Tag Archives: easy

Vegan Coconut Chocolate Mousse

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I’ve been meaning to share this recipe with you for a while now! This past summer, the mister and I went to his family reunion in Grand Mesa. If you associate what I associate with reunions, you’re probably thinking about Aunt Ethel’s special jello surprise, cousin Susie’s mystery meat casserole, mountains of deviled eggs (not that there’s anything wrong with that!), hot dogs, and of course, macaroni salad. I must have been in some strange family reunion twilight zone, but there wasn’t a speck of jello surprise to be found.

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When you come from a family of lacto-impaired-vegetarians, meat-atarians, and gluten-freegans, people have to get a little creative, especially when it comes to dessert. My cousin-in-law Lena, who has mad vegan skills, whipped up a batch of this mousse. The mousse was silky smooth with the luscious texture every good mousse should have, but was much lighter. Fresh berries were a perfect match. The dessert was satisfying without being overly rich or heavy. Unlike other vegan desserts, the ingredients in this one are simple and straight-forward–coconut cream, cocoa powder, and sugar. Lena kindly agreed to let me share the recipe, which is on the menu at Evolution Fresh, the juice bar and nom-worthy healthy restaurant she manages in Seattle. Thanks Lena!

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It’s a beautiful thing when the world’s diverse eaters can unite over a dessert that everyone loves and can feel good about eating! If only everyone’s family reunions could taste this good!

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Vegan Coconut Chocolate Mousse

Recipe adapted from cousin Lena and Evolution Fresh

Serves 2-3

The biggest secret to making coconut mousse successfully is temperature. Coconut cream must be cold in order to whip up. If you happen to have xanthan gum on hand, it helps to firm up the mousse even more. If you can’t find cans of coconut cream, you can use the cream from 3-4 cans coconut milk (not light). If using regular coconut milk, refrigerate the cans for at least 2 days, then use only the cream from the top, saving the clear coconut water for another use (It tastes great in smoothies!).    Makes a great topping for berries!

If you can get your hands on it, Mayan cocoa powder makes a great variation on the basic mousse.  If you’d like to imitate the taste of Mayan cocoa powder, you can add a pinch of cinnamon and a pinch of cayenne.

  •  1 can (13.5 ounces) coconut cream*, refrigerated for at least 2 days
  • 1 tablespoon (or more to taste) cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar (more or less to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum (optional, used for thickening)

Scoop the chilled coconut cream into the bowl of an electric mixer.  Using the whisk attachment, beat the coconut cream on medium high speed 4-5 minutes, until fluffy and forms peaks.  If using xanthan gum, add to the mixture and beat for a minute.  Add the remaining ingredients and beat until incorporated.  Chill or serve immediately.

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Indian-Spiced Roasted Cauliflower

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It’s just a typical afternoon.  5:00, and thinking about dinner.  It begins with an innocent little peek into the fridge.  I have all the ingredients for that Indian dish I like to make.  Great, let’s have that over rice.  Simple. Hmmm, rice is great, but it would be even better with that spiced rice I like to make.  Oh, I know, I know! I could make that dal recipe the mister likes so much.  I haven’t had naan in forever!  Let’s search in all my cookbooks to find a good recipe.  Darn it, I need yogurt for that.  I must have yogurt.  Now.  Wonder if it will work with soy yogurt.  Can you go to the store, dear?  The kitchen transforms from immaculate–who am I kidding– the kitchen transforms from relatively clean to spinning in chaotic fury within 30 minutes.  Two and a half hours later, dinner is served.

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I don’t know about you, but when I think Indian food, I know I’ve got my work cut out for me.  I expect to be chopping vegetables, toasting spices, making special pastes, and frying potatoes or cauliflower.  It’s usually worth the effort, but always takes way longer than anticipated.  Indian food is one of those cuisines that I crave on a regular basis.  Maybe it’s the collection of Madhur Jaffrey cookbooks on my bookshelf, or the lack of a go-to Indian place in our neighborhood, but “restaurant” usually isn’t on my radar.

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There could be a way to satisfy those Indian food hankerings without spending hours in the kitchen.  Whaaat?!?  Roasting is the tired cook’s secret weapon for busy weeknights or otherwise un-motivated evenings.  Add oil, some spices and shallots, put it in the oven, then fuhgettabowdit for a while.  The shallots will sweeten without a long saute, and take on a roasty, toasted spice flavor just by using the heat of the oven. This ain’t traditional, but it works. Just sayin’.

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You can eat it simply, over a bowl of basmati rice with a dollop of yogurt or raita, or…use it as a garnish for the curried coconut tomato soup (next post!).  And…I imagine some freshly baked garlic naan would go perfectly with the mix.  But…this is meant to be a simple meal…so don’t get carried away, now!

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Indian-Spiced Roasted Cauliflower

Serves 3-4 as a side dish, or 2-3 as a main dish

  • 1 large head cauliflower, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 large shallot, very thinly sliced
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Preheat the oven to 425˚F.  Whisk the olive oil, turmeric, garam masala, cayenne, mustard seeds, tomato paste, sugar, and salt together in the bottom of a large bowl.  Toss the cauliflower and shallot with the spice mixture until thoroughly coated.    Roast the cauliflower in the oven for 25 minutes, or until soft and golden brown in places.  Add the cilantro, squeeze the lemon to taste over top of the roasted cauliflower.  Toss to combine, and serve while hot.

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Fresh Summer Tomato Pasta with Lemon, Garlic and Capers

Do you know Lynn Rosetto Casper?  I do, or at least I feel like I do.  The Mister and I have made a tradition of listening to Splendid Table podcasts on road trips.  We listen to her interviews with various chefs and random food experts, and daydream about the recipes she describes.  She’s the kind of lady I’d like to invite over for a summer barbeque, or to help make my Thanksgiving turkey.  I’d like to star her as a favorite on my phone, just to have a quick chat about recipe ideas when I can’t think of what to make for dinner.  This is why, not surprisingly, my favorite portion of the show is the call-in segment.  In one memorable episode, a listener called in asking Lynn for ideas of easy, make-ahead fresh Italian dishes to serve at a summer party. Lynn went on to describe various cold appetizers and a glorious fresh tomato pasta which inspired this recipe for one of my summertime go-to dishes.

Lynn is one of those teach-a-man-to-fish types of teachers, as every time I listen to the show, I come away with not only a recipe, but with new techniques to take back to my kitchen.  I had an enlightening moment when I heard her describe the process for the tomato pasta.  The idea is to create a light, fresh sauce out of the juice released from the tomatoes, melded with the onion, garlic, and other raw ingredients.

You’ll start by covering a chopped onion and a good amount of minced garlic with lemon juice and salt.  The key here is to wait ten minutes or so before adding the other ingredients.  It sounds simple, but this is the absolutely necessary magic step.  Lemon juice coaxes the onion and garlic to mellow, losing their otherwise harsh bite.  Then, you’ll add the tomatoes, capers, parsley and pepper, allowing the tomatoes to marinate and release their juices.  If your timing is right, you can start a pot of water to boil for the pasta while you mellow the garlic and onion, and throw in the pasta to cook while you marinate the tomatoes.  By the time the pasta is cooked, you’ll be able to drain it and toss it into your other ingredients, allowing the hot pasta to further encourage the tomatoes to release their juices.  A good drizzling of olive oil and some generous grindings of black pepper, and you will have yourself a meal that can be prepared in almost no time after work, or served as one of those beautiful dinner party dishes that tastes so good that nobody will know how easily it came together.

This recipe has turned into one of my summertime “gems”.  Do you have any summertime “gems” of your own?  If so, do share your favorites in the comments section!

Fresh Summer Tomato Pasta with Lemon, Garlic, and Capers

Inspired by the Splendid Table

Serves 6

A pasta for when you’d rather be sitting out on the patio with a light dinner and a glass of white wine than spending hours in the hot kitchen.  It can be eaten warm, cold, or my favorite, somewhere in-between.  August and September are prime tomato time, so be sure to use the sweetest and ripest tomatoes you can find.  If you start your water to boil right before you start prepping your ingredients, this recipe will come together in about the time it takes to finish cooking the pasta.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 6 medium lemons)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 pounds ripe tomatoes (about 5 medium), chopped
  • 1/2 cup (packed)  chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 jar (2 ounces) capers, drained
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound dried penne (traditional, whole grain or gluten-free)

Set a large pot of water on the stove to boil for the pasta.   Juice the lemons into a large bowl.  Chop the onion and mince the garlic, and place them in the bowl with the lemon juice.  Add the salt and stir to combine.  Allow the onions and garlic to sit for 10 minutes while you chop the remaining ingredients.

When the water has come to a boil, add 2 tablespoons kosher salt, and cook the pasta to al dente according to package directions.  Drain and set aside (do not rinse).

Chop the tomatoes and parsley, and add to the bowl with the onion and garlic.  Add the capers and pepper, stirring to combine.  Add the hot cooked pasta to the bowl, and stir to combine.  Drizzle the olive oil over the pasta, and toss to coat.  Add more salt and pepper to taste if desired.  May be served warm, room temperature, or cold (if serving chilled, remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before eating).

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Springy Quinoa Salad with Sugar Snaps, Mint and Ginger-Yogurt

Things are beginning to look up.  I spent the entire day last Sunday working on the garden; turning the soil, working in compost, and planting my spring seeds while Luca tore around the garden like a little hellion, leaping across raised beds and over tomato cages, jumping through hose water, and finally, lounging in the shade with her tongue hanging out.   I got a bit carried away this year, as I already planted onions, shallots, radishes, spinach, romaine, kale, shelling peas, and sugar snap peas–and that is just the spring crop!  Every year around this time, I feel like the world is waking up again.  We’re peeling off our winter layers, airing out our houses, and getting some much needed sunshine.

Well, here in Colorado, the first blossoms just arrived on the trees, random crocuses and tulips are appearing everywhere, and my chives have returned in full force.  Sugar snaps won’t be ready until May or June, but planting inevitably got me anticipating my spring crops.  When I went grocery shopping later that day, impatience trumped local, seasonal eating (oops).  I couldn’t help but buy a handful of sugar snap peas to hold me over until the time arrives to pick my own.

I welcome the switchover to each season.  At the first hint of spring weather, I immediately crave more delicate, brighter flavored foods as opposed to the heavier fare of winter.  I mean, come on.  Eating a belly-warming vegetable or meat braise when the sun is shining and the trees are blossoming is like wearing a cable knit sweater and mittens on a tropical vacation.  It just doesn’t balance out.

One of my favorite foods in any season is quinoa (think “keen-wa”).  During the summer,  it’s my Southwest Quinoa Salad, laden with peppers, tomatoes, and farmers market corn, tossed with chile-lime vinaigrette.  In this springy version, I toss quinoa with sugar snaps, chopped mint and toasted almonds, and coat with a gingery yogurt dressing.  The flavors are fresh and crisp, slightly sweet, hinted with lemon and laced with ginger and garlic.  The sesame oil is almost imperceptible, except that it adds a rounded depth to the dressing.  This salad makes a great light lunch on its own, or would pair nicely with some grilled salmon.

I can’t wait until I can make this with peas straight from the garden, although I’ll have to have a little self control; most of my sugar snaps never actually make it into the house since I consider them gardening snacks and eat them straight from the vine.  Colorado is always a little late on the warm-weather front.  I’m curious to know what sorts of spring signs are popping up around you…do tell!

 Springy Quinoa Salad with Sugar Snaps, Mint and Ginger-Yogurt

Makes 4 servings

Use this recipe as a starting point, and feel free to improvise additions or substitutions using the vegetables you have available.  I imagine julienned carrot and green onion would be a nice addition to the sugar snaps, and chopped broccoli might be a good substitution.  

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1/2 pound sugar snap peas, thinly sliced on the diagonal
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1/4 cup fresh roughly chopped mint leaves
  • 3/4 cup plain low fat yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice from 1 medium lemon
  • 2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoons sea salt, or to taste

1. Thoroughly rinse the quinoa, drain well and place in a small saucepan.  Add a scant two cups of water and bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for 12 minutes, or until the quinoa is tender and a what looks like a white thread spirals around each grain. Transfer to a plate to cool.  If the quinoa appears to be cooked, but there is excess water in the pan, uncover, increase heat to medium, and cook for an additional minute or two, stirring constantly, until the water has evaporated.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, sesame oil, lemon juice, ginger, garlic, honey, salt and pepper.

3. Place the cooled quinoa, sugar snap peas, almonds and mint in a medium bowl.  Stir to combine.  Add the yogurt dressing and gently toss to coat.  Garnish with additional almonds and mint if desired.  Serve cold or at room temperature.

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“Anytime” Frittata with Chorizo, Potato, and Feta

Three days ago, I made my first frittata.  Three days ago I ate my first frittata.  Three days ago, I burned the heck out of my hand on the handle of my super-heated sauté pan making a frittata…but never mind that.  I ate my frittata that evening, alongside my favorite dinner-mate and a mixed greens salad with roasted shallot vinaigrette.  I noshed on frittata for breakfast, with my favorite canine companion at full attention.  Then, I chowed on frittata for lunch, standing at the kitchen counter thinking about dinner.  Dinner, breakfast, lunch.  I had an epiphany.  Frittatas just might be one of the most versatile dishes known to humankind.

If you are like me, you may be wondering, what is a frittata?  It sounds fancy.  And Italian.  Luxurious, and laborious.  Well, imagine with me if you will, a crustless quiche.  A canvas of whipped eggs filled with whatever vegetables, cheese, or meat suit your fancy at the moment.  This particular frittata starts with eggs whipped with half-and-half, marjoram, salt, and pepper; little cubes of cooked potato, browned chorizo, golden sautéed onions.  Then, it’s topped with salty feta, which melts and leaves the top speckled golden.

Eat it warm, or at room temperature, and accessorize to fit the occasion.  Pair with fresh fruit and an English muffin for breakfast.  Lunch or dinner?  Serve with a light salad or some grilled vegetables.  Shameless snacking?  Eat it by itself, cold and straight from the refrigerator while no one’s watching.  It will still be good.  I’m having a hard time thinking of any other dish I could take to anybody’s house at any time of day.  This can be your go-to breakfast-lunch-dinner-side dish-fancy-casual-easy-impressive contribution to any meal at any time.  Eat it in a box, with a fox.  In a house, with a mouse.  Eat frittata here and there, eat frittata anywhere.

“Anytime” Frittata with Chorizo, Potato and Feta

Adapted slightly  from “Favorite Food at Home:  Delicious Comfort Food From Ireland’s Most Famous Chef”, via the Denver Post

Serves 6-8

  • 2 medium Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, halved, peeled, and thinly sliced
  • 1/3 pound ground chorizo
  • 8 eggs
  • 6 tablespoons half-and-half
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus additional for
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram, plus additional for garnish
  • 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

1. Preheat oven to 350˚F.

2. Place the potatoes in a medium saucepan, and fill with water to cover the potatoes by one inch.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Add a couple pinches of salt, and boil the potatoes for 5 minutes, or until cooked through but still firm.  Drain and set aside.

3. Heat one tablespoon oil in a 10-inch ovenproof frying pan or skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion, and cook, stirring occasionally until it is softened and beginning to turn golden, about 8-10 minutes.  Remove the onion from the pan and set aside. Return the frying pan to the stove over medium heat.

4. Add the chorizo to the frying pan.  Cook for 2-4 minutes, breaking the chorizo into small pieces with a spatula, until it is slightly browned, but not completely cooked through.

5. Whisk the eggs, half-and-half, salt, and marjoram in a medium bowl.  Stir in the chorizo, cooked onion, and potatoes.

6. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in the frying pan until hot.  Swirl the oil in the pan to coat the bottom and sides.  Pour in the egg mixture and stir to distribute the ingredients evenly.  Top with the crumbled feta.

7. Bake in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes, or until set in the center.  Set the oven to broil, and cook for 1-2 additional minutes, or until the top of the frittata is spotted and golden.  Allow to cool slightly before serving (and make sure not to grab the hot pan handle with your bare hand like I did!).

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Filed under Breakfast and Brunch, Main Dishes, Side Dishes