Dehydrated Goodies: Powdered Veggie Stock and Date-Nut Chewies

Merry Christmas!

December can be such a busy month! I’ve been juggling two jobs while squeezing in time for getting into the holiday spirit and getting my Christmas shopping done. This year I bought my gifts with a theme in mind: hand-made and local. I bought lots of gifts at Market Collective, which is a fun event in Calgary that hosts local artists selling their creations. I also decided to make a couple things in my dehydrator, and I’d like to share them with you today.

I got these recipes from a book called Dry It – You’ll Like it! by Gen Macmaniman. I received it for Christmas one year, and it is a great guide for drying fruits, veggies, and herbs, and includes instructions for building your own dehydrator.

Dehydrating is fun, and a great way to save produce that is in season, or that may go bad before you have a chance to use it fresh. At Thanksgiving I dehydrated all the extra fresh herbs I had: sage, parsley, and thyme. I also made cran-apple fruit leather, and go absolutely cuckoo for dehydrated apples and bananas. In my opinion, having a dehydrator is perfect for anybody who likes experimenting in the kitchen, and who is looking to incorporate more raw foods in their diet. Check out this recipe for rosemary seed crackers from a previous post.

Please note that if you are considering buying a dehydrator, look at product reviews before purchasing, as the first one I had lasted only a month past the warranty date, and it looks like I’m not the only one that happened to. It’s also great to buy a dehydrator that you can control the temperature.

So, back to my little Christmas project. I made soup stock and date-nut chewies to include in my gifts to my family. Here is what I did:

Veggie Soup Stock
Yields around 20 tablespoons of powder, or 20 cups of stock (when added to 1 cup of boiling water per 1 tablespoons of stock)

Ingredients
2 medium tomatoes, sliced
4 celery stalks, cut into sticks (I also dehydrated the leaves)
2 cups mushrooms, sliced
2 large carrots, sliced into rounds
1/2 cup spinach

Note: You may use a wide variety of vegetables. The book suggests cabbage, carrots, celery, garlic, green beans, horseradish, mushrooms, mustard greens, onions, peppers, spinach, tomato, or watercress. I chose what I thought would go together nicely.

Directions
I placed all the vegetables in one layer on dehydrator sheets. I have four sheets, and all these veggies took two rounds of dehydrating to complete. They were dehydrated at 135*F for about 6 hours. Time may vary depending on how thick the vegetables are, how crowded the trays are, and how juicy the vegetables were to begin with. I removed the vegetables that felt completely dry, and continued to dehydrate the ones that were still damp. You can add more vegetables once there is room on the trays. To check the vegetables, remove the heat source and let the veggies cool down first. If it feels dry, it probably is.

Next, I placed all the dehydrated vegetables in a high-speed blender and blended until the vegetables were a powder. This took a couple minutes of blending. Be sure to let the blender rest before opening it, as the powder is very fine and smokes into the air.

I divided the stock into two plastic baggies of 10 tbsp each, and added the keep-dry packets that come with sushi and other dry foods. I didn’t want the stock powder to be exposed to any moisture.

I wrote the following instructions on each baggie: “Mix 1-2 tbsp of stock with 1 cup of boiling water and let rest for about a minute. Add ground flaxseed to thicken, if desired. Use in soups, stews, and gravy.”

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Voila! Home-made powdered vegetable stock! Because it’s dry, it’ll last for a long time. Store it away from sunlight and moisture.

Date-Nut Chewies
Ingredients
3/4 cup oil (I used canola oil)
1/2 cup maple syrup
3 Macintosh apples (or another kind of apple), cut into pieces, skin on
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
2 cups pitted dates
1 cup raw almonds (recipe called for walnuts)

In my high-speed blender I mixed the oil, maple syrup, apples, and vanilla extract until smooth. Then, I added the rest of the ingredients and blended until smooth. The original recipe indicates that you should use ground oats and sunflower seeds, but I did not do this because of how powerful my blender is. Plus, I thought some chunks would be OK.

Next, I spread the mixture out on two dehydrator sheets, making them pretty thick (about 1/2 inch). I dehydrated them for around 6 hours, then cut them into small squares, separated them from each other, and continued to dry them for another 8 hours.

These chewies are a great snack that resembles an energy ball. I was expecting it to be more candy-like or cookie-like, but it definitely tastes like a healthy snack. The first one I tried, in all honesty, I wasn’t sure if I should give them as gifts, but after having a few more, the taste grew on me. This recipe made a lot, so I’m glad they turned out!

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Comfort Spinach and Bean Pasta

Hello everyone! Well, it has been a while since I have written about recipes. I took a break from blogging about food because I was travelling in the United States, and wanted to share my adventures away from the kitchen (also, I did not have a real kitchen for three months… Just a camping stove). Now that I am back, and starting to get settled in a new city, I am getting back into cooking. Tonight I made a recipe from Fine Cooking, a magazine full of delicious, drool-worthy recipes and interesting tips in the kitchen. I found this recipe for Pasta Shells with Spinach and Cannellini Beans in their latest issue. Here is my adaptation of it, vegan-ified:

Ingredients for the “Parmesan” Cheese
1/4 cup almonds
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
pinch salt

Ingredients for the Pasta
3 tbsp olive oil
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 large box spinach (around 9oz)
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (navy beans or white kidney beans would also do the trick, in my opinion)
3/4 cups vegetable broth
1 tsp red pepper flakes
500g pasta (I used penne, but the original recipe called for large shells)
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
“Parmesan” cheese to taste

To make the “Parmesan” cheese, I pulsed the almonds and nutritional yeast in a blender until the almonds turned into a powder. Be careful not to over-blend, as the oils from the almonds can release and start to create almond butter if pulsed for too long. I reserved the cheese in a bowl for later.

In a large pot, I boiled the pasta in salted water until cooked, and then drained it. The pasta was rinsed with cold water to stop it from cooking more.

In another pot, I heated 2 tbsp olive oil on medium heat and sauteed the garlic for 30 seconds. I added the spinach in large handfuls, letting it reduce when the pot became full. Once all the spinach  was added and reduced, I added the beans and 1/4 cup of the broth. I let the mixture boil for a few minutes, until the liquid reduced by half. I added the rest of the broth, the red pepper flakes, and 1 tsp salt. The pot was removed from the heat at this point.

I tossed the pasta with the sauce, along with the last 1 tbsp olive oil. I added all the lemon juice and seasoned the pasta with salt and pepper. The pasta may need up to an extra 1/2 cup of liquid if it is too dry, but mine did not.

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I served the pasta with a generous helping of the “Parmesan” cheese on top, and ate it with a kale salad with vegan Caesar salad dressing, made by my beau. We each had seconds of the pasta and agreed that it was a great comfort food.

Asian Millet Salad

There’s nothing like a delicious salad for lunch that has you coming back for more. This salad definitely owes a lot to the dressing, which is from Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Kitchen, but the rest of the salad was created by me. I have been experimenting with millet, and wound up with a lot of leftovers last night. I decided to base this recipe off my everything salad. This is jacked with protein, from the millet, spinach, beans, edamame beans, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds.

Ingredients for the salad
1 cup millet, cooked to a rice-like consistency and cooled
1/2 red cabbage, shredded
1/2 cup carrots, shredded
1 cup spinach, shredded
1 cup black beans, rinsed
1/2 cup edamame beans
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds

Ingredients for the dressing
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp sesame oil
1/8 cup tamari or soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/8 cup maple syrup
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
1/4 jalapeno, diced

After lots of chopping, dicing and shredding, I mixed all the salad ingredients in a large bowl, then in a small bowl whisked the dressing ingredients, then tossed it with the salad. SO GOOD.

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Christmas Feast 2013

Christmas at my house traditionally involves my stepfather pulling off a giant turkey dinner for the family; it wouldn’t be Christmas without bacon roasted on the turkey and sausage in the stuffing. This was the first Christmas since I became flexitarian (vegan with exceptions here and there), and I wanted to make a festive vegan dish to contribute to the plant-based options on the table. I decided to make a Festive Savoury Tart with Mushroom Gravy. I got the recipe for the tart from Dreena Burton, who I follow on Facebook. She included this recipe in her cookbook called Let Them Eat Vegan. I do not own this cookbook yet, but had access to it over the summer while living with another vegan. Here is my adaptation of her Festive Chickpea Tart recipe.

Festive Savoury Tart
Ingredients for the pie shell
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup coconut oil at room temperature
4-7 tbsp cold water

Ingredients for the filling
3-4 tbsp coconut oil
1 large onion, diced
3 ribs of celery, diced
4 cloves of garlic, diced
2 cups chickpeas, with 1/3 cup reserved
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp soy sauce (ideally tamari instead, but I don’t know where to find it)
1/2 tsp ground sage
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup pecans, toasted (ideally use walnuts)
10 oz spinach, chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1 tbsp fresh thyme
Fresh parsley
Pepper

Ingredients for the topping
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp soy sauce (again, ideally tamari)
2 tbsp pecans or walnuts

Mushroom Gravy
Ingredients
2 shallots, diced
1-2 cloves of garlic, diced
2 cups mushrooms, sliced
3-4 tbsp flour
4 cups vegetable stock
1/2 tsp thyme
3-4 tbsp coconut oil
salt and pepper

First off, I made the pie dough. It is important to note that this recipe needs some tweaking, as it was quite difficult to roll out, and I ended up pressing it in with my fingers. While the crust stayed together when the tart was being served, I am still not convinced that this recipe is the best approach to vegan pie crust.

To make the dough I tossed together the four, sugar, and salt, then cut in the coconut oil with a pastry cutter until the mixture resembled sand. I added the water little by little until the dough easily forms a ball. I think I required a little extra water to do so. I formed a ball with the dough, wrapped it in plastic wrap, flattened it into a disk, and refrigerated it for an hour.

Next came the filling for the tart. I began by toasting the pecans for 8-9 minutes in an oven of 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and let them cool. Next, I sauteed the onion, celery, garlic, and salt and pepper in a pan with the coconut oil. I let them cook for about 10 minutes, until the onion was soft and golden.

In a food processor, I pulsed the chickpeas (not including the reserved 1/3 cup) with the lemon juice, soy sauce, sage, and sauteed mixture, leaving the mixture slightly chunky; you do not want it to look like hummus. I added the toasted pecans and briefly pulsed it to break up the nuts. I transferred the mixture to a bowl and stirred in the spinach, cranberries, parsley, thyme, and reserved chickpeas. Then, I transferred the filling into a pie shell, with the pie dough pressed in evenly.

On the top of the tart I sprinkled the topping ingredients. The pecans will toast in the oven, so there is no need to toast them beforehand.

The tart was baked at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes.

Next came the mushroom gravy. I sauteed the shallots and garlic for a few minutes, then added the sliced mushrooms and browned them for 10 minutes. I added the flour, reduced the heat, and cooked for another five minutes. Little by little I whisked in the vegetable stock and added the thyme. The gravy simmered for 30 minutes, then I seasoned it with salt and pepper. If the gravy had been too thin for my liking, I would have added more flour by mixing it with water in a little bowl, then adding it to the mixture (this reduces the likelihood of lumps in the gravy).

The savoury tart was eaten by all at the Christmas meal, and I was able to enjoy the festive flavours without having any turkey. Even though this time of year has proven to be more difficult to eat vegan (with all the family get-togethers and all), it was nice to share this dish with my family.

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Happy Birthday Dad: Chocolate Butter Cake, and Spinach & Ricotta Empanadas

It was my dad’s birthday a couple days after I got back from Argentina (strategically planned), and after a month without baking, I was itching to make something! I made a chocolate cake using the same recipe as Charlotte’s birthday cake from a few months back, making adjustments in the decorating. In addition to making chocolate buttercream, I also made strawberry buttercream. Here is what I did.

Ingredients
Strawberries (I used fresh, but you can use frozen), about half a cup
1/2 tsp lemon juice
A few drops of red food colouring

I boiled the strawberries on medium heat until they were very soft and looked like jam. I added the lemon juice, then strained the puree into a bowl to get rid of the seeds and big chunks of strawberry. I added this to a portion of the buttercream, and added a few drops of red food colouring, just to make the colour stand out on the cake.

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For supper I made empanadas, in addition to the roast beef and green beans my stepdad made. Empanadas are a commonly eaten snack or meal in Argentina, and I ate a lot of them while I was there. I had many different kinds, all involving meat: chicken, beef, and ham and cheese. My host mother let me copy some recipes from one of their cookbooks, so I can now make my own in Canada. I decided to make spinach and ricotta empanadas.

Ingredients for Dough
2 cups flour
salt
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp butter, melted

I combined the dry ingredients in one bowl, and the wet ingredients in another bowl, and then added the wet to the dry. I kneaded the dough for about 10 minutes, until it was very elastic. With a rolling pin I rolled out the dough, slathered some melted butter on top, rolled up the dough very tightly, then cut it into about 24 pieces. I rolled each piece into a disc about 3-4 inches round,

Ingredients for Filling
Oil or butter for frying
2 onions, chopped
2 shallots, chopped
2 cups spinach, packed
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated cheese (I used cheddar)
1 hard boiled egg, chopped
1 raw egg
salt and pepper to taste

In a frying pan I sauteed the onions and shallots in butter until they were clear-looking. I added the spinach and let it lightly cook so that it shrunk in size, then added the remaining ingredients.

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To assemble, I filled the dough discs with about 1 tsp filling. I brushed the edges of the disc with water and sealed them into a half-moon shape, then crimped the edges. Next time I would also brush the dough with the remaining butter. The empanadas were baked at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 25-30 minutes, until golden brown.

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They turned out well, and I will definitely be making more in the future. I just need to find a way to make them vegan, as I am about to embark on that journey this summer once I move to Calgary. I will definitely be vegetarian, but being vegan might be a bit more tricky (but that’s the goal!).