December 19, 2011
Tyler Florence has been one of my favourite chefs for many years. His energy and passion for cooking are contagious and inspiring. I love that he keeps things simple and shares great tips that can really make the difference between "good" and "fabulous". This recipe for fettuccine with spicy tomato sauce is the ultimate comfort food. Tyler takes a basic tomato sauce and gives it a delicious Mediterranean twist by adding olives and chilis. Olives infuse this garlic-basil sauce with their rich, deep, salty aroma and chilis add some heat to it (hence the name "diablo" = devil). I became so fond of Kalamata olives after making this recipe. These large, deep purple, fleshy olives impart their tangy, fruity flavour to this dish and the vibrant purple colour makes it all the more appetizing. Watch first-hand how Tyler Florence prepares this mouthwatering Italian recipe and pay attention to his tips.
December 13, 2011
Quesadillas are famous Mexican appetizers or snacks (the name comes from the Spanish queso, which means cheese). A flour or corn tortilla is stuffed with a cheese filling, folded in half and grilled or fried until the cheese has melted. To save time, I prefer to use two tortillas to make a large quesadilla and then cut it in six pieces.
Quesadillas are usually served with guacamole and sour cream (Elaina Love has a fabulous recipe for raw vegan sour cream). They are very easy to make and you can add anything you like, vegetables, beans, vegan sausages, tomato salsa, herbs, spices etc. It is also a great way to use up leftovers. As long as you add cheese, any combination you make will turn out delicious :)
December 11, 2011
Certain foods I like turn into temporary obsessions; I crave and eat them often until I just can't have any more, then I go for long periods of time without them. The same thing happened with these banana muffins. They are delightfully aromatic and fluffy when warm and I couldn't possibly have them without walnuts. The muffins are equally delicious eaten cold, they're even crunchier this way, and keep well for a couple of days in an airtight container.
December 09, 2011
When you search for popular desserts, you almost invariably come accross David Lebovitz's blog. I can't remember what I was looking for when I found it, but it happened when I was planning mine. His post about food blogging, the advice, comments, links and policies on his blog, as well as his articles on Food Blog Alliance provide invaluable information for any aspiring (and established) food blogger. His funny, witty stories are captivating and, even though he is not vegan, his recipes and cooking techniques are a great source of inspiration.
December 08, 2011
Cake is a generic term for many types of desserts. In Romania we have two distinct categories, prajitura and tort, but both are translated in English as cake. A tort is mostly made on special occasions, like birthdays, Easter, Christmas, New Year and is very beautifully decorated. A prajitura, on the other hand, can be made all year round and cut into different shapes, while a tort is only sliced. Prajitura is for tort what appetizer is for main course; on special occasions you can't have a tort without at least one type of prajitura.
December 07, 2011
Bring summer back with this delicious and highly nutritious green salad. It is extremely beneficial for the overall health, an energy booster and a nutrient powerhouse. This combination of flavours and textures is the ultimate delight for the palate: crunchy, creamy, sweet, peppery, smoky and juicy.
This salad is particularly rich in vitamin C, folate, potassium, beta-carotene, iron, calcium, lycopene and lutein, and is low in sodium (see notes below for more details). It has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, cleansing and detoxifying properties. Thanks to the calories in avocado, it helps reduce the appetite, thus preventing overeating and helping with weight control.
December 06, 2011
Silken tofu is the wonder ingredient in most vegan chocolate mousse cakes, tarts and pies, cheesecakes, puddings, custards, triffles, even ice creams. Certain factors make it almost irreplaceable in these desserts:
- it has a creamy, silky texture;
- it makes a great egg and whipped cream replacer;
- it sets very well in the fridge;
- having a neutral flavour, it absorbs the flavour of anything it combines with, leaving no vegetable aftertaste;
- it is ready made and requires only a quick blend.
Tofu makes the cake preparation so easy, it almost feels like you're cheating. In the interest of stimulating my creativity further, I've decided to try and replace it in future similar desserts. Now, you may well be aware of the endless soy debate, but this post isn't about promoting it, it is rather about sharing a truly amazing cake recipe.
December 05, 2011
Frittata is a traditional rustic Italian omelette, very easy to prepare and typically made by mixing eggs with leftovers from the day before and either frying or baking it in a skillet until firm (the name comes from fritto = fried). The Spanish tortilla is very similar, but it generally contains only potatoes and onions. Both omelettes are staple dishes in home cooking, although there are many restaurants that offer them.
December 01, 2011
It took me years to understand the difference between pancakes and crêpes, partly because ages ago when I started to use the internet finding recipes or translators was hard. In Romania we typically make crêpes, but for some reason their name "clatita" (crêpe) is translated as pancake, hence the confusion. Even now we still don't have different words for them, so, to make the distinction, we call a pancake "American clatita". Come to think of it, we also don't have a word for muffins and cupcakes. We call them "madlene" (madeleines), even though they're quite different.
November 29, 2011
Just when I thought my Cheesecake Brownie couldn't get any better, I found out it actually can. The addition of homemade raspberry preserve makes this dessert an instant winner. With fresh raspberries available all year round, there's really no need to wait for summer, although, of course, raspberries are best when in season. To make this cake, just follow my previous recipe, but use a full tub of cream cheese and omit the hazelnuts and coffee. Reserve 1/2 cup brownie mix and drop teaspoonfuls of batter and preserve all over the cheesecake layer, then create the swirls.
November 27, 2011
Cheesecake and Brownie, who would have thought? Two of the most famous desserts in one fascinating combination. Luckily, making a vegan version is simple enough and the result...heavenly. I'd already made a cheesecake which came out great, so all I needed was the brownie to go with it. I found a great eggless brownie recipe on Chow Times and adapted it to make it richer and more fudge-like. Not all the recipes I try come out perfectly in the first attempt, but with this one everything was just right.
November 19, 2011
One of the most rewarding experiences I had during my two and a half years in Dubai was Ramadan. Fasting with my Muslim friends from sunrise till sunset, breaking the fast together, inviting each other out for Iftar and enjoying authentic Arabic buffet at Egyptian or Lebanese restaurants are memories very dear to me, especially since this is the fourth year away from them during the holy month. This post is dedicated to them.
November 17, 2011
Some of my earliest memories are connected to old Indian movies - dramatic, tear-jerking stories of love and family, tradition and culture, and happiness celebrated through music and dance. It wasn't until 1998 that I discovered the magical world of spices and the endless flavours that make Indian cuisine unique.
Indian sweets rely on semolina, besan, vermicelli, rice, carrots, mangoes, pistachios, almonds and dairy to deliver unique tastes and textures and are commonly flavoured with rose water, saffron and cardamom. Not many fruits are found in typical Indian desserts and among them mango is the most extensively used. It gives each dish a gorgeous yellow/orange colour and a deep fruity taste. Before finding this recipe on RedChillies I'd only had mango in the form of smoothies and juices. A quick scan of the ingredients and I was immediately hooked: semolina - one of the best things ever created.
November 15, 2011
I rarely make recipes without having some sort of idea how they will turn out. When I stumbled upon Happy Herbivore's recipe I was intrigued. BEANS??? The brownie pictures looked so good, I just had to make some myself. These brownies are a surprise for anyone who tries and finds absolutely no vegetable taste in them. For me the surprise was triple: I'd never had beans in my sweets and I'd never eaten black beans or rolled/instant oats before. More reasons to look forward to making these goodies.
November 13, 2011
Thirteen years ago I was introduced to the magical world of spices and I've been using them in my cooking ever since, not only in Indian dishes, but also in Romanian ones to add extra flavour. It's funny how, in spite of my weakness for desserts, I've only tried a few types of Indian sweets, like gulab jamun, ras malai, gajar ka halwa, sooji ka halwa and burfi. I've watched dozens of Hindi movies and craved the famous laddoos every time I saw them shown at weddings or festivals, I've also read a lot of recipes, but somehow I always got discouraged to make them due to their high sugar content.
November 12, 2011
Mille-feuille (thousand sheets), also known as Napoleon, is a classic French dessert made up of alternating layers of puff pastry and pastry cream, with a black & white pattern icing. Although it is ready in just a few easy steps, making the cream from scratch and creating the icing pattern can be daunting for someone who's never done this before.
November 05, 2011
Have you ever baked something that smelled so good you'd literally count the minutes until it was out of the oven? Then you'd quickly pass it from one hand to the other not to burn your fingers and blow into it to cool it down faster so you can finally take a bite? These citrus muffins are that good!
November 02, 2011
Stuffed peppers used to be one of my favourite dishes when I was back home. In over two years of veganism I made so many new favourites, I almost forgot the old ones. When I got tired of spaghetti bolognese, I wondered what else I could do with soy mince...and I remembered.
This is a popular dish in many countries, with different names and stuffings. It is great with vegan yogurt, sour cream, cheese, or pickled vegetables. If you'd rather not use soy in this recipe, you can opt for seitan or mushrooms. However you make them, I know you'll love these hearty, delicious stuffed peppers. Just try them.
October 30, 2011
I'm not much of a tea drinker, but I've had a few favourites along the way. Back in Romania I used to love a hot cup of chamomile or lime flower tea with sugar and lemon. When I moved to Dubai I fell in love with chai karak (black tea with milk, sugar and cardamom) and when I came to London my preference shifted towards green tea with mint and lemon.
October 27, 2011
Last year the Facebook vegan group I'm in held a weekly cooking challenge that was so much fun. The aim was to veganize popular international dishes and share the recipes. That's how I came to know about jalapeño poppers, these fabulous appetizers that are hot, crunchy and filled with melted cheese.
October 24, 2011
Here's another quick-n-easy recipe, this time for the cinnamon lovers. This cake is so delicious, moist and full of flavour, it's perfect for a Christmas gift. I love to sit in the kitchen while it bakes and breath in that amazing aroma. Did you know that smelling cinnamon helps improve your brain function and memory? I didn't. And do you know what "true cinnamon" is? You can read my notes on Carrot Cake to find out more about it and its many health benefits.
October 20, 2011
Everybody loves cheesecakes. Given their reputation, I tried a slice years ago and, sadly, it made no good impression on me. It was stale and too sweet, as I remember. I had no interest in giving it another try afterwards...until I became vegan and started baking heavily. Not having much to compare with, it wasn't easy finding a good vegan recipe, especially since there weren't many available last year. Jolinda Hackett's tofu cheesecake recipe on About.com seemed perfect and I went with it.
October 15, 2011
Every time I watch Elaina Love (Pure Joy Planet), Chaya Ryvka (Living Vision) or Ka Sundance (Raw Food Family Life) I am intrigued and tempted to go raw myself. Raw food comes with all nutrients and flavours unaltered by cooking or processing, while retaining its natural moisture and enzymes required for digestion. Due to its nutritious, healing and preventive qualities, it is as beneficial for the mind and spirit as it is for the body, keeping you healthy, energetic and focused. At the same time, raw food has a minimal impact on the environment. It provides vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals that the body uses to detoxify and fight off the free radicals. Cooked/processed food is more acid-forming and provides the proper environment for diseases to develop. On the other hand, raw food helps restore the acid/alkaline balance the body needs for optimal health.
October 08, 2011
I'm not a big fan of soups, but I can't say "no" to a creamy vegetable one. A couple of years ago I was hooked on Food Network, browsing their impressive database all day long in search of sensational recipes and spending hours watching some of my favourite chefs in action. After watching Angie Ketterman's Hearty Corn Chowder video, I knew the vegan version would be amazing. Since I didn't have any white potato left, I used sweet potato instead. I loved the addition of chili, lemon juice and cilantro to this recipe to balance the sweetness of the vegetables and give it a little kick. To make it more like a stew, I included leek in this recipe.
October 06, 2011
Who doesn't like the idea of mouth-watering desserts that are quick-n-easy to make and packed with nutrients? This tart takes no more than 15 minutes to prepare, is light and delicious, and has many health benefits (see notes below). What I also like about it is that it's so versatile. You can replace walnuts with pecans or almonds, blackberries with your favourite fruit, add other ingredients to suit your taste and decorate to your liking.
October 04, 2011
I must have been 14 or 15 when I had my first attempt at making crêpes. In fact, that was the first time I ever tried to make a dessert without guidance. I didn't have a proper recipe then, so you can imagine the disaster. Making vegan crêpes can be daunting for many. I find it even easier to make them vegan and, after many years of practice, I don't even need to measure the ingredients anymore.
September 26, 2011
Ajvar [aye-var] is a savoury relish made from roasted red peppers, eggplant, garlic and chili peppers. Onions, string beans, vinegar, lemon and even tomatoes are sometimes added for extra flavour. Thought to originate in the Serbian cuisine, ajvar is a popular speciality throughout the Balkans, with each country and household having its own variation. We have a similar relish in Romania called zacusca; but while zacusca is dominated by eggplant, ajvar gets its unique flavour from the red peppers.
September 08, 2011
It wasn't hard to pick the recipe for my first post, since carrot cake is by far my favourite. Almost every time I made it I had half myself (in one day). Why do I like it so much? It's got the 4 most important qualities I look for in a dessert: it's sweet (in a delicate way), crunchy, moist and the flavours are perfectly balanced. Those of you who are familiar with this classic cake might be surprised to see chocolate ganache instead of a thick layer of cream cheese frosting. That's because I don't like buttery frosting at all. It's too sticky and sweet to be able to enjoy the true flavour of the cake. I find that chocolate ganache matches it perfectly. Add to that a little bit of lemon or orange drizzle and you're in cake heaven.