Saturday, December 18, 2010

Incredible Shrinking Greens

Given the frequency with which I prepare greens, you'd think I'd be used to the shrinkage by now. But it never ceases to amaze me. What appears to be enough greens to feed an army (when raw) ends up being this tiny pile of tender yumminess. Just for fun I took a before and after picture of the turnip greens I made the other night:


And after:

Pretty amazing, right?

I used to be intimidated by greens. I didn't grow up with them (except for frozen spinach or spinach salad), and they just seemed unfamiliar. Plus, the first few tries often yielded a stringy, chewy mess. By asking questions over the years (as in, "how did you prepare these amazing greens?"), reviewing cookbooks, and trial and error, greens frighten me no longer. And it's a good thing because they're SO healthy and cheap and mild tasting.

When you're not following a recipe or not sure what to do with fresh greens, I recommend simmering about a cup of vegetable broth or water per pound of greens, then add the greens, mixing them around frequently (good tongs are a must!!). After a few minutes, taste them. Still too chewy? Cook some more. When they're good and tender, remove from heat. Then add them to another dish, like a tofu scramble, bean dish, grain dish, stir fry, whatever. Or just throw on your fave seasonings and serve as is. It's that easy.

The greens pictured here ultimately became smothered with garlic and black bean sauce, added to sauteed onions and veggie chicken strips, served over brown rice. The dinner took about 10 minutes to make (this time I used quick-cooking brown rice because I was in a hurry; I keep some in the pantry for such emergencies). I used pre-washed, pre-chopped Glory Greens, which are becoming easier and easier to find (they come in big orange bags in the produce section of the supermarket).

A few months ago I tasted the most incredible kale at a health food store in Morristown, NJ. I asked the cook how on Earth they got so amazing, and I was told that the kale was first steamed, then marinated all day long in the sauce. What a concept! I'm going to try that next.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Cute Holiday Nibbles

I admit I love pretty holiday food. Most of my meals are not all that gorgeous (well, they have "inner beauty," like last night's turnip greens with onions and tofu) so when it comes time for the holidays, serving up attractive food is ultra fun.

First is a recipe that may look familiar -- I can't seem to get enough of my bean salads, which I make every Sunday. I just vary the beans and veggies. Here's my Festive Holiday Bean Salad! Fortunately there are a ton of green and red veggies out there so this is a no brainer.

Festive Holiday Bean Salad
  • 2 15-oz cans cannelini (white kidney) beans, rinsed well in a colander and drained
  • 1/2 small red onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1 cup (packed) fresh parsley, washed well, rinsed, and chopped
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • sea salt to taste
  • white pepper to taste
  • cayenne pepper (optional)
Place all ingredients in a large bowl and toss gently. Serve as is, over a big bed of lettuce, or with a whole grain like whole wheat cous cous.

Xmas Tree Appetizers from Pillsbury

If you know me, you know that I indulge in some refined foods on occasion, and holidays are certainly no exception. I love serving both whole food dishes (based on veggies and whole grains and beans), AND refined things that say, "Yes, I really am vegan!"

Here is an idea I poached from I found out from reading December's VegNews Magazine that Pillsbury Crescent Rolls (yes, those ones that come in a can) are vegan. (I know, the packaging is atrocious and the preservatives are scary sounding) but I couldn't resist posting about this because it is so very cute. Of course, you can make your own bread dough and do the same thing.

For this recipe, just substitute vegan sour cream and vegan cream cheese for the dairy versions.

Tree-Shaped Crescent Veggie Appetizers

Veggie trays, move over! This colorful tree-shaped appetizer will add an interesting twist to your appetizer buffet.

Prep Time: 30 Min
Total Time: 1 Hr 15 Min
Makes: 32

  • 2 cans (8 oz each) Pillsbury® refrigerated crescent dinner rolls or 2 cans (8 oz each) Pillsbury® Crescent Recipe Creations® refrigerated seamless dough sheet
  • 1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill weed
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3 cups finely chopped assorted vegetables (bell peppers, broccoli, carrot, cucumber and/or green onions)


Heat oven to 375°F. Remove dough from cans in rolled sections; do not unroll. Cut each section into 8 slices (16 slices from each can).

Place slices, cut side down, on ungreased cookie sheets to form trees. To form each tree, start by placing 1 slice for top; arrange 2 slices just below, with sides touching. Continue arranging row of 3 slices, then row of 4 slices, ending with row of 5 slices. Use remaining slice for trunk. Refrigerate one tree while the other bakes.

Bake one tree 11 to 13 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 1 minute; carefully loosen with pancake turner and slide onto cooling rack to cool. Bake and cool second tree.

Place each tree on serving platter. In small bowl, mix cream cheese, sour cream, dill and garlic powder; blend until smooth. Spread mixture over both trees. Decorate trees with assorted vegetable pieces. Refrigerate until serving time. To serve, pull apart slices of tree.

High Altitude (3500-6500 ft):
Bake 13 to 15 minutes.

I love this one -- it's already vegan, and they're so pretty and festive. Plus who doesn't like chocolate and mint together?

Peppermint Patties from FamilyFun Magazine

These are the addictive classics, with a snappy, minty middle and a luscious chocolate coating. Packaged prettily, they make perfect gifts. Be sure to whip up a test batch for yourself just to make sure they're really, really good.


  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon water
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1 (1-pound) box confectioners' sugar (3-3/4 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon shortening
  • 10 to 12 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 6 hard mint candies (we used Starlight), crushed in a ziplock bag with a rolling pin

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, stir together the water, corn syrup, lemon juice, and peppermint extract, then sift in half the confectioners' sugar. Add the shortening. Beat on medium, then slowly sift in the remaining confectioners' sugar until the mixture is well combined.

2. Knead the mixture into a ball (it will be very stiff; if necessary, add 1/2 teaspoon water to make it workable). Use the bottom of a glass pie plate to apply firm, even pressure to flatten the ball between sheets of waxed paper into a circle about 9 inches in diameter and 1/4 inch thick. Lay the waxed-paper-covered disk on a cookie sheet and freeze it until it's firm, about 15 minutes.

3. Place the frozen disk on a cutting surface and remove and reserve the waxed paper. Cover a cookie sheet with parchment. With a small round cutter (ours was 1-1/4 inches), cut out circles from the disk, then place them on the cookie sheet. Gather the scraps into a ball, use the pie plate and waxed paper to flatten it again, and cut more circles until the entire disk is used up. Freeze the circles for 10 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler over barely simmering water. Coat the patties one at a time: balance each on a fork and dip it (use another fork as needed to flip the patty in the chocolate), then shake off any excess chocolate before returning the coated patty to the parchment. Sprinkle each patty with a bit of crushed mint candy. Add more chocolate to the double boiler as necessary until all the patties are coated.

5. Harden the finished patties in the refrigerator for at least an hour, and preferably overnight. Store them in an airtight container in the fridge, layered between sheets of waxed paper, for up to one month. Include tags with your gifts instructing recipients to keep the patties refrigerated.

Makes 5 dozen.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Vegan Latkes Shortcut!

Happy Hannukah, to those who celebrated! Most years, I make vegan latkes (potato pancakes) from scratch. Not an easy task. Last year, I quadrupled a recipe, and for days I couldn't get the onion odor off my hands. Not to mention the oil splatters off the wall. I was in my first trimester at the time so it was really quite horrible. This year, with a newborn and a bunch of other things going on, making latkes was out of the question. But I still wanted to serve this festive food.

So I cheated. I found frozen vegan hashbrowns at Trader Joes, and called them latkes. You can fry them, bake them, nuke them... you really can't mess them up. They are insanely good and Ben loved them (he asked for them every night, and even had one for breakfast this morning!) He never had hashbrowns before so it's kind of funny to hear him go on and on about how much he loves these "latkes." He had 'em with ketchup, with applesauce, with vegan sour cream... any way worked for him!

Since these aren't exactly healthful, I don't plan on buying them regularly. But that's OK -- when they're gone, we can say that we'll get latkes again for Hannukah next year.