Saturday, November 2, 2013

Ingredient Of The Week {TJ's Coffee Concentrate}

Disclaimer:  I do not profess to be a coffee connoisseur.  I'm the kind of person who likes a little coffee with their sugar/milk.

The winner of "Ingredient of the Week" is.... (drumroll, please)....Trader Joe's Cold-Brewed Coffee Concentrate!  Say that 3 times fast.  Need help?  Drink some of this caffeine elixir pronto.

I don't drink coffee everyday but do need the pick-me-up from time to time.  I mean, I don't even own a coffee maker!  What's awesome about this product is that it lasts forever.  It keeps for up to 30 days in the fridge and I found it to be an excellent ingredient to have on hand and it's so easy to just pull out of the fridge and not have to brew a cup of coffee.  It's also a steal at $7.99.  I mean, I would have spent $7.99 going to Starbucks twice. Here are some of the delightful coffee treats I made with my coffee concentrate:

*Morning Mocha Smoothie:  Soymilk or almond milk, frozen banana slices, cocoa powder, coffee concentrate.  Um, yes.  This was a breakfast of champions.  Silky, chocolaty and with that hint of coffee.  Additional perk--this breakfast smoothie really gave me a boost.  I kept wondering why I was getting so much done in the mornings!

*Pumpkin Spice Latte:  Soymilk or almond milk, pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, maple syrup, coffee concentrate.  Ah yes, the PSL.  While I love me a good Starbucks treat, once I looked at the calorie count (yikes!) and the fact that the pumpkin spice base has dairy, I knew I needed to have a good home-made option.  The coffee concentrate saved the day!

*Iced Vanilla Coffee:  Soymilk or almond milk, coffee concentrate, vanilla bean paste, maple syrup.  Mix it up and pour over ice.  It's especially awesome when served in a mason jar.  I have a mason jar obsession.

What are some of your favorite homemade coffee beverages?  Any advice on a coffee maker for this individual who says she doesn't drink coffee but actually does?


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Vegan Pumpkin Custard with Pecan Streusel

Pumpkin pie is one of my favorite elements of Autumn.  Hands down.  It is spicy and sweet and makes me feel that all is right in the world.  I particularly love the day after Thanksgiving when I eat a big piece of pumpkin pie for breakfast (lest I have some sort of calorie deprivation).  Try it!  You won't be sorry.

I wanted to try making a healthy pumpkin pie--vegan and plant-based style.  So here we go!

This recipe is simple.  And I've taken the crust out of the equation (fewer calories and less fuss) so no rolling pin required!

The base of this pumpkin deliciousness is a can of pumpkin and a box of tofu.  I like to use Mori-Nu Lite Firm Silken tofu.  (I get mine from Whole Foods, Sprouts or online at Vitacost).  And how handy that I still have a zillion cans of pumpkin left to use up!

I am ALL about crumbly oat/nut toppings for desserts.  Remember our peach crisp with cashew topping? This is in the same family but I used almond butter to bring everything together.  The almonds were a lovely compliment to the spicy pumpkin notes (how's that for some fancy pants cooking lingo!)

I feel that there is a whole world of crisps/custards/pies to be discovered with this new streusel technique--no butter or oil required!  Guilt-free desserts?  Bring it on.

Hi there crumbly yummy topping!
Pumpkin = Awesomeness

And because good recipes can't help but benefit from musical accompaniment, here's one for today. Bluegrass/folk/celtic music always strikes a chord with me (no pun intended).  Just give me some banjo, fiddle, mandolin and I'll be a happy camper.  End of story.

Vegan Pumpkin Custard with Pecan Streusel
*Serves 8
*Prep time: 10 minutes
*Cooking time: 60 minutes
*Kitchen gear required:  Mixing bowls, spoon, pie plate

1 15-oz can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix...just regular 'ole pumpkin)
1 pkg Lite Firm Silken Tofu (12.3 oz), drained
1-1/2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. ginger
1/4 t. cloves
1/4 t. ground nutmeg
1/4 maple syrup
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 t. salt
3/4 t. vanilla extract
1/4 cup chopped pecans
2 T. almond butter
1/4 cup oats
1/4 t. salt
1/2 t. cinnamon

Ready, set, go!
1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.   Drain tofu, combine with all other custard ingredients and mix with electric mixer for 3 minutes until smooth (there will still be some flecks of tofu but that's ok!)
2.  Pour into pie plate and bake for 45 minutes.
3.  While pie is baking, combine pecans, oats, salt and cinnamon in small bowl.
4.  Add almond butter and using clean hands mash up until everything is combined and lovely.
5.  After pie has baked for 45 minutes, add streusel topping and bake for additional 15 minutes.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

What I've Been Up To Lately...

I'm editing some pics of some yummy and healthy recipes...stay tuned!  For now, here's a little documentary of my days via my handy dandy camera phone.

I'm obsessed with cranberries, almonds and pears in my salad.
Homemade apple cider vinaigrette helps make the world go round.
Yep, I ate this whole thing all by myself .  I heart leafy greens.
Getting back in the game.
It's a journey.  You get back up when you fall down.
Kind of like life.  There I go being all philosophical again!
Treadmill vs. outside?  Hmm, tough call.
Hi there lil' punkin!

Not too shabby!

I've said it before but it bears repeating.  I LOVE FALL!  Although the amount of pumpkiny goodness at Trader Joe's might be getting a little out of hand.  Not that I'm complaining (although my wallet is).


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Baked Onion Rings

I'll be honest, it's hard to beat a basket of crispy, hot, greasy onion rings.  However, in a quest for less fatty, less greasy, less bad-for-you-ness, I thought I'd try my hand at baking onion rings.

This is a recipe that has multiple variations and possibilities but let me show you how this one went down:

I had a 1/4 of a box of Rosemary & Olive Oil Triscuits that were needing to be used.  What better way to pour the pieces and crumbs into a bowl and coat some sweet onion slices and make onion rings!

But we need something to make the crumbs stick...enter veggie broth.  (note, I think this could work with non-dairy milk too but I only had vanilla almond milk and that combo with the 
rosemary triscuit crumbs seemed super gross so the default was the veggie broth).

Now, a caveat--these are not like battered onion rings.  They are not totally coated in crumbs
and yes, some of the crumbs will fall off the onion rings.  But yes, they are still delicious!

Parchment-lined baking sheet is a lifesaver here.  Remind me to buy stock in parchment paper 
(right after I buy stock in Trader Joe's and Whole Foods!  Sigh.  
How I love grocery shopping...seriously!  I'm not being sarcastic!).

Here are the onion rings all golden and baked and slightly crispy and oh-so-oniony and good.

Just what the doctor ordered when an onion ring craving hits!

Baked Onion Rings
*Serves 2
*Prep time: 10 minutes
*Cooking time: 35 minutes

1 large sweet onion, sliced into rings
1/2 cup cracker crumbs (use up the crumbs in the bottom of the cracker box!  A flavored cracker is perfect)
1/2 cup vegetable broth
Salt & pepper (optional if using a salted, flavored cracker)

Ready, set, go!
1.  Peel and slice the onion.
2.  Pour vegetable broth in a bowel and dunk an onion ring slice
3.  Put crackers in food processor and process until they become crumbs, place crumbs on plate.
4.  Dredge onion ring in cracker crumbs
5.  Place on parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden-brown.
6.  Dunk in ketchup and enjoy!


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Roasted Rosemary Garlic Potatoes

It's high time I turned the oven on and starting roasting things.  Roasting brings out so much flavor to otherwise simple, plain ingredients.  For example--there is nothing like the fragrance of garlicky, herby potatoes roasting in the oven.  Of course the day I chose to test my roasting recipes was the day the hot Santa Ana winds decided to blow and we had a last hurrah of summer weather.  Oven @ 400 degrees + hot temps outside = cranky cook.  But it was worth the sacrifice, my friends, because now I have a lot of roasty toasty recipes to share!

I love that the word roasting can be used in so many ways grammatically.

1.  It was a roasting October afternoon when I decided to turn on the oven and heat my apartment up to a frightening temperature.
2.  Roasting potatoes makes them golden brown and crispy and delicious.
3.  You can use a roasting pan for these potatoes but a backing sheet will do just fine.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch....sorry to digress into grammatical uses of the word roasting.  
I took a wee bit of a nap today so am totally wired despite it being an hour past my usual bedtime.

Potatoes are an inexpensive, filling, wondrous ingredient.  So versatile and can be used in a zillion different ways.  My local market sells organic potatoes for a reasonable price (a rarity I've found) which are totally great because you can just give them a good scrub and leave the nutritious skin on.  The potatoes I used were organic but were a bit old and had eyes growing on them which kind of weirds me out and so I peeled them.  I used some fresh rosemary and thyme from my herb box I planted this summer (which I have not managed to kill yet, wonder of wonders).  Can I just take a moment to say that fresh herbs in a recipe like this really do make a difference.  Planting an herb box is a great way to have fresh herbs at your fingertips.

Garlic is a necessity, of course, in this recipe.  Salt and pepper too.  I did use a teensy drizzle of olive oil but because I was debating whether or not I was going to, I did not include it in this picture.

Throw all the ingredients in a gallon Ziploc bag so you can shake, rattle and roll these little potatoes in all the garlicky, herbaceous goodness.  Way less mess than mixing in a bowl.

Spread on a parchment-lined baking sheet for easy cleanup.  Parchment, how I love thee.

Roast until they get all golden and delicious.  Oh the aroma.  Simply intoxicating and invigorating.

These are great as a snack, a dinner side dish, eat 'em for breakfast, lunch or dinner!

Roasted Rosemary Garlic Potatoes
*Serves 4 as a side dish or 2 as a main dish
*Prep time: 10 minutes
*Cooking time:  50-60 minutes
*Kitchen gear required: cutting board, knife, gallon Ziploc bag, baking sheet, parchment paper, spatula

4 cups chopped potatoes (peeled or just scrubbed really well)
1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. olive oil

Ready, set, go!
1.  Preheat over to 400 degrees.
2.  Peel and chop potatoes, mince garlic and chop up fresh herbs.
3..  Throw everything in the Ziploc bag and add the olive oil.  Seal bag and shake all ingredients together.
4.  Spread potatoes on parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 35 minutes.  Use a spatula to turn the potatoes over and then cook for another 25 to 30 minutes at 450 degrees or until potatoes are tender and golden brown.
5.  Enjoy!

*Note, all ovens are not created equal and turning your oven to 450 degrees may result in charred potatoes.  Just keep an eye on them.  We're aiming for golden-brown here.  Not lumps of coal.


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Whole Foods Thursday

I love Thursdays.  Not just because it means that tomorrow is Friday and then it's the weekend! 

I love Thursdays because my local Whole Foods has their $5 salad box deal 
and a free plant-strong cooking class.  Sweet!

I mean, I can't even make all these salads for $5.

Today I got a delightful black barley Greek salad, some kale salad, wasabi grilled asparagus, a garbanzo bean salad and a red quinoa salad with mango.  Totally plant-strong, vegan and delicous.

I came home and added some A-MAZ-ING avocado (it's called a Reed Avocado and they are seriously only in the store for a month.  They are so buttery!) and kalamata olives.  Dinner is served.  

I know Whole Foods gets a bad rap for being pricey--believe me, I know.  But check out to see what deals they offer during the week.  My Whole Foods also offers a whole pizza for $10 on Thursdays and they'll make a vegan one for you if you ask nicely.  

And since I am typing this blog post whilst in my pjs (which I promptly changed into once I got home from the aforementioned Whole Foods), I thought this quote was especially appropriate.  


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

{Vegan} Pumpkin Coconut Curry Soup

Friends!  Countrymen!  It's Fall, ya'll!  And that means pumpkin everything!  It's only October 1st and already I've had my first pumpkin spice lattes (note the plural there--who's counting?) and last night had my first 'lil piece of pumpkin pie.  Perfection.

Now let me tell you a little story about pumpkin.  Last year my local Sprouts Market had a sale on cans of organic pumpkin.  I mean, an amazing sale.  As in I couldn't pass up the chance to buy 2 dozen cans of pumpkin for a song.  Sooo....I've had cans of pumpkin in my pantry for quite some time and for some reason I just couldn't get up the nerve to make pumpkin pie in July, you know?  Something didn't seem quite right.

But now it's October and there's that slightly smoky smell in the air and a chill when I'm walking to my car in the mornings.  Perfect weather for pumpkin cookery.

I love velvety blended soups.  This is a twist on one of my favoritest soups in the whole wide world--butternut squash soup.  Except this one has a curry twist.

We start with some chopped up carrots and onions and garlic.  Pretty much a good starting point for any soup.

This concoction of smoky, spicy and fragrant spices is heavenly.  We've got cumin, coriander, cardamom, turmeric and red pepper

I used some fresh ginger but didn't take a picture of it.  Just take my word for's amazing in this soup. You don't feel like it's super spicy but once you swallow the silky pumpkin puree you get this cozy warmth from the ginger.

Some other players in our pumpkin drama--the canned pumpkin ("finally!" it says, "I'm getting to be in a recipe after sitting in the cupboard for a year!"), veggie broth and the secret weapon--light coconut milk. It provides the creaminess and richness our little hearts desire.

The veggies are sauteed and then sprinkled with our spice mixture and the whole soup pot just starts to glow.

Bust out the blender.  We're going to blend this soup up until it's silky smooth.

Cue the coconut milk.  Yes please!

Ooh la la!  The finished product!

Chock full of beta-carotene and potassium and totally vegan!

A slice of whole-grain toast joins the scene and is perfect for dunking in the golden soup.

Something about soup and mason jars just warms the soul.  Make soup and put it in a jar and give it to someone to show that you care!

{Vegan} Pumpkin Coconut Curry Soup
*Serves 4
*Prep time: 10 minutes
*Cook time: 25-30 minutes
*Kitchen gear required: cutting board, knife, large pot, blender

1 onion, chopped
1 cup carrots, peeled and chopped
1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups veggie broth
1 15-oz. can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix--that would be gross)
1 cup light coconut milk (I get mine at Trader Joe's)
1-2 Tbsp. maple syrup or honey (optional in case you want it a bit sweeter)
Spices (try getting your spices from the bulk section of a market like Sprouts, Whole Foods or Winco)
1 tsp.ground cumin
1/2 tsp. coriander
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. salt (more to taste if you want...I don't like mine super salty)
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Ready, set, go!
1.  Chop up the onions, carrots, garlic and ginger.  Heat a little veggie broth in a large pot and then throw in veggies and let them simmer and get soft--about 5 minutes--over medium heat.
2.  Add spices and let everything hang out for a minute or two.
3.  Add can of pumpkin and veggie broth and bring to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer for 25-30 minutes or until veggies are soft.
4.  Let soup cool for a bit before transferring to blender.
5.  Blend soup then add in coconut milk.
6.  Serve (you can transfer back to pot to heat it up a bit more or it's even better heated up the next day after all the spices have had a chance to meld).
7.  Enjoy with a slice of whole grain toast.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Grocery Staples List

I LOVE grocery shopping.  No, I'm serious!  I really do!  All those wonderful ingredients just stockpiled and so neatly arranged on shelves and crisp produce arranged so lovingly and misted so carefully by the misters (misters that do turn on every time I am trying to wrestle some spinach out of the pile).

Now, confession:  I am notorious for merrily going to the grocery store (sans grocery list) thinking I will remember what I need.

Ahem.  Usually, I end up less-than-merrily heading back to aforementioned grocery store to pick up the item I forgot.

I'll chalk it up to being busy (and scatter-brained if we are going to be honest) but honestly it is a WASTE.OF.TIME to not get everything you need on one visit.

I whipped up a handy, dandy Grocery Staples List to help me remember the things that I normally buy on any given week.  Now, lest you all swoon at the number of items on my list, keep an open mind and remember that if I buy a jug of maple syrup on week, I won't have to buy it the next week (or will I?  Cue maniacal syrupy laughter.  I am exceedingly partial to waffles after all).

Lemon poppy seed waffles being liberally doused with syrup.
I promise, we'll have waffle week here on AmiableKitchen in the very near future.
But, all kidding aside.  These are the things that really do shape my menus most weeks.  Sometimes I will need a special veggie or two or a jar of something special (mango chutney, for example) so I'll just jot that on my list.  And while we are having this heart-to-heart conversation about grocery stores and menus and the like, let's all pledge that we will read through any recipes ahead of time so we can make sure to buy the proper ingredients.  Otherwise, we are eating waffles for dinner (not that I mind).

If you stick with your Grocery Staples list, you will gradually be stocking your pantry with items that you'll use on a daily or weekly basis.

Example:  I cook something with a can of black beans at least 2 times a month.  So I always make sure to grab a can of black beans if my black bean stash is looking low.

Here's the list all purdy-fied and ready for you to print.  Get thee shopping (with a list, that is)!

Grocery Staples List


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Saturday Soundtrack

Happy Saturday!  It's the last day of summer--is anyone doing anything fun as a last hurrah?  I'm gearing up for a longish run, some errands and an afternoon of cooking and baking (sigh--how I've missed that over the last month).

Today's Saturday Soundtrack is a gem. I'm hard-pressed to think of a movie with more winning quotes than The Importance of Being Earnest.

Not only are the quotes delightful but there are numerous food references that make me smile:

"I'm so distressed, Aunt Augusta, about their not being any cucumber sandwiches, not even for ready money.  Argghhh."

"Bread and butter please, cake is hardly served in the best houses these days."

"How you can sit there eating muffins when we're in this terrible trouble, I can't make out! It seems to me to be perfectly heartless..."

"I can hardly eat muffins in an agitated manner. The butter would probably get on my cuffs."

And who can resist Rupert Everett and Colin Firth's duet?  The whole film just makes me smile.  Enjoy your Saturday!


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Well Hello There

Hello my friends (is anyone still out there?).  Thank goodness I'm typing this instead of talking.  Why do we pay to have holes drilled in our teeth? Can you tell I was at the dentist this afternoon?!.  My mouth is still numb and it's kind of hilarious.

The past month has taken me to three states, seven airports and been filled with the warm embraces of family and friends.  I had my first Pumpkin Slice Latte of the season (sigh--so delish).  To be honest my stove hadn't seen the light of day until yesterday but I'm home now and ready to start cooking.
Pumpkin Spice Latte time!
Why can I not figure out where to focus my eyes when taking a pic with my phone?
I think there has been an element of "Ok Autumn, let's get this show on the road. I'm ready to bake pumpkin bread and stews and light my cinnamon candles" in my thinking.  But I can feel a change in the air, albeit it ever so slight.

Autumn is just around the corner and I'm eagerly anticipating it in all its glory (well, as much glory as an even clime like Southern California can muster).

In the meantime, here's some good Oregon garden goodness to whet our appetites:

Lovely dewy leaves and fragrant blooms.

Last call for hydrangeas.  Need I say more?

Hi there 'lil cucumbers!

Harvesting grapes that taste like candy.
Yes, it was fairly early in the morning, hence my half-mast eyes.
Caffeine infusion needed pronto!

Yes, one can enjoy cherry tomatoes for breakfast.

Au Revoir. I've got some recipe loveliness brewing in my mind and recipe notebook.  Until then...much love.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things...

There are some tools in my kitchen that I would be loathe to part from (name that movie reference!).  Now, everyone is different and at various stages of kitchen gadget procurement.  But here are some of my favs.

Here's what I use on a regular basis:

Cuisinart Food Processor.  I got mine @ Macy's several years ago and I love it for making hummus and spreads and chopping or grating large quantities of veggies.  Oh, it also is awesome for making scones and other small baking tasks.  I don't have a stand mixer and honestly haven't felt I've needed one with this food processor.  Now a Vitamix?  That's a different story and I'm saving my pennies for one someday.

Microplane Zester.  Perfect for zesting citrus and grating nutmeg and garlic (please wash the tool in between those tasks, won't you?).  It's super easy to use and a very reasonably priced kitchen gadget.

Cutco Knives.  I know everyone has their preference and these are the only knives I've used in the last 6 years but I've been super impressed with them.  They are sharp as the dickens so do be careful!  Even if you can't afford to get a set of good knives, I'd encourage you to get at least one really good knife.  You'll find it will do wonders for your ingredient prep.  And they say that sharp knives are actually safer than dull ones. But still be careful!

Citrus Squeezer.  Perfect for lemons and limes.  I use this a ton.  It keeps the seeds from getting in your guacamole or lemonade and don't we all want that?  Plus it is such a cheery yellow one can't help but feel enthused while using it.

Polyflax Cutting Board.  This is such a wonderful-sized cutting board, fits in the dishwasher and has been a workhorse in my kitchen for many years.  

Garlic Press.  Perfect for when you don't want your hands smelling all garlicky from mincing up garlic.  I don't have this exact one.  I got mine from Crate and Barrel years ago but they don't sell it anymore.

Crate and Barrel Dishtowels.  Ok, confession time.  I absolutely ADORE C&Bs dishtowels.  When I'm in that neck of the woods I always stop to see if they have any on sale (they usually do--dangerous!).  These are not fluffy dishtowels but I love how quickly they dry and how durable they are--I've had one for 5 years and it's still colorful and serviceable.  This one with the apple pie recipe is so adorable (I don't have it but am sorely tempted).


What are some of your favorite kitchen tools/gadgets?