Give Peas a Chance! Green Pea Sauce that Can Do Anything!

This sauce is mean, green and made from peas. It's simple to make, appeals to almost any palate, and its applications are virtually infinite. Just blend up a batch and find out your favorite use for this bright spring green sauce!

Green Pea Sauce/Dip/Filling
Yield: Scant 3 cups

2 cups frozen peas, blanched and drained
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
3 Tbsp chopped cilantro
pinch crushed red pepper flakes
salt & pepper to taste
1/4 cup canola or sunflower oil
1 Tbsp agave nectar
  1. In a blender, puree peas, vinegar, cilantro, red pepper, salt and pepper.
  2. Drizzle in oil with blender running.
  3. Blend in agave.
  4. Use immediately or keep in the fridge for up to a week.
Use this amazing green stuff as:
  • Dipping sauce for crackers and raw veggies
  • Filling for ravioli
  • Topping for grilled tempeh or baked tofu
  • Garnish for hearty soups 
  • Spread on toast with vegan cream cheese
Can you think of other interesting uses for this fresh, tasty pea concoction?

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Salted Vegan Caramel Kamut

Craving something sweet AND salty, I decided to try my hand at caramel. I've made it before for cakes and ice cream toppings, but then I remembered making caramel popcorn as a kid. Brilliant! As I reached into my pantry for some popcorn kernels, I realized I had a partial bag of puffed kamut cereal hanging out in the back. Even more brilliant!

Kamut is an ancient wheat grain. It's high in protein and has a great nutty flavor, which I thought would be a perfect compliment to the sweet-salty caramel I planned to make. Puffed kamut might be tough to find, depending on where you live, so feel free to substitute popped popcorn or any other puffed grains of your choice for this easy snack or dessert.

Salted Caramel Kamut (vegan)
Yield: 6 servings

6 cups puffed kamut (or popped popcorn)
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup water
1 Tbsp Earth Balance vegan buttery sticks
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp almond milk (plain, vanilla or even chocolate!)
1 tsp sea salt (don't skimp!)
  1. In a small saucepan, stir together brown sugar, water, Earth Balance and vanilla extract. 
  2. Bring to a boil without stirring.
  3. Stir in almond milk and cook until thickened, about 5 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat, stir in salt, and pour over puffed kamut. 
  5. Stir to coat and spread evenly on a baking sheet. 
  6. Allow to cool at room temp (2-3 hours) and enjoy! 

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Healthy, Low-Fat Cherry Cardamom Scones

Traditional scones are made with loads of butter and cream, making them rich, crumbly and decadent. When someone recently asked me to come up with a new scone recipe, I started noticing that a lot of vegan scone recipes out in the blogosphere still contain loads of fat. Although my scones are not fat free, I use applesauce to bring down the overall fat content, making these scones much lower in fat than most other recipes I've seen. With the complex and complementary flavors of exotic cardamom and dried cherries, these scones are definitely not lacking in the decadence department.

This recipe is intended to make generously sized scones by using a 1/4 cup measuring cup but you can also making mini scones with this battery by using a 3-ounce scoop (like an ice cream scoop) instead.

Enjoy with fresh fruit as part of breakfast or with your afternoon tea!

Cherry Cardamom Scones
Yield: 9 scones

1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp almond milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar (unfiltered preferred)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup evaporated cane sugar
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/8 tsp ground cinnmon
1/4 cup applesauce
1 Tbsp canola oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup dried cherries, chopped
1/2 cup chopped almonds, for topping (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Stir together almond milk and vinegar and set aside to curdle (making vegan buttermilk).
  3. In a large bowl, combine flours, baking powder, salt, sugar, cardamom and cinnamon. 
  4. Stir in applesauce with a fork until mixture is crumbly. Use your hands if you have to! 
  5. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the almond milk mixture, canola oil and vanilla. 
  6. Stir until just combined, then fold in cherries. 
  7. Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, scoop batter onto the baking sheet, leaving approximately 1/2 inch between scones.
  8. Top each scone with a bit of chopped almonds, if using, patting down gently. 
  9. Bake 25-27 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges and the almond topping is lightly toasted.
  10. Serve immediately or cool to room temperature and freeze for up to a month.

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Tahini Miso Orange Dressing

Everyone should know how to make a few simple dressings. You know, for salads and stuff. And for steamed and grilled vegetables. For an alternative to tomato sauce on pizza. For dipping fresh veggies. For fancy sandwiches. For anything you like to eat that needs a little umph, there's a dressing like this one.

I'm working on some recipes down the road for low- and no-fat dressings but this is not one of those. Tahini, a puree of roasted sesame seeds, brings some natural fat to the table. The great thing about this dressing is that the flavors are quite bold so a little goes a long way. Also, you can up the orange juice and water content to stretch it out even further, if you so desire.

Tahini Miso Orange Dressing
Yield: 1 cup (6 or more servings)

3 Tbsp tahini
3 Tbsp miso (any kind you like)
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp rice vinegar
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup water
1 tsp grated ginger

  1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor until smooth. 
  2. Store in an airtight glass container in the refrigerator for up to a week. 

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Sunshine Muffins with Blueberries and Walnuts

I have about a thousand muffin recipes, give or take. I can't help myself. Muffins are lovely, versatile and perfectly portioned treats that work for breakfast on the go, afternoon snacks and even healthy desserts. You can put just about anything into muffin batter and come out with a successful treat, and I have. This time, I've gone back to a simple breakfast muffin made with fresh orange juice, blueberries and hearty walnuts. 

If you're anti-oil, simply replace the canola oil in this recipe with an additional 1/4 cup of applesauce for a virtually fat-free muffin recipe.

Sunshine Muffins with Blueberries and Walnuts
Yield: 12 muffins

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 cup orange juice (NOT from concentrate!)
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
zest of 1 orange
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 1/2 cups frozen blueberries
1 cup walnuts, chopped coarsely
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F and lightly spray a muffin tin.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. 
  3. Make a well in the center and add orange juice, oil, applesauce, zest and extracts.
  4. Mix with a fork just until ingredients are combined. 
  5. Stir in nuts and blueberries (quickly, so the berries don't defrost!).
  6. Fill muffin tins and bake 25-27 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  7. Cool in the tin for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

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What's Fresh: Spinach is your spring time superfood

Everybody knows spinach is good for you. We all learned it from Popeye or our mothers, right? Spinach is a great source of Vitamin A, magnesium, potassium, and iron. Although it's available year-round in convenient pre-washed packages, fresh local spinach in season is a real treat. Spinach is one of spring's early gems and it's this month's What's Fresh feature.

If you're concerned about exposure to pesticides, buy organic. Since spinach grows close to the ground, conventionally-grown crops can have high levels of pesticide residue. (Check out this list to see which conventional crops are safer than others.)

Think about new ways to incorporate spinach into your diet, beyond salads:
  1. Add whole spinach leaves to stir fry just before serving.
  2. Stir into soups and stews.
  3. Make pesto with olive oil and walnuts.
  4. Toss into tofu scramble.
  5. Blend into green smoothies, like (never)homemaker's Chocolate Peanut Butter Green Smoothie.
Trying to find out what's in season in your area? Epicurious's Peak-Season Map allows you to select the month and your home state to find out what's in harvest. Check it out!

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Fennel-crusted Tiny Taters

I recently found these tiny fingerlings, called "peewee" potatoes, at my local market. They're a variety of Yukon gold potatoes, so they have an incredibly thin, tender skin and they just begged to be roasted whole. With a light coat of olive oil and a slow roasting session, the skins get nice and crispy. Fingerlings are a real treat so I decided to pair them with fennel seeds: a unique spice for a unique potato.

This recipe can be made with any size potato; just cut your raw potatoes into 1-2 inch chunks before roasting.

Fennel-crusted Tiny Taters
Yield: As much or as little as you want!

For each pound of potatoes:
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
1 tsp fennel seeds, crushed (or 3 seconds in a spice grinder)
1/4 tsp fresh pepper (I use a tri-color blend)
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Toss potatoes with olive oil in a baking dish. Sprinkle on remaining ingredients and toss to coat.
  3. Bake 30-40 minutes. Allow to cool a few minutes before serving.
Notes: As you can see, I used these amazing grape-sized fingerlings. I highly recommend them if you can find them because the spices create an amazing crust on the skins. If you're using regular potatoes, cut them into bite-sized chunks.

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Product Review: Healthier Canola Oil from Better Body

Recently, the folks at BetterBody asked if I'd try out their new expeller-pressed canola oil. I didn't jump out of my chair or anything but when it dawned on me that they're the same folks who make Xagave Nectar, I said ok. (Although I'm a fan of Xagave, I haven't reviewed it. But Amy at TahiniToo did.)

So, why canola oil? Well, as I get *kaff* older, I realize that I need to curb my saturated fat intake. I already steer clear or most fried foods and fatty junk but I do go through a lot of olive oil. I had already started reducing my intake and knew that canola oil is lower in saturated fat than all other oils. Maybe you knew that too. It's also higher in Vitamin E, D and Omega 3 and Omega 6. Betcha didn't know that, did you? Also, no trans-fats and no cholesterol. Chemical-free and non-GMO, too. Even though oil is processed and some believe oil should be eliminated from your diet entirely, I just can't give it up. Not completely. So I'm opting for the healthiest oil I can get my hands on and aiming to use it in moderation. This stuff fits the bill.

 Since receiving my generous quart-sized bottle of BetterBody Canola Oil, I've used it in the following dishes and have been totally happy with the results:
  • Stir-fry
  • Pizza dough
  • Tofu steaks
  • Cornbread 
  • Raspberry muffins
My only complaint? My tester bottle didn't come with that crazy cool spout shown in the picture above. :p

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New Vegan Cream Cheese from Galaxy & Killer Brownies

A while back, the folks at Galaxy Nutritional Foods put out a call on their Facebook page to bloggers about a super secret new product. I'm a fan of their Rice Vegan mozzarella and cheddar, so I responded. I was promised samples of the new product and sworn to secrecy. They didn't ask me to pinky swear or anything, but it was still pretty cool.

Their brand-spankin' new vegan cream cheese hit the market last week and it's GOOD. It's creamier and has a better "mouth feel" than the other leading vegan brand (which, until now, I didn't think could be bested). So, confronted with a whole tub of delicious vegan cream cheese, what's a girl to do? Well, remember my resolution to experiment with more desserts? Me too. The resolution started with cocoa raspberry cream cheese muffins so this time, I started thinking about using cream cheese in brownies.

Brownies with a middle layer of sweetened cream cheese are old hat, right? But usually, they're raspberry or strawberry or blueberry. Berry lame, if you ask me! I love the combination of dense brownies and sweet cream cheese but MY version had to live up to higher standards.

So I smacked my lips and thought and thought and decided that my cream cheese brownies needed a sweet and spicy kick. Something different. And these Spiced Apricot Cream Cheese Brownies were birthed. These are pretty low fat because the portions are small but I don't really see anything wrong with eating two of them. It's dessert, after all!

Spiced Apricot Cream Cheese Brownies
Yield: 16 servings

Cream cheese filling:
6oz cream cheese (2/3 of one tub), room temp
2 Tbsp agave nectar
3/4 tsp vanilla extract

Apricot jam filling:
1/4 cup apricot jam or preserves
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cayenne (see note)

Brownie batter:
2/3 cup evaporated cane sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1/3 cup Earth Balance vegan buttery sticks, room temp
2/3 cup plain yogurt (or one 6-oz cup)
1/4 cup apricot jam or preserves
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and lightly grease an 8x8 inch glass pan.
  2. Prepare cream cheese filling by pureeing ingredients in a food processor or mixing thoroughly with a fork.
  3. Prepare jam filling by stirring ingredients together in a small bowl. 
  4. In a small bowl, combine sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  5. In a large bowl, cream Earth Balance, and then add yogurt and jam in small batches, creaming together.
  6. In thirds, add the flour mixture to the yogurt mixture until well incorporated. The batter will be thick like frosting. 
  7. Using a spatula to spread half the brownie batter into the baking pan. 
  8. Pour cream cheese filling over the batter and spread evenly. 
  9. Add jam filling in even dollops and swirl in slightly to the cream cheese layer. 
  10. Add remaining brownie batter and spread as evenly as possible. Because the batter is so thick, it's going to look like a hot mess but it doesn't matter. Promise.
  11. Bake 40-45 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean (no wet brownie batter). If you're using a dark metal pan, add 5 minutes.
  12. Allow to cool for a painfully long 30 minutes before cutting into 16 squares. 
  13. Serve warm, refrigerate for up to a week or freeze for up to a month.

Note: If you're averse to spicy foods, you can omit the cayenne pepper. However, I wouldn't.

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