Friday, August 30, 2013

Dairy-free, Gluten-free Almond Joy Bars

A few weeks ago I had my friend Amanda Berry over to make vegan lime coconut cupcakes.  I ended up having A LOT of extra unsweetened coconut, so I've been looking for fun ways to use it.  It was then that I rediscovered this recipe for vegan coconut crack bars.  I picked up some agave and set myself to work.  However, when I made them I forgot to add the salt, so the flavor came out a bit "off." Undeterred and unwilling to retreat, I turned to one of my late night sweet tooth short cuts: mixing cocoa powder with some coconut oil and agave nectar.  I spread on my chocolate, popped them back in the freezer and well...judge for yourself: 

Vegan Almond Joy Bars

1 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons agave nectar or maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 teaspoon agave nectar

In a food processor or personal blender, shred coconut.  Add coconut oil, agave, vanilla, and salt and blend to combine.  

Press mixture into a small tupperware (I used a 24-ounce container) and place in the freezer for 20 minutes.

To make the chocolate, combine ingredients in a small bowl and spread over top of the coconut mixture.  Cut into squares.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Coconut Oil and Sugar Face Scrub

A facial scrub may seem like an out-of-place subject for a food blog.  But it's made out of food so that still fits the rules, correct?

At any rate, I discovered this facial scrub a few years ago and I thought I needed to share.

Growing up, I never had a problem with dry skin.  But one semester in college took a stage makeup class while also starring as the Rabbi in Angels in America, which forced me to load massive amounts of liquid latex onto my face every day for weeks.  My skin has never really forgiven me for this assault, and every winter since I have been afflicted with horrible dryness. (That month canvassing outside last January probably didn't help).

Over the years I tried several strategies to alleviate it, from vaseline to cocoa butter sticks.  I found relieve from certain Aveda lotions, but those became pricey.

My last year of grad school I acquired two different books that detailed homemade body care and household remedies.  While many of them required prohibitively obscure and expensive ingredients
(who has grapefruit essential oil around?) they sparked my imagination and sent me to the internet to find remedies with ingredients I already had. My first success was an olive oil, lemon, sea salt scrub.  But then I acquired a jar of coconut oil for a vegan cheesecake recipe and I was sold.

So here it is--so easy it's ridiculous.

Coconut Oil Sugar Scrub

1 tablespoon of virgin coconut oil (Trader Joe's sells it for $5.99)
1 tablespoon organic sugar (I usually use white, but some also advocate brown)

Mix ingredients in a small bowl with a fork or popsicle stick.  After washing makeup off face, apply thin layer of scrub.  Leave on for a few minutes.  Rinse off.  Enjoy your soft, silky skin.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Moroccan Couscous Stew with Soy Chorizo

Every cook--particularly a vegetarian one--needs to have a couple of go-to recipes, dishes that you keep in your back pocket that look amazing and require minimal effort or extra ingredients.    Moroccan couscous stew has been one of those dishes for some time now. It's quick, easy, and the best part is you can use whatever vegetables you have on hand.  What distinguishes it from the usual vegetable soup is the spices--the cinnamon and cumin really give it that North African flair. In my stew, I like to use some fresh orange juice and zest, a tip I gleaned from an online recipe about a year ago.  And the soy chorizo is by no means necessary; I happened to have some lying around and wanted to find a use other than chili to use it up. 

Interesting fact: so in the US, when we think of couscous, what usually comes to mind is the tiny pasta.  When I was living in France, where Algerian and Moroccan food is extremely popular, "couscous" specifically referred to the pasta topped with the stew.  Without the stew, people simply referred to it is "semoule" (semolina, the flour used to make it). 

And now, the recipe.  Like most of my recipes, measurements are eyeballed.  The idea is to get your mind started.

Moroccan Couscous Stew With Soy Chorizo

1 cup couscous, dry
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup carrots, diced
1/2 cup diced potato or butternut squash (optional)
1 tomato, diced
3 cups water or broth
1/4 cup any of the following: frozen peas, zucchini, squash or anything else you have lying around
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 orange, diced
1/2 cup chickpeas
1/4 cup soy chorizo
cinnamon, cumin, nutmeg, paprika, turmeric, salt and pepper to taste

Cook couscous according to package instructions.  Set aside.

Heat oil in pan.  Add onion, garlic, carrots, and turmeric.  If using potato or butternut squash, you can add those at this time as well.  Cook until tender.  Add tomatoes and saute another few minutes.

Add water or broth.  Next, add veggies, orange zest, diced orange, chickpeas and soy chorizo.  Add spices to taste.  Simmer for 15-20 minutes or until flavors are adequately melded.  Serve over couscous. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Vegan Sweet Potato Peanut Butter Bisque

I'm back, veggies!  Sorry for the long absence.  Been kind of a crazy couple of years.  But now I have a working computer and an apartment I've been able to nest in, I finally have the mental space to devote to food blogging again.

If you followed before, you'll notice some changes around here.  Namely, a new title. I absolutely hate creating titles, and I've long felt that "Color Me Veggie" was corny and generic.  "Sometimes a Vegan" better describes how I identify with the culinary world.  As many of you know, my parents are vegan, and while I very much enjoy cheese and eggs, I don't consider them integral parts of my diet.  I still buy almond milk and make a mean cashew cheesecake.

Today's sweet potato peanut butter bisque was inspired by a soup created by Ely Pugh at the Flaming Ice Cube in Youngstown, OH.  Like many of Ely's soups the combination may seem odd--mushroom almond and mushroom pistachio are others--but when I used to order it in high school it was quite magical.

I got the idea to make my own a few days ago when I realized I only had one sweet potato left.  Because of my crazy work schedule, it was difficult to set aside the necessary time to steam it (I currently lack a microwave).  But last night I finally had time off, so I set to work.

Because I never knew what was in the original soup, I improvised with what I had.  While the potato was steaming, I sauteed some onions and garlic.  Once the potato was soft, I blended the potato and onions and garlic in my personal blender with some water (if I had been thinking about it, I would have also mixed in the peanut butter at this stage as well).

Next, I transferred the blended mixture into a small saucepan and added spices.  The rich orange color made me think of the approaching fall, and I thought it appropriate to add nutmeg, cinnamon, and cumin (along with salt and pepper).  I also ground a little bit of the Trader Joe's Everyday Seasoning to give it a little something something.  Next, I added enough water to give it a soup-like consistency.

And then I ate it.  And my god was it good.  Like really effing good.  I mean look at it.

After getting about 20 likes on Facebook, I decided to share it.

Sweet Potato Peanut Butter Bisque for One.
(Inspired by Ely Pugh)

Serves 1.  Can totally be expanded to accommodate more.

1 large sweet potato, cut into chunks (if not organic, peeled)
1/4 cup onion, diced
2 cloves garlic
olive oil for sautéing
2 heaping tablespoons of peanut butter (I used Trader Joe's chunky salted)
1 tablespoon of water, followed by 1 cup.
salt, pepper, cumin, nutmeg, cinnamon to taste

Steam the sweet potato.  While the potato is steaming, heat the oil in a pan and saute the onions and garlic until soft.  Put potato, onions, garlic and peanut butter into blender with the tablespoon of water.  Blend until ingredients are combined.

Transfer to a small saucepan.  Add 1 cup of water--or until the soup reaches desired consistency.  As the mixture heats, add spices to taste.

Garnish with fresh herbs for serving.