Vegan Fool

No, it’s not my new nickname, silly!

It’s a dessert, and I thought it would be a perfect post for today!

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I love it when the vegan version of a recipe is BETTER than its animal-based counterpart. Vegan fool is a prime example.

First of all, what is vegan fool?

You: You’re writing the post. You tell us. 
Me: Yes, but I always like to ask. It’s polite!
You: But you know we don’t know, and you know you know. We also know we don’t know and that you know, otherwise you wouldn’t write about it. You know? That’s foolish.
Me: First of all, who’s foolish? Second of all, I ALWAYS write about stuff I don’t know about. 

OK, take a guess (a or b) which vegan fool am I writing about today? Is it:

a) a dessert made by folding pureed stewed fruit into whipped coconut cream (based on an English dessert, which traditionally uses custard or whipped cream.)

b) someone who writes a blog about vegan food expecting everyone to convert to a vegan diet ASAP based on how appetizing everything looks.

OK, stop making fun of me! It’s “a!” The answer is “a.”

I’m making strawberry fool, but you can substitute any kind of berries.

Vegan Strawberry Fool

(Serves 4)

Ingredients:

2 pints strawberries (hold 4 strawberries back for topping)
One-quarter cup granulated sugar
Three tablespoons fresh lemon juice
One 13-14 oz. can FULL FAT coconut milk, refrigerated overnight
One teaspoon vanilla
One-quarter cup powdered sugar

Instructions:

1. Add the berries to a bowl, adding the granulated sugar and lemon juice, letting it sit or 10 minutes.

2. Add the berry mixture to a food processor, and process until smooth. Pour mixture into a sieve or strainer and drain thoroughly. Use a spoon to coax out the liquid.

3. Remove the coconut can from the refrigerator. Flip the can upside down. (Don’t look at me that way. Just do it!) Open the can and pour off the liquid at the top (previously, the bottom) of the can and reserve the liquid for another use. Place the remaining coconut milk (which will be the consistency of a very heavy cream) into a standing mixer. Whip the cream for 5 minutes or so. After five minutes, add the powdered sugar and the vanilla to the coconut cream.

4. Fold the strawberries carefully into the cream.

5. Spoon the fool into individual glasses. Top each serving with a sliced strawberry.

6. Feed it to the dogs.

7. Ha! Fooled you! DO NOT feed it to the dogs. They do NOT deserve it.

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What To Do With Spring Greens (Part Three): Swiss Chard

Here’s another good green to use for Easter.

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N’wait. Not that.

THIS green.

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Swiss Chard is sweet, tender (but strong) and easy to prepare. The following recipe from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau (modified to be low fat) makes a delicious Easter holiday side dish.

Swiss Chard and Caramelized Onions

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(Serves 2-4)

Ingredients:

Up to one cup water
Two large onions, sliced
One tablespoon brown sugar
Pinch of salt or salt substitute
One bunch Swiss chard, washed and chopped
One-quarter cup chopped kalamata olives
One tablespoon capers, rinsed
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
Juice of one lemon

Instructions:

1. In a large-sized sauté pan, heat about one-half cup of the water over medium-high heat and cook onions until they turn translucent, about five minutes.

2. Stir in sugar and salt, and continue cooking until onions are brown and sweet, about 20 minutes. Add more water if necessary.

3. Stir in chard, olives and capers, cooking until the chard is wilted, about five to seven minutes.

4. Season with black pepper and squeeze lemon over top.

What To Do With Spring Greens (Part Two): Dandelion

Yesterday, I shared tips for preparing broccoli rabe, a spring green also known as rapini.

Today, I’ll discuss dandelion greens, also known as Easter Weed:

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OK, dandelion greens are NOT also known as Easter Weed; I just made that up!

But dandelion salad IS popular around here at Easter time. Think how much faster people will flock to your house for Easter dinner if you tell them you’re serving Easter Weed instead of dandelion greens.

Dude! Easter Weed! I’ll bring the Visine and Doritos!

(OK, enough fooling around.)

The challenge with dandelion greens is bitterness. This is true of many spring greens, including broccoli rabe, as I said yesterday. To combat the bitterness in broccoli rabe, I suggested blanching the greens for a minute in boiling water, followed by plunging them into an ice bath before sautéing them in oil. The blanching removes a lot of the bitter flavor, and you may do the same thing with Easter Weed. (I mean dandelion greens.)

That’s one technique.

Another way to combat bitterness in spring greens is to coat them in a sweet, fatty sauce like we do around here in Pennsylvania. I blogged last year about a vegan recipe for dandelion salad, which uses a warm, sweet “bacon” dressing, much like something people do for spinach salad. The sweetness, of course, offsets the bitter flavor and is actually quite delicious.

But there’s ANOTHER technique for dealing with bitterness in greens that I’d like to share today. The secret is vinegar! The greens will still be bitter, but the addition of vinegar complements the bitterness surprisingly well.

Here is a simple way to make an Easter Weed side dish for your Easter dinner. (I mean dandelion greens.)

Cooked Dandelion Greens

(Serves 4)

Ingredients:

One pound (one bunch) dandelion greens, washed, drained and roughly chopped
Three cloves fresh garlic, sliced
One-half cup vegetable stock
Two generous tablespoons capers, drained
One teaspoon salt or salt alternative (such as Mrs. Dash)
One-quarter cup red wine vinegar (or white wine vinegar)

Instructions:

1. In a large frying pan, heat the vegetable stock over medium-high heat until steaming. Cook the garlic in the stock until the pieces soften, about five minutes.

2. Add the greens to the pan and allow to cook for five minutes.

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3. If the liquid has cooked away, add water. Cook the greens for an additional five minutes.

4. Add the capers and heat them thoroughly.

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5. At the last minute, generously coat the greens in the vinegar. Serve immediately.

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Capers and vinegar. Cool!

Tomorrow…a delicious way to serve Swiss Chard!

What To Do With Spring Greens (Part One): Broccoli Rabe (Rapini)

The return of spring means three things:

1. Warm-weather clothes don’t fit like they used to. (Stupid clothes.)

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2. Portuguese Water Dogs are still too slow for the backyard rabbits.

Which way did they go?

Kelly: They’re still too fast for us.  Louie: I just can’t understand it.

3. The return of greens to the produce section of the grocery store.

Broccoli Rabe makes a comeback!

Broccoli Rabe makes a comeback!

Broccoli rabe, also known as rapini, is a cruciferous vegetable in the same family with cauliflower, cabbage, bok choy, broccoli and brussels sprouts. It resembles broccoli, but the stems are much thinner and more tender. And while I see broccoli rabe on restaurant menus a lot, I don’t often buy and cook it myself. Maybe that’s because I was never sure how to prepare it. I always thought spring greens of any kind were bitter and bland.

I was wrong! Here are the tricks! Follow this recipe exactly, and the result will be sweet and tender, not bitter and boring.

Unbundled, you'll see the broccoli rabe is more of a stemmed green than a head of broccoli.

Unbundled, you’ll see the broccoli rabe is more of a stemmed green than a head of broccoli.

I followed this recipe from Anne Burrell to the letter:

Sautéed Broccoli Rabe

(Serves 4)

Ingredients:

Salt
One bunch broccoli rabe, tough ends removed
Extra-virgin olive oil
Three cloves garlic, smashed
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes

Instructions:

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Set up a bowl of well-salted ice water. Drop the broccoli rabe into the boiling water and cook for one minute. Remove from the boiling water and plunge immediately into the ice water. Once cool remove from the ice water and let dry. The blanched broccoli rabe can be used right away or held (in the fridge) for future use.

A quick boil wilts the leaves significantly, much like spinach.

A quick boil wilts the leaves significantly, much like spinach.

A plunge in ice water arrests the cooking process, so the greens won't overcook.

A plunge in ice water arrests the cooking process, so the greens won’t overcook.

Coat a large sauté pan with olive oil. Add the smashed garlic and crushed red pepper and bring to medium heat. Once the garlic is brown and aromatic, remove it from the pan and discard. Add the broccoli rabe and toss around in the oil to heat up and season. (Remember the broccoli rabe is already cooked.) Add more oil and salt if needed.

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Finished!

That’s it!

You will be tempted to skip the step where you blanch the greens and plunge them into ice water. (I know you.) Don’t skip it! The blanching eliminates any bitterness from the greens.

You will also be tempted to skip the part where you remove the cooked, smashed garlic from the oil. (I TOLD you; I know you.) Don’t skip this either! The hint of garlic is perfect without overpowering flavors.

I made this for friends as a side to my “chicken” piccata dish. I completed the blanching process early in the day and stored the blanched broccoli rabe, loosely covered, in the refrigerator. Just before guests arrived, I heated the olive oil in the pan, cooked the garlic, seasoned the pan and removed the garlic. I placed the cold veggies into the sauté pan. Just before serving, I heated the pan until crackling, tossed the broccoli rabe around in the oil for a bit, and served it immediately.

Tomorrow (Part Two)…dandelion greens!

Chickpeas and Tomatoes

I do love beans! It hasn’t always been this way. Before I started eating vegan, I never really liked beans at all. I started slowly, I guess, beginning with hummus and pita, which I always liked very much. I continued on to white bean dip and black bean dip. Dips were the gateway! From there I advanced to small adzuki beans or white beans in chili, salads and sauces. Before I knew it, beans were a big part of my diet–a lot of times even at breakfast–and I never felt better.

Now it’s normal to see beans soaking on my countertop overnight, or cooking for hours on the stove. Preparing dried beans from scratch requires planning ahead, to be sure, but the result is worth it! I prefer the texture better than canned beans, and the salt content is squarely in my control.

I’m a little distressed when I read advice from food authors saying people should avoid beans because of how high they are on the glycemic index. Of course if you’re diabetic, you MUST listen to your doctor and not to me. I’m just a dumb-dumb with a blog. But for otherwise healthy people, I have a few things to say about beans.

First of all generally, yes, beans are high on the glycemic index. However, due to their high fiber content, the glycemic “load” is much lower than other foods. Fiber blunts the effect on blood sugar. Second, not all beans are created equally. Black-eyed peas are higher on the glycemic index than french lentils, for example, and dried beans prepared from scratch are lower on the glycemic index than canned beans.

Beans are a great source of protein and fiber, making them an ideal meat substitute. I hesitate to call them a “meat substitute,” because beans contain so much fiber and water; they are superior to meat.

So eat your beans! Here is one of my early bean recipe favorites. This salad has a very appealing flavor, and may work well for people whose palates are still expanding!
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Erin Go Vegan!

I know what you’re asking yourself on this St. Patrick’s Day!

No! Not, “What time can I start drinking?”

(That would be a silly question, because the answer is too obvious.)

(Answer: As soon as you wake up.)

You’re also probably asking yourself, “How can I make a vegan version of Bangers and Mash?”

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See? It’s uncanny. I’m totally psychic.

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Vegan Dumplings

Hello my lovely dumpling! How are you today?

Do you remember it? Do you remember people used to use the word “dumpling” as a term of endearment? It made perfect sense, the tender fatness, the round cuteness, sweet or salty or spicy. All of these describe both dumplings and our special loved ones too! Let’s bring it back, shall we?

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