I am, I usually bake 10 or so cookies on one sheet and wrap up the rest in waxed paper and string, label the roll with the basics, and stick it in the freezer for another time. It's good to have a few different options around whenever a craving hits.

Recently, a family member was telling me about a big bucket of cookie dough that she bought from some sort of door-to-door saleskid this season. It's been a handy resource for her when she wants to make a few cookies at a time; of course, now I'm thinking she just might need a few mini rolls of our cookies this Christmas.

This particular lime zest cookie recipe was one that I had been thinking about for a while as a way to make a margarita-inspired sweet. Adding either cardamom or coriander was considered for these, but neither seemed quite right for what I had in mind; I just threw in the white chocolate chunks I had on hand and also some cashews because they needed some frills.

Lime Zest Cookies with White Chocolate + Cashews

2/3 cup olive oil margarine
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup cane sugar
zest of 4 limes
juice of one lime
1 egg (beaten)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon Maldon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground vanilla bean powder
1/4 cup cream
1/2 cup white chocolate chunks
1/2 cup cashews (chopped)

Cream the margarine and sugars. Add lime zest, juice, egg, and vanilla. Whisk the next 5 dry ingredients from flour to vanilla powder. Combine. Add cream by the tablespoon and stir until dough comes together. Add white chocolate and cashews and mix. Chill in fridge for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Scoop out cookies dough with a spoon or a small ice cream scooper and place one-inch-sized scoops on a Silpat-lined baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes (a little longer for a crunchier cookie).

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Vegetarian Meatloaf + Garlic Mashed Potatoes

One of my favorite restaurants in Memphis, Fuel Café, serves a vegetarian meatloaf that is so good that I have to get it every time I go. I just love a fresh update to old-fashioned comfort food like that. So, I decided to take a stab at making my own version of this 1980's-time-capsule treat.

As some of you could've guessed, my meatloaf features mushrooms. I just can't get enough of their meaty texture and savory flavor. But I didn't stop there -- I also added tempeh and walnuts for their flavor and hearty texture. This loaf is tender and delicious, especially served over my garlic mashed potatoes and topped with a parsley and tomato salad.

This can easily feed a crowd, so it might be something good to make for Christmas dinner. In the unlikely event of leftovers, there's nothing better than a few slices of vegetarian meatloaf dressed with mashed potatoes and cheddar cheese between two slices of sourdough bread.

(Okay, I know the following looks like a long list of ingredients, but it actually comes together very quickly if you use a food processor to do all the chopping.)

Vegetarian Meatloaf
(serves 6)

2 tablespoons butter
2 cups finely chopped onion (about 1 medium onion)
1/2 cup finely chopped celery (about 2 ribs)
1/2 cup finely chopped carrot (about 2 medium carrots)

2 vegetarian bouillon cubes
8 ounces mushroom (finely chopped)
1/2 cup chopped bell pepper
1 block tempeh (crumbled)
1 cup smoked sun-dried tomatoes (finely chopped)
1 cup walnuts (finely chopped)
1/4 cup ketchup

1 teaspoon mustard (English, like Colman's)
1 cup bread crumbs
2 eggs (beaten)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 cup half and half

Ketchup Glaze*

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Melt butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, celery, and carrot to the pan and stir. Cook until onion is translucent and beginning to brown (about 10 minutes). Add the bouillon cubes and stir into the vegetable mixture until incorporated. 

Place mixture into a large mixing bowl. Add the mushroom, bell pepper, tempeh, sun-dried tomatoes, walnuts, ketchup, mustard, bread crumbs, eggs, garlic powder, red pepper, thyme, paprika, and half and half. Work the mixture together with your hands until everything is well incorporated. Allow mixture to rest in the fridge for 10 minutes. 

On a silpat-lined, rimmed baking sheet, place the mixture in the center. Using your hands, form a loaf that is about 12 inches long, 6 inches wide, and about 2 1/2 inches tall. The loaf should be smooth and have rounded edges. This will help the loaf stay together when serving. Place loaf in the oven for 25 minutes. Brush with the ketchup glaze and return loaf to the oven for another 10 minutes, brush another coat of glaze on top, and bake for a final 10 minutes.

Ketchup Glaze*

1/2 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon soy sauce
6 dashes Tabasco
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon sorghum

Mix ketchup, soy, tabasco, black pepper, and sorghum until well incorporated.

Parsley and Tomato Salad

1 1/2 cups diced tomato
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup diced shallot
1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon champagne vinegar

Toss tomato, parsley, shallot, salt, pepper, sugar, and vinegar together in a small bowl.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

5 cups peeled, diced potatoes
2 cups diced cauliflower
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 cup half & half
8 cloves garlic (chopped)

1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup sour cream

Place potatoes, cauliflower, butter, half and half, garlic, salt, and pepper in a covered, microwave-safe dish. Microwave on high for 12 minutes. Mash with a potato masher and then add the sour cream. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Triple Tomato Soup + Toasted White Cheddar Crouton

Why let French onion soup have all the fun? So many soups are good served with that same crunchy, gooey crouton up on top. Here, boring old tomato soup gets a serious upgrade. The deep flavor of this soup comes from three tomato sources: the smokiness of roasted Roma tomatoes, the complexity of sun-dried tomatoes, and the sweetness of tomato paste. 

One of my favorite meals as a kid was grilled cheese and tomato soup. I'd dunk the grilled cheese into the soup, but I'd save the last bit of the sandwich to mop up the bowl. This is like a grown-up grilled cheese and tomato soup with the 'dunk' built right in. This is one dish we'll be making again soon. It was that surprising and good!

Triple Tomato Soup + Toasted White Cheddar Crouton
(Serves two as a meal or four as a starter)

5 large Roma tomatoes (peeled)
1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoon butter (divided)
1 sweet onion (thinly sliced, about 2 cups)
2 tablespoon brandy
1 tablespoon vegetarian Worcestershire sauce

1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes (sliced into 1/4-inch strips)
2 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup water
3 cups vegetable broth
1 teaspoon fresh thyme (4 sprigs)
4 slices whole-grain bread
1 cup shredded white cheddar

Turn broiler on high. Slice peeled tomatoes lengthwise and place face-down on a rimmed baking sheet. Brush each tomato with the olive oil and place under the broiler until the tomatoes start to blacken. (This should take eight to ten minutes; keep your eye on them.) Once they are done, set the baking sheet aside and allow the tomatoes to cool.

In a Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat one tablespoon of butter over medium-low heat. Once butter has melted, add the sliced onion. Allow the onion to sweat down and start to brown. This should take about 15 minutes. Add the brandy and the Worcestershire sauce to the pot and raise the heat to medium. Allow most of the liquid to evaporate, and then add the sun-dried tomatoes, tomato paste, water, broth, and the roasted Roma tomatoes. Bring soup to a boil, then reduce to low. Allow soup to simmer for at least twenty minutes. Add fresh thyme just before serving.

To serve, slather toasted bread with melted butter. Turn your oven broiler on medium. Divide soup between two bowls, float slices of bread on top of the soup, and cover toast with the white cheddar. Place bowls under the broiler for two to three minutes or until cheese is bubbling. Serve immediately.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Classic Christmas Cookies

In our family, it just isn't Christmastime until we make and decorate cookies. The recipe we've used for years from this 1960's cookbook is called Many Way Butter Cookies. Follow the recipe above and sub in soy margarine if you wish. Next, you just chill the dough in the fridge for an hour. Roll it out onto a floured surface to about 1/4-inch thicknes, and then deploy your cookie cutters. We liked bells, birds, and trees this time around.

The (memorized) glossy icing recipe is 1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar (sifted), 1/2 cup organic shortening, a splash of vanilla, and a few teaspoons or so of half-and-half to get it to come together. We divide that into 5 bowls and add a scant drop of coloring to 4 of them and leave one white. Anyone who has tried one of these cookies calls the next day for the recipe, so we wanted to share it with you.

We try to use really good ingredients so that brick-stomach, I-shouldn't-have-eaten-that feeling one gets after consuming some familiar holiday treats doesn't happen; this year, we went a step further and attempted to use healthy sprinkles, which looked like a pack of sad, colorless seeds once we removed them from the package. Sometimes, there's no replacing the classics.

This cookie-making-and-decorating tradition has been going on so long now, and I love it. It made for a great afternoon today, actually. Time spent cooking, joking, bickering, eating, and just plain hanging out with the family during the holidays is always the best. We hope you get to enjoy a bunch of it, too, this week as we head toward the big day.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Vegetarian Roasted Red Pepper + Olive Muffuletta

I've visited New Orleans more than any other city. I really love that place! Every time I go, I have to grab a muffuletta (or three). Many people argue over who makes the best one --Central Grocery? Frank's? -- but really, they are all delicious. What's not to love: light bread, meaty olive dressing, spicy creole mustard, and melty cheese...

You can find spicy olives on the olive bar at almost any specialty store. It's best to get a mix of olives, which will add to the complexity of the dish. Be sure to grab plenty from the spicy bin to give your olive dressing some kick. The bread may be tough to find outside of the South. If muffuletta bread is not available from your local deli, use a light focaccia bread instead. The effect will be somewhat the same.

I like to use fresh cauliflower and carrots in place of pickled ones. This cuts down on the salt in the dish and makes it more enjoyable, in my opinion. This is a great dish to make for a party.

Vegetarian Roasted Red Pepper + Olive Muffuletta
(serves 8)

3 cups spicy, pitted olives (green, black, kalamta)
2 stalks celery (about 1 cup, sliced)

2 cups cauliflower
1 large carrot (about 1 cup, sliced)
2 teaspoons good Italian seasoning mix
4 cloves garlic (crushed)
1 cup olive oil
1 cup white vinegar

2 10-inch muffeletta breads
2 tablespoon mayo
4 tablespoons creole mustard
4 roasted red peppers
14 ounces sliced cheese (provolone, Swiss)

Sliced tomatoes and chopped romaine lettuce (optional)
12 peperoncini peppers 

Using the slicer blade on your food processor, slice the olives, celery, cauliflower, and carrots. Place sliced vegetables into a 2-quart container; add the Italian seasoning mix, crushed garlic, olive oil, and vinegar. Allow mixture to marinate and the flavors to meld for a day or so. Seriously, the longer you leave it, the better it will be.

Next, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Slice muffuletta breads in half. On the bottom half of each, spread half of the olive dressing. On the top slices, spread one tablespoon of mayo and two tablespoons of  creole mustard and then add half the cheese on each in an even layer.

Place dressed bread open faced on a baking sheet in the oven for 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Remove and add roasted red peppers, lettuce, and tomatoes to each sandwich. Place the top on each sandwich. Slice into quarters. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Tofu Almondine in a White Wine-Butter Sauce

I recently spearheaded a very informal survey in which I asked my readers if they liked tofu or not. Overwhelmingly, the answer was that it really depended on how it is prepared. I can assure you that this recipe would pass the test. I mean, the tofu is accompanied by sweet, toasted almonds and a buttery white wine sauce. What could be better than this vegetarian take on a New Orleans classic?

The sauce is the key to the deliciousness of this dish. I try to be calorically frugal, so I used it sparingly. However, the pan with the sauce in it found its way to the dinner table where it was further drizzled with abandon.

Vegans, try this recipe with Earth Balance and coconut milk. I'd love to hear how it turns out.

Tofu Almondine
(serves two)

1/2 cup almonds (toasted in a dry pan until lightly browned)

1 block extra firm tofu
1/4 teaspoon each: sea salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, paprika
1/4 cup flour
1/8 cup canola oil 
1 tablespoon butter
White Wine-Butter Sauce (recipe follows)
1 tablespoon chopped parsley (to garnish)

Cut the tofu into six 'filets' that are thicker on one side than the other, i.e., they come to a point in a way. Season both sides of the tofu with sea salt, black paper, red pepper flakes, and paprika. 

Place 1/4 cup of flour on a large dinner plate. Dredge each filet on both sides and shake off any excess flour. Heat a 12-inch skillet to medium heat and add the canola and butter. Once the butter has melted, gently lay seasoned, dreaded tofu filet into the pan; this is best done in batches of three. Cook tofu for 4-5 minutes on the first side of until golden brown. Flip each piece and repeat the same cooking process for the other side. Removed cooked tofu filet to a cookie sheet and keep warm in a 300 degree oven until ready to serve.

To serve, place one tofu filet on a bed of wilted greens or potato hash, drizzle a teaspoon of sauce over it, and then add a few toasted almonds. Repeat by stacking the filets three high. To finish, drizzle the sauce around the plate and garnish with a little chopped parsley.

White Wine-Butter Sauce:

2 tablespoons butter (divided)
1/2 cup shallot (diced)
1 lemon
2 tablespoons Worcestershire (vegetarian)
1 teaspoon sugar
2 dried bay leaves
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup of half and half

In a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat, melt one tablespoon of butter and sauté the shallot in butter until shallot appears translucent -- this should take about two minutes. Cut lemon in half and add the juice from the lemon and also the rind to the pan. (Don't worry about seeds; you will strain this sauce later.) Add the worcestershire sauce, sugar, bay leaves, pepper and wine to the pan. Allow mixture to reduce by half or until it begins to look syrupy. 

Add the half and half to the mixture, and then strain the whole thing through a fine-mesh strainer. Rinse the pan of any debris and then return the strained sauce to the pan. Keep warm until ready to serve. Just before serving, whisk in the remaining tablespoon of butter. This process is known as mounting a sauce with butter, and it results in a very rich and flavorful sauce.

Monday, December 5, 2011

White Gold

Using the best ingredients in what I've decided to call White Gold this holiday season is ridiculously and senselessly fancy, and that's what makes this holiday snack mix taste better than any other version I've sampled before now. I figure the classics are classics for a reason, but elevate them, and they're even more impressive. This isn't something to make in big batches and give away with abandon, so make a small batch and share it with a few deserving people who will understand the wink to tradition.

White Gold

3 cups organic multigrain square cereal

2/3 cup organic pretzels (broken)

1/2 cup roasted and salted peanuts

1/3 cup olive oil soy margarine

1/3 cup Valrhona dark chocolate block

3/4 cup organic powdered sugar

Mix cereal, pretzels, and peanuts into a big bowl. Melt peanut butter, soy margarine, and chocolate in the microwave at 30 seconds at a time stirring in-between so that the chocolate doesn't scorch. Pour it over the dry mix and stir until it's all coated completely. Sift powdered sugar into a large container and then pour in the chocolate-peanut butter mix. Shake until it's all coated white. Lay out your precious White Gold in a thin layer on two plates to cool and set. Serve it in small cups at a party or hide it away in a jar.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Potato Blinis + Beluga Lentils & Créme Fraiche

Like the Oyster Mushroom Rockefeller, I thought it would be fun to continue the play on words. Here beluga lentils stand in for beluga caviar in this classic Russian dish. My blini are tender and light, so they make a great canvas for the other flavors. 

The beluga lentils are flavored with kombu, which is dried seaweed. It seems like a strange ingredient, but it's available at Whole Foods. It tastes like the sea. That along with the sea salt is fairly convincing. 

This is a great dish for your holiday party -- or just serve it along with a salad for a light meal.

Potato Blinis + Beluga Lentils & Créme Fraiche:

 2 dozen Potato Blini (recipe follows)
1/2 cup créme fraiche
Beluga lentils (recipe follows)
fresh dill for garnish
black pepper

To assemble the dish, top each blini with about a teaspoon of créme fraiche followed by the same amount of beluga lentils. Garnish each with fresh dill and black pepper.

Potato Blini:
(makes two dozen blini)
1 1/2 cups roughly chopped potato (about 1 medium one)
1 teaspoon water
1 tablespoon butter
1/2  cup all-purpose flour
1 pkg rapid-rise yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
canola oil

Cover the mixture and set aside for thirty minutes to allow it to rise. Adjust the thickness as needed using up to 1/4 cup of water. You want it to be as thick as, well, pancake batter.
Place potato, water, and butter in a covered, microwave-safe dish and microwave on high for six minutes. In the meantime, mix flour, yeast, salt, and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Also in a small mixing bowl, mix the egg and buttermilk. Run the potato through a ricer and into the large mixing bowl with the flour. Now, using a whisk, mix the wet ingredients with the dry. 

In a 12-inch skillet over medium heat, heat one tablespoon of oil. Once the oil starts to shimmer, add batter a tablespoon at a time to form small pancakes. (You will fit about five pancakes in the pan at a time.) Allow blini to cook for 2 minutes per side. Cook in batches, adding a tablespoon of oil to the pan if it looks dry.

Beluga lentils:

2 cups water
2 pieces kombu (dried seaweed)
1/2 cup black beluga lentils
tablespoon of sea salt
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

Add water, kombu, lentils, and salt to a saucepan. Bring it up to a boil, and then allow it to simmer, covered, for 20-25 minutes or until tender. Allow the lentils to cool in the liquid. Remove kombu and discard. Drain lentils and then add the olive oil. Serve at room temperature.