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In the mood for jalapeño poppers but no cheese or bacon on hand?

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I’ve been dreaming of jalapeño poppers all day. But I wasn’t in the mood to go to the store. I just wanted to come home and watch the Olympics! (go Phelps- I love watching swimmers do their thing!). So… But I didn’t have bacon. And I can’t have dairy.

But.. I did have jalapeños. There must be something I can do with it right? I’m not eating it alone straight up. Maybe a certain Celtics fan will. Not me!

So it was time to look in the fridge. And naturally… Inspiration struck! With a grin on my face, I halved and seeded the jalapeños. Pulled out the food processor and combined Daiya (a soy free vegan cheese) with sunflower seeds. I filled the spicy peppers with this combo. Baked it at 350 for 10 minutes.

It was so good! I’m already planning on making more! No gross feeling afterwards either- sometimes that happens with bacon. And I’m still being good- no dairy. I do miss cheese but Daiya helps with that!

This new concoction of mine has a somewhat crunch to it. Tastes nutty. The filling helped balance out the heat. Yum!!!

But I downed it so fast and now I have no snacks for the swimming finals!!! Mmm… I’ve got blackberries for dessert! Okay that will do.

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An unpredictable eggplant!

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Being on a vegan kick, I’m always on the outlook for new ideas, new recipes and new flavors. But I’m not about to go shopping for every single meal. If I’ve got something in the pantry or the fridge, I’ll find a way to use that first. So last night, I opened the refrigerator and spied eggplants, along with a bunch of other vegetables. I couldn’t find a recipe to suit my taste or mood, so I realized it was time to get the creative juice flowing.

Oh boy, did it flow! Just cutting up the fresh produce got me excited, wondering what the end product would look like. Would the flavors explode in my mouth, or would it subtly send me swooning for more ? Or would I chalk it up to yet another recipe that just didn’t wow me? Oh the anticipation as I chopped, diced and squeezed what I had before me into a bowl.

I have to admit that as I prepared to take this dish out of the oven, I nearly lost it. Somehow I pulled the racks from underneath the casserole pan. So you can only imagine what a sight I was, when my mother walked in. I had both hands in the oven (I had mitts on!), half kneeling, half sprawled on the floor, wondering whether I should stick my arm in further to save the dish. I was paranoid about dropping the glass pan. Or burning myself. Fortunately we were able to save it, losing a few pieces to the fiery furnace. After we took a breather, my mother looked at me and shook her head. Why was I so willing to risk hurting myself, after all who cares about a glass pan? My response was simply this: I gotta know what it tastes like!

I just had to know.

Fresh mint, screaming to be used

And boy, was it worth it! Even my mother, who grew up not fond of eggplants or fresh mint was pleasantly surprised by this creation of mine. So, it can be rewarding when you just stand in your kitchen and try to come up with ways to use what you have! Sure, there’s going to be times where you’ll think, “what the heck did I just do?” Been there, done that. Had to dump a few dishes that way. Normally I prefer just eating it, even if it isn’t that great. But I’ve had a few that was just plain nasty. But this one… was delicious!

 

Eggplant-Cantaloupe Salad with Fresh Mint

1 eggplant, sliced and quartered

8 garlic cloves, minced (or 1 TBSP)

2 cup cantaloupe, chopped

3 jalapeno, diced

1 green pepper, diced

1/3 cup olive oil

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

juice of 1 lime

juice of 1/2 lemon

1/2 cup vegetable broth

1 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped, separated

The eggplant dish, all marinated and raring to go!

Chow time, baby!

1.) Combine olive oil, spices, juices, and broth in a bowl. Toss in vegetables, including mint (save 1 TBSP for later). Let it marinate for 30 minutes.

2.) Set the oven to broil, and set up the rack to the top position.

3.) Pour the content of the bowl into a glass casserole pan, and put on the rack. Divide the pan in thirds, so broil one 1/3 for 2 minutes, then move it to the center for another 2 minutes, and the last for an additional 2 minutes (so you can get the grilled taste without having to use the actual grill).

4.) Take it out, let cool briefly so it won’t burn your mouth. Add the remaining mint and serve with rice!

The first bite I took was delightful, the sweetness from the cantaloupe bursting in my mouth, with a hint of fire from the jalapeno and the sturdiness yet delicateness of the eggplant all merging together. I went back for seconds. I also had some leftovers today, cold. Still tasted great. I’m definitely making this again!

Now my next challenge is to make something that I can bring along on a camping trip. Oh the possibilities..!

A nutty surprise!

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I was looking for inspiration the other night, and I wasn’t getting any ideas. Also I wanted to use what I already had in my kitchen. So I looked around the pantry and refrigerator. I noticed I had a bag of roasted and salted cashews from Trader Joe’s. I also had jalapeno in the vegetable drawer. I still wasn’t get struck by anything, so I decided to look around online. I found a recipe that called for cashews but I didn’t quite like the recipe itself. So I wrote down a few ingredients and added the rest.

The result? An amazing sauce that complimented the fresh sugar snap peas and broccoli over a bed of brown rice, highlighted by a side of cut up avocado. A definite keeper, both my boyfriend and I agreed. It’s well worth the effort, I tell you! It might seem like much, but the truth? It was quick and easy to make. A little buck for a huge bang? Oh yes. That’s my kind of cooking!

Cashew Sauce

1 medium onion, roughly chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1 TBSP olive oil

1 heaping cup of roasted, salted cashews (I used Trader Joe’s, they use rice bran oil which gives it a unique sweetness!)

1 jalapeno, chopped (PLEASE use fresh, since otherwise you will miss out on the flavor)

32 oz vegetable broth (I used Pacific Natural Foods Organic Vegetable Broth, Low Sodium)

1/4 cup coconut flour

1.) Sautee onion, garlic, salt, and pepper in the oil in a sauce pan (you’ll need a good-sized one since the sauce will end up in this), until the onions are golden.

2.) Puree the mixture in a blender with cashews, jalapeno, and 2 cups of vegetable broth.

3.) Return to saucepan, and the rest of broth, stir in coconut flour with a whisk to ensure that it is evenly distributed. You want it to be creamy, without any clumps of flour in your mouth!

4.) Pour sauce over whatever you feel that this will be a great addition to. My recommendations? Fresh green vegetables such as broccoli and sugar snap peas over brown rice! It’s great over burritos as well. Be creative! Garnish with whole cashews for an elegant presentation.

Cashew sauce served over brown rice and fresh green vegetables

This was a great surprise, having it taste as delicious as it did. I wasn’t quite sure of what to expect, but I do know one thing; I definitely will make it again!

Know what else is great about this? It’s a vegan sauce that is also gluten-free, corn-free and soy-free! And it’s great as leftovers, so you can keep on adding it to whatever dish you want to enhance, until you run out.

Let me know how you like it!